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Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 19 October 2017.
It is now just over four months since the tragedy of Grenfell Tower. Since then, the Government, the local council and the wider public sector have been working hard to ensure that everyone affected by the fire gets the support they need and that all tall residential buildings across the country are safe.
Since I last updated the House on 5 September, the number of households seeking rehousing has risen to 202. As before, this increase has been caused by members of larger households choosing to be rehoused separately. The local council has now secured more than 200 suitable local permanent properties. Negotiations are under way on others, and by Christmas it expects to have more than 300 available. As of this week, 112 households have accepted an offer of either temporary or permanent accommodation. Of these, 58 have moved in, 44 into temporary accommodation and 14 into permanent accommodation.
The Government are determined that everyone who needs support gets it regardless of their immigration status. We have previously established a process to grant foreign nationals who were resident in Grenfell Tower or Grenfell Walk 12 months’ leave to remain in the country with full access to the relevant support and assistance. Last week, the Immigration Minister announced a dedicated route to permanent residency for the survivors. This policy will allow them to apply for free for two further periods of two years’ limited leave. After this time, they will be able to apply for permanent residence.
Meanwhile, our work to ensure the safety of other tall buildings continues. A total of 169 high-rise social housing buildings in England feature some of the aluminium composite material cladding, and our programme of testing has identified 161 that are unlikely to meet current fire safety standards. The particular focus of current efforts is now on supporting remedial work on those 161 buildings. We are also improving our understanding of the situation for the privately owned high-rise residential buildings with ACM cladding, so that all such buildings can be as safe as possible.
We have made clear to councils and housing associations that we expect them to fund measures that they consider essential to making buildings safe. However, if councils have concerns, they should get in touch with us. We will consider the removal of financial restrictions if they stand in the way of essential work. To date, 32 local councils have expressed concern to us in principle. We have liaised more closely with seven of those, and one of them has now submitted supporting evidence for consideration by my Department.
Below is the text of the speech made by David Morris, the Conservative MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, in the House of Commons on 20 October 2017.
A number of years ago, before I was a Member of Parliament, I went to a local car boot sale and looking through all the bric-a-brac and things from days gone by, I came across a bronze plaque. It looked for all the world like a huge old Victorian penny. It had Britannia on the front, being shadowed by a lion, there were two dolphins and, at the bottom, a smaller lion was ripping apart an eagle. The lion with Britannia was the lion of courage, and the other lion was ripping apart the German eagle, while the dolphins signified the dominance of the seas enjoyed by the UK at the time. There was writing around the edge because the plaque was intended to commemorate the life of a fallen soldier. Such a plaque was known—rather crudely, given that it was to commemorate the life of one of our fallen soldiers—as a dead man’s penny. The service people were from the fledging Air Force of the time, from the Navy or those who had fallen on the battlefields.
I remember looking at the plaque—I did not know what it was; I researched it later—and wondering what had happened to the family of the fallen soldier, why the plaque had ended up there, what was the story behind the plaque and what was the story of the soldier’s life and the family he left behind. It struck me that, more often than not, such plaques reach the market—militaria shops, auction sites—because the family has died. I emphasise strongly from the outset that militaria shops do us a great service by helping to keep alive the spirit of historical campaigns and conflicts that we only read about in the history books.
I found out later that 1,355,000 of these plaques were given out. They were struck from 450 tons of bronze. They arrived in a box, sometimes with the medals of the soldier, airman or seaman, and every one of them had a certificate signed by King George V. They were given predominantly after the war, although some were given before its end, to the families of the fallen.
What does this mean in our day and age, 100 years on? We have had other wars, but world war one was the only occasion on which these plaques were struck in honour of the fallen. Each plaque was individually struck, not engraved, with the name of a serviceman, but no mention of their rank. It was struck simply to commemorate the serviceman or woman who gave their life doing their duty in the service of their country. In fact, 1,500 were given to women service personnel. They were given out all across the Commonwealth, to everybody engaged in the conflict. In the great war, we lost 22 Members of Parliament, 20 Lords and in the region of 98 sons of people who worked here or who were Members. This particular debate therefore has meaning not just for the rest of the country, but for Parliament itself.
Members have probably seen me walking around the Chamber today. I know it is not customary to display a dead man’s penny, but I have one with me. It says on the outside of the plaque, “He died for freedom and honour”. Some plaques say, “She died”, depending on the sex of the service person. As Members can see, the plaque is quite large and weighty. The gentleman named on it is Charles Edward Woodward. The hole in the plaque makes me a little emotional, because it means that it would have been hung on the wall, over the mantelpiece in his parent’s home. It is all they had left of him.
I bought this plaque from a militaria shop not far from here, and the staff were very helpful and honourable in the exchange. With it came this man’s history. It says that it is a great war memorial plaque issued in memory of Charles Edward Woodward, who served as Private No. 1,200 of the 1/5th Battalion the Lincolnshire Regiment, Territorial Force, and was killed in action at Ypres on 30 September 1915. Having no known grave, he is commemorated by name on the Ypres Menin Gate memorial. He was aged only 20. He was younger than my son.
Victoria Atkins (Louth and Horncastle) (Con) My hon. Friend has mentioned the Lincolnshire Regiment and I suspect that he is about to explain the special part that this brave young man from my constituency played.
David Morris I thank my hon. Friend for that timely intervention, because I was welling up. He was 20 at the time of his death and was the son of Parker and Mary Jane Woodward of Rose Cottage, Halton Fenside, Spilsby, Lincolnshire. This plaque is all that is left of him—he was a person.
I want to raise awareness. One day I hope that we will be able to follow Lord Ashcroft’s commendable example by collecting the plaques for these fallen people and displaying them in a room—although it will be difficult to find one big enough to house more than 1.3 million of them—in order to commemorate those who died preserving the integrity of democracy and the freedom of our country.
Sadly, over the years, some of these plaques have been scrapped, because nobody knows what they are, although I do not think that many of them are finding their way to scrapyards. The previous Member for Croydon South promoted a private Member’s Bill that resulted in legislation preventing war memorials from being attacked and melted down, and I would like these plaques to be covered by its provisions, because they mean something.
Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con) My hon. Friend is making a very moving and passionate speech. He speaks of the Members we lost in this place in the great war. We see their shields in the Chamber every day. I would like to share a very positive initiative in one of the villages in my constituency, Crawley Down. A group of volunteers, led by Roger Webb and Philip Coote, is putting up memorial plaques on each of the homes of the servicemen who died in that awful conflict 100 years ago. It is wonderful to see that happening and I am hugely honoured to have been present when students from Crawley Down School have unveiled those memorials, keeping alive the memory of that generation of which my hon. Friend is speaking so eloquently.
David Morris I thank my hon. Friend for that nice story. It is right that we should commemorate. This is only part of the story, but it is fitting for those homes to bear those plaques.
What is the Government’s role? The Government would like to do everything they possibly can, but it is really up to the community to recognise that the plaques mean something. I would love to see a national memorial to the fallen, or for the plaques to go to local regiments, local museums or even the Military Heritage Society. Personally, I would like for Charles Edward Woodward’s plaque to be displayed here in the House of Commons. I understand, however, that because he does not have any ties with the Commons, that cannot be the case—maybe it could be displayed in the green case downstairs for a short time. I would therefore like to round off this emotive speech by letting him go home and handing the plaque to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins).
Below is the text of the statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, on 20 October 2017.
The United Kingdom will take its seat at the European Council table for another year and a half, and we have important work to achieve together in this time.
But cooperation with our European friends will not stop in March 2019.
The UK will stand alongside the EU, as a strong and committed partner, working to promote our shared interests and values.
Nowhere is this more important than in our approach to the global challenges we face.
Whether security and defence, migration or foreign policy issues – we face common opportunities and risks, and we must continue to address them together.
As I’ve said before, the UK is unconditionally committed to the security and defence of Europe. We share the vision of a strong, secure and successful EU, with global reach and influence. An EU capable of countering shared threats to our continent, working alongside a confident, outward-looking UK.
Yesterday we discussed a range of subjects including migration, the digital economy and some of the most pressing foreign policy issues, such as North Korea and Iran.
