We in Europe ourselves do not have a good record historically on religious tolerance. I speak as a member of a religious minority myself – a Catholic in Great Britain. For 300 years, we were not allowed to practise our faith. That, you might say, is a long time ago, and we are proud in Europe of our record on religious tolerance, but in the century in which all of us were born there were appalling acts of genocide and intolerance in western Europe.
The reason this report is important, and what we should focus on, is the appalling acts of intolerance taking place on our very doorstep – in the Middle East. A number of speakers have mentioned that, but it is important to keep repeating it and to keep putting pressure on our governments to raise such issues with friendly nations in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has spoken out about the Chancellor’s budget for 2013. Speaking in the Commons, Mr Leigh argued that the Government needs to focus on working families and individuals who have been hardest hit by the economic crisis.
“We are dealing with a desperate situation,” Mr Leigh told the Commons, “and we should put at the forefront of our minds the appalling human tragedy of ordinary people who are being put out of work and who cannot find work.”
“The problems we face are difficult, complex, and international,” Mr Leigh continued. The Gainsborough MP argued that structural reform is needed to Britain’s system of tax collection to make it simpler, cheaper, easier to use, and more competitive.
“It would be much better to have a flatter, simpler form of taxation so that people make their own decisions and do not rely on Government handouts, and so that we do not have a huge industry based on evasion and avoidance.”
Mr Leigh also queried the Government’s reluctance to recognise marriage when collecting taxes. “Why have we not fulfilled our pledge to introduce a married person’s tax allowance?” The United Kingdom is one of only two countries in the entire developed world that does not recognise married couples for the purposes of income tax.
Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough, has welcomed new steps set out by the Prime Minister to ensure we have an immigration system that favours people who work hard and want to get on in life. Tough reforms of all the routes of immigration to the UK have already been implemented by the Conservatives and have seen net immigration fall by almost a third since the last general election.
Local MP Edward Leigh said:
After thirteen years of open borders under Labour, many people, whether here in Lincolnshire or around the country, are concerned about immigration. Conservatives in Government have implemented a comprehensive reform of our immigration system to make it stronger and more selective. These reforms have seen net immigration cut by a third since the general election.
I welcome the new steps which the Prime Minister has set out to ensure that everyone who comes here pays their way and is able to give something back. With these rule changes on benefits and NHS treatment we will stop our system from being a ‘soft touch’. Entitlement to public services is now something migrants must earn and not an automatic right. This will stop the ‘something for nothing’ culture which sprouted up under Labour. These are common sense reforms and they will make a difference for people here in Lincolnshire.
When this Government was elected, the Secretary of State for Works & Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, launched a massive overhaul of the way benefits are distributed in this country. Right now, a claimant receives each benefit through different agencies depending on the nature of the benefit. This results in waste and inefficiency on the part of the departments involved. Through the Universal Credit, claimants will receive a single payment from the government for whichever benefits they are entitled to.
Furthermore, benefits will be reformed to ensure that every able-bodied claimant who can work is always financially better off working instead of on benefits. Over the long term, we hope this will change the entire culture of benefits in this country, so that taxpayers here in Lincolnshire know that we are concentrating on spending their money on those who need it most.
This week will also see the year’s budget unveiled in the House of Commons. I have been pressuring the Government to ensure the Treasury focuses on providing immediate relief for hard-working families, but we also can’t abandon dealing with the massive deficit inherited from the previous government.
You may have seen on Look North this week on the floor of the Commons I invited Ed Davey, the climate change secretary, to come to Lincolnshire to admire our glorious views from the edge of the Wolds and show him how they would be ruined by enormous wind farms. I’m not holding my breath to see if he’ll come.
With a new pope in Rome, it’s worth pointing out that Britain currently enjoys very good relations with the Holy See (as the Vatican is known in diplomatic affairs). Many often assume that this is not very important, and that we should focus on other matters in our international relations. But we should remember that the Vatican represents 1.2 billion people worldwide. To put that in perspective, China has 1.4 billion and India has 1.2 billion as well.
The Vatican isn’t a trading partner but I’m sure you’ll agree we shouldn’t lose sight of the important moral aspects which the churches are here to remind us of. This is also true of the Church of England, and last week in the Commons I spoke up in defence of the independence of the Church of England from government interference.
However, this Government is doing an excellent job at promoting British trade relations abroad. The Prime Minister has completed a whirlwind tour of the Middle East and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has also been to India to promote British trade and industry as well as higher education. But Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is completely right to tighten up the process to get visas to study in the UK, as she has recently done. We must ensure the best and brightest are free to come to England, but that doesn’t mean letting colleges act as conduits for immigration through the back door. Slowly but surely, we are making progress.
