This day, 28 years ago, I sat with Margaret Thatcher in 10 Downing Street as her Political Secretary, three days after Michael Heseltine had announced that he was challenging her for the Leadership of the Conservative Party. At that time, any MP could mount a challenge with just the support of a proposer and seconder. Today, a vote of confidence can only be triggered if 15 per cent of Conservative MPs - 48 - tell the Chairman of the 1922 Committee in writing that one should be held. 

Having seen the bitterness that a contest can cause, I thought long and hard before deciding that I should write to ask for a Vote of Confidence in our present Prime Minister. I only did so when it became clear to me beyond doubt that there was no chance of her delivering the kind of Brexit that I wanted to see and that my constituents voted for. I campaigned in the Referendum in favour of Brexit and I am still convinced that Britain has a bright future as an independent sovereign nation outside the European Union. I was reassured that the Prime Minister would deliver this having fought an election on a manifesto that made clear that we would be taking back control and would no longer be part of the EU, the Single Market and the Customs Union. This was confirmed by her speeches at Lancaster House and in Florence. I was therefore horrified when the Chequers proposals were published to find that the Government was reneging on those assurances and that we would still be bound by European Rules under the so-called common rulebook without any ability to influence them or to refuse. This was not the arrangement that we had been promised nor that the Exiting the EU Secretary, David Davis, had been negotiating  - leading both him and Boris Johnson to resign.

As Vice Chairman of the Exiting the European Union Select Committee, I have met Michel Barnier several times. At our last meeting, he set out his proposals for the future arrangement between the EU and the UK. This was a Free Trade Agreement which goes far beyond the EU's deal with Canada and is based on the closest co-operation with separate provisions covering police and judicial cooperation, and foreign, security and defence policy. It represents exactly the kind of arrangement which I and others campaigned for, giving us back control of our laws, borders and money, while maintaining a close economic and political relationship with the EU. The only issue to be resolved is the arrangements at the Northern Ireland Border to ensure that goods can be moved across with as little impediment as possible. With trusted trader agreements and technology, I am still confident that can be done.

In the weeks following the Chequers proposals being published, I and many others made clear that we could not support them and pleaded with the Government to return to their original plans. However, the Draft Agreement which has now been put forward, represents an even worse outcome. As part of the so-called backstop, the UK will remain part of the Customs Union with no defined end point and with any change being subject to the agreement of the European Union. Despite all the assurances that Northern Ireland could not be treated differently, EU Rules will be applied even more strongly there causing our allies in Parliament, the Democratic Unionist Party, to make clear that they will not support the proposals.

It is obvious to me that this draft agreement does not deliver Brexit and is not a good deal. It also faces overwhelming Opposition from MPs of all Parties and all viewpoints. It stands virtually no chance of being agreed by Parliament. 

I believe that it is still possible to achieve a good deal that will deliver the mandate given to us by the British people. If necessary, we can leave on 29th March but continue to meet all the obligations of membership to give us time to reach a new deal. This is an undertaking that we have already given for the so-called implementation period. It will also give us more time to prepare for no deal if it proves impossible to reach agreement. The Prime Minister was right to say repeatedly that no deal is better than a bad deal.

I had hoped that the Prime Minister would reach the same conclusion given the clear unworkability of the present plan. However, it is abundantly clear that she will not change her position despite the resignation of a second Brexit Secretary along with other colleagues. For this reason, I sadly concluded that if she refused to change then the only alternative was to seek a change of Leader in order to get an agreement which will deliver the benefits which leaving the European Union can deliver. 

 

John Whittingdale, Member of Parliament for Maldon, met members of Essex Wildlife Trust at the reception given by The Wildlife Trusts in Parliament. The reception was given to celebrate the contribution of young people to the work of the Trust and to support the campaign for an ambitious Environment Bill to ensure nature’s recovery.

John Whittingdale said: “I strongly support the work of the Essex Wildlife Trust and we are very fortunate that in the Maldon constituency  the Trust has a Visitor Centre at Hanningfield Reservoir as well as 6 nature reserves  at Chigborough Lakes, Maldon Wick Meadow, Blue House Farm, Bradwell Shell Bank and Danbury.  I share their wish to see a new Environment Bill which will further strengthen protection of our natural environment and wildlife  and look forward to working with the Trust to achieve this”.

John Whittingdale is pictured Essex Wildlife Trust Chairman, Stewart Goshawk, Chief Executive, Andrew Impey and Emily McParland, Communications Officer.

I was delighted to lead the first delegation from the British Group IPU to Belarus from 27th May to 1st June.

Also on our delegation were Wayne David MP (Labour), Daniel Kawczynski MP (Conservative), Kerry McCarthy MP (Labour), Mark Menzies MP (Conservative) and Steve Pound MP (Labour). None of us had been to Belarus before with the exception of Daniel Kawczynski who had visited from Poland as a child.

The visit was brilliantly organised by Anja Richter of the IPU staff with the excellent help of HE Sergei Alehnik, the Belarus Ambassador in London, and HE Fionna Gibb and her team at the British Embassy in Minsk. We are grateful to them all.

Belarus was a long way from our expectations. Minsk is an attractive city with little of the brutal Soviet architecture typical of many former cities of the USSR. We were lucky that the weather was very warm and, when the programme allowed, we were able to visit a number of the bars and restaurants along the river and enjoy the atmosphere. From our meetings, it was also plain that, while Belarus remains very much in the Russian orbit, there is a desire to be seen to be an independent nation which does not just follow the instructions of its large neighbour.

Our programme was busy and varied and throughout we were accompanied by members of the Parliamentary Working Group on co-operation with the UK. The Chairman of the Group, Dr Oleg Rummo, is an appointed member of the Council of the Republic and also a renowned transplant surgeon. This provided one of our more unusual stops as he was insistent that our programme should also include a visit to his clinic where we were able to watch in theatre as his team carried out a liver transplant.

Politically, Belarus remains essentially a one-party authoritarian regime under its President, Alexander Lukashenko, who has held office ever since the position was created in 1994. In the political part of our programme, we were welcomed by the former Prime Minster and current Chairman of the Council of the Republic, Mr Mikhail Myasnikovich, who also arranged for us to attend a session of the Council. This brought home to us the difference between our own plural Parliamentary democracy and the position in Belarus where the overwhelming majority of members are appointed and the several votes which we saw were carried unanimously.

Later in our programme, we did meet representatives of the opposition political parties including the only two Opposition MPs. They were realistic in telling us that the President would likely win any election conducted fairly but with considerably less than the 84 per cent of the vote which was recorded for him in 2015. His main opponent, Tatsiana Karatkevich of Tell the Truth, told us that she believed that the reality was that she had got about 20 per cent of the vote rather than the 4 per cent officially declared. Another candidate in the Assembly elections said that he won in the only ward visited by himself and the British Ambassador on polling day but lost in every other.