We stand united in our clear condemnation of North Korea’s aggressive and illegal missile and nuclear tests and urge all states, including China, to play their part in changing the course Pyongyang is taking.
On Iran, we have reiterated our firm commitment to the nuclear deal, which we believe is vitally important for our shared security.
Exit from the EU
And last night at dinner, I spoke to my fellow leaders about my vision for a new, deep and special partnership between the UK and the European Union after Brexit.
A partnership based on the same set of fundamental beliefs – in not just democracy and rule of law, but also free trade, rigorous and fair competition, strong consumer rights, and high regulatory standards.
I am ambitious and positive for Britain’s future and for these negotiations. But I know we still have some way to go.
Both sides have approached these talks with professionalism and a constructive spirit. We should recognise what has been achieved to date.
The UK and the EU share the same objective of safeguarding the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU.
EU citizens have made a huge contribution to our country and let me be clear that – whatever happens – we want them and their families to stay.
While there are a small number of issues that remain outstanding on citizens’ rights, I am confident that we are in touching distance of a deal.
On Northern Ireland, we have agreed that the Belfast agreement must be at the heart of our approach and that Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances demand specific solutions. It is vital that joint work on the peace process is not affected in any way – it is too important for that.
Both sides agree that there cannot be any physical infrastructure at the border and that the Common travel area must continue.
We have both committed to delivering a flexible and imaginative approach on this vital issue.
This Council is an important moment. It is a point at which to assess and reflect on how to make further progress.
My speech in Florence made two important steps, which have added a new impetus to the negotiations. I gave a firm commitment on the financial settlement and I proposed a time-limited implementation period based on current terms, which is in the interest of both the UK and the EU.
Both sides agree that subsequent rounds have been conducted in a new spirit. My fellow leaders have been discussing that this morning and I believe that it is in the interests of the UK that the EU 27 continues to take a united approach.
But if we are going to take a step forward together it must be on the basis of joint effort and endeavour.
We must work together to get to an outcome that we can stand behind and that works for all our people.
Below is the text of the speech made by Paul Maynard, the Rail Minister, at the Railway Industry Association conference on 20 October 2017.
Thank you, David Begg
It is a pleasure to speak this morning. And it is a particular pleasure to see our country’s great rail supply chain so well represented.
A time of challenge and opportunity
Now, if I was to try and summarise what the government’s rail policies mean for the rail supply chain I would say that this is a time of opportunity.
But also a time of challenge.
It is a time of opportunity because of the way the numbers of those using our railways have grown.
In almost 25 years since privatisation, customer numbers have more than doubled.
While rail freight has grown by 75%.
More people are using our railways than in any year since the 1920s.
And we’re responding to that record demand with record investment.
Last week we announced the next round of rail funding.
Between 2019 and 2024, we’ll spend around £48 billion to improve and maintain the network.
That maintenance is important.
We’ve increased the focus on renewals, to provide passengers with better reliability and punctuality
And this funding comes on top of record rail funding over the past 5 years as the government delivered the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century.
But it’s not just the money we’re delivering.
Last week we announced that there will also be a new funding process for major upgrades and enhancements which will provide more rigour in investment decisions to make sure public spending best meets the needs of passengers and freight.
This is recognition of the vital importance of working closely with the industry and the rail supply chain.
All this investment is an opportunity to restore Britain’s place in the world as a leading rail-building nation.
And an opportunity to deliver a railway fit for the future.
Time of challenge
But as well as being a time of opportunity, we must also recognise that this is a time of challenge, too.
And that’s because we’re attempting work of a complexity and scale unseen in a century.
And as a result, our railway is changing.
We are building new stations and refurbishing old ones.
We’re getting Crossrail ready to open.
And we are bringing thousands of new train carriages into service.
And on top of all that, we’ve begun the groundwork for building HS2.
A year ago, the HS2 Bill for Phase One – the stretch from Birmingham to London – was a concept that had yet to be approved by parliament.
The route for much of the second phase of HS2 – from Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds – had yet to be announced.
The procurement for the main engineering works, the rolling stock, and the franchise for operating the railway – all had yet to be triggered.
A year ago, HS2 was still in planning.
A distinct, stand-alone project.
But things have moved on.
Those plans are now being implemented.
On sites up and down the route, the enabling works are underway.
We have awarded the engineering contracts.
We’ve launched the competition to design, build and maintain HS2’s trains.
We’ve begun the utility diversions, land clearance and environmental surveys.
We have announced our route for sections from Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds.
By the end of this year, we’ll deposit the bill for the stretch of track beyond Birmingham and on to Crewe.
And I have added the HS2 project to my responsibility for the rail industry.
So we’re seeing the start of the integration of HS2 into the existing network.
And that’s an important development for the whole industry.
It’s time to start thinking of HS2 not as a railway apart.
Or as some kind of better, faster alternative to the classic rail network.
But rather as an expansion and enhancement of the existing network.
The greatest for a hundred years.
And that, naturally, has implications.
HS2 will inject greater competition into this industry.
It will give greater options for how we use the existing railway, providing more space for freight and local stopping trains.
And it will enhance the image of rail in this country.
None of this progress could have been achieved without our rail supply chain – many of whom are here this morning.
And it’s because of this supply chain that we have the confidence to press ahead with plans such as HS2.
But you will know, as I do, that we can and must make the rail supply chain stronger still.
In many cases, we’re making good progress on improving capability.
Our Infrastructure skills strategy, for example, sets out a plan to get an extra 30,000 apprentices working in transport to help deliver £60 billion of transport investment up to 2020.
But the best, most effective and most far-reaching changes are always those led by the industry itself.
And that is why I was so glad to see the Rail Supply Group publish its sector strategy last year.
The strategy means that, for the first time, the rail supply chain has a common plan for how it will grow in numbers, productivity and expertise.
A plan for how, by 2025, the industry will:
– attract new talent
– develop new technology
– harness the energy, drive and innovation of the sector’s SMEs
– become a global leader in high speed rail
– more than double exports
It’s a strategy with some great ideas that are now being implemented.
For example, the rail industry, in partnership with a number of universities, has advanced plans for a network of innovation centres to speed up the introduction of new ideas and technologies into rail.
I know many of you contributed to the strategy, and are now working hard on putting it into action.
I would urge you not to lose the impetus but to continue to work hard.
The government will help wherever we can.
For instance, later this month we will be launching the rail ‘first of a kind programme’ with Innovate UK. This will help you to break down the barriers to commercialising high-value innovations that are close to market and allow passengers to experience today how your innovations will meet their needs tomorrow.
We will help to ensure that the radical rail innovations emerging from your investments play their vital role by improving their take up.
Earlier this year, we also launched what we’re calling sector seals, as part of government’s industrial strategy.
I know that RIA has been, and will continue to be, involved in the Rail Sector Deal – along with the Rail Supply Group and the Rail Delivery Group.
And I understand that it’s due to be submitted to the government on Monday.
It should shape the future relationship between the government and the rail industry, putting the supply chain squarely at the front of this relationship, and should help the industry digitalise, and get the most value out of its data.
I would very much like to see the rail sector deal succeed, and I hope it will be included in the second wave of published deals in spring 2018.
2018 the Year of Engineering
Yet there’s another great opportunity coming in the future.
2018 is going to be a special year for engineering.
It’ll be the year that Crossrail opens.
The construction of HS2 will be well underway.
And Thameslink will be complete.
Rail engineering will have a prominence it hasn’t had for a long time.
So we want to capitalise on it, and to make 2018 the Year of Engineering.
It’ll be a chance to celebrate everything you do for our country.
It’ll be a chance to show the world some of the brilliant railway projects delivered in the UK.
And, even more importantly, it will be a chance to inspire a new generation of rail engineers.
So we in the government would like to work with you over the next year to hear your ideas, to join forces, to make 2018 a landmark year for rail engineering.
And so in conclusion, I’d like to thank you for your commitment to our railways.
And thank you for doing so much to keep Britain moving.
Below is the text of the statement made by Nick Hurd, the Minister for Policing, in the House of Commons on 19 October 2017.