The following is the text of Edward Leigh’s speech in the debate on the Justice & Security Bill, 4 March 2013.
I know that you are anxious to allow others to contribute, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I hope to encompass my remarks in two or three minutes. I also hope that Mr Howarth will forgive me, a reactionary, for being progressive, but occasionally that is what one has to do.
I think I could have made this point very simply to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister in an intervention, but I was unable to catch his eye. The general tenor of his remarks was that this was an argument got up by lawyers, that he had tried to make more and more concessions, and that we were dancing on the head of a pin. I think that there is a fundamental point of principle that can be expressed very clearly by a Conservative. There has been a great deal of reportage this week about what the Conservative party stands for. In my view, it stands for a deep and abiding distrust of the state and its agencies, and a desire always to stand up for civil liberties. That is why our party was founded.
When the Minister leaves the House tonight, as he goes through the Members’ Entrance he will see on his right a small plaque which marks the site of the Court of Star Chamber. Why did Toryism develop in the 17th and 18th centuries? It was in retaliation against the powers of states encompassed in that secret court, whereby people could be tried without knowing the evidence against them. I know perfectly well that we are not talking about criminal cases now, but civil cases too are very important. Justice, in my view, is indivisible. Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Leigh, Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has released the following statement on the proposal to shut Caistor Yarborough Academy and Caistor Grammar School:
My support for what the government is hoping to achieve with its school reforms is a matter of public record. It is vital that school standards are forced up so that every child can benefit from the best possible start in life.
However I fail to see how putting the school with the best results in Lincolnshire at risk of closure can possibly improve standards across the county. What’s more, closing both Caistor Yarborough Academy and Caistor Grammar School, and leaving the town with no schools, cannot be in the best interests of Caistor’s residents.
Pupils travel from miles around to go to school in Caistor, and the distances travelled for the grammar school is especially great. In sparsely populated rural areas there is a limit to how big schools, and particularly selective schools, can be.
I am today writing to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, seeking urgent clarification on this matter. I hope that we will be able to save both schools from the threat of closure. I would be amazed by the way if a school which has been excelling for almost four centuries were closed. Government reforms are aimed at under-performing schools.
Many readers will have been affected by the recent rush of wind farm planning applications, such as those at Hemswell Cliff and Corringham near Gainsborough. I have been heartened by the recent rejection of the application for the Normanby by Spital proposal. The latest application is in Osgodby parish, within the bounds of the thousand-year-old Kingerby estate, flanked by ancient woodland. Here the wind farm industry proposes to build a 67-metre-high turbine – the top just a few feet lower than the Church of All Saints, the famous “Ramblers’ Church”, in Walesby.
Walkers along the Viking Way, in our splendid Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, will be able to look it in the eye as it stands a few miles away, standing hauntingly over the fields like some sort of H.G. Wells alien nightmare. The wind there is particularly fickle and unreliable, far below the norm for an efficient wind turbine, and so a single wind turbine will not be enough to make it feasible for the proposers. Instead, there will be a whole group of 67-metre-high turbines with their blades cutting across the blue sky. The way to Kingerby Church, noted by Simon Jenkins in his England’s Thousand Best Churches, will be overshadowed by these often useless and before long rusting monsters, standing where the heron used to fly. As the visitor to Kingerby church turns back to look towards Lincoln Cathedral, its profile will be marred by their great swinging blades.
This valley is unusually unspoiled. Read the rest of this entry »
LONDON – Edward Leigh MP, the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Holy See, expressed his surprise this morning at the news of the impending retirement of Pope Benedict XVI.
“I know I can speak for many Catholics in public service and others around the country when I commend the Pope for the work he’s done. The relationship between Great Britain and the Holy See is stronger now than at any time since the Reformation, and much of that is thanks to the determined efforts of the Holy Father.” Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Leigh MP has condemned the Coalition government’s attempt to change the Act of Settlement to alter the succession to the Crown. The Succession to the Crown Bill, currently being debated in Parliament, would remove the primacy of male children over female children while keeping the religious discrimination against Catholics. Speaking in the Commons, Mr Leigh argued “to be trapped at the beginning of the 21st century in arguments that raged at the beginning of the 18th century is frankly absurd.”
“In this day and age,” Mr Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, continued, “when it comes to a person’s suitability to become Head of State, they should not be discriminated against because of their religion.” Read the rest of this entry »
MPs have overwhelmingly backed calls by Gainsborough MP Edward Leigh to change the Equality Act to protect Christians and those from other religions who support the current definition of marriage.
