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Sajid Javid – 2017 Speech to Federation of Master Builders

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government in the Houses of Parliament in London, on 11 December 2017.

Good evening everyone, it’s great to see so many familiar faces and it’s a real pleasure to have you all here in Parliament.

As you know, the Palace of Westminster is beginning to show it’s age, we really do need to get the builders in.

I’m pretty sure I saw some of you pricing the job up on the way here!

And if you want to send your quotes to the Speaker, tell him Sajid sent you!

You are all, literally, master builders.

The FMB does great work in recognising that, certifying it.

Raising and maintaining standards.

And of course providing clients with the reassurance they need.

It’s a vital task.

After all, none of us are immune from the kind of shoddy workmanship the FMB protects against.

Even Winston Churchill.

When he was Prime Minister he complained that 10 Downing Street was, and I quote, “shaky and lightly built by the profiteering contractor whose name the street bears”.

Today, of course, the centre of government is strong and stable!

Although I’m sure John will take issue with that!

I want to start this evening by saying thank you to everyone in this room who helped us do something amazing last year.

217,000 net additions to the housing supply. The highest level in a decade, and an increase of 70% on what was achieved in 2009/10.

There’s still a long, long way to go but thanks to your hard work we’re certainly heading in the right direction.

Almost 40,000 of those net additions came about from change of use, including taking spaces above shops and turning them into homes.

This government has, quite rightly, put a lot of time and effort into regenerating high streets and strengthening local economies.

That has generally focussed on the retail side of things, but as the report you’re publishing today shows there is no reason why commercial and residential cannot coexist happily together.

I grew up in the flat above the family shop, so I’ve seen for myself how it can work not just in theory but in practice too.

That’s why last month’s Budget set out plans to make it easier to create quality homes in empty spaces above high street shops. And tonight is the first time I’ve heard John back the Budget, so well done to FMB for their lobbying!

So, Homes on our High Streets isn’t just a fascinating report, it’s also very timely contribution to the debate.

It puts forward some very interesting ideas and proposals; I was going through a draft this weekend.

And we’ll be looking at it very closely to see how it can help us to fix this country’s broken housing market.

Let me also take the time to thank Mark Prisk for all the work he has done, and for being the genesis of this report.

To do that, to fix the market, we’re going to have to create at least 300,000 homes each year.

And small and medium-sized builders are going to have big role to play in making that happen.

Our housing white paper was very clear on this.

Ever since the recession, the market has been dominated by a handful of very large developers.

It used to be the case that more than 60% of new homes were delivered by small firms.

Today the figure is half that, and that’s a tragedy.

I want to turn that around, to see more of you building more homes.

And we’re backing that with more funding – an additional £1.5 billion of short-term loan finance for SMEs, custom builders and innovators announced in the Budget.

We’re doing this because smaller firms are skilled at developing small sites, great at building out quickly, and have a strong track record of innovation.

And you also put a great premium on standards.

On quality.

When my dad was running his shop he had to make sure the clothes he was selling were of the highest quality…

…because he was selling them to the local community, to people he’d see every day.

And it’s the same for SME builders.

When you operate locally, your reputation is just as important as the work that you do.

That’s why membership of the FMB is such a badge of honour, it shows that you’re only happy with the best.

And it’s not just the quality of work that matters.

Quality of design is crucial too.

That’s not just my opinion – it’s something the great British public agrees with.

You know as well as I do that getting local communities onside is crucial to getting planning permission.

Well, almost three-quarters of people say they would support the building of more homes in their area if they were well-designed and in keeping with the local style.

People don’t like looking at identikt red-roofed boxes that could be basically anywhere in the country.

And nor should they.

Just because we need to build more homes it doesn’t mean we need to build ugly homes. Last month I was looking at RIBA’s House of the Year.

Make no mistake, the winner was undoubtedly a stunning piece of architecture.

But I’m not sure your average new-build 3-bed home has space for an art gallery, performance area and 27,000 fruit trees!

Good design doesn’t have to mean Grand Designs.

To be beautiful, to win that local support, new homes don’t have to make bold statements.

They just need to be an appropriate addition, something that local people want to live in and live next door to.

Last week we invited bids for our new fund that will help local authorities plan for growth and improve design.

But I want to go further.

So, in the spring, we will be working with the sector and with local government to host a national housing design conference.

It will be a showcase for ideas, insights and best practice from across the country and across the world, kicking off a real debate about how we can raise the design bar for everyone.

But I want you to be building houses that are worthy of your skills as master builders.

And this conference will go a long way to help making that happen.

As I said, there is still much to be done.

Still a long way to go to fix our broken housing market.

But with the FMB’s support, with your commitment to quality and innovation, I know that we can get there.

And I’m looking forward to making that journey with you.

Thank you.

Guy Opperman – 2017 Speech on Pensions Dashboard

Below is the text of the speech made by Guy Opperman, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, on 11 December 2017.

Thank you all for coming along today to help us take forward the pensions dashboard project. It is really encouraging to know that such a broad spectrum of organisations is represented here, coming together to consider how we can make the dashboard a reality.

The fact that we are all here is an amazing start. As I announced at the PLSA conference in October, the government is committed to making the dashboard happen and I am utterly pleased that responsibility has transferred to the DWP from HM Treasury. It makes sense – we have responsibility for the legislation and the State Pension (a key component to any dashboard).

As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. Well it’s true…we might have taken more than a few preliminary steps with this…but the journey is now on! The government is truly on board and I hope by being here today will mean that you are too.

The pensions landscape is transforming and we need to bring the consumer with us, ensuring that the right technology is in place not simply to meet the expectations of a digital age (which is one thing) but to maximise opportunities to engage, and change the way people think about their pension.

The pensions freedoms introduced the much needed flexibility to address the fact that we are living longer and thinking differently about work and retirement.

Automatic enrolment is changing the behaviour of millions of people, turning them into savers by harnessing their natural inertia. By 2018, 10 million workers are expected to be newly saving or saving more into a workplace pension as a result of automatic enrolment.

We also know the nature of work is changing, with more people taking on multiple jobs.

People increasingly have built up multiple pension pots but it is easy to lose touch with these. There are £100s of millions in lost pension pots.

The research tells us there is a lack of feeling of ownership among people of their pension pots. The difficulty accessing these and the complexity of pension information has led to very low levels of engagement, which causes confusion and frustration.

However, engaging people with their pensions continues to be a key challenge.

Increasing engagement can help people better understand their pensions and maximise their savings for retirement; developing a sense of personal ownership and building trust in the system. How we achieve that is of course not straightforward. It is not all going to be magically solved with a single tool. But clearly the pension dashboard could form a critical part of this journey.

We have seen how people value simple and flexible ways to access pension information. Check Your State Pension has provided over 6 million estimates online since 2016. It is time to build on this success.

More widely we have seen the rapid pace of change in how we access and manage our money through mobile banking. This change has been led by the consumer, with 19.6 million people using this type of service across the UK in 2016.

But, as research published by B&CE highlighted, while almost 9 out of 10 people at working age know what’s in their bank account, only 4 in 10 are likely to know how much they have saved in their different pension schemes.

As demonstrated by the example of mobile banking, for the pension dashboard to be successful it has to be led by the user.

Being clear about what we are trying to achieve with the dashboard is key…the consumer is at the heart of our approach.

The recent research from the industry consortium, the Pensions Dashboard Project, highlights the experiences of other countries that have already introduced a dashboard.

We will take the learnings from these countries into our thinking – learning lessons and building on their successes. Though of course I recognise the context and policy aims of a dashboard will differ from country to country. The scale and complexity of the pension landscape in the UK brings about its own challenges. But these problems are surmountable.

The report said that ‘while different dashboards had different impacts…a common theme across all dashboards has been an increased level of engagement with pensions’. (Page 45 ‘Changes in consumer behaviour following the introduction of the dashboard’.)

This is encouraging.

The dashboard offers a great opportunity to give people straightforward access to their pension information in a clear and simple form – bringing together an individual’s savings in a single place online.

The architecture behind the dashboard has been shown to work and we have the digital capability to make it a success.

But proper engagement will only happen if the consumer has trust in the dashboard and confidence that the information is complete to the extent that it is useful. The independent user research commissioned through the Money Advice Service highlighted the low tolerance among consumers for an incomplete dashboard. That is why we need all parts of the industry on board.

Whether it’s the experiences of other countries or qualitative user research, there is growing evidence for some form of compulsion to bring about a complete dashboard in a reasonable timeframe. But there are different ways of approaching this – the Swedish example is an interesting one, where legislation was, in the end, not necessary.

The DWP feasibility study is looking into the detail of all this and we will explore the user perspective and the requirements and concerns among industry. If it is appropriate and necessary to legislate to bring schemes on board within a reasonable timeframe, we will do so.

It is time to bring pensions into the digital age.

All scheme providers have a duty to ensure that a person’s data, information that belongs to them, is made available when the person requests it. The pension dashboard can help facilitate the provision of basic pension information, to the benefit of the consumer and industry. Particularly if it means reconnecting members with lost pots.

It can also harness the potential for a great deal more.

Whatever our approach, and particularly if we enable expansion into the open market, a consumer protection framework will be vital to mitigate the risks of poor choices, potential misselling and scams. And of course, the data must be kept secure.

We need to maximise people’s engagement in their pension while maintaining their trust. We will ensure that consumer interests are properly safeguarded and their information protected.

There are many complex issues and challenges to the delivery of a dashboard, and I want to hear your views.

Whether we target those newly saving as a result of automatic enrolment, or the over 50s contemplating their quality of life at retirement, prompted perhaps by a mid-life MOT, the pensions dashboard can really help to transform the way people engage with and think about their pension.

So if you take anything from what I’ve just said please remember this:

– the government is on board and I hope you are too; the fact we are all here is a great start

– consumers are at the heart of our approach (to give people a sense of ownership, access to their information and remove complexity) and
yes there are challenges but they are surmountable – just because there are no quick solutions doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start the work

So thank you for your participation here today, and continuing to work with us to make the dashboard a reality.

Liam Fox – 2017 Speech at WTO

Below is the text of the speech made by Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, at the WTO meeting held in Argentina on 11 December 2017.

