What you are most interested in

Over the last few weeks the two blogs that have attracted the most comments were about illegal immigration and the future of the EU.

I particularly enjoyed the indignant comments of a handful of contributors who daily condemn U.K. voters for voting to leave the EU. They argued I should never comment on the EU now we have left. It is apparently too delicate or precious to withstand normal analysis and comment. These are the same people who regularly condemn USA policy when the U.K. is not a member of that Union either.

I will return soon to the state of the project to ever closer union, as it is important and of general interest.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Response

Leisure and Council trading

One of the areas to look for economies lies in Council trading activities. Some Councils spend large sums on setting up business activities in competition with the private sector. Particular favourites are to provide a wide range of leisure services. Where these become loss making , and subsidised, they can impede provision by the private sector whilst also lumbering taxpayers with liabilities. Councils claiming to be short of money should sell off businesses that the private sector can run better, transferring the risk of losses away from taxpayers.

There is a case for joint use facilities shared between secondary schools and the wider community. Swimming pools, gyms, courts, pitches and the rest can be reserved for school use during weekdays in term time, but made available to others in the evenings, at week-ends and during the school holidays. Good schemes can bring more capital to improve school facilities, with returns from charging the wider community. Councils can of course buy season tickets for free access for groups of people they wish to help.

Some Councils have large asset holdings offsetting large debts. Given the high level of total public sector debt there is a case for reviewing these holdings and drawing up a disposal programme to bring debts down where a Council claims it does not have enough money.

Council provision of car parking and waste services cause frictions with taxpayers. Waste disposal for households is meant to be a free service, covered out of general taxation and the Council Tax. Many Councils now have decided that garden waste, larger items and other specially designated waste should be paid for by the householder. Car parks long owned and paid for by taxpayers are used as ways of getting a substantial income out of part of the community. This can become a flare point with voters, and can put people off going into town centres where the parking is expensive and the enforcement often energetic and hostile. In both these areas there is a conflict between the concept of community service and the use of public assets with a wish by Councils to generate income to spend on other things.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Responses

Letter to Defence Secretary

Dear Ben

I am writing in support of more UK procurement of defence equipment in general, and about naval vessels in particular.

The MOD has promised to reboot the competition to acquire three supply vessels in the Fleet Solid Support Programme. This would be a good opportunity to add them to the list of vessels that are put out to tender for UK shipyards. I appreciate we need to increase the UK capacity and competitiveness of ship yards, but we will only do so by offering them a more sustained workload. The MOD did buy the large tankers from foreign yards recently which missed an important opportunity.

I was pleased to see the UK taking delivery of 5 Offshore patrol vessels, and inviting proposals for renewal of smaller patrol vessels for Gibraltar. As we move to take control of our fishing grounds at the end of this year, and need to reinforce our border policing against various types of crime, we will need more offshore patrol capability.

Building back better should include expanding the UK’s maritime capacity, creating many more opportunities for UK jobs and skills. It will provide a bigger taxable base of good employment in the UK, and is also necessary for our defence. It is important not to rely on imported spares and service for naval vessels or other strategic defence equipment.

Yours ever

John

Posted in Uncategorized | 194 Responses

The language of the left

People complain to me that they can  no longer say what they wish. They feel they are losing their right to free speech or to independent thoughts. They have to follow the fashionable mantra of the left who dominate language and attitudes on law and order, immigration, transport and energy amongst other topics.  They were hoping for some change of tone or lead from the top with a change to a Conservative majority government at the last election.

Some people try it on with this site, wanting to cast generalised allegations against religions, nations, large groups of people or named members of a global elite. I do not allow it, as I do not like unpleasant  or dangerous language casting possibly false allegations and adding to divisions. Nor do I   have time or legal resource  to check out allegations against named individuals. There are campaigning media with better resources and more appetite to root out individual cases of  law breaking, excessive influence or whatever you should go to for that.

I do, however, agree that we need to be able to talk sensibly  about matters that worry people, and need to analyse problems like the cost and availability of energy or how we police our borders, free from  attempts to prevent us by making false allegations against us over our motives and attitudes. We need to keep open the right to talk of these things and to disagree with the authoritarian left who wish us all to say the same things and to come to the same conclusions, when often their priorities and remedies are damaging to both our freedoms and to people’s prosperity.

