I and all the other MP’s returned to Westminster last week after the summer recess. The next session from now until Christmas promises to be busy, momentous and controversial. With the Comprehensive Spending Review due, it will become apparent where the savings that need to be made will be implemented, and by the time this column is published the Chancellor will have made his statement. Like many of my colleagues, I did not come into politics to cut and reduce spending, however none of us expected to be faced with the level of economic carnage left to us by the previous Labour Government. As the country continues to pay in the region of £120 million a DAY in debt interest it is apparent that we cannot continue in that way and the deficit needs to be tackled and quickly.
Last week there was much debate over the voting systems and constituencies review, but the most significant vote for me was the vote on Britain’s contribution to the European Union. Unfortunately, several years ago Tony Blair handed back the rebate secured many years ago by Margaret Thatcher. He did so in exchange for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, although this is still yet to happen! The amount therefore is somewhat prescribed but the 2011 draft budget was debated in the House of Commons. The Government proposal stated that the 2011 budget of the EU be kept at the 2010 level and this in itself sent a strong message to the EU.
However I felt, that as we all face having to tighten our belts, then a stronger message should be sent. It is this belief that led me to vote against the Government and for a tabled amendment to reduce our contribution. I did not rebel lightly, I thought long and hard about it. Rebelling against the Government is taken very seriously by the Whips in Westminster, but I and 36 other Conservative MP’s were prepared to stand up and be counted on this issue. Whilst we did not prevail, a subsequent amendment that called on the Government to reject the European Parliament proposals to increase the budget did find favour with the Government and was duly passed.
I always promised people that if I felt strongly enough about something then I would be prepared to defy the Whips, and on Wednesday evening I did. I believe that as all of us are faced with making difficult economies then the European Union should do the same!