By a margin of nearly three to one (86 votes to 31), MPs endorsed a Ten Minute Rule Bill moved by Mr Leigh to change the Equality Act.
The Bill would make ‘marriage’ a protected category, meaning that those who believe in traditional marriage would not be penalised for their beliefs.
During the debate Mr Leigh highlighted the recent case of Adrian Smith. Mr Smith a housing manager from the Trafford Housing Trust was disciplined for posting a message saying that gay marriage in churches was “an equality too far” on his personal Facebook page. Following a complaint from a colleague, he was demoted and had his pay docked by 40 per cent.
Mr Leigh served as a minister under both Margaret Thatcher and John Major. He warned MPs that if pressed ahead with plans to redefine marriage, hundreds of thousands of people could be disciplined, sacked by their employers or be treated as outcasts, just like Mr Smith.
Mr Leigh also drew the MPs attention to the fact that despite winning a lengthy legal battle, which ended in High Court last year, Mr Smith had not been reinstated to his old position, a fact the judge, Mr justice Briggs described as “an injustice”.
Citing legal advice from a top QC Aidan O’Neill, he warned that the Government’s plans would have serious consequences for those who work in the public sector, use public facilities like community centres, or receive funds from the public purse unless there are adequate legal protections.
Speaking after the vote, Mr Leigh commented: “Army and NHS chaplains who preach in favour of traditional marriage in their own churches on Sunday could find themselves in trouble for it at work on Monday.
“Tens of thousands of teachers are at risk of disciplinary action for expressing traditional views on marriage. Although my Bill to help these people will not become law, by voting for it today the House of Commons has expressed concern about this important issue. We must now make sure at the very least that the Government’s same-sex marriage bill is amended along the lines we have proposed.”
Gainsborough MP Edward Leigh came out of an important meeting with the Chief Executive of the East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) this afternoon feeling optimistic about the future of Gainsborough ambulance station.
Mr Leigh has waged a long running campaign to save the ambulance station, which had been threatened with closure. Phil Milligan, head of EMAS, this afternoon assured him that the station in Gainsborough was likely to remain open, and even had potential to be upgraded to a fleet management centre.
“As a former chairman of the Public Account Committee within parliament, I am enthusiastic about driving efficiency within taxpayer funded services. This means improving services without bloating costs. I am glad that we have managed to finally agree, in principle, to keep our ambulance station open.”
Proposals under the service’s modernisation programme had planned to cut the number of full time ambulance stations from sixty-six down to thirteen. Mr Leigh, as part of a long-running dialogue with the EMAS Chief, had made clear that this would not leave the people of North Lincolnshire with the level of service they deserve. The new proposals are currently being costed and will be finalised before approval in March, they will include 131 bases and standby points across the area. An ambulance will remain on standby within Market Rasen to respond to call outs in the eastern part of the constituency.
Mr Leigh concluded,
“When people need an ambulance, they need one immediately. I could never support cuts to the service levels and response time for my constituents. I am glad that this personal meeting with Phil Milligan has delivered the outcome we wanted – proposals for an improved ambulance service for people across North Lincolnshire, and Gainsborough ambulance station remaining open”
Gainsborough MP Edward Leigh has been congratulated in the House of Commons on the success of his campaign to reform section 5 of the Public Order Act to remove the word insulting. He has campaigned relentlessly on this issue with the help of the Christian Institute, one of the many organisations which have supported a change in the law.
As it stands at the moment, the law outlaws any words of behaviour which are ‘likely’ to be ‘insulting’. This has led to the conviction of a teenager for saying ‘woof’ to two Labradors, the arrest of an Oxford student who said to a policeman, ‘excuse me, do you know that your horse is gay?’, and caused the police to ask a cafe owner displaying bible verse in his establishment to remove it. The campaign has been supported by organisations and people as diverse as the National Secular Society, the Christian Institute, the Association of Chief Police Officers, Liberty, Stephen Fry and Rowan Atkinson.
In the House of Commons, Mr Leigh said,
“Most people are surprised to learn that insults are against the law in this country. They think that that kind of law would exist only in some kind of oppressive communist society, not in England and Wales, where traditionally we have given the world this concept of freedom of expression, and the freedom to insult people is an important part of traditional freedom. I believe—and we all know—that insults are minor compared with threats or abuse. An insult is a slight on one’s reputation; it can hurt feelings. Yet just because my feelings are hurt—because I feel that somebody over there has insulted me—should I attempt, or should the police attempt, to make them a criminal? I do not believe that is right.”
“Section 5 has undermined civil liberties and I am glad that we are finally able to put this right today.”