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Westlake Legal Group > Armed Forces

James Sutherland: Every Conservative should get behind the Armed Forces Covenant

James Sutherland is a member of Aldershot Conservative Association.

The recent appointment of Johnny Mercer as Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans and the introduction of the new Office for Veterans’ Affairs mark an exciting development in honouring the pledge that we owe to our Armed Forces.

But of course, the need to reset Britain’s relationship with its veterans is nothing new, and a framework already exists for societal change through the Armed Forces Covenant.

Enduring success will therefore depend on a fusion of top down (government-led) and bottom-up (local council-delivered) initiatives that place the Covenant at the forefront of our society and allow the whole country to derive maximum benefit from defence.

It may come as a surprise that there are an estimated 2.3 million ex-servicemen and women in the UK. When this significant figure is combined with family members or so-called ‘dependants’, not to mention those currently in service as either Regular or Reserve forces, here lies an influential body.

It is therefore clear to many that the Conservative Party must re-affirm its support for all serving personnel, veterans and their families, not only as the traditional party of the Armed Forces, but also as the defender of the democratic rights and freedoms that we share.

This is not just because there is so much to be gained from doing so, but also because it is the morally right thing to do. For one single veteran to be sleeping on our streets is one too many – so it is incumbent on us all to ensure that our debt to our Armed Forces is paid, and that we always show our gratitude to those who bear arms.

The Armed Forces Covenant is a brilliant document, and I commend it to anyone reading this article. It is a promise, that society must collectively acknowledge and reinforce, that our military personnel and their families should be treated with respect, dignity, and fairness by virtue of their service and the many sacrifices made. It also seeks to ensure that those who have previously served are never disadvantaged in the provision of public and commercial services compared to other citizens – this is about parity, not preference.

To date, over 4000 organisations have signed the Covenant across the UK, along with every Local Authority. But we should not be complacent, and the Office of Veteran’s Affairs will want to cut its teeth quickly by pursuing this extant agenda with even greater vigour than before. Indeed, it must ensure not only that all of the pledges being agreed are implemented correctly and fairly across society, but that the Covenant reaches new organisations and communities too.

Localism lies at the heart of success and much depends on the energy and initiative of dedicated local councillors. But here lies a potential banana skin. The loss of over 1300 council seats in May proved devastating in itself for the Conservative Party but one of its less well-known effects was the ejection of so many ‘Armed Forces Champions’ from legacy positions of responsibility.

With the Party now needing to re-build this vital influence capability, I would commend any local councillor to become an Armed Forces Champion at the first opportunity. The technical term for this winning formula is ‘no-brainer’ and further information can be found at www.armedforcescovenant.gov.uk.

So what of the wider benefits on offer through the Covenant? In 2018 alone, over £23 million of Service Pupil Premium was provided to 76,000 service children in over 10,000 schools; the Covenant Fund Trust awarded 2,600 grants to remembrance activities; over £2.5 million was awarded to 14 welfare projects supporting service families; and the new Veteran’s Support Strategy was launched by the Ministry of Defence. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, as generous funding is also available for welfare, sport, housing, healthcare and community projects.

As for the future, efforts are underway to help service spouses find employment, innovative self-build schemes such as Ty Ryan in Wales are being established for ex-Service personnel, and new Civilian-Military Partnership Boards are springing up throughout the UK. New resources are also being allocated to expand our fantastic Cadet Forces. At a time of knife crime and prevalent gang culture in our cities, the Service ethos can make a tangible difference to our young people.

So in addition to reaching out to our more vulnerable veterans, the Covenant is also about social mobility, reinforcing the essential fabric of society, guiding young people, and enhancing wider opportunity – these are principles that will resonate right across the Party.

Today, it is clear that support for our Armed Services is as strong as ever – but it comes at a price. So please do help by becoming an Armed Forces Champion, getting your employer or business to sign up to the Covenant, and throwing your support behind our veterans, cadets, serving personnel, and their families. With so much at stake politically, your efforts will be a worthy investment.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Henry Hill: Wallace rejects amnesty for Ulster veterans, but wants inquiries restrained

Wallace rejects amnesty for soldiers but wants inquiries curbed

This week Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, revealed that he is opposed to offering an amnesty to members of the Armed Forces who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

Whilst arguing that they should receive “the very best legal advice and support”, the former Security Minister is reportedly concerned that any amnesty would also need to be extended to paramilitaries and terrorists. According to the Times, he said:

“We must make sure we don’t let off the hook the murderers that are still out there and need to be hunted down and convicted of the killings that they took part in.”

This will be controversial due to the previous scandal over so-called ‘comfort letters’, which were issued by the Blair Government and are widely viewed to have given a de facto amnesty to IRA terrorists. They came to light after collapsing the trial of John Downey, who was being prosecuted over his role in the Hyde Park bombing.

However, Wallace did offer ex-servicemen some hope. The Daily Mail reports that he doesn’t want any new investigations to proceed unless actual new evidence emerges against individual soldiers. He also stated that he did not intend to allow the history books to be ‘rewritten’, and that the Armed Forces should be proud of what they achieved in Ulster.

This is addressed directly at the concerns of many unionists, who worry that the historical inquiries process is unfairly targeting the Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary and thus bolstering a republican narrative of the Troubles.

Labour’s civil war on the Union deepens

Last week, I wrote about how John McDonnell had opened a rift in the Labour Party over their stance on a second Scottish independence referendum.

In what looked like a fairly shameless bid to woo the SNP, the Shadow Chancellor announced that a Corbyn-led government would not stand in the way of a second referendum.

This sparked huge controversy because McDonnell appeared to be unilaterally re-writing Labour policy on the issue – and cutting Scottish Labour off at the knees to boot.

Although he initially doubled down on his remarks, this week opened with Labour officially ruling out entering into any formal alliance with the Nationalists to oust the Tories, instead committing to governing as a minority government in such circumstances.

If true, this suggests a remarkable amount of strategic incoherence. Such an announcement is unlikely to undo the damage McDonnell has likely done to Labour’s standing with its unionist voters, whilst ruling out an alliance appears to rule out any potential dividend from his actions. Of course, it does invite us to speculate as to what constitutes a ‘formal alliance’…

Meanwhile the Scottish party has condemned the national leadership, and Labour MSPs have vowed to ignore the Shadow Chancellor’s new policy – although left-wing allies of McDonnell hit back at ‘kamikaze unionists’ in a leak to a separatist site. The surprise departure of Brian Roy, the General Secretary of Scottish Labour, added to the turmoil.

