The Exiting the European Union Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department for Exiting the European Union and matters falling within the responsibilities of associated public bodies.

The membership is made up of twenty one members from  a variety of parties and its Chairman is the Rt Hon Hilary Benn. John was voted in by his Parliamentary colleagues and appointed on 31st October 2016.

All material from these sessions are available online and can be viewed by clicking the following links:

Publications

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/exiting-the-european-union-committee/publications/

Formal minutes of the meeting

http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/Exiting-the-European-Union/16-17/Formal%20minutes/Formal%20minutes%202016-17.pdf

News

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/exiting-the-european-union-committee/news-parliament-2015/

Christmas and New Year are times when we want above all to be with our families. It is therefore all the more important that we remember those who our many thousands of miles from their own loved ones, serving their country in our armed forces.

More than three years after John Reid, then Defence Secretary, said that he hoped  the British troops being sent to Afghanistan to return home without a shot being fired, this year alone more than 100 British servicemen have died. The bravery displayed by our armed forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere has surpassed all that we are entitled to expect. Every soldier and their families should know that the whole country is right behind them and incredibly grateful for the work that they do.

Recently President Obama announced a big increase in American troops for Afghanistan. If you add to that the extra soldiers that we are sending, we now have the best chance to ensure that our counter-insurgency campaign is successful, to deliver a safer country to the Afghan authorities and then to bring our brave troops home.

One of the best ways that we can show our support for them is by honouring the Military Covenant under which we pledge that those who risk their lives in service of their country are entitled to receive the best possible care and support when they return home.

Last year, the Conservative Party launched its Military Covenant Commission under the chairmanship of Frederick Forsyth. It has examined the health of the Military Covenant and made suggestions on how Government and society could better fulfil the duty they owe our troops, their families and veterans.

The Commission included Falklands hero, Simon Weston, and the military historian and journalist Sir John Keegan. The Commission has now published its report outlining 57 recommendations to improve welfare policy for Service personnel, their families and veterans.  I with many of my colleagues have also signed the Royal British Legion campaign pledge to “do my bit” to improve the welfare of serving personnel, past and present, and their families.

We should be immensely proud of our Armed Forces whatever our views on recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our serving men and women, sailors, soldiers and airmen, are currently being let down. They must be able to trust the Government to look after their wellbeing and that of their families and our veterans.

With Parliament’s return last week, we are now in the final stretch before the General Election which must be held within the next 8 months. And after 12 years of Labour Government, the country is desperate for change.

What ever the outcome, the task facing the next Government is immense. A full six months after the recession in France and Germany ended, our economy is still shrinking making it the longest and deepest recession in modern history. This year, our Government will borrow £1 in every £4 it spends. We have the largest budget deficit of any large economy, and the highest debt level since the Second World War.

So the priority for the next Government must be to get the public finances under control. That will require difficult and painful decisions including significant cuts in public spending and postponement of tax reductions. However, it is far better to be open and honest now than try to pretend that we can go on as we are. We also need responsibility when it comes to fixing our broken society, the bleak record of violent crime, long term unemployment and family breakdown.

That is why the Conservative Party is setting out plans to promote responsibility in all these areas. It includes a radical programme of school reform, giving parents more choice over where their children go to school, and more powers to teachers to improve discipline and behaviour in the classroom. We also need radical reform of our welfare system, getting people off a life on benefits and into work. We also recognise that people are not going to take lectures from politicians about responsibility unless they see politicians being responsible themselves. That is why the crisis over expenses has been so damaging and why we must have deep-rooted and lasting political reform. Part of that is about greater transparency and openness. Part of it is about reducing the cost of politics as a whole. But we also need to devolve more power to local people and make Government more accountable to them.

These are profound challenges which will confront whichever party is chosen to form the next Government. However, it is clear that our country desperately needs change and to achieve that we need a general election which cannot come soon enough.

 

With Council Tax bills landing on doorsteps soon, John sets out the background to local government spending in Essex.