I have today launched a Government consultation on proposals for implementing legislation to define antique firearms.
Antique firearms are exempt from most of the controls placed on firearms if they are held as a “curiosity or ornament”. There has previously been no statutory definition of an “antique firearm”— only non-statutory guidance. This has created legal uncertainty which has been exploited by criminals to obtain old but functioning firearms for use in crime. Since 2008, there have been four fatalities linked to antique firearms. The number of antique firearms recovered in criminal circumstances has increased from four in 2007 to 91 in 2016.
The Government have included in the Policing and Crime Act 2017 provisions to define an “antique firearm” in regulations. This consultation will inform the content of those regulations and provide a statutory definition which will ensure that old firearms that still pose a danger to the public are no longer exempt from control. It will also provide legal clarity on the definition of an antique firearm to help law enforcement tackle criminal use.
The consultation seeks views on the obsolete cartridges and propulsion systems used by old firearms that can be considered antique; a cut-off date of manufacture, after which a firearm will not be considered antique; and arrangements for the ongoing review of the regulations.
The Government welcome responses to this consultation from everyone involved with antique firearms, including the police, dealers, museums and individual collectors. We will take account of all views before deciding on the final shape of the regulations. The consultation will run for eight weeks. A copy of the consultation paper will be placed in the Library of the House and will be available on the Government’s website at www.gov.uk.
Below is the text of the speech made by Nick Gibb, the Minister of State for School Standards and Minister for Equalities, on 19 October 2017.
It has been a pleasure to work with the Association of Schools and College Leaders (ASCL) over the years as Minister of State for Education. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Malcolm Trobe for all of the work he did as interim General Secretary, and Deputy General Secretary before that. It has been a pleasure to work with him and I look forward to working with Geoff Barton in the years ahead.
The way the curriculum is discussed in this country has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. In 2007, the previous government launched a national curriculum that had been stripped of knowledge content in favour of skills.
‘Could do Better’ – a review of the then National Curriculum carried out by Tim Oates in 2010 – found that the National Curriculum for England had been subjected to a protracted process of revision, with the 2007 reforms failing to adequately draw from emerging analysis of high-performing systems around the globe.
A change of government in 2010 prevented the Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum recommendations being brought in. This review argued that the primary national curriculum should place less emphasis on subject areas and a greater emphasis on so-called areas of learning and development:
– personal, social and emotional development
– communication, language and literacy
– problem solving, reasoning and numeracy
– knowledge and understanding of the world
– physical development
– creative development
This review of the primary curriculum drew on the example of Finland – still the doyenne of the international education circuit – which had moved away from emphasising knowledge just at the time it reached the summit of the international education league tables. The review described the Finnish position as follows:
Core content is described as activities and skills, rather than detailed subject-based content. This places the onus on the municipality, and more importantly on the school, to develop their curriculum to meet learners’ needs as well as national expectations.
The Finnish curriculum also had seven cross-curricula themes:
– growth as a person
– cultural identity and internationalism
– media, skills and communication
– participatory citizenship and entrepreneurship
– responsibility for the environment, well-being and a sustainable future
safety and traffic
– technology and the individual
The review drew on numerous other international examples of countries that have moved away from a traditional focus on knowledge and towards generic, cross-cutting skills. The romantic notion that teachers need not focus on knowledge and instead turn their attention to developing creativity or communication skills has gripped many countries around the world.
But as Gabriel Sahlgren argued in Real Finnish Lessons, Finland’s success – often a catalyst for skills-focused education reforms in other countries – is probably not explained by their more recent curriculum changes. These changes have been wrongly credited with education success, which is more likely to be due to Finland’s traditional educational culture until that point at about the turn of the millennium when it changed.
Instead, Sahlgren argues persuasively that Finland’s recent fall in performance – albeit from a very substantial height – is due to a movement away from this culture. In particular, the teacher-centred educational culture is being replaced by more pupil-led ways of working.
Thanks to the result of the 2010 general election, the English education system did not undergo further skills-focused reforms. Thanks to the work of Tim Oates and others, the new National Curriculum put knowledge back at the centre of schooling.
And knowledge is – rightly – back at the heart of discussions about the curriculum. ‘The Question of Knowledge’ is an important pamphlet, making the case for a knowledge-rich curriculum with essays written by leading experts and headteachers. It is a significant contribution to our national education conversation.
In her foreword, Leora Cruddas describes the importance of E. D. Hirsch – someone who has deeply influenced my thinking on education:
The influence of E. D. Hirsch on educational thinking has been profound. At its heart is the idea that returning to a traditional, academic curriculum built on shared knowledge is the best way to achieve social justice in society. His work has also encouraged schools to focus on the concept of building cultural capital as a way to close the attainment gap.
A knowledge-based curriculum is too often tarred by opponents as entrenching social divisions, whereas a well taught knowledge-rich education is a driver of true meritocracy – as the headteachers who contributed to this pamphlet well know.
Dame Rachel De Souza – of the Parent and Teachers for Excellence (PTE) and the Inspiration Trust – understands the importance of knowledge as well as anyone:
Knowing those things – and not just recalling the bald facts but deeply understanding them – gives you an upper hand. It gives you the confidence to discuss a wide range of live topics with those around you, it gives you social status. It makes you part of the club that runs the world, and the inside track to change it.
And the pendulum swing towards knowledge and away from skills that has taken place over the past few years has been profound.
Academies and free schools have control over the curriculum they teach, and with the National Curriculum setting the standard high, innovative schools led by exceptional head teachers have developed world-class curricula. But shifting a school’s focus towards a knowledge-based curriculum is not a short-term commitment, as Stuart Lock – the newly appointed headteacher of Bedford Free School – explains:
I think there is a real danger that developing a knowledge-based curriculum might be seen as “done” after a year or two. In reality, we are just over one year into a long-term job. There is no moving on to another initiative; we are playing the long game. This is what is important in schools, and hence is our continued focus for development over the next few years. Everything is subservient to curricular questions. So pedagogy, assessment, tracking and qualifications must lead on from us developing further our understanding of what makes a pupil knowledgeable, and ensuring we get as close to that understanding as possible.
This view is shared by Luke Sparkes and Jenny Thompson of Dixons Trinity Academy, which achieved outstanding results this year. Their excellent free school serves a disadvantaged community in Bradford, and is one of a number of high performing free schools and academies that demonstrate that a stretching, knowledge-rich curriculum, a sensible approach to behaviour and evidence-informed teaching result in exceptional results for all pupils.
High performing free schools and academies are providing empirical evidence of what it is possible to achieve when teachers and headteachers – given freedom to innovate with their curriculum – pursue an evidence-based approach. The exceptional results achieved by schools such as King Solomon Academy, Mossbourne Community Academy and Harris Academy Battersea demonstrate that disadvantage need be no barrier to achieving academic excellence.
But the excuse-making has shifted. Increasingly, there is a chorus of nay-sayers who claim that only schools in London or the south east can achieve top results. Dixons Trinity Academy – along with the likes of the Tauheedul Education Trust – shows conclusively that geography need be no barrier to academic achievement.
According to Luke Sparkes and Jenny Thompson, the secret to success isn’t the socio-economic make up of your cohort or the location of your school. For them:
A knowledge-based curriculum is about harnessing the power of cognitive science, identifying each marginal gain and acting upon it; having the humility to keep refining schemes of work, long term plans and generating better assessments.
Unlike the easy-sounding promise of generic skills, there is no doubt that developing a knowledge-rich curriculum is hard. But, unlike a skills-based curriculum, the rewards are worth it.
The West London Free School – run by Hywel Jones – is determined to provide a classical liberal education for all of its pupils. Too often, when considering what comprises a knowledge-rich curriculum, the arts are not given the prominence they deserve.
In tired arguments against the English Baccalaureate, opponents of the policy sometimes characterise proponents of a knowledge-rich curriculum as opposing the development of human creativity and appreciation of the arts. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Analysis published earlier this year by the Department for Education showed that there is little correlation between the change in EBacc entry and the change in arts uptake in state-funded mainstream schools. The small correlation that does exist suggests that schools where EBacc entry has increased tend to have also seen an increase in their arts uptake.
