Improving this site

On Monday night the web expert who runs the technical side of this site will make improvements to the layout. The work will be done after 9pm. I have asked him to make it clearer that people can ask to receive a free email of each day’s blog posting, to improve the layout of the text so people can read it more easily on small mobile devices and update the appearance. I have sketched some changes.

I intend to continue with a daily main story which I write. I will continue to turn down the various offers of guest writers, adverts and sponsorship, as I wish it to be independent, and will continue to pay for the service myself. It will continue to be the John Redwood site. It will include items relevant to my job as MP for Wokingham, with a separate local pages section on Wokingham and West Berkshire issues. It is not an MP website site paid for by taxpayers. None of its content is cleared with Conservative Central Office.

Moderating the site is taking up too much of my time owing to the refusal of a limited number of people to accept my guidance. I will repeat

Please limit the number of proposed postings each day

Avoid long postings – unless you have something novel and well researched to say, in which case I might publish them

Avoid links to other sources, unless they are helpful links to easily identified government/Central Bank/global quango free public websites supplying useful data and backup

If you want to highlight something good you have read elsewhere then mention the source and give a small summary of what excites you about it in your submission.

Avoid allegations against individuals or companies as I do not have time to check them out for libel. I afford the same protection from allegations to Opposition MPs as to Conservative ones.

I will from now on be deleting many more incoming comments from a few individuals who are repetitious , who constantly ignore this guidance and whose opinions are now well known to regular readers. They need to find something new to say and to say it better if they want to be posted.

This site does not seek to censor people who disagree with me or the government or the Conservative party, and is willing to explore alternative explanations and policy options in a sensible way.

Posted in Uncategorized | 46 Responses

Death rates

The official figures for death rates in the UK show that the death rate in 2020 was considerably higher than in recent years. They also show, contrary to some media reports, that the death rate stayed below the higher levels it reached in the years 1999-2004. The overall rate is around 1% per annum, with most of those dying being the elderly. As people are living longer, so the typical age of death has trended upwards over the last half century.

There was a surge of deaths in the spring of 2020 brought on by CV 19 which boosted overall annual numbers. Since then progress with finding a range of treatments and nursing procedures that can cut the death rate from the virus have helped to bring down the numbers dying from the pandemic.

Today there is concern that other causes of death including cancer and heart problems may be boosted by people not seeking the treatment they need with these conditions, or by delays in access to hospital care resulting from the need to create extra capacity in some hospitals to handle covid 19 patents. There is also the double hit to overall NHS capacity that has come from the measures to tackle the virus. There is more social distancing in hospitals to wrestle with infection control, and absences of more staff who either catch the virus or need to self isolate for periods after contact with it.

The NHS management and their Ministerial supporters are concentrating on rolling out the vaccine, with the hope that this will solve the problem of lockdown. It may require more development of vaccines and further vaccination moves should the virus transmute. This important work should not detract from the need to advance in other ways as well. So let us look at other ways we can learn to live with this virus.

  1. More medical guidance on ways the rest of us can fend off the virus, using everything from diet to exercise. What is the official view of zinc, Vitamin C, weight loss and other measures in addition to Vitamin D which now has some official support?
  2. Are there treatments like Regeneron and chloroquine that can offer some protection?
  3. More treatments that can cut the death rate and reduce the severity of viral attacks. The work that has discovered dexamethasone and the anti rheumatoid drugs is welcome. Where are we on Ivermectin and others?
  4. More guidance and support for people to convert air flow and heating systems and introduce air cleansing systems within their air systems, to reduce exposure to disease laden air in enclosed rooms and spaces
  5. More use of isolation hospitals to cut the spread of disease in health settings and to reduce the numbers of NHS staff at risk
Posted in Uncategorized | 83 Responses

We need an unlock plan

Now the vaccines are being rolled out at some speed surely we are owed a proposed timetable to remove restrictions? The experts have always wanted long lock downs and have always seemed to rely on mass vaccination as their answer. It has been hard work getting them to take adaptation and safety measures seriously as a way of re opening more businesses, and even difficult to get results from tests and trials of various treatments to cut the death rate and the severity of the bad cases.