At another meeting in the Embassy, we met representatives of NGOs who perhaps provide a more effective opposition. Those speaking for the press in Belarus told us that the media was overwhelmingly state-controlled and that independent outlets practiced a lot of self-censorship. The LGBT organisations had seen some progress in obtaining official recognition but a recent setback had been the strong condemnation by the Interior Ministry of the British Embassy who had flown the rainbow flag on the International Day against Homophobia. In addition, further lack of progress on human rights was revealed by the discovery that two executions had very recently been carried out despite efforts to persuade the authorities to abandon the death penalty.

Our discussions with Members of the Government emphasised their continuing closeness to Russia but also a wish to move a little away and to improve relations with the West. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vladimir Makei, told us that Belarus wanted to build closer relations with western countries and pointed to a number of areas where the country's foreign policy had diverged from that of Russia. Unlike the Chairman of the Assembly, he told us that the proposed Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was not in the interests of Belarus. However, he also recognised that any loosening of ties with Russia could only take place gradually.

The Deputy Minister of Economy, Dmitry Krutoy, was keen to promote greater trade between the UK and Belarus. The UK is already an important market for Belarusian products and our hosts were determined to show us examples of Belarus' manufacturing and IT capabilities. We visited the Belkommunmash factory which makes electric buses and Belaz, manufacturers of dump trucks and mining equipment where we were given a ride on the biggest dump truck in the world.

Belarus's strength in IT was also clear in our visit to Adani, maker of X-ray detection machines, and in our visit to the Hi Tech Park, the home of Viber and of World of Tanks. Finally we enjoyed amazing hospitality from our hosts. As well as succession of banquets, we saw a performance of the Nutcracker at the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet and visited the historic Nesvizh City Hall and Nesvizh Castle, which is a world heritage site. It was clear that there is considerable potential for tourism growth in the future.

The over-riding impression that I was left with is that Belarus is a country that has been somewhat overlooked by the UK both politically and economically. It has made less political progress than many other former Soviet states but there are signs of gradual improvement and little evidence of widespread discontent. The potential to increase trade between our countries is considerable. Our Belarus hosts were keen that our visit should be the beginning of a relationship that will grow stronger and I agree that it is in both of our interests that it should do so.

Tomorrow, the House of Commons will debate the Data Protection Bill. This is a vital piece of legislation which is essential to ensuring that our laws are up to date and that we will be able to continue to exchange data with Europe once we leave the European Union. During its passage through the House of Lords, however, the Bill was hijacked to include provisions which would be deeply damaging to the freedom of our press.

The first Lords amendment would require the Government to set up a new inquiry into news publishers. There is indeed a case for an examination of the impact that the new internet giants like Facebook and Google are having on traditional print media. Neither employ a single journalist yet they are sucking revenue away from newspapers and are threatening the survival of many.

This is a real threat to our democracy as it may lead to many local councils and courts going unreported. I therefore very much welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement last month of a review into the sustainability of our national and local press to see how government might help.

What the press does not need, however, is another Leveson Inquiry into events which took place more than 10 years ago. The revelations of phone hacking by the News of the World and other newspapers were shocking. The Select Committee that I chaired at the time played a part in exposing those practices which led to criminal prosecutions and the setting up of the Leveson Inquiry.

That inquiry sat for 15 months and cost more than £5 million. As a result, an entirely new body – the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) – was set up to adjudicate complaints against the press and to investigate abuse.

It is independent and has powers to impose real sanctions including front page corrections and fines. It now regulates 95 per cent of national newspapers by circulation and largely complies with Leveson’s recommendations.

There is no need to rake over once again the events of a decade ago at great cost, particularly when the media landscape has changed so dramatically. A further Leveson inquiry would not even cover the increasingly powerful news providers which are online and almost entirely unregulated.

An even more damaging amendment introduced by the Lords would force news publishers who are not members of a regulator approved by the Government’s recognition body to pay the costs of data protection actions even if the claim is unjustified and dismissed by the courts.

This clause mimics Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which proposed the same penalties in libel and privacy actions. No national or major local newspaper has been willing to join such a regulator and so almost every publisher would be at risk. It would have a massive and chilling effect on investigative journalism and would make investigations such as those into the Paradise Papers or the Oxfam scandal impossible to publish.

These provisions are draconian, unnecessary and very possibly in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. They have been condemned by organisations campaigning for civil liberties like Index on Censorship and English PEN. The Government was therefore absolutely right to announce last week that it does not intend to proceed with a second Leveson Inquiry and that it will repeal
Section 40.

However, this announcement was attacked by the Labour Party, which is also making threats to take further measures to control the press. Recent revelations about Jeremy Corbyn’s past links with a Czech communist intelligence officer and the £500,000 funding of Tom Watson’s office by Max Mosley are clearly in the public interest. Neither are in breach of any press code.

Yet instead of addressing the issue, Corbyn responded by attacking the press and saying that change is coming. Such threats expose the real agenda of those who will be supporting the Lords amendments tomorrow – to muzzle the press and to subject it to Government controls. They must not succeed.

John Whittingdale signed a pledge to #PassOnPlastic with Sky Ocean Rescue – a commitment to reduce single-use plastic consumption.

Launched in January 2017, Sky Ocean Rescue aims to shine a spotlight on the issues of ocean health, particularly single-use plastic, and inspire people to make small changes. The #PassOnPlastic pledge was also signed by 113 MPs, all making a public commitment to reduce their consumption of single-use plastics.

 

John Whittingdale has recognised the vital role that Maldon arable and dairy farmers are contributing to the local and national economy, after attending an event in Westminster this week. 

Farming in East Anglia region contributes £1.25 billion to the local economy and provides 41,167 jobs – this is on top of the safe, affordable food farmers produce and British countryside they maintain.

The beer and cheese tasting event at The House of Commons was held by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Beer and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) to highlight the importance of two of our great national products – beer and cheese.

The UK produces over 700 cheeses – more than in France. The total value of cheese sold in the UK in 2016 was £2.75 billion with cheese consumed in 95% of households. Meanwhile, 10,000 different beers are produced using British malting barley and hops with the beer and pub industries generating £13 billion in tax revenue every year.

John Whittingdale MP said: “Beer and cheese represent two of the biggest, and most iconic, British food groups and it was fantastic to meet some of those Essex farmers who produce these great products.

“There are many worthy reasons to support British arable and dairy farmers: they are responsible for securing our fantastic British food supply, looking after our world-renowned countryside and sustaining a dynamic local rural economy.

