What to do about MPs’ pay

My regular slot on Radio Four’s Westminster Hour MP panel tonight had a sting in the tail…a discussion about whether MPs should accept a pay rise! There’s probably never been a time when the press and the public think that MPs deserve a pay rise. But at the moment I would agree that the time is not right. My salary has been frozen for three years since May 2010, in line with other public sector employees earning more than £21,000 a year. Public sector pay goes up by 1% in the next two years and we should expect to get no more.

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Estonia – a liberal success story

While Britain seems set for a long period of debate about our continued membership of the European Union, other countries are strengthening their position in the European family of nations. Last year I went on a double MP delegation to help Macedonia in its preparatory stages for EU membership. Last week I returned from a visit to another small state that has made a huge success since joining, Estonia.

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Responding to the Queen’s Speech – a nerve racking Commons occasion!

This afternoon I stood in a packed House of Commons for the most nerve racking speech of my career so far.  After the pomp and pageantry of the Queen’s Speech (for which I had a bird’s eye view from the Lords Gallery) MPs debate the speech over several days.  By tradition, the debate is initiated by two backbench MPs, formally presenting a “Humble Address” of thanks to Her Majesty.  I was one of the MPs to be given that honour today.

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Liberal Democrats 25 years and 106 MPs

This year marks twenty five years since the formation of the Liberal Democrats.  The party’s had something of a roller coaster journey since the merger of the old Liberal Party and the SDP.  The first two years could not have been more disastrous.  Three of the SDP’s five MPs refused to join, though most grass roots members transferred. While all of the seventeen Liberal MPs joined, some were less than enthusiastic about the new party.

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Thoughts on residents parking and Bristol local government

I was first elected to the old Avon council twenty years ago this week. My ward of Cabot covered the city centre, Kingsdown and much of Cotham and Clifton.  For the next six years I spent most of my time trying to minimise the impact of the car on my local residents. They suffered more than any other part of the city from commuters using their streets as a giant free parking lot and “rat running” at speed.

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Budget 2013 – £10,000 tax free pay thanks to the Liberal Democrats

Most Budgets fade into the mists of time.  But some stand out in history.  For Liberals, Lloyd George’s 1909 “People’s Budget” is surely the greatest. Peel abolished the Corn Laws in 1846, having re-introduced income tax in 1842.  Of more recent Chancellors, the two longest serving have been Nigel Lawson and of course Gordon Brown.  Lawson made huge changes to the rates of income and capital gains taxes in 1988.  Brown littered his budget speeches with claims to have abolished “boom and bust”…and then presided over the biggest economic contraction since the early 1930s.

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Extending Civil Partnerships to Opposite Sex couples

The committee of MPs considering the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill got down to the serious work of line by line debate this morning. By late afternoon we had agreed the first clause, establishing that marriage between same sex couples is lawful. Three Tory MPs and the sole DUP member voted against. All Lib Dem and Labour MPs voted in favour.

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Lib Dems in Government delivering Fairer Taxes

I campaigned at the last general election for a fairer, more balanced tax system. I’ve long thought it unfair and economically perverse to give bigger tax breaks to speculators than employees. It sounded like a bit of spin but it was really the case that a City trader could pay a lower effective rate of tax than the person who cleaned his office. That was the tax system left to the Coalition Government by Gordon Brown.

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The time has come for votes at 16

The time has come for a vital step in the renewal of Britain’s democracy. Time to let another one and a half million people take part in voting for the people who run the country. Giving the right to vote to sixteen and seventeen year olds now has widespread support across the political spectrum. British citizens aged sixteen can already vote in some elections and their counterparts can do so in some of the world’s largest democracies.

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Should pensioner benefits be means tested?

It’s a maxim of politics that you mess with the grey vote at your peril.  Britain’s pensioners tend to vote in greater numbers than their children or grandchildren.  A switch in their opinion could easily determine an election.  But several of my Liberal Democrat colleagues are beginning to challenge this psephological wisdom by suggesting that the elderly may see some of their state benefits curtailed, at least for well off pensioners.

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