The Economy and Work

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 2:14 pm on 26th May 2016.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 2:14 pm, 26th May 2016

There is nothing wrong with being an ideologue if you temper it with some restraint and reason. I confess that I am an ideologue for lower taxes, for less state regulation and for the supremacy of this Parliament. That is what I have worked for, with my colleagues, all my life here, and I judge every Queen’s Speech by how it advances lower taxes, deregulation and more devolution.

However, I think we should be wary of imposing our ideas on other people in a forced manner. We used to argue consistently that the one-size-fits-all neighbourhood comprehensive was wrong and causing a decline in educational standards. We therefore led the charge for academies, but I do not believe that we should force county councils, particularly rural county councils with small private schools, to academise all their schools. I understand why the Chancellor made that announcement in the Budget—I know where he was coming from and I agree with his long-term plans on education—but I welcome the compromise that has been made in relation to small rural private schools.

The same attitude applies to devolution and to mayors. I am a strong advocate of devolution. The fact is that central Government have imposed too much control on local government for too long. In Lincolnshire, we welcome devolution and we were prepared to have a very simple system in which powers were devolved to a board run by the leaders of the district councils and county councils, but there was no enthusiasm for an elected mayor in a large rural county. I welcome the fact that the Chancellor is still sitting in the Chamber, and I am sure that he is listening to what I am saying. I hope that he will also listen to the local people and not impose an elected mayor on us. That concept might be fine for Manchester, Birmingham or London, but it is not necessarily appropriate for a large rural county such as Lincolnshire.