This week has been about securing sufficient deliveries of vaccine and sorting out arrangements to get the inoculations done. There have been debates about the relative role of GPs, pharmacies, hospitals and large temporary centres. The system seems to favour large facilities capable of carrying out many procedures, and favours NHS leadership. Let’s hope it goes well.

Meanwhile damage is being done to many small businesses and the economy has declined again. the Chancellor resists all requests to give more temporary help to businesses .

I am pressing for more measures to support the economy and a clearer path back to work.

Posted in Uncategorized | 224 Responses

Government borrowing

A contributor asked for an update on government debt.

The UK had a difficult borrowing problem in the IMF crash of the mid 1970s when the country ran out of foreign currency to borrow and had to make emergency cuts. The IMF supervised a programme of lower public spending in return for loans.

It had a bit of a domestic borrowing problem in the 1980s as a Conservative government tackled the large inherited borrowings. Interest rates rose to high levels to persuade people to take state debt as investments. As spending came under better control so rates came down, helping economic recovery.

It had a worse borrowing problem during and after the banking crash of 2008. State debt was high going into the crash alongside very high levels of private sector borrowing. Both sectors reined in in the last months of the Labour government. The incoming Coalition, contrary to media reports, raised the levels of state borrowing over their tenure.

On each of these occasions debt interest was over 3% of GDP or 6-7% of total public spending. It was considerably higher immediately after the war when state debt was 250% of GDP reflecting the need to spend and borrow to win the war. Patient work brought the debt under better control in the 1950s.

People ask me if we can afford the sharp build up in gross debt brought on by the policies chosen to deal with the pandemic. I am pleased to report that we can afford it, because interest rates have tumbled so much and because the Bank of England is buying in substantial quantities of the debt. The latest official predictions show net debt interest as a percentage of GDP falling to a tiny 0.8% of GDP next year as debts are rolled over at low rates and as the Bank completes its buying programme. This means debt interest will be at its lowest for the post 1945 period. There is no need to count the interest paid on the debt owned by the Bank of England, as taxpayers and government get that receipt.

The Uk government today can borrow money for 10 years at 0.29%. The stated debt is a large 105% of GDP, but the state itself will own £875bn of that so the true figure for the actual net debt owed by the state is around two thirds of GDP.

These are unusual times when the US, UK, leading EU countries and Japan can all borrow at around zero very large sums of money. It is still not a good idea to go on borrowing at scale for too long, and never a good idea to waste money borrowed. The immediate need for high borrowing is necessary to subsidise people and companies that are prevented from working by lock downs. The sooner we can unlock, the sooner we can get our finances under better control.

The good news is there is no need to worry yet. Markets are allowing all the major countries to borrow plenty at ultra low rates of interest, underpinned by Central Banks buying up a lot of the debt. This only has to change were inflation to pick up, which so far it has not. Japan has been doing this now for several decades with no inflation, with gross state debt at 250% of GDP but net state debt around half that and the interest burden very low.

Posted in Uncategorized | 216 Responses

My question during the Urgent Question on the Northern Ireland Protocol: Disruption to Trade, 13 January 2021

Sir John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend introduce urgent legislation to ensure the smooth flow of goods between Northern Ireland and GB? Is it not crucial to our Union, in respect of both Northern Ireland and Scotland, that the Government keep their promise to take control of our laws and borders and to demonstrate a more prosperous internal market for the whole UK?

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office (Mr Michael Gove): My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We want, first of all, to make sure that we are doing everything technically and administratively in order to ensure the smooth flow of goods but, as the Prime Minister confirmed to the House earlier, if we need to take further legal steps, then of course we will.