Mr Chairman, I congratulate Argentina for hosting this conference so efficiently and so well.

This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the signing of the GATT.

We have made many changes and great strides since then but we face constant challenges in keeping the multilateral system relevant.

What hasn’t changed over the decades is the United Kingdom’s unwavering support for free trade, for the multilateral trading system and for seeking continuous improvement in how we conduct global commerce.

I look forward to the UK taking a more prominent role in the WTO as we leave the European Union. And I pledge here to respect our existing WTO commitments and obligations to the WTO Membership as we leave the EU.

I see 3 priorities for us here in Buenos Aires.

First, we need to continue to promote trade as the main tool of development.

As the world’s developing and emerging economies have liberalised their trade practices, prosperity has spread across the globe, bringing growth, opportunity and stability where once there was only poverty.

In this regard, I strongly welcome the entry into force of the Trade Facilitation Agreement earlier this year.

The UK has programmed £180 million in supporting developing countries implement the TFA, between 2013 and 2022.

Second, I welcome the focus on digital trade here at MC11.

I believe that WTO Members must address digital trade issues, including through new rules. We should not wait any longer for ignoring the fast-changing digital landscape risks the credibility of this organisation.

We need to set rules for digital trade that deliver for developing and developed members alike. We need rules that offer the potential of greater participation by women in global trade. And we need rules that support e-commerce as a driver for economic growth. E-commerce and digital trade offer enormous opportunities for countries large and small, developed and developing – an empowering tool for women and SMEs in particular.

Our third priority should be regulation. As tariffs have come down and trade in services has increased, non-tariff measures are increasingly the main source of frustration for companies wanting to do business in other jurisdictions.

Predictability and access based on regulatory outcomes are what matter for businesses and consumers. There is much useful work we could be doing in this area, such as in domestic regulation on services.

Finally, to support us in this work, we need much better data on trade – data which truly reflects what is happening in the global economy where supply chains are increasingly complex.

I strongly support the joint work of the OECD and the WTO in the area of Trade in Value Added. The UK has been and will continue to be a leading voice on this issue.

I am hopeful we will look back at the time we have spent in this beautiful city as the moment when we acknowledged the need for increased urgency in our work. I am hopeful that this urgency will, in turn, lead to a new dynamism in our collective endeavour to update and strengthen the multilateral trading system upon which we all rely.

Thank you.

Dominic Raab – 2017 Speech at the Policy Exchange

Below is the text of the speech made by Dominic Raab, the Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, at the Policy Exchange in London on 7 December 2017.

May I start by thanking Policy Exchange for hosting us today, Ian King for Chairing our Panel, and Linklaters for their excellent report. It is a valuable contribution to the debate on Brexit, and it demonstrates the hard-work that is going into preparing for Brexit amongst the legal profession.

I should disclose, at the outset, that I trained as a solicitor at Linklaters, way back when in the late 90’s. They knocked me into shape after Law School. And I remain hugely grateful for the professional training and mentoring I received.

I confess that, as someone who campaigned for Brexit in the face of prevailing opinion in the City, I always stand in a certain degree of trepidation at events like this … that Richard Godden isn’t sat there quietly thinking …. we really screwed up with that one.

All I can say by way of mitigation, is that Linklaters have always placed huge value on critical evaluation, really scrutinising what is in the best long-term interests of their clients …

And they even sent me to Brussels for six months – where I got my greatest exposure to Brexit – as part of their EU, competition law, and WTO practice.

I’m not blaming Linklaters for becoming a Brexiteer.

But at a tender age, they played an influential role in my formative experience of Brussels. And then I left for the Foreign Office.

With that in mind, I want to thank Richard and Linklaters for this excellent report, entitled “Improving the UK’s competitiveness post-Brexit by enhancing the Rule of Law”.

It reminded me of that great line, by Thomas Edison, that: “opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

I am in no doubt about the challenges and uncertainty inherent for the UK, at this sensitive moment in our negotiations and preparations for leaving the EU.

The report is clear-eyed about those and about the wider domestic challenges we face. But, it was also important to see the report present this cross-roads in our history as a ‘unique’ opportunity, to reinforce the rule of law, increase predictability of our laws and law-making, and strengthen the UK’s underlying competitiveness.

I couldn’t agree more.

That will require some more listening on all sides of the debate, And it will require a lot of hard graft … to make sure we both sensibly manage the challenges, and grasp the opportunities that lie ahead.

Above all, this is a shared national endeavour.

We need a bit more unity of purpose.

And, as the report says, we in government and Parliament will need advice and support from businesses and the legal profession to help make a success of Brexit. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of that.

So today, I want to briefly set out what I see, in government, as some of the key challenges and opportunities affecting the legal sector, before opening he debate up to the high calibre panel Policy Exchange and Linklaters have assembled.

Mitigating the Challenges

In terms of the rule of law, perhaps the most significant and pervasive challenge of Brexit is to avoid potential legal disruption, and the impact this could have on business and citizens across the country, if we don’t address it carefully indeed.

The rule of law – a term we often hear bandied around – sounds rather grandiose. But protecting legal certainty means making sure people have predictable rules that they can plan their daily lives around.

From rules protecting consumers when they buy goods in the shops, to the principles of competition law designed to set a level playing field for businesses to rely on.

I am currently one of the Ministers steering the EU Withdrawal Bill through Committee stage of the House of Commons, and we are five days through an eight day gauntlet.

The Bill is pretty complex. I won’t bore you with details, but it addresses this fundamental challenge by taking a snapshot of the substantive EU principles, rules and legislation that apply in the UK at the date of departure, and retaining that body of law as UK law.

That means we will have the time to carefully consider which aspects of EU law, in the future, we wish to retain, amend or repeal.

Crucially – for those nervous on the legal side or more generally, it averts the legal cliff-edge some fear.

It paves the way for a smooth legal transition.

Clearly, in terms of the Bill, there are some contentious areas.

The government is in listening mode.

That’s not merely a rhetorical doffing of the cap in the direction of critics.

We are actively making sure we can give Parliament and the public the reassurances they need.

For example, it is quite right to look very carefully at the amount of legislation that should be passed by primary and secondary legislation, along with the processes for enacting it.

We want maximum scrutiny and transparency … but we’re also up against a deadline – not of our choosing – imposed on us under EU law by Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

So the job for somebody like me is to make sure we can deliver that smooth transition, we all want, within the timeframe we face.

I am confident we can get the balance right, with the appropriate scrutiny arrangements for secondary legislation. Contrary to what you hear amidst the media din on Brexit, there is a lot of goodwill and sensible dialogue going on between Ministers and MPs across all areas of Brexit to make sure we design proper arrangements to get the legislative job done.

Beyond the Bill, and for all the media froth, negotiations between the UK and the EU are making solid progress in the lead up to next week’s EU Council.

We are, as the Prime Minister has said, within ‘touching distance’ of a deal on the status of UK ex-pats on the continent, and EU nationals here.

The contours of agreement on other issues, including the approach to outstanding financial obligations and Northern Ireland, are also taking shape.

And the EU has instructed its officials to prepare for trade talks, also a positive sign.

Clearly, the legal profession has a very real stake in all of this, especially amongst practitioners focussed and advising on UK financial services.

I won’t give a running commentary on the negotiations, particularly at this sensitive moment.

But, made clear that we want a deep and special partnership with our EU friends, which includes frictionless trade in goods and services.

And I note, in passing, that confidence in the City remains very strong.

Just one illustration of that bold assertion is the latest publication of the Global Financial Centres Index in September, which still has London ranked number 1, with the gap between London and New York at number 2 expanding.

Incidentally, there isn’t an EU hub in the top 10.

We are ambitious for a strong, win-win, deal with our EU partners, and there is a lot of work going on to achieve that.

Clearly, we need to be ready for all outcomes, and it takes two to tango. But I note that on the EU side they are also acutely conscious of the sheer volume of UK finance supporting the continental economy.

Beyond lawyers working in financial services, in August, the UK set out its position paper, ‘Providing a Cross-Border Civil Judicial Cooperation Framework’, to make sure we have as much legal continuity in the arrangements for the recognition and enforcement of judgments, insolvency jurisdiction and rules, small claims judgments and family law judgments.

This is important, for supply chains, business transactions and also family relationships, which all cross borders and all have resonance for people in their daily lives.

There is a wider corpus of private international law, which the UK could fall back on if necessary.

But, we want the optimum result, the win-win scenario of a deal with the EU that allows for us to continue our close and comprehensive cross border civil judicial cooperation.

From child custody arrangements to cross-border commercial claims, that is manifestly in both sides’ interests.

Seizing the Opportunities

So, yes, there are challenges that we need to mitigate and prepare for.

But there are even greater opportunities – and it is vital that we are decisive and seize them.

I agree with the Linklaters’ report, which is clear eyed about both the opportunities and challenges we face, that we now face a ‘unique’ opportunity to reinforce the rule of law.

The EU Withdrawal Bill will help guarantee a smooth and orderly Brexit, but it also delivers on the number one reason people voted to Leave the EU, which is to take back democratic control over our laws, so MPs like me are more accountable to voters for the decisions we make and the legislation we pass.

That is part of the social contract in this country.

It is absolutely fundamental to our democracy.

The Linklaters report also has some interesting ideas about improving scrutiny, and quality of law-making.

Certainly, as we make our way through the legislation that needs to be passed before the date of exit from the EU.

And we consider the changes we can make for the future, this should mark the moment, an opportunity if you like, for a democratic renaissance, both in terms of politicians’ ultimate accountability to the public for the laws that govern them, but also the quality of laws and the scrutiny that informs them.

In that respect, I think our approach to ending the direct jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice is not some procedural house-keeping exercise.

I am proud that we have a world-leading judiciary in this country.

I believe, both on principle and in terms of producing at a practical level, better quality judgments that maximise legal predictability for the citizens of the country, that the UK Supreme Court should have the last word on the laws of the land, it should do what it says on the tin, and it should be supreme in the meaningful sense.

And nor do I think it would make any sense to give the Luxembourg Court the crucial role of determining future international disputes that may arise between the UK and the EU after we leave.

