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James Brokenshire – 2017 Speech at Top 100 Companies

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, on 14 September 2017.

Thank you David [Elliott, Ulster Business Editor], and thank you for the kind invitation to speak here today. It is a great honour to be here and to join you in celebrating the very best of NI business.

I would like to thank A&L Goodbody, Ulster Business Magazine and Lanyon Communications for hosting and organising this fine event.

Events like these are a welcome reminder of the economic progress we have seen in Northern Ireland since the Belfast Agreement nearly two decades ago.

Some often query whether, when politics comes to the fore, business takes a back seat as a result.

But the transformation of Northern Ireland in the past two decades shows why it is imperative to keep both at the heart of the work we do.

To see the change, from a place which had struggled to attract investment and jobs against a backdrop of terrorism and instability, to one of the most popular locations in the UK outside of London for foreign direct investment, shows exactly why we see a stronger economy as a key priority for Northern Ireland.

And as Mark Thompson mentioned in his remarks, 2016 was a hugely successful year for the Top 100 – with record sales and a 16% increase in profits from world-beating businesses making strides at home and globally. I can only congratulate you all for that achievement.

The fundamentals of the UK economy as a whole are strong. We have grown continuously for more than four years, reduced the deficit and delivered a record number of jobs.

We are proud of this record but not complacent. We must restore productivity growth to deliver higher wages and living standards for people across the country. That is why we are committed to investing in infrastructure, technology and skills to deliver the best possible base for strong future growth.

This strength includes continued growth in Northern Ireland, which has secured 34 new Foreign Direct Investment projects in the last year alone, creating more than 1,600 new jobs. We now have more than 800 international companies located in the region and employing in excess of 75,000 people.

And overall the picture is one of solid growth, increasing output, falling unemployment, and job creation.

Indeed we saw yesterday that unemployment is now at 5.3%, the lowest since the great crash in 2008, while more than 10,000 jobs were created over the course of the year. And the last quarter saw the sharpest rise in business activity in 2017 so far.

It is wonderful to be able to celebrate such success – to recognise the strength and resilience of the economy in Northern Ireland. But building upon that success must be the priority for the year ahead. And as we look to do so, it is important that we acknowledge the key issues that we must face.

EU Exit

The first is EU Exit.

We might be leaving the EU but we are not turning our backs on our friends and partners in Europe.

As a Government our goal is to secure a deal that works for the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, as we leave the European Union.

This was reiterated in the Government’s Position Paper on Northern Ireland and Ireland, setting out in more detail how we might achieve our objectives.

This Position Paper expanded on the Government’s proposals for a future customs relationship with Europe. We proposed two options: a highly streamlined model and a new customs partnership. In our Northern Ireland/Ireland Paper we have set out the additional facilitations that the Government see as necessary to protect the open border and ensure as frictionless a movement of goods as possible.

Specifically, the Government has proposed that small and medium sized businesses should be exempt from all customs processes entirely. This imaginative and flexible solution to the free movement of goods would see some 80% of all Northern Ireland businesses free from any interaction with customs processes.

And for those businesses not falling into that category, the Government wants highly streamlined and flexible administrative arrangements to ensure no physical checks are required on goods crossing the land border.

Our second proposal is a new customs partnership with the EU, aligning our approach to the customs border in a way that removes the need for a UK-EU customs border.

One potential approach would involve the UK mirroring the EU’s requirements for imports from the rest of the world where their final destination is the EU.

These are bold and imaginative proposals to the issue of free flow of goods across the border with Ireland. And we would encourage everyone to get behind that debate as we look to develop the next stage of detail and an implementation plan.

But of course the open border is about more than goods, it is also fundamentally about people and communities. The Government is absolutely committed to ensuring the border remains open to allow for the normal everyday interactions between people on either side.

For its part, the UK wants to continue to protect the CTA and associated reciprocal bilateral arrangements. This means protecting the ability to move freely within the UK and between the UK and Ireland with no practical change from now, recognising the special importance of this to people in their daily lives, and the underpinning it provides for the Northern Ireland political process.

We also recognise that investors, businesses and citizens in both the UK and the EU, and beyond, need to be able to plan ahead. In order to avoid any cliff-edge as we move from our current relationship to our future partnership, people and businesses would benefit from an interim period, for the implementation of the arrangements, which allowed for a smooth and orderly transition.

The Government believes it would help both sides to minimise unnecessary disruption and provide certainty for businesses and individuals if we agree this principle early in the process.

The Government is keen to explore with the EU a model for an interim period which would ensure that businesses and people in the UK and the EU only have to adjust once to a new customs relationship.

So the UK Government has been clear that we will respect and recognise the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland and its relationship with Ireland as we leave the European Union.

We must avoid a return to a hard border, and trade and everyday movements across the land border must be protected as part of the UK-EU deal.

The Government will take account of these unique circumstances and the priority attached by all parts of the community in Northern Ireland to avoid a hard border and protect cross-border trade and cooperation.

Lack of an Executive

But the most immediate challenge is the lack of an Executive, and the imperative – for growth, prosperity and for the people of Northern Ireland – to see power-sharing return.

For nine months government has effectively been in the hands of civil servants, rather than politicians who are rightly accountable to the public for the decisions they make. This has meant there has been no political direction to tackle the fundamental challenges facing Northern Ireland – including the reform and transformation of critical public services.

So our overriding priority for the UK Government in Northern Ireland remains the restoration of devolved power-sharing government in Stormont. We believe in devolution. It is right that decisions over local services – like health, education, transport and economic development – are taken by local politicians in locally accountable political institutions.

This is why I am working intensively with the Northern Ireland parties and, in accordance with the well-established three-stranded approach, the Irish Government, to secure the reestablishment of inclusive, stable, devolved government in the interests of the entire community in Northern Ireland.

I have been clear with the parties that they must come together and reach agreement in the short window of time that remains.

If this does not happen within a short number of weeks, we risk greater political decision-making from Westminster – starting with provision for a 2017-18 Budget this autumn.

This is not what anyone wants and would profoundly be a step back not a step forwards. But in the continuing absence of devolution the UK Government retains ultimate responsibility for good governance and political stability in Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom – and we will not shirk from the necessary measures to deliver that.

If things don’t change we are on a glide path to greater and greater UK government intervention.

But I believe we can change course. This can be achieved with political leadership and with support of the people of Northern Ireland – including communities and businesses.

I ask everyone here tonight to do all you can to help secure what Northern Ireland wants and needs.

There is so much at stake. Risks, yes. But also so many opportunities, because I firmly believe in the huge unlocked potential there is right across Northern Ireland.

Opportunities to leverage the UK-wide Industrial Strategy to deliver stronger growth, and capitalise on new Sector Deals to support the industries of the future – like biotech and life sciences – where the UK, and Northern Ireland in particular, has the potential to lead the world.

To take forward with this Government a comprehensive and ambitious set of City Deals for Northern Ireland to prosper, and to put innovation at the heart of Northern Ireland’s growth.

To be at the heart of a stronger, fairer and more prosperous United Kingdom, and one that is more outward looking than ever before as we make trade deals around the world – with NI business able to realise their ambitions and make their mark on the world stage.

And to make use of the considerable freedoms available, getting the devolution of corporation tax back on track to enable Northern Ireland to cut its rates to attract investment and jobs.

In all of these ways – and more – I see a bright economic future for Northern Ireland.

And that is a future that the UK Government will support – through all the ways above, as well as through the range of funding streams there will be available, whether our £4.7bn Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, our £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund, and far more besides.

And that is what a restored Executive can do for Northern Ireland. It can promote an enterprise-driven economy, somewhere where young entrepreneurs want to invest and the younger generation see opportunities to forge their careers in Northern Ireland – a place where innovation, skills, opportunity and prosperity are at the forefront of the way ahead.

With a stable, power-sharing government in place, business can rely on the backdrop of stability that removes barriers to finance, to investment, and which boosts confidence to create jobs and opportunities.

And that is exactly why it must remain our absolute priority in the critical weeks ahead.

Impact on business/private sector

All the while, I want to reassure you that the UK Government will always uphold its responsibilities to the people and businesses of Northern Ireland.

I will continue to keep communications open with businesses right across Northern Ireland. Some of you may be aware of the work of my Business Advisory Group, but more broadly too, my door will always be open to hearing more from the business community.

For no matter what, I will remain a strong advocate for Northern Ireland and NI business within the Government and beyond.

Including on the Government’s ongoing work to support Bombardier in the ongoing trade case brought by Boeing.

Let me be very clear: it is a top priority for this Government to safeguard Bombardier’s operations and its highly skilled workers in Belfast.