On the Tory front, David Mundell has cropped up to suggest that it would be very difficult for the Government to resist legislating for a second referendum in the event that separatist parties won a majority at the 2021 Scottish election. (He is mistaken.) Meanwhile a poll found that only two fifths of Scottish voters think another referendum should be granted in the next five years.

Salmond paid half a million by the Scottish Government

It is often suggested that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP pursue independence so vociferously in part to distract from the hash they are making of governing Scotland. This week provides yet another raft of embarrassing headlines which lend weight to that suspicion.

First, and most shockingly, it emerged that the Scottish Government has paid out almost half a million pounds to Alex Salmond, the former First Minister, over its mishandling of its official inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against him. This money was to cover his legal costs after he mounted a successful legal challenge on the matter.

That case is separate to the criminal case against the former SNP leader, who is charged with two attempted rapes, nine sexual assaults and two indecent assaults. He denies all wrongdoing, but the case remains a time bomb ticking under the Scottish Government – Sturgeon was Salmond’s protege, and it was her administration that presided over the botched inquiry into his conduct.

If that weren’t enough, elsewhere this week we learn that once again the Nationalists’ university fees policy has seen Scottish pupils missing out on places offered to applicants from elsewhere in the United Kingdom; the SNP Health Secretary has announced that an embattled £150 million hospital may not be open by the end of 2020, following concerns about the construction process and reviews of its safety; and a pro-Nationalist business magnate is furious that the Scottish Government may be about to nationalise a shipyard he rescued.

This week in commentary

There has been quite a bit of interesting commentary on Union-related issues this week, so rather than scatter them throughout the rest of the column I’ve collated them here.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Warner suggests that Brexit has made Scottish independence more difficult (only two years after ConHome considered that point proven, but still). Rather than be bullish about the implications of this he chooses to finish on a maudlin note, but that’s unionism for you.

From his new vantage point at the Atlantic, the excellent Tom McTague (formerly of Politico) sets out why Brexiteers are right to be deeply concerned about the Irish backstop. The analysis isn’t perfect, but it’s a rare sympathetic take on the pro-UK position.

In the Scotsman, Brian Monteith – now a Brexit Party MEP – suggests that Ruth Davidson’s decisions have imperilled the UK, whilst Paul Hutcheon writes in the Herald that the biggest threat to the Union is Scottish Labour’s collapse.

Finally, Iain Martin has decided that the way to save the UK is radical constitutional reform including devolution to England, a senate, and the rest. As is traditional for advocates of this position, he appears to just assume it will work, and makes no attempt to explain why identical assumptions about the last two decades of the devolution project have all come to nothing. Sigh.

News in Brief:

  • Varadkar ‘opposed to direct rule’ as he prepares to meet Johnson – iNews
  • Controversial cybernat blogger to launch new separatist party – The Times
  • Lib Dems and Greens to join anti-Brexit alliance with Plaid – The Spectator
  • SDLP sparks row after querying Union Flags on Tesco fruit – Belfast Telegraph
  • Scottish Court to hear ‘fast-tracked’ legal challenge to Brexit – FT
  • Ex-Plaid leader criticised over comments on carrying knives – The Sun
  • RBS ‘will move to England’ in the event of independence – The Scotsman

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Lewis Feilder: The Armed Forces must be more flexible over recruitment to attract those with the skills we need

Lewis Feilder is on the Conservative Party’s Parliamentary Candidates’ list, works as a defence consultant and is a board member of Conservative Friends of the Armed Forces.

One of the first briefings that the new Prime Minister will have received is from his National Security Advisor and senior military leaders. The primary duty of a Prime Minister is the defence of the realm and in the past 12 months, the UK has been on the receiving end of a string of hostile acts by other countries – a chemical weapons attack in Salisbury, daily cyber-attacks against government and commercial IT systems and attempts to seize British vessels in international waters. Most of these acts have been carried out by countries which publicly claim to be our friends. In private, military leaders and diplomats discuss how to counter the obviously hostile intent of the countries we continue to trade with and visit on holiday.

As the Minister for the Armed Forces, Mark Lancaster, set out for ConHome last year, we now find ourselves in a state of “constant competition” – a space somewhere between outright conflict and peace. This is the new norm. We are unlikely to go into head-to-head armed conflict with Russia, China or Iran, but these countries continue to commit openly hostile acts against the UK, to which a lack of response will only be interpreted as a sign of weakness and a free pass for them to ratchet up their attacks.

Boris Johnson and his new Foreign and Defence secretaries, will therefore be looking for options in this so-called “Gray zone”, where the aim is to increase the cost of our adversaries carrying out nefarious activities (and then denying their involvement) – e.g. Russia destabilising democratic processes, carrying out assassinations on UK soil, or China launching cyber-attacks against British infrastructure. It is broadly accepted that we have fallen behind in this race. Our Armed Forces now find themselves at the forefront of catching up, and have been quietly transforming themselves to fight in this new arena, previously the diplomatic preserve of the Foreign Office. Their task is to generate ways to outmanoeuvre our adversaries and to downgrade their capabilities to outmanoeuvre us.

This requires a very new way of working for our defence establishment, used to training men and officers in broadly the same way for the past 350 years, used to designing and procuring submarines and aircraft over 20-year cycles and used to operating within strictly-defined Rules of Engagement and Standard Operating Procedures laid down by civil servants in the Ministry of Defence.

The era of constant competition provides three real challenges to the status quo, with which the new PM and Secretary of State for Defence will have to grapple:

Agility of procurement

In a time of war, the Armed Forces can buy whatever they need rapidly through “Urgent Operational Requirements”. They can buy directly from whomever they judge best and don’t have to worry about how the kit, supplies or technology will be supported once the conflict is over. Traditionally, in peacetime, the 30,000-strong workforce at Defence Equipment and Support is responsible for procuring whatever the Armed Forces need. But, this doesn’t work particularly well when we are operating in the middle of those two states. The Armed Forces need to be able to rapidly purchase emerging technologies and trial them; they need to be able to link up in ecosystems with universities, start-ups, entrepreneurs and established industry players to experiment and rapidly develop prototypes. Ask any military officer who has tried and they will describe the crushing and demoralising bureaucracy, approvals and processes which make this nearly impossible at present.

