Friday, 7 March 2008

Tories Blast Lib Dem MP over Euro Vote

Totnes mp Anthony Steen has blasted his Torbay counterpart for his decision to abstain in the Commons vote on an EU referendum.Mr Steen said he was baffled at Mr Sanders' stance.

He said: "How could our representative for the Bay be so disinterested in this as to abstain and yet he is passionate about a referendum on a casino for the Bay?

"Or perhaps he would abstain on that as well."

He added people would be disappointed they have been robbed of a referendum by the Lib Dems.

However, Mr Sanders said: "I want a referendum on membership of the EU. This is what people have voted for in a poll on my website, and national polls show two to one people want a referendum on EU membership, in or out, rather than the new treaty.

"The only MPs who voted against this were Conservative and Labour. Not a single Lib-Dem voted against.

"Before Anthony Steen criticises me he might perhaps want to speak with his Conservative colleagues who voted against."

Lib Dem MPs in South Devon have sought to play down the damage caused to party leader Nick Clegg by the rebellion over the referendum.

Among the rebels was Teignbridge MP Richard Younger-Ross.

In addition three senior frontbenchers - justice spokesman David Heath, countryside spokesman Tim Farron, and Scotland and Northern Ireland spokesman Alistair Carmichael - quit to join the revolt.

Mr Clegg, who has been leader for less than three months, is under pressure to reassert his battered authority at his party's spring conference this weekend after almost a quarter of his party defied an order and voted with the Tories in support of a public ballot, which was defeated in the Commons.

The Government comfortably saw off the Conservative bid to trigger a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty by 311 votes to 248, a majority of 63, as just 29 Labour rebels joined with the Tories.

A rebel Labour amendment was defeated by a similar margin of 311 to 247.

However 15 of the Lib Dems' 63 MPs, almost a quarter of the parliamentary party, defied orders to abstain and joined the vote for a referendum.

Mr Clegg has denied he had made a massive miscalculation in imposing a three-line whip, insisting he had the support of 'overwhelming majority' of Lib Dem MPs.

He said he would be speaking to the rebels, including eight junior frontbenchers, in the coming 'hours and days'.

Mr Younger-Ross, a junior culture spokesman, said: "If he wishes to speak to me I will explain my position. This was done with great sadness."

He was happy to carry on doing his spokesman role as long as the leadership wished.

In the wake of the vote, he said: "There are Tory rebels and Labour rebels. We have had a disagreement. The other parties have disagreements. We will move on to the next issue.

"I don't think it will damage Mr Clegg, and if anything he will come out of this stronger."

Mr Sanders, who is a party whip, admitted: "In the short-term we have taken a hit."

But he did not believe it would cause long-term damage.

"No one is being critical of Nick. It was the policy which was inherited when he became leader.

"People will come to see the referendum they are being denied, the really important one is the substantive question whether we should be in or out the EU, which Labour and Conservatives have dodged.

"It is their short-term gain. In the long-term it's the public who are going to lose because they have been denied the opportunity to have their say on the substantive issue that matters."

But Lib Dems have been left wondering how their party, long seen as the most united on Europe, came out of the votes looking the most divided.

Marcus Wood, Torbay's Conservative parliamentary candidate, said constituents had become disillusioned with politics.

"They are thinking why should I vote if the person I am voting for will not vote?

"At a time when people feel disillusioned with politicians, this type of thing makes all of our lives a lot harder."

Anne-Marie Morris, Teignbridge Conservative parliamentary candidate, said Mr Younger-Ross made the right decision.

She said: "He was consistent with the position he had stated in the past on what is a critical issue and I am pleased that he took the same view as the Conservatives,"

Trevor Colman, from Bishopsteignton, a stalwart UK Independence Party member who stood in the local and national elections and was one of the organisers of the Shaldon village ballot which went in favour of a referendum, branded the parliamentary proceedings 'a pantomime'.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Torbay in the running to host Spring Forum

Torquay is in the running to host the Conservative Party's spring forum next year, the Tory's chairman revealed yesterday on a whistle-stop visit to the resort.MP Caroline Spelman said the South West was due a conference visit from the party and faced opposition from only two other places.

If Torquay is chosen above Harrogate and Scarborough then the Bay could be in line for a £1million boost to the economy thanks to an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 visitors, including the entire shadow cabinet.

Mrs Spelman told the Herald Express: "We have been thinking for some time that we should come down here for our spring forum. This year we're in Newcastle and we try hard to travel the whole country.

