Mel Stride debates involving HM Treasury during the 2019 Parliament

Economic Update

Mel Stride Excerpts
Monday 17th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Treasury Committee.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. It was both frank and bold, and it appears—in the very short term, at least—to have steadied the markets. One point that he raised at the Dispatch Box—although it was absent from his statement earlier today—was his renewed commitment to our financial institutions, and in particular the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility. He has also brought forward the economic advisory council, a number of whose members have appeared before the Treasury Committee; I think that he has chosen well. Will he reassure the House that the economic advisory council will not in any way conflict with the Bank of England, the Office for Budget Responsibility, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Prudential Regulation Authority or any of our institutions and that it will be there to complement and not work against any of them?

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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I thank my right hon. Friend, who in recent weeks has spoken wisely about the difficult issues that we face. I can absolutely give him that assurance. I want, to be frank, to ensure that I am getting advice from fantastic institutions such as the Treasury, the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility, but also advice that is independent of those institutions, because that is how we will get the best result. Rupert Harrison in particular has enormous experience of running the Treasury under George Osborne over many years, and I think that he will make an important contribution, as will his colleagues on the council.

With respect to the markets, my right hon. Friend is absolutely right to be cautious about what happens. They go up as well as they go down, and no Government can—or should seek to—control the markets. What we can do is the thing that is within our power, which is a very firm and clear commitment to fiscal responsibility.

Economic Situation

Mel Stride Excerpts
Wednesday 12th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Treasury Committee, Mel Stride.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend the Chancellor was quite right to bring forward the date for the medium-term fiscal plan and the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast. He now has, of course, a huge challenge in landing those plans in order to reassure the markets. He has to get the fiscal rules right and come forward with spending restraint and revenue raisers that are politically deliverable. Given the huge challenges, there are many—myself included—who believe it is quite possible that he will simply have to come forward with a further rowing back on the tax announcements he made on 23 September. Can my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary confirm that that possibility is still on the table?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I thank my right hon. Friend the Chair of the Select Committee for his counsel, which the Chancellor always listens to very carefully. The Chair of the Select Committee, along with others, suggested publicly that the date for the medium-term fiscal plan should be brought forward, and the Chancellor listened to him and responded by bringing the date forward from 23 November to 31 October.

There are no plans to reverse any of the tax measures announced in the growth plan. There is, I think, a measure of consensus—indeed, the Labour party voted only last night for the reduction in national insurance. We want to ensure that the UK is a competitive jurisdiction that companies and high-potential individuals who are internationally mobile choose to come to, to locate and grow. However, as the Select Committee Chair says, we of course need to do so in a way that is fiscally responsible, to ensure that debt over GDP falls in the medium term. The plan will lay out to the House in detail exactly how that will be achieved, scored by the OBR, on 31 October.

Oral Answers to Questions

Mel Stride Excerpts
Tuesday 11th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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I very much welcome my right hon. Friend’s decision to bring forward the medium-term plan and the OBR forecast; he has listened, and he is right. However, may I caution him to reach out as much as he can across both sides of the House, to be certain that he can get through this House the measures he puts forward to underpin that forecast? Any failure to do so will unsettle the markets.

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. He does a brilliant job of chairing his Committee and is full of wise counsel; he is absolutely right that we will and should canvass opinion widely ahead of the publication of the plan.

The Growth Plan

Mel Stride Excerpts
Friday 23rd September 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Treasury Committee, Mel Stride.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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I welcome much in this statement. There is a great deal that will help millions of families and businesses up and down the country. There is, however, a vast void at the centre of the announcements that have been made this morning: the lack of an independent OBR forecast. At a time when the markets are getting twitchy about Government bonds and the currency is under pressure, now is the time for transparency and making it very clear that whatever tax cuts or otherwise there may be, they are done in a fiscally responsible manner.

I have to say to my right hon. Friend that he should have come forward with an OBR forecast. The Treasury Committee knows, because of our correspondence with Richard Hughes, the head of the OBR, that it was standing ready to come forward with such a forecast. We further know, because of that correspondence, that there is a baseline forecast that the Chancellor has at the moment and that would have been on his desk when he first arrived in office. May I gently and respectfully ask him to release that forecast to provide transparency to the House and calmness to the markets, and to do that without further delay?

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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I thank my right hon. Friend and gently and respectfully remind him that, in the statement, I committed in a very categorical way to the OBR coming up with a forecast before the end of the calendar year. It will be a full forecast, not a baseline forecast, and it will fully score the measures outlined in this growth plan. I would be very happy to meet him at his Committee at a convenient time.

