Adam Afriyie
MP for Windsor
Lifting the grammar school ban is a boost for social mobility

From Disraeli’s ‘One Nation’ Conservatism in the 19th century through to Harold Macmillan’s post-war housebuilding programme and Margaret Thatcher’s revival of the economy in the 20th century, the Conservative Party has a strong tradition of enabling social mobility.

People might say that I came from a classically disadvantaged background, like so many others, having been brought up by my mother in social housing in South London. Yet I was one of the few fortunate enough to get a good education and make my way in life. This should not be a one-off story; it should be commonplace. The circumstances of a child’s birth should not determine where they end up in life.

So I’m delighted that greater social mobility is the driving mission of this Conservative Government.

The ability to make your way in life is intrinsically linked to the education you receive.

While we are fortunate to live in an area with some of the best schools in the country – from academies like Charters, to free schools like Holyport College and Forest Bridge – the picture is not consistent across the country.

Conservative education reforms have shown promising results over the last six years. The creation of free schools and academies, and the modernisation of the curriculum are raising standards across the board. But there is more to do.

Britain will be stronger, safer and better off outside the EU

As an ardent campaigner for an EU referendum I am immensely proud that a Conservative Government has given people the opportunity to have their say on 23rd June.

People have been wrongly led to believe that remaining in the EU means that things will remain the same. They will not. ‘Status quo’ is not on the ballot paper.

The EU is planning a vast swathe of changes in the coming months and years.  What we are actually voting on is whether we want the EU to decide what changes to make for us or do we want to make decisions for ourselves.

I believe that we will be better off out of the EU with the power to make decisions for ourselves. For most voters, this is lifetime once in a generation opportunity to choose our direction of travel: towards ever greater union, as a province of a country called ‘Europe’ or a return to a self-governing and sovereign country, standing tall in the world.

Remaining a member of the EU is like standing on an accelerating escalator towards a single, federalised nation state. Europe will gain increasing control of our borders and immigration, our courts, our taxation system.

The Prime Minister was absolutely right to try to renegotiate our terms and he fought hard to do so but the other 27 member states refused to move even a millimetre on the fundamental issues that the British people are concerned with. Any residual attachment to the idea that plucky Britain could single-handedly influence the sclerotic European Union should have gone out of the window there and then.

Blockchains: The most important thing you’ve never heard of

You could be forgiven for having never heard of a “blockchain”. When I raised the issue of blockchains in Parliament it was the first time the word had been recorded in the Hansard record of parliamentary debate. It hasn’t been mentioned again.

Yet at tech events and forums discussion is ablaze with the seemingly limitless possibilities of blockchains, with some claiming they will transform the internet in the same way that the combustion engine revolutionized road travel. But what is this revolutionary new technology?

At its most basic: blockchains are a method of storing data. The advantage of doing so in a blockchain is that it is more secure, almost impossible to hack and cheaper to operate than a conventional database.

Traditionally data has been stored on a single central computer and people can alter that data only by going through a third party who has the power to change it. The data on a blockchain, however, is stored on every computer connected to the service and gets updated automatically without a central arbiter.

When someone wants to update or input new data, they first alter the record on their own computer and subsequently that amendment is verified by the other computers connected to the blockchain. The update is only confirmed and locked into the blockchain when 51% of the computers have verified it. Thus it is almost impossible for someone to counterfeit a record unless they controlled 51% of the computers on the blockchain.

Even if the technology behind blockchains is prohibitively complex and nerdy, its’ potential is not. Blockchains dissolve bureaucracy and shred red tape, a perennial problem in the public sector.

Virtually all of today’s digital infrastructure could be improved in theory with a secure blockchain whether it’s cataloguing business records, registering car ownership or, an idea that recently won an award from the Bank of England, allocating blood in the NHS Blood Supply Chain System more effectively.  Indeed if something is not currently undertaken because it is considered too complicated, such as interoperable electronic health records, a secure blockchain would have the power to enable it.

The question is whether they can be used without compromising security. I believe we would do well to have a parliamentary debate on blockchains because the Government needs to recognise the power of blockchains to, not only, improve public services at a reduced cost to taxpayers but to create more powerful citizens in a smaller and more decentralised state.

The commercial opportunities of embracing the power of blockchain technology would not only give a big boost to Britain’s vibrant technology sector but our exports would also lay the foundations to aid developing nations’ digital infrastructure.

Widespread confidence in the Conservatives

A new poll by the Edelman Trust shows a solid vote of confidence in this Conservative government and a recognition of how divided left-leaning Labour has become.

Just 18% trust Jeremy Corbyn to do what is right, compared to 33% who felt the same way about Miliband in 2014. Moreover, 40% of the public trust David Cameron to do the right thing, up from 33% in 2014.

This builds on a YouGov poll from just before the New Year that showed that people recognise that the Conservatives are the only party that can be trusted with the economy. 41% said that they trusted the Conservative Party the most to handle the economy, with Labour on a distant 18%. This 23% lead is higher than any lead we had in the last Parliament. Even in Scotland the Conservative Party are recognised as being the best party to handle the economy. Let’s hope that this translates into votes at the Holyrood elections later this year.

These figures are an encouraging sign that people are recognising the good work that Conservatives are doing in cutting Labour’s overspending, reducing the deficit, lowering unemployment and reforming welfare and education. Given the fantastic employment figures that we have seen in the past few years it’s also unsurprising that the same poll shows that the Conservatives are recognised as being the best party to deal with unemployment.

The poll also shows that the public sees Labour as swinging hard to the left. David Cameron is perceived as a moderate, centre-right politician, whereas Corbyn is registered as being nearly twice as far from the political centre, or indeed the Labour Party!

Irrespective of public perceptions, there remains more work to be done in government. So let’s continue the important work of mending the economy to reward this trust and show that only the Conservatives can deliver strong growth, a budget surplus and excellent public services.


Hurrah for Tim Peake – but we must cut the red tape that stands between us and the stars

Tim Peake, the first British astronaut for 20 years, blasted off this morning to dock with the ISS. Adam Afriyie MP, a former technology entrepreneur and Chair of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology has said that we must make sure that Tim Peake is the first of many British astronauts.

In an article, published on the Telegraph, Adam Afriyie writes:

“The ISS represents a truly momentous international achievement. It is our first permanent outpost at the beginning of a pioneering quest both to understand and ultimately colonise the universe.

“Major Tim Peake must be the first of many pioneering British astronauts that continue our great history of academic discovery which opens up new avenues of commercial benefit for the rest of us.

“Only by unleashing private enterprise in space can Britain take the place it deserves in humanity’s quest to understand and colonise the universe.”

To read the article in full on the Telegraph website, click here.

To read the POSTnote on the future of space commerce, click here.