We like to think that our adversaries don’t have to worry about such fripperies as commercial transparency or project management, but we shouldn’t think they have it much easier. Their militaries are even more centralised, riven with internal factions and intertwined with political autocracy, so are little more agile. It’s an area where our capitalist dynamism and tech skills base should give us a significant advantage.

A modern workforce

The Armed Forces realised years ago that recruiting school-leavers at the age of 16 and university-leavers at 21, training them and then looking after them almost cradle-to-grave until their retirement was unlikely to be the employment model of the future. Commendably, a great deal of work has been done to modernise recruitment and retention, and to broaden the appeal of the Armed Forces as an employer. Equally, the use of the Volunteer Reserves has turned what was once perceived as a Dad’s Army group of amateur weekend soldiers into a source of invaluable skills and experience to which the Armed Forces otherwise would simply not have access. I have seen how military personnel have the CEOs of tech companies on speed-dial and can call on a few hours’ time of high-flying corporate lawyers to test ideas, simply because they are Reservists and see it as an easy way to help their country whilst continuing to do their (highly-skilled and highly-paid) day jobs.

But, there remain significant barriers to creating the modern working environment that will harness the creativity and dynamism of the younger generation. Many of the most technically-gifted, whose skills would give our Armed Forces a competitive edge, would run a mile from the strictures of military discipline. For the weekday crypto-currency trader who usually works from his local WeWork collaborative office space, the idea of standing to attention at 07:00 for a kit inspection to check that boots are polished to within an inch of their life is utter anathema. Ways will have to be found to incorporate these types of personalities into the Reserves.

A former high-flying civil service analyst, now working in the private sector, was rejected from the Army Reserves because he requires commonplace laser eye surgery, which would render him unfit for tactical combat, despite his role being entirely desk-based.

The Armed Forces’ personnel standards are designed for the battles of the past, in which every serviceman and woman had to be fit for frontline combat. Whilst for swathes of the military that still applies, there needs to be common-sense-based deviation applied to those technical and analytical posts that are only ever going to be desk-based in the UK, or in a rear headquarters if deployed.

Risk-taking

In Iraq and Afghanistan, junior officers and soldiers were making life-and-death decisions on operations on a daily basis. The Armed Forces work on the premise of a commander setting his intent and decision-making on how to execute being delegated to the lowest appropriate level.

In the era of constant competition, decision-making has been drastically pulled back up the chain-of-command. Tactical level decisions, such as whether to send a Tweet from a unit’s official Twitter account (designed to show off their capabilities to watching adversaries) are deemed to be fraught with risk and therefore subject to sign-off by senior officers. In the era of social media and the 24/7 news cycle, an effective response to emerging events is often a matter of minutes. Narrative-shaping activities are rendered ineffective by convoluted chains-of-command. Commanders need to trust that their staff will make sensible decisions in the online world, just as they would in the real world. They also need to accept that mistakes will occasionally be made.

The mantra of “fail fast, fail often” came out of the entrepreneurial tech scene a few years ago. It says that a fast-moving and innovative organisation encourages staff to try new things and not be afraid if they don’t work out – you just move onto the next thing. It is practically the opposite of the Staff Officer’s Handbook, which teaches officers to plan, plan and plan some more. Failure is to be avoided at all costs – perhaps understandably, as failure often means loss of life in a military context. But, in a world so fast-moving that your plan is likely to be defunct by the time it is complete, the Armed Forces need to give juniors the freedom to experiment and react quickly. Sometimes it will go wrong and commanders must back up their staff acting in good faith and within the commander’s intent, to send the message that it’s OK to try new and innovative things. There is currently a presumption that unless a written policy exists that says something is allowed, it is implicitly disallowed. This must be reversed by ministers.

Whilst it doesn’t always feel like it in the UK, as the battlefield isn’t obvious in our daily lives, we live in dangerous times and our Armed Forces are at the forefront of a new type of battle to keep us safe. Some of it is in the real world, some of it is online on social media, and some of it is in the heads of young people being attracted by the narratives of radical extremists. It will be up to the new Prime Minister and Defence Secretary to ensure that our Armed Forces are fit for that battle and freed from some of the self-imposed constraints that may prove central to whether the UK remains at the global top table, or slowly loses the ability to influence world events.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Henry Hill: Hunt and Johnson declare Backstop ‘dead’ and promise to protect Ulster veterans

Hunt and Johnson declare backstop ‘dead’

Both candidates for the leadership have confirmed that they will not sign up to the Northern Irish backstop, the Guardian reports.

In a quite striking hardening of position, both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt insisted that the mechanism could play no part in any deal between the UK and the EU – even if it were amended to include a time limit or unilateral exit mechanism, which Eurosceptics had previously indicated they might accept. Johnson went so far as to say that the backstop had been “devised by this country as an instrument of our own incarceration in the single market and customs union”.

Hunt, on the other hand, appeared to tee himself up for failure by saying: “If we are going to get a deal we must have an absolute cast-iron commitment to the Republic of Ireland that we will not have border infrastructure.” The decision to rule out any infrastructure whatsoever – to maintain a so-called ‘invisible border’ – is the root problem with the backstop. If an alternative mechanism for doing so (in a manner compatible with British territorial integrity) existed, the backstop would be a non-issue.

Since the EU has repeatedly ruled out re-opening the deal, blanket refusal on the backstop would put both candidates on track for a no-deal departure. Whilst this might not be the preferred option for Hunt, a strong line on Northern Ireland is undoubtedly necessary if either candidate wishes to maintain the Party’s working relationship with the DUP and the Government’s wafer-thin Commons majority.

In other news, both Johnson and Hunt have expressed support for measures aimed at protecting ex-servicemen who served in Northern Ireland from prosecution and historical tribunals. They have both signed a ‘Veterans’ Pledge’ organised by the Sun, which this week criticised Theresa May for her continued refusal to protect those who fought the IRA.

Meanwhile an SNP MSP has claimed that Ruth Davidson’s authority inside the Scottish Conservatives has been “shredded” after a growing number of her colleagues endorsed Johnson’s leadership bid. The contest has previously put a spotlight on the limits of her influence after the Scottish Tory leader endorsed Sajid Javid, only for none of the party’s 13 Scottish MPs to follow her lead.

Bebb to stand down over Brexit

Whilst the grassroots may not yet have managed to deselect a sitting Conservative MP over their stance on Europe, this week saw the latest indication of how Brexit might be redrawing the frontiers of the Tory ‘big tent’.