"Torquay is one of the preferred options, along with Harrogate and Scarborough. I think it would be really good to come to the South West. It could be the last gathering before the general election so it will be an exciting time and potentially a very important launch pad for policies."

A decision looks set to be made within the next month, she confirmed.

It has been predicted the Conservative's forum in Newcastle this spring will reap £1million for the economy there, while also attracting national and international media.

Mrs Spelman visited Torbay as part of a tour of the South West, incorporating Exeter, Okehampton and Bristol.

She promised a Tory government would see coastal resorts benefit from regeneration and said she realised a better infrastructure would be key to helping the resort prosper.

Mrs Spelman, who is the MP for Meridian, said: "I've certainly seen your infrastructure problems. I can see that a bypass is the critical thing which is going to be important to the regeneration of Torbay.

"We need to crack on with coastal regeneration in a number of places. It's a big problem that I don't think Labour have got to grips with. There's a history of negligence if you look around the periphery of the country.

"Torbay has a lot to offer but it needs fresh thinking, which it looks like the directly elected mayor system is encouraging.

"The bypass and regeneration are the most important things and having a directly elected mayor is one way of driving it forward."

Prospective parliamentary candidate Marcus Wood told Mrs Spelman how Torbay was now in gear and getting things done thanks to mayor Nick Bye's election, following a period of 'being in neutral'.

She advocated the system, saying it works when the electorate have chosen it and it drives forward changes because local authorities are no longer 'caught in coalition'.

Mrs Spelman also pledged a Conservative government would trust local government more than Labour, allowing them to free up money by securing bonds against their assets.

Sunday, 3 February 2008


The war of words between Bay MP Adrian Sanders and the man who wants his job, Tory Marcus Wood, over how much the MP pays his staff deepened today.

Mr Wood, prospective Parliamentary candidate, had challenged the Liberal Democrat MP to be 'transparent' about how much his staff, and in particular his wife Alison, are paid.He said a private business would have to list a range of salaries paid to a number of staff, without naming them.

Mr Wood said he thought the public wanted to know what exactly the staff do, and roughly how much they each earn, as they are paid for by the taxpayers.

But Mr Sanders insisted he publishes details about who he employs and what they do in his annual report circulated to households.

He declined to list the salaries of individuals and said it was up to those individuals to decide if they wanted their salaries publicised, but he said the going rate for his wife's job was £38,000 to £40,000 - although he does not pay her that.

He said: "There's no way I am using half of my staffing allowance on one person. Alison is not getting anywhere near the recommended rate for the job.

"She doesn't just work a 37-hour week, she is at my beck and call at all hours, just as I am at the beck and call of my constituents.

"I employ four full-time staff for an allowance of £85,000. I see Brixham Town Council is looking for the equivalent of two full-time posts for £70,000."

The row was re-ignited by the suspension of Tory MP Derek Conway. MPs voted to suspend the MP for 10 days and order him to return £13,161 of the money he paid his son.

He had already been censured for overpaying son Freddie's Parliamentary allowances and has apologised to MPs. The MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup has had his party's whip withdrawn and says he will not fight the next election.

Simon Hughes, for the Liberal Democrats, supported the call for Mr Conway's suspension and said MPs should be banned from employing more than one family member, that they should be recruited openly and paid the 'going rate'.

And he called for an annual 'spot check' of randomly-selected MPs' finances and a limit of £50 a month placed on the amount they could claim in expenses without providing receipts.

The Liberal Democrats also said they thought the names of those employed on the public payroll by MPs should become part of Parliamentary disclosure.

Mr Sanders has already said he would welcome more scrutiny of staff employed by MPs so they would be employed by the Government, to ensure they are qualified and that there would be some monitoring of the work carried out.

In his annual report he lists his staff as: head of office, his wife Alison, casework officer Steve Darling, casework assistant Tom Smith, and Commons researcher working at Westminster Alice Orr-Ewing.

He said such information is not collated by the House of Commons and so would not be subject to a Freedom of Information request.

He said his staff's job descriptions and contracts are according to House of Commons recommendations which are publicly available.

"My staff would not receive their salary cheque unless their contract had been lodged with the administration department," he said. "At the end of the day an MP is judged on how efficient his office is in responding to constituents. After 10 years I think my office staff could stand alongside the very best of any MP anywhere and if you asked constituents what they thought of the service they got I think my staff would get a very high approval rating."

Friday, 1 February 2008


11:00 - 31 January 2008

Adrian Sanders, one of 38 MPs listed nationally whose wives work for them, has backed calls for more transparency in the system of MPs employing staff.