Financial Services and Markets Bill

Mel Stride Excerpts
Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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I rise to broadly support the Bill. I echo the congratulations of my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak) to my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen) on all his work, and I thank him for his appearances before the Select Committee in that regard—he probably bears the scars. I also welcome my good friend the Minister to his place and I thank him for setting out the Bill’s provisions with such clarity in his opening remarks.

The Bill occurs because of Brexit—because of the opportunities and the new freedoms that we have as a consequence of leaving the European Union. We have heard much about solvency II in this debate and more widely when we have discussed the new regulatory landscape that we are moving into. My right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) presented us with a rich tapestry of additional ideas about where he believes that the Government can go still further, which makes me feel that we should perhaps have him before the Treasury Committee again to tell us more about that; that might be a recurrent nightmare for him, however, so perhaps we will not inflict it on him at this moment.

With that greater freedom comes the critical issue of scrutiny by Parliament and by Government. When it comes to scrutiny by Parliament, I believe that the Treasury Committee is and should remain right at the centre of that process. We are moving from a bureaucratic, committee-based process within the European Union that literally goes through regulation line by line. It is important that it does that in the context of what were 28 member states, because an element of negotiation is involved at every stage of the scrutiny of those regulations. We are in a different environment now; we can be much more flexible and nimble, but we still need to be effective in that regard, which is why the Treasury Committee should be at the heart of that process.

As has already been mentioned, we have set up a Sub-Committee that will look specifically at regulation as it comes out of the statute book and cascades down to the rulebooks and manuals of the regulators. We believe that we can be selective, nimble and appropriate in the way that we address that. The Sub-Committee will have the same powers as the full Committee to send for persons and to have oral hearings. In fact, we have already had our first hearing into the Prudential Regulation Authority’s work around the strong and simple regime for the lighter-touch regulation of firms that do not come anywhere near the threshold for being potentially systemically important within the sector. In terms of staffing and resources, the Sub-Committee has the ability to, and will, take on additional resource by way of expert assistance, and it has the capacity to gear up and gear down as necessary, depending on the workload that comes its way.

I noted the Minister’s comments about the statutory duty that will come in for the regulators to inform the Select Committee when a review is published, and for the regulators to respond to its various consultations as they occur. I suspect that the Select Committee will look at some possible amendments to that, because we will be particularly interested in making sure that we have the power and authority at the centre of this process to effectively carry out the things that we need to do in that area.

I turn to the Government’s powers of scrutiny in the Bill, which touch on the balance between the independence of the regulators and the importance of holding them to account, particularly in terms of seizing the opportunities of this post-Brexit world. Prior to the Minister’s opening speech, my understanding was that there would be—as there is in the current Bill—a requirement that the regulators could be instructed by the Treasury to review rules on the basis of a public interest test and, in particular, where there had been significant market developments or where the rules were not meeting their requirements or purpose. It was to be used only in exceptional circumstances. At that point, if a review were held, as I understood it, it would not have been incumbent on the regulator to make any particular changes.

I think I heard the Minister say earlier, however, that an amendment will be tabled in Committee to allow the Treasury to have the power to direct the regulators to make changes, which is a significant shift. I know that that was welcomed a moment ago by my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks), and I understand the upsides of this. I think it is important that regulators are held to account, particularly when it comes to our competitiveness and so on. However, the questions arise: what is the threshold for this public interest test and how frequently will it be used? The fear must be there to some degree—this is something the Committee will want to look at very carefully—that this may be an overly overbearing power for the Treasury, which may impinge on the independence of the regulators themselves.

The Bill has the new secondary objectives for the FCA and the PRA, which I broadly welcome. I welcome the fact that they are medium and long-term objectives, not short-term objectives. I think that is very important because it means we are not going to take risks with the potential architecture, as it were, but focus on the medium and longer term when it comes to greater competitiveness. I also welcome the fact that they are secondary objectives and will not therefore interfere directly with the prudential objectives of those organisations.

Finally—I am aware of the time and know that many others want to speak—could I touch on the Bank of England and its mandate? I know that the Bank of England’s remit or mandate does not feature directly in this Bill, but much has been said about it and the importance of its independence, and I want to underscore that importance in this debate. There was a period, going back some weeks and months, when perhaps because, understandably, many Members and those who are now in government may have looked at the Bank of England and said that, because inflation is so far adrift from its target of 2%, it is therefore entirely unfit for purpose. I do not subscribe to that view. I do not believe that the Bank has been perfect, but I think it has faced extraordinary situations that have made its ability to keep inflation down to about 2% really a task that no central banker could have achieved.

