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Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue, said:

The Government is signalling that, after the EU referendum, its focus will be social reform – the Prime Minister’s original and deepest passion. This is the right thing to do morally but also politically: the Conservatives need to be a party of the head as well as the heart. But the policies must match the rhetoric. Recently, the Government has sought to make unnecessarily painful cuts to financial support for those in modest or vulnerable circumstances. For the rest of this parliament, especially after a period of austerity where people’s real incomes have fallen, it’s time for the Government to prioritise tax cuts and support to boost the life chances of those on low incomes.”

 

On the British Bill of Rights

Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue, said:

“The introduction of a British Bill of Rights offers an opportunity to strengthen human rights, and public attitudes towards them. However, the vital document is the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) rather than the Human Rights Act. The new British Bill of Rights must ensure we incorporate the European Convention into UK law. Inspired and written by British Conservatives, it is a document rooted in English common law and protects individual freedom from an overarching state. The ECHR is in fact a form of soft power: ensuring our laws and values are increasingly adopted across the world, including in traditionally more authoritarian countries.”

  • Bright Blue is currently undertaking a project on human rights, which includes a forthcoming paper on ensuring we have a British Bill of Rights which allows us to remain a signatory of the ECHR.

 

On the higher education paper

Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue, said:

“Despite successive rises in tuition fees over the past decade, the available evidence suggests that, on average, teaching quality has not got better in universities – for example, class sizes and contact time have not improved. So the Government is right to incentivise institutions to improve their teaching. However, higher fees means students and potentially government – through its subsidy of student loans – paying out more, again. Universities should take on more risk for the fees they charge. If they charge above £9,000 and have lots of graduates with earnings profiles that means they are unlikely to pay off their loan in full, universities should pay a levy to contribute to the subsidy of student loans.”

  • Bright Blue has suggested in a previous paper, Going part-time, that universities should contribute more to the subsidy on student loans, which government currently pays.

 

On adoption and the care system

David Kirkby, Senior Research Fellow at Bright Blue, said:

“Adoption is the right route for many children in care and the Government is right to focus on making the process easier. However, improving the life chances of children in care extends well beyond adoption. While just over 5,000 children were adopted from care last year, nearly 70,000 children are in the care system. These children are four times more likely to experience mental health problems and over twice as likely to be not in education, training or employment at age 19. The Conservatives must not fall into the trap of thinking that adoption alone is the solution for improving the life chances of these children.”

 

Measuring life chances

Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue, said:

“The Government is right to introduce new indicators measuring life chances. Poverty is a shameful and complex phenomenon in modern Britain, having a multitude of causes – including family instability, poor educational outcomes and addiction. But money also matters. So the Government was wrong to abandon the relative poverty measure earlier this year. A new material indicator of poverty is required. Since the early years of a child’s life are critical to life chances, government also needs to measure school readiness, by tracking how many children are achieving the minimum standards in the Early Years Foundation Stage profile.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For further media enquiries, please contact our Communications Manager of Bright Blue, Laura Round, on laura@brightblue.org.uk or 07543759844.