In an earlier NSN report showing the same trends, the Culture Minister Matt Hancock and I wrote that there should be no battle between the arts and other subjects, but instead a battle for stronger, better, well-rounded education.
I am clear that the arts are a vital component of every pupil’s education. Arts and culture are part of the fabric of our society and the government firmly believes that every child should be taught a high-quality arts curriculum.
At Hywel’s school, music has pride of place in the curriculum – a school in which the vast majority of pupils are entered for the EBacc suite of core academic subjects. That is because music – along with other important arts subjects – has an important role to play in ensuring that pupils leave school with the cultural literacy they will need. And cultural literacy is a vital goal of a knowledge-rich curriculum, as Hywel explains in his essay:
We want children to leave our school with the confidence that comes from possessing a store of essential knowledge and the skills to use it. We believe that independence of mind, not compliance with socio-economic expectations, is the goal of a good education. We believe the main focus of our curriculum should be on that common body of knowledge that, until recently, all schools were expected to teach. This is the background knowledge taken for granted by writers who address the intellectually engaged layman – the shared frames of reference for public discourse in modern liberal democracies. Sometimes referred to as “intellectual capital”, at other times as “cultural literacy”, this storehouse of general knowledge will enable all our pupils to grow to their full stature. Passing on this knowledge, as well as the ability to use it wisely, is what we mean by a classical liberal education.
The implementation of a core-academic curriculum currently occupies less bandwidth in our national conversation, but it is no less important. And the deep subject knowledge of teachers is vital to the successful delivery of the curriculum, as Ian Baukham made clear in his excellence review of modern foreign language pedagogy for the Teaching Schools Council.
In his essay for ‘The Question of Knowledge’ he expertly dissects the key relationship between a teacher’s subject and curriculum knowledge, and their appropriate choice of pedagogy. He writes:
The core knowledge pertaining to a foreign language when learnt by a novice consists of vocabulary (words, the lexis), grammar (the rules, syntax, morphology) and pronunciation and its link to the written form (phonics, phoneme-grapheme correspondences). It is essential that language teachers understand this and that their curriculum planning must sequence the teaching of this knowledge and its practice to automaticity in structured but decreasingly scaffolded contexts.
He also adds an excellent critique of the dominant pedagogical approaches that grip far too many modern foreign language classrooms in our country:
The modern languages equivalent of ‘discovery learning’ or ‘child centred’ approaches, which we now understand to be not only time inefficient but also unfairly to disadvantage those pupils with least educational capital, is a ‘natural acquisition’ approach to language learning. A ‘natural acquisition’ approach emphasises pupil exposure to the language, exaggerates the role of ‘authentic resources’ at the expense of properly constructed practice or selected material, and tends to favour pupils spotting grammatical patterns for themselves rather than being explicitly taught them. It tends to emphasise the ‘skills’ of linguistic communication, listening, reading, speaking and writing, over the ‘knowledge’ which is a prerequisite for these skills (grammar, vocabulary and phonics), and it often turns the skills into the content leading to an ill-conceived curriculum. Moreover, it tends to plan courses around thematic topics (so holidays, the environment and so on) and in so doing to de-emphasise grammatical progression towards a coherent whole picture, as in such a schema grammar is secondary to the ‘topic’ so is introduced in small disconnected chunks as pertaining to the thematic topic.
Again, this critique returns to the core purpose of the movement for a core academic curriculum for all, embodied by this pamphlet. The driving motive behind the reforms the government has embarked upon since 2010 is shared by this teacher-led movement; the desire for every child in this country to receive a world-class education that equips them with the knowledge they need, taught to them by expert teachers, using evidence-based approaches to teaching.
It is a simple aim, but realising this ambition requires and will require great effort and our continued joint endeavour. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who is here and everyone who contributes each and every day to this movement. Together, we are changing this country’s education system for the better.
Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) conference on 18 October 2017.
Thank you, Nigel, and good morning everyone.
It’s a real pleasure to be here today.
And I’m delighted to have been asked to open this conference in a year when housing issues have rarely been far from the front pages.
There has been plenty of good news.
Back in February our white paper set out our ambitious plans to fix this country’s broken housing market.
The Prime Minister has announced billions of pounds of funding for new affordable homes, including homes for rent.
And, month after month, we see official, independent figures showing that house-building is bouncing back from the record-breaking recession.
While there’s a lot still to do, we’re clearly heading in the right direction.
But of course, that’s only half the story.
Because looming over the whole sector is the tragedy of Grenfell Tower.
80 people lost their lives.
Many more lost their homes.
It is a disaster without parallel in recent British history.
A disaster we are determined to get to the bottom of, through the public and police inquiries.
And it is a disaster that thrust the management of residential buildings firmly into the spotlight.
Since the fire, a lot has been written and said about the role of property managers like yourselves.
There’s been a lot of criticism – some of it fair, much of it not.
And whatever failings are identified by the investigations and inquiries – and, make no mistake, where things have gone wrong we must and will learn from them – I know that most residential managing agents are not solely focused on profit.
I know you’re not the Rachman-esque ogres that some on the internet claim.
I look around this room today and I see the good guys.
Responsible people who are working hard to keep tenants safe, to keep buildings safe.
Who wouldn’t dream of cutting corners or ripping people off.
You’re members of ARMA because you subscribe to their code of conduct.
You’re here today because you want to be better, because you want to learn from each other and understand the latest best practice.
And in an age when the private rented sector and the number of leasehold flats has grown enormously we need more people like you.
So before I go any further I want to say a big thank you to Nigel, and to everyone here today, for all the good work that you do.
In an ideal world I’d finish there and join you all in the bar!
Sadly, though, you can’t have good guys without bad guys.
And, there’s no avoiding the fact that too many people in your industry are simply not good enough.
The private rented sector is growing, as are the number of leasehold blocks.
As we build the houses this country needs, we’re also seeing many new housing estates with shared public spaces that need taking care of.
That has led to a growth in the demand for property management services.
And as the sector has grown so has the file of horror stories.
Some rogue agents over-charge for their services, adding a huge personal take for themselves or passing contracts to friends and subsidiaries.
I heard of one situation where an agent had charged a commission of more than 30% when arranging an insurance policy, 3 times the recommended limit.
In another case, leaseholders were charged 10 times the market rate to have a new fire escape fitted – with the £30,000 contract being handed to the freeholder’s brother.
One landlord was billed £500 by his agent for repairing a shower door.
Others boost their income by cutting costs, charging for a 5-star service while providing a budget version.
Repairs are skipped, jobs are botched, as little as possible is done.
There’s nothing wrong with efficiency savings, but cutting corners is simply unacceptable – especially when it puts lives at risk.
I’ve seen reports of broken windows being repaired with cardboard and sticky tape.
Of damp and mold simply being painted over.
Of safety-critical systems being neglected.
Then there are the agents who “can’t do enough” for their tenants.
In fact they deliberately do too much, over-managing the property in order to rack up as many charges as possible and take the largest possible commission.
With up to a fifth of managing agents getting paid based on a fixed percentage of the fees they charge tenants, it’s not surprising that some choose this option.
The impact on the public is enormous.
Some industry experts claim that, every year, British households are overcharged by as much as £1.4 billion.
That means that, since I started talking to you this morning, rogue agents have pocketed around £15,000 in unjustified service charges.
By the time I leave the stage, that figure will have reached nearly £40,000.
The figures are so large because property management is a massive industry.
Around £3.5 billion of service charges are collected each year.
Yet despite its size and importance, it is almost completely unregulated.
Literally anyone can put on a suit, order some business cards, and call themselves a managing agent.
You don’t have to any qualifications or experience, or a criminal records check.
You don’t even have to know what a managing agent does.
That will come as a huge shock to many outside this room.
People assume they’re paying their service charges to a skilled, experienced professional.
In fact, they could be handing their hard-earned cash to the sort of self-regarding spiv who doesn’t even make it past the first challenge on The Apprentice.
In a multi-billion pound industry that’s crucial to the safety and wellbeing of millions of people, that is simply not acceptable.
Nor is it the only problem.
If people decide they’re being over-charged or under-served, it can be almost impossible for them to do anything about it.