“It is critical that as politicians we continue to back British farming and create the right regulatory environment post-Brexit to ensure arable and dairy farmers continue to provide the safe and affordable food that the public trusts.”

John Whittingdale, Chairman of the Ukraine All Party Parliamentary Group, led a debate in Parliament on the Situation in Ukraine. During the debate, John Whittingdale described his recent visit to Kiev and to the Government-controlled areas close to the conflict zone in East Ukraine. John called on the Government to provide more financial assistance to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis facing 2.3 million people in East Ukraine and to increase diplomatic pressure on Russia to abide by the Minsk II agreement and to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2017-12-20/debates/33A41F5D-B50D-48AE-8C56-3F278FD017CF/Ukraine 

http://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/132bafa5-0187-436f-85f2-c14baef4025f 

John is pictured with Parliamentary colleagues from the UK and Ukraine:

Bob Seely MP, Yuri Levchenko MP, Svitlana Zalishchuk MP, Natalya Katser- Buchkovska MP, Jonathan Djanogly MP, Alex Ryabchyn MP.

John is also pictured visiting the Avdiivka Coke Plant in East Ukraine

John Whittingdale raised with the Secretary of State for Health his concern about the difficulty faced in recruiting GPs to work in primary care local. This has led to both Blackwater Medical Centre and Longfield Medical Centre in Maldon closing their doors to new patients.

 

John Whittingdale welclomed the Government’s funding of an additional 1,500 medical training places each year and called for some of those to go to Anglia Ruskin School of Medicine in Chelmsford.

 

 

http://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2017-12-19/debates/DE4B8A18-57BE-4E32-BF7D-88A8AEB98A00/TopicalQuestions

 

I have received various correspondence from constituents wanting to know more about the Brexit process. With this in mind, I have decided to enclose the following links which I hope explains more about our negotiations to leave the European Union:

- How does the Article 50 process work?

- How will we develop a trade relationship with both EU and Non - EU Countries?

- What happens to UK tax levels following our exit?

- What happens to our pensions following Brexit?

More information can be found via the Department for Exiting the European Union website and the Exiting The European Union Committee website, of which I am a member.

The EU referendum was the biggest vote in the democratic history of our country and it delivered a clear result – a majority of over well a million in favour of Britain leaving the EU. Since taking office the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has been admirably clear, too, that Brexit has to mean Brexit. Almost everybody in the House of Commons accepts that the people’s decision is final. So what are we waiting for?

Triggering Article 50 within the next few weeks, not months, would mean we can take back control of borders, laws, and economy sooner rather than later Within the same time frame, Britain should start negotiations for access to the single market — and strike our own trade deals with countries outside the EU. It is already apparent that a lot of the dire consequences of a vote to leave that were put forward by the Remain campaign as part of Project Fear have proved unfounded.

Britain’s economic strength remains unaffected; consumer confidence is high and key indicators have not plunged in the way we were told would happen. Nevertheless, what does risk causing damage for as long as it continues is uncertainty?  The doom and destruction promised by Project Fear should a Leave vote prevail has already been proven unfounded – let’s not let it continue to influence, and instead leave now. Businesses facing decisions about expansion and growth and investors wanting to put money into this country need to have a better idea of what the arrangements are going to be with Europe and the rest of the world once Britain leaves the EU. It will take time to agree but the sooner we start, the sooner uncertainty will be removed.

Triggering Article 50 is the beginning of the process, not the end. It is the starting gun and firing it will signal that serious negotiations are under way. There is bound to be a lengthy period to carry out those negotiations but as long as we delay their start there will be some people who will suggest there can be a fudge, second thoughts or further obstacles placed in the way. As the Prime Minister has made clear that is not the case and that we are going to leave, the sooner we fire the gun the better.

The Prime Minister has been clear that Brexit means Brexit, and I don’t believe anyone has put forward a case for why it cannot happen now as our aims are clear and it’s worth beginning long negotiations as soon as possible. Nobody has given any good reason for delay. We want to maintain access to the single market and to trade freely with Europe just as they will still want to trade freely with us. However, this will be subject to negotiation and we must set three key conditions. First, we have got to regain control of our borders and our immigration policy. We can choose who should have the right to enter and to work here. But I would like to see any such policy applied equally to everybody and on the basis of who will make a contribution to our society — not according to whether or not they happen to be a national of a EU member state. And we must be able to set a control on overall numbers and deliver on our promise to reduce the net figure to tens of thousands. We must deliver on our promises to reduce migration and negotiate beneficial access to the single market as soon as possible – it’s what the public expect.

Second, as long as we delay we continue to give huge sums to the EU every month as our membership fee — money which could be better spent in this country. As soon as we can conclude these negotiations, we will have the dividend of that money to spend on our priorities. Third, we need to free companies that do not trade with the EU as quickly as possible from having to comply with European regulations.. It is a simple measure to amend our own law so that all existing EU regulations continue to apply. Once that is done, we can then go through them, department by department, to decide which are sensible and we want to keep, and which we want to get rid of — those that simply add cost without delivering any benefit, and there will be quite a lot of those. This does not require negotiation. Once we are no longer members of the EU, it will be a matter solely for the British Government to decide.

Our laws and government spending can now be in British hands where they belong and we will be able to create new legislation that works for us. Of course, Europe will still be a major trading partner. But the greatest opportunities lie in our relationships with the fastest growing economies outside of the EU. At the moment we are held back from developing trade and investment deals with those countries because, while we are in the EU, they have to be agreed across all 28 countries. That is why it has proved impossible so far for Europe to make deals with China, India or the USA.

The public will be invited to the Thiepval Memorial in France on 1 July 2016 to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the Culture Secretary John Whittingdale announced today.

The joint Anglo-French commemoration of the Battle of the Somme is expected to attract great public interest, so tickets will be made available for the event. The 8,000 tickets will be allocated in pairs, free of charge, through a public online ballot. The ballot will be open to residents of the UK, France and Ireland on 28 September 2015. More details can be found on the Somme 2016 Ballot website at www.Somme2016.org The Somme was one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War, resulting in over one million casualties. A commemorative event is held at the Thiepval Memorial every year, but the centenary event in 2016 will be on a larger scale, with some 10,000 people attending.

Read more ...

John wrote an article for the Times setting out the reasons why he supported the Vote Leave Campaign.

The test of the article is as follows:

I have huge respect and admiration for the Prime Minister. Under his leadership, we have turned around an economy that, in 2010, was on its knees. I have no doubt that the great reforms that this government has introduced, from the introduction of universal credit to the expansion of academies, will be seen to have transformed the prospects of our country.

