Conservative MP Mark Reckless speaks to DeHavilland about Parliament, politics, the Coalition, immigration and Europe.
Speaking in Portcullis House, Mr Reckless outlined what his achievements had been over the course of this Parliament.
Eurosceptic, and widely perceived to be on the right of his party, Mr Reckless singled out Prime Minister David Cameron’s commitment to an in-out referendum on EU membership.
He also highlighted the recently negotiated reduction in the EU Budget as another success, recalling his role in marshalling a major rebellion of Conservative MPs in October 2012 which inflicted the first serious Parliamentary defeat on the Coalition.
Closer to home, the election of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) was a source of immense pride for the Rochester and Strood MP, who oversaw the development of the policy during tenure as a member of the Policy Unit at Conservative Central Office.
However, Mr Reckless’ involvement with PCCs did not end there; he was a powerful advocate for the Policing Protocol Order during its passage through Parliament.
Reflecting on the impact of the Coalition Government, Mr Reckless felt that politics as a whole had “opened up” since the 2010 general election.
Elaborating, he said the introduction of elections to Select Committees and the Backbench Business Committee, as well as measures to strengthen the power of backbench MPs to hold the executive to account had been integral to improving Parliamentary scrutiny.
An avid blogger, Mr Reckless also extolled the virtues of the internet and social media in providing Members with a new forum for their views.
However, he was highly critical of power being focused within Whitehall, blaming the influence of “Sir Humphrey” and the Quad of senior Coalition Ministers.
Pressed on a Parliamentary reform he would most like to see, Mr Reckless said he would prefer to see the membership of the Committee of Selection elected from among all backbenchers, as opposed to just Whips.
The Committee makes appointments to general committees, including public bill committees, and is therefore highly influential at this stage of legislative scrutiny.
Turning to his work as a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, DeHavilland inquired about the MP’s recent visit to Qatar, where he had praised the work of UK Border Agency (UKBA) staff in the Abu Dhabi operation.
However, Mr Reckless was unwilling to extend such praise to the UKBA back home, in light of the organisation’s recent failings.
Despite being complimentary of Committee Chair and Labour MP Keith Vaz, Mr Reckless did not hesitate to distinguish himself from Mr Vaz on the key issue of immigration.
Asked if he agreed with Mr Vaz and the Chairs of four other Select Committees that overseas students should be excluded from the target for the Government’s migration target, the Conservative MP said no.
Indeed, he held up the fall in net migration revealed in recent figures as a success, and dismissed a recent speech by Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper on the grounds that Labour had “no clear policy” on immigration.
A former City Economist, Mr Reckless has firm views on the financial services reform and Parliament’s role in delivering it.
In particular, he didn’t feel the work of Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards had enjoyed as high a profile as it should have done.
Moreover, he believes that the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and HBOS should have been allowed to fail in 2008.
Mr Reckless has been particularly vocal in his opposition to a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary, an opposition he described as being based on “economic” reasons.
Whilst insisting that he retained an “open mind” on the future of the UK’s aviation needs and Heathrow, the Conservative MP emphasised his pleasure that Gatwick Airport had begun to campaign for expansion.
He hinted towards a preference for the development of multiple hubs in the South East, and in particular of Gatwick and Stansted.
In particular, Mr Reckless championed the case for a Crossrail spur to Stansted Airport, pointing to his work on this issue with fellow Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith.
On the issue of energy, he confirmed that he would not be supporting the decarbonisation amendment to the Energy Bill brought forward by Conservative Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee Tim Yeo.
Asked to single out a single measure for the forthcoming Budget statement, Mr Reckless called for Whitehall department budgets to be subject to approval by the relevant departmental Select Committee.
Finally, questioned on the rhetoric of Home Secretary Theresa May, Mr Reckless pointed to a blog he had written in response to her recent ConservativeHome conference speech.
In the piece, he argues: “All we need do to rein in our domestic courts’ exorbitant rulings in this area is pass primary legislation to remove Article 8 as a grounds on which courts can prevent deportation of foreign prisoners sentenced to a year or more in prison.”
Mike Indian, Parliamentary Analyst