And that’s because the system is stacked against them and in favour of rogue agents.
It actively disempowers tenants, leaseholders and even some freeholders, stripping them of many rights and making it extremely difficult to enforce those they do have.
Right to Manage is a great idea.
It can and does work well.
But the process behind it is far too complicated and too easy for unscrupulous landlords to abuse.
In one recent case, claiming their right to manage took a group of pensioners 3 attempts, 6 years, and a trip to the Court of Appeal.
Leaseholders risk losing their homes if they fall behind on paying even a tiny amount of service charges.
Freeholders on new-build estates increasingly have to pay service charges for the upkeep of common areas.
But they have absolutely no say over who provides services and at what cost, and no way of taking over management themselves.
This is supposed to be the age of the empowered consumer, of unprecedented choice.
If you don’t like your gas supplier, your phone company, your bank, then you can quickly and easily switch to another provider.
Parents have a say in where their children go to school, patients have a choice about which hospital they get treated at.
But in the world of property management, we’re still living in the past.
In an age when ordinary working people are expected to put up and shut up.
The result is a market in which the people who pay for and receive services have absolutely no say over who provides them.
A market that simply does not work for the people it is supposed to serve.
That can’t be allowed to continue.
And I won’t allow it to continue.
When our housing white paper was published, most of the attention and the headlines covered the vital task of building more homes.
But it also talked about the need for urgent action to help people already on the property ladder or living in rented accommodation.
I’ve already announced plans to regulate letting agents, including banning fees for tenants.
I’ve also made clear that I want to see an end to unjustified use of leasehold in new-build houses.
And today, I’m setting out plans for fixing the problems in property management.
I’m publishing a call for evidence, a document that talks about the challenges facing the sector, suggests some possible solutions, and asks for the views of the people who know the market best, whether that’s people who work in it or the people who pay the service charges.
Should leasehold tenants have a greater say over appointment of managing agents?
How can we increase transparency in the system and give the people who pay service charges more access to accounts and decisions?
What’s the best way to ensure fairness and openness around relations between freeholders and agents, and between agents and their subcontractors?
How can we make it easier to challenge services charges or to change managing agent?
And what about the current model of voluntary self-regulation?
ARMA-Q has done a lot to raise standards, but has the system had its day?
Many say we need an entirely independent regulator to oversee property management – is that the best way forward?
This paper, which you’ll be able to read and respond to on our website, is the first step in creating a property management system that works for everybody.
And that includes the property managers themselves.
I say that because I’m a businessman at heart.
I don’t like unnecessary red tape.
I hate to see good companies and forward-thinking entrepreneurs struggling under the weight of burdensome regulation.
I’m proud to be part of a government that has removed and continues to remove all manner of pointless, petty restrictions.
But I also know that, sometimes, a completely unregulated market can turn into a kind of free-for-all wild west.
And, as everyone knows, one thing the wild west doesn’t lack is cowboys.
I’ve already talked about cowboy property managers are bad news for consumers.
But, as ARMA has long recognised, they’re also bad news for hardworking, honest members of the profession like you.
That’s because the current system effectively penalises the good guys.
The ARMA members.
The agents who sign up to standards, invest in their staff and provide the quality service that people deserve.
You’re the responsible ones, but you’re not competing on a level playing field.
You invest in training, the cowboys make it up as they go along.
You put time and money into maintaining standards, some of your competitors cut corners in order to line their pockets.
Your priority is delivering a quality service, theirs is making a quick buck.
You can’t blame amateur or accidental landlords for picking the cheapest option when appointing an agent.
Many don’t know any better.
But a race to the bottom will always be won by agents who don’t care about standards and safety.
That’s not fair on the people paying for services, and it’s not fair on you.
It can also do untold damage to the sector’s reputation, making it easier for populist politicians to tar you all with the same brush.
Appropriate regulation, properly designed, will force rogue agents to either raise their game or quit the business.
That’s good news for tenants and it’s good news for responsible, professional agents like yourselves.
It’s popular, in some corners of politics, to point the finger at everyone involved in the housing market.
To say that you’re all just in it for yourselves, “Sheriff Fatman” capitalists taking advantage of desperate people and so on.
I don’t believe that for a minute.
The private rented sector and justified use of leasehold deliver millions of homes for millions of hardworking people.
And the people in this room today do a vital job of servicing and maintaining those homes and protecting the people who live in them.
Thank you for that.
As we build more homes we’re going to need more people like you to help take care of them.
That’s why it has never been more important for all of us – government and industry – to work together to celebrate what works in your sector and to fix what doesn’t.
I want you to join me as this government cleans up the property management industry, evicts the cowboys who harm consumers and give you a bad name, and delivers better value and better services for tenants, for leaseholders and for hardworking people right across the country.
Below is the text of the open letter issued by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, to EU citizens living in the UK.
As I travel to Brussels today, I know that many people will be looking to us – the leaders of the 28 nations in the European Union – to demonstrate we are putting people first.
I have been clear throughout this process that citizens’ rights are my first priority. And I know my fellow leaders have the same objective: to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU. I want to give reassurance that this issue remains a priority, that we are united on the key principles, and that the focus over the weeks to come will be delivering an agreement that works for people here in the UK, and people in the EU.
When we started this process, some accused us of treating EU nationals as bargaining chips. Nothing could have been further from the truth. EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK have made a huge contribution to our country. And we want them and their families to stay. I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.
But this agreement will not only provide certainty about residence, but also healthcare, pensions and other benefits. It will mean that EU citizens who have paid into the UK system – and UK nationals into the system of an EU27 country – can benefit from what they’ve put in. It will enable families who have built their lives together in the EU and UK to stay together. And it will provide guarantees that the rights of those UK nationals currently living in the EU, and EU citizens currently living in the UK, will not diverge over time.
What that leaves us with is a small number of important points to finalise. That is to be expected at this point in negotiations. We are in touching distance of agreement. I know both sides will consider each other’s proposals for finalising the agreement with an open mind. And with flexibility and creativity on both sides, I am confident that we can conclude discussions on citizens’ rights in the coming weeks.
I know there is real anxiety about how the agreement will be implemented. People are concerned that the process will be complicated and bureaucratic, and will put up hurdles that are difficult to overcome. I want to provide reassurance here too.
We are developing a streamlined digital process for those applying for settled status in the UK in the future. This process will be designed with users in mind, and we will engage with them every step of the way. We will keep the cost as low as possible – no more than the cost of a UK passport. The criteria applied will be simple, transparent and strictly in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement. People applying will not have to account for every trip they have taken in and out of the UK and will no longer have to demonstrate Comprehensive Sickness Insurance as they currently have to under EU rules. And importantly, for any EU citizen who holds Permanent Residence under the old scheme, there will be a simple process put in place to swap their current status for UK settled status.
To keep development of the system on track, the government is also setting up a User Group that will include representatives of EU citizens in the UK, and digital, technical and legal experts. This group will meet regularly, ensuring the process is transparent and responds properly to users’ needs. And we recognise that British nationals living in the EU27 will be similarly concerned about potential changes to processes after the UK leaves the EU. We have repeatedly flagged these issues during the negotiations. And we are keen to work closely with EU member states to ensure their processes are equally streamlined.
We want people to stay and we want families to stay together. We hugely value the contributions that EU nationals make to the economic, social and cultural fabric of the UK. And I know that member states value equally UK nationals living in their communities. I hope that these reassurances, alongside those made by both the UK and the European Commission last week, will provide further helpful certainty to the four million people who were understandably anxious about what Brexit would mean for their futures.
Below is the text of the speech made by Chris Evans, the Labour MP for Islwyn, in the House of Commons on 17 October 2017.
I welcome this timely opportunity to discuss the legislation relating to the sale of puppies in Great Britain, and the need for stricter enforcement of licences and inspections of breeders.
Owning a puppy can be a rite of passage for so many people. Being responsible for a dog is part of growing up. I still remember the very first puppy that we owned. I remember my mother going to Aberdare Corn Stores to buy a small puppy, which we called Pep, for £5. He lived until he was 17: he was one of the lucky ones. Even today, I am delighted that my own son Zac will grow up knowing the companionship, the loyalty and the friendship that owning a dog brings.
