Category Archives: in parliament

Question: Arts funding and Government targets (to Estelle Morris, Minister of State for Arts)

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Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): How can the Minister reconcile the positive tone of the Secretary of State’s recent speech, which was warmly welcomed in the arts world because it appeared to be moving away from intrusive political objectives for arts funding, with the Government’s continuing and increasing addiction to quotas and targets? They affect museums, not least in the north-west. Does not she agree that the single greatest act of creativity and human ingenuity that the Government have encouraged in the arts is the invention of bogus statistics, which are designed purely to satisfy their meddlesomeness and Stalinist obsession with quotas?

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): The hon. Gentleman falls into the trap of thinking that, as a country, we have to choose between art, museums and galleries as excellent and worthy in their own right and the contribution that they can make to other parts of civic and national life. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that it was a case not of “either/or” but of “both”. Like her, I am happy to defend art for art’s sake – I believe that we should always do that – but that does not detract from the contribution that art can make to wider social agendas. It is important that art can contribute to well-being, community cohesion, regeneration, higher educational standards and better mental health. We should not ignore that.

On targets, the Government are investing in the arts – including in museums and galleries in the north-west as well as in other regions. The taxpayer has a right to ask us what return there has been for that investment. We therefore ensure that the investment is targeted and brings about positive outcomes, such as more visitors from a wider range of backgrounds. I am pleased that we have those statistics because they allow us to show the success of the Government’s policies.

Question: Saddam Hussein and the Death Penalty (to Jack Straw, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

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Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): Given that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government have a principled opposition to the death penalty and given that Britain, as part of the coalition provisional authority, will shortly hand over Saddam Hussein for trial, can the right hon. Gentleman say what representations, if any, he has made to ensure that the future Iraqi authorities do not put Saddam Hussein to death? Or does he wash his hands of the matter?

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): We have made strong representations to the Iraqis about our position in respect of the death penalty. We were successful during the period of the Iraq governing council in persuading it to suspend the death penalty. It is known that Iraqi Ministers have said that they will support the re-establishment of the death penalty from 30 June, and it is also a fact that a number of countries around the world, including China and the United States, are retentionist and operate the death penalty. However, in respect of all those countries, not least and including Iraq, we shall make very strong representations about the need not to use the death penalty. Those representations will be made on both moral grounds, which are well supported in the House, and on very practical grounds. As we in this country found with the death penalty 50 years ago, one can end up not only convicting the wrong person, but executing the wrong person.

Debate: The Illicit Trade in Antiquities

Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk about this subject, and I want to start by setting out the terms of the debate. There are different types of debate in Westminster Hall; those in which we slam the Government for an alleged outrage, whether or not they have committed it, and those in which we plead for the Government to do something that they cannot or will not do. This is neither a slamming nor pleading debate, but a prodding one, in which I will seek to prod the Government to commit to doing what they know they should be doing and probably want to do anyway.

I slightly confused myself in coming up with the title. I was not sure whether it should be a debate on the illicit trade in antiquities or on the trade in illicit antiquities. Either way, we are talking about cultural objects that are a little or decidedly dodgy. What I really mean is the buying and selling or importing and exporting of cultural objects that have been removed from heritage sites and buildings illegally in Britain and elsewhere. The Minister may recognise that phrasing as one that we considered in the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003.

The defining principle in this debate is that prevention is better than cure. Much of the damage done in heritage terms is done at the time of removal of objects rather than in what happens to them subsequently. From a heritage point of view, the agenda is about ensuring that removal never occurs in the first place, and my remarks will address that intention.

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) on securing this important debate on a subject about which I am passionate. All hon. Members who have spoken so far have alluded to Iraq, which, of course, is very much on our minds at present. Despite all the horrifying images of present-day Iraq, matters might improve eventually in that country. If and when life returns to something like normality there, Iraq will need one thing, above all; tourism. People like you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I should go there.

I am not saying that there should be an organisation called “Simply Mesopotamia”, but it would be wonderful if people were attracted by the cradle of civilisation, the ziggurats at Ur and the hanging gardens of Babylon, such as are left after the depredations of Saddam. In their present post-Saddam incarnation, fascinating they remain. That was why those of us who supported the war were so dismayed to see the looting of the museum in Baghdad at the moment of liberation.