As we have made clear in our position paper on dispute resolution, we need a process for dispute resolution that commands confidence on both sides.

So it would be, obviously I think, partisan and lop-sided to allow either the UK Supreme Court or the ECJ to decide those international disputes at the international level.

It would also by the way conflict with the overwhelming global practice in dispute resolution, including the EU’s own practice. If you look at the EU’s international agreements, and certainly there are none on free trade where the ECJ has compulsory jurisdiction to settle international disputes.

So as our position paper sets out, drawing on the EU practice, but thinking about the huge tapestry of global practice that there is out there, a typical international dispute resolution process might involve a panel of three arbitrators: one appointed by the UK, one appointed by the EU, and a third chosen by the other two.

There is a wealth of global practice to guide us in this area, so it is not beyond the wit of man to find a balanced approach to dispute settlement.

And, just as we take back democratic control at home, we are restless in government – and certainly for those who campaigned to leave, as I did – we are restless to project the United Kingdom’s global reach abroad.

I think that presents major opportunities for the UK legal sector.

UK legal services employ well over 300,000 people – two thirds of those are outside London.

UK law and British courts command respect right around the world.

The proof lies with the 200 foreign law firms from around 40 jurisdictions that are currently doing business here today, and the 27% of the world’s legal jurisdictions already using the English common law.

According to the 2015 International Arbitration Survey, London was the preferred location to resolve disputes. Last year, we had almost 26,000 disputes settled by alternative dispute resolution here in the UK.

It’s kind of ironic that for all the domestic haggling and wrangling on Brexit, we risk forgetting that internationally, Britain is the place people think of as the place they would most like to come to resolve their disputes. That is a unique comparative advantage for us.

And let’s not forget that all this commercial activity is not just good for business. Lawyers generated £31.5 billion of revenue profit in 2016, and the taxation from this goes to fund the local school and GP practice, so it’s got a huge social benefit as well as being important for employment and the economy.

So, legal services are a major comparative advantage for UK plc, and is a distinctive element of post-Brexit Britain’s USP.

As the Courts Minister, that’s one of the reasons why this government is investing over £1billion in court reform, Using technology to make our courts and wider justice system more efficient and effective, more sensitive for victims, but also is run in a simpler and more effective way and is also simpler for the parties to use in terms of litigation.

As part of that, last month, the City of London Corporation and HMCTS announced plans for a state of the art court in the Square Mile, hearing civil cases, but also developing our expertise in tackling fraud and cyber-crime.

Far from looking inward, our vision is to reinforce the UK as a global centre for business, the best place in the world to resolve disputes … the UK renowned not just for our economic competitiveness, but also for promoting the rule of law, and for doing business with integrity.

Equally, as we take advantage of the ability to forge our own distinct trade agenda, aside from the EU, There are far-reaching global opportunities for expanding the export of UK legal services. Free trade negotiations aren’t easy.

When I worked at the FCO for six years, I used to negotiate International Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements, including with Mexico and Iran under the Khatami administration.

At times, they could be tough going at times as any trade investment negotiations are.

But, we should embrace that challenge too, from China to South America, where we are ambitious to extend our market share in legal services.

In fact, the Ministry of Justice is already plugging our legal wares through the Britain is Great campaign, Promoting the expertise our law firms, Promoting UK law as the pre-eminent choice for regulating international business relationships, and spreading the word … that the UK is the most impartial, swift and reliable jurisdiction to come for settling international disputes.

Lord Keen my Ministerial colleague at the MoJ launched this campaign in Singapore in October, and we are taking that message to 168 countries around the world.

The ultimate goal is liberalisation in strategic overseas markets such as China and India, and Ministers are already in discussions with their counterparts in all of those places.

Sure, this will require a huge amount of hard graft, just as Edison described, but the opportunities are enormous and we must be confident and decisive in grasping them.

Conclusion

So let’s be clear-sighted about the challenges in the direction the British people have chosen. Let’s avoid those legal potholes – and certainly any talk of legal cliff edges – on the road that lies ahead.

But, as we responsibly seek to minimise legal risk, please … let’s not cower in the corner, afraid of our own shadow. Britain’s better than that.

Let’s work hard, and let’s work together …. across government, parliament, business, legal practitioners, NGOs…

And let’s grasp the enormous opportunities for post-Brexit Britain, for democratic renewal at home, for energetic free trade abroad … and for promoting our world-beating legal expertise from Rio to Shanghai … and everywhere in between.

David Gauke – 2017 Speech on 75th Anniversary of the Beveridge Report

Below is the text of the speech made by David Gauke, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, at the LSE in London on 8 December 2017.

Seventy-five years ago, in the depths of war, William Beveridge produced the report that became the foundation of the modern welfare state.

Seventy five years on, it is still at the centre of discussions on welfare. It is that rare thing – a government command paper which seized the imagination of the nation, and became a focus of hope for the post-war future.

The principles he set out – and the challenges he identified – remain an important part of the system we have today. Much has stood the test of time. But the world Beveridge knew has changed in some profoundly important ways.

We need to celebrate the strengths of the system we have, which day-in and day-out, provides essential support to millions of people.

But we need to be ready to think – as he did – about new solutions to new challenges. To test the system of today against the needs of tomorrow.

I will be arguing that the future welfare state must continue to hold work at its heart, while becoming ever more personalised and holistic, in order to meet the needs of future populations.

Above all, we need the confidence to change and adapt, to build a welfare system for the 2020s and 2030s – as Beveridge did for the 1940s and 1950s.

Beveridge’s principles

Beveridge wanted a system which was universal for those in work. He recognised, as we do today, that the state should provide support – but should never be the whole answer. He wrote:

The State should offer security for service and contribution. The State, in organising security, should not stifle incentive, opportunity, responsibility; in establishing a national minimum, it should leave room and encouragement for voluntary action by each individual to provide more than the minimum for himself and his family.

And those words also remind us that Beveridge’s system was fundamentally based on contributions – it was, above all, a national insurance system.

Beveridge in practice

Beveridge’s proposals were hugely popular. I can tell you with some confidence that a policy with 86% popular support, and only 6% opposition, is one of which politicians’ dreams are made.

But political and economic realities intrude even on the most popular of policies. The post-war welfare state differed in some important ways from Beveridge’s vision. The country never got the contributory system that he quite envisaged.

It would have been politically unacceptable to defer the introduction of the new retirement pensions until the contributory fund had matured, necessitating the pay-as-you-go approach we still see today. We have always had a national insurance system in name only; since its foundation, it has been supplemented by taxpayers.

Perhaps more fundamentally, Beveridge didn’t, and probably couldn’t have anticipated, the profound social and economic changes of the second half of the last century.

75 years on

Seventy-five years on, the social, economic and political context has been transformed.

Real disposable income per head has almost quadrupled.

Life expectancy at birth has risen by almost 15 years.

Life expectancy at age 65 has risen by over 8 years.

Child mortality has fallen from over 55 per 1,000 live births in 1931, to just 3.7 by 2015.

And the proportion of people who own their homes has more than doubled.

Those changes are closely linked to changes in patterns of employment.

Today, more than 70% of women are in work – up from just over a quarter in 1939.

Fifteen percent of all workers are now self-employed – almost double what it was in 1950. A further 4% are estimated to work in the gig economy – something which did not exist a decade ago.

And there has been increasing recognition in recent decades of the need to support people in low-paid work, in addition to those who are without work altogether.

So the context for welfare has moved a long way since Beveridge, as have our expectations of it.

So, where are we now?

Our vision for welfare is one with work at its heart.

One that is personalised, using professional work coaches and modern digital tools to provide tailored, holistic support.

One which recognises and supports progression within work, as well as the initial move into work.

And one which balances that support with clear expectations of the claimant.

The new contributory principle

Beveridge’s principles, however, remain a good starting place for thinking about the modern welfare system. He recognised the importance of putting something in, as well as taking something out.

His was fundamentally a contributory system: you were insured because you paid your stamp – quite literally for many people. That’s still true today – though the stamps are long gone.

But our expectation now is that people also contribute in a broader sense – where they are able to do so.

That may be by looking for work.

It may be by building-up hours in work.

It may be by developing skills and earning potential.

We have a right to expect people to support themselves whenever they can, and to the full extent of their capability.

We have built these expectations into the Claimant Commitment, where welfare recipients agree to a specific set of actions to ensure that they move towards and enter work. The Commitment – and the work-focused approach behind it – is in fact the embodiment of the new contributory principle.

In other words, for many, the financial support provided by benefits is conditional upon demonstrating their determination to eventually support themselves from their own earnings.

But at the same time, we also recognise that some people will always need support from the state, and from society as a whole.

Welfare attributes

A modern welfare system should support aspiration, helping people to fulfil their potential.

It should be focused on work, enabling success in the labour market.

It should be based on evidence, continuously learning and building on the approaches that achieve its aims.

It should be both affordable and sustainable, supporting economic growth.

And it should be personalised. People are not all the same – they have different needs. So we should offer different support, with tailored expectations that reflect individual circumstances.

This mirrors changes in the wider environment. We increasingly expect personalised services in other aspects of our lives. We should expect no less of our welfare system.

Because, of course, welfare always operates within a wider economic and social context. Beveridge designed his welfare system for the world of his time, and we must do the same for ours.

Future challenges

We are now facing the challenge of what some have called the fourth industrial revolution.

The first industrial revolution harnessed the power of water and steam for mechanisation. The second brought electric power and increasing mass production. The third was about automation driven by computers.

And now the fourth heralds the arrival of a range of new technologies, which bring both great opportunities and enormous changes.

Each of the first 3 revolutions brought huge increases in productivity and in standards of living. We are immeasurably better off because of them.

But each of those revolutions also disrupted many people’s lives. Jobs which had looked secure from generation to generation vanished – sometimes with great speed. Each revolution has created many more jobs than it destroyed – but that does not mean that it was always easy for those affected.

The fourth industrial revolution brings the same challenges, and the same opportunities.

We are already seeing impacts on the pattern of jobs, as well as their content. The gig economy matches people and tasks much more dynamically than we have been used to. Communications technology allows people to access services not just here, but from the other side of the world.

