Adam Afriyie
MP for Windsor
A confident step towards an economy that works for everyone

Today’s Autumn Statement highlights just how much progress this Government has made. Project Fear has been shown to be a phantom: This year Britain is set to remain the fastest growing economy in the G7! And next year we are likely to grow as quickly as Germany and outpace both France and Italy.

What’s more, the fastest growing region of the UK was the North East, the fastest pay growth was in the West Midlands, and every region recorded a record high employment rate. This Conservative Government has moved away from the London-centric economy built under Labour and opened up the powerhouses of the North.

There is still a great deal of work to do in improving education, reforming welfare and cutting business taxes and I would have liked to see further announcements around mental health but, on balance, our country is undeniably better placed now than it was six years ago.

Be vigilant to the danger of winter floods

In the Windsor constituency we are well aware of the devastating impact that floods can have on people homes, lives and livelihoods.

Almost every winter the River Thames swells and our flood defences are tested. Three years ago we watched with alarm as the gauges on the Thames reached the highest levels recorded since their introduction as we were hit by serious winter floods.

Across the Thames Valley hundreds of homes were flooded and thousands of sandbags were laid down as emergency barriers.

Heathrow’s Achilles Heel

The recent decision on airport expansion is deeply disappointing. Yet in some ways it’s understandable given the groupthink surrounding a third runway to which the Airport Expansion sub-committee has been subjected.

We need new airport capacity and we need it fast. But it needs to be introduced in the most cost-effective and least environmentally damaging way possible.

We’re all aware of the unassailable environmental arguments for expanding Gatwick over Heathrow, but there is also strong business case for expanding Gatwick.

Heathrow simply can’t deliver the growth that this country needs. The Davies Commission report itself said that expansion at Heathrow would provide only £1.4bn in net benefit whereas a 2nd Runway at Gatwick would provide £5.5bn. It is no wonder that Sir Terry Farrell, one of the UK’s leading architecture planners, said that Gatwick will deliver more balanced, and more widely spread, economic growth.

The lukewarm support shown by some businesses for Heathrow expansion will quickly dissipate once the reality sets in that Heathrow is going to become the most expensive airport in the world. Airport capacity is a fulcrum for national growth, so this is likely to send out damaging ripples to Britain’s competitiveness.

Since the Davies Commission, the business case for Heathrow has got even weaker. Gatwick has added 20 new long-haul flight destinations in the last year meaning that an extra runway at Gatwick will deliver identical traffic connectivity for the UK as expansion at Heathrow with a much smaller environmental footprint.

Heathrow is permanently stymied by its archaic location; a relic of the days before mass air travel. Due to Heathrow’s proximity to London, a 3rd runway will affect 21 times more people through noise pollution compared to expanding Gatwick.

But the real Achilles heel of a 3rd Runway is air quality targets. It is impossible to reconcile building an extra runway at Heathrow with meeting air quality targets when Heathrow has already broken every air quality target for the last decade with only two runways.

Given that the Airports Commission recommended that the release of capacity at a 3rd Runway should be dependent on Heathrow meeting binding air quality targets it is likely that we may end up with the worst of all worlds: spending decades building an additional runway only to find that Heathrow is unable to utilise much of it.

Thankfully, this decision isn’t final. A 3rd Runway will have to traverse a whole series of obstacles, starting with a vote in Parliament. Given that research suggests that expansion at Heathrow will require a public subsidy of up to £305 per household, I hope that every MP who votes in favour of expansion at Heathrow is prepared to explain to their constituents why they expect taxpayers from the Shetland Islands to Lands’ End to subsidise a foreign-owned, private company.

Expanding Gatwick will be cheaper, quicker and, crucially, deliverable. It will create a more competitive airports system with cheaper flights for businesspeople. Opposition to a 3rd Runway at Heathrow is an attempt to prevent the biggest white elephant project in our history.

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.