I was also immensely honoured to be asked by the Prime Minister to join his Cabinet after the election to do a job that I had always wanted to do. However, at the time that he did so, I also told him that I had already stated publicly that I could not support continued membership of the European Union under the existing terms of our membership and that I felt that there had to be a wholly new relationship.

As a schoolboy, I campaigned in the last referendum for Britain to stay in what was then called the Common Market. I did so because I have always believed in the benefits of free trade. However, I was also reassured by the clear promise that the sovereignty of our Parliament would be unaffected. The then Government’s leaflet delivered through every door stated clearly that “No important new policy can be decided in Brussels or anywhere else without the consent of a British Minister answerable to a British Government and British Parliament”.

Since that time, that key principle has been steadily eroded. The introduction of Qualified Majority voting allowing member states to be overruled has been extended into more and more areas under successive Treaty changes. Time and again, we are told that we must implement directives from Brussels that are against our national interest and that we opposed. At the same time, we are told that we cannot make changes to our own legislation because to do so will be in breach of European law. 

I hoped that it would be possible for us to negotiate a new relationship with the EU whereby we cooperate on those areas where we choose to do so but we can also choose not to do so. This has proved impossible. The outcome of the Prime Minsiter’s negotiations does represent an improvement on the existing position. However, it falls a long way short of the new arrangement that I would like to see. In particular, it still means that our courts and Parliament have to comply with decisions taken in Brussels and that we have no ability to control our own borders. It is therefore clear to me that the only way we can regain control over these areas is by negotiating new agreements with Europe from outside the EU.

In the coming weeks, there will be much debate about what life would be like outside the European Union. Already some are drawing comparisons with the arrangements for Norway, Canada or Switzerland. However, we are like none of those countries. We are the fifth biggest economy in the world, one of 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council, a leading member of NATO and one of the G7. Outside the EU, we will continue to exert influence around the world and will be free to negotiate trade deals not just with the EU but also with countries like the US, China and India. We currently have a trade deficit with the rest of the EU of about £60 billion and so it is very much in their interests that we quickly conclude a new free trade arrangement. However, we will no longer be required to impose regulations on business which add up to a cost of over £33 billion. Nor will we have to go on sending over £350 million to Brussels each week and can instead spend that money on our own priorities. 

 

For these reasons, I shall be supporting the Vote Leave campaign. However, I am pleased that thanks to this Conservative Government, it is the British people who will be able to decide.

 

As Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale made a statement to the House of Commons on the future of the BBC under Charter Renewal:

The Government are today laying before Parliament and depositing in the Libraries of both Houses a White Paper on the BBC charter review. The royal charter is the constitutional basis for the BBC. It is the framework for how the BBC is governed and guarantees its independence. The current royal charter will expire at the end of 2016; today we lay out our plans for the next one.

The White Paper represents the culmination of 10 months’ work. I thank everyone who contributed to the Green Paper consultation process, not least 190,000 members of the public. I am also very grateful to Sir David Clementi and his team for their independent review of the governance and regulation of the BBC, to the Committees in both Houses that made recommendations and to all the stakeholders, BBC representatives and others who helped inform our deliberations.

Read more ...

John, who champions Britain’s beer industry, has been honoured with a unique award in Parliament.

He was presented with a certificate and souvenir pump clip by the British Beer & Pub Association and SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers. The special award is a joint initiative from the BBPA and SIBA, who wanted to recognise the role of MPs who supported Britain’s national drink during the 2010-2015 Parliament. It recognises acts of advocacy in Parliament, in votes, supportive motions, and debates.

Read more ...

John Whittingdale attended the NSPCC’s Parliamentary Reception on Online Safety to support the charity’s new ‘Share Aware’ campaign which aims to get families talking about socialising safely online.

The NSPCC has created a new online guide to help inform parents about the risks of different social networking sites used by children. This comes after an NSPCC survey revealed that three quarters of parents surveyed found sexual, violent, or other inappropriate content on SickipediaOmegleDeviant Art, and F my Life within half an hour of logging into the sites.

Read more ...

Global Friends of Ukraine held its official launch at the House of Commons in London on 23 October. It was attended by over 100 distinguished guests, including British MPs and Lords, Government officials, professionals, investors, leading experts, musicians and writers.

The reception was hosted by John Whittingdale MP, Director of the British Ukrainian Society and Chairman of the British-Ukraine All-Party Parliamentary Group, who also became Patron of Global Friends of Ukraine. Addressing the audience he said: “We will continue to give all support to the people of Ukraine and their rights to determine their own future.”

Read more ...

On 28 October, a panel discussion was held at the House of Commons focused on prospects for Ukraine following the 26 October parliamentary elections in the country.

Chaired by John Whittingdale MP, Director of the British Ukrainian Society and Chairman of the British-Ukraine All-Party Parliamentary Group, the panel discussion was jointly organised by the Ukraine Crisis Media Centre and the Russia Studies Centre at The Henry Jackson Society.

Read more ...

“Evropeiska Pravda” met with John Whittingdale at a panel discussion focusing on Ukraine which took place this Tuesday at the House of Commons. Being Chairman of the British-Ukraine All-Party Parliamentary Group, Mr Whittingdale co-organised that panel discussion. He was very open and honest in this interview taken just before the start of the event.

While some of Mr Whittingdale’s comments might not be received well by many readers in Ukraine, his views apparently reflect the general mood among pro-Ukrainian politicians in the EU, and particularly in London. For instance, he stated Ukrainians should not expect liberalisation of the visa regime with the UK in the foreseeable future.

We also discussed the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. While Mr Whittingdale admitted that Russian army invaded Ukraine and called the pro-Russian militants ‘terrorists’, he also noted that ‘Kyiv should not expect significant military support from the West.’

Read more ...

On 1 October 2014, Lord Risby and John Whittingdale took part in the ‘Ukraine and Europe: Peace and Development’ roundtable organised in Vienna by the German-Ukraine Forum.

They joined more than 150 other influential politicians and experts from Germany, Austria, Ukraine, the UK and France in discussing the ways of resolving the current crisis in Ukraine. Chairman of the British Ukrainian Society, Lord Risby, moderated a panel discussion which also included the BUS Director John Whittingdale as a panel speaker.

Lord Risby noted that, despite many difficulties which lie ahead for Ukraine in the next few weeks, the upcoming elections will be a watershed in the life of the country. “With a new Parliament, the European track, and the other things that will flow from it, I hope and believe this will be a new beginning.”

With the continuing military conflict in the East of Ukraine, Mr Whittingdale began with expressing his admiration for the courage of the people of Ukraine and his complete support against absolutely unacceptable aggression.

Read more ...