There is a real opportunity though – as Matthew Taylor has argued in his report to the Prime Minister – to focus on ‘good work’. Work organised to be fulfilling in itself, as an enriching part of our lives.

We need increasingly skilled workers to deliver increasing value – for themselves, for their employers, and for the wider economy.

And good employers know how to unlock that value by investing in their people through training and development – and by being flexible in helping employees manage the balance between their work and wider lives.

Every past industrial revolution has created jobs which were unimagined – and unimaginable – from the perspective of the old world. In 1900, 13% of the workforce was employed in agriculture. That proportion is now 1%. But we are not surrounded by unemployed farm workers. The descendants of those farm labourers of a century ago work in an economy with unemployment at historically low levels, doing jobs their great-great-grandparents could not have dreamed of.

The transition will undoubtedly be challenging. For some, it will be personally stressful and painful. For others it will be a time of enormous new opportunities. But I strongly believe that the fourth industrial revolution will deliver the same positive step change in our collective wealth and wellbeing that resulted from the first 3.

We need new technologies to be spread more widely, in order to improve productivity and make jobs better. Our mission is to best position the workforce to take advantage of these new opportunities. Automation promises to liberate us from dull, dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs – to free us to work with technology to create new products, new work, and new roles – the like of which we have yet to imagine.

The fourth industrial revolution presents so many new opportunities. In our Industrial Strategy, we set our sights on making the UK a global centre for artificial Intelligence and data-driven innovation. We are determined that this country should be among the world leaders in adopting the next generation of technology. And we are determined that everyone should benefit from the changes it brings.

Universal Basic Income isn’t the answer

Of course, there is an alternative, gloomy view: that the future will be worse, that work will wither away. That a significant proportion of the workforce will become effectively unemployable, and that others will live in fear that their job will be next to go.

This leads some to conclude that the most we can do is pay out cash to everyone to compensate for this state of affairs. In other words, a Universal Basic Income.

The more positive case, I suppose, is that technology does the work, and we humans can relax and enjoy ever greater leisure time.

There’s a seeming simplicity in having no forms to fill in, no conditionality, no jobcentre to go to, no one trying to advise you. The security of knowing that you would have a stable, predictable income, indefinitely, without effort.

I have to say I am far from convinced. The arguments against a Universal Basic Income are formidable; in my view, technological and economic change is making the case weaker, not stronger. Some jobs will disappear. But work will not.

Work matters now and will matter in the future. Not just because of the income it provides, but because of the place that it gives people in society. Work can give the worker self-respect, dignity, and the confidence that they are involved, that they are contributing – that what they do matters.

We cannot give up on this.

Those receiving support have a right to expect that the government will be helping them to find work and to adapt to economic change. That is not something to be ashamed of.

A Universal Basic Income would be a retreat from the future. It would mean that we give up on this effort, that we give people a hand-out, not a hand-up.

And we shouldn’t give up on the principle of something for something. Those who can contribute, should do so.

I have talked about the importance Beveridge attached to contributions, and how we have carried that principle forward into the modern welfare system.

Payments are conditional on making a contribution – either financial, or in terms of effort to get into the labour market.

An unconditional Universal Basic Income is completely at odds with that principle.

It requires that hard-working people subsidise those who have chosen not to work. That there is no need to contribute. And human nature being what it is, we should be concerned at the prospect of legitimising the decision to simply to opt out, creating whole communities of workless dependents.

Moreover, a true universal income is – by definition – poorly targeted. The same payment, given to everyone, will not take account of disability or caring responsibilities.

It requires that we ignore the specific needs of those who most deserve our collective support.

An affordable basic income would be inadequate, and a basic income that’s adequate for all would be unaffordable.

Major welfare reforms

I have already said that the future lies in support that is increasingly tailored to the needs of the individual, not a crude single-serving for everyone. It should help the working-age population to make the most of a changing economy, not turn away from it.

This approach is already underpinning the reforms that we have introduced since 2010.

Take Universal Credit.

Universal Credit reinforces the huge practical advantages of a single, integrated support system.

It is designed so that support is withdrawn gradually, as people become more self-sufficient. The transition from unemployment into work is no longer abrupt, with far less financial disruption and uncertainty.

And it is designed to help people progress further once they are working.

It is no surprise that poverty rates are higher in families where no-one works full time. This is why we must continue to use Universal Credit, to support more people, in more households, to work full-time where they are able to do so.

A similar situation arises for those who are self-employed but on low pay. Again, we must use our integrated system to help people build-up to greater self-sufficiency.

Our pensions reforms – and our approach to Fuller Working Lives – demonstrate our response to the need to adapt – in this case, to an ageing society.

Auto-enrolment has used behavioural science to increase the number of people saving into workplace pensions.

The steps to introduce the new State Pension, and to end contracting-out, have also let people know what they can expect from the state.

This means that we are getting the right balance between the contributions people make during their working lives, and the support they receive in later life.

These measures have simplified the pensions saving journey for individuals; a clearer offer from the state allows people to plan and save for their retirement more easily, with more certainty.

Looking to the future

Implementing these current reforms is at the heart of my role. But it is also important to think about where we will go next.

Our relentless focus on helping people to get into work has delivered results. When unemployment fell to 5% early last year, many people thought it couldn’t get much lower, and yet it now stands at 4.3%.

This achievement should not make us lose sight of the need to support people still further, especially those on low incomes, to get into work and progress once in work.

We know that the jobs of the future will be different. So we should help people to benefit from the new opportunities that the coming change will bring. People will need to gain new skills to secure meaningful and productive employment throughout their lives.

In the Budget we announced a unique partnership between employers, unions and government – a new National Retraining Scheme to help people adjust to the changing world of work.

We also know that new ways of working can enable those with caring responsibilities to work flexibly, and those with health conditions to stay in work. We should seize these new possibilities too.

It means we need to build on a work coach’s ability to connect with people – to provide encouragement and support, build resilience, and develop potential. Just last week I announced a new programme of mental health awareness training for work coaches, in order to further these aims.

New technology will provide us with additional opportunities. Increased automation, machine learning and big data will provide ways of tailoring our services.

This offers huge potential to improve the customer experience, identify those most in need of help, and to successfully target the important support that only work coaches can provide. We are exploring new ways of providing support online, using a ‘test and learn’ approach to see how people respond, and making adjustments as we go along.

We are also testing new data sources, including online vacancy data. This data has the potential to help us to understand changing job and skill demands, enabling us to better signpost people to the opportunities that are out there.

We are also learning from other countries. Just this week my officials met their Dutch and Belgian counterparts. They shared insights, and built on their pioneering use of data to identify those people who need different kinds of support, so it can be better targeted towards them.

In early 2018 we will publish our Areas of Research Interest, to increase collaboration with academics in putting evidence at the heart of our decisions.

Public expectations are changing. Our own data tells us that people access their online benefit claim accounts 24 hours a day. In the rest of our lives, we are all coming to expect services – from online shopping to social media – that respond and develop to suit us and our lifestyles. The welfare state needs to be able to keep up.

We must not forget, though, that we also need to do more to support those who face the greatest barriers to work, including people with disabilities; mental health issues; lone parents with young children, and others with caring responsibilities; and those experiencing several barriers in the same household.

We will explore how to improve access to occupational health services, as well as improving interaction between people and health and welfare services

We are keen to make the best use of technology which can provide crucial support to removing barriers to work.

We will support and encourage employers to confidently recruit and retain those with health conditions.

Most importantly, we will continue to build our offer of personalised employment support.

Beyond Beveridge

More personal, more tailored, more holistic. That is the welfare state that I envisage.

Over the 75 years since Beveridge produced his report, the welfare system has constantly adapted to changing circumstances, to new priorities and to expectations.

Today’s welfare state, work, economy and society all look vastly different from those of the 1940s. The fourth industrial revolution brings with it fresh new challenges.

The best welfare systems help to ensure that societies can embrace change.

To enable people to make the most of the opportunities created by a new and fast-moving economy.

To build on new technologies to improve the support we give.

To keep hold of the principle of support for those who need it, in exchange for a commitment to contribute.

And to keep work at its heart – adapting to help those who can, while supporting those who can’t.

If we are optimistic about the future, as Beveridge was; if we take the opportunities presented by a changing world, as Beveridge did; then we can look forward to the next 75 years with confidence.

Brandon Lewis – 2017 Speech to CBI Wales

Below is the text of the speech made by Brandon Lewis, the Minister of State for Immigration, at the CBI Wales dinner in Cardiff on 7 December 2017.

Noswaith dda, a diolch am y croeso cynnes heno.

I would like to begin by thanking you for inviting me to speak here this evening, and for your warm welcome.

It is great to be here again be in Wales – the country of Saint David, T. E. Lawrence, Tom Jones, David Lloyd George – and hard as it is for me to admit – better than average rugby.

And it is a pleasure to be addressing you in such a beautiful building, in the heart of this wonderful city.

The design of Cardiff City Hall was inspired by English and French Renaissance architecture, but opened during the Edwardian period, when Cardiff’s prosperity from the coal industry was at its height.

The Renaissance was a period of history that is widely regarded as the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages and modern Europe; a period that inspired centuries of creativity and intellectual thought across Europe, and one that many believe defined what it is to be European.

And so what an appropriate building in which to be talking to you this evening, as we look to build a positive and special future relationship with the European Union, focussing on the businesses and industries that make the United Kingdom – including Wales – a thriving place to live.

It is in this spirit of new beginnings that we should look to our future relationship with the EU – a spirit of promise, ambition and opportunity.

The people of the UK, including a majority here in Wales, have voted to leave the EU, and for many, this is an exciting time full of potential and prosperity.

We have been clear that, as the UK Government, it is our responsibility, ambition and belief that we will get the best possible deal for the whole country, as we build our new and special partnership with the EU.

Our challenge is to navigate our exit from the EU with cool heads, and with a sense of innovation and ambition.

We want to get the best outcome for every individual who lives in the UK, every sector of our economy, and for every nation of our United Kingdom – none more so than here in Wales.

Importance of CBI Wales

The CBI in Wales plays a crucial role in representing the business voice across Wales, ensuring that it is heard around the United Kingdom and beyond.

