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Mel Stride

Freedom and Responsibility

Sun 9 Jan 2011

By Mel Stride

A few weeks ago when I walked over to the railings surrounding Parliament it was to watch a well organised and peaceful march opposing tuition fees. Chanting, whistling and banners. By the time I reached my office the television was focusing on another story – another part of the march – half a mile up the road at Conservative HQ protesters were attacking Millbank Tower, smashing windows and assaulting police officers. A fire had been started. A little later and the building was occupied with protesters on the roof, one of whom threw a fire extinguisher (weighing a stone) over the edge such that it crashed down to the ground narrowly missing a police officer.
I know that the issue of tuition fees is important. As someone whose mother and father had to leave school at 15 and 14 years old and whose own life was transformed by a free place at a grammar school I understand the importance of education; not least its critical role as one of the great routes for social mobility. Providing young people from poorer families with the opportunity to move on. My first speech in the House of Commons was on just that issue and I feel particularly strongly about it. But whilst I understand the concerns of those who oppose the Coalition’s policies what happened at Millbank was a disgrace. None of us, whatever our political persuasion, should take any satisfaction from it. To see people committing vandalism, assaulting police officers and in the case of the person throwing the fire extinguisher, perhaps even committing an act of attempted murder is indefensible. The sight of the burning of copies of the Lib Dem manifesto was equally wrong. There is something chilling about the burning of books and those who engaged in it, especially where they have any interest in free speech and learning, should feel a sense of genuine shame.
It is important, of course, to recognise that the vast majority of those protesting did so entirely peacefully. They have a right to protest and that is a right that I will always defend. The President of the NUS disassociated himself from the ‘idiots’ involved and it is believed that the trouble was orchestrated by a relatively small group of hard Left anti-capitalists. Their involvement in the attack on Millbank was well co-ordinated and partly orchestrated through anarchist websites. There are therefore certainly questions to be asked of the police as to why they were not more aware of the potential for this situation to occur and better prepared for it. The head of the Metropolitan Police has announced an inquiry into this issue and this I welcome. There will, of course, be many lessons to be learned as a result of the events of last Wednesday. Not least that with freedom comes responsibility and that the violent acts of the mindless few involved in the riot at Millbank must never be tolerated.

Business Matters

I recently spoke in the debate for the second reading of The National Insurance Contributions Bill. This paves the way for the increases in NI that will come in this April. These changes are regrettable as NI is a tax on jobs and it comes at a time when we will be looking to private sector business growth to get us through the tough times ahead. Labour did not oppose the bill as they recognise that these increases are unfortunately necessary for deficit reduction. The changes will raise £9 billion and make a significant contribution to reducing a deficit running at £150 billion a year. In the debate I urged the government to make sure that as soon as we can afford to start reducing taxes this tax should be one of the first to be tackled.
On a more positive note secondary legislation will increase the tax threshold for employer’s NI which will provide relief to businesses worth around £3 billion.
There was one piece of particularly good news in the Bill - an NI holiday of up to £5,000 per employee for the first ten employees recruited by new start-ups in various regions of the country including the South West. This will be a major incentive for new business generation. New businesses will not automatically receive the NI holiday but must apply for it and in the debate I pressed the government to ensure that this scheme is very well promoted. If you are thinking of starting up a new business locally please contact me. I will point you in the right direction and do whatever I can to help you. These tax incentives make it a good time to get started.
I will also continue to fight for all our small businesses in Westminster – we need them now more than ever.

Other columns by Mel Stride

Busy right across the constituency - Tue 9 Nov 2021
Investing in local public services - Mon 2 Aug 2021
Corona - A year on - Mon 14 Jun 2021
Supporting our Local Communities in difficult times - Mon 1 Mar 2021
The PM’s first year - Thu 1 Oct 2020
Quizzing the PM - Tue 7 Jul 2020
It’s the economy, stupid! - Tue 11 Feb 2020
Vision for the Future - Mon 2 Dec 2019
Into the Cabinet - Thu 1 Aug 2019
Local Apprenticeships Matter - Fri 3 May 2019
Huge shot in the arm for our High Streets - Thu 24 Jan 2019
Reading - Thu 8 Nov 2018
EU - In or Out? - Mon 11 Mar 2013
Opportunity. - Tue 22 Jan 2013
Where do we begin? - Tue 13 Nov 2012
To Infinity and Beyond - Wed 5 Sep 2012
Working in Westminster - Sun 1 Jul 2012
A Better Balance - Thu 5 Jan 2012
Capital Shame - Mon 7 Nov 2011
Olympic Feat... - Sun 11 Sep 2011
The Coalition - A year on - Mon 11 Jul 2011
Labour Dreams - Sun 17 Apr 2011
Now we really must mean Business - Thu 10 Mar 2011
A leader for Labour - Thu 4 Nov 2010
Education and Freedom - Mon 6 Sep 2010
Tradition and Words - Mon 6 Sep 2010
Mel Stride - Early Days in Westminster - Tue 6 Jul 2010
Mel Stride Conservative Parliamentary Candidate on The Big Society - Mon 3 May 2010
A look back over my years as Conservative parliamentary candidate and contributor to The Cottage - Sun 28 Feb 2010
Building the homes of the Future means giving Power to the People - Thu 3 Dec 2009
Early memories... - Wed 4 Nov 2009
As General Franco lay dying... - Tue 20 Oct 2009

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