Guto Bebb, the arch-Europhile who represents the Welsh constituency of Aberconwy since 2010, has announced that he will not seek re-selection for the seat at the next election. This means another Tory-held Welsh seat (after Montgomeryshire) will be selecting a new candidate.

Bebb, who prior to joining the Conservatives was a member of the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru, accused the Party of tacking towards the “type of nationalism” – which he claimed was ‘English nationalism’ behind the rise of UKIP and the Brexit Party. He has ruled out rejoining Plaid.

This departure puts a spotlight on an awkward question facing both leadership candidates (Bebb could not bring himself to vote for either one). Whilst CCHQ has thus far taken a strong line against deselecting Tory MPs, it is an unavoidable fact that the Party can’t fight a general election intended to break the deadlock on Brexit with candidates who are opposed to the Government’s policy on the same. If Johnson were to seek a mandate for no deal, what does he do about the likes of Dominic Grieve, Philip Hammond, and David Gauke?

Bradley criticised over rushing Northern Irish legislation

Last week, I wrote about now Westminster’s decision to legislate on abortion and same-sex marriage had set a useful precedent for the DUP in their ongoing push to introduce full direct rule to the Province.

This week Sam McBride has written in the News Letter about how the episode highlights the ongoing flaws in Karen Bradley’s approach to governing Ulster (to the minimum possible extent she can get away with). The Secretary of State continues to use Commons procedures intended for unexpected events or emergencies to fast-track Northern Irish legislation through the Commons with minimal scrutiny, even when circumstances do not require it.

He explains how sloppy drafting by Stella Creasy, the Labour MP behind the abortion amendment, has left the Government with what might be an impossible task: introducing new regulations by an October deadline it cannot meet.

It has been a hallmark of Bradley’s ill-starred tenure at the Northern Irish Office that she has poured her efforts into hiding both from Parliamentary scrutiny and from the difficult decisions the ongoing failure of devolution poses for Westminster. Jeremy Hunt’s announcement that he would keep her in post was by far the most bizarre of his leadership campaign, and one must hope Johnson pays sufficient interest to the NIO to give it a much-needed shake-up.

News in Brief:

  • Ireland’s ma in Brussels says border checks can be avoided in no-deal exit – Belfast Telegraph
  • Assembly Members have paid their families huge sums – Wales Online
  • Lord Trimble’s daughter in same-sex marriage – News Letter
  • ‘Neverendum’ killing investment in Scotland – The Times
  • The Welsh Government’s legislative agenda – Wales Online
  • Unionists fear land grabs if Northern Ireland joins Republic – The Guardian

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Tom Tugendhat: The last two men left standing in this contest must resist the temptation to slug it out

Tom Tugendhat is Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and is MP for Tonbridge and Malling.

In a contest which has been framed around personality, it is striking how many ideas have been generated by the Conservative leadership contest.  Each of the ten candidates original candidates had something to say. Each has championed a new vision of Britain, and each has given Conservatives plenty to think about.

It’s also showcased some good news about how the Conservative Party is changing. Which other party in any other country could boast a contest that included a television presenter, two newspaper columnists, an entrepreneur, an old-school adventurer, a second generation Muslim immigrant, or the son of a Jewish refugee? Not as tokens, but each arguing on merit their own cause as an advocate of an idea.

I backed Michael Gove’s determination to do everything he can to strengthen our United Kingdom and make this country a cleaner, greener place to live. But there are parts from other campaigns that were inspiring. I love Esther McVey’s promoting of Blue Collar Conservatism that has underpinned the Conservative movement for generations and Dominic Raab’s focus on home-ownership and cutting taxes for the lowest-paid.

Andrea Leadsom’s defence of EU citizens who live in the UK and the need to give them (my wife included) certainty about their future status is a proposal I completely back and Matt Hancock’s continued emphasis on mastering cutting-edge digital technologies as the key to our country’s future prosperity is one I have been pushing for since I discovered that parts of Kent are less well connected than Kabul or Khartoum.

At a time when faith in politicians is waning, Rory Stewart showed us just how we can rebuild trust not only through outreach but by talking about the real issues that change people’s lives.

And Boris Johnson? What isn’t there to say about him? He has picked up school places and tech infrastructure, taxes and the living wage and, closest to my heart in our in a time of educational separation – apprenticeships. That, along with his ability to animate the faithful make his contribution so powerful.

But he’s not alone. No one could be unmoved by Sajid Javid’s back story and determination. His pledge to recruit 20,000 more police is a welcome return to the values many expect of us – protecting those most in need. And as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I’ve long admired Jeremy Hunt’s ability to master the widest of briefs and understand the details that drive change in our world. His commitment to fund our armed forces and diplomacy properly is also hugely welcome.

The range of these ideas gives me great hope for the future. Partly because they confound the lazy allegation that we have run out of them. Partly because none of them need be mutually exclusive. And partly because Brexit is the biggest shift in UK policy in generations with massive implications for everything from the NHS to housing policy: there is a massive opportunity for creative thinking.

While there is no shortage of ideas, there has been a shortage of leadership. We need a Prime Minister now who will take us through Brexit and confront the challenges beyond. The 2016 referendum, and the three years since our vote to leave, have revealed many profound political problems – common to many other countries – that we now have both an opportunity and a duty to address.

The poorest have felt the impact of the financial crisis hardest, while the benefits of our economic growth have been imperceptible to too many: especially those who do not live or work in our big cities. We have to build beautiful new housing that reflects the way we live today. We need to ensure that our education system is focused on endowing our young people with the skills that translate into career security in a world which has already been transformed by internet connectivity and will be further by automation and AI. Finally, everything we do must be sustainable. The policies we pursue today must not imperil our children’s future.

The temptation for the last two men left standing in this contest will be to slug it out. There is a real danger that the race becomes acrimonious and divisive.  We are at our best as a country when we are unified. I know from my time chairing the committee that has scrutinised both Foreign Secretaries that each man is above this.

Let us spend the next week scrutinising these two potential leaders. Then let’s unite behind whoever wins to deliver Brexit and a compelling vision of the future for this great country.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Johnny Mercer: On this Armed Forces Day, let’s honour the men and women who protect our country

Johnny Mercer is a member of the Defence Select Committee and MP for Plymouth Moor View.