John Whittingdale MP attended the SET for Britain event in the House of Commons to meet Dr Zoe Barker, one of the finalists who lives in Maldon. SET for Britain is the major scientific competition and exhibition in Parliament to highlight the work of Britain’s Early-Stage Researchers in Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematical Sciences.

Read more ...

John Whittingdale’s support for pubs has been recognised as he received a new “Beer Champion” award in Parliament. The special award is a joint initiative from the British Beer & Pub Association, the Campaign for Real Ale, and the Society of Independent Brewers and recognises John’s role in supporting the brewing industry and pubs, and his successful campaigning for an end to the Beer Duty Escalator and a cut in Beer Duty which was announced by the Chancellor in last year’s Budget.

John Whittingdale said: “Pubs play a vital role in local communities and need support. In the Maldon constituency, we have 90 Pubs and four breweries, directly providing over 1,000 jobs. After successive tax increases totalling 42 per cent over 4 years, I am delighted that the Chancellor listened to our concerns and cut the duty on Beer. This will provide a real boost to local pubs and I am proud to be recognised as a Parliamentary Beer Champion”

John is pictured receiving his certificate with Keith Bott of the Society of Independent Brewers, Brigid Simmonds of the British Beer and Pub Association and Colin Valentine of the Campaign for Real Ale.

Marking Holocaust Memorial Day this week, John Whittingdale signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, honouring those who died during the Holocaust as well as honouring the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people about what they endured.

Monday 27th January will mark the 69th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.

In the weeks leading up to and after Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.

John Whittingdale said: “Holocaust Memorial Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau – and is an important opportunity to remember the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. I encourage all constituents to mark the day and to join members of my community in the fight against prejudice and intolerance.”

Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “We are proud that John Whittingdale is supporting Holocaust Memorial Day. It is vitally important that we both continue to remember and learn from the appalling events of the Holocaust – as well as ensuring that we continue to challenge antisemitism and all forms of bigotry.”

On Tuesday 10th December, John Whittingdale MP attended an event in Westminster organised by Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, to raise awareness of its annual Christmas campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The event, hosted by Neil Parish MP, celebrated the 35th anniversary of the iconic Dogs Trust slogan; “A Dog is for Life, Not Just for Christmas”. The phrase was coined in 1978 by the charity’s CEO, Clarissa Baldwin OBE, in a bid to highlight the issue of dogs being given as Christmas gifts, and indeed all year round, and later abandoned when the novelty wears off.

MPs were given the opportunity to take a festive Dogs Trust sleigh ride and meet a large number of furry friends. These pooches, however, were all stuffed toys – the only suitable kind of dog to give as a gift! Attendees also learned more about the charity’s annual campaign, which encourages people to pause and think carefully before taking on a dog, especially during the festive season.

John said: “I am delighted to support Dogs Trust and help the charity mark the 35th anniversary of its famous slogan, which is as important now as it ever has been. A dog is a lifetime commitment and should never be bought on impulse as if it were a new television or a pair of shoes. This message is particularly poignant during the festive season, when people are buying all sorts of gifts on a whim without necessarily considering the consequences. I would urge anyone thinking of buying a dog or puppy as a Christmas present to ‘paws’ before doing so, and remember that A Dog is for Life, Not Just for Christmas.”

Clarissa Baldwin OBE, Dogs Trust CEO said: “We are delighted that so many MPs are supporting us once again in raising awareness for our annual Christmas campaign. Although our iconic slogan is known all over the world, we still see dogs and puppies all too frequently purchased as inappropriate Christmas gifts. It is clear that our message is as poignant now as it was in 1978, which is why it so encouraging to see MPs get behind our message that a dog really is for life”.

Every year since 1978, Dogs Trust has campaigned to highlight the problems surrounding dogs being given as gifts at Christmas and all year round. The charity aims to curb this problem by educating people about responsible dog ownership and about the potential risks of buying pets on an impulse, be it in pet shops, directly through breeders, or online.

Dogs Trust is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity and cares for over 16,000 abandoned and unwanted dogs a year through its nationwide network of 18 rehoming centres. For more information about Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, visit www.dogstrust.org.uk.

Dogs Trust is due to open its Essex rehoming centre in Wickford in Spring 2014.

John Whittingdale MP has shown his support for James Wharton’s European Union (Referendum) Bill. The Bill will set in legislation a requirement that the British public will be given the chance to vote on our membership of the EU in 2017. If the Bill is passed, any future Government will be unable to break the commitment to hold a referendum in 2017 unless they pass legislation to reverse it.

John Whittingdale had the opportunity to speak in the debate which saw James Wharton introduce his Bill to Parliament in July 2013. He said:

“Since joining this House I have voted against the Maastricht Treaty, the Nice Treaty, the Amsterdam Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty, and I have seen successive Prime Ministers from both sides come back to this House and claim triumph either because they made what was on the table slightly less damaging than it would have been or because they had managed to negotiate an opt-out for this country. It is clear that the people in the other countries of the EU have a different vision – or at least their Governments do – as to the direction we should be moving in. It is time the British people are able to express a view on the truth, not as set out in 1975, and about the direction we know the EU wants to go in.

“I hope the Prime Minister is successful in negotiating a new relationship. If he succeeds in doing so, I will be cheering him and I will campaign for a yes vote, but unless we have a different type of relationship, my next campaign in a referendum will be for a no vote.”

John is pictured with James Wharton MP

John Whittingdale today took part in celebrations of the FA's 150th anniversary.

An Early Day Motion was tabled, with John's support which read:

That this House congratulates the Football Association (FA) on the occasion of its 150th anniversary on 26 October 2013; notes that the FA is the oldest governing body in football; commends the FA's not-for-profit commitment to supporting football since 1863; further commends the £100 million invested by the FA annually into football including facilities for grassroots football, coaching programmes for boys and girls, and development programmes for people with disabilities; welcomes the FA's valuable contribution to and support of the national game; and looks forward to hearing the progress of the newly-appointed FA Commission into English Football.

 


Last night John Whittingdale, Member of Parliament for Maldon, presented the Rural Fair Share Petition signed by residents of St Lawrence in Maldon. 25 other Members of Parliament representing rural constituencies presented petitions in similar terms.

The Rural Fair Share campaign is calling on the Government to address the ongoing disparity in funding between rural and urban areas.

The Petition is asking the Government to reduce the Rural Penalty – which sees urban areas receive 50% more support per head than rural areas – by at least 10% by 2020.

John Whittingdale said: “Overall rural residents earn less, on average, than those in cities, pay council tax which is £76 more per person but see urban areas receive Government grants worth 50% more per head than those in the countryside.

“Delivering services in sparsely populated rural areas like the Maldon District also tends to be more expensive, which can add to the burden.