As I said, my mother paid £5 to Aberdare Corn Stores for our first dog, but those days are long gone. More people shop online now than ever before, so why should finding a puppy for sale be any different? Puppies are found and purchased without the buyer ever knowing where the dog has truly come from, or having any information about the breeder. People buy on the assumption that the puppy must have been bred in humane conditions. Sadly, that is not always the case, which is why there is now a need to discuss and review the problems with the current pet sale legislation and the licensing of breeders.
The sale of pets in Great Britain is governed by the Pet Animals Act 1951, which covers breeders as well as third-party sales groups such as pet shops. It is old legislation, predating the internet. Let me put the Act in perspective. When it was passed, Winston Churchill was leader of the Conservative party and Clement Attlee was leader of the Labour party. It was passed three years before Elvis Presley would have his first hit record, and teddy boys were walking the streets of Great Britain. All those are long gone.
That means that there is currently no law in the UK to regulate the sale of pets online. It would seem to be madness for us to legislate today for technological developments that will come 60 years in the future, but effectively that is what happened 60 years ago. The lack of regulation has consequences. Many unlicensed breeders have slipped off the radar of the local authorities responsible for them. Without regulation, the welfare of animals is compromised and unscrupulous breeders make tens of thousands of pounds in tax-free profit from naive buyers.
Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) The hon. Gentleman brings great issues to Adjournment debates and other debates in the House, and I congratulate him on that. Does he agree that simple humanity should dictate an end to puppy farm breeding, and that there must be legislation to formalise standards for anyone who wishes to sell a puppy, whether it be a pedigree dog or a mongrel?
Chris Evans Of all the Members whom I expected to intervene on my speech, I would have expected the hon. Gentleman to do so in particular. He is a fantastic parliamentarian and I know that he loves this place. Again, he has made a very good point. I do, however, ask him please to let me continue my speech, in which I will answer his question.
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home suggests that 88% of puppies born in the UK are bred by unlicensed breeders. Many people are falling into the trap of buying puppies from third-party sellers such as puppy farms, and some puppies are illegally smuggled from Ireland and Eastern Europe. Those who run puppy farms and puppy-smuggling businesses are rarely concerned with the welfare of their dogs and puppies. The mothers are treated like machines, bred within an inch of their lives, producing far more litters of puppies in a year than is legally allowed. They are kept in horrific conditions. “Unpicking the Knots”, a report produced recently by Blue Cross for Pets, found that many dogs were kept in enclosed spaces such as rabbit hutches, and without water. As an animal lover and a dog owner, I find that completely abhorrent.
The puppies and their mothers are seen not as sentient beings, but merely as pathways to profit. Puppies are seized from their mothers long before the 12 weeks for which they are supposed to stay with them are up and are sold, malnourished and without vital vaccinations, to unwitting buyers. As a result, many irresponsibly bred puppies end up with life-threatening illnesses such as parvovirus and kennel cough. New dog owners are then faced with the financial and emotional hardship of ongoing veterinary treatment or, in many cases, the death of the puppy, which means that the buyer has essentially spent hundreds of pounds on a dog who lives for no more than six months.
Although, as I said earlier, our dog lived for many long years, I remember the first thing that happened when we brought him home from the pet shop. His hair fell out because he was infested with mange. We took him to the vet and found out that he was only two and a half weeks old. His eyes had just opened. I accept that that was many years ago—in 1989—but it still happens in this day and age.
Snatching puppies from their mothers too early can have ongoing impacts on the lucky dogs that do make it. The first 12 weeks of a dog’s life are its most important, with those crucial moments socialising with its mother and littermates dictating the dog’s future temperament as an adult. As a result, dogs born of irresponsible breeding often grow into anxious and aggressive adults, which can lead to additional costs being incurred in training and behavioural classes for the owners.
Mr Alister Jack (Dumfries and Galloway) (Con) The hon. Gentleman describes very well the puppy farms, which are disgraceful and operate in agricultural terms in southern Ireland. Does he agree that Operation Delphin at the port of Cairnryan in my constituency, which to date has led to the seizure and return of over 500 puppies, has been a huge success? Does he also welcome the fact that that pilot scheme has been extended for another year, so it is to be hoped that the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will now be able to get on and send even more puppies back to the farms they came from, and stamp out this illegal trade?
Chris Evans I know of that case in Dumfries, and it is a brilliant example, but as I will say later, this is all about enforcement, as there is only so much the Government can do through legislation. They should, however, look at the examples the hon. Gentleman has raised as a way forward.
Robert Courts (Witney) (Con) I am listening with great interest to the powerful case the hon. Gentleman is unfolding about the horrors of this trade. He mentions enforcement, but does he agree that there might be a role, in addition to the legislative aspect he is looking at, for education for the public, so that people know the questions to ask of the seller? If they know there are certain red flags to suggest the puppy has come from an illegal source, that might help.
Chris Evans To make a wider point, a fantastic aspect of this debate is that so many people have come to me with solutions. The hon. Gentleman is right: there should be a multifaceted attack on puppy farms and illegal dog breeding, and it should include education and raising red flags, as he suggests.
Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab) I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate and I am pleased to be attending it. Good friends of mine who are intelligent human beings who really worry about the care of animals have been taken in by puppy dealers, and by the role played by the child of the puppy dealer, pretending that the puppy in question is a loved puppy that has been with their family for ages. They can be completely unscrupulous in the stories they tell and the ways in which they dupe members of the public.
Chris Evans These puppy breeders will go to any lengths to make a case and secure a sale; it is all about profit.
I will use the example of my current dog; he is a fantastic dog with a great temperament. The key difference between the purchase of my first dog, which my mother bought from a pet shop, and that of my current dog is that I went to a reputable dealer, and met the mother and father, and saw what the puppy was like. The dealer also provided examples of what other puppies from that litter were like. There was a lot of further important information, too. I also had an information pack, so I knew who I was dealing with. We have had a fantastic time with the dog I have now.
In this age of modern technology, consumers are increasingly turning to online shopping to purchase their goods, and it is no different when buying a puppy. However, as I have mentioned, online sellers are slipping through the net and are becoming increasingly difficult to regulate and identify.
Blue Cross has been working in partnership with classified ad site Gumtree, which has been able to track repeated advertisers of puppies. It found that online sellers were using multiple email addresses, placing hundreds of adverts over the course of 24 months, and selling in multiple local authority areas—all the classic signs of a puppy farmer.
These cases are only a drop in the ocean of the wider problem of unlicensed breeders abusing the legislation. The Pet Animals Act 1951 must be updated in line with modern internet use. I know the Department has in the past said that it believes the definition of a pet shop to be wide enough to include the sale of pets online, but the horrific reality of what is happening says otherwise. However, updating the legislation is only one way in which we can tackle the problem. It is also vital that we are firmer with the enforcement of licences and with inspections of breeders, which must be more frequent and thorough.
In Wales, we are steps ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to regulating dog breeders. The Animal Welfare (Breeding of Dogs) (Wales) Regulations 2014 enabled the Welsh Government to enforce stricter rules for those wishing to breed dogs for profit. This is certainly a step in the right direction and I urge England and Scotland to follow suit, but the legislation is only as strong as the practices of the licensing officers. As elsewhere in the UK, local authorities in Wales are severely underfunded, and licensing officers are therefore not fully equipped or trained to do the job at full capacity. Many juggle multiple job roles, from inspecting food outlets in the morning to assessing dog breeders in the afternoon. Without full animal welfare training, licensing officers are unable to properly assess how fit a breeding establishment is for purpose. As a result, many puppy farms are issued licences. It is important to realise that this is not a Wales-only problem, a Scotland-only problem, a Northern Ireland-only problem or an England-only problem. It is a problem not only for the four nations but across European borders, and we need joined-up thinking on this.
