Yesterday's speech about the role of an MP
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. It contains an entry for JHC, which stands for John Hemming & Co., a company I founded in 1983. It currently employs about 260 staff and has a turnover of £20 million. I have declared in the register an income of around £180,000 from that company. I attend a meeting once a month and chair the board meeting. I am a full-time Member of Parliament. I spend five full days during the week and two half days at the weekend on political business. Oddly enough, the motion is so badly drafted that it would not affect me, because the £180,000 I receive is from a partnership, and the motion does not refer to partnerships. Obviously, there is a lot of confusion about equity interest and payment per hour. I spend under four hours a month on the work set out in my declaration of interests.
What do I do? Well, today I met the Latvian Justice Minister, who is concerned about what is happening in the family courts in England as it affects Latvian citizens. I have attended two Select Committee meetings today. I actually sit on five Select Committees, and I probably attend more Delegated Legislation Committees than any other Member of Parliament. Therefore, when it comes to parliamentary activity, I can claim to be as busy in Parliament as one can be. Indeed, one of my colleagues said that he did not think that I had a second job because he always sees me here, and I am here a lot.
Fiona O'Donnell: May I ask why the hon. Gentleman decided to donate to charity his income from taking part in ComRes consultations but not to donate income from his other employment?
John Hemming: The problem with that question is that the hon. Lady has made an assumption that I do not make other donations to charity. I do make other donations, but they are not set out in my entry in the register. I am sorry, but that claim is basically wrong.
I do a vast amount of casework. I have my advice bureau on Saturdays, and the maximum number I have dealt with is 38 groups of people. Admittedly, that took a little longer than normal, but I see everybody who turns up at my office on a Saturday without an appointment—many colleagues who claim to be full-time Members of Parliament require appointments, but I do not. I have been a full-time politician since 2004, when I was deputy leader of Birmingham city council, which is also a full-time job. From a casework point of view, having dealt with about 30,000 cases of varying complexity since then, I am a full-time MP. I run campaigns about secret imprisonment, term-time absence, parents being prosecuted because their children are ill and dealing with people who leave this country because they are persecuted by the state. That is part of my job as a full-time MP.
I am also a pianist, as is well known. I play the piano at the party conference and later in March I have a gig in my constituency in Birmingham for Macmillan Cancer Support, which is sold out. Admittedly, that will all go to charity. As the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) knows, I play jazz music in various places for charitable purposes. This year we are not raising money jointly for Macmillan at the Palace of Varieties show, but these things still go on.
I have additional business costs because I am an MP, but where is the conflict of interest? There is a conflict of interest for Ministers, because if they vote against the Government they are fined by losing their ministerial salary. That is why Ministers are called the payroll—they are paid extra money by the Government in order to back the Government and vote with the Government, whether they agree with them or not. So it is very clear, with our system of failed separation of powers, that a conflict of interest arises from the second job of being a Minister.
to take legal action against the city council to try to get it to clean up the streets, which was good in that it got the council to clean up the streets, but bad in that I was ordered to pay costs against the council. That is being appealed through the courts.
How do my constituents benefit from me? I have a little bit more money, that is true, so I pay beyond parliamentary expenses for a benefits adviser who comes to my office to give specialist benefits advice. I was able
Since 2009 I have claimed no second home expenses and I am the most cost-effective Member of Parliament in Birmingham. I use saver return tickets to get to the House of Commons. That keeps my travel costs low so, although I go between London and Birmingham every week because I live in Birmingham, I am by a long way the cheapest MP in Birmingham in terms of personal expenses.
I deliver for my constituents. I deliver more widely on campaign issues. What is the problem with me spending four hours a month continuing to have an interest in the business that I founded more than 30 years ago, which pays a large amount of tax and provides jobs for 260-plus people?
Some responses from the Yardley NHS survey
Firstly on Labour's proposals for another NHS reorganisation.
Secondly on whether there is a role for buying in services.
Software and Grexit
It appears that the Greeks have decided that they are unwilling to compromise and the rest of the Eurogroup have decided that they won't throw good money after bad.
There then comes the technical question of how to establish an economy based upon the "new drachma". When changes are planned to financial software such as benefits and taxation quite a long period of planning is needed before the systems are in place to cope with this. It is really not practical to establish the software and systems for a completely new currency overnight. That would imply the greek government trying to cope with making payments in a situation where those banks holding a lot of greek debt are unable to operate.
I am not quite sure how this actually works.
It does seem, however, that after today the ball is in the Greek government court. They can come back to the EuroGroup suggesting that they agree to something akin to the deal. However, the timescale to avoid chaos is this week.
This creates quite a considerable element of uncertainty. My feeling is that with QE and other tools that the ECB has that things will settle down reasonably quickly outside Greece. However, I would expect some turbulance in the mean time.
Yardley Hustings Agreed
Having not had hustings in 2010, the candidates (or at least the Lib Dem, Labour and Conservative) candidates have arranged a hustings event between 2 and 4 pm at South Yardley Library on 21st March 2015.
The Respect and UKIP candidates have been told of the event, but neither have confirmed attendance.
Greece and the EU
It is not that easy to predict what will happen with Greece. The arguments of the Greek government are absurd. They cannot revisit the Second World War when the country agreed a settlement many years ago. The argument about profits on Greek bonds is a nonsense given the amount that has already been written off. Now we have, "if we go it falls apart".
If they renege on their contractual commitments "if falls apart". Which is why the other EU countries won't just let them off their treaty obligations.
My personal view is that the elected representatives for Syriza are not going to compromise enough and will push it to the limits. That is likely to lead to Greece being in default and short of cash. In the end this is actually enough to drive them out of the EU. They are unlikely to agree to enforce any ECJ judgments in respect of paying debt. Hence I think they are on the way out of the EU itself - not just the Eurozone.
The fact that they have started with arguments that hold no water at all does lead to the conclusion that Grexit is the end game. However, nothing is certain. The difficulty with Grexit is that no-one would be enthusiastic about "new drachmas" with Syriza in charge.
Not a good situation.