ConservativeHome readers recently posed a variety of questions for John Redwood MP. John answers them below.
Manhattan: "Is there any gain in the fight against crime to be had from repealing the HRA if Britain does not also withdraw from the ECHR?"
We need to take the measures that are right for the UK to combat crime. To do this we need to legislate in the UK through our democratic Parliament as we see fit. As the policy review process proceeds it will become clearer what needs to be done to ensure the UK is free to do all that it needs to do to offer safety to our citizens, and what we might need to propose to deal with the European issues. It is too early to answer your question, as we first need to decide what extra measures we need to take domestically.
NigelC: "Should local Conservative councillors participate in Regional Assemblies as it is now our policy to abolish them?"
We believe in local determination, so it is a matter for local Councillors to decide. I would suggest all Conservative Councillors on these bodies should propose a resolution for their abolition. If it carries the problem is solved. If it is not carried, and if Councillors wish to stay on these bodies, they should make sure they always express views based around our principled position that these bodies are a waste of money and an anti-democratic system of government.
Michael McGough: "Do you believe that we would be better off out of the EU?"
I believe we need a trading arrangement with our EU partners, but do not benefit from all the bureaucracy and over regulation the system heaps upon us. There is clearly a cost to us of belonging to the EU in terms of payments into the Union and in terms of extra bureaucratic overhead – we need to cut the EU budgets, especially the waste and the Agricultural expenditure.
Jeramy: "What does Mr Redwood make of the pressure for Public Schools to lose their charitable status? Should it be retained?"
Yes I do believe Public Schools should keep their charitable status. The way to give more children a better education comes from improving the poorer schools, not from undermining the better schools.
Malcolm: "John, within your quest for economic competitiveness are you taking into account the work of the other policy review groups? The environmental and social justice groups work in particular does seem to me to need to be coordinated with your own."
Yes, of course. I am as keen as the Social Justice group that we promote a more successful economy in a way which will help those with least in our society, and as keen as the Environmental Group to promote a greener and cleaner Britain.
Chris Palmer: "Do you believe it is possible to reduce the tax burden substantially while still maintaining our current level of public services?"
Yes. Over the life of a Parliament we can benefit from growth, and from better management of the public services.
Harriet B: "You once said that the Conservative Party is a party of tax cuts or it is nothing. Do you still believe that and is it likely that your policy group will recommend reductions to the biggest tax burden in British history?"
Winston: "I teach economics to secondary school kids and, within the bounds of the curriculum, I try to teach them that tax policy can be a dynamic, supply-side weapon. The soundbites of the Cameron era - 'economic stability must come before tax cuts' and 'sharing the proceeds of growth' - only reinforce the Labour template that one man's tax cut is another man's spending cut. What language should Tories use to promote understanding of the role that lower taxes play in boosting growth?"
I have recently pointed out how Ireland has grown 4 times as fast as Scotland during Gordon Brown’s stewardship of the Scottish economy, developing George Osborne’s analysis of Ireland’s success. We need to explain to a new generation of economists how low tax rates produce richer societies – and often also yield more revenue for better public services.
The Man on the Clapham Omnibus: "Do you think Tories should now embrace some form of congestion charge for London and other traffic-jammed cities?"
The Policy Group has recently set out a package of urgent and relatively low cost measures to get traffic moving in the cities, and to make them safer and cleaner. We are currently looking at the whole road pricing debate. One central proposition we are likely to stick with is the burden of tax on road transport should not be increased overall, so we are unlikely to favour additional Congestion Charges on a one off basis in different cities on the lines of London.
DM: "Would he advise local associations selecting Parliamentary Candidates for either marginals or currently held seats to restrict their choice to the A-List, or should they invite applications from all members of the Party and make their selection of the Conservative candidate on the basis of ability and someone matching the profile of local voters?"
I hope local Associations will find talented and good candidates from the A List. Of course they can also consider local candidates. I believe in local choice, as the candidate needs the good will and active support of the Association to win the seat.
Greek Geek: "Do you read political blogs and what role might blogs play within British politics over coming years?"
No I do not – I get enough emails and letters without seeking out more of the same. Blogs will be one means of undertaking active democratic discussion in the years ahead.
Oberon Houston: "Going into the next General Election, rank the following in order of importance for the Conservative Party:
5. Defeating Labour"
It is difficult to rank your list of abstract nouns. Principles and ideology are the same thing put differently. Defeating Labour is our aim. Having principles, and showing loyalty to them and the Leader is the way to achieve the aim. Europe is an issue which matters a great deal to part of the electorate, but is not the only issue or the most important to the electorate as a whole.