It will be vital that the Bank of England maintains its independence, that politicians are kept out of monetary policy and that Chancellors do not determine interest rates if we are going to have a credible approach to monetary policy and all the benefits that brings. As my right hon. Friend the former Chancellor has said at the Government Dispatch Box on occasion in the past, if we take a 20-year view of the Bank of England’s performance, it has actually been spot-on at about 2%. Perhaps I can leave this debate with the thought that we must guard the independence of the Bank of England.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Oral Answers to Questions

Mel Stride Excerpts
Tuesday 28th June 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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Our country is facing its highest tax burden since the 1950s, although it should be acknowledged that, more recently, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has been bringing taxes down rather than putting them up. Does he agree that, with the elevated level of inflation, now is not the time for dramatic cuts, but that once inflation starts to recede—hopefully at the end of the year or into next year—that will be the opportunity to come forward with serious tax cuts to get growth and jobs going and to support our constituents?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I thank my right hon. Friend, the Chair of the Select Committee, for his constructive and thoughtful dialogue with me on these issues. He makes an excellent point, and I direct him to the tax plan that we published at the spring statement to indicate the direction of travel on tax. There will be tax cuts in, I think, a day’s time to help people with the cost of living, tax cuts in the autumn to drive growth in business investment and innovation, and further cuts to personal taxation thereafter, once the situation stabilises.

New Wealth Taxes

Mel Stride Excerpts
Tuesday 14th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Richard Burgon Portrait Richard Burgon
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As always, my hon. Friend makes a crucial point, and she is absolutely right: that is a moral imperative.

In the past few weeks alone, we have learned that the number of billionaires in Britain has risen to 177, and their wealth is now at record levels. Britain’s billionaires have increased their wealth by a staggering £220 million per day over the past two years. On top of that, we have learned that bankers’ bonuses are up 28% over the past year and are rising at six times the rate of wages. We have also learned that the bosses of Britain’s top 100 companies have seen their annual pay increase to an average of £3.6 million. We have food banks for nurses in hospitals, but at the top of Britain’s finance sector, the champagne corks are well and truly popping.

That phenomenon is not confined to Britain; it is global. The total wealth of the world’s billionaires is now equivalent to 14% of global GDP—up threefold since 2000. The global wealth of billionaires has risen more in the past two years than in the previous 23 years combined. If we are to tackle inequality and hardship, we need to address our rigged economic model.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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The hon. Gentleman is making interesting points. I accept that there has to be a limit to the amount of wealth that can be accumulated by a small number of individuals; I do not think anybody would argue that equity is not important to some degree. He mentions the global situation. Many countries have actually stepped back from wealth taxes, which they found did not work because they are bureaucratic and administratively difficult, and they ultimately did not raise the money expected. Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Sweden have all tried wealth taxes and decided that they did not work. Why does he think that is the case?

Richard Burgon Portrait Richard Burgon
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I encourage the right hon. Gentleman to read the report I have here. It is by some top academics and makes a compelling case for a wealth tax in the UK. I will return to that point in greater detail later in my remarks.

Economy Update

Mel Stride Excerpts
Thursday 26th May 2022

(1 year, 12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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Order. That is enough. Now we will hear from the Chairman of the Select Committee, Mel Stride.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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I broadly commend the announcement. My right hon. Friend has made a significant intervention to channel billions of pounds in a targeted series of transfer payments to those who most need it, but, as he will know, similar approaches were taken in the pandemic and there were many who fell through the gaps and missed out on support.

I note the additional £0.5 billion increase in the household support fund, which is welcome. Will my right hon. Friend set out to the House how he arrived at that figure and why he feels it will be adequate for the demand?

On the issue of inflation that my right hon. Friend raised, these transfer payments will stimulate the economy—granted, they will come with some tax increases as well—but will he share with the House his assessment of the inflationary impact of the announcement he has just made?

Finally, will my right hon. Friend appear before the Treasury Select Committee immediately after recess so that we can look at these matters in greater detail?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his questions and for his thoughtful advice on how best the Government should respond to the current situation. We put extra support into the household support fund because, very specifically, the one group of those on means-tested benefits to whom we cannot deliver money automatically is those who receive only housing benefit, because that is administered by local authorities. That is the main group that needs that specific help, but of course there may well be others, which is why the fund is there.

On the inflationary impact, I believe it will be manageable, but my right hon. Friend is right to highlight it. That impact is why it is important that the support we provide is targeted where it can make the most difference, and that it is temporary and timely, and gets help to where it is required. That is the right approach: being fiscally responsible is going to help us to combat inflation in the long run.