If we are to recover our economy, enhance our freedoms, level up around the UK and promote individual prosperity, we do need to challenge some of the left wing assumptions which make all that more difficult. I encourage people to write in with a better vision of the future. That is why, for example,   I have been working on energy policies to keep the lights on and provide more affordable energy for consumers and business, and why I have been urging the government to direct its powers to stamp out people trafficking and illegal migration risking lives to get people into the UK. We do need new approaches to a variety of problems that challenge the tired soundbites of political correctness.

Posted in Uncategorized | 309 Responses

GDP figures reveal big decline in public service output and rise in public sector inflation

Two of the biggest sector falls in the economy in the sharp recession last quarter were health and education, owing to the impact of the virus on their ability to work. The ONS decided they delivered 34.4% less education and 27.2% less healthcare. These are bigger falls than the economy as a whole. Because public spending rose sharply the ONS also decided there was a very fast inflation in the public sector. They calculated public sector inflation or the rising cost of government at 32.7% “because the volume of government activity fell whilst at the same time government expenditure increased in nominal terms”. The overall deflator “the broadest measure of inflation in the domestic economy” as a  result shot upwards.

Restoring health and education output is a very important part of the recovery policies the government is now following. Of course the government needs to ensure safe working for all employees as the schools and surgeries get back to full working and the non Covid work of the hospitals builds up again.

Posted in Uncategorized | 59 Responses

Ministers intervene in exam grade appeals

Overnight we have news that Ministers have reviewed the actions of teachers, Examining Boards and the independent regulator. They have decided that a good ground for appeal can be the mock exam results where these were achieved in properly controlled conditions. This means an individual will have a way of upping their grade where a combination of teacher assessment and Examining Board moderation has delivered a lower grade than the mock exam result.

Posted in Uncategorized, Wokingham and West Berkshire Issues | 40 Responses

Taxing development

The government wants to speed more housebuilding, but it also wants to tax development. It proposes a new infrastructure tax to replace the existing system.

It is true the gap between land values with permission to build homes and land values for land without any building  permission is huge. It is also true the wider community incurs large costs from more housebuilding. There needs to be more schools , surgeries, roads, power lines, broadband cables and the rest. All parties have accepted the idea that there should be some infrastructure levy or contribution to public sector infrastructure costs, just as securing private sector services may entail direct payments to the service providers. The government does not mention the need for compensation payments to existing homeowners, though there are clear cases where the amenity and value of their property is hit by more traffic and noise, worse views etc. Developers who want speedy progress sometimes offer compensation to reduce opposition to a scheme.

The Section 106 payments system has been a  negotiation between Councils and developers. Many Councils have wanted to take the money to build more homes for rent instead of using the money to build the roads, schools and surgeries needed. The sums have expanded to try to accommodate  both needs. The government has also introduced an additional Infrastructure levy.

The new levy proposed is only set out in  outline. It is national with maybe a single national rate or rates. It might also have regional or local variations. It seeks to flex according to land and home prices, allowing developers to make a given margin  before the levy kicks in. In  falling markets the levy would fall and in rising markets it would rise. That is a sensible feature.

I would urge simplicity and suggest a per house levy to cover the obvious public sector infrastructure costs. The government wishes to increase this tax, which will make achieving more home building more difficult.

Given that many people want fewer new homes with reduced migration, what do you think would be sensible by way of a tax on new developments?

Posted in Uncategorized | 148 Responses

Levelling up needs the schools back

During the long lock downs some pupils have been able to benefit from a full timetable of on line lessons and lectures, and to have home work marked over the internet by engaged teachers. I praise all those teachers and schools that adapted and did a good job ensuring their students did not go without education.

Other schools provided childcare and maybe some education for the children of key workers but delivered little for the rest. Some managed work assignments for homeworking. It meant the gap started to get bigger again between those who had the advantage of a full timetable of lessons and those who did not.

Some schools in the private sector did decide they had to deliver a full timetable and challenging home coursework, as the parents expected something for the fees they were paying. The danger is the response to CV 19 has increased the gap between some in the private sector that got a good education during the lockdowns, and some in the state sector who got little by way of teaching. That is not going to help the government with its good aim of levelling up.

The government made clear it would assist in supplying digital devices so pupils in households where on line access was a problem would be helped. As schools prepare for the return in September they need to look at how they can best meet the need for every pupil to have the benefit of good lessons and marked homework for the older pupils.