This is obviously a commercial matter, but Ministers across Government have engaged swiftly and extensively with Boeing, as well as the US and Canadian governments on this case.

We want to encourage Boeing to drop what we see as an unjustified case, and to get round the table and seek negotiated settlement with Bombardier. And we would encourage all those with an interest, whether of a political view or none, to join us in pushing for the same outcome.

Working to restore devolved government

So as we approach our dinner, I want to finish by being clear of what we want to see in the weeks to come in the best interests of Northern Ireland.

Over the last few weeks, the DUP and Sinn Fein have been holding meetings together and this intensive dialogue is continuing.

These discussions have been constructive and I am hopeful that further progress will be made as they continue. The issues remain relatively small in number and are clearly defined. But difference remains.

We have also been bringing together the other parties eligible to join an Executive and have had positive engagement with them in line with our commitment to an inclusive process.

But ultimately we cannot force an agreement.

That has to come from the parties themselves.

And we – all of us in this room – want to see those parties come together to…

…make the important decisions facing Northern Ireland’s public services…

…to contribute to the important discussions about how the UK will leave the European Union alongside the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales…

…and to support continued economic growth in Northern Ireland: investing in infrastructure, taking its own decisions on corporation tax, and taking other actions to support businesses large and small…

To do this it’s vital that they continue to work together to find a solution to their differences.

And it is my belief that they are committed to doing so… in the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland.

I have very much welcomed the growing voice of businesses, trade unions, the voluntary sector and others in stressing the need for the return of devolved government – as we have seen for example in the media profiles by business leaders from across different sectors this week.

And tonight, I would encourage all of you here to continue to make it clear to the political parties just how important the restoration of devolved government is for business, for ordinary people and for Northern Ireland as a whole.

We all want to see the parties come together and form an Executive. They need to hear from you just how important it is for to you to see them working together for the good of Northern Ireland.

And deliver the bright positive future for NI we know we can achieve together.

Chris Skidmore – 2017 Speech on National Democracy Week

Below is the text of the speech made by Chris Skidmore, the Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office, on 15 September 2017.

Thank you all for coming today.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the International Day of Democracy by the United Nations General Assembly.

In November 2007, the Assembly resolved that the 15th of September should be marked as an International Day of Democracy, with all member states invited to commemorate the day in an appropriate manner that contributes to raising public awareness of democracy.

I thought it would be fitting for us to meet here today, not only to share with each other what progress has been made over the past year in promoting democratic engagement and participation across the United Kingdom, but to recognise that the promotion of the importance of democracy cannot be achieved by government alone.

Indeed, the resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly in November 2007, noted that there was a ‘central role’ for the ‘active involvement of civil society organisations’ in celebrating and promoting democracy, equality and freedom.

I recognise too the crucial role that you and your organisations here today play in creating what should be termed as our Democratic Society.

Which is why I have invited Women’s Aid and Mencap to share their experience of working with Government to ensure all voices can be heard. I am very pleased that Sian Hawkins from Women’s Aid and Matthew Harrison and Ismail Kaji from Mencap are able to join us today to discuss the progress we have made on the anonymous registration process and the steps we are taking to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

Speakers:

Women’s Aid – anonymous registration
Mencap – call for evidence on accessibility to elections

Thank you both, your work is not only valued— it is vitally important that we should continue to work together in partnership, as we continue our pursuit of increased democratic participation. We all know that this work cannot stand still.

It does not begin or end in the run up to and at the end of an electoral cycle. It must be sustained and be seen to be sustainable, if we are to ensure that as a society, our democratic processes are to be safeguarded and confidence in our democracy renewed.

Since I was appointed the Minister for the Constitution over a year ago, I have had the opportunity of not only meeting many of you personally, either at the many ministerial roundtables that I have held in the Cabinet Office, or on my Every Voice Matters tour that has taken me across every region and devolved nation; I have also had the privilege of working with you in our common and shared goal.

That endeavour, simply expressed, has been to ensure that, regardless of background, gender, disability or race, we all want the maximum number of citizens who are eligible to vote, to register to do so and to have their say at the ballot box.

And I have been grateful to charities and civil society organisations such as Bite the Ballot, Patchwork Foundation, the Citizenship Foundation, Voices 4 Change here today – to name but a few, who have not only given their time and effort to attend the several roundtable discussions that I have held in the Cabinet Office, helping to shape our plans for what more can be done to improve and increase democratic engagement, but have also worked hard to demonstrate what can be done, and what new approaches can be taken, to reach out to those groups in society who are under-registered, and do not participate in our elections.

All of you have done so much to give a voice to the voiceless; your passion and energy for what you do and have achieved has been clearly evident to me, and I hope that we continue to work together in our shared activity of ensuring that we have a democracy that works for everyone.

Next year, we will celebrate the centenary of women getting the right to vote, with the passing of the Representation of the People Act on 6 February 1918.

Not an equal right to vote— importantly, that would only come ten years later, when in July 1928, the Equal Franchise Act was passed. Even so, this milestone in our democratic history increased the proportion of adults qualified to vote from 28% to 78% and opened the door to the modern democratic age.

Whilst we can talk of our democratic system being one of the oldest in the world, revere our institution of Parliament and traditions of freedom enshrined in documents such as Magna Carta, the fact that we will be celebrating the fact that the equal franchise was created only 90 years ago, highlights that our modern democracy is in fact a very new one.

The Government has already confirmed that it intends to mark the Suffrage Centenary with the significant investment of £5 million, announced by the Chancellor at the last budget. Cabinet Office are proud to be collaborating with the Government Equalities Office who are leading on this work, and I know that further announcements will be made in due course on how the government intends to both commemorate and celebrate the achievement of women getting the right to vote.

It is an achievement we must never forget, for their struggle against the burning injustice of their situation demonstrates how fortunate we are in a modern democracy to live with the democratic freedoms that are ours today. Many in the world still do not, and it is right that the International Day of Democracy today gives all democracies in the world the opportunity to reflect upon the importance of our values, often taken for granted.

For myself, the legacy of the past, of the achievements of those women who fought tirelessly for the vote and to have their say, must also be reflected in our commitment to the future.

A commitment to future generations, to ensure that the importance of the vote and each individual voice is never eroded; a commitment to those vulnerable groups and people who find that there are still barriers that prevent them from participating in our democracy; and a commitment to ensuring that as a democratic society, though we recognise our differences are part of a healthy democracy, that should not prevent us from coming together to promote a democracy where every voice matters.

That is why I am delighted that you have been able to join me as I announce today that next year, in the 90th anniversary year of the establishment of the Equal Franchise, the Government intends to establish a new National Democracy Week.

I aim to establish this as an annual event of national significance, with the inaugural week taking place from 2-6 July 2018, in commemoration of the passing of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act on 2 July. In its first year National Democracy Week will complement the Suffrage Centenary Programme, expanding on the themes of inclusion and representation that underpinned women’s struggle for their right to vote.

My ambition is for National Democracy Week to increase the number of people who understand and take part in our democratic process. This includes those who feel excluded from the democratic debate, face barriers to participation and are less likely to be registered to vote.

Many of our partners have told us a focused week of activity is needed to help amplify their messages and build on the momentum of democratic participation in our most recent electoral events.

There will be many opportunities for organisations from all sectors to take part and I am confident that the creativity, enthusiasm and experience of our partners will be vital in helping achieve our shared objective of a democracy that works for everyone. That is why I believe that stakeholders should have a key role in National Democracy Week and we will announce in due course our plans for formal involvement.

In the meantime I welcome your ideas for making National Democracy Week 2018 a success and look forward to discussing these with you. We can make a start today: please take a moment if you can to share your first thoughts using the board behind you.

As we plan ahead, I hope to obtain cross party support for National Democracy Week. I have spoken with the shadow spokesperson on voter engagement, who is happy to support the event in principle, while I am also delighted that the Speaker for the House of Commons has also given his backing. I hope that all MPs, indeed all elected representatives, regardless of their political party, will feel able to get involved in National Democracy Week, and I will be actively encouraging them to do so.

It is vital that we recognise that when it comes to or democracy and increasing democratic participation, while we as politicians and political parties may disagree on details of policy, we do, in the words of Jo Cox, have more in common than that which divides us. It is in the spirit of those words that I hope everyone who is part of our Democratic Society, regardless of their political allegiance, will embrace National Democracy Week.

Thank you.

Tobias Ellwood – 2017 Speech on Talent in the Armed Forces

Below is the text of the speech made by Tobias Ellwood, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Defence People and Veterans, on 15 September 2017.