The Bay's Lib Dem MP was named in the list of those who admit employing immediate family following the ongoing controversy over the Tory who employed his son but couldn't prove what work he had done for him.Marcus Wood, prospective Tory Parliamentary candidate for Torbay, has challenged Mr Sanders to be 'completely open and transparent' about the arrangements he has with family and friends who work in his office and how many of them are paid for out of taxpayers' funds following the recent controversy concerning Derek Conway.

Mr Sanders, whose last claim was for £85,000 for employing four staff including his wife Alison, said he would welcome a tightening up of the system so MPs' staff would be employed by Government, that they would have to be qualified for the job, and there would be some monitoring of the work done.

Teignbridge MP Richard Younger Ross, whose last claim for staffing was £78,654, said he did not employ any family.

He said: "There is a case for the House authority to look at how it could scrutinise employment more carefully. But most MPs' wives work extremely hard and are good value for the taxpayer."

Mr Younger Ross said he believed more scrutiny was needed of MP's expenses. There is no requirement for MPs to file receipts for claims, though he did.

"Then if anyone queries anything it is there as a matter of record. It's not just a case of justice being done, but being seen to be done," he said.

Bay MP Mr Sanders pointed out his wife Alison, his office manager, had worked for former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown when they met and would probably be working for another MP if they had not met.

"If someone is qualified for the job, their relationship is irrelevant," he said.

Mr Conway also employed his wife, but as he could prove the work she had carried out, that was not part of the current inquiry, Mr Sanders pointed out.

Mr Wood said in the light of Mr Sanders' criticism over the salary of Tory Mayor Nick Bye and businesses paying low wages in the Bay, he should tell taxpayers who he employs and the range of salaries they receive.

Mr Wood said: "As a private business you would have to list who you employ and their range of salary in your annual report. Adrian Sanders is claiming nearly £85,000 a year from taxpayers for staffing costs. The money is paid by the government and there is no scrutiny.

"An MP doesn't have to show the work his staff are doing."

He said the Parliamentary system meant taxpayers would be unable to find the information which would be available if the same questions were asked about the elected Mayor Nick Bye's office.

Mr Wood said: "It is quite clear the public don't approve of the current lax arrangements whereby MPs can employ family members with no scrutiny as to whether those people are actually doing the work for which they are being paid, or for instance whether they are being paid a realistic rate for the work they are doing.

"It is for this reason that throughout the Civil Service and most of the private sector such arrangements are not normally permitted.

"I did manage to establish that his paid staff included his wife Alison, leading Lib Dem Torbay councillor Ruth Pentney and Torbay Council Lib Dem leader Steve Darling but of course we cannot know because Adrian refuses to publish any details and he is excluded from the Freedom of Information act as an MP.

"I would never employ a member of my family in this way and would campaign to have the rules changed if elected," he said.

Mr Sanders agreed saying: "I would support a more transparent system for MP's employees."

He did not think it right to give details of individuals, but said it would not be difficult to work out roughly how much the salaries were with only four people, especially as one was paid at London rates, and that the total included the 11 per cent on costs.

He described the system for travel allowances and for London living allowances for MPs as a bigger 'scandal' which was open to abuse, .

Someone who paid the £20,000 a year London living allowance on a mortgage could, thanks to the property price rises, have a tidy profit when they sold, funded by taxpayers.

He believed a system should be established where an average figure was used for the two allowances, and paid as part of salary.

Totnes MP Anthony Steen said he feared all MPs were being 'tarred with the same brush' following the Conway case.

Mr Steen, whose last claim was £86,482, said: "I think the whole matter of who I employ and what I pay is private, just as it is for the editor of your paper.

"I am not going to comment on how I run this office, but that is because I have nothing to hide. But I don't want my staff employed as civil servants.

He said he had no quarrels with the current system of allowances.

MPs can claim up to £87,272 a year , soon to rise to £96,630, to pay for staff including researchers, secretaries and assistants.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008


11:00 - 15 January 2008

Torbay's Tory prospective parliamentary candidate has waded into the row over plans for Torbay's future and migrant workers.

The feud was sparked by Mr Sanders's comments over Mayor Bye's economic blueprint for the English Riviera which he claimed focused too heavily on low value jobs filled by migrant workers.Marcus Wood has called on Adrian Sanders to apologise for his comments, which he says were 'ill advised' and have 'stoked up resentment and racism in the Bay'.

But Adrian Sanders responded: "Sadly Mr Wood, like the mayor, wants an economy focused on minimum wage, insecure jobs, most of which will be in tourism."