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Question: Sale of school Playing Fields (to Richard Caborn, Minister for Sport and Tourism)

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Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): The Minister said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) that there had been significant change in respect of playing fields since the Government came to power in 1997. That is certainly true. They came to power saying that they would halt the sale of school playing fields to arrest the decline of sport in schools, since when the number of applications to sell playing fields has gone up every year. Last year – this is the most relevant statistic – of the 807 successful applications, 440 led to the total extinction of those facilities. Given the threat to sport in schools, particularly contact sports, from litigation and all kinds of other matters, against which Ministers say not a peep, will the Minister now tell the House what measures he has in mind – apart from encouraging people to run down concrete roads, and apart from an annual meeting of the playing fields monitoring group – to arrest the sale of playing fields?

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Dispatch Box. May I now inform him why no one should vote Tory again if they support playing fields? The planning applications that were made when his Government were in power were to shut playing fields. The planning applications for investment of £500 million are to build new facilities – we have to have planning applications to build new facilities. The simple answer to his question is: do not vote Tory – they will shut your playing fields down.

Debate: The European School, Culham

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak about an excellent school. The debate is very much a two-handed affair: the European school at Culham is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson), but is attended by the children of a number of my constituents in west Oxfordshire and of constituents throughout Oxfordshire. My hon. Friend and I had a pact to apply for an Adjournment debate in the hope that one of us would be successful, and it fell to me. We want to put on record the role of this school and our concerns about its future, and we want some quality time with the Minister, whom I am glad to see in her place.

A lot of debates in Westminster Hall bring forward problems, but we like to think that we are bringing forward an opportunity for Oxfordshire and the country at large. Culham is an excellent school – a little gem. All we are asking is that everyone who has a stake in the school – the local education authority, the European Commission, the Government and the teachers, parents and board of governors – play a constructive role in trying to secure its future. That is what today’s debate is about: an invitation to the Minister to consider the school and to do what she can to help.

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) on securing the debate and putting the case as succinctly and comprehensively as he could have done. We are trying to stop a very good school being closed.

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Question: Museum Exchanges and the Parthenon marbles (to Estelle Morris, Minister of State for Arts)

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Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): Does the Minister agree that there is no point whatsoever in sending the Parthenon marbles back to Athens, since there is no prospect of those sculptures ever being viewed in situ on the temple? To do so would be to rip the heart out of the British Museum, which is one of the great cultural landmarks of Europe, and whose defence ought to be a matter for the Minister and her Ministry.

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): There are many facets to this debate, and I take the hon. Gentleman’s points. The British Museum contains world collections and receives more than 4.6 million visitors every year. People can see historic artefacts and heritage items gathered in one place. Although this is not quite to do with the hon. Gentleman’s point, the museum in Athens that could house the Parthenon sculptures, were they to be returned, is not yet ready, and we have no date for when it will be. In that respect, he was right. I am pleased that the sculptures are in the British Museum and part of a world collection. I am pleased that the number of people able to visit is increasing year by year.

Debate: Pigswill and the Foot and Mouth outbreak

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): On 24 May 2001, three months after the outbreak of foot and mouth, there entered into force the Animal By-Products (Amendment) (England) Order 2001. At the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, there perished in this country a practice that has taken place for thousands of years, ever since mankind domesticated animals – the feeding of food waste to pigs in the form of swill feed.

I know that Members on both sides of the House want to contribute in this short debate, so I do not propose to waste time by disputing the logic of that decision, although I believe that it was illogical to penalise innocent swill feeders for the irresponsible behaviour of one, who may or may not have been implicated in the outbreak of foot and mouth. I hold out no hope that the Minister will do the right thing and revoke the ban, but it is right to draw his attention to its adverse effects, which, like so many pieces of regulation, is adding to the costs of business and industry.

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Question: Weapons of Mass Destruction, Iraq and the legality of the war (to Geoff Hoon, Secretary of State for Defence)

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Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): Given that a vital part of the reconstruction of Iraq is presumably the discovery and removal of weapons of mass destruction, may I remind the Secretary of State of an answer that he gave to me more than six months ago, when I asked him whether the failure to find weapons of mass destruction undermined the legality of the case for war? He gave a four-word answer, which was, “They will be found.” Does the right hon. Gentleman still believe that? If not, does he not think that it is about time that the public saw all the legal opinion upon which the Government based the case for war?