Your membership plays a vital role in feeding into the work that both my department and the UK Government as a whole is doing – and we hugely value your views and input as we navigate this period of opportunity and challenge.

We understand that the UK’s decision to leave the EU brings challenges for businesses, and we want to be clear that we are considering how this change will impact the whole of the UK economy.

My colleague David Davis stood here last year and addressed you all – and I want to build on the message he gave then.

He made clear the crucial role that Wales will play as we make a success of our departure from the EU. And since he spoke, the UK Government has gone on to scrap the Severn Tolls, secured a new daily flight to Qatar and is working to add more companies like Aston Martin to the growing cluster of companies looking to invest in Wales.

We are demonstrating an open, cross border commitment to the future of Wales outside the European Union. I pay credit to my close colleague Alun Cairns, Secretary of State for Wales, in making sure the voice of Wales – guided by you – is heard around the cabinet table.

As leaders of industry here in Wales, I would like to ask for your help:

– help us to write this new and exciting chapter in our country’s history

– help us to understand how to get the best deal for businesses in Wales and the UK

– help us by projecting confidence and ambition about what lies ahead
EU nationals in the Welsh economy

For the UK economy is fundamentally strong, and there are more people in work across the UK than ever before.

In Wales alone, there are more than 1.4 million people in work; in the past few months unemployment in Wales has fallen to a record low; and has more than halved since 2010.

Exports are worth almost £16 billion a year, and Wales has been the fastest growing part of the economy per head outside London since 2010.

There are currently more than 79,000 EU citizens living in Wales, the majority of whom are working in key economic sectors, public services or higher education institutions – and contributing greatly to Welsh culture and society.

I understand that a number of business sectors across Wales are ones where there is a significant representation of migrant workers: for example tourism in North Wales, as well as manufacturing and construction.

EU migrants in Wales have a higher employment rate than the working age population as a whole – 79 per cent of working age EU migrants in Wales are in employment, compared to 71 per cent of the total working age population.

This is similar to the pattern across the rest of the UK, and we understand the need for these key sectors of the economy to have access to the necessary workforce once the UK leaves the EU.

That is why the UK Government is committed to creating opportunities across the whole of the UK, with businesses in Wales – quite rightly – at the forefront of this ambition.

We are committed to ensuring we remain an attractive option for those with the skills and expertise across all sectors of our economy, and who play an invaluable role in making the United Kingdom and Wales better still.

We have been clear that after we leave the EU, we want to strike a balance between attracting the brightest and best to work and study in Britain, and controlling immigration from the EU in the national interest, thereby delivering on the will of the British people in June last year.

The Government understands that this is a time of great change, and we want to provide clarity going forward – both on those who are here now, and those who we want to come here to Wales in the future.

Status of EU Citizens’ rights

As you know, we are in the process of negotiating our withdrawal agreement with the EU, and the Prime Minister has been clear that it is her first priority to ensure that the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK – as well as those UK citizens living in the EU – can carry on their lives as before.

We will continue to recognise the valuable contribution migrants make to our society and will remain an open and tolerant country, welcoming those with the skills and expertise to support our businesses and industries.

As the Prime Minister emphasised in her speech in Florence, and again in her recent open letter to EU citizens, we greatly value the contribution that EU citizens make to our national life – and we want them and their families to stay.

I have personally spoken to many European citizens who are understandably concerned about their future in the UK.

These are people who have made a hugely positive impact on the social, economic and cultural fabric of our country, including Wales. We know that they bring with them ideas, innovation and skills which are relied upon by our employers and businesses; from aviation to hospitality, from tech to tourism.

The Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and I have repeatedly been clear that those EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.

Of course, these initiatives are taking place in the context of negotiating our exit from the EU. As Immigration Minister, I recognise both the challenges and opportunities this presents.

You will have seen the widespread media coverage of the talks in Brussels over the past few days.

The UK and the Commission have held positive talks, and we have made good progress but there are some final issues to resolve.

As the Prime Minister and President Juncker have said, both sides are confident we will conclude this positively ahead of the December European Council.

We know that our relationship with our European partners is set to change, and our exit from the EU marks a critical period in the history of this relationship.

But we want to retain the deep and special partnership that we enjoy today, and I am confident that together we can forge a brighter, better future for Wales, the UK and the EU.

Future ‘settled status’ scheme

But I also recognise concerns some individuals have about how the agreement will be implemented: that the process will be over-complicated and bureaucratic; that it will throw up hurdles that are difficult to overcome.

I want to provide some much-needed reassurance here:

– we have committed to provide an application system that is as simple and user-friendly as possible, and we are developing it with the individual user in mind

– we have committed to minimise the burden of documentary evidence required to prove eligibility

– we have committed to a 2-year period after our exit for people to apply, and the Home Office will work with applicants to help them avoid any errors or omissions

– we have committed to keep the cost as low as possible, with the fee not exceeding the cost of a British passport

– for those who already hold an EU permanent residence document, there will be a simple process to exchange this for a settled status document – charged at a reduced or no fee

– we have committed to engage with users every step of the way – which is why we have set up a new user group for this scheme;

– and we are also engaging with representatives of EU citizens to ensure the process meets their needs

I am confident that our approach to the design and development of the scheme, as well as the eventual outcome, will be well received by you in business and industry.

But most importantly – it will be straightforward for those who use it.

Since the result of the referendum, we as a Government have been clear that our top priority is securing the status of those EU citizens living in the UK and Wales, and UK nationals living in the EU.

And this extends to businesses and communities too, as we understand the need for certainty around access to the workforce you need.

We hope that our offer will provide this reassurance to both individuals and you as their employers – that this part of your workforce will be able to stay permanently and carry on exactly as before.

Future immigration system

But we also understand your concern that businesses in Wales and across the UK will still be able to access the skills and labour they need in the future to deliver growth.

We will be setting out our proposals for the UK’s future immigration system shortly.

And we will introduce an Immigration Bill in the new year.

But I want to use this opportunity this evening to emphasise some core principles of the new scheme.

There will be a smooth transition. I recognise the importance of providing certainty, and clearly business and public services should only have to plan for a single set of changes.

That is why the Prime Minister has made clear that there will be an implementation period of around two years, providing this certainty for business and individuals, and ensuring no cliff edge.

During this period, access to one another’s markets should continue on current terms and Britain should continue to take part in existing security measures.

People will continue to be able to come and live and work in Wales; but there will be a registration system – which is an essential preparation for the future system.

Going forward, we will make decisions about the future arrangements following discussions with stakeholders, including with the EU, and based on evidence.

That is why we have commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee to report on the impact of the UK’s exit for the EU, and how the UK’s immigration system should be aligned with our modern industrial strategy.

The Migration Advisory Committee will provide a clear opportunity for businesses and employers – such as yourselves and others in Wales –to express views that will play a vital role in the decisions we make about our future immigration system.

Although the committee’s initial call for evidence has now closed, they will continue to engage with organisations.

I also appreciate that different sectors and regions of the UK will feel they have different needs – which is why our commission to the MAC will allow us to get a richer understanding and develop a future system that seeks to work for everyone, applying as much to Wales as every other part of our country.

In addition, the Government is speaking with businesses like those represented here tonight, industry, trades unions and many others to ensure we strike the right balance between keeping our future immigration arrangements in the national interest, and ensuring the UK remains open to the talent we need from Europe and the rest of the world.

Conclusion

So as we look to the future, I want to stress the importance of working together, under the shared ambition to secure the best possible outcome for Welsh businesses, industry and communities.

As we take back control of our immigration system by ending freedom of movement under EU law, I want to stress that we do not want to end immigration from the EU.

The UK Government greatly values the incredible contribution that EU citizens make to the UK economy, and we want to continue to attract the best and the brightest to make all four parts of our country better still.

It is only with your help and support that we will ensure the whole UK – with Wales at its heart – remains a hub for industrial excellence and a great place to open and run a business.

Together, we can make this ambition a reality and build a whole United Kingdom fit for the future – with Wales leading the way.

Thank you.

Diolch yn fawr. Mwynhewch y noson.

Tracey Crouch – 2017 Speech on Sport

Below is the text of the speech made by Tracey Crouch, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society, on 5 December 2017.

Thank you for inviting me here today and giving me the opportunity to speak on an issue that I know many of you here share my passion for – sport and physical activity and how we can all collectively work together to tackle inactivity and the associated problems.

I want to start by paying tribute to the work of local authorities in delivering sports and leisure services.

I recognise that this is a difficult time for Local Authorities and that tough decisions are having to be made in terms of services delivered due to challenging financial circumstances.

The vast majority of sporting activity in this country is delivered at a local level and it is extremely important that this support continues.

But I also know that many of you will argue on a regular basis with your finance directors as to why investment in sport and leisure is needed at a time when every other directorate may have what seems like a stronger hand.

The truth is that investment in leisure not only can reduce the burden on more expensive budgets but it also builds and bonds communities, and helps tackle social problems, hidden or otherwise, that can quietly eat away at the core of society until it is too late.

It is for this reason that when I looked at rewriting the Sports Strategy we looked to local government and DCLG first to get initial thoughts. How you deliver what we wanted for the next ten years was going to be key. When I did media straight after one of the recurring questions was but government has cut local authority budgets…but my answer was always good local authorities get it. They get why this is important. And yes of course it may be delivered differently across the country, that is what local government is about, but not tackling inactivity by not providing sport and leisure services in an accessible and affordable way only stores up more expensive problems for councils down the road.

Your agenda today deals with much of this so I won’t repeat what they will say and instead outline some of the key points from the Sports Strategy, two years old next week.

The Sports Strategy was not about getting the active more active. Instead it stressed the importance of getting the inactive, active, and set out a new vision for a successful and active sporting nation.

It marked a big shift in the way we think about promoting, supporting and investing in sport and physical activity. It emphasised that we as a government, and a country, need to think more broadly about the benefits that getting active can bring.

We set out 5 key outcomes that we want to strive towards and that we want to see delivered in return for government support and investment. These were: * physical wellbeing; * mental wellbeing; * individual development; * social and community development; and * economic development.

I’m committed to making sure that these outcomes drive everything we do, and I’m pleased with how government and the sport and physical activity sector has responded to the challenge so far.

So what have we achieved?