It’s a real pleasure to be here today at DSEI. I’ve always enjoyed these things, I’ve come to them for many years. And anyone who has been in the Armed Forces and served, and I’m still in the reserves as well, you love wandering round and climbing on the equipment.

And if you’ve left the Armed Forces you’re curious to see what will come around the corner next. It’s interesting to see that some of the many things we are seeing are actually going to be used not by us, who are getting older in this audience, but by a fresher generation that is perhaps yet to even see it – the youngsters that we want to attract into the Armed Forces, and that is the theme I want to play on today.

In going round the stands I also noticed some interesting products. One stand is selling cross bows, for which there is a role I’m sure. It must be some special forces who can justify the need of that particular weapons system!

But it did remind me of how war has changed. The Longbow in Agincourt and the advent of that weapon changed the balance of war. After that everyone had the Longbow. There are many examples in military history where a key invention helped win a battle. The tank in the First Would War, for example. And we see this in the modern context with cyber security coming in.

Perhaps it’s too early to say but we are about to conduct from the SDSR a National Security Capability Review, simply because what has happened over the last couple of years with terrorism, where an individual is content to die to cause violence is forcing us to reconsider how we defend our assets and our people as well.

The scale of this event here reflects the determination and the commitment Britain has to play our role on the international stage. We are living in uncertain times but there are a few nations who want to step forward to change our world as a force for good, and we are one of them.

It doesn’t matter what ID card you have in your back pocket but it’s about whether you want to be part of that coalition of the willing in stepping forward to actually stand up to tyranny. So whether it’s tackling ebola, or coming together to come to a solution on Iran, on the nuclear deal, Britain will continue to step forward and play our role.

This week you’ve heard plenty about the Government investing our £178 billion budget towards our armed forces and equipping them for these very challenges that we know about, and perhaps the ones we don’t know about as well.

From F35 to the carrier, from Ajax to Apache, from Dragonfire lasers to Dreadnought submarines, this is the defence industry, moving together with out Armed Forces to create capability for the future.

We’re also playing our part across the world using that equipment. We shouldn’t forget that we have troops in South Sudan, Nigeria, the Gulf, in Iraq and over the skies of Syria, in Ukraine and doing training with our Allies across the world as well.

We step forward with our Armed Forces when others need our help. When the Blue Light services need support – Operation Temperer is when we provide that that help, flooding is another example.

So I’m displaying the wide variety of skill sets that anyone in uniform today will need to have to provide that versatility. There’s plenty to do to make sure we equip our personnel. But also plenty to do to make sure that what we do make we export as well.

That has been reflected this week, the need to drive up productivity, drive down cost and increase innovation as well. We need to make sure we are making the best kit that we can, attracting the best people to fly, see or use them in any capacity.

The pace of change that is taking place is incredible. I always think that when i have to put on my ipad and create an Imovie with my son that he now knows more about how to use the ipad than I do. I’m sure many of you can appreciate that if you have small children yourselves. And looking at some of this equipment, even though I’m a reservist myself, I wouldn’t know how to use them. And there’s two sides to that concern. one is simply making sure we can attract the people who can use the equipment. But second of all there’s a challenge for those of us who are in uniform to collect all that data and turn it into something that is useful.

Those of you who attended the land warfare conference this year, there was a very interesting study of the scale of date that is now being accumulated from the battlefield. It is enormous. If you have too much data you can’t go through the process of turning it into useful intelligence and plans. And when there is pressure on you to make decisions you can see that we’re getting to the point where we’re overloaded with data as well.

The selection of data is ever so important. But what’s also important is who we are recruiting to make sure they understand how to use that data.

I remember working with some Americans on an exercise and we were firing some rocket launchers. On the rocket launchers themselves the instructions were quite simple. It said on it, ‘aim towards enemy’. And that was the sole instruction on this entire thing. And that simply makes sense. But some of the kit we’re seeing today is far more complicated, required degrees and qualification that we need to look at and attract.

It reminds me of a story a Naval officer told me that equipment must be used in the right way because any ship can be used as a Minesweeper, once.

The vital task of recruiting and retaining is becoming ever more challenging as we adjust to society’s changing expectations and the exponential advance of technology.

So today we’re not just thinking about plugging critical skills gaps but how we can recruit people with a diversity of skills whether welders or cyber warriors at a time when the notion of a career for life has actually disappeared completely.

Today we’re considering how best to retain and develop our nuclear scientists and Apache pilots when faced with face stiffer competition from other industries for their talent. And we have to acknowledge that is very much the case. We need to make sure we attract people in the right ways and there are three approaches I want to share with you.

MOD BROADENING ITS TALENT BASE

First, we’re broadening our talent base. We can’t afford to miss out on the talents of our people no matter their gender, sexuality, religion or social background. A diverse community brings a diversity of talent into our Armed Forces.

That’s why, by 2020, we want 10 per cent of our workforce to hail from ethnic minority communities and 15 per cent to be women. We also want to make sure we extend opportunity to all. We’re lifting the ban on women serving in close combat units in the British military. Opening up the Royal Armoured Corps and the RAF regiment to women. And next year the Royal Marines.

We’re helping our young people get a better start in life, championing the apprenticeship programme. And I’m really proud to say that the Armed Forces are the country’s largest provider with as many as 19,000 people on our books. I think that’s a commendable achievement. But we want to increase that number by 50,000 by 2020.

All the while we’re hoping to appeal to a broader range of people by introducing legislation to make service life far more flexible.

Making it easier for personnel to temporarily change the nature of their service to work part-time or be temporarily protected from deployment to support an individual’s personal circumstances where operational need allows.

INDUSTRY

In wanting to attracting the right people, with the right skills, to the right jobs will mean more than just extra MOD effort, it’s about drawing on our Whole Force. So we’re using our Reserves to draw in the talent and skills that we need, whether in medicine, communications, or cyber skills, often in those areas where we don’t have the necessary standard of support.

The people who possess these high level skills are likely to be more familiar with smart phones than smart bombs. But that shouldn’t mean to say they can’t have a role, even for a short space of time in helping us do our job.

This is just a reflection of our need to change our outlook on how we use people and use civilian life. A broader minded perspective is also shaping our approach to plugging the skills gap which we have to admit is very much there.

Take engineering. We recognise it’s in the mutual interest of industry and government to find individuals who have these critical skills. So we’re looking at creating skills passports, enabling those with the right talents to move seamlessly between government and industry.

At the same, we’ve appointed an engineering champion to work with industry partners across the Defence enterprise to help make better use of the existing talent in the workforce.

Meanwhile, under the Defence Growth Partnership we’re looking at how we can make careers within MOD more rewarding creating a new programme to train our staff to support exports and future trading relationships.

I know Dave Armstrong will set-out more details later on.

But the headlines involve the creation of new qualifications in export and International trade, a common industry and government career pathway and secondments to allow individuals to develop their skills and gain key experience across both industry and government.

I hope those of you who are in industry will lend us your support and encourage that to be done to support the Armed Forces covenant. The commitment that we’ve created between business and the Armed Forces to help recruitment and retention of Reservists, the employment of veterans and service spouses/partners and the Cadets movement with supportive HR policies. This has proved very successful indeed and we’re almost up to our 2000th company signing up to our Armed Forces Covenant and I think that’s a great tribute to the work that’s been done.

PUBLIC PARTNERSHIP

Finally we’ve recognised that building the workforce of the future demands collaboration not just across defence but across Government and across the public sector as well.

So we’re currently working with the departments of Education and Business to reinvigorate young people’s interest in science, maths, engineering, and technology.

At the same time we’re working with academia to make sure to tell our defence story and show it for what it really is, a dynamic place of enterprise, of adventure, a place where you get to see the world, and get to make a difference.

Britain has always been blessed with brilliant talent. From John Harrison to Alan Turing to Sir Tim Berners Lee. In Defence it was Air Commodore Frank Whittle who invented the turbo jet. It was British engineer Robert Whitehead who first designed a torpedo launched from a ship underwater. It was Squadron Commander Edwin Dunning who landed a Sopwith Pup on HMS Furious 100 years ago completing the first successful aircraft landing on a moving ship.

And today our people have built the two mightiest carriers this nation has ever seen, satellites that can land on the back of asteroids, lasers that can strike targets 6 km away.

Our challenge is to fire up the ambition of the average 12-year old with the world beating record breaking kit on display in the room today, kit that can help us dive deeper, fly faster, reach higher.

CONCLUSION

So Britain isn’t just building the technology of the future, we’re building the workforce of the tomorrow. And we’re calling on the next generation of innovative heroes to come forward, for it will be on the back of the next Whittles and the next Berners-Lees that our future security, prosperity and reputation, is founded.

