Interview with local MP, Philip Hammond

How long have you been the Runnymede and Weybridge MP?
ThatÂ’s an easy one to start off with! Nearly eleven years, since May 1997.

What did you do before you were a politician?
I worked in business, manufacturing, property and development as well as the oil and gas industry. I worked in Germany, Italy and the Republic of Ireland, so I have a very diverse business experience.

Why did you get into politics?
I have always been interested in current affairs. I studied politics at Oxford and I have strong opinions on the way things should be done. I grew up in the sixties when the economy seemed to be going very wrong. I formed my political opinions on the back of what looked like as disastrous flirtation with anti-market economic politics. The Labour government was nationalising industries and refusing to accept the need for change. They wanted to embrace new technology without losing our traditional industries.

What do you see as the most important issues for students?
In the long-term, the maintenance of economic stability so that they may prosper and fimd good jobs. I would say that their more immediate priority is the funding of higher education. Our higher education system is still regarded as world class but is maintained on little more than a shoe string. ItÂ’s vitally important that we fund excellence in higher education, not just turning out people with skills, but creating a critical mass for innovation and technological development that you get around places like Cambridge.

Many commentators claim there is an increasingly small difference politically between Labour and the Conservatives. How would a Conservative government be different to the Brown administration?
I wouldnÂ’t entirely disagree with that observation, which is born out of Labour acknowledging that we were right, and that their old economic policies were wrong. They are now increasingly moving towards taking a market based approach that abandons the redistribution of wealth through government. The problem with BrownÂ’s government is that it is too focused on state solutions to problems and I think that people are beginning to see that state spending is not the solution to every problem. I think we need to give the education system more independence and autonomy and less government interference.

Are you against top-up fees?
We believe the government should bring forward the review of how top up fees are working, which is not scheduled for another two years. Excellence in higher education does have to be paid for and part of that money should come from the students in the higher education system. How that should be done, whether in tuition fees or in the form of a post-graduation tax is open to debate and we need to conduct a proper review to ensure that the system does not discourage able students from participating, which would be a bad economic mistake.

Do you think itÂ’s right that the environment has been such a focus for David Cameron?
Yes I do. The modern Conservative party is committed to the long term stability of our economy. In the last 40 years weÂ’ve been thinking too much in the short-term and found solutions with great long-term costs. Before, burying a problem in a hole in the ground was considered to have solved it. We are involved in cleaning up land, for example in Thorpe, near Egham, where a huge experiment in burying toxic waste was carried out in Pit B, and that piece of land will not be usable for hundreds of years. We have always been concerned with security. One of the principle roles of the state is to protect society, and climate change is one of the biggest threats to society.

What do you think the government should be doing to tackle global warming?
Technical solutions such as carbon capture should be part of it. We need to incentivise people and find market solutions such as carbon trading. We are also committed to seeing a shift away from taxing income and towards taxing polluting consumption. I donÂ’t think that carbon rationing, if it wasnÂ’t part of a market based solution, would work.

Are you pro nuclear power?
I think that given the urgent need to deal with green house gas emissions and the need to secure BritainÂ’s supply of energy, having a significant amount coming from nuclear is right. We need to stimulate renewables as well. We have a generation of nuclear power stations coming to the end of their lives, I suspect they will be replaced with plants with higher output. As they are retired we run the risk of losing the energy that existing plants supply if we donÂ’t invest now. This must be done by the private sector and there mustnÂ’t be a hidden state subsidy. The government must define the limits on carbon output, but the market should find the methods of achieving it.

I see from your voting record that you voted in favour of the Iraq invasion. What factors influenced that decision?
The number one reason was that the Prime Minister, who was the only person in parliament privy to the intelligence, told parliament that WMDs from Iraq could be launched with 40 minutes notice. I and my colleagues believed that we were taking an unselfish decision to protect Israel from a nuclear attack. I would also add that, for a man who misled the House of Commons, Tony Blair seems to be doing very well.

Which candidate do you most favour in the American elections?
If IÂ’m very honest I havenÂ’t been impressed with any of the candidates, but if I look back at history, its usually only late in the race that I see their qualities. The race on the Democratic side is more interesting. However, I find the way in which the American election system works extraordinary. Its very wooden and they are not subjected to questions that they havenÂ’t prepared for, as politicians are in Britain.

I see from your voting record that you have voted against bills that allow same-sex couples to adopt children. Why is this?
I think that we should approach these issues from a child centric point of view. I believe that itÂ’s in the best interests of a child that two biologically different parents raise them. If an unmarried mother came to me with her child and asked me whether she was better off sharing a home with her sister or her brother, I would advise her to live with her brother, because it is better for the child to have both a male and a female influence. We see problems with single mothers from the absence of a male influence. Its a fact that children prosper from the diversity of having two parents of different sexes. Is it better to be in a childrenÂ’s home than be brought up by homosexual parents? No. But there is no shortage of adoptive parents. Its not about the parents right to have children its about the childÂ’s right to grow up with the right influences.

So you would be in favour of denying same sex couples the right to have children?
You are approaching it from the wrong perspective, as people frequently do. It is not about the parentÂ’s right to have children, itÂ’s about the childÂ’s right to have the best possible upbringing.

If you would like get in touch with Philip Hammond or look at his voting records, a good way of doing so is by visiting There you can also find out who the MP for your home constituency is, how they vote on key issues and how to contact them.

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