Chris Davies (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con) I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way and for bringing forward the debate this evening. As a fellow Welsh MP, he will know that one of the great embarrassments for us is the fact that puppy farming is quite prevalent to the west of our constituencies. My opinion on puppy farming has changed considerably since I went on a DEFRA Committee visit there last year. I was for puppy farming, but having visited a puppy farm, I changed my mind completely. The dogs were not allowed to be dogs; they were just breeding machines. I agree with almost everything that the hon. Gentleman has said, but I must point out that in Wales the law is already there and that the problem lies in its enforcement.
Chris Evans That is absolutely right. The hon. Gentleman and I are both south Wales MPs. If anyone visiting Pembrokeshire drives down the road from Swansea to Carmarthenshire, all they will see are signs saying “Puppies for sale” and “Dogs for sale.” They might wonder why people are constantly selling puppies and dogs. Enforcement is the real issue; it is the crux of the problem. We might have the legislation but we also need strong enforcement.
I understand that in enforcing stricter and more robust licensing laws, the work of the already thinly stretched and underfunded local authorities will increase. There is an urgent need for additional funding for local authorities, but the expertise of the third sector can also have a role. That is why I advocate charities such as the Dogs Trust, Blue Cross and the RSPCA working alongside the local authorities to aid them with inspections and with the enforcement of licensing standards. We cannot rely solely on the third sector to fix all our problems, but it is important that we foster collaboration between local authorities and the animal welfare charities that are experts in the area.
We cannot talk about licences without talking about fees. There are no standardised licensing fees for dog breeders, and prices per local authority vary from £23 to £782. It is no wonder that many responsible breeders are so put off from applying for a licence. One way of rectifying this is by introducing a risk-based approach to licensing, with the level of risk that a breeding business poses determining the fee. There could be a rating system, with those with higher points and adhering to higher standards of breeding being awarded lower licensing fees. Such financial incentives would encourage compliance with higher standards and better practice—almost like the road fund licence in relation to polluting cars.
In addition to the aforementioned proposals, we need to look further at third-party sales of puppies. Yes, we could call for a ban, but it is clear that the internet is like the wild west at the moment. It is so unlicensed that it would be difficult to clamp down on those third-party sales. I am therefore asking the Government to introduce an information campaign and to make it mandatory for a buyer to see the puppy interacting with its mother and its littermates before purchase; but we would need to ensure that such a requirement could be enforced. As unlicensed breeders become increasingly savvy in working round the regulations of breeding, it could only work if local authorities were given the necessary resources, perhaps using the proceeds of a licensing fee for that purpose. We should also contemplate forcing breeders to provide full seller information when posting adverts, and introducing the practice of assigning every breeder a unique identification number, as France has recently done.
Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab) It is great that my hon. Friend has secured this Adjournment debate. I have received many letters on this issue, and I want to let the Minister know that it is a real matter of concern for many of our constituents. I thank my hon. Friend for raising it.
Chris Evans I thank my hon. Friend, who is a diligent Member of Parliament and a good friend since I came to the House.
In conclusion, I urge the Government to review the current legislation surrounding sales of puppies and other pets in the UK. The 1951 Act must be updated to regulate online sales of puppies. More importantly, we need to ensure that local authorities and licensing officers receive full appropriate training to do their jobs properly. Once that has been established, we can consider a ban on third-party sales.
This debate has shown the House at its very best, and I know that many Members will support me on this initiative. Dogs bring so much joy to our lives and help us in so many ways. Whether we keep dogs for work, as a health aid or simply for companionship, it is high time that we gave something back to our four-legged friends and afforded them the protection they deserve. My life has been enlightened by owning a dog. Dogs are important to me, and I will own dogs for the rest of my life.
Finally, I thank Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Blue Cross, RSPCA, Dogs Trust and the International Fund for Animal Welfare for their tireless work to improve welfare standards for dogs and animals across the country, and for bringing often ignored issues to the country’s attention. I hope the Minister will take on board some of the constructive suggestions that we have heard in this debate.
Below is the text of the speech made by Matt Hancock, the Minister for Digital, to the Institute of Directors’ Digital Strategy Summit on 17 October 2017.
Thank you for the invitation to join you here today.
I always feel at home when I’m at the IoD. I feel at home, because when I am at home, I’m surrounded by entrepreneurs.
My first job was solving the Y2K bug in cobalt in my family tech company. Both my parents started businesses. All my siblings have started their own businesses. I’m the one who took the low risk career – although given the last couple of years it doesn’t always feel like that.
With that background, it would have been easy for me to go into business too. I love it, find it interesting, and I profoundly believe that business, done right, is a force for good in the world.
But I didn’t, and there’s a reason. When I was growing up, the business that my parents ran – my stepfather wrote the code, my mum was in charge – the business was all around me and the main subject at the dinner table.
In the early 1990s, I was a teenager. When recession hit, one of our big customers was struggling, and couldn’t pay their bills. We got to a point when if a cheque didn’t arrive by the end of the week, the business would collapse. We would lose everything as a family, and both my mum and stepdad would have been unemployed, and the twenty or so people who worked in the business, who we felt very strongly for, would have lost their jobs too. All through no fault of our own.
Thankfully, late in the week the cheque did come. I remember the moment to this day. The business was saved, and the software became a big hit. So now, every time you type your postcode into the internet and it brings up your address, you can thank my stepdad Bob. I hope we’ve helped you with your christmas shopping over the years.
This searing experience, as a teenager, made me start to ask the bigger questions: how can a perfectly decent business nearly go bust, because the economy had gone wrong? What can be done to stop that happening again.
And while I did go on to work for the business, I then went to the Bank of England as an economist, and there I discovered that all the big decisions are made in Westminster. So here I am.
And it is an honour and a privilege to be the UK’s first ever Minister for Digital, working to give others the opportunities I had, and to stop others suffering the fate we escaped so narrowly.
So what does this mean, in this time of digital revolution?
It means harnessing this amazing new technology, so that it works for the benefit of everyone. It means mitigating the risks, and ensuring the benefits can be accessed by all. It means supporting a thriving digital sector, a digital infrastructure that is not only fit for the present but the future, and easy and ubiquitous access for everyone in this country to the building opportunities digital technology offers.
We’ve even changed the name of the department to include Digital. And as a Department we are expanding, bringing some of the finest minds from within Whitehall and from outside to work on getting this right.
Our Digital Strategy, published in March of this year, set out how we intend to make the UK the best place to establish and grow a digital business and the safest place for citizens to be online.
It set out seven pillars that underpin the changes we need to see and I would like to update you now on how we have already delivered on those, and how we are set to deliver further in the very near future.
The Digital Strategy is complemented by the Digital Charter, as set out in the Manifesto, that sets out our approach to making the UK both the best possible place for digital businesses and the safest place for people to be online. On the former, it’s about pursuing a plan that reinforces the work we started with the Strategy, and on the latter, we need to approach the internet from a set of liberal values that allow us to seize the opportunities that unprecedented connectivity provides while also mitigating some of the harms it creates.
Strategies and promises mean nothing if you don’t push them through. I’m pleased to tell you that, only six months since the launch, we are making great progress.
The first pillar, and central to everything is infrastructure. In the Digital Strategy we committed to building a world-class digital infrastructure for the UK. That means ubiquitous coverage, so no one is left out, and with sufficient capacity not only for today’s needs but in readiness for tomorrow.
We are making good progress in delivering today’s technology to all.
We are on track to meet the target, set out in the Strategy, of superfast broadband coverage at 95% by the end of 2017. Then to reach the final 5%, in the Digital Economy Act, which received Royal Assent in April this year, we legislated for a Universal Service Obligation to deliver decent broadband to all. We recognise that broadband is now essentially a utility, not a nice to have. And I’m delighted that this is increasingly delivered by a competitive market of providers.
For mobile reception, each MNO is obliged to provide voice coverage to 90% of the UK by the end of this year, and the speed of rollout has been impressive – 4G premises coverage rose from 29% in 2015 to 72% last year. In our Manifesto we set out that the next step is 95% coverage of the UK landmass, so people are connected where they live, work, and travel.
We’re tackling, with the Advertising Standards Authority, the misleading use of so-called “up to” speeds, and the misdescription of technologies like “fibre” broadband, when it’s actually copper-to-the-premise. And we’re supporting community broadband providers to get to some of the hardest to reach parts of the country with the help of local residents.