The conduct of war, as I mentioned at the beginning, is changing again, as the fourth phase of the industry revolution takes hold, Britain doesn’t just want to be part of it, we very much want to lead it.

Jo Swinson – 2017 Speech to Liberal Democrat Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, at the party’s annual conference in Bournemouth on 17 September 2017.

Let me take you back to a rainy Saturday morning, 28 years ago. I’m doing what many 9-year-olds do on a Saturday morning, watching TV. It’s a children’s programme called Going Live, presented by Philip Schofield – some of you might even remember it, and depending on your age, nostalgically feel it was no match for Swap Shop or Saturday Superstore.

That particular morning’s show sticks in my mind because in amongst Gordon the Gopher, kids’ cartoons, and celebrities getting gunged, there was an amazing competition. The prize was to win a piece of the Berlin Wall, recently torn down in one of the most pivotal moments of 20th century history.

It was pretty obviously in an entirely different league to the usual phone-ins to win toys, or CDs, or tickets to concerts. I didn’t win the competition, but later on my dad visited Berlin and brought me back a little piece of that history.

I think it’s fair to say that as a child, apart from one Christmas watching the animated film “When the Wind Blows”, I hadn’t given much thought to nuclear war. But the cloud had hung threateningly over the world, at times perilously close to disaster on an unimaginable scale.

Thanks to the diplomacy, courage and political leadership which led to the end of the Cold War, we have enjoyed three decades with much reduced levels of nuclear threat, until now.

The provocative and aggressive actions of North Korea are stoking fear. This is a regime that is prepared to enslave, torture and starve its own people. The UN inquiry was harrowing.

One former prisoner told of being made to burn the bodies of fellow inmates who had starved to death, and then use their remains as fertiliser. Another spoke of seeing a mother forced by guards to drown her newborn baby. A dictatorship showing such unimaginable cruelty to own population, cannot be relied upon to act rationally and step back from nuclear confrontation to protect them.

Some of you are old enough to have survived the Blitz: the sirens, the air-raid shelters, hiding and huddling with family members until the danger passed. What do you tell your children as you run for cover? What were you told?

Now imagine being in Japan in recent weeks, as the news broke that North Korean missiles were on their way. A country where people can still remember the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A country that has endured decades of fallout from those deadly mushroom clouds. What did they tell their children as they prepared for the worst?

When calm heads and brave leaders are needed more than ever, global politics seems broken. A few years ago it would have seemed inconceivable that in such a crisis, China would be a voice of reason, and Russia more measured than America. The politics of the bully is back.

Human rights are trampled. Climate change is denied. Hate and division are spread like poison into society.

Just look at Turkey, until recently a democratic, reliable neighbour. A signed-up member of the European Convention on Human Rights, and in the process of becoming a member of the European Union. But now President Erdowan is cracking down on anyone who challenges him. More than 150 journalists have been imprisoned. The Chair and Director of Amnesty International have been rounded up and face trumped up charges.

In Venezuela, protestors against Maduro’s power-grabbing Executive have been attacked, imprisoned, and tortured. It reminds us that neither side of the political spectrum has a monopoly on undermining democracy and abusing human rights. And it beggars belief that Jeremy Corbyn would rather defend a tenuous link to socialism than condemn these atrocities.

In Myanmar, we are witnessing the appalling ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya by the military led by General Min Aung Hlaing. This religious and ethnic oppression serves as a recruiting sergeant for jihadi groups across the world.

And in Chechnya, back in 2010, I saw for myself the impact of Russia’s disregard for human rights, giving Kadyrov free rein to oppress the population. People told me about house burnings and how the state would make people disappear. I’ll never forget the distraught mother who pressed a photograph of her missing son into my palm. Missing, presumed executed by the state.

In recent weeks, we have seen the terrible power of nature.Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have left a trail of flattened communities and broken lives.20 years ago, Harvey would have been a 1 in a 2000 year event.Yet Irma followed immediately after, wreaking destruction with record-breaking winds.

In South Asia, 41 million people are battling floods and displacement, which destroy lives and livelihoods.

Climate scientists predict that global warming will have reached over 2 degrees by 2050 – far beyond the 1.5 degrees safe limit set in the global climate change deal, the Paris Agreement. 2 degrees of warming will ruin crop production in many parts of the world, leading to disease, malnutrition, and rising food prices.

It is hard to communicate the absolutely urgency of this situation. We must act now to prepare and adapt for the warming that is now inevitable.

And we must radically cut carbon emissions to have any hope of limiting the temperature rise to levels which humanity as we know it can survive.

Just two years ago, world leaders gathered in Paris and committed to an ambitious plan to tackle global warming. Now we face the withdrawal of the world’s largest economy from the agreement, while Brexit threatens to weaken action on climate change in the UK and across Europe.

Every time the world witnesses crimes against humanity, every time there is ethnic cleansing, or genocide, we solemnly say ‘Never Again’.

And we struggle to comprehend, how such horrors unfold. Not just how brutal megalomaniac dictators can order atrocities, but perhaps more how ordinary people in the population can comply. Violent threats are part of the reason, but planning such evil acts also requires another ingredient: hate.

The politics of the bully rely on hate and division.

And we should be very worried about the spread of hate in both our online and offline worlds.

We need to talk about racism and religious bigotry.

For people with brown skin, being abused in the street is a depressing reality.

Levels of anti-Semitic abuse are at a record high.

A tirade of bile is directed at migrants fleeing war-torn countries, the language of “swarms” and “cockroaches” dehumanising these desperate people with heart-breaking stories.

Some of this is fed by the elite cabal of media owners and their hate-filled newspapers. Online communities spreading lies and misinformation have flourished. Russia has a sinister army of social media bots spreading division, and it looks like they’ve even branched out into paying people to be internet trolls.

The footage of Charlottesville was incomprehensible to watch. Just seventy years after the Second World War, white supremacists marching through streets carrying Swastika flags. And the US President draws some kind of moral equivalence between Nazis who kill a woman and people taking to the streets saying there’s no place for that hate. Don’t be fooled if you think this is only in America. Just look at the murder of Jo Cox.

The thing is, all of these hate groups, these extremists – they feed off each other. They seek to pervert cultural, ethnic and religious identities and turn one against another. ISIS is no more representative of Islam than the KKK are of Christianity. They use each other as recruitment tools. We cannot end one without tackling them all.

I know you shared my despair on 24 June last year, as the news sank in that we had voted to leave the European Union. I was completely gutted. Dismayed to be leaving the EU institutions, yes, but distraught at what it said about our country, our values, our vision.

I was altogether more optimistic on the 8th November. The polls were looking good and, eagerly anticipating a momentous night, I popped into the shop to buy some prosecco on the way home. I settled down on the sofa to watch the US Presidential results with an excitement that will be familiar to fellow election geeks, and with a feminist hope that was shared right across the world. As the night wore on, no amount of prosecco could have helped.

President Trump is a product of the anti-liberal forces we face. He is also their poster child.

Faced with rising nuclear tensions, we have a President who picks up his phone not to talk, but to tweet inflammatory rhetoric in capital letters.

A man who has made clear his own support for torture, and wants to ban all Muslims from entering the US, is in no position to advance the cause of human rights.

He puts climate change deniers into powerful positions, defunds environmental programmes and even tells scientists to remove mention of our warming climate from their government websites.

His conflicts of interest are legion, treating the Presidency like a marketing campaign for the Trump brand. And still not a sign of that tax return.

The Trump regime unleashes daily despair, enough to keep liberal America into a state of constant shock.

Trump is a bully, a misogynist and a racist. He boasts about sexually assaulting women. He cruelly mocked a reporter for his disability. He has rolled back trans rights. And for someone who makes much of being straight-talking, he won’t call a Nazi a Nazi.

Yet the Conservative Government thinks it is right to offer Trump the honour of a state visit to the UK.

They are wrong.

It is also a sign of our weakness in a Brexit world. How easily will our values be cast aside in our desperation to sign trade deals to avoid economic catastrophe.

Barack Obama had a rug made for the Oval Office, with his favourite Martin Luther King quote woven into it. It says “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

I’m afraid I am less optimistic, or less patient

As far as I can see, there is nothing inevitable about the triumph of liberal values.

We need to understand what is going on, so we can work out what to do.

The most fascinating research I saw on the Brexit vote was by a Birkbeck Professor, Eric Kaufmann.

He analysed a simple question:

Do you think it’s more important that children are considerate, or well-behaved?

Considerate, or well-behaved?

I read it and my first thought was as the mother of a 3 year old, frankly I’d settle for either.

But amazingly, how people answer this question better predicts whether they voted for Brexit, than their income does.