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his ingenuity, but he needs to check more carefully the precise circumstances in which military action was taken. It was taken on the basis of resolution 1441. We know that Saddam Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction previously; 1441 was given by the United Nations to Saddam Hussein as a last opportunity to co-operate with the international community. The coalition forces judged that he had failed to take that last opportunity. I am sure that a fair-minded observer of these affairs, as the hon. Gentleman is, would reach that conclusion.

Question: Commons Townlands hospital in Henley (to Dr Stephen Ladyman, Junior Minister, Department of Health)

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Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): Speech therapy is among the many services provided by the head injuries unit at the Townlands hospital, in Henley. How is it possible, at a time when this Government are allegedly pumping umpteen billions into the NHS, that it should be seriously contemplated that that hospital close? Will the Minister do everything in his power to live up to his Government’s promises and stop the closure of this valued and much-loved local hospital?  This means less tedious paperwork, no more back-and-forth with your provider about whether or not they take your insurance, and no more stress in finding the right clinic for you. Our guides use physical exercise and various activities to construct quality and mastery, and to improve visual perception, or the ability to perceive plans, More and more clinics are signing up to our platform every day, starting in the northeast and expanding rapidly throughout the country. Search above to match with a clinic in New York and high-quality cbd flower is available more than ever before with cbd becoming so main stream! CBD and weed delivery has become more popular according to an article from Bud Brothers.  The type of employer can affect both earnings and the number of job opportunities. The BLS reports that the offices of health practitioners, which include PTs, have the most jobs, with 35 percent of the total 174,490. Because of the large supply of professionals, salaries here average $75,760 annually. The highest pay is available in management, scientific and technical consulting services at $88,260 annually. Muscle contractions allow the body to move, stretch, extend and respond to external stimulus. As one ages, the tissues tend to become weaker and if left untreated, it can cause serious concerns in the future. Certain diseases and injuries of the spine and joints can also affect muscles, making it practically impossible for some to function independently. Physical therapy strengthens the muscles and makes the body more resistant.

Dr. Ladyman: The reconfiguration of hospital services, as the hon. Gentleman perfectly well knows, is a matter for local decision. We have devolved these matters to local areas so that local people can be involved in local decisions. If I were in a position to ask the hon. Gentleman the sort of question that he has just asked me, I would ask him how many speech and language therapists there would be if we carried out his plans to cut spending by 20 per cent.

Throughout high school, I was always taught that student loans were always good debt that helped the young man grow in the world. Student loan debt was a sign that he was “on the path,” and with that debt, he would be able to work hard and earn more and better wages. When I had $30k in debt and still couldn’t pay the rent, it was because my employer didn’t pay enough in wages.  Don’t get me wrong, student loans are great but you need to know how to use them and where to look for them. One of the best options now a days can be found at SoFi.

With the financial crash of 2008, we all knew that the economy was in a terrible situation. Unemployment skyrocketed, and many young people were forced to take out huge loans in order to be able to survive. This led to people in my generation, both students and older people, to think that student loans were good debt.

For years, the financial bubble of the 2008 economy was on everyone’s minds. I think many millennials took it for granted that this bubble was going to last forever. However, it has now blown up in our face and destroyed our economy.

In fact, the overall wealth distribution is quite distorted in today’s economy. The majority of people are actually getting a net negative distribution of wealth, with less of the nation’s wealth than it was before 2008 going to the rich and more of the wealth going to the poor. We as a nation need to rethink how we organize wealth creation and distribution and go back to the days where wealth creation was based on merit. Instead of trying to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we need to work to end this injustice.

Some of the recent headlines out of Switzerland make it easy to understand why we as Americans are frustrated and concerned. The country has struggled to balance its budget over the last few years, even while managing to stay largely unaffected by the Great Recession and the rest of the world’s economic downturn. Yet, despite having one of the best credit ratings in the world, it was unable to reduce its massive debt by any significant amount even while the rest of the world moved in the opposite direction.

In a paper published in 2013, we examined Swiss public sector debt and its implications for the United States. Our analysis revealed that despite Switzerland’s strong rating, it is the second largest debtor in the world. If this analysis is correct, our budget problems could be even worse than we think.

One of the most pressing problems facing the United States is the amount of debt it owns. With more than $16 trillion in debt, this has enormous implications for future generations. One can see how this could pose challenges for our budget. As of July 1, 2013, the government borrowed a total of $871.2 billion in the U.S. Treasury. Approximately $460 billion of this total is in the form of public debt. This has an impact on how we must manage this debt as the U.S. economy is already struggling. How much debt does the U.S. Treasury own?