Armed Forces day represents a unique opportunity within our communities up and down the land each year, to say thank you to the men and women of this nation who have served or continue to serve our country as members of the Armed Forces.

We are very good in this country at remembering our War dead. There is not a place on earth more moving than a war memorial on Remembrance Sunday each year – be it the Cenotaph in London or one of the hundreds that fill our towns and villages across the UK. And rightly so.

But whilst those who have made the supreme sacrifice for this nation’s continuing freedom – and the families they have left behind – rightly occupy the most prominent space in our mind when it comes to our military, there is a great deal more that happens day to day – week to week, to safeguard our way of life we so easily take for granted. And today is an opportunity to say thank you for that.

The endless nights out of bed away from wives, husbands and children; the birthdays missed; the regular moving of house and school to keep up with the demands a career in the military makes. The survival – for sometimes it is that – in appalling housing conditions because successive Governments seem unable to manage the Military budget in this Country. These are all sacrifices that are often far beyond the public consciousness day to day but are in fact part of the huge commitment our men and women make to serve, and we should be grateful for.

Despite the end of the Afghanistan conflict, the operational tempo remains high, if in a different guise to the combat of those hot summers in Afghanistan. With UK troops deployed across the globe protecting and enhancing UK interests on our behalf, if you speak to anyone you know in uniform today, they’ll tell you they feel as if they have never been so busy. They will also tell you that they will be busy in the future as we start to prepare for future needs and emerging threats including heightened Russian aggression – to which we have already responded with regular deployments to the Baltic.

Then there are our veterans. Almost 2.5 million of our citizens were veterans in 2016, although this will decrease to about 1.6 million by 2028. My views on how we treat this special group of our citizens who have served in the United Kingdom today are well known, and we remain nowhere near where we should be. There are some wonderful souls who struggle night and day – particularly in the third sector, who keep our promise to our veterans as best they can, and indeed often with world-class care. But the reality is that they continue to fill a void; a void in a nation whose citizens have given extraordinary levels of their own money to look after those who have served. But a nation that ultimately knows inside themselves that a Government that sends its troops to war, still fails to fulfil her fundamental responsibilities to those who have done her bidding.

So if you see a serviceman or woman today, or indeed a veteran young or old, and don’t know what to say, it’s actually quite simple. Just a simple ‘thank you’ will do. They’ll get embarrassed, and so might you, but it’s an important part of that crucial relationship between a nation and her military that for us has, for too long, been wildly out of kilter. It matters, it really does.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Henry Hill: Hunt pulls Foreign Office support to Sturgeon’s separatist excursions

Hunt pulls Foreign Office support for Sturgeon to ‘protect the Union’…

The Foreign Secretary took an opportunity to burnish his unionist credentials this week when he withdrew Foreign Office support from Nicola Sturgeon’s diplomatic excursions to Brussels, the Scotsman reports.

In what the paper describes as “a major change of protocol”, Jeremy Hunt has restricted the First Minister and other devolved ministers’ ability to avail themselves of Britain’s diplomatic network and assets to set up meetings with foreign leaders.

This “will now be restricted to trips touching on “areas for which [Scottish ministers] have a devolved responsibility” and where they “avoid supporting activities intended to campaign for policies contrary to [the UK] Government’s position””, according to the paper.

Hunt has been strongly criticised for this by some politicians and commentators in both Scotland and Wales (he recently denied an official car to Mark Drakeford for similar reasons), and been accused of showing ‘disrespect for devolution’. Some have taken up the usual refrain that denying devocrats anything they want is a sure-fire way to break up Britain.

But Hunt is right to take a stand. It is absurd that the British State should actively support devolved politicians trespassing on its reserved prerogatives, especially when they’re doing so to pursue a diplomatic policy which conflicts with its own or are outright trying to win support for seceding altogether.

In fact, he might consider going further. Stephen Daisley has written scathingly about the SNP’s penchant for overseas junkets, and offered the following suggestion which might be right up the Foreign Secretary’s street:

“First, they could amend the Scotland Act to require the Scottish Government to submit for approval to the secretary of state for Scotland any proposed spending which could reasonably be construed to involve reserved matters or be otherwise ambiguous. Next, they could require that all ministerial visits outside of Scotland are signed off by the secretary of state as falling within the remit of Scottish ministers.”

Something to mull over as he hits the campaign trail in Scotland.

…as MPs criticise him for his stance on Ulster veterans

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Hunt has come under fire from a number of Tory MPs for saying that members of the security forces who served during the Troubles should be treated “the same way” as the republican terrorists they were fighting.

He argued that the peace process secured by the Belfast Agreement required the equivalent treatment of both sides, no matter how ‘difficult’ that may be.

Such a stance will do little to deflect the charge that he is continuity Theresa May. Both the Prime Minister and Karen Bradley, her hapless Northern Irish Secretary, have been strongly criticised for failing to protect ex-servicemen and Royal Ulster Constabulary officers from historical investigations and legal action.

This topic has been increasingly heated on the Conservative side since the revelation that Tony Blair’s administration had offered a de facto amnesty to hundreds of IRA ‘on-the-runs’ by issuing so-called ‘comfort letters’, one of which collapsed the trial of the Hyde Park bomber.

Northern Irish cabinet post ‘hotly contested’

Conor Burns could become the first-ever Ulster-born person to be appointed Northern Irish Secretary, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

He is also a Brexiteer, a staunch unionist, and a practising Roman Catholic, which would make for a fascinating combination if he were given the opportunity to take on the role.

According to the Sun, there is fierce competition for the post, which is reportedly coveted by Gavin Williamson – the man responsible for negotiating the Government’s confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionists.

Either candidate could give the department a much-needed shake-up. There is deep resentment in Ulster’s unionist circles at the Northern Irish Office’s high-handed and studiously neutral stance, which they feel does not adequately counterbalance the de facto support nationalists receive from Dublin.

Elsewhere Alun Cairns, the Welsh Secretary, has called for whoever wins the leadership race to establish a dedicated Downing Street team aimed at protecting the Union.

Johnson appoints Thomson as his campaign manager in Scotland

Following the collapse of ‘Operation Arse’ – the Scottish Tories’ abortive campaign to block his path to Downing Street – Boris Johnson has finally started to build up some support amongst their parliamentary group.

