Region's rebel MP: 'Im not grumpy' just acting in my peoples' best interests
- Credit: Mick Howes
Waveney MP Peter Aldous has won great respect recently after twice going against his Conservative Party line in crunch Westminster votes. Today, he tells Reece Hanson he isn't being "grumpy and awkward," but simply fighting for the best interests of his constituents.
In this era when MPs rarely seem to go against the party whip and are oft rightly criticised for failing to do so , Peter Aldous has been like a breath of fresh air sweeping through parliament in recent weeks.
He was one of just 19 Tory MPs to rebel against party lines at a crunch vote on social care reforms last week. Meanwhile, last month he also refused to take part in the controversial standards vote involving former minister Owen Paterson, believing it to be wrong that the vote to change standards rules was wrapped up with one to block the suspension of the fellow Conservative.
On top of this, he has also been a vocal objector to the move to slash Universal Credit by £20-a-week, which he fears will impact almost 12,000 people in Waveney.
Reflecting on the last few months, he said: "There have been a number of issues coming at the same time which I think are important to my constituency, rather than me getting grumpy and being awkward.
"We have had a very tough period and I have to be mindful of the interests of my constituents.
"The vast majority of the times there aren't clashes, but when there are, and I don't like doing it, it is necessary to raise your concerns.
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"There are some people who agree with my stance, and others who aren't quite sure it's the right thing to do but I think there is a respect and understanding if one thinks it through and explains their decision."
On social care reforms
Despite the government's proposed amendment passing, Mr Aldous hopes objections are noted when the bill is assessed in the House of Lords.
Prime minister Boris Johnson succeeded in getting MPs to back the new policy to cap care costs in England, as MPs backed the amendment 272 votes to 246 with a majority of 26, despite ministers being unable to confirm whether the change would fulfil an election pledge to guarantee no-one would have to sell their home to pay for care.
Mr Aldous said: "The government tabled the amendment to the bill in advance of coming into the Commons on Monday but really in something as complicated and complex as this, you need to look at it in detail rather than rushing at it.
"The government did produce some form of analysis of their changes which ran to about six or seven pages which, in the context of what this is about, isn't very much.
"They put forward in that two examples, one of which clearly illustrated people in a range of property values of £100,000 to £185,000 would be worse off under the arrangement.
"I take the view this is are not necessarily a high-value property area and an awful lot of my constituents would fall within that range and would be worse off.
"On that basis I felt I couldn't support the proposals.
"I was also mindful that this bill still has to go to the House of Lords and it is important to send a very clear message that there is concern about this and that it needs to be looked at in detail."
Mr Aldous was joined in the controversial vote by fellow Conservative Dan Poulter, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP, as well as Norwich South's Labour MP Clive Lewis.
All of Norfolk and Suffolk's remaining MPs, all of who are Conservatives, voted for the change.
On the Universal Credit uplift
In August, Mr Aldous penned a joint letter with Carlisle's Conservative MP John Stevenson calling on the government to rethink the planned scrapping of the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift introduced during the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: "I had concerns over Universal Credit, which has been an issue in Waveney ever since we were a pilot and it was rolled out when there were challenges to start with, although it served its purpose remarkably well during the pandemic.
"But the feedback I was getting locally was the withdrawal of the £20 in one fell swoop would create challenges, which we will have to see over the next few months with energy costs and food prices going up.
"The government have put some support in but we are just going to have to see what happens on that."
In November, Mr Aldous abstained from a controversial vote to reform parliamentary standards in the wake of the Owen Paterson scandal, where the Tory MP was found to have earned £100,000 by lobbying on behalf of two companies for which he was acting as a paid consultant.
Looking back, he said: "The government made a complete misjudgement of it and I was very conscious there that there was a tragedy behind it and I wasn't going to support it because they were completely wrong in conflating the two issues.
"That was why I abstained on that."
Mr Aldous, who also said in November that he believed the UK's post-Brexit deal was "bad" for local fisherman, vowed to continue fighting in the interests of the people in his towns and villages.
He said: "Looking forward, we have got the skills bill which has just started on its journey through the Commons which is incredibly important for our area, taking into account the opportunities emerging in the energy industry and hopefully in due course in a revived fishing industry.
"I think that East Coast College is an organisation which is really going places at the moment, especially with their energy work, and we have to make sure that bill is in the right place to really bring meaningful change to our area."