Posted in Debates, Uncategorized | 120 Responses

Sort out the Northern Ireland border

Yesterday I asked the government to legislate to ensure smooth passage of goods between GB and Northern Ireland. The government promised us we were taking back control of our laws and borders. They assured us their deal with the EU allowed the U.K. single market to work properly for the whole UK.

Not trusting the EU I objected at the time. I was very concerned about continuing EU influence over Northern Ireland and over our fishing, and it now seems I was right to warn. EU interference and requirements are impeding the flow of goods from London to Belfast where they go smoothly from London to any English city.

The government says it can use a clause in the Irish protocol to take over and control our single market in Northern Ireland. It should do so. It could also legislate, as they say we are now a sovereign country. I supported them when they sought to do so before signing the Agreement, only to see them cancel that legislation a day later when the EU offered a deal. Clearly the deal was not as good as the legislation. So bring on legislation.

We meant it when we voted to take back control. That has to include Northern Ireland trade and our fishing grounds. There are plenty of countries and businesses around the world who want to sell us things. Our borders with the rest of the world in Great Britain work just fine. We can also supply more of our own needs. Let’s get on with it. We cannot allow the EU to stop us trading with ourselves!

Posted in Uncategorized | 208 Responses

My speech during the debate on Covid-19, 12 January 2021

We have done many more tests than many other countries, and I pay tribute to Ministers and the NHS for all the hard work that has gone into achieving that. We are now vaccinating many more people than in other countries. We have got ahead, and that is very good news. As the Government see the main way out for us to relax the controls as being the vaccination of many more people, we wish everyone every speed and success in rolling out those vaccines.

I also think congratulations are in order for finding two more treatments that can make a difference to the death rate and reduce the length of time people suffer with a severe form of the disease, but what about ivermectin, which some doctors in other countries say can also achieve good results and reduce the death rate? It would be useful to know what progress is being made with the UK tests and whether that might ever be a recommended treatment, because the more treatments we can have to cut the death rate the better.

I would also be interested to know what our experts think about why there have been such differential case rates and death rates around the world. Unfortunately, the UK has now joined the group of countries where the death rate is over 0.1% of the total population, which means quite a lot of deaths, as we know to our sorrow and cost.

We have joined many other countries in that grouping, but why is it that countries like Sweden and Brazil have not yet got to 0.1% when some have been very critical of the way they have handled the virus, and why do many Asian countries seem to have got through with much less damage? What does the international research tell us about the reasons? Why is it, too, that a country such as Belgium has been blighted by such a high death rate and a pretty high case rate? Of course, testing more means that we identify more cases, but our case rate is still not one of the worst in the world, so clearly some of the actions taken are having a beneficial impact.

I also urge the Government to do rather more for the self-employed and small businesses. They are bearing the brunt of the economic damage of the policies being pursued, and more could be done, particularly for those small businesses and the self-employed who have not received any help at all.

Many of them are in business areas in which there have been closures for the best part of a year now, and in which social contact is very important for the business model, meaning their revenues are well down. We are going to need them, and we need a recovery fairly soon.

So I wish every success to those doing the vaccinations, and I hope we can then lift some of the restrictions, because we want to have a vibrant small business and small enterprise sector available to power the recovery we so desperately need.

Posted in Debates, Uncategorized | 104 Responses

Votes matter

Today we will hear of the plans for the English local elections, the English Mayoral elections, the Scottish parliament and the Welsh and London Assemblies.

Last year the English Council elections were cancelled and Mayors got extra time in office. Elections at regular intervals are an important part of our democratic system. Elected people and governments need a reasonable time period of several years to exercise the powers they are given and to show whether they can govern well or not, serving the people who elected them. Whilst many elected politicians have a sense of public duty and wish to serve people well, the looming presence of an election concentrates minds . It makes the elected individuals show they have done what they promised and have offered good service in order to seek renewal of their mandate. It forces them into regular communication with those they serve and gives them an added reason to listen attentively to complaints and wishes from voters.