Tackling Short-term and Long-term Cost of Living Increases

Mel Stride Excerpts
Tuesday 17th May 2022

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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I rise to very much welcome this debate, which addresses one of the great challenges of our time: the cost of living. Right at the centre of that lies the rate of inflation, which many Members have referenced in the debate so far, and that responsibility is with the Bank of England. In very recent times, the Bank has come in for a good deal of criticism for apparently not having got on top of that rate of inflation. It is currently above 7% and will rise to 10% in the autumn, before falling back again next year. That is well detached from its target of 2%, so the question arises: is the Bank of England culpable for having missed that target to that extent? I want to speak—partially, at least—in defence of the Bank of England, which is one of the most important independent institutions in our country, and to make the following observations.

First, as the Chancellor has already pointed out, the level of inflation across the world is elevated. There are some exceptions to that, but most leading economies are facing very high levels of inflation. In fact, the United States, Spain and Germany have higher rates of inflation than we do in the United Kingdom, and our rate is broadly similar to that across the eurozone.

My second point is about what one can expect from monetary policy under the current circumstances. The main drivers of inflation are a war in Ukraine; surging energy prices; surging food prices; some of the effects of the unlocking of the economy and its rapid growth, and supply chain bottlenecks that developed as a consequence; and then what played out in the labour market as the economy opened up. Very few of those factors are amenable to being controlled through interest rates and monetary policy. Of course, it takes time for monetary policy to take effect. If interest rates are put up, it typically takes about a year or more, through the transmission mechanism, to have an effect on demand and to start to bear down on inflation.

For about 80% of the rise in inflation above the 2% target, therefore, we should not hold the Bank of England particularly culpable. The notions of those people—some of whom are on my side of the House—who have called into question the independence of the Bank of England as a consequence of high inflation are misplaced. We should firmly defend the Bank of England in that respect.

There is one area, the other perhaps 20% of the growth in inflation, which relates to what has happened in the labour market, where the Bank is at least partially culpable, because it was slow to establish the fact that the market was getting overheated. What appeared to be isolated areas, such as among HGV drivers and other pools of labour in the labour market, soon spilled over into a more general price increase across labour. The danger now is that we will have a wage-price spiral in which wages chase prices and, in turn, drive up wages further. There is a real danger that we are in a position where future expectations of inflation have become substantially de-anchored from that 2%, which will be a challenge in the medium and longer term.

Overall, however, it is extremely important that we have confidence in the Bank of England, imperfect though it is, and even though it is presiding over a situation in which there are high levels of price increases.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms
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I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the independence of the Bank of England. At the Liaison Committee in March, he suggested to the Prime Minister that there should be a one-off uprating of benefits, given that inflation is much higher than the 3.1% by which uprating was applied. I agree with him about that and I wonder whether he stands by that suggestion.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention, and I do indeed stand by that. I still believe that it is possible, in a relatively fiscally neutral manner, which would not require a fiscal loosening across the period of the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts, to smooth the way in which benefits are indexed. It seems particularly regrettable that benefits such as universal credit are tagged to a 3.1% increase, which goes back to what inflation was in September, given that we are now facing 8%, 9% or 10%-plus inflation. There is the possibility of smoothing that out, so that on the way up it becomes less painful for people, and some of it will be taken back as it all comes out in the wash for everyone down the line. I am happy to continue to work with him with that in mind.

That brings me to other fiscal measures that can be taken to ease things for our struggling constituents. We have heard about a windfall tax in great detail today, which I would support. Although I would not be as partisan as the way in which the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) made his case earlier at the Dispatch Box, I think the arguments that he has put forward are largely sensible. I am pleased that in turn the Chancellor has indicated that the door is at least partially open, albeit caveated on the investment performance of the companies concerned.

Unlike the Opposition, I think that it is important to look at the size of the civil service and to have an ambition to get it back to its size in about 2016 before a number of these different crises struck and we had to gear up the numbers involved. If we were to do that, it would be possible to save a total of £3.5 billion a year, which would be a useful amount to have.

I am sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I have completely run out of time. I had much to say, as I know many other hon. Members will.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Stephen Timms.

Oral Answers to Questions

Mel Stride Excerpts
Tuesday 17th May 2022

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Treasury Committee.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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Naturally, there has been criticism of the Bank of England, given the level of inflation and its inflation target, but among that criticism there have been reports that some in government, including perhaps one member of the Cabinet, have been suggesting that the independence of the Bank of England should be removed. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential that our central bank is independent in order to maintain the credibility and integrity of our monetary policy? Will he give a categorical assurance to the House that there are no plans of any kind to restrain the independence of our central bank?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I thank my right hon. Friend the Chair of the Select Committee for his important intervention. I agree with him wholeheartedly. While we face challenges at the moment, the record of 25 years of central bank independence speaks for itself, with an average inflation rate of exactly 2%. I know all colleagues will want to make sure that we return to that as swiftly as possible, and I can assure him that that is both my and the Governor’s ambition.