“The Government is proposing to freeze this position until 2020. Freezing the system is indefensible, locking-in past unfairness and stopping changes the Government has itself agreed from actually being implemented.

”It is deeply unfair that, at a time when local authority budgets are under such pressure, that Maldon District Council and other rural authorities are penalised by a system which is so biased towards urban areas. I am very pleased that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, was in the Chamber to hear the presentations of the petitions and we have also written to the Prime Minister to urge the Government to put this right”.

Graham Stuart MP, Co-Founder of the Rural Fair Share campaign said: “The rural voice has been too quiet and too easily ignored for too long. We need a change so that the money councils get from the Government is based on need, not a political fix. We want to see the Rural Penalty reduced so it is no more than 40% by 2020. This will be fair to urban and rural people alike.”

It is with great sadness that I learnt of the death of Margaret Thatcher today. She will be remembered as one of Britain’s greatest prime ministers. Under her leadership, the prospects of this country were transformed and Britain’s reputation in the eyes of the world was restored. However, for those of us who worked closely with her, we will remember her as someone who inspired huge loyalty as a result of her personal kindness and compassion. I will always regard it as the greatest privilege to have worked for her and today mourn the passing of a great prime minister and a great lady.

 

This week John Whittingdale signed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, in doing so pledging his commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who died during the Holocaust.

Sunday January 27th will mark the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp which is the site of the largest mass murder in history. In the weeks running up to the day, the Holocaust Educational Trust placed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, giving MPs the chance to honour those who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust and encouraging constituents to work together to combat prejudice and racism today.

In signing the Book of Commitment, John Whittingdale paid tribute to those who perished during the Holocaust and honoured the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people about what they endured, through the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Outreach programme. In the weeks leading up to and after Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. This year, people will also be encouraged to honour those communities that have been destroyed by genocide and reflect on the importance of coming together to oppose prejudice and hatred.

John said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity to remember the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. I encourage all constituents to mark the day and to join members of community in the fight against prejudice and intolerance.” Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “We are proud that John Whittingdale is supporting Holocaust Memorial Day this year. It is vitally important that we both remember and learn from the appalling events of the Holocaust – as well as ensuring that we continue to challenge all forms of hatred and bigotry.” 

 

Maldon MP. John Whittingdale, was asked by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to present flowers to 3 sets of medallists in the Olympic Stadium on Sunday, 2nd September.

John presented flowers to each of the three medal winners in the Women’s Shotput F54/55/56, the Men’s Javelin Throw F33/34 and the Women’s 200 metres T46

John, who is Chairman of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said: “Having spent 7 years chairing the Committee monitoring preparations for the Games, it was a tremendous honour to be asked to present the flowers to the Paralympic medal winners in the Olympic Stadium. The atmosphere in the Stadium was tremendous and even though TeamGB did not win a medal in these particular categories, the warmth of the crowd’s reception was very moving. Coming after such a successful Olympic Games, the Paralympics have been truly inspiring, demonstrating the courage, determination and ability of so many remarkable athletes. I hope that they will also have helped to transform attitudes to disabled people and the challenges they face”.

John is pictured with the three medal winners in the Women’s Shot Put F54/55/56 category: Gold Medal: Liwan Yang (China) Silver Medal: Marianne Buggenhagen (Germany) Bronze Medal: Angela Madsen (USA)

 

John Whittingdale with Members of the House of Commons Select Committee on a recent visit to the Olympic Park.

It is now nearly seven years since the day on which it was declared that London would be the host city for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, and I suspect that almost everyone will remember where they were and their reaction when the news was announced.

It was undoubtedly fantastic news for Britain, and it was rightly celebrated, but I think that quite a lot of us also thought, “Oh dear, what do we do next?” One of the things that the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which I chair, decided to do was to hold regular sessions to monitor and scrutinise the work being done to prepare for the greatest sporting event that this country has held. Over the past seven years we have held annual sessions with the chairmen and chief executives of the Olympic Delivery Authority and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport—first Tessa Jowell and now my right hon. Friend Mr Hunt.

It is worth observing at this point that one of the striking things about the policy towards and preparation for the Olympics is that not only did London’s bid enjoy cross-party support from the start, but in all the time since it was announced as the host city, despite occasional, small differences across the Chamber, which were inevitable, in the main both parties have worked well together. Certainly, I believe that my party did what it could to support the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood when she was Secretary of State, and since then she has worked with us to ensure that the preparations go ahead smoothly and are not marred by partisanship or political point scoring.

Read more ...

The Rio carnival came to the Houses of Parliament as part of WWF’s Earth Hour 2012  

John Whittingdale MP committed to switch off the lights for WWF’s Earth Hour 2012 and to supporting the environment summit in Rio. WWF’s Earth Hour is a simple idea that has become a global phenomenon, with hundreds of millions of people turning off their lights on March 31 at 8.30pm to show they want to create a brighter future for the planet. Last year 135 countries, hundreds of millions of people and famous landmarks from Big Ben and Buckingham Palace in London to the India Gate in New Delhi took part in WWF’s Earth Hour.

The global event comes only a few weeks before another vital appointment for the 2012 environment calendar. In June, the Brazilian city famous in the world for its beautiful carnival will host the environment summit and MP is already showing support by signing up to WWF’s Earth Hour. The Rio summit is a crucial moment for world leaders to discuss vital themes for the future, such as sustainable food, water and energy, and also assess what progress has been made since the first summit twenty years ago.

Colin Butfield, WWF’s head of campaigns said: ‘Earth Hour is not about saving an hour’s electricity. It’s something much bigger. It’s about people coming together to put the focus on this brilliant world we all share – and how we need to protect it. Not just for an hour a year, but every day.’ “This year’s Rio conference is a fundamental moment for world leaders to commit to doing something tangible about the planet and taking part in Earth Hour is a small but important step that everyone can take on the 31st of March” 

John Whittingdale MP said, “I encourage people in to sign up and do something special during Earth Hour: from simply reading a book with your children, to a candlelit dinner party, everyone can show that they care for the environment”. For more information on WWF’s Earth Hour, please visit www.earthhour.wwf.org.uk 

 John Whittingdale meets the Cod Crusaders in Fraserburgh.

Pictured are: David Davidson MSP, Mrs Morag Ritchie (Cod Crusaders), Ted Brocklebank MSP, Mrs Carole MacDonald (Cod Crusaders) John Whittingdale, Peter Duncan (Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland), Owen Paterson MP (Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries).

John Whittingdale visits Brixham harbour to meet local fishermen and representatives of the industry.

Pictured are: Jim Portus (Chief Executive of South Western Fish Producers Organisation) Sir Simon Day (Fisheries spokesman, Committee of the Regions of the European Union), John Whittingdale, Neil Parish MEP, Conservative Agriculture and Fisheries Spokesman in the European Parliament and Mrs Sheryll Murray, former Chairman of the SWFPO.

