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September 30, 2011 11:43 pm
Education secretary under Margaret Thatcher (1986-99), among a host of other ministerial positions, Baker was a Conservative MP until 1997. He is chairman of the Baker-Dearing Educational Trust.
● Schools: Press ahead with more academies and free schools, but also increase significantly university technical colleges. As the promoter of UTCs I am parti pris but they are strikingly successful. UTCs help to heal our broken society as students at 14 are treated as adults, and truancy and bloody-mindedness disappear. They also help our economic growth by training technicians and engineers. The target is 24 UTCs before the next election: so far 18 have been approved. We need many more. Every large town should have one and each city three or four. Increase the target to at least 100 before the election.
● Universities: Let students and the businesses that may be sponsoring them pay the fees or part of them up front thereby reducing their student loan debt. Let graduates or businesses pay off the debt with a lump sum. These two proposals will save money. Let universities become independent as some now get less than 10 per cent of their running costs from the exchequer. Let them forego that amount and allow them to charge whatever they want, provided they create bursaries for needs-blind entry. Those that do this will not be penalised by withdrawing any research funds.
● Energy prices: Take a personal interest in energy prices. George and you probably have not had to personally pay gas and electricity bills recently, but your Department of Energy and Climate Change is loading heavy costs upon businesses and personal customers. After two harsh winters they could become a rock upon which the coalition crash. More than 10 million families could be in fuel poverty, having to settle energy bills before food bills: that isn’t good politics. Even the department has estimated the extra costs could vary between 20-50 per cent more by 2020. So press ahead urgently with nuclear power and abandon plans to build inefficient and heavily subsidised wind turbine farms, which give an undeserved bonus to rich landowners.
● House of Lords: Abandon the plan to make the House of Lords 80 per cent elected, for that way lies conflict and gridlock. Remember the US Senate only became powerful after direct elections and the European Parliament – first nominated and now directly elected – is seeking to control the EU budget. Elected assemblies are not poodles. It is better to keep an appointed House but if the Lib Dems demand some elected element then reduce the percentage to 40 per cent and reduce the size of the Lords to 400 as soon as possible.
● Immigration: You must check the flow of immigration into this country. By 2015 show you are in control of British borders which is just what every other European country is doing, even including Denmark, the Netherlands, and France. The man in the street cannot understand why European judges – not British judges – are determining British laws on who should leave or stay in the UK. As Churchill used to ask, “Who is in charge of the clattering train?”
David, if you are looking for a legacy you might like to establish a museum of British history which every child should visit twice while they are at school.
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