At the same time as fixing the current technology, we must focus on the next generation: 5G and full fibre.
Our 5G strategy, released at Spring Budget 2017, outlined the steps we will take. As part of a £1.1 billion investment in digital infrastructure, we are funding a coordinated programme of integrated fibre and 5G trials to ensure the UK leads the world in 5G connectivity.
To meet this ambition, Government, industry and academia must all work together. Just yesterday we launched the first competition for 5G Testbeds & Trials funding in 2018-19. We’re inviting bids for the innovative use of 5G, so we learn very early what we need to do to support its roll out in the real world.
So supporting infrastructure – both the current and future technologies – is the first pillar of the digital strategy.
The next pillar is skills.
Britain needs stronger digital skills at every level, from getting people online for the first time, to attracting and training the very top coding talent in the world.
It’s something we in Government can’t do on our own. So when we launched the Digital Strategy in March, we committed to establish a new Digital Skills Partnership, to both bring greater coherence to provision of digital skills training at a national level, and to increase the digital capability needed to build thriving local economies throughout the country.
When we launched the Strategy, with industrial partners we promised to create more than four million digital training places. Just six months in, we and our partners have already over-delivered on this promise. Since that date, much progress has been made, including through companies like Barclays, Lloyds, Google, and many others.
This comes on top of putting coding in the curriculum from age 8, and last week the announcement that one of the first of our new T-level technical qualifications will be in Digital.
We want all these opportunities to be open to as wide a range of people as possible. We firmly believe that digital skills are essential, for everyone, to thrive in this digital age and that training in such skills should be an entitlement for all our citizens. So we legislated for Digital Skills Entitlement in the Digital Economy Act and are now developing the detail of the policy with the Department of Education. My friend and colleague Karen Bradley – Secretary of State for DCMS and I are working to deliver this entitlement, so that everyone can get the basic skills they need.
Of course the greatest demand for skills is the tech industry itself.
Over the past year we have seen investments in UK tech, including from Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, IBM, Google, and into British stars like Zopa, Monzo, and ARM.
We’ve significantly expanded the British Business Bank’s capacity in scale up capital, and support the opening of incubators across the country. Pushing for a good deal for the tech industry is a core part of our Brexit negotiations, including the free flow of data and seeking to settle the issue of EU nationals at the earliest opportunity – a goal currently being frustrated by the European side.
Ultimately, the goal of this third pillar of the Digital Strategy is to make Britain the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business, so that everyone who has an idea and the will to make it happen.
When it comes broadening opportunity, we are committed to helping every British business become a digital business.
That’s the fourth pillar of the Digital Strategy.
In July we launched the Productivity Council, which, developed through discussions with UK business leaders, the Confederation of British Industry and the Institute of Directors, has been designed to encourage and support UK businesses to go digital. Analysis suggests that only a modest improvement across a broad base of firms could unlock billions of Gross Value Added every year.
As an example of how we continue to encourage and support innovation, last month we together with TCUK launched our FinTech For All competition, targeted at fintech startups who show they can make a real difference to people in danger of being left behind by conventional financial services. We want to help startups who show they can help people struggling to manage their money, and make financial services available to all.
The next, fifth, pillar is to make the UK the safest place in the world to live and work online, as set out in detail in our Digital Charter.
As part of the Digital Strategy, our Digital Charter sets out how we need to balance the freedom of the internet with the need to mitigate its harms.
Our Internet Safety Strategy, published last week, sets out our plan for making the UK the safest place in the world to be online.
The Strategy sets out how we all must play our role in tackling issues of online harms. We want to bring together groups from across our whole society and hear from people of all backgrounds – including technology firms, schools, the voluntary sector, and citizens young and old as we turn that ambition into reality.
We will bring in a statutory code of practice for social media companies, we are consulting on an industry levy to support educational programmes and technical solutions, and we want to see more transparency to help inform future policy.
Throughout we will be guided by three core principles. The first is that what is considered unacceptable offline should not be accepted online. Secondly, all users should be empowered to manage online risks and stay safe. Lastly, technology companies have a responsibility to their users to develop safe online communities.
To protect the amazing openness and freedom of the Internet that are its greatest strengths, we must balance an individual’s freedom with respect for the freedom of others online, just as we do offline.
Ensuring the internet is safe means cyber security too, and our National Cyber Security Strategy, funded to the tune of £1.9bn, sets out what we are doing to help improve Britain’s cyber security.
Now of course the security of any data is firmly the responsibility of the owner of that data – a principle that will be reinforced with the new Data Protection Bill – but Government has a role, to protect the nation, set standards so technology is secure by design, to educate, and for incident response.
The sixth pillar of the digital strategy is to digitise Government.
Since the creation of GDS in 2011, Britain has been a world leader in digitising Government.
Dozens of Government services have been digitised, from applying for a passport, to applying for lasting power of attorney. The massive project to make tax digital is proceeding carefully, and the feedback from those who use the new digitised service is excellent. Our G-cloud procurement system is being copied around the world, as it allows and encourages contracts to go to small innovative companies, not the traditional main players. In February this year, we had 3,947 suppliers on the Digital Marketplace, of which 93% were SMEs. And as a result out GovTech market is booming.
Just a fortnight ago, the Lord Chancellor tested the new small courts service digital solution, which seeks to open up access to justice.
And our manifesto set out exciting next steps, including opening up geospatial data, and assuring peoples’ digital identity.
This brings me to the final pillar: data.
The Digital Strategy committed to unlocking the power of data in the UK economy and improving public confidence in its use. Data underpins any digital economy, and the effective use of data is built on trust. Research shows that, currently, more than 80 per cent of people feel that they do not have complete control over their data online, and that is too high.
So we are strengthening our data protection laws through the new Data Protection Bill, making UK law consistent with the EU’s GDPR. Under its proposals individuals will have more control over their data, through the right to be forgotten and to ask for their personal data to be erased. They will also be able to ask social media channels to delete information they posted in their childhood – news that mightn’t yet be as welcome to the teen users of Twitter and Instagram as it will be when they look back on their posts some years from now.
We also want to end the existing reliance on default opt-out or pre-selected ‘tick boxes’, to give consent for organisations to collect personal data, which we all know are largely ignored. The Data Protection Bill will make it simpler to withdraw consent for the use of personal data and require explicit consent to be necessary for processing sensitive personal data. It also expands the definition of ‘personal data’ to include IP addresses, internet cookies and DNA.
On top of all that, new criminal offences will be created to deter organisations from creating situations – either intentionally or through pure recklessness – where someone could be identified from anonymised data. The data protection regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office, will be given more power to defend consumer interests and issue higher fines for the most serious data breaches.
And getting the governance around data right is about more than just the legislation.
Good use of data means understanding and living with the ethical dilemmas and boundaries that artificial intelligence brings. When machines are making choices that until now have been made by humans, it’s important they stay inside the rules, but vital too that the ethics of the consequences of those decisions are considered.
Data underpins the insurance industry. But what characteristics is it right for an algorithm to take account of when deciding the level of the premium?
How do we deal with discrimination that can be thrown up by the application of AI to real world examples?
I believe that getting the full governance of data right: the rules, the enforcement, and the ethical norms of behaviour, will set Britain fair to lead in the new world of big data, machine learning, and AI.
Earlier this week we published a stunning report by Dame Wendy Hall and Jerome Pesenti into what we must do to be a world leader. I look forward very much to working with them and others to deliver on their proposals, and make the UK a world leader in this amazing new technology.
So there we have it. Just over six months on from our Digital Strategy and we have been building all seven pillars of our digital strategy.
And I want to end with this message. We can only deliver the UK’s digital strategy in partnership, between Government, yes, providing leadership, a legislative framework, and occasionally taxpayers’ cash.
But Government in partnership with academia, civil society, and businesses large and small.
And coming from small business myself, I know there are more good ideas out there than in here. So I want to hear from you, I want to know what we’re getting right, what we’re getting wrong, what amazing innovations you’re developing, and how we can make it easier for you to grow your businesses here in the UK.
We have a big agenda and much to do, and I look forward to working with you to deliver it.