Andrew Bowie, the Prime Minister’s PPS and one of the fastest-rising stars of the 2017 Scottish intake, has now endorsed him. So too has Douglas Ross, another tipped for high office, and Colin Clark, the ‘Salmond-slayer’, who has rowed in behind the front-runner after initially backing James Cleverly.

But the first to come out for him was Ross Thomson, the arch-Brexiteer MP for Aberdeen South, and he has now been appointed Johnson’s campaign manager north of the border.

He certainly has a mountain to climb. The Scottish Tories’ reservations about his candidate are apparently rooted in some private polling showing that a Johnson premiership would have a horrible impact on the party’s performance. Whilst Davidson appears to have reconciled herself to the need to make it work – which was always the logic of staying in the UK-wide party, the basis of her leadership – Johnson himself will have to work very hard to improve his standing in Scotland.

Clark, Thomson, and Ross have written in the Daily Telegraph that their man will ‘swat’ the Nationalists. That remains to be seen.

Hands and Morgan say Ulster border is soluble problem

In other news an Alternative Arrangements Commission, run by Tory MPs Greg Hands and Nicky Morgan, has concluded that a ‘hard’ border between Northern Ireland and the Republic can be avoided using existing technology. In a report set to be published on Monday they claim that “futuristic high-tech solutions are not needed”.

This comes amidst reports that Ireland is coming under pressure from Brussels to set out its plans to maintain the border in the event of a no-deal exit. Suffice to say, the fact that Dublin is reportedly prepared to erect a border rather than compromise its position on the EU puts paid to any suggestion that London is obliged by the Belfast Agreement to do otherwise itself.

If Hands’ and Morgan’s findings are accurate they will be a fillip to Johnson, who is in the Ulster press this week saying that there are “abundant technical fixes” to the border question.

News in Brief:

  • Scottish Tories urge boycott of SNP’s ‘Citizens Assembly’ – The Herald
  • Davies selected to re-fight Brecon & Radnorshire in recall by-election – The Times
  • Foster warns both candidates that UK must leave on October 31 – Daily Express
  • Sturgeon wants no minimum vote threshold for an independence referendum – The Herald
  • Devolved ministers ‘don’t know what they’re doing’ on the economy – Wales Online

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Former Redskin brings the community together through United in Play

Westlake Legal Group Redskins Former Redskin brings the community together through United in Play United in Play support Sports Redskins Park nonprofit military families Family Derrick Dockery Culture Features Armed Forces
Kids from military and civilian families got the chance to bond over football drills at Redskins Park in Ashburn on Armed Services Day. (Photo by Liz Lynch)

Redskins training camp starts this month, but, back in May, the players donned their burgundy-and-gold jerseys and tossed around the football for an arguably more important reason. They welcomed more than 200 elementary school students from military and civilian families to Redskins Park in Ashburn for United in Play, an annual event hosted by former Redskin Derrick Dockery and his wife, Emma.

The couple founded Yellow Ribbons United when Emma’s brother, David, died serving in Afghanistan in 2012. The DC-based nonprofit strives to bridge the gap between military and civilian life with inclusive events and social action that expresses appreciation for the sacrifices military families make. Yellow Ribbons United puts a special emphasis on children in military families through events such as United in Play. On Armed Forces Day, the kids were treated to a day of games, activities and team-building exercises led by 22 members of the Redskins’ rookie class.

“My brother paid the ultimate sacrifice in his service to our country,” says Emma, whose father retired as a colonel after serving in the United States Army for 30 years. “As my dad always said, ‘In the military, you don’t make friends, you make family.’ That’s something that was never lost on me. I can’t pay it back, but I am committed to paying it forward. The families of our brave men and women in uniform deserve that.”

This was the sixth year for the family-friendly football event and, according to Derrick, the players love it just as much as the kids.

“It’s an honor to give back to military families across the region,” he says. “As a player, I always enjoyed the chance to connect with military children and I know these guys do as well. Nothing can unite kids from different backgrounds quite like sports.”

This post originally appeared in our July 2019 issue. To stay up to date with everything going on in the NoVA region, subscribe to our newsletter.

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Dean Godson: There are plenty of ideas on the centre-right. Here’s how it can create a new, decent, patriotric consensus.

Dean Godson is Director of Policy Exchange.

Where next? For the last two years, British politics has been stuck in paralysis. There has been a lot of noise and clamour, but no side seems capable of creating consensus and winning broad support. That is not to say that this is a dull time in our national debate – a deep ideological contest is under way for the future of our country. It will reverberate long after Brexit, in whatever form, is complete.

It is often said today that all the intellectual energy is on the Left. But is this true? There are no leaders of the quality of Clement Attlee on the Labour benches. There are no economists or thinkers of the ilk of Anthony Crosland. Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we have people aspiring to power in this country who are proud to call themselves Marxists – including the Shadow Chancellor.

The problem is not that there is an absence of ideas on the centre-right. It is that they have yet to coalesce into a coherent vision of national renewal. Policy Exchange, for example, identified the plight of the “just about managing” classes in our country – the JAMs – in 2015. So many in the country would put themselves in this camp. But has enough really been done for them in the four years since? Do they think the state is on their side, or that the political class is fighting for them?

The election of a new Conservative Party leader is the moment – perhaps the last chance – to get this right. One of the greatest mistakes that the Tories could make is to play the only game that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is capable of – sectional, identity politics that sets different groups of voters against each other.

Last year, Policy Exchange organised a Conservative conference event with the title ‘Can the Conservatives win in Canterbury and in Middlesbrough at the same time?’ But you could ask the same question of Labour. As it stands, the UK risks being treated as if it exists in balkanised sub-electorates, each with niche interests and obsessions. The only way to electoral victory in this model is with temporarily cobbled together coalitions of rival groups.

Yet despite polarisation on Brexit and other issues, there is more agreement – and more consensus – among voters than often appears, and therefore more cause for optimism. This is not a jingoistic nation. Instead, there is a deep tissue of patriotism in the best sense of the word – a fidelity to constitution, citizenship and community – that has too often been dismissed out of hand. Policy Exchange’s polling on the Union revealed that a clear majority of people in the UK say their support for it has remained constant or has risen in recent years – 78 per cent in England, 60 per cent in Scotland, 69 per cent in Wales, 70 per cent in Northern Ireland.