Let’s try it out. Conference, let’s have a vote. Don’t worry stewards, I’m not going to make you count it, but I do want you to all to vote. Hands up if you think it is more important for children to be considerate?

Hands up for well-behaved?

It holds true for the Trump v Clinton voting patterns too.

The question is used as a fairly neutral way of assessing whether people tend towards respect for authority, or a more liberal approach, do they prefer things to be in order, controlled, or do they openly embrace change?

This is the culture clash that is playing out, in the UK, in other parts of Europe, in the US and beyond.

Politics feels broken. To me, to many in this room, and to many far beyond this conference hall.

We are absolutely right to fight for an exit from Brexit. Brexit will make it harder to follow our values, to protect human rights, to tackle climate change, to solve global problems.

An exit from Brexit is necessary, but not sufficient.

Because this culture clash continues.

And the populists stoke this tension. They do it deliberately. They talk in simple soundbites that scapegoat different groups. It’s all someone else’s fault.

As liberals we know this is nonsense. The Faragey Trumpy angry arsey shouty slogans aren’t a solution to anything.

But we do need to offer our own alternative solutions. And conference, I think we need to have the humility to admit that we haven’t found all the answers yet. And it’s blindingly obvious the other parties haven’t either. We need to be much more radical, both in what we propose and in how we craft it.

The basic deal – you work hard, you get on – feels broken for so many people. How are you supposed to support your family on the minimum wage? How do profitable companies get away with paying tiny amounts of tax? Why are so many people stuck in overcrowded housing, with no hope for change?

We need new, 21st century, liberal solutions to all of these problems and more. We need to get out of our own echo chamber and start bridging the divides in our communities. We need to bring people together to create the answers, leaving no room for the populists to sow their seeds of division.

We can do this.

In the Netherlands and in France this year the populists were defeated. In Canada we cheered Trudeau’s Liberal victory.

Creating the bold vision we need is bigger than any single political party. Indeed it’s bigger than party politics itself. We need to reach out and collaborate across society, with thinkers, activists, the young and the old, faith groups, trade unions, entrepreneurs – and with all of you who want to change the world.

A considerate one. A fairer one. A loving one.

A liberal one.

This is our challenge. And we must rise to it.

Matt Hancock – 2017 Speech on the Global Cyber Challenge

Below is the text of the speech made by Matt Hancock, the Minister of State for Digital, at the opening ceremony for Singapore international Cyber Week on 18 September 2017.

I am delighted to be here with you today.

We meet at an auspicious time.

A time of change faster than anyone has known. Around the world, we are living through a technological revolution which brings unimaginable opportunity. And with this unimaginable opportunity, so too risks unknown just a few short years ago.

The internet fifty years ago. The world wide web, twenty five years after that. Ten years ago, social media and the smartphone, and now artificial intelligence and machine learning. New generic technologies that have sporned a thousand revolutions, from fintech, to lawtech, to edtech or govtech, indeed in almost every area of our lives. The pace of change is relentless. And if you don’t much like change, I’ve got bad news. For the nature of artificial intelligence means we are likely to be experiencing, right now, the slowest change we will see for the rest of our lifetimes.

So now is a good moment to bring together some of the leading nations in the world of digital technology. And it’s good to be here in Singapore for this discussion. Like us, Singapore is a small island nation with an emphatically global reach, that revels in a culture that’s open and looks for trading partners the world over among friends and neighbours, near and far.

And amongst friends, let us be open and talk not just of those opportunities, but how we protect those opportunities, for the good of all our citizens, from those who would do harm.

Since its conception, the internet has brought enormous freedom. But the internet is growing up. To protect that freedom as it grows we must also be restless in protecting a safety and security online.

From the pioneering work of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage to the visionary Tim Berners-Lee, the UK has always been at the forefront of digital innovation.

Yet around the world, none of us can rest on our laurels. For each nation, even areas where our strengths are well-established, such as our world-renowned creative industries, are being transformed, and kept at the cutting edge, by developments in technology.

I feel this keenly, as before I became the Digital Minister, my first job was solving the Y2K bug in cobol. Thankfully, that went ok.

Yet even the most enthusiastic supporter of new technology must acknowledge that it also brings risks. The challenge we now face is how to harness the power of emerging technology so it works always in our favour, always to improve the quality of people’s lives, and that where it poses dangers we mitigate against them.

In 2011 we hosted the London Conference on Cyberspace, a discussion that continues in New Delhi later this year. From ASEAN to the UN, Interpol to ICANN, we are strengthening our partnerships on a bilateral, regional and global level to collectively tackle threats, build confidence and transparency, and strengthen global cyber security.

That includes building capacity in less developed nations so they can combat threats at source. This work involves supporting the development and implementation of national cyber security strategies, and we’ve supported capacity building projects in over 50 countries in the past few years.

As we negotiate our exit from the European Union, and position ourselves as Global Britain, we aim to be even more open to collaboration, with all our international friends and partners. In this age of digital we are all becoming more and more connected. It is estimated that in less than a decade the Internet will connect one trillion things.

Both our countries will take on major responsibilities next year. Singapore will be chair of ASEAN and the United Kingdom will host the Commonwealth Summit in London. I am sure these will both be great opportunities to deepen our friendship and strengthen our working relationships.

Today I’d like to share with you the principles we apply to the cyber challenge:

Principles of openness to new ideas, of adaption to change; and preparing for the future.

How we seek to seize the opportunities of the growing tech industry, how we adapt to the changing environment, and how we are preparing for what lies ahead.

The first principle is to be open and optimistic about the opportunities digital technology is creating, for businesses and for all citizens. We seek an internet that is open and free. And we seek a tech industry that is vibrant and innovative. The UK’s tech industry has huge momentum, is growing strongly, and is ripe for investment.

Since 2001, tech industries have created 3.5 million new jobs in the UK, more than four times the number that have been replaced. London is now recognised as one of the top tech clusters in the world, and we have internationally competitive hubs across the whole UK. Over just the last year a whole series of multi-billion pound investments have been agreed.

This openness and this technology is helping our citizens, to learn, to better manage their finances, to access government services and simply be better connected to their friends, their family and to new acquaintances. In short, technology improves people’s lives.

So our first principle is never to see just the threat, but keep front of mind the fundamental openness of the internet, and its power to do good.

The second principle is to be ready to respond to change and honest about the risks.

The UK categorises cyber crime as a tier one threat to our national security. Since 2011 we have had in place a National Cyber Security Strategy, which sets out how a full spectrum plan.

The Strategy covers the direct tasks we in Government must take to detect threats, deter and disrupt adversaries, and keep Britain secure online. But moreover, it recognises that we can’t do this alone.

Our full spectrum approach ranges from developing the new skills and expertise we need, supporting the cyber ecosystem, collaboration with critical infrastructure, the established cyber industry, start ups, and academia to protect our national security and protect the public’s way of life, while contributing to our prosperity and building a more trusted and resilient digital environment. I’ve been struck here in Singapore just how similar the challenges, and the responses are.

Our growing expertise was perhaps best showcased during the 2012 Olympics. The London games were the first ever “digital games” – the first to provide public Wi-Fi access in all Olympic venues, with more content broadcast online than ever before, and much of it accessed via mobile devices – and yet, despite a peak of over 11,000 attacks per second, the network was never once compromised.

We are now six years into that Strategy. In the time since, our cyber security industry has gone from strength to strength. The workforce has grown by 160 per cent and cyber security exports were worth £1.5 billion to the UK last year alone. I’m delighted that many of our leading cyber security businesses are here this week too.

UK universities play a critical role at the forefront of research into cyber security. Because while we address the challenges of today we must work to anticipate those of tomorrow. We have awarded fourteen UK Universities the status of Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research, reflecting world class research.

Last year, we refreshed the Strategy. The refresh had at its heart one inescapable fact we had learned: that successful cyber defence requires the collaboration of government, academia, and business. A strong cyber ecosystem needs all three.

Based on that insight, we put together and opened our new National Cyber Security Centre as the authoritative voice on cyber in the UK. As we designed it, we looked around the world to see best practice, including at your CSA here.

The NCSC is formally part of GCHQ, but culturally reaches outside the secure fence to draw on academia, and work with and inform businesses, citizens and the public sector about emerging threats, to provide very practical support when attacks happen, talk to the public, work with international partners, and educate our nation on how best to stay safe online. Crucially, it brings together national leadership on cyber security in one place.

Our safety, of course, means our friends’ and partners’ safety, whenever you do business with us. We are committed to making the UK the most secure place in the world for digital and online activity. Respected, and most importantly, trusted.