In a statement first published on his blog Mr Wood heavily criticises Mr Sanders for bringing the issue of migrant workers into the debate about the Mayoral Vision.

He said: "Whatever disagreements we have I cannot imagine Mr Sanders consciously intended his comments to mean what it seems they did mean to the dozens of people who rushed to applaud him on the Herald Express website.

The statement went on to claim: "The MP's comments have indeed been a great comfort to people on the far right and however unintentionally, he is responsible for stoking up resentment and racism in the Bay.

"I don't mind having a debate about controlling immigration, indeed we did have a debate about it at the last election.

"But there is a need to tread very carefully to ensure that the way this topic is discussed does not serve the purpose of extremists.

"Adrian has drawn the issue of immigration into the completely unrelated issue of the Mayor's Vision for Torbay and I think that was a serious error of judgement."

Mr Wood also suggested that Mr Sanders had been left 'isolated' by his comments and should apologise.

He said: "I can't decide if this is either a very sneaky political ploy or a catastrophic mistake on his part.

"On the one hand it has the potential to shore up his flagging support with people from the BNP and UKIP but on the other hand I think he has possibly isolated himself from many of his own natural supporters on the Liberal wing of the Liberal Democrats.

"My email box has this week come alive with pledges of support from people who say his statement is the last straw.

"Either way it would be wise for him to apologise for the offence he has caused, especially to those Eastern Europeans who contribute a very great deal to the Torbay economy and who might reasonably feel slighted by his statement."

However Adrian Sanders didn't hint at a u-turn.

He said: "I am sure Mr Wood is only trying to be helpful and I am touched by his concern, but no one is going to stop me from stating facts or raising the views of my constituents out of fear that they may be misrepresented.

"I want a successful economy in Torbay based on high value, all year round jobs, some of which might be in tourism.

"Sadly Mr Wood, like the mayor, wants an economy focused on minimum wage and insecure jobs, most of which will be in tourism.

"With the largest ever local government settlement at the mayor's disposal this year, together with the extra bus money he asked me to lobby for, and the possibility of accessing the £45million seaside resort regeneration fund I helped get started, there is a wonderful opportunity to market the area towards more secure, year round and better paid employment than the local economy is presently able to offer."

Friday, 4 January 2008


A row has broken out over migrant workers between Torbay Mayor Nick Bye and the resort's MP Adrian Sanders.

"We are not a job agency for Eastern Europeans," claimed Mr Sanders, pictured right, as he acc-used Mayor Bye, left, of being too focused on low-value employment within the tourism industry, when he should be concentrating on creating highly-paid, skilled jobs.He criticised the mayor, claiming he did not understand Torbay's economy and said his mayoral 'vision' only creates jobs for migrant workers.

According to the Government, 50 per cent of all new jobs nationally are taken by migrants, Mr Sanders said.

As the majority of new jobs in the Bay are in tourism, they are likely to be taken by migrants, he added. The latest population figures reveal the number of people per square kilometre in England rose from 387 in 2005 to 390 last year - and the Office of National Statistics expects it to soar to 464 by 2031.

England is now the third most crowded major nation in Europe because of rising immigration, statistics show.

Mr Bye defended his vision, and claimed he is seeking to create a diverse economy.

He said he found Mr Sanders' comments 'surprising' and 'quite disturbing' and claimed life in Torbay would grind to a halt without Eastern European workers.

He said: "It would be great if our member of parliament could persuade a government agency to set up shop in Torbay, but I don't see the public sector as being the wealth creating sector in our national or local economy.

"The purpose of the public sector is to provide services at best value. I am leading a process of reshaping so that we have a council fit for purpose and budget. To just see it as an end in itself to create wealth is a nonsense and a cul-de-sac.

"I am disturbed about Adrian's comments about the number of people coming from Eastern Europe. Life in Torbay and many other places would grind to a halt without the contribution that people from Poland and elsewhere are making to Torbay.

"We have a rapidly ageing population and without contribution from Poland to the health and care sectors and tourism we would grind to a halt.

"If Adrian says this is a bad thing, he misunderstands life in the Bay and I think he is playing to the worst sort of prejudices. I am astonished he is making these comments.

"Polish people make a real contribution and work hard. We never hear criticism about them from the police, they are boosting the Catholic church and have very strong work ethics and very traditional family values.

"In the Bay they are taking some accommodation that would otherwise be taken by ne'er do wells. They are displacing other people moving here that in the past were referred to as 'benefit tourists' who really didn't make much contribution to Torbay.

