MP for Windsor
Working Hard For You
Contribution to the parliamentary debate on the UK’s Aviation Strategy

We are debating aviation strategy today, but a lot of the comments I have heard—particularly about the sticking-plaster solutions for Heathrow and all sorts of other, complicated, detailed, short-term fixes—do not deal with the strategy we need for the nation.

We used to be a great, island, global trading nation in the 1700 and 1800s, and we had a fantastic period even in the early 1900s. If we are talking about strategy, we should be talking about a long-term vision for where we want our country to be, and having a new offshore airport is a very good idea for the long-term economic growth of our country.

A short runway at Heathrow would not do it, while an extra runway at Gatwick would not deal with the hub issue. All those small fixes for the short term would just lead us straight back to where we were: putting off the long-term decision again, as my right hon. Friend Sir Alan Haselhurst described.

I very much welcome the Davies commission. I differ somewhat with the timetable for the reporting and the decisions, but it is right that someone is going to take a calm, long-term view of the situation.

There have been a lot of scare stories saying that, if a new hub airport were to be built over a period of 20 or 30 years, Heathrow would somehow cease to exist. However, we already have regional airports, and Heathrow could continue in that capacity and gradually evolve over time.

I must declare an interest, in that I live under the flight path in my Windsor constituency. The biggest challenge is to ensure that, with 480,000 air traffic movements a year, the number of flights does not increase.

A second concern relates to night flights. I was involved with the recent Civil Aviation Bill. Thankfully, Heathrow has only 16 night flights at the moment, but with an extra runway, that number would increase massively.

I will certainly continue to go on marches and to work with hon. Members across the House to ensure that a third runway does not become a reality.

We need to step back and look at the interests of the nation over the next 50 to 100 years, then make this decision in a cool, calm and collected fashion without focusing on short-term, sticking-plaster solutions. I hope that, when the Davies commission reports, it will have taken a long-term, mature look at the matter.

I believe that an offshore airport would solve all the problems, despite the short-term challenges involved in getting it built.

 

Contribution to the debate on an EU Referendum

It is not surprising that most people want this referendum. Seven out of 10 people have never had a say on our relationship with Europe, and nobody has had a say on our relationship with the European Union—it did not exist in 1975.

It is striking that people generally want a referendum sooner rather than later, and the beauty of the Bill is that it sets a longstop date but does not close down the possibility of holding a referendum sooner than 2017. I commend my hon. Friend James Wharton for ensuring that that was the case.

Right now our Government should be preparing the ground and putting our best and most urgent efforts into renegotiation. Businesses across the country want us to fight their corner; people want to know that their Government are already fighting to get control of our borders. Business needs certainty, people need certainty—as a minimum, they must be certain of when the uncertainty will end.

People also need to know that Britain is ready for the results of a referendum, so let us do the work now. There is nothing to stop the Government and the civil service doing the ground work. Tell us what leaving or staying in the EU might mean. Tell us that leaving is a possibility. Alongside the Bill, why not publish an audit of the costs and benefits of EU membership, sooner rather than later? Those are all activities we can undertake now.

In conclusion, Conservatives led the way forward in the past by securing a rebate from the EU budget, and we led the way in securing a cut in the EU budget. Let us lead the way again today, but this time not only the Conservatives. Let the whole Parliament lead the way in giving the British people a say on a future relationship with the European Union.

 

Renewal of Conservatism Conference held by Windsor Conservatives

Good morning and welcome to Windsor.

This conference is a significant moment for both Windsor and the Conservative Party.

It also promises to be a significant moment for centre-right thinking and the future of our country.

Windsor is a wonderful town and this is a great constituency.

It has lakes and great parks and tourist attractions and some magnificent historic buildings.

Windsor is steeped in political and military history.

Windsor castle has been a birth place and home for our Royal Family for centuries.

It was in Windsor that the conference preceding the signing of the Magna Carta was held.

Many battles have been fought here.

It is the perfect place to fight the political battles to come.

 

Windsor has been an agent of change in the past and I hope it will be instrumental in the renewal of Conservatism for the future

I’d like to thank the organisers, speakers and participants.

With the support of the Windsor Conservative Association, Richard Hyslop and Phil Sage have worked tirelessly to pull together today’s event.

The leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, David Burbage, is a legend. He has improved services across the borough, while reducing the council tax to the lowest of any council outside London. He is here today.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance, the Freedom Association and the Centre for Social Justice are well-know right-thinkers. You are welcome.

And I want to thank those MPs, MEPs, Councillors and GLA members for remaining loyal to Conservative values. They are again making a contribution today.

With Toby Young, James Delingpole, Tim Montgomery, Jill Kirby, Daniel Hannan, Syed Kemall and so many others, the quality of participants will speak for itself.

There will be Keynote speeches, panel discussions and breakout sessions.

I hope that you will not only contribute to the revitalisation of the Conservative vision in these sessions, but will also stay for the supper with Roger Scrutton if you can.