John Whittingdale together with other members of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in the Olympic Stadium, Berlin, where the finals of the 2006 Football World Cup will be played.

John Whittingdale face to face with Daleks!

As a fan since boyhood of Dr Who, John could not refuse the chance to meet a Dalek and former Dr Who assistant Elizabeth Sladen who played Sarah Jane when both visited the House of Commons to mark the 40th anniversary of the Time Lord in November.

Did you know...the 1973 story, Carnival of Monsters, was filmed in the Maldon and East
Chelmsford constituency around Tillingham Marshes.

The Conservative Party has launched a new fishing advisory group, with the aim of restoring national control over the industry.

The initiative was pioneered by John Whittingdale, the Shadow Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, who has announced plans to visit major fishing communities around the British coast before unveiling a new policy based on managing the UK fishing stock nationally.
Organisations from all over the country attended a launch meeting at Westminster, including the Scottish White Fish Producers, The Fishermen's Association, the Shellfish Association, Folkestone's Fishermen's Association, the South Western Fish Producer Organisation, non-sector Inshore Fishermen, the Northern Producer Organisation, The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, Northern Ireland Fish Producer Organisation, and the Cod Crusaders Campaign.

Describing the EU's Common Fisheries Policy as a disaster, Mr Whittingdale declared: "I am delighted that so many leaders of the fishing industry across the country are willing to help us. I am also very encouraged by the measure of agreement about key issues and how they must be tackled."
Key issues under discussion were ways of managing fish stocks nationally, how to develop a selective fishing policy using modern scientific methods, exploring new methods of controlling fishing activity and banning industrial fishing instead of the current EU quota system, and eliminating discards and black fish.

Mr Whittingdale told conservatives.com: "We will now visit a number of fishing communities across the UK to talk directly to those involved. In time, we expect to visit other countries that already have successful national management schemes. In the long term we will come forward with details as to how a Conservative government will establish a management scheme outside the CFP."

During the Select Committee’s visit to California in May, members were taken on a tour of Fox Studios in Los Angeles where, among many other productions, the Simpsons is made.


Pictured are John Whittingdale MP, Chairman of the Committee, Adrian Sanders MP, Janet Anderson MP, Bart Simpson (topiary version!) Philip Davies MP, Adam Price MP, Paul Farrelly MP, Ray Gallagher (Committee Specialist) Martin Gaunt (Committee Clerk) and Alan Keen MP

John Whittingdale again showed his commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day by signing a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons to honour those who perished in the Holocaust.

As in previous years, Holocaust Educational Trust placed the Book of Commitment in the House of Commons to give MPs the opportunity to pledge that they will uphold the memory of the Holocaust and oppose hatred today.

In doing so, John paid tribute to those individuals who had the courage to ‘Stand up to Hatred’ in many different ways; by joining resistance movements such as The White Rose at the University of Munich; by speaking out to challenge the hatred being that surrounded them; or by risking their own life to rescue others in danger.

January 27th marks the anniversary of the liberation in 1945 of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the infamous concentration and extermination camp.

On and around Holocaust Memorial Day, schools, local communities and faith groups from across the UK will join together to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. Thousands of events are being held across the country to commemorate all those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust and in more recent genocides. Ultimately the aim of the day is to motivate people – individually and collectively, to ensure that the horrendous crimes, racism and victimization committed during the Holocaust and subsequent genocides are neither forgotten nor repeated again.

This year is the ninth year that the anniversary of the liberation of the camp has been officially commemorated in the UK. In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the day passing the Holocaust Memorial Day resolution.

John said “Holocaust Memorial Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and it should also serve as an opportunity to remember and reflect on the horrors of the Holocaust and other genocides. Racism and hate are still very much present in our society and together we have a duty to unite our communities and “Stand Up to Hatred”. It is essential to continue to educate youngsters about the Holocaust and encourage them to work together towards a better future”.

Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust said:

“We are delighted that John Whittingdale is supporting Holocaust Memorial Day. Holocaust Memorial Day and Holocaust education is more important now than ever. This year’s topic, “Stand Up to Hatred” highlights the importance of joining forces against hatred, prejudice and intolerance. Sadly antisemitism, Islamaphobia, Holocaust denial, racism, prejudice and even genocide still continue to pollute our world today.  At the Holocaust Educational Trust we endeavour to impart the history of the Holocaust to young people, across all communities so they can see where hate and racism can ultimately lead. It is the participation of all communities and the support of schools, local groups and local government that give this day the impact it has around the country and we applaud their commitment to ensuring the lessons of the past are learnt, acted upon and disseminated.”

 

MPs PLEDGE COMMITMENT TO HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY

To commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday 27th January, the Holocaust Educational Trust has organised for Members of Parliament to sign the Holocaust Memorial Day Book of Commitment to honour the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust and pay tribute to the bravery of those who risked their lives to help the persecuted.

From Monday 23rd January to Wednesday 25th January the Book of Commitment was placed in the House of Commons for Members to sign.
John Whittingdale said: “We must never forget the horrors of the Holocaust. Remembering the evil of fascism from the past compels us to fight racism and anti-Semitism today. We all have an obligation and role in combating bias and hate and Holocaust Memorial Day is one way to confront it.”
On January 27th schools, universities and local communities throughout the country will mark Britain’s sixth Holocaust Memorial Day. Hundreds of events are being held across Britain to commemorate all those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis in the Holocaust.

This year’s theme, ‘One Person Can Make a Difference,’ celebrates the courage of the rescuers and helpers who enabled the persecuted to survive and gave them hope and friendship in a time of loneliness and despair. The theme also offers every single person in the country the opportunity to challenge their own current behaviour and moral choices, forcing themselves to ask the question – ‘What would I have done if I had been there?’

 

John supports Churches in their Petition to 10 Downing Street, 27 January 2003.

Members of the RSCM, together with others from over 200 choirs, orchestras, and other instrumental groups contributed to a petition of 8,149 signatures against the Government's plan to impose an "Arts Tax" in the form of licensing charges to churches for hosting secular concerts.
The petition was delivered to 10 Downing Street by:

John Whittingdale OBE MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport)
Baroness Peta Buscombe (Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport in the House of Lords)
Cheryl Gillan MP (Member for Chesham and Amersham)
David Meacock (the petition's organiser, professional conductor and pianist)
Dr Michael O'Connor (Warden, RSCM)
Neil Hoyle (Chief Executive, Incorporated Society of Musicians)

 

John Whittingdale attended a reception organised by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games to be briefed on preparations and on the potential benefits for Essex from London hosting the Games.