"I would suggest that the member of parliament has a job to do at Westminster while I have a job here at the town hall trying to turn Torbay around.

"Why is it that in many parts of the country we have got so many young people who are no longer in employment, education or training - therefore creating a need for people from Eastern Europe to come to places like Torbay?

"Nationally, a failing education system leads to a large number of people coming into the UK to keep the economy going because we don't seem to be able to equip our young people with the necessary skills. Adrian needs to be questioning Gordon Brown about that."

But Mr Sanders said: "The mayor's vision looks mostly at tourism and low-value employment, and the problem is this creates jobs for people to come here from outside of the area.

"Most of these new jobs will be transient and seasonal and often only pay the minimum wage. There's very little stability and it's stability and long-term growth we need to be looking at, and that cannot be achieved overnight.

"We need a long-term strategy, testing everything against a template which asks is this development going to take money out of the economy or bring it in?

"There is no problem with Eastern European migrants filling local labour market shortages, but if effort is being put into creating jobs which are being filled by people from thousands of miles away, then clearly we are creating the wrong jobs.

"We have to diversify the economy and meet the needs of our school leavers and those who are qualified and looking for work in Torbay.

"What we are doing is exporting skilled people to fill market shortages in other parts of the country, but importing people from overseas to fill market shortages here. The impact is our economy stays poor."

Mr Sanders says skilled jobs in the Bay should be protected - including council officers whose jobs are threatened by the restructuring process and job losses at Torbay Hospital's sterilisation unit which faces closure.

"If we wanted to protect highly-skilled, well-paid jobs in local government we would not look at restructuring," he said.

"The bulk of people earning decent wages here are in the public sector. The higher the wage the better. We actually have to be very selective about the kind of development we want to see in Torbay and not just go for broke.

"We desperately need to ensure we are not just reliant upon one industry or one sector of employment.

"The mayor does not seem to actually understand the economy of Torbay and where it's going."

Marcus Wood, the Tory prospective Parliamentary candidate for the Bay, is 'outraged' at Mr Sanders' claims that tourism is largely a low-paid industry.

Mr Wood, who runs a recruitment business in Devon for the hotel and catering industry, said: "I think it's very misleading and not at all helpful to let it be suggested that the catering industry, on which we depend on South Devon College doing its best to persuade people to go into, is being lazily put around that it's badly paid. It's a completely false argument.

"Tourism, and particularly the hotel and catering side, is becoming extremely well paid for people at the professional end."

A quarter of the 330 full-time permanent staff at TLH Leisure Resort in Belgrave Road are from overseas.

Personnel manager Gary Brenton says the majority of them are from Poland.

He said: "They're great, they've really settled in well and we are pleased. They get very involved in the business, they work hard and are very good with the guests.

"Some have progressed into supervisory roles and their wages are higher than the basic rate.

"If they weren't around at all there would be other people doing those roles. They are important but they are not the only applications we get. It's a choice we make to employ the best person for the role."

Thursday, 15 November 2007


The latest in a long line of politicians has seen for himself the traffic nightmare of Kingskerswell and the need for a £130m bypass.Andrew Mitchell MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, was on a Westcountry tour of target seats and dropped into Paignton to see for himself the impact a £2m library will have on the town.

He was invited by Marcus Wood, the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Torbay, who drove him into town.

Mr Wood said: "Every single MP who has come here to see the problems of the Bay has been brought along the Kingskerswell bypass to see for themselves the havoc it causes.

"I want to make sure they know our problems and the need for a new road.

"These are the people who will form the next Government and when they are in power they will be aware of our needs."

Mr Mitchell said he could not give any assurance of what might happen if the Conservative win the next election but predicted the Bay would have a worthy champion on transport issues if Mr Wood takes the Bay from Lib-Dem MP Adrian Sanders but said: "Congestion is a big issue for business and visitors in any area."

However he predicted a new Conservative Government would do things differently from the Labour Government.

"This Government has been inefficient and ineffective on transport issues. It makes announcement after announcement but nothing happens."

Mr Mitchell was in town to hear more of Torbay Council's vision for a new library in Paignton.

He was accompanied by Nick Bye, mayor of Torbay, and Mr Wood, when he visited the old library in Courtland Road, Paignton, which will be replaced with a new one in Station Lane.

The dream of a new library received a boost in getting £2m from the Big Lottery Fund's Community Libraries programme.

Mr Bye said: "Mr Mitchell appears to have a grasp of the issues of affecting Torbay and coastal tourist towns, and what regeneration of a library can mean for an area."