Of course, at an event like this, one cannot avoid mentioning the Coalition.

We are in difficult political territory.

The last Government left our country in a hell of a mess.

In 2010 the Conservative-led Coalition was confronted with big government, massive debts, rising taxes and a growing budget deficit.

Our national control and self-determination were being eroded by European jurisdiction over our borders and our criminal justice system.

Great Britain had become humbled, indebted and subservient place.

Thankfully, the Coalition has being doing good work in the area of Welfare Reform, debt reduction and improving school standards.

But despite some good progress the tensions and constraints of coalition are taking their toll.

There is headway to be made on so many fronts.

Our job today is to identify the policies that will underpin a government that truly is on the side of people who work hard and aspire to better themselves by merit and endeavour.

We need policies that will help to secure a solid Conservative majority.

But those policies must also influence the current Government.

Now, if I were Europe Minister, I’d want to know how to regain control of our borders and secure our criminal justice system.

Businesses are the engine of the economy.

If I were Chancellor, I’d be concerned about removing the age-old obstacles to growth.

I’d want to release our risk-takers and wealth creators to generate the jobs and economic growth the country so desperately needs

If I were Party Chairman, I’d be concerned about the support base of my Party. I’d want to ensure that the policies adopted had been endorsed by the Party. And I’d want my Party to be motivated and ready to campaign, wholeheartedly, at the next election.

And if I were Prime Minister, I’d want to be in tune with my Party and I’d want the right ideas for the country on Europe, taxation and the economy.

But above all I’d want to have a clear Conservative majority.

So our challenge today is to forge those policies that will secure the freedom and prosperity of the British people, and assert the ideas for an election-winning strategy.

With the participants here today, I am confident we can rise to the challenge.
So in closing let me say this.
Whatever your views on the current state of the nation and our party, please remember:
Governments and Coalitions, they come and they go, but our Conservative principles endure.

- A commitment to individual liberty, self-determination and equality of opportunity,
- A belief in lower taxes as a moral and economic good and,
- The defence of sovereignty through an EU relationship based on economic cooperation, not political subservience.

It is these Conservative principles that must inform the next manifesto, in the meantime, hold the Coalition to account in the meantime.

And I suspect these values will endure long after Nick Clegg has departed public life.

You are very welcome here in Windsor.

Please enjoy the rest of today’s conference.

And do come again.

Thank you.

 

Speech at Policy Exchange Powering Progress with Big Data

It is great to be back again.

Two years ago I gave a speech here on public sector data as Shadow Minister for Science and Innovation.

And I am pleased that Policy Exchange continues to the debate on big data, open data and open standards.

Back then, I said that it’s time for a fresh look at the impact of public sector information policy on the wider economy.

So it’s great to be here to hear what progress is being made.

 

What I’ll be saying

My proposition for discussion is:

The Government must release public sector data not only to create more powerful citizens, but to release the digital economic innovation that will deliver the jobs and growth we need.

Big data sits at the heart of the Conservative vision of a smaller state with bigger citizens.

Our ability to innovate will determine our place in the world.

Those nations that innovate and make best use of their big data resources will excel and prosper.

That means taking full advantage of the new opportunities that technology offers.

My vision is for a more open and better connected society.

A society in which data access and communication technology creates more powerful citizens and a less controlling state and delivers the goods on the economic front.

How we get here

During my time as Shadow Minister, I was deeply encouraged by the Conservative Party’s embrace of the digital world, and that of all the main parties.

In Opposition, David Cameron asked me to seek out innovations across Government.

Our 2010 Manifesto included a commitment to release Government datasets in an open and standardised format.

The Coalition Government and the Cabinet Office have pursued this agenda with gusto.

But there is much more to do.

Public sector data

Open data sets will fuel economic innovation.

As the repository of the country’s public data, the Government has a key role to play.

But let’s be honest, while the pace of technological change is breathtaking, but the pace of governmental change never is.

We must ensure that Government data policies release innovation and economic growth, rather than hinder it.

My hope today is that your workshop will identify and specify specific big data sets for release.

I want to touch on two strands of public sector information: non-trading fund data, and trading fund data.

Non-trading fund data is the deep well of raw data lying unpublished and untapped in Government departments and agencies.

The kind of data that’s been used for crime maps, school league tables and hospital performance statistics.

Trading fund data is the information which Government agencies sell to generate income.

The Ordnance Survey and Met Office are good examples.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with asking users to pay for a service.

However, the only thing worse than a state monopoly over data is a private one; We must therefore address these issues today to secure freer access in the future.

The future

Given the drive from the highest ranks, I am optimistic for the future, but businesses and social entrepreneurs must play their role in identifying and demanding big data sets.

But I do have a vision for the future.

To release a vibrant and growing economy, we must explore whether there is a better way to generate more jobs and more wealth through big data.

One option could be to free “slivers” of trade fund data to determine the benefits of moving to open access.

