The PM said the UK could do more to expand science and innovation, and she cited advances in battery technology as one area for growth. "Battery technology - we are leading the way on that already," she said.
She also highlighted plans to extend specialist maths schools.
There have been reports that the overhaul of technical education will include £170m of capital funding to set up institutes of technology to deliver education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
Thousands of technical qualifications, which critics see as low quality, will be replaced with 15 core technical "routes" designed to meet industry's needs.
Commons education committee chairman Neil Carmichael said the move was welcome, and should go a long way" towards filling its 82,000-strong annual engineering skills gap.
Business will get a chance to consult on the industrial strategy proposals. The Institute of Directors said the strategy must concentrate on skills and infrastructure, not cash injections.
"The new strategy is a chance to provide a positive environment for existing companies, but also encourage the upstarts which will develop the products and services of the future," said James Sproule, director of policy at the IoD .
Full details here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38710617

Dear President Trump

I congratulate you on your installation as President. Your vision  to create more jobs, revitalise US infrastructure, boost US take home pay and inject more life into  US economic leadership is a bold one. We in the UK are also embarked on a similar task as we leave the EU. We too need to build more roads, railways, bridges, energy plants and water supply facilities. We too need to make more things for ourselves and import less to narrow our trade gap. Our two countries can indeed trade with each other more, as ours is a fair trade with a reasonable balance of imports and exports for each party.

Your proposals to produce more realistically priced energy will help restore your manufactures. Cheap energy is a vital part of a flourishing industry. Your plans to cut corporate and individual tax rates will energise entrepreneurs, spawn more investments, and allow people to keep and spend more of their earnings. That in turn creates demand which generates more jobs.  The USA in recent years has pioneered much of the digital revolution and has done well in creating more companies and jobs in technology, but has suffered from Chinese, German and Mexican imports of industrial goods which could have been made more extensively in the USA.  Tax reform, cheaper energy, a better regulatory climate and a President who supports manufacturing will make a difference.

Both the USA and the UK could benefit from an early free trade agreement between our own two countries. Fair trade  which results in a sensible balance between the trading parties can enrich and enhance both sides. If our two countries  draw one up and sign it, it will show the world that the USA is not afraid of fair trade, and it will put more weight behind the UK’s intention to be an even more successful  world trading nation open for business globally.

I was pleased to read you are planning a summit in due course with Mr Putin. The West has made mistakes in recent years with its military interventions in the Middle East. Some carefully planned joint working with Russia which also has a presence and diplomatic interests there might help achieve the important but more limited objective you have set in combatting ISIS. Past policy has suffered from conflicting and ambitious aims which have resulted in all too many civil and religious wars in the region.

The UK and the US can make common cause to strengthen NATO for our mutual defence. As one of the few countries that does hit the minimum 2% GDP target for defence spending, the UK is a natural ally in your campaign to get all NATO members to spend at least the minimum. If I tried only paying a portion of the insurance premium I owe to insure my home the insurance company would cancel the cover. Why are countries that want their allies support any different if there is a minimum? The EU does not allow its members to pay a lower subscription, and none of our EU friends short change the Commission.

I am pleased our Prime Minister will visit on Friday. There is plenty of scope to increase our joint working on intelligence, defence, trade, economic policy and general foreign policy. I wish you every success in tackling the problems in the USA that you have identified.

Yours etc

 

 

 

 

Oxfam is once again touting redistribution as the solution to inequality. That's a false promise. NGOs seem to see private property itself as the problem. But to reduce inequality, we need to recognise that the erosion of property rights is often what causes it.

Inequality is actually falling on some measures – especially here in the UK – while Oxfam's methodology for calculating it is deeply misleading.

Where it has reached extremes is in the pay of top corporate managers. In 1998, the average pay of a FTSE 100 boss was around 50 times the average UK wage. Now it's 180 times.

But the issue here isn't that getting rich is bad per se. The world as a whole is getting better off. We shouldn't see wealth as a zero sum game – because it's not.

The problem is that CEOs are being rewarded for failure. Their pay rises far outstrip any increase in the value of the companies they lead. Managers are gaining at shareholders' expense.

Why?