So this is how we are adapting to the constantly changing risks.

Our third principle, is always to look to the future.

For we much cite cyber security within a bigger attitude we take to how digital technology is transforming society’s norms.

Digital technology is a force for good in the world. To keep it that way, we are proposing a new framework, a new global consensus, for how we interact, do business and participate online.

The aim is to protect and promote freedom online, by ensuring that we promote liberal values that underpin freedom while preventing harm online. Our starting point is that the boundaries and norms that exist off-line also apply in the online world.

This approach lies at the heart of our proposed Digital Charter, recently announced by Her Majesty the Queen. The Charter seeks to balance freedom and responsibility online while establishing a new framework for how we all conduct our digital business.

Every society is facing the same sorts of challenges. And by the nature of the technology many of the solutions are global too. Local nuances will depend on each country’s culture, but ultimately this balance is needed everywhere.

So our hope, if we get all this right, other countries will want to join us.

Humanity, the world over, we share this technology. Together we have developed it, and together people worldwide now collaborate to develop it further.

We are all connected by it, and harmony will lie in – perhaps even depend upon – a shared sense of its norms. The debate is moving quickly, as the pace of technology increases. As more and more of how we interact – our society, in short – moves online we must be sure it abides by the rules of decency, fair play, and mutual respect we have all built in the offline world.

Cyber security sits in this context.

So let us be clear. We are part of something much bigger than ourselves. We have a job to do.

So let us keep talking, let us keep sharing, so we reach a mutual understanding of how we can best harness this amazing new technology, for the benefit of all mankind.

Sajid Javid – 2017 Speech to National Housing Federation

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to the National Housing Federation on 19 September 2017.

Thank you, David [Orr, Chief Executive, National Housing Federation], and good morning everyone.

It’s great to be here in Birmingham and a real honour to be opening your conference this year.

And it’s good to see so many of you here at what is a particularly important and, as we’ve just heard, particularly challenging time for this country’s housing associations.

I know, of course, you’ve got a lot on your minds.

I’ve certainly got a lot on mine and I’m looking forward to sharing that with you.

But before all that, as an almost-local Member of Parliament I have to give you a quick West Midlands history lesson!

Here at the ICC we’re literally just over the road from the site of the first major Cadbury factory, which opened its doors in 1847.

It’s not there anymore, sadly.

But if you pop out at lunchtime you can still see the little canal spur that served the rapidly growing business.

It’s right there behind the giant hotel and the Australian theme pub!

I’m fairly sure neither of them were there at that time!

And that wasn’t the only difference.

Back in the 1800s, the area wasn’t the clean, fresh, welcoming place that you all saw this morning.

Quite the opposite.

And that’s why after nearly 30 years here on Bridge Street, the Cadbury brothers upped sticks and they moved operations 5 miles south to what was then a bucolic rural idyll that sat just outside the city.

They moved there because, yes, they needed a bigger, more appropriate site.

But they also wanted a better place for their workers and their families to make their homes.

As George Cadbury said at the time “No man ought to be condemned to live in a place where a rose cannot grow”.

The Cadburys recognised that our homes aren’t just places where we sleep and eat.

They aren’t just machines for living in.

Machines don’t have souls and hearts, but homes do.

They shape who we are.

They reflect our lives, our choices, our personalities.

And our homes can limit us too.

Living in the wrong kind of house or the wrong kind of place can close off avenues and opportunities, and of course can affect your life chances.

A child who can’t find a quiet place to study may struggle to make progress at school.

An adult who is unable to relocate may miss out on a life-changing promotion at work.

And, of course, you’re also judged on where you live.

On what kind of house you live in.

Which side of the tracks you came from.

I grew up on Stapleton Road in Bristol – also known as “Britain’s most dangerous street” or a “moral cesspit”, depending on your tabloid of choice.

And I remember my school careers adviser telling me that there was no point in aiming high because kids from my neck of the woods simply didn’t take A-levels or go to university.

Society had low expectations of us, and we were expected to live down to them.

It was the same years later, when I was applying for jobs with merchant banks in London.

I got the sense that the interview panels had never before met someone who lived in the overcrowded flat above the family shop.

That’s just my experience. It’s just one person’s story.

But if the Grenfell tragedy showed us anything, it was the extent to which these attitudes have spread and become deeply ingrained in the way this country thinks and it acts.

While I don’t want to pre-judge the findings of the public or police inquiries, it’s clear that in the months and the years before the fire the residents of Grenfell Tower were not listened to.

That their concerns were ignored or dismissed.

That too many people in positions of power saw tenants less as people with families and more as problems that needed to be managed.

A lot has been written and said about the social and political context of Grenfell.

Much of it accurate, some of it less so.

There’s certainly been some unfair criticism of social landlords generally.

Unfair because I know that everyone in this room is passionate about what they do.

Passionate about getting safe, secure, affordable roofs over the heads of families.

I know that and you know that.

And I want to thank you all, and everyone that you employ, for all the good that you do. Thank you very much.

But the question I keep coming back to is very simple.

In one of the richest, most privileged corners of the UK – the world, even – would a fire like this have happened in a privately owned block of luxury flats?

If you believe that the answer is no, even if you think it was simply less likely, then it’s clear that we need a fundamental rethink of social housing in this country.

Because whether they’re owned by a council or by a housing association, whether they’re managed by a TMO or a local authority, we’re not just talking about bricks and mortar.

We’re not just talking about assets on your balance sheet.

We’re talking about peoples’ homes.

About people’s lives.

Over the past few weeks the Housing Minister, Alok Sharma, has been meeting with social housing tenants right across the country.

And from those conversations it’s already clear that they want us to look again at the quality and safety of what’s on offer.

To look again at the way tenants are listened to and their concerns acted on.

To look again at the number of homes being built, at community cohesion and more besides.

And that’s exactly what this government is going to do.

Today I can announce that we will be bringing forward a green paper on social housing in England.

A wide-ranging, top-to-bottom review of the issues facing the sector, the green paper will be the most substantial report of its kind for a generation.

It will kick off a nationwide conversation on social housing.

What works and what doesn’t work.

What has gone right and what has gone wrong,

Why things have gone wrong and – most importantly – how to fix them.

And the results will help everyone involved in the whole world of social housing: local and central government, housing associations, TMOs, and of course the tenants themselves, to make this country’s social housing provision something the whole nation can be proud of.

Of course, in the wake of Grenfell, the green paper will look at safety issues.

But it will need to go much further.

It will look at the overall quality of social homes, many of which are now beginning to show their age.

It will cover service management, the way social homes and their tenants are taken care of.

It will look at the rights of tenants and show how their voices can be better heard.

And it will cover what can be done to ensure their complaints are taken seriously and dealt with properly, and make sure tenants have clear, timely avenues to seek redress when things do go wrong.

If a resident reports a crack in the wall that you can fit your hand in, big enough to use as a book shelf, it shouldn’t just be patched up and ignored.

The reason it’s there and the impact it could have need to be properly investigated.

Problems shouldn’t just be fixed, they should be learned from.

These are the kind of issues the green paper will explore.

But that’s not all. It will also look at wider issues of place, community, and the local economy.

How can social landlords help to create places that people really want to live in, places where roses can grow?

What role can social housing policy play in building safe and integrated communities, where people from different backgrounds get along no matter what type of housing they live in?

How do we maximise the benefits for social housing for the local, regional and national economy as part of our Industrial Strategy?

What more can we do to help tackle homelessness?

What support is needed for leaseholders who have a social landlord?

What can be done to tackle illegal sub-letting, not just chasing down offenders but dealing with the cause of the problem in the first place?

And, at the heart of it all, how can you, me, local government and others work together to get more of the right homes built in the right places?

As you can tell – I hope! – I’m talking about a substantial body of work.

It’s a green paper that will inform both government policy and the wider debate for many years to come.

And I want to make sure that we hear from everyone with something to say.

Not just the usual suspects – those working in the sector or the think-tanks and lobbyists.

But the people who matter most, the people living in or clamouring for social housing.

So it’s not something we’re going to rush.

Yes, I do want to see it published as soon as possible.

But what matters most is getting it right.

There’s simply too much at stake to do otherwise.

Whatever comes about as a result of the green paper, much of the delivery is going to be down to the people in this room, the housing associations.

You own homes, you manage homes and of course you build homes.

Tens of thousands of them every year.

The housing market in this country has been crippled by a long-term failure to match supply and demand.

But I’m under no illusion that, without your contribution, the situation would have been far, far worse.

By next year you’re set to reach 65,000 new homes a year, an incredible achievement and one that makes a real difference to the lives of countless people. So thank you again.