Beyond trading fund data, we must urgently look at reforming Government policies and procedures which restrict the re-use of public sector information.

The civil service instinct is to hoard and hide data or charge for it, when it could be releasing valuable data-sets and contributing to economic growth.

There is no doubt that access to data is power – social, economic and democratic.

We must rebalance the information asymmetry between Government and the governed.

Freeing up access to big data will help deliver the jobs and economic growth our country is crying out for.

It will help deliver bigger citizens and a society with less unnecessary state control.

Government must step aside and enable the market-place, not seek to dictate it.

And today you have a key role to play because releasing big data equals releasing big innovation, jobs and economic growth.

Thank you.

 

Contribution to the debate on Parliamentary Representation

 

First, may I thank you, Mr Speaker, for convening the Speaker’s Conference and giving it your support? I think that has made a huge difference. I also thank Dame Anne Begg for the careful tone in which she presented the conference findings and for recognising that parties may strive in different ways to achieve the outcome that all Members want, which is a more diverse, representative-looking Parliament. That Parliament might not be proportional to the exact numbers of the various groups in society, but we must have a Parliament that is in touch with the people it serves and that is able to understand and feel the issues that are important to the public.

I made a pledge to myself that I would seldom talk about issues of race, ethnic minorities and diversity in front-line politics, and I made that commitment for two or three key reasons: first, and not least, because I do not think that race actually exists in biological, genetic or evolutionary terms anyway. Above that, categorising people into clear groups can often be more divisive than allowing things to evolve to begin to reflect a nation over time.

I have broken that pledge today because, as the first black Conservative MP in the party’s history, I thought I would share one or two insights into my journey here, the barriers and obstacles I have met, and the approach that can be adopted by political parties and Parliament in future. I shall try to do so as quickly as I can within the six-minute limit. I am happy to take one or two interventions—which may help to some degree.

I want to share some insights and experience, but if the House will bear with me I will make a couple of points very crudely because I do not have time to put them more subtly; I hope the House will understand that they are well intentioned, and that if I had more time I would elaborate slightly further.

A key reason why I joined the Conservative party, about which I will say a few words in a moment, is that I felt that during the ’80s the Labour party was quite patronising towards ethnic minorities. There was a sense on the part of the incumbents in politics—those with power—that ethnic minority groups were somehow hapless and weak and needed all the support and help they could get, and all sorts of extra support in order simply to compete. I rejected that prognosis—[ Interruption. ] Please bear with me: I am putting this very briskly; with more time I would put it more subtly. I rejected that notion because, irrespective of which group in society one comes from—whatever one’s physical or socio-economic characteristics, whatever one’s background or heritage—everybody is equal. It is a question of whether the opportunity exists to get involved in the political process and to be recognised for ones innate, equal abilities. That is part of the reason why I joined the Conservative party, and something to reflect on.

The Conservative party is interesting, in that it tends to take slightly more time to respond to society and to the change in social mores, which is partly because we are conservatives by nature—with a big C and a small c. However, over time the party does seem to progress quite rapidly, once it gets the gist of things and begins to respond to and reflect the society around it. It is interesting to note that the Conservative party was the first party to elect a Jewish Prime Minister, and a bachelor as a leader of the party; and of course, it elected the first female Prime Minister and leader of the party. We will see what the future holds, but interestingly, despite some of the criticisms of the party, in many ways it has been quicker to reflect the make-up of society, certainly in its leadership.

At the last election, my hon. Friend Mr Vara and I were the only two ethnic minority — if hon. Members wish to box us in in that way — Conservative Members of this House, but our number has now increased significantly to 12. That occurred not through positive discrimination — it was not done through all-black, all-black-and-ethnic-minority shortlists or all-female shortlists — but by an organic process; it was an evolution that gradually reflected the society around us, and I am delighted at those results. There are now 49, rather than 17, women representing the Conservatives in this place, which is a huge step forward, and it has been made without the need for those draconian, divisive and often counter-productive measures.

However, there is a generational lag, which we must, to some degree, accept. Equally, if any hon. Member here was to move to another country and seek, as an adult, to become a Member of the Parliament of that nation, it is unlikely that that would happen or it would be exceptional if it did. There are so many ways in which we can split society into groups — by gender, skin colour, sexuality, disability, socio-economic background and so on. Hon. Members from all parties in this House have a joint desire to see this place be more representative of the country we serve. My biggest plea today is that we do not rush in and embrace quotas — all-women or all-black shortlists, or shortlists with only people with disabilities on them — because such an approach is counter-productive. In a way, it ingrains a sense that there is an elite and that somehow these hapless groups have to have this extra special support, and it alienates others. That form of “groupism” in society is, in many ways, more dangerous than a short-term under-representation over a period of a few years.

I do have a dream that this place will be more representative of the nation at large — that is happening at a rate of knots in most parties and I hope it will continue. But if I was to urge anything, from my own experience, I would urge us not have a knee-jerk reaction and have exclusively feature-based shortlists at this time.