On physical wellbeing Sport England has committed to spending at least a quarter of its total budget on tackling inactivity.

Sport England will be devoting much of its focus to supporting those groups who have been traditionally underrepresented to get more active.

For example, their Active Ageing Fund will invest up to £10 million into projects that help inactive older people get active.

Their Tackling Inactivity and Economic Disadvantage Fund is investing £3 million to support inactive people from lower socio-economic groups.

And their Tackling Inactivity in Colleges programme will invest £5 million in 49 colleges across England to help students be more active.

We’ve sought to tackle what people often feel is an artificial distinction between sport and physical activity. Not everyone likes the idea of playing sport. It provides an automatic barrier to many either because they think it is about getting sweaty or muddy or uber competitive. Or maybe people think they are too old for sport. Or not interested in team activities. But physical activity is different. Take what many of you already invest in – the health walks. I went on one locally and not a single person thought they were doing sport but through their hour long walk they were certainly doing something active and their physical well being was vastly improved as a consequence.

What matters is that people are getting active in a way that suits them and that makes them more likely to continue being active in future.

Mental wellbeing, the second outcome we are aiming to achieve with our strategy, is just as important as physical wellbeing.

And funding is already going to organisations that show they can best deliver this outcome, for example Sport England have invested a significant amount of government and National Lottery funding in mental health projects such as Mind’s Get Set to Go programme.

Get Set to Go has supported over 3,500 people to become active in local communities, and trained over 300 coaches and leaders in mental health awareness for sport and physical activity.

We encourage sports and mental health organisations to continue to work together to drive work in this area, improving mental health through sport and physical activity and changing lives for the better.

In terms of the third and fourth outcomes of our strategy, the impact sport and physical activity can have on individual and community development is significant.

We know there is a great deal of excellent work going on locally to demonstrate the impact of sport and physical activity.

I have seen the results first hand visiting a number of projects across the country which are using physical activity and sport to bring communities together and engage those who are less likely to be active.

For example I recently visited a project in Milton Keynes called MK SNAP, which is using sport and physical activity to help those with learning difficulties. Activities like yoga are really making a difference to improve the quality of the participants’ lives.

I have visited Active Norfolk’s Mobile Me project focusing on over 65s. It is designed to address barriers to participation identified by this age group, and take physical activity interventions into sheltered housing and residential care homes.

I’ve also been to Crawley Old Girls, a female football development group organised by the Crawley Town Community Foundation and the Football League Trust Female Football Development Programme.

Weekly sessions are held for women aged 40 and over, who have an interest and passion for football and who may not have had the opportunity to participate before.

And in Worcester I met Disability Sport Worcester, who specialise in creating and running sporting events, clubs and activities for children and adults with disabilities.

Of course, sport is also a significant contributor to the UK economy – and economic impact is the fifth of our key outcomes I referred to earlier. I see you have an agenda item later today about how sport can boost the visitor economy. I can’t stay for the session but I can give you a little nationwide taster…

In the UK, sport was valued at £35 billion in terms of Gross Value Added in 2015.

And as well as major events, grassroots sport contributes hugely too. People who follow sporting trends and buy the latest gear or purchase gym memberships also play their part.

It is important that we continue to build and capitalise on the economic growth of the sector.

However, there is still plenty of work to do in order to fully implement all of the actions set out in Sporting Future and the role for Local Authorities in delivering sport provision will continue to be crucial.

Local Authorities are the biggest public sector investor in sport and physical activity, spending over £1bn a year.

Your understanding and knowledge of communities is vital in targeting opportunities to encourage participation and designing services to suit.

You also have responsibilities that span wider policy areas which can have a significant impact on the physical activity of the local population, including management of rights of way, parks and other green spaces.

With increasingly devolved funding and opportunities for place based working we are keen to see innovative ways of engaging communities in sport and physical activity.

We must make sure that all investment into sporting and leisure facilities is well considered and provides an offer that is demand-based and led by the needs of the customer. We are working closely with Sport England and ukactive on their proposal to co-locate community services with sport and leisure facilities to encourage more people to participate in sport and physical activity.

I am keen that we continue to drive the development of local solutions to inactivity, with ideas like this.

With this in mind, it is my great pleasure to announce that 12 areas have now been confirmed as the Sport England Local Delivery Pilots. The full list is being published this morning but includes Bradford, Essex, Doncaster and Withernsea.

The aim of these pilots is to trial new and innovative ways of increasing participation in sport and physical activity at the local level and to make sure that this increase is sustained over time.

It’s about whole system change involving all local agencies, including small third sector organisations that work in the heart of these often disadvantaged communities we need to reach.

Sport England will be investing up to 100 million pounds over the next four years across these 12 areas to support this ambition. They will also be investing staff resource in working with the pilot areas.

This is going to be a huge challenge. We know that too often, investment in a particular project or place can yield a short term result but that as soon as the money stops, the gains can fade.

We want these pilots to be different.

We must make sure that we learn from the pilots, that we scale up what works in other areas and that we learn from what does not work so well.

The areas chosen as pilots include a good mix of urban, rural and coastal areas and a good geographic spread. This is deliberate, and will help the sharing and scaling up of learning across different areas.

This is a long term programme and Sport England will be working closely with these areas over the next four years.

We are not going to see results overnight, however this is a very important step in the right direction and Sport England will be monitoring progress carefully, as will I.

So in conclusion I would like to again take this opportunity to thank all of you for the huge part you already play in getting the nation active and I look forward to working with you to ensure Sporting Future is fully implemented and embedded in every community across the country. It is not going to all work overnight but with the right strategic direction in place and the will and enthusiasm of people like you I genuinely believe we can deliver the outcome of creating a fitter healthier nation for years to come.

Nick Gibb – 2017 Speech on Reading

Below is the text of the speech made by Nick Gibb, the Minister of State for School Standards, on 5 December 2017.

Teaching children to read is the key to unlocking human potential. It is the cornerstone of education. Infinite worlds are laid at our feet; from Charles Dickens’s portrayal of ambition and lost values in 19th century England in ‘Great Expectations’ to Ishiguro’s subtle portrayal of repression in the dying days of Britain’s great houses in ‘The Remains of the Day’.

Reading emancipates us from the everyday. It liberates us to pursue our interests in non-fiction and it introduces us to the great heroes and anti-heroes of the ages. Through the canon, we are invited into the conversation of humankind.

From musing the plight of the human condition to learning about the majesty of space-science, reading is the foundation from which we build knowledge.

That is why improving literacy has been at the heart of the government’s drive to improve standards in England’s schools. One of the most controversial education reforms introduced by the Conservative-led Government in 2010 was our decision to require schools to use phonics to teach children to read.

In the years just before we came into government in 2010, we knew something was wrong with the way our primary schools taught reading; England was stagnating in the international league tables. The international data also showed a wider gap between top and bottom performers than in most other countries. England was well known for its ‘long tail of underachievement’.

I vividly recall visiting classrooms around the country where pupils were being failed; too many were unable to read. Effectively, locked out of achieving their potential. This was not through lack of effort from them or their teachers, but because of a dogmatic romanticism that prevented the spread of evidence-based teaching practices.

Those who stood in the way of evidence-based phonics reaching England’s classrooms are responsible for stifling human potential and negatively affecting the life chances of countless children.

We are the only OECD nation where literacy is no better amongst the 16-24 year olds than amongst the over 55s. What more stark statistic could there be to exemplify the damage dogmatists have inflicted on our education system?

Prior to our reforms, schools were using variations of a method called ‘look and say’ to teach reading, in which children encountered frequently used words over and over again until they were recognised automatically. Where schools were using phonics they were mixing and matching with these other methods, which significantly inhibited its effectiveness. Contextual clues encouraging children to guess at words – rather than sound them out – were widely encouraged, breaking the link between the alphabetic code and spoken language.

The theory was that this was an easier way to learn to read than learning the 44 sounds of the alphabet and how to blend them into words. In reality, there was no evidence to support the ‘look and say’ approach; it was simply in keeping with the philosophical opposition to formal instruction, which was so ubiquitous in teacher training colleges and education faculties.

The trouble was that this method was letting down too many children, particularly the least able. Decades of evidence from around the world – including the influential longitudinal study from Clackmannanshire in Scotland – pointed to systematic phonics as the most effective way to teach children to read.

Phonics teaches children to sound out words sound by sound and then ‘blend’ these sounds together, unlocking the code of written English.

When we came into office in 2010, therefore, one of the first things we did was to strengthen the National Curriculum, explicitly requiring schools to teach reading using phonics. We funded training and phonics materials and books for schools. And, most controversial of all, we introduced a test for all six-year-olds, called the Phonics Screening Check.

This test consists of a list of 40 words that the child reads to their teacher. Half the words are ordinary words and the other half are made up ‘pseudo-words’, which are demarcated by a cartoon alien so that children are not confused by these unfamiliar words. The inclusion of these pseudo-words is important, as it is impossible to guess how to pronounce them, ensuring children have been taught to decode words using phonics rather than learning words by sight.

In 2012, the first year of the Phonics Check, just 58% of six-year-olds reached the pass mark of 32 out of the 40. This year, 81% of six year olds reached that standard, with 92% of children reaching that standard by the end of year 2.

Reading is the fundamental building block to a successful education. Securing the mechanical ability to translate the hieroglyphics of letters on the page into words is a necessary component to achieving fluency in reading; allowing children to build their speed of reading, their comprehension and to develop a joy and habit of reading for pleasure.

And this is not an un-evidenced assertion. This is a statement backed up by decades of research. Consider the conclusions from the longitudinal study carried out in Clackmannanshire:

– Improvements in word reading had grown from 7 months ahead of chronological age in Primary 1 to 3 and a half years in Primary 7;

– A similar gain was seen in spelling, with pupils increasing their advantage over the expected chronological age following the use of systematic synthetic phonics, bucking the trend for the effects of education interventions to ‘wash out’ over time; and

– Reading comprehension scores were still significantly above the expected standard for chronological age by the end of primary school.

Extraordinarily – despite all of the evidence in favour of phonics – we faced opposition from various lobby groups: those opposed to testing; those professors of education who had built a career on teaching teachers to use the ‘look and say’ approach; and the teaching unions.