Because shareholders have lost control. Their votes on managerial pay aren't binding. And most no longer hold their shares directly, but rather through funds. The proportion of UK equities held by individual shareholders fell from 50% in 1953 to just 12% by 2010.

Redistribution won't solve a problem caused by poor corporate governance. Moreover, do we really think one form of expropriation can be corrected by another? Shouldn't we aspire to cut it out full stop?

Rather, the answer is to align the interests of managers with those of owners. CEOs should be made much more legally accountable to their shareholders. Corporate democracy needs to be restored.

To beat the CEO kleptocracy, shareholders must take back control.

You can download the Essential Classics podcast here. 
Yesterday, the people of the US elected as their 45th President a most unusual man. It's not possible to make even a reasonable guess at what sort of a President, Donald John Trump will turn out to be. Up to now I've held a negative opinion of Mr Trump. I thought the way he approached his election campaign was utterly dreadful. I also thought his Inauguration Speech a worrying rant and a threat to the world economy in particular. But it's over. The Donald is now the President. He won. We had all best get used to it.

There have been protests in many coutries, sometimes degenerating into violence. All fair enough (without the violence) but it won't make much difference. He won. We should give him a chance. Let us see what he delivers, rather than focus on what he has said. And let us in the UK look to work with him in the interests of the world, the US and  our self interest. I can understand why some are disappointed. But the publicity challenging the decision of voters never works. It will just reinforces support for the President.

The main reason we should be worried about Donald Trump is his rhetoric about protectionism and apparent antipathy to work trade. I've no problem with his challenge to world's liberal elite, or to orthodoxies that are ruled out of debate, or to his demand that other NATO members pay their way. But his championing of protectionism is a real worry. Putting up economic barriers will not bring prosperity or jobs back to the US. Just as impediments to trade in Europe as the UK leaves the EU will damage the economies of all. It may be a glorious opportunity for Theresa May to become the Western world's 'free trade' leader. But we need the US President on board as well.

The other big worry is his seemingly high regard for Mr Putin. Again it's not unreasonable to talk about wanting to make an accommodation with Russia, but it will need a very watchful eye. Putin is not Gorbechev. All European states are going to have to take security a bit more serously. First duty of any government is to protect its citizens. Mr Trump is likely to make clear that it will be no use looking to the US to carry more than it's share of the burden.

But back to the theme of thus blog post. What's gone is gone. Donald Trump won. Move on. Give him a chance to show us he can be a successful President.

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Should follow the rest of the world in legalising cannabis?

by Paul, one of my parliamentary staff

 

As we enter 2017, medical marijuana is now legal in a majority of US states, including conservative bastions such as Arkansas and Montana.  Common sense is prevailing in Canada and Australia, too.  Public support for cannabis legalisation has grown significantly in these countries.  But the political establishment in Britain refuse to promote such sensible and courageous action.

February last year marked a watershed moment for many thousands of Australian citizens struggling to manage chronic conditions.  It was the month the Turnbull Government introduced amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act legalising access to safe supplies of medicinal cannabis.  The passing of this law went without fuss, establishing, in the words of then health minister Sussan Ley, a “pathway of legally-grown cannabis for the manufacture of suitable medicinal cannabis products in Australia”.

Brave politicians like Ley, in presenting overwhelming evidence to support these changes, have managed to lead public opinion. However, the new federal law has one fatal flaw – it does not decriminalise unregulated cannabis remains a law enforcement issue for individual states.  In a recent poll in South Australia’s Advertiser, 83 percent of readers backed a further law which would allow the home growing of medicinal cannabis for strict medicinal purposes. 

Elsewhere, the legalisation of cannabis was a flagship manifesto commitment of Justin Trudeau in 2015.  He successfully led the Liberal Party into government with a stomping majority.  The law will change this spring.  However, like the Turnbull Government, Trudeau’s reluctance to decriminalise means many citizens have and will suffer in the meantime.

Demand for pain relief is not yet meeting the supply of; it is absurd that expensive and harmful pharmaceutical painkillers are liberally prescribed, while use of cannabis is harshly punished. 

