New Announcements

Dealing with the deficit remains the Government's overriding priority and tough decisions have led to results: the budget deficit has been reduced by a quarter already.  But there are other important reforms that need to be made and this week has seen some bold new ideas.

I welcome Michael Gove's proposals to replace GCSEs with harder, O-Level-style exams.  At the moment, we have a qualification that is neither fish nor fowl: not rigorous enough to prepare students for university and little use to those pursuing a vocational career.

Another bold reform is the introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners, giving the public a voice in the fight against crime.  There are now five months to go until the first elections in November.  Last weekend, I took part in the first selection meetings for the Conservative PCC candidate in Sussex, with some really good candidates emerging.

Welfare is another area where radical reform is welcome.   On Monday, the Prime Minister spoke about the growing gap between those living long-term on benefits and those who are not.  This gap has led to huge resentment amongst those who pay into the system, who often feel unrewarded for their hard work.  We need to go back to first principles and have a real national debate about what the limits of state provision should be.

Government should be on the side of people who are working hard.  On Tuesday, the Chancellor announced that the planned fuel duty rise of 3p this August will be deferred until January.  This means that fuel duty will have been frozen for 21 months by the end of this year.  In the South Downs, where a car is an essential part of living, this freeze will go a long way to help motorists.

This Friday, I will be holding my ‘Autism Summit' in Arundel Town Hall.  I have organised this meeting after hearing from local families about the difficulties they have in accessing help for their children.  I hope that by getting officials and families together we can see how services can be shaped to meet the needs of those who rely on support.

We must continue to prioritise making savings, but governments can focus on more than one thing - and these policies to improve education, reform the ‘something for nothing' culture, help families with their bills and protect the most vulnerable in society are welcome.

Christopher N Howarth