I am often asked why, when inflation is only around 2.5 per cent, the average Council Tax for a band D property in Maldon and Chelmsford has gone up from around £640 in 1997 to around £1,100 this year. One of the main reasons for this is that the proportion of local government's spending financed by central Government has fallen over the past six years, meaning that the amount that has to be raised by council tax has gone up. At the same time, the Government has redirected money away from councils in the South East towards councils in the Midlands and North. This has hit Essex particularly hard so that last year, the County Council received the lowest grant settlement of any County Council in the country.

While the amount of money that Essex gets from the Government has been squeezed, our local councils have had to meet a raft of extra burdens and regulations that have been imposed upon them. Over 2,000 initiatives, strategies and partnerships involving local authorities have been created. Meanwhile, councils have also had to pay more for each of their employees due to the increase in National Insurance contributions as well as paying more to provide pensions for former employees due to the Government's Pension Fund tax. Many people are now struggling to meet their Council Tax bills, with pensioners being especially hard hit. I will continue to campaign for a fairer settlement for our county and, in the longer term, for the whole system of local government finance to be looked at again.

John Whittingdale responds to the Third Reading of the Gambling Bill in the House of Commons.

We have always made it clear right from the start that there is much in the Bill that we agree with. It contains a number of important measures that will help to introduce controls over remote gambling, for instance, and give new powers to the gambling commission. Since Second Reading there has, however, been the most extraordinary saga. The Government rightly began their preparation of the Bill by consulting widely and then subjecting the draft Bill to scrutiny. I join the Secretary of State in paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) and his Committee for their work. There is no doubt that the scrutiny Committee improved the Bill. Indeed, the Government's troubles started when they departed from its recommendations on regional casinos. Having done that, they appeared surprised at the chorus of opposition that they encountered. That led to not just one but two U-turns, reverses or whatever the Secretary of State chooses to call them, during the Committee stage.

The Government certainly appeared for a long time to be in a state of blind panic. What they have done has completely changed the whole thrust of the Bill, and at the very last stage of its passage. They have done so without any consultation with the industry and without any proper scrutiny. In some areas, they have turned a Bill that began life as a liberalising measure into one that will put in place a more restrictive regime than exists at present. By doing so, they have ended up satisfying almost no one. The overseas investors who were led to believe that there would be an opportunity for them in this country now feel betrayed because they will be restricted to a small number of locations. The domestic industry saw £0.5 billion wiped off its share values as a result of the Minister's statement in the Committee. The local authorities, many of which looked on the Bill as offering potential regeneration benefits, also feel let down. Those who are concerned about the dangers of gambling addiction still feel that the Bill may allow too many regional casinos and too many category A machines.

David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): The Government should listen. As there was so much criticism from both sides of the House—indeed, more criticism probably came from the Labour side—about the unlimited number of casinos, what is wrong with the Government responding to the views of Members of the House of Commons? They have taken the right turn, and I therefore support the Bill.
Mr. Whittingdale: In some areas, we welcome the fact that the Government have listened—indeed, we would have preferred them to listen rather earlier. As I said earlier, many of the problems would have been avoided if the Government had listened to the Joint Committee's original recommendations. Obviously, we welcome the fact that on some matters, the Government have moved in the direction in which we have urged them.
The Government have now agreed to introduce a pilot scheme for regional casinos, but the proposed number of casinos is still too large. We also regret the fact that they are unwilling to introduce or maintain an identity requirement for those using casinos.

24 Jan 2005 : Column 129

On seaside arcades—a matter of great concern to many hon. Members—I welcome the commitment from the Minister for Sport and Tourism this evening to conduct a review. However, we would have liked him to make it clear at this stage that the Government will remove the clause giving the Secretary of State reserve powers to ban children from using those machines. Because of the movement by the Government, and because we support the measures to give powers to the gambling commission and to tackle remote gambling, we do not intend to vote against Third Reading.
Despite the enormous amount of preparation time, the Bill has not received proper scrutiny. It was changed dramatically on the last day in Committee, when we did not have a proper opportunity to examine those changes. Even tonight, there were five whole groups of amendments that the programme motion did not allow to be debated. I hope that those in another place will now subject the Bill to the scrutiny that it still badly needs. I accept the Secretary of State's point that the Bill is better than when it started, but it is still flawed, and the fact that we do not propose to divide the House tonight does not mean that we do not believe that the Bill is capable of significant improvement in another place.

 

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