Teachers rightly tell us they want to teach and believe the daily contact between pupil and teacher is an important part of growing up and gaining skills for life. The way in which each school meets the demands on it and looks after its pupils is mainly a matter for school and local determination. Teachers are valued professionals, and we look forward to seeing their solutions for this autumn as pupils go back to school. It is most important we level up, which does require us to deliver the best possible education to those from difficult backgrounds. We may also be able to use more of the digital technology in developing those crucial relationships.

Posted in Uncategorized | 189 Responses

Exam results

There may be a row in England, as there has been in Scotland, over this summer’s GCSE and A level results.

The first thing to stress is the award of grades to students has nothing to do with Ministers and the government. Normally students take exams set by independent Examining bodies, advised and moderated by teachers, with all the work marked by teachers. The Exam body then awards grades based on the marks awarded, seeking to moderate standards between years. Ministers rightly do not get a say in any individual’s papers or marks, or in the decision each year on where to set the grade boundaries.

This year the decision was taken to abandon exams but to award grades and passes based primarily on teacher assessment of the individual’s course work and achievements at school in each subject. The Exam Boards will still moderate the results fed to them by each of the participating schools. There are issues over how this will be done.

If all worked well each school would come to a perfect judgement of each pupil it teaches, and across England this would produce a fair set of outcomes without moderation or adjustment. However, life is not that simple. The Examining Boards want the schools to ensure they have placed all their pupils in the right relative order to each other, reserving to themselves the ultimate right to decide how marks translate to grades awarded by the Examining Board. The Examining Boards are alert to the possibility that teachers will naturally see the best in their own pupils and might collectively mark up producing some grade inflation compared to previous years. They need , however, to be alert to other possibilities as well. For any individual pupil there is the danger of adverse marking if they planned to leave much of their study and revision to close to the exam and did not do so well in the early months of the course, or if their conduct and attitudes did not lead the teacher to see their academic strengths fully.

The toughest cases are for schools or subject teachers who are lifting standards year by year or lifting them for the first time this year who may encounter a general downgrade of their forecast results owing to the Exam Board wishing to moderate grades in relation to past experience at that school. There is also the unspoken danger that a school or subject area on the slide will secure more favourable outcomes than if their pupils had had to undertake the exam. The Independent Regulator is also involved in requiring Exam Boards to moderate standards.

Most people would agree it is better and fairer to let pupils sit exams and to have these marked by teachers at other schools to a prescribed marking scheme. In this CV 19 damaged year all involved will doubtless do the best they can to come to fair judgements, but there is likely to be more unhappiness both by some individuals and by some individual schools and teachers given the occasional rough justice which will be delivered. The good news is a student can appeal and can ask to sit a proper exam to improve their grade.

Posted in Uncategorized | 142 Responses

Letter to the Health Secretary

I would like to follow up on my questions to you concerning the search for treatments that help CV 19 patients. You rightly replied that a number were in clinical research under your Recovery Trial, as well as with the WHO’s Solidarity trial and elsewhere. It was good news that  Dexamethasone was shown to have helpful effects for some serious cases.

How are the trials both in the UK and abroad going for

1. Other immune moderators and Interferons?

2. Anti virals including Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine?

3. Anti coagulants?

4. Convalescent plasma?

5. Vitamins C and D? 6. Nitric Oxide, zinc and Ozone?

Some of these treatments some doctors say  might be best used in the early stages to prevent the disease taking hold , and some may have beneficial effects in serious cases needing oxygen treatment, as with Dexamethasone. Clearly finding more ways of combatting the different features of the serious versions of the pandemic would be of great help in taming it.

Your stated policy of getting the NHS back to work on everything not related to CV 19 is now crucial. New contracts with the private health Sector should be based solely on buying stated procedures, treatments and operations for patients on the NHS waiting list. Buying capacity with no known patient in mind will be wasteful and will not incentivise the NHS to use the private capacity fully, as we saw during lock down.

It is also important that the policy of handling CV 19 cases in isolation hospitals or in clearly sealed off units in District General hospitals is properly enforced and advertised so patients are not put off attending surgeries, clinics and hospitals to have other serious conditions treated. With best wishes to you in getting the NHS fully back to work after the heroic efforts made by some to tackle the dangerous and difficult CV 19 surge.

Posted in Uncategorized | 205 Responses
  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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