The associations you represent are charities, trusts, co-operatives, societies and so on.

But you don’t get build-out numbers like that, numbers that rival the likes of Barratt and Bellway, without running your organisations as serious businesses.

And for all your passion and your social mission, you’re exactly that – serious businesses.

The people in this room today represent a sector with £140 billion of assets and some £70 billion of debt.

Before I came into politics, a huge part of my job was all about helping companies secure the capital that they needed in order to grow.

Some of it through debt, some of it through investment.

So I know first-hand that a business can’t attract funding without certainty about its future prospects.

Businesses need to know that economic regulations aren’t going to dramatically change without warning.

They need a stable, predictable base on which to build – literally, in your case!

And of course lenders need to know that a company is a reliable investment prospect before they’ll put up any money.

Our housing white paper, which was published earlier this year, gave you all a detailed insight into our long-term plans for fixing the broken housing market, and the vital role that housing associations will have in that.

Thanks to the white paper, you already know that we’re doing all we can to free up sites, to reform the planning process, to invest in infrastructure and so on.

That we’re working with you to help you build faster and better, raising both the quality and quantity of our housing stock.

But of course you need much more than that.

Right now, you’re trying to make long-term investment decisions without knowing what your rental return is going to be after 2020.

It’s not ideal, of course I get that.

You need certainty and you need clarity and you need them sooner rather than later.

That’s why I’ve been pushing right across government, as hard as I can, to confirm the future formula for social housing rents.

I would have liked to stand here today and tell you exactly what it is going to be.

Unfortunately, I have to tell you, the t’s are still being crossed and the i’s dotted.

But I can promise you this: an announcement will be made very, very soon.

I’m doing everything I can, pushing as hard I can.

And you’re not going to have to wait much longer for the detail you need and deserve.

The same is true of Right To Buy.

It’s a policy that has always been popular with tenants.

I know the same is not necessarily true of all the delegates here today.

I think it’s a great scheme.

It helps people get on the housing ladder and, by releasing funds, it helps deliver the next generation of homes for affordable rent.

There are issues that need looking at, I accept that.

I thank the National Housing Federation and all of you for your open, honest and constructive feedback on Right to Buy.

We’ll be making a decision on the way forward just as soon as we possibly can.

As many of you will have seen, at DCLG’s main office there’s a wall with official portraits of everyone who has led the department or its predecessors.

They go all the way back to Hugh Dalton, in 1950.

Some of the pictures are more flattering than others.

Richard Crossman, he looks like he’s appearing in an Alfred Hitchcock film.

Chris Patten seems to have been surprised by a photographer while relaxing in his local library.

And John Prescott’s eyes… they kind of follow you wherever you walk…

I know some civil servants find that a little bit creepy when they’re alone in the office late at night!

But the one that always catches my eye is Harold Macmillan.

When Winston Churchill appointed Macmillan as Housing Minister in 1951, he gave him one very simple instruction: “build houses for the people”.

And the presence of his photograph on the wall at DCLG is a daily reminder of the spectacular fashion in which he did just that.

I’m proud of my government’s record on council housing.

But Macmillan was on a whole other level.

While he was housing minister, Britain built 300,000 houses a year, the vast majority what today we would call social homes.

Cramped, dense, inner-city slums were replaced with spacious, high-quality homes in the suburbs.

Millions of people were given their first experience of indoor plumbing, of front and rear gardens.

Never mind living somewhere a rose could grow – the planners behind new towns boasted of homes where a tree could be seen from every window.

Supermac built houses for the people and the people loved them.

Living in social housing carried no stigma, no shame.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

For many, it was seen the gold standard for accommodation.

Not a final safety net for the desperate and destitute but something you could genuinely aspire to, housing you would actively choose to live in.

As a country we were all rightly proud of it.

But over time, that all changed.

Social housing stock became increasingly neglected, as did the people who lived in it.

The Establishment became detached, aloof, focussed its attentions elsewhere.

And the tragic events of 14 June showed exactly where that attitude can lead.

That’s why, when I say we must do everything possible to prevent a repeat of Grenfell, I’m not just talking about the cladding or the stairways or the sprinklers.

We need to shift the whole conversation about social housing, reframe the whole debate.

We need to challenge outdated, unfair attitudes.

We need to return to the time, not so very long ago, when social housing was valued.

It was treasured.

Something we could all be proud of whether we lived in it or not.

I know that’s exactly what many of you in the sector have been trying to achieve for many, many years.

Well, I’m proud to stand here today and say that you have a Secretary of State who’s totally committed to the cause.

I’m delighted to say you have a Prime Minister who is too.

Because we both recognise that if we’re going to make this a country that works for everyone, we need housing that works for everyone.

And that’s true regardless of whether you’re an owner-occupier, a private rental tenant, or living in social housing.

After any disaster we search for lessons, for a legacy, for some light to come out of the darkness.

The legacy of Grenfell, the lessons that we learn, the changes that we make – none of that should be confined to fire safety.

The legacy of Grenfell can and must be a whole new approach to the way this country thinks about social housing.

Achieving this will not be simple or straightforward.

We – all of us – must be committed to bringing about this change.

It demands nothing less.

Thank you.

Tom Watson – 2017 Response to Government Statement on Sky/Fox Merger

Below is the text of the speech made by Tom Watson, the Labour MP for West Bromwich East, in the House of Commons on 12 September 2017.

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of her statement.

The Secretary of State has taken her responsibilities seriously, and I give her credit for that. I give her credit, too, for listening to the evidence before her, including new evidence submitted after she had announced her initial decision, and for changing her mind. I also want to praise my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), who has run a very effective campaign in this area. Dare I say it, but I think he leads the race for Back Bencher of the year for his campaign?

I welcome the Secretary of State’s decision—or, I should say, the fact that she says she is minded to make such a decision—to refer the bid on broadcasting standards grounds, as well as on media plurality grounds. This is the first time that a Minister in the current Government has ever stood in the way of what the Murdochs want—and, frankly, not before time. So well done, and as they say in the Black country, “She’s a good ’un.”

The Secretary of State has done everything we asked her to do—or almost everything. Her statement does in my view, however, reflect a failure on the part of Ofcom. In its first report, as she said, Ofcom said that there were

“no broadcasting standards concerns that may justify a reference”.

It has now admitted that there are, as she said, “non-fanciful concerns”. On that basis, she had to refer the bid, and she has done so. It should have been obvious to Ofcom, as it certainly was to all Labour Members, that concerns about the Murdochs were more than fanciful.

After all, the Murdochs have a long history of regulatory non-compliance and of corporate governance failure. Just last week, Fox recognised its own failure to comply with broadcasting standards when it pulled Fox News, which has breached Ofcom’s rules again and again, from the UK. Ofcom could have gone further, too, on the “fit and proper” test. It decided that a post-merger Sky would pass, despite clear evidence of impropriety and failure of corporate governance both at 21st Century Fox and at News Corporation.

Such failures include the phone hacking scandal, which still has loose ends that are yet to be tied up. Just last week, News Group settled 17 cases related to allegations of criminality at The Sun newspaper, ensuring that James Murdoch will not have to appear in court later this year. Those 17 cases are just the first tranche of 91 new claims of phone hacking and illegality in obtaining information against The Sun and News of the World. This story is far from over, even if we will read little about it in the pages of the Murdochs’ newspapers, and ​all these cases are claims against a company that claimed for over a decade that there was no problem and that tried to move heaven and earth to prevent abuses from being uncovered. This is alongside the ongoing sexual and racial harassment scandal at Fox News, which is part of 21st Century Fox’s empire.

As I have said, the Secretary of State has done almost everything we asked her to do. The one thing we still want, and we have said this time and again, is that we need to get properly to the bottom of the scandals at the Murdoch empire—part 2 of the Leveson inquiry. She has now shot her fox with the Murdochs. She has burned her boats, and they already do not like her—I know what that is like—but that liberates her. Go on, Secretary of State, do the right thing: go ahead with Leveson 2.

Karen Bradley – 2017 Statement on the Sky/Fox Merger

Below is the text of the statement made by Karen Bradley, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in the House of Commons on 12 September 2017.

I apologise for beginning my statement by correcting you, Mr Speaker, but I am now the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The Department has a new word in its name.

I am here to give an update on the proposed merger between 21st Century Fox and Sky plc and on my decision about whether to refer the transaction for a full six-month investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority. I should first remind the House that in my quasi-judicial role I must, first, come to a decision on the basis of relevant evidence; secondly, act independently in a process that is fair and impartial; and, thirdly, take my decision as promptly as is reasonably practicable. I am committed to transparency and openness in this process and have been clear that my decisions can be influenced only by facts, not by opinions, and that they can be influenced only by the evidence, not by who shouts the loudest.