Where legalisation for medicinal purposes and decriminalisation go hand in hand, public attitudes have been proven to shift substantially.  In the US, now polls suggest over half of American people support the legalisation of cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use.  No wonder this is the case when states such as Colorado, which legalised cannabis for recreational use, have seen a drop in cannabis sales among locals despite a rise in stores selling the drug.  Colorado high schools have seen cannabis usage drop below the national average, a welcome statistic given the dangers of cannabis for the young.

In Britain both public opinion, and political will, lag behind.  Brave British parliamentarians haven’t quite been in the right place at the right time.

Ex-Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, Drugs Minister in the coalition government, broke ranks from his Tory colleagues and released a report calling for cannabis-based medicines to be legalised in the UK.  But he resigned after his report was ignored by his boss.  Her name was Theresa May. 

While the evidence grows ever more compelling, and thousands needlessly suffer, the government stands silently still. Of the chances of any progress, Baker says: "Given Theresa's views, I think it most unlikely anything will change under her regime."


One of the consequences of the way people live their lives in the modern world has been a worrying increase in the number of those suffering mental health problems at some point in their life.  Many people can be affected and we need to remove the stigma and try to do more to support people's wellbeing.

The growth in the number of young people affected is of particular concern.  Maybe it’s the pressure to fit in and to belong - a sentiment that always existed - but seems to have been heightened by social media in the digital age which is relentless and immediate but often impersonal and sometimes offensive.  A number of schools are now encouraging parents to take mobile phones away from their children at night so that they can sleep and have a break from relentless twitter feeds.

Last week, the Government introduced new measures to transform the way we approach and deal with mental health locally, so that more children and young people receive support and care.

The new measures are good news for Cornwall. Our local secondary schools will be offered mental health first aid training to increase awareness around mental health and help to tackle the stigma around the issue. New proposals will also outline how mental health services for schools, universities and families can be improved, so that everyone in the community is supported, at every stage of life.

Across Cornwall, we will also see child and adolescent mental health services being reviewed. This will identify what works and what we can improve, so that more children and young people get the mental healthcare that they need.

Some good work is done by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) service, which helps children and young people deal with emotional, behavioural or mental health issues. There are also some good charities out there which help provide the support needed.  But all agree that this is a challenge of our age.
The final chapter in the devastating tale of HMRC’s contract with Concentrix has now been published. It makes for grim reading for HMRC, Concentrix, and families in receipt of tax credits.
In advance of an anticipated speech by the Prime Minister on leaving the EU, European Research Group Chair Steve Baker MP and Deputy Chair Michael Tomlinson MP have issued the following statement on behalf of the ERG Officers: Following the Prime Minister’s speech to conference, we are confident the Government is going down entirely the right track. We’ll be delighted when it’s clear we will be taking advantage of the practically unlimited opportunities which will come from leaving the EEA […]
Iraq - enough said. Europe - he agreed to the widening of the EU without any attempt to limit economic migration from the poorer areas of the EU to the richer areas. This failure to think about the impact on the living conditions of skilled workers is the main cause of the Brexit vote. Forced Adoption - this was another of his failures. This may not have been fully recognised yet, but I expect

My father died just over a year ago. I dreamt about him last night. Thinking about him, I’m reminded of two things today: first, that he loved me; and second, that he was – to put it mildly – puzzled by my choice of profession. He never saw the point of parliament, which he thought a ‘giant talking shop.’ […]

The post The Public Point of View appeared first on Rory Stewart.

I have been told by South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group that the current contract holders at Studley Health Centre have given their 6 month notice to terminate their contract. SWCCG are now considering two options, either the GP services will continue with a new provider, or patients will be asked to register with another local practice. All patients at Studely Health Centre should have been contacted for their opinion, you can do this online by completing this survey. Alternatively you can contact them by email at contactus@southwarwickshireccg.nhs.uk or by post at the following address:  NHS South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Market Street, Warwick, Warwickshire, CV34 4DE There will also be a drop in session at Studley Village Hall, High Street, Studley, Warwickshire, B80 7HJ on Thursday 11th August between 4pm and 6pm The deadline for all comments is 5pm on Monday 22nd August 2016. Please take these opportunities to let SWCCG know your thoughts on what the future of this GP practice should be.  ...

Sir Tony Baldry is to receive a new Award from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Langton Award for Community Service.