We pressed on nonetheless, confident in the evidence base and encouraged by the thousands of teachers who had embraced and supported this method of teaching children to read and who could see the results in their classrooms.

Today, we received the first set of international evidence that confirms that our approach is working. The international study of 9-year-olds’ reading ability in 50 countries showed that England has risen from joint 10th place in 2011 to joint 8th place in 2016, thanks to a statistically significant rise in our average score.

Perhaps most importantly of all, today’s results show reading has improved for pupils from all backgrounds, but it is the low-performing pupils who are gaining most rapidly. The tide is rising, but it is rising fastest for those who need it most.

Slowly, but surely – thanks to the government’s relentless focus on rigour – England is dealing with the ‘long tail of underachievement.’

The pupils who took part in the international survey were the first cohort to have taken the Phonics Screening Check in 2012; the cohort to have been taught to read after we changed the law requiring schools to use phonics.

The details of these findings are particularly interesting; I hope they ring in the ears of opponents of phonics whose alternative proposals would do so much to damage reading instruction in this country and around the world.

For example, the data is clear on the role that the phonics reforms played in these results:

The characteristics that were most strongly predictive of PIRLS performance included prior achievement in the Year 1 Phonics Check, followed by resources at home, both in terms of educational resources (e.g. the number of books the pupil has in their home) and socioeconomic status (as determined by historical free-school-meal eligibility).

Teaching children to decode is crucial to reading comprehension. And the detail of the relationship between pupil scores on the Phonics Screening Check and pupil scores in the PIRLS tests bring this to life:

Pupils who scored full marks in the phonics check were also the highest scoring group in PIRLS 2016, with an average overall PIRLS score of 617. In contrast, pupils who did not reach the ‘expected standard’ in the phonics check (score below 32) performed below England’s overall average, with lower phonics check scores being associated with increasingly lower average PIRLS scores.

These results are stark. They stand in defiance to those who still choose to ignore the evidence.

But the argument of those opposing the use of phonics has always relied more heavily on emotion than evidence. For years, proponents of evidence-based approaches to reading have been wrongly accused of making children ‘bark at text’, ignoring the importance of reading for meaning and damaging pupil confidence and love of reading.

Whilst the evidence from the PIRLS data demonstrates that phonics has improved reading comprehension levels, there is also data that dispels their other tawdry myths about pupil confidence:

A higher percentage of pupils in England were categorised as being ‘very confident’ readers (53%) compared to the international average (45%). Pupil confidence in reading was strongly associated with average performance in PIRLS, with the most confident readers in England scoring over 100-points more than those who reported the lowest levels of confidence.

These results are a vindication of the government’s boldness in pursuing the evidence in the face of ideological criticism. They are a tribute to the hard work and dedication of primary teachers who have quietly revolutionised the way children are taught to read in this country. And they promise even more in the future.

The 5000 nine-year-olds in England who took part in this international study in 2016, all took the Phonics Check in 2012 when just 58% passed nationally. Future international studies will be of children taught even more effectively as the proportion passing the Phonics Check has risen steadily year on year.

This year, thanks to the government’s continued drive for phonics, 154,000 more 6 year olds were on track to be fluent readers than in 2012. Last year, 147,000 more 6 year olds were on track than in 2012. In 2015, that figure was 120,000. These numbers show the trend, but every single one of them is an individual child given a better start to their education.

They show that the government is building a Britain fit for the future, where every child is afforded the best start in life.

And they are a reminder of the damage that can be caused when dogma flies in the face of the evidence.

Slowly but surely, the education sector and the teaching profession are embracing evidence and raising academic standards for all.

Thank you.

Karen Bradley – 2017 Speech at Children’s Media Summit

Below is the text of the speech made by Karen Bradley, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, at the Children’s Media Summit held in Manchester on 5 December 2017.

It’s a pleasure to be here at this Children’s Global Media Summit to discuss the future of children’s media in a digital world.

I’m in the fortunate position where I have two roles here: as the Secretary of State responsible for Digital and Media – the first Secretary of State to include Digital in my official title – but also as a mother to two boys.

So I really do appreciate the importance of this Summit, and of the new digital world for our children.

Like any mother, I want my children to be safe online, but at the same time I don’t want to smother them, or unduly limit their freedom. That is the balance I have to strike in my professional role too.

We all know that we’re living through a time of great change, and that digital is an ever-increasing part of everything we do, as we move more and more online – and that includes media.

For my generation, media used to mean the shows we watched, the music we listened to, the books and comics we read. And they’re all still relevant even in this digital age. Around a third of children have a radio set. Nine out of ten children still watch TV on a traditional set. Millions of families are hooked on Strictly, and I’m sure most of us here, not just our children, will watch history being made at Christmas when Jodie Whittaker becomes the first female Doctor Who.

But the media is changing, and children’s engagement with it developing at an incredible rate. It isn’t just about settling down in front of the television for whole evenings any more. I know this from personal experience. One minute my children are watching Horrible Histories on the iPlayer, the next they’re looking at a Youtube clip to help their homework on the iPad. The platforms, content and experiences the media offers them are far more varied than when I was their age.

That’s because in this digital era, media has taken on a broader meaning. Increasingly it is where children socialise, and how they experience the wider world, although that too is changing all the time – in fact the pace of change can feel relentless.

Once it was Myspace and Bebo, now it’s Instagram and Snapchat. Ten years ago neither of those existed. Now they have nearly one billion users combined. In the years ahead it will be something we haven’t even heard of yet – so it is vital that on all of this we continue to look forward and prepare for the next innovation.

As any parent will tell you, children understand how this technology works. Better than anyone. They were born into it. A fifth of 4 year olds in the UK already have their own tablet, and more than half of them are regularly online – and when you get to 12 to 15 year olds, my children’s age, that figure rises to 99%. They are completely at home in the online world. Or think they are. Because what children don’t necessarily understand is the level of risk involved.

Ofcom’s Media Attitudes Survey, published just last week, made the challenges clear. It tells us almost half of all 12 to 15 year olds have seen something hateful online in the last year. A quarter have been contacted online by someone they don’t know. And one in ten have seen something of a sexual nature that, as the report words it, made them feel uncomfortable. Something they weren’t emotionally or mentally prepared for. Something, frankly, they should not have seen.

Now as a parent, that really worries me. As Secretary of State, it’s my responsibility to do something about it. We don’t pretend this government can, on its own, solve this global challenge. But we are committed to taking genuine action and for the United Kingdom to lead the way.

That is why we are working hard in three ways: through our Digital Charter and Internet Safety Strategy; through our work to support children online; and through taking steps to help the media provide for our children in a global society.

First, we announced our Digital Charter in June to establish a new framework to balance freedom with protection. Through the Charter, we will work with businesses, academics, charities and the wider public to build consensus on how technology should be used and how we act online. We announced our Internet Safety Strategy in October – the first major step towards achieving that goal – and the consultation on that closes this Thursday. The aim here is simple: behaviour that is unacceptable in normal life is not acceptable online.

These are, of course, global issues. Every country is being transformed by the rapid development of digital technology, so we are consulting with people from a whole range of backgrounds – other Governments, technology firms, content creators, schools, the voluntary sector, and ordinary people young and old – to make sure we get this right.

That includes consulting on a social media code of practice to tackle harmful conduct – including bullying behaviour – and an industry levy to support educational programmes and technical solutions.

Only a few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be able to join the Duke of Cambridge to support his Royal Foundation Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyberbullying. It is exactly this sort of action, which brings together tech companies and charities to set out effective industry-driven initiatives, that we need in order to make a real difference. I look forward to His Royal Highness’ keynote speech tomorrow, and to continuing to work together on this very important issue.

The second area Government is taking action on is around supporting children online. It is crucial that young people understand online risks, that they know where to get help, and that they’re able to recover when things go wrong.

Today’s generation is the first to learn about relationships and sex in an online world, and that isn’t always something their parents understand or can teach them about. So we’re bringing in new compulsory school subjects in England. For the first time, primary school children will be taught Relationships Education, and secondary school children will be taught Relationships and Sex Education.

And we are considering how we can best support children, and their parents and guardians, through industry-designed projects, peer to peer support schemes and partnerships with civil society organisations. It was great to see the BBC Director General today launching the “Own It” website to do exactly this, by giving children the information they need to minimise risks online.

And thirdly, we are taking steps to ensure that the media provides for and supports our children in a global society. While the distinction between TV and online blurs, it is so important that children have access to the content that helps them understand their place in the world.

So we are taking steps to strengthen the children’s TV sector in our country. We have introduced a tax relief. We have given Ofcom new powers to impose quotas on commercial public service broadcasters, taking into account the new platforms on which children watch this content.

And we are committed to establishing a contestable fund to stimulate new public service content, with children’s programming as potential area of focus. We want the children’s sector, a source of so much imagination and inspiration for all of us, to play its part in a media environment that provides for our children for years to come.

As I said at the outset, I’m in a fortunate position where I see the challenges first-hand, but I am also able to do something about it. When I’m much older, and grey-haired, I want to look back on my time in this role and say we helped to make the digital world a safer place for children.

For me that means protecting them without limiting their freedom, or putting barriers on their ability to learn and explore. If we get it right it is something that will benefit my children, their whole generation and their children after them.

Thank you.

Nick Gibb – 2017 Speech at the Policy Exchange

Below is the text of the speech made by Nick Gibb, the Minister of State for School Standards, at the Policy Exchange on 30 November 2017.

Over the past 7 years, the school system has seen dramatic improvements. Teachers and headteachers have been given greater control than ever before; leading free schools and academies are shining a light on what works; and a renewed focus on the importance of core knowledge has seen the first signs of a return to textbooks.

Since 2010, there has been a transformation of England’s education system. The quality of education received by England’s pupils has improved dramatically, with 1.9 million more pupils taught in good or outstanding schools than in 2010.

The proportion of pupils studying at least two science GCSEs has risen from 62% to 91% since 2010, better preparing them to compete in a global 21st century marketplace.

And the accountability system has been overhauled, turning attention away from an obsessive focus on the C/D borderline towards ensuring that all pupils make as much progress as possible. The focus pre-16 has rightly returned to ensuring that all children are taught a broad and balanced academic curriculum.

