Mark Pawsey MP: We need to deliver on the result of the referendum and leave the European Union
Following the multiple rejections of the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement in Parliament, Mark Pawsey MP has been kind enough to respond to a number of questions via email.
Jake Scott (JS): What is the current mood in the Tory party?
Mark Pawsey MP (MP): There is no point denying that now is a tough time. In an ideal world Parliament would have passed the Withdrawal Agreement and there would be a lot more certainty about the direction of travel as we leave the European Union. The Party is resilient though and we will get through this difficult period. I know my colleagues in the Parliamentary Party want to get on with our important domestic agenda and that is why we need to resolve the issues over Brexit as soon as possible. We are determined to do that.
JS: It’s thought that Cameron called the referendum to put an end to the issue of Europe tearing the Conservatives apart – in hindsight should he have done this?
MP: The pledge to hold a referendum was made two years prior to the 2015 General Election, was in our manifesto for that election and legislated for in Parliament. There was clearly widespread support for it amongst the people, given that we won a majority in 2015, and MPs given that only 53 voted against holding a referendum, so I don’t think it was wrong for Cameron to have promised it.
JS: Do you support Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement? Why?
MP: I do. I have always believed that our future relationship with the EU should maintain close economic links and that is why on all three occasions that the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Declaration has come before Parliament, I have voted to support it. The Withdrawal Agreement delivers on the result of the referendum by enabling the UK to take back control of our money, our laws and our borders and I remain hopeful that the Prime Minister will secure a majority in Parliament soon, enabling us to leave the EU in an orderly way.
JS: Increasingly we see reports that young people are sympathetic to the values of the Conservative party, yet that is not translating into support for the party. Why do you think this is?
MP: We need to be more explicit in articulating our offer to younger generations. We need to demonstrate why the Conservative Party is the only political party in the country that has a viable offer to everyone no matter what stage in their lives they are at. We are building more homes for example, but we need to build more, to do more, to ensure everyone can get on the property ladder. We have over a million more children in good or outstanding schools, but we need to get to a place where we can say all of our children are being taught in in schools that are rated as such. We have already cut income tax for 32 million people but we need to do more to ensure that people get to keep more of their hard-earned money, so they can spend it on the things they want, whilst at the same time continuing to invest in the services people rely on and expect such as the NHS which now has record funding. We also know that younger generations are concerned about the impact we are having on the environment and that is why I am so pleased that it is our Party that is spearheading initiatives to ensure larger amounts of single-use plastics are recycled and to deliver cleaner air and water.
JS: Moving forward to politics in general, there is a profound feeling of distrust and apathy in the electorate. How do you think, if at all, this can be resolved?
MP: Brexit has dominated politics for the last three years so for a start I think we need to deliver on the result of the referendum and leave the European Union. I have never hidden the fact that I voted to Remain and that I was disappointed that the country voted to Leave as I think, on balance, we would have been better served in the long-term by remaining a member of the EU. I accept that the organisation needs to reform, but I would have preferred us to push for those changes from the inside. However, we gave the decision to the people and they decided to leave. We need to get through this difficult stage of the process, formalise our leaving and then focus on the domestic issues that matter so much to everyone. Because there is so much focus now on Brexit all of the good things we have achieved in Government are being overlooked: income tax cut for 32 million people, unemployment at a record low, employment at a record high, the deficit cut by four fifths since 2010, the introduction of the National Living Wage, almost 2 million more children in good or outstanding schools since we took office and record funding for the NHS. These are significant achievements, but all of this is being lost in the noise surrounding Brexit. It is important that we reiterate all that we have achieved over the last nine years, and our ambitious plans for the future, once we get Brexit out of the way. We will rebuild trust by continuing to deliver meaningful, positive and sustainable change for people.
JS: Is the government doing enough to tackle the housing crisis? If not, what else can be done?
MP: The Government has an ambitious plan to boost home ownership and housebuilding as we want everyone to be able to own their own home. Encouraging and facilitating home ownership is a core principle for Conservatives and although 1.3 million more homes have been built whilst we have been in office there is obviously a lot more to do. Since 2010, 400,000 more affordable homes have been built, stamp duty has been cut and Help to Buy has allowed 150,000 people to get on to the property ladder. These are all big steps in the right direction, but I would like to see more support and encouragement for SME builders and housing associations and better use of brownfield sites and empty commercial space.
JS: What is the next big economic reform that you would like to see?
MP: I would like to see much more done to encourage small business growth with a particular focus on assisting SMEs into their first commercial premises. There is a real entrepreneurial spirt amongst young people and thanks to technological advances the barriers to starting a business have greatly diminished (certainly from the time I started my own business) meaning that people can now start and incubate their businesses at home with relative ease. However, as they grow, and it becomes clear that they need a standalone commercial premise it can often be challenging to find an appropriate property. So essentially, I would like to expand the role of Government as a facilitator to encourage small business growth by assisting in the funding for, and provision of, a small businesses’ first commercial premises.
JS: Finally, how can politicians do more to encourage youth participation in politics?
MP: We need to engage more and improve and expand the teaching of politics. We also need to change perceptions around politics so no matter a child’s background, what school they attend or what their parents do they know that they can become the political leaders of the future. MPs already go out into schools, colleges and universities to speak to pupils and students but there is no doubt that there could be more engagement from both sides. I also think that politics needs to be more prominent in the syllabus at levels of education. Everyone is affected by politics throughout their lives and this needs to be made clear to younger generations. We all have a stake in this, and we all want to change things for the better. The earlier we engage with and enthuse young people about politics the better.
Mark Pawsey is Member of Parliament for Rugby and Bulkington. The Mallard would like to thank Mr. Pawsey for taking the time to kindly answer these questions.