There is also, among immigrant communities in the UK, a complete rejection of the gatekeeper politics that sees putatively “national” representative organisations claim to speak on behalf of millions without their consent, in the most damaging form of identity politics. Only 20 per cent of British Muslims, for example, saw themselves as represented by such organisations. Fifty-five per cent of British Muslims felt ‘very strongly’ that they belonged to Britain and 38 per cent ‘fairly strongly’ that they belonged to Britain; only seven per cent did not feel a strong sense of belonging to the UK.

Consensus can be found elsewhere. Our work on lawfare – the unfair hounding of British troops through the courts – has had huge cut-through with the British public, whose outcry on the issue has forced our political and legal establishment to wake up.

The same goes for housing, where our research was based on the simple proposition that the way to overcome opposition to building more homes – so-called Nimbyism – is to make sure they are designed in a way that fits the tastes of local communities and makes our country more beautiful. This is a vision with massive support.  Traditional terraces with tree-lined streets, for instance, are by far the most popular option for the design and style of new homes. They may be unfashionable among “starchitects” but they are supported by 48 per cent of the public, with some of the strongest support among working-class Ds and Es. And how many want housing developments or estates in a modern style? Just 28 per cent.  Our polling shows a clear majority favour traditional design over modern developments. In housing and more, the first job of the new Prime Minister is to come up with a coherent national narrative that restores our sense of direction as a country.

There is the chance for a new Unionism, not just making sure that the individual countries of Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland breathe comfortably within the shared home of the United Kingdom, but also that the Union itself is to an extent reconceptualised – so that we build a union between young and old and address the challenge of generational justice. A union between newer arrivals in Britain and long-established communities, so that suspicions and enmities can be overcome. A union between those whose faith means so much for them, and others for whom faith is vestigial and whose values increasingly shape the public space.  In short, we need a new social contract for post-Brexit Britain.

Social care is one concrete policy example. It is increasingly plain to those involved in the care sector that the state should cover almost all of the costs of long-term complex social care, which can involve ruinous costs for individuals and families, particularly for those suffering from dementia in old age. It can lead to the forced sales of family homes and wipe out a lifetime of saving and hard work. This idea – effectively the completion of the Welfare State – was proposed in a recent Policy Exchange research paper and embraced, perhaps surprisingly for someone on the right of the Conservative Party, by Jacob Rees-Mogg, who argued in the foreword that “It is far better to pool risk and for the taxpayer, where appropriate, to step in and help those who would face ruinous costs on their own, making social care largely free at the point of use.” He is surely right.

Where else could the next Prime Minister discover a quiet majority? On the environment, perhaps, where there are strong arguments to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 – with support especially high among the young. On investment in R & D and industry, especially in the North East, which could become a leader in the high-value, green economy. Certainly, on protecting British troops from pernicious forms of lawfare, which has high levels of support because of the obvious injustices involved. On education, too, where our polling revealed that poor pupil behaviour is driving teachers from the profession and undermining children’s education – 72 per cent of teachers know a colleague who has “left the teaching profession because of bad behaviour”. On countering extremism online, 74 per cent think that the big internet companies should be more proactive in locating and deleting extremist content, with 66 per cent of people believing that the internet should be a regulated space.

There is more thinking to be done across all policy areas – People, Prosperity, Place and Patriotism, as Policy Exchange’s work is organised – as a new Prime Minister is chosen. With that in mind, we will be publishing a series of proposals under these themes in the forthcoming weeks, which will seek to answer the question: what do we want from the next Prime Minister? We will also be hosting a series of events, including one in partnership with ConservativeHome, on electoral politics, housing, the economy, education, energy and the environment, lawfare and the rise of China. Only by hunting out areas of existing consensus will the next Prime Minister be able to start bringing the country together and healing the divides of last few years.

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Bob Seely: Saving Britain billions. Ideas for the contenders in this leadership contest.

Bob Seely is a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and is MP for the Isle of Wight.

Throughout this coming week, the candidates for the Conservative Party leadership launch their campaigns in earnest.

Whoever wins faces a massive challenge. Not only do we have to deliver Brexit – and until we do Britons won’t listen to us on anything else – but we also need to introduce a raft of domestic and foreign policies to renew us in office.

We badly need new ideas and new projects , some of which will need new cash. We also need to cut taxes. To help with the coming battle for ideas, and to support Liz Truss’ work on the spending review, here below are ideas to save between £50-100 billion. That figure doesn’t include the £39bn from a nodeal Brexit.

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First, some basic facts. Government spending made up 38.5 per cent of GDP in 2017-2018. Departmental budgets set by spending review (DEL) amounted to £358.4 billion in 2017-2018, but the total departmental expenditure, including spending which is difficult to predict, manage or forecast (AME) was £812.9 billion in 2017-2018. Of that, £734.9bn was spent on services.

So where could we save money?

High speed rail

First, scrap the planned High Speed Rail link – HS2 – and save £50-100 billion. HS2 initially cost £33.4 billion, then rose to £42.6 billionIt is now costed at £56 billion. One government-commissioned estimate suggests it could total a breath-taking £403 million per mile. The Institute of Economic Affairs estimates the real cost to be £80 billion, and even that may be too little.

Terry Morgan, former chair of HS2 Ltd, told the Lords “everybody has their own guesstimate” of cost and “nobody knows, actually, the number”. Doug Thornton, HS2’s former Land and Property Director, has said the valuation of properties along the route was “enormously wrong”The National Audit Office found that the estimated net cost to acquire land and property for Phase One was £1,120 million in 2012 (2011 prices) ,but £4,316 million was budgeted at the 2015 spending review (2015 prices). Every honest review has considered it bad return for the taxpayer. The Lords’ respected Economic Affairs Committee has suggested delaying HS2. Let’s bite the bullet and bin this white elephant.

As with all the ideas here, the money could be better used by giving it back to taxpayers in the form of tax cuts, or supporting local and regional infrastructure projects to counter London’s domination of infrastructure spending, or to right the injustice faced by female pensioners – the so-called WASPI women. Alternatively, the next Conservative Government could pledge to ensure fibretopremises broadband nationwide to deliver near unlimited broadband speeds.

The farce of HS2 highlights a wider issue; UK public projects cost much more than in other countries – construction cost per mile of HS2 maybe as much as nine times that of its French equivalentMegaprojects run over-budget and over-time – time after time.