John is pictured with Olympic Gold Triple Jumper, Jonathan Edwards and Olympic Silver diver, Leon Taylor with his medal from the Athens Games in 2004.

John used to work with Margaret Thatcher when she was Prime Minister and remmains a close friend. Pictured together at the No Turning Back Group Christmas dinner in December

John Whittingdale supports the International League for the Protection of Horses.

John Whittingdale pictured, meeting representatives of the International League for the Protection of Horses lobby of Parliament against the lifting of the export ban on live horses for slaughter on 31 March.

My Conservative colleague, James Gray MP, the Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, has campaigned tirelessly, in conjunction with groups such as the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH), to bring attention to this issue. We held an exhibition in the House of Commons in April and also secured an Adjournment debate on 31st March to discuss the issue.

Under the current Minimum Values Legislation, the export of horses and ponies is effectively banned with the exception of high value horses for breeding and for competition. The UK’s exemption had been under threat by EU proposals to revise animal transport regulations and it had appeared that the Government was failing to protect our position. This would have resulted in the resumption of the live export of low-value horses for salami, which we, as a nation of horse lovers, find nauseating.

British MEPs, led by my Conservative colleagues, Neil Parish MEP and Roger Helmer MEP, successfully secured an opt-out provision in the European Parliament which would have enabled the UK to prevent the live export of horses to slaughter abroad and this was endorsed by the EU Commissioner in charge of the legislation. Despite this, the Government still continued to ignore our efforts. In the end the Government was saved from having to show its true colours as agreement on the animal transport proposals collapsed at an EU Council Meeting in April.

You will be relieved to hear that our campaign appears to have been successful in convincing the Government at last to accept the merits of retaining the minimum values legislation. Alun Michael MP, the Minister for the Horse, replied to a Parliamentary question from James Gray MP in June explaining that the Government was not in favour of the live export of horses for slaughter and that it would continue to operate the export rules until they succeeded in obtaining an EU-wide agreement. As I am sure you will agree this is welcome news and a testament to the efforts of all those involved in our campaign.

 

John Whittingdale and Olympian Rebecca Romero add gold to community sports clubs campaign.

John Whittingdale joined up with two-time Olympic medallist Rebecca Romero this week to support CCPR’s Subs for Clubs campaign. Romero, track cycling gold medallist in Beijing, as well as silver rowing medallist in Athens was in the House of Commons to show off her medals and tell MPs about the importance of community sports clubs.

The aim of CCPR’s Subs for Clubs campaign is to allow Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs) to claim Gift Aid on junior membership subscriptions – just as organisations like the National Trust are permitted to do on their subscriptions. Currently 51% of sports clubs operate at a deficit or just manage to break even.

The cost would be small - £1.2 million in the first year rising to £4.4 million by 2012 – but the value to community sport would be enormous, allowing clubs to improve their facilities, train and improve their coaches, and re-invest in vital kit.

Rebecca Romero, 2008 Olympic track cycling champion and 2004 rowing silver medallist said:“Without grassroots provision, elite success is not possible. Even though we do not know who many of them are yet, our Olympic champions of the future are being given a chance to succeed at community sports clubs across the country. This is why it is so vital that community clubs are given as much financial help and support as possible. Allowing them to reclaim Gift Aid on junior subscriptions is a step in the right direction.”

John Whittingdale said: “With an ageing and growing population, as well as an obesity crisis looming, we have to support sports clubs which help us to lead healthy and active lives. Community sport is the base from which elite success springs and I am particularly proud that xxx (my constituency) has a variety of sports clubs so that people can get involved.

“This is why I support CCPR’s Subs for Clubs campaign to allow sports clubs to claim Gift Aid on junior subscriptions, providing a much needed resource for these clubs who contribute so much to our community.”

John Whittingdale visited the new Wembley Stadium in his capacity as Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select committee, to see how construction was progressing.

Also pictured are Janet Anderson MP, Paul Farrely MP and Adrian Sanders MP. 

John attends the Wildlife Trust's call for a Marine Bill.

John Whittingdale MP is supporting The Wildlife Trusts’ call for a Marine Bill in next month’s Queen’s Speech. Pictured here are John, Andy May (Conservation manager Essex Wildlife Trust) and Michele Kench (Media and Marketing Manager, Essex Wildlife Trust)

He attended their Petition Fish reception in the House of Commons where The Wildlife Trusts – along with representatives from individual Wildlife Trusts - showcased their fish with signed scales. They have gathered more than 150,000 signatures on scales from around the UK over the summer. At the event, The Wildlife Trusts launched their report Marine Reserves: TLC for our seas and sea life2.

John Whittingdale said: ‘I was encouraged to see the strength of public support for a Marine Bill which The Wildlife Trusts have gathered with their Petition Fish. Their report on Marine Reserves highlights the importance of this campaign. We have extraordinarily rich seas around the UK. They are home to more than 44,000 plants and animal species, from intricate corals and seahorses to seals and dolphins.

‘Our seas also play a critical role in regulating our climate. When healthy, they soak up vast amounts of carbon dioxide and release oxygen for us to breath. But this is all threatened by over-exploitation through activities such as overfishing, sand and gravel extraction, waste dumping and so on. We need to look after our seas far better. This is why we need a Marine Bill with effective powers for Marine Reserves - in next month’s Queen’s Speech.

Michael Allen, chairman of The Wildlife Trusts, said: ‘We have been delighted with the 150,000 signatures that Wildlife Trusts from around the UK have gathered for our Petition Fish. It shows there is public support for protecting our marine environment.

‘We have a unique patchwork of marine habitats around our coast with meadows of seagrass, forests of kelp, gardens of colourful sponges and corals, and moonscapes of sand and mud riddled with the burrows of millions of shellfish and worms. Not only does this report demonstrate the urgent need for a Marine Bill which includes effective legal measures to designate Marine Reserves but it also sets out how Marine Reserves might operate.

‘We appreciate the cross party support we have received for a Bill and urge the Government to include the Bill in next month’s Queen’s Speech.’

The Petition Fish are an innovative way of gathering petition signatures. The fish are large, brightly coloured cut-outs, representing four charismatic or endangered UK fish (cod, triggerfish, wrasse and plaice). After the launch of Petition Fish in the House of Commons in June, MPs and individual Wildlife Trusts gathered signatures on scales all around the UK. The fish with signed scales ‘shoaled’ on Westminster for the reception to demonstrate the support for the Marine Bill.

The Wildlife Trusts’ report Marine Reserves: TLC for our seas and sea life is available on the website www.wildlifetrusts.org


 

John Whittingdale meets Geoff Hurst, hero of the 1966 World Cup final, and gets the opportunity to hold the World Cup.