The Award is named after Archbishop Stephen Langton, who was Archbishop at the time of the signing of Magna Carta.

The Award made from Fairtrade silver will be conferred on Sir Tony Baldry by the Archbishop of Canterbury during a ceremony at Lambeth Palace on 31st March.

For further information click here.

This morning, first thing, I dropped by the Esher and Molesey Royal Mail delivery office. It's an opportunity to see first hand just how busy our local postmen and women get at this time of year.

Mark Peters, the office manager, showed me round, how the systems work, and the kinds of challenges they have to grapple with - from rotweilers to bad handwriting on envelopes. I met a few of his team in the process. Good luck to all our postmen and women at this festive but hectic time!


Quietly and surreptitiously Osborne is marking out his pitch for the leadership,   The trouble is, it’s thoroughly bad pitch.   By denigrating opponents of privatisation he has set his face against the 70% of the population who earnestly want rail re-nationalised, a proportion so large that it must include nearly half who’re Tories.   … Continue reading Osborne stirs up more shit in which to bury himself in
With regards to today’s news from the High Court, my solicitors, Clifford Chance, have prepared this statement on my behalf: "This petition was part of Mr Ireland's continued campaign of harassment against our client. Our client believes that the p...
Between 2010 and 2015 I was the Minister of State for Pensions and continue to take an interest in pensions issues.  I tweet regularly (@stevewebb1) but occasionally 140 characters doesn't quite do justice to the wonderful world of pensions.   I have therefore relaunched this blog site as an occasional location for pensions thoughts.

The Haringey Indepedent asked me to outline reasons why people should vote for me… Here’s my response!

“Starting with the very basic – I am local! I grew up in Haringey, went to Highgate primary, and still live in the constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green today.

“It’s so important to know the area you want to represent.

“I also have a 20 year record of working with residents and campaign groups to protect and improve our local services.

“If I had to pick the single most important campaign – it would be saving the Whittington A&E from the previous Labour Government’s closure plans. The second I got wind, I posted the information on my website (where it remains today!) and kicked off a massive campaign.

“Joining forces with local residents and campaign groups – I marched, I petitioned, I secured a debate and asked questions in Parliament, and together we were successful and Gordon Brown’s Government backed down. If we hadn’t saved it – I don’t think we’d still have a hospital.

“Nationally, I’ve fought for policies that benefit our borough. The Lib Dems in parliament have taken the lowest paid workers out of paying tax, and introduced the Pupil Premium to get extra money to schools in more disadvantaged areas.

“These measures mean that thousands of low-paid Haringey workers have be taken out of paying income tax altogether, and £13 million extra has been given to our local schools, teachers and pupils.

“In Government, I’ve used my ministerial positions to push a progressive agenda. As Equalities minister, I was the originator and architect of equal marriage. I then moved to the Department for International Development, where I announced a £35 million programme to end FGM within a generation, and protected the aid budget.

“Finally, I would like you to vote for me because there is still more that needs to be done – for all the reasons I got into politics. We need stronger public services. We need to continue to promote fairness and equality. We need to fight for a community where we take care of those less able than ourselves. I’d like to be a part of that work for the next five years.”
Am I the only one who has found that the rise and rise of twitter (and to an extent) facebook has eaten their blog? Despite the best of my intentions, I have ended up posting minute by minute stuff on Facebook and Twitter. Does this say something about our ever diminishing attention-spans as a society? Or just about me not being very good at managing the blogger app on my iphone...?   Who knows.  But be warned - this blog may not be updated as much as it should be. A big blue bird came and ate it up.

Make sure you stay up to date with all of James’s news by liking his Facebook page!

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So, avid readers will notice that I've been a little absent in the blogging world over the past few months.  I've been busy, which isn't an excuse as we are all busy, I know, but writing a blog can't be top on the list of my priorities so posts on here have fallen by the wayside a little bit, sorry.

Summer recess, however, is a great opportunity to catch up, take stock, and get on top of things as best as possible, so here I am again with a new (Parliamentary) year resolution to get back to blogging.