Cost overruns for the Channel Tunnel were 80 percent and for the National Health Service IT System up to 700 percent. The Scottish Parliament was estimated to cost between £10 and £40 million. It cost £414 million and was delivered three years late. An excellent study by the Taxpayers Alliance found that 57 per cent of over 300 public schemes overran by an average of 33.7 per centAnother study in 2009 found total net overrun on 240 projects was more than £19 billion. Even by Government standards, these are eye-watering sums. Running public projects to time and budget would allow us to slash taxes and still leave billions for education, policing or defence.

Overseas aid

Second, reallocate the 0.7 percent legally defined amount that the UK needs to spend on overseas aid. Many traditional Labour and Conservative voters alike are losing faith with this figure.

Why? Because we now spend more on overseas aid than we do on policing. To keep public support for overseas aid, which is important, and to integrate our overseas policy, we need to change the definition of aid to give us more flexibility in how we spend, as I outlined in a Henry Jackson Society study six months ago.

We should continue and even increase the basic lifesaving and humanitarian development aid that we are rightly proud of. But there are other elements of the £14.5 billion aid bill that we can re-allocate to provide much-needed support to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office(FCO), Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Department for International Trade (DIT). The DfID money should fund:

  • The BBC World Service TV and Radio, tasking it with becoming the global broadcaster of integrity to counter the propaganda output of authoritarian states such as Russia and China.
  • Minstry of Defence peacekeeping operation.
  • Some of the Department of International Trade’s work, especially where that trade represents a moral as well as economic good, such as providing new and greener technologies for developing nations.

Whilst the above doesn’t offer money back to the Treasury, ieffectively gives a spending boost of £85 million to the FCO, £269 million to our Armed Forces and tens of millions to our trade missionswithout having to raise taxes or borrowing. In addition, £254 million for the World Service that comes from the licence fee can be returned to taxpayers or reinvested in the service.

Health and social care

Third, integrate health and social care with local government. This has a potential for big efficiency savings, allowing money to frontline services rather than bureaucracy.

Attempts to make this idea work so far have floundered. The Better Care Fund was intended to save £511 million for departments and partners in the first year. It failedNevertheless, the idea is a valid, one and the council in my constituency of the Isle of Wight is hoping to win Government support to set up a pilot scheme.

In an increasingly complex world integration, be it in overseasspending, or public servicesintegration is key to efficiency and delivery. Artificial Intelligence, tele-medicine and better use of big data will support this, especially in more isolated communities such as the Island.

Cut corporation tax

Fourth, cut tax to raise more in revenue. The principle is a sound one – we cut top rate tax in the 1980s and dramatically increased the tax take.

Slash rates of corporation tax to 12.5 per cent.  Britain has been willing to give the fiscal firepower to “pull every lever we’ve got” a no-deal BrexitDown from 28 per cent in 2008, Corporation tax will soon be set at 17 per cent, the lowest in the G20 – yet receipts have never been higher at £56.2 billion. Lower corporation tax would increase the demand for labour, which in turn raises wages and increases consumption.

Winter fuel payments

Fitth, there are more difficult areas to cover. For example means test winter fuel payments would not be popular but could save £2 billion a year. Despite being estimated to cost £1,967 million in 2018/19, these were described by the Work and Pensions Committee (114.) as a “blunt instrument” which “gives a cash payment to many households do not need it”.

According to the Social Market Foundation, pensioners, who are by far the wealthiest age group in society, “are likely to save rather than spend the value of the windfall. It asked: “Why should older, wealthier pensioners receive more money than poorer, younger ones?”

An estimate for 2012-13 stated if payments were only made to those in receipt of pension credit, expenditure would only be £600 million in 2012-13 (to nearest £100 million). Surely it is better to spend the money on increasing the basic state pension, or increasing the amount that poorer pensioners receive, than giving it to those need is less.

Street and motorway lighting

Next, there are smaller but no less valuable schemes that we could champion. For example, do we need to keep streetlighting on overnight in rural areasThere’s no link between having lights off or dimmed and an increase in crime. Do motorways lights have to be on throughout the night? On the Isle of Wightwe can vary our lighting from a central point. That has the potential to save tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum.

Roadside verges

Next, why don’t we cut roadside verges less. They represent a natural habitat for wildlife, but often the way they are cut today during flowering season kills wildflowers and replaces them with thick grass which need more cutting. There are parts of verges, in roundabouts, on curves, which will need very regular cutting, but if we adopted verge cutting to encourage wildflowers and pollinators such as bees, we would beautify roadsides AND save moneyDorset saved £93,000 by ‘greening’ their verge cutting, and Monmouthshire County Council estimates it has saved £35,000 annually from reducing verge mowing. For councils’ up and down the country, every little helps, especially if it has an environmental and quality of life benefit.

Legalising cannabis

Sixth, there are other potential tax streams which have not been examined. Should we examine legalising cannabis, for example, especially weaker strains of it, not only to raise tax but also for reasons linked to mental health and crime reduction.

Colorado, with a population of under six million, raised $247 million in 2017 alone from marijuana tax. One of the most comprehensive studies into legalisation estimates that between £397 million and £871 millio, could be raised annually. A US-style system here could generate up to £2.26 billion a year from tax and fees.

n addition, there is money saved. The Taxpayers Alliance estimates that by legalising cannabis, the UK could save at least £891.7 million a year in reduced spending by police, prisons, courts and the NHS through pain relief treatments. Do we need a Royal Commission on this subject? Should we be treating cannabis, especially in mild form, as yet another sin tax, like smoking and alcohol?

Doing things better

Seventh, we need to do simple things better. There are more prosaic aspects of best practice, such as procurement.

Procurement amounts to around one third of public spending in the UK. In 2016/2017, the UK public sector spent an estimated £355 billion with external suppliers. Efficiencies, such as buying common goods and services on behalf of the whole government, saved £255 million through the Crown Commercial Service and £879 million through specialist commercial expertise.

We need a systematic method of driving procurement best practise across all of Government, from paperclips to tanks, and supporting new, smaller entrants into a market dominated by bigger players who too often bid, take their cut and sub-contract.

Finally, by leaving the EU we will have more power over procurement, buying locally as far as free markets allow. Some organisations believe that EU regulation costs the UK as much as £33.3 billion per year, potentially moreBy taking a common sense attitude to regulation post Brexit, we could save Britain billions.

– – –

These ideas are just a start. Ensuring a Conservative Government after the next General Election requires two things. First, we must deliver on Brexit, second, we need to produce ideas and policies that renew in office.

This is a contribution to the debate. Let’s see what the candidates offer in the week ahead. I wish them well.

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