I turn, first, to media plurality, and I can confirm that none of the representations received has persuaded me to change my position. Accordingly, I can confirm my intention to make a referral on the media plurality ground to the CMA. On the question of commitment to broadcasting standards, over the summer my officials reviewed the almost 43,000 representations received. A significant majority of them were campaign-inspired, arguing against the merger going ahead but generally without providing new or further evidence or commenting on Ofcom’s approach. Overall, only 30 of the 43,000 representations were substantive, raising potentially new evidence or commenting on Ofcom’s approach. Almost all were related to commitment to broadcasting standards.

In the light of those representations, I asked Ofcom to provide further advice. May I put on record my gratitude to Ofcom for its efforts to respond to the questions that were raised? I am, today, publishing the exchanges between my Department and Ofcom. In those exchanges, I sought clarification on, first, the threshold that Ofcom applied to its consideration of the commitment to broadcasting standards ground; secondly, the consideration made of broadcasting compliance; and, thirdly, the consideration made of corporate governance issues. I also asked Ofcom to consider whether any of the new, substantive representations that I received affected its assessment.

I have taken careful account of all relevant representations and Ofcom’s advice, and I have today, as required by the legislation, written to the parties to inform them that I am now minded to refer the merger to the CMA on the grounds of genuine commitment to broadcasting standards. I will now set out the technical reasons for that decision.

Questions were raised about the threshold for referral. The legal threshold for a reference to the CMA is low. I have the power to make a reference if I believe that there is a risk that is not purely fanciful that the merger might operate against the specified public interests. In its original report, Ofcom stated that​
“we consider that there are no broadcasting standards concerns that may justify a reference”.

At the time, Ofcom appeared to be unequivocal. Following the additional representations,

Ofcom has further clarified that

“while we consider there are non-fanciful concerns, we do not consider that these are such as may justify a reference in relation to the broadcast standards public interest consideration.”

The existence of non-fanciful concerns means that, as a matter of law, the threshold for a reference on the broadcasting standards ground is met. In the light of all the representations and Ofcom’s additional advice, I believe that those concerns are sufficient to warrant the exercise of my discretion to refer.

The first concern, which was raised in Ofcom’s public interest report, was that Fox did not have adequate compliance procedures in place for the broadcast of Fox News in the UK and that it took action to improve its approach to compliance only after Ofcom expressed concerns. Ofcom has confirmed it considers that to raise concerns that are non-fanciful but not sufficiently serious to warrant referral. I consider that those non-fanciful concerns warrant further consideration. The fact that Fox belatedly established such procedures does not ease my concerns, and nor does Fox’s compliance history.

Ofcom was reassured by the existence of the compliance regime, which provides licensees with an incentive to comply. However, it is clear to me that Parliament intended the scrutiny of whether an acquiring party has a “genuine commitment” to attaining broadcasting standards objectives to happen before a merger takes place. Third parties also raised concerns about what they termed the “Foxification” of Fox-owned news outlets internationally. On the evidence before me, I am not able to conclude that that raises non-fanciful concerns. However, I consider it important that entities that adopt controversial or partisan approaches to news and current affairs in other jurisdictions should, at the same time, have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards here. Those are matters the CMA may wish to consider in the event of a referral.

I turn to the question of corporate governance failures. Ofcom states in its latest correspondence that such failures raise non-fanciful concerns in relation to the broadcasting standards ground. However, it again concludes that those concerns do not warrant a reference. I agree that corporate governance issues at Fox raise non-fanciful concerns, but in my view it would be appropriate for those concerns to be considered further by the CMA. I agree with the view that, in this context, my proper concern is whether Fox will have a genuine commitment to attaining broadcasting standards objectives. However, I am not confident that weaknesses in Fox’s corporate governance arrangements are incapable of affecting compliance in the broadcasting standards context. I have outstanding non-fanciful concerns about these matters, and I am of the view that they should be considered further by the CMA.

Before I come to a final decision, I am required, under the Enterprise Act 2002, to allow the parties to make representations on my proposed decision, and that is the reason why my decision remains, at this stage, a “minded to” one. I have given the parties 10 working days to respond. Following receipt of any representations from the parties, I will aim to come to my final decision in relation to both grounds as promptly as I can.​

I remind the House that should I decide to refer on one or both grounds, the merger will be subject to a full and detailed investigation by the CMA over a six-month period. Such a referral does not signal the outcome of that investigation. Given the quasi-judicial nature of this matter, my decision cannot be guided by the parliamentary timetable. If I come to my decision during recess, I will write, as I have done previously, and return to this House at the earliest possible opportunity to provide an update. I commend this statement to the House.

Nick Gibb – 2017 Speech at ResearchED National Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Nick Gibb, the Minister of State for School Standards and Minister for Equalities, at the ResearchED National Conference on 9 September 2017.

Summarising the aims of ResearchED, Tom Bennett recently wrote that ResearchED is determined to break things. Not for the sake of destruction, but to break the shibboleths that have, for too long, dominated education policy and stifled the spread of evidence-led teaching.

As The West Wing’s President Bartlet said to Will Bailey (borrowing a quote from the anthropologist Margaret Mead):

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.

ResearchED is a grassroots, teacher-led revolt against the old order in education, a challenge to received wisdom and a rejection of the status quo. You are the small group of thoughtful, committed teachers who are changing the world of education.

These conferences are changing the relationship between teachers and education research. As many teachers have told me and as many teachers in this room will no doubt recognise, the research historically presented to teachers was monotone in content and seldom used.

ResearchED is different. By granting a platform to a wide range of views, the currency of speakers is the quality of the evidence they are presenting. And teachers can vote with their feet. As Tom Bennett put it in a recent blog:

In one room you might have a government minister taking questions of the evidence base of their latest policy, and next door there might be a teaching assistant discussing how she launched journal clubs at her school. I love that sense of levelling, of democratic representation that it embodies.

I think this perfectly sums up ResearchED. Although, I am now wondering who is speaking next door.

Not only is this conference the embodiment of teacher empowerment. It is a triumph of science over assumed authority.

Irreverence for authority is arguably the most liberating consequence of the scientific method. Whilst there is still cause to listen to and learn from learned men and women, no opinion – however authoritative – can be cause to dismiss evidence out of hand.

Science, facts and objectivity don’t care about your reputation. Science cares about your evidence, your data and your hypothesis. In science, P-values trump PhDs.

So today, I hope all participants will take advantage of the cast list of speakers that Tom has assembled and seize the opportunity to challenge Dr Becky Allen on her analysis of this year’s GCSE data, probe the validity of comparative judgement with Daisy Christodoulou, debate direct instruction with Kris Boulton, explore the effectiveness of academies with Karen Wespieser or quiz Amanda Spielman on the reliability of Ofsted inspections.

There are many examples from the history of science to show reputation need be no barrier to making meaningful contributions to human knowledge and understanding. Few are more inspiring than the story of Srinivasa Ramanujan, portrayed in the film ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’.

Having had almost no mathematical training, he began a postal relationship with English mathematician GH Hardy in 1913. From the quality of the mathematics in the letters, Ramanujan’s genius was immediately apparent.

By 1914 he was working in Cambridge, following a month-long voyage across the globe. In the next 6 years, before his untimely death at age 32, this previously unknown son of a sari shop clerk made important contributions to mathematical fields such as analysis and number theory, becoming one of the youngest fellows of the Royal Society.

The romance of this story shows the emancipatory power of scientific thought, but it also goes to demonstrate that any source of evidence and new ideas can cast doubt on received wisdom and generate better understanding.

And it is by permitting and embracing doubt, that humanity has made some of its greatest strides. Doubt is to be embraced, not eschewed.

Consider the early debates on quantum mechanics – as I often do – between two of the greatest physicists to have ever lived: Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein. Famously, Einstein was reticent to accept the full consequences of the uncertainty principle. He famously declared: “I, at any rate, am convinced that God does not throw dice.”

Through debate, experiments, data and evidence, Niels Bohr’s interpretation triumphed over that of Einstein – arguably the greatest scientific authority since Newton.

Real science and proper research is open to doubt. It does not baulk at challenge, but embraces it and evolves to improve knowledge and understanding.

ResearchED is now established around the world – with teachers in 3 continents coming together to share and debate the research that has inspired their teaching. It is a forum that allows teachers to debate what the evidence says about best practice in schools.

This movement – as I said last year – will improve the education and life chances of millions of children. Year on year, the speakers at the conference become more diverse. Importantly, this diversity includes hosting