Arms sales are worth about £8 billion every year to the Uk economy. All arms exports have to be licensed through the BEIS Department and have to be signed off by the Secretary of State. Arms exports are a controversial subject and understandably so. Opposition politicians take delight in criticising the government for exporting arms to various countries with dodgy human rights records. In 2016 58% of our defence exports went to the Middle East. Between 2010 and 2015 our arms sales to Saudi Arabia amounted to £3.523 bn. [source: House of Commons Library]. They grew year on year from £550m in 2010 to £808m in 2015.
This week Vince Cable waded into the debate, something which he might come to regret. He said that if he were in government he would have stopped arms sales to Saudi Arabia a long time ago. He was, and didn’t. He was Business Secretary between 2010 and 2015. At best Vince is virtue signalling, at worst he is, to quote Zac Goldsmith, being “slippery”. I’ll leave you to judge which.
There was a lot of chatter about a reshuffle last week, although it seems to have died down now. We in the Westminster bubble love nothing better than a bit of reshuffle speculation. It fills column inches and hours of fun on the 24 hour news channels. It seems it’s now not going to happen, so the prospect of Jacob Rees Mogg joining the government must wait a little longer. I’m intrigued by Jacob. He’s one of my favourite interviewees, partly because he always has something interesting to say and can also be very funny. I’ve always thought his ambitions lay in acquiring the rights to sit in the Speaker’s chair rather than join the government but I wonder if his mind has been turned a little by the Moggmentum phenomenon. On Wednesday, however, something went very wrong. Jacob went on Good Morning Britain with Susanna Reid and Piers Morgan and said he was against abortion in any circumstances (including rape and incest) and was also against gay marriage. Personally, I applaud any politician who gives their honest views, and he is of course entitled to them. I disagree with both, as you’d expect, but at least he was honest, rather than do what Tim Farron did and equivocate (and even lie). The real question is this: can someone with such conservative views ever take on a leading government role? He is the Ann Widdecombe de nos jours. Ann’s abortive leadership bid in 2001 failed, ostensibly because her parliamentary colleagues couldn’t stomach her social conservatism. She was hugely popular among Tory members, and had she reached the last two in the contest she may have won. Sixteen years on, the Tory Parliamentary Party has changed a lot and I’d say it’s become massively more socially liberal.
I’m sorry to say that these remarks also put the Speaker’s Chair further from Jacob’s reach. I’m sorry because I think he’d be a brilliant Speaker. But Labour MPs will come under a lot of pressure not to support someone with such conservatives views. Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle will be smiling to himself thinking, another opponent bites the dust…
There’s a lot of cant – yes cant – being talked about the so-called Henry VIIi clauses in the Great Repeal Bill. Isn’t the purpose of this Bill to repeal a single giant Henry VIII clause? Peter Lilley, who knows a lot about these things, has written an article pointing out “for 44 years the European Communities Act 1972 which implemented our membership of the European Community has meant EU legislation has become binding on UK citizens with no power for Parliament to amend or reject it. Once a law was agreed in Brussels, even if every single British MP voted against it, it still became law. The Repeal Bill will end that.”
Peter is offering a bottle of champagne to the first person reporting a BBC interviewer challenging a Euro-enthusiast about why they are concerned about Henry VIII clauses in this Bill but are happy with the father of all Henry VIII clauses in the Act it repeals?
I suspect he deserves to be drinking the champagne himself.
Only eight days until the LibDem conference starts. Contain your collective excitement please.
It is a mystery to me as to why Nadhim Zahawi has never been made a minister. He’s an excellent media performer and keeps coming up with interesting and sometimes radical policy ideas. This week he is suggesting that as part of a wider policy to attract back the youth vote, under 25s should be given an income tax break, where they pay a rate of 15% or even 10%. On the face of it, something serious to consider. However, I’m told the LibDems had this idea before the 2015 election, as they needed to do something to make up for their embarrassing volte face on tuition fees. However, when they polled and focus grouped the policy, it bombed among all age groups including young people. They felt it was fundamentally unfair to older generations. So the LibDems dropped the policy.