The debate about the timing of these important elections revolves around how much of a threat the virus will still pose to us in April and May. Will it continue to make door to door canvassing and conversations impossible? Will it continue to restrict our ability to go to a polling station? I would hope by May we would be able to hold elections with suitably social distanced contacts. If the experts are sure we cannot , perhaps we need to consider shifting the elections more onto a digital and postal mechanism.

Some will argue postal voting is too open to abuse, and will argue against universal postal votes. Some will complain if campaigning is via the internet with zoom public meetings and social media communications. Others will think this better than delaying or cancelling elections yet again. What are your views? Many Conservative voters in London are very keen to have an opportunity to vote for a different Mayor, and doubtless voters of other parties in various parts of the UK have equally strong reasons to want an election soon.

Posted in Uncategorized | 166 Responses

Recovering from the virus

The ever tightening lockdowns increase the damage to businesses requiring social contact. They delay the start of recovery and make the loss of more small businesses and supply capacity more likely.

Yesterday’s statement from the Chancellor did not update the forecasts for the economy and did not answer the question of why some small businesses that have to shut are left out of the compensation or assistance schemes. Getting through one lock down by borrowing more or drawing down on savings or reserves may be possible but doing it all over again in a second lock down is more difficult. Setting up and running your own business is hard enough without successive bans on trading lasting for the best part of a year.

The government’s strategy to get out of this is heavily dependent on rapid roll outs of vaccines. It would also help to redouble efforts to reduce the spread of infection in health settings. The loss of staff from illness and the need to self isolate is adding to the strains. Redoubling efforts to find a wider range of treatments would help, as the treatments cut the time the serious illness lasts.

Today there is another debate on CV 19 in Parliament. It would be good to hear from Ministers progress on providing more support for closed small businesses, more news on infection control and treatments, and some report on how air flow and extraction can be improved to reduce infection spread. We need to get more back to work and more businesses trading as safely as possible.

Posted in Uncategorized | 145 Responses

The benefits of taking back control

The establishment media has been concentrating on the Dover Calais route and expressing concern that there were no lorry queues there on our first Brexit days. Where were all the programmes to look at our options now we are free? The BBC , ever willing to interview me when they thought Brexit was in danger, wanted no statements from me of all the things we can now do as an independent country.

So let me have another go at reminding them what they are missing, and how they are failing to inform their viewers and listeners.

We take back control of our taxes. The Tampon tax goes, and I want to see the back of the taxes on green products from boiler controls to insulation, from heat pumps to draught excluder. Why did the Remain media defend these taxes?

We take back control of our farms. We can now offer grants and loans to promote more British food to high standards. cutting the food miles. We need to win back lost market share in everything from pig meat to flowers and from salad crops to dairy. We can now ban live exports of animals and raise our welfare standards by so doing.

We take back control of our trade policy. We can now hope to join the mighty Trans Pacific partnership of large and growing economies and move through that to a US trade treaty, denied to us during 48 years in the EU running our trade policy.

We can take back control of our fishing grounds. Immediately the government will ban pulse fishing which damages our fish stocks and marine environment. There now needs to be a big move to expand capacity of our fishing fleet ready for our full control at the end of a further transition period. We also need to attract more food processing and fish freezing businesses to support the trawlers.

We can take back control of our industrial grants and subsidy regimes. All too often in the EU they used grants and subsidies to divert investment away from the UK or even to achieve closure of a UK factory to be replaced by a facility elsewhere. Now we can spend our money wisely on helping rebuild lost manufacturing.

We can take back control of our Freeport and Enterprise Zone policy, creating many more around the UK as part of the levelling up drive without falling foul of EU rules.

We can as a nation resume our rightful place on world bodies, with our own vote and voice to be a force for the good, for peace, prosperity and democracy.

Posted in Uncategorized | 249 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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