I hope I still have at least one reader left!
I recently organised a meeting with a number of local residents about the upkeep and maintenance of Kew Bridge Railway Station. I met with representatives from Strand on the Green Association, St George's, Kew Green, The Kew Bridge Society, Express Tavern, West Thames River Group, a disability interest group, Friends of Stile Hall Gardens, Brentford Community Council and Network Rail.
Prior to the meeting, I had already been in touch with Network Rail, to strongly urge them to deal with some of the key issues around the station. Network Rail confirmed at the meeting that, as a result of my request, they had immediate plans in place now to paint the station, address the rodent problem, board up unused windows and clear graffiti They had also requested additional litter bins from Hounslow Council. At the meeting, St George's highlighted the work they had been doing too to clear up graffiti in the local area.
I am very pleased that Network Rail responded so well and are giving Kew Bridge Station a 'facelift,' which will help local residents. It will make the station seem cleaner and safer and I welcome their efforts to improve it for passengers. As a group, we are also in discussion regarding the future of the station building at Kew Bridge. As it is a Listed Building, it is obviously of architectural importance. It would be excellent if it could be restored to its former glory and put to good use.
The group is going to meet again within the next month to review progress and discuss next steps.
Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke, has welcomed the Localism Bill published by the Government on 13 December. The Bill will give individuals, groups, and their local councils a much greater say in decisions affecting their local communities.

 

Maria said: “This new legislation will make a real difference to how local matters are decided. The Community Rights measures, for example, will give new rights to local community and voluntary groups to protect, improve and even run important frontline services that might otherwise close down, such as local shops, pubs and libraries,.”

 

Maria added: “This Bill offers great opportunities for Basingstoke. Among other things, it will radically reform the planning system so that local people have a greater say and influence over what Basingstoke looks like in the future. Giving local people the opportunity to shape the development of the communities in which they live is something that I have long campaigned for, and I am delighted to see it being enshrined in law.

 

“The Borough Council’s current consultation on the number of new homes needed in Basingstoke is part of this process of taking local people’s views into consideration in developing a vision for the future. I would urge all residents to let the Council have their views on this before the end of the consultation on 14 January.”

 

Starting with a Bang

The long parliamentary recess has started - weeks without time being spent in the weekly grindingly boring train ride to London and back. Mind you its a hectic pace back at Southport but you can control your agenda better.

Yesterday I found a little time for light exercise the odd game of table tennis and a workout with heavy weights.
I've done the latter all my adult life and it has a slight addictive quality. If you don't do it for a while you actually feel muscle cramps only relieved by putting the old system under pressure.
Constraints of time often mean I forego all the warm ups and warm downs etc. So there I was on Tuesday doing a few front squats in excess of 300lb. I finished, replacing the barbell on the shoulder-high squat stand or so I thought. The stand was not aligned right .It tilted sideways as I released the weight and as the weight crashed to the floor the stand was pulled rapidly down by it pausing on its way to hit the stooping me on the head and catching me on the hand.
If you wanted to dramatise it , it might be compared to being hit on the head by a 20 stone man with an iron bar from a short distance. I thought I'd better take a break. We've had enough by- elections recently
When the family saw me with a lump as though a tennis ball had been buried in my scalp I was advised to pop into A&E. So clutching a plastic bag filled with ice cubes to my temple and bleeding from my finger I was run there and tested by some very nice jolly staff who established so far as we could tell that there was no skull or brain damage.At any rate I could still recall who the Prime Minister and reigning monarch was. I left a wiser man with a determination to avoid photo opportunities for a few days.
Desperate to prove they are doing something about the rising toll of deaths from guns and knives the government have resorted to the old idea of an "amnesty." This will enable a few aging war veterans who collected a "souvenir" and some farmers who forgot to renew their shotgun licenses to hand over guns that would never have been used for any kind of crime. Some of the younger "wannabe" gansters may also find that their weapons, usually replicas, are handed in by angry mothers.

This will be enough for the amnesty to achieve its real objective - photos of a smiling Minister in front of an impressive looking array of guns claiming that the government have "taken action".

But make no mistake the serious criminals will continue to roam the streets without any fear of being stopped and searched, (human rights) and knowing that even if by some chance they are found in poossession of a gun or knife the sentence will be minimal.

The toll of death will continue to rise.