Whilst the government is determined to ensure that there is a stretching and prestigious technical route for pupils post-16, we know that a knowledge-rich academic curriculum pre-16 is the best preparation for success whatever route a pupil chooses to go down. That is why 96% of non-GCSE and IGCSE qualifications have been removed from the school performance tables since 2010.

As well as removing qualifications that do not serve the best interests of pupils, we have incentivised greater take-up of GCSEs that do prepare children for the next phase of their education. Thanks to the EBacc, we have seen dramatic increases in the proportions of pupils studying core academic GCSEs.

We know that lower participation from disadvantaged pupils in these core academic subjects can negatively affect social mobility. Yet overall, disadvantaged pupils remain almost half as likely to be entered for the EBacc subjects as their non-disadvantaged peers, and the gap in EBacc subject entry persists even among the most academically able disadvantaged pupils.

That is why the government has announced plans to have 75% of Year 10 pupils working towards the EBacc by 2022 and 90% of Year 10 pupils working towards the EBacc by 2025.

A recent paper from the Institute of Education found that:

Students pursuing an EBacc-eligible curriculum at 14-16 had a greater probability of progression to all post 16 educational outcomes, while taking an applied GCSE subject had the opposite effect.

There were no social class differences in the advantages of pursuing an EBacc-eligible curriculum which suggests that an academically demanding curriculum is equally advantageous for working class as for middle class pupils.

The government has been determined to drive up standards since taking office in 2010. In order to do so, there needed to be a focus on the system-wide options available to government, such as the accountability system.

But real change in education is driven by what happens in the classroom. In particular, what is taught to children and how effectively it is taught. Incentivising subject choices that leave open a wide array of technical and academic options post-16 is an important component of this. But so is the content of each subject.

The past decade has seen the emergence of a teacher-led drive to put ‘core knowledge’ at the heart of the curriculum. Influenced by the work of the great American educationalist E. D. Hirsch – who spoke at Policy Exchange in 2015 – the concept of ‘cultural literacy’ has gained currency.

Classroom teachers concerned about the deleterious effects of the 2007 skills-based curriculum expressed their dismay at the unsubstantiated ideological drive to focus on supposedly transferable, cross-curricula competencies.

In ‘7 Myths About Education’, Daisy Christodoulou expertly dissected the commonly held belief that teaching transferable skills is desirable and possible. It is neither. As a result of her concise and devastating assault on the edu-myths that pervaded so much of education, the importance of domain knowledge is now much more widely understood.

Rob Peal documented the history of progressivism’s expansion and domination of all corners of the education system in his polemic ‘Progressively Worse’. From Plowden and the later sweeping aside of the Black Papers, to the subversive takeover of the national curriculum project and the ideological conformism demanded by so many local education authorities, the damage inflicted on children was laid bare.

This teacher-led movement continues today. A vocal minority has formed an online community, fighting back against those who seek to return to the past. Winning converts as they go, these teachers have set the stage for important changes in classrooms all over the country. They have shifted the Overton window, as can be seen from the changing narrative of those whose influence they continue to push back.

The review of the national curriculum – led by Tim Oates – took place in this wider context. It overhauled a curriculum that was not fit for purpose, raising the bar for what was expected and putting knowledge back at the heart of schooling.

The new national curriculum insists that children should know their times tables by the end of Year 4. This is being supported by the introduction of the multiplications tables check, announced in the primary assessment consultation response earlier this year.

Work is underway to ensure that the Key Stage 2 reading assessment draws from the wider curriculum to help ensure that all children are being taught a broad and balanced, knowledge-rich curriculum that builds their wider vocabulary and best-prepares them for the rigours of secondary school.

From the high bar set by the national curriculum, innovative academy chains and leading free schools have built and are iterating demanding curricula. Take the Harris Federation, which recorded some outstanding results this year; 3 of their schools registering progress 8 scores above 1.

Time and again, when the strongest multi-academy trusts take over a failing school they turn it around. A stretching knowledge-rich curriculum and high behavioural expectations for all does work.

And there are a growing number of academy trusts and free schools demonstrating that academic excellence need not be reserved to London. This year, Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford registered a progress 8 score of 1.22, putting it in the top 10 for progress achieved, demonstrating that geography need be no barrier to academic achievement.

Leading academies and free schools show what it is possible to achieve. They provide an evidence base for other schools to learn from. Year on year, as new secondary free schools reach their fifth year and their first set of GCSE results are published, it is becoming ever clearer what works in education.

Leading free schools and academies ensure a meticulous focus on developing coherent, well-functioning systems that save time and money, so that teachers can focus on what is important. In turn, greater focus is given to the detail of what is done in lessons.

Too often, those seeking to inform national education policy and those commenting on it miss the lessons that can be learnt from what the leading schools are doing. There is a pre-disposition to discuss the education system at the level of school-accountability or school structures. In turn, too little focus is given to what happens in the classroom, where so much attention is paid by these leading multi-academy trusts.

The reading revolution that has occurred in this country over the past 7 years has dramatically improved the education of hundreds of thousands of children. This year, there are 154,000 more children on track to be fluent readers than in 2012 thanks to the introduction of phonics.

The success of this policy is a victory for evidence over dogma. And it is a policy that other countries are seeking to replicate; as a result of the success enjoyed in England, Australia is looking at adopting the same evidence-based approach to early reading instruction.

However, appreciating the true scale of what has been achieved thanks to the phonics reforms requires an understanding of what difference has been made in the classroom.

We supported teachers to adopt evidence-based approaches to teaching early literacy by providing matched-funding for phonics resources and through the dissemination of best practice across the country. Consequently, the views of teachers about reading instruction slowly began to change.

By 2013, about two-thirds of primary teachers surveyed by the government agreed that using systematic synthetic phonics was important. Our reforms have been successful only because the intervention we are promoting – systematic synthetic phonics – works, and has decades of international evidence behind it.

Without the drive to promote the evidence in favour of phonics and change perceptions and practice in the classroom, the policy would not have been such a dramatic success.

The question that should be at the forefront of a policymaker’s mind is: how is this going to change what happens in the classroom? This question is certainly at the centre of my thinking, as can be seen from the adoption of two important policies from top performing jurisdictions in the Far East:

The introduction of Teaching for Mastery, adopting and adapting Shanghai’s approach; and

The re-introduction of textbooks into classrooms, drawing on the success of Singapore.

Thanks to the work of the teacher-led maths hubs, we now have 281 Mastery Specialists, working in 789 schools. By 2023, we expect 11,000 primary and secondary schools to be involved in the Teaching for Mastery programme. This teacher-led programme takes important aspects from the pedagogy that characterises the successful East Asian approach to maths teaching and translates it to English classrooms.

The national curriculum has raised expectations for primary schools and the evidence-based Teaching for Mastery approaches provide teachers with the tools they need to meet these expectations, exemplifying the important relationship between system-level and classroom-level in delivering successful policies that change what is happening in the classroom.

A key lesson that we have taken from the success of the Far East is the importance of textbooks. We know – thanks to the work of Tim Oates – that top performing jurisdictions have high-quality textbooks that work coherently with the curriculum.

In Why Textbooks Count, he makes clear the stark differences in our approach to textbooks and those of the highest performing jurisdictions. In England, only 10% of pupils’ teachers use maths textbooks as the basis for their teaching compared to 70% in Singapore.

Textbooks provide the detailed knowledge implicit in the national curriculum programmes of study, which are succinct and broad descriptions of the content that needs to be taught. For example, the Key Stage 2 Science Curriculum requires 9-year-old pupils to be taught that “unsupported objects fall towards the Earth because of the force of gravity”. This could be taught superficially or in a way that conveys a genuine understanding of the science involved. Herein lies the power of textbooks.

But despite their importance, textbooks have been on the decline for a long time in England’s classroom. Ideological hostility to the use of textbooks, particularly in primary schools, developed in the 1970s. Their replacement with work sheets and hundreds of thousands of bespoke written lesson plans has added to teacher workload, detracted from coherence and negatively affected standards. But this long term movement away from the use of textbooks might be about to go into reverse.

Thankfully, the last few years has seen a number of high quality textbooks come to the market to support the new national curriculum. Responding to the demands of the new national curriculum and demands from primary schools for Teaching for Mastery materials, publishers are again writing knowledge-rich textbooks.

The latent demand for textbooks has grown over the past few years. The online curriculum debates centred on the role of knowledge organisers – led by the likes of Jon Brunskill and Joe Kirby – is evidence of interest in how knowledge can and should be sequenced and presented to pupils.

And increasingly, teachers like Robert Orme and Robert Peal have taken to writing their own textbooks. Drawing on the international evidence, these materials – honed in their own classrooms – are returning the textbook to the heart of schooling.

History and Religious Education have such a wealth of stories, characters, events and places that should be common currency for all. Textbooks are crucial for translating the framework of knowledge outlined by the national curriculum and bringing it to life.

The best textbooks do not recommend activities, prescribe schemes of work, take up space with enormous images, or offer guidance on writing style or exam technique. Those are all things teachers can do, and often enjoy resourcing.

Instead, they provide something teachers will always struggle to create on their own – high quality, considered, extended prose pitched ambitiously, but not unrealistically, which can form the basis for lessons and schemes of work.

The textbooks being launched tonight do just that. They are a bridge from the national curriculum that enables teachers to build the cultural literacy of their pupils and introduce them to the ‘best that has been thought and said’.

The new national curriculum was crucial for raising the bar and returning knowledge to the heart of schooling, but the teacher-led move back towards textbooks will be integral to ensuring that the national curriculum is as effective as we hoped.

They are yet another example of the focus that is needed on what is happening in the classroom. The government recognises the importance of textbooks, and will continue to support the development of high-quality, knowledge-rich resources. Already, work has begun on the curriculum fund announced in the manifesto, which will encourage Britain’s leading cultural institutions to develop knowledge-rich materials for our schools.

By focusing on how to support teachers to further improve what is happening in the classroom as well as the macro issues of the school system – such as the accountability system – the government is determined to build on the success of the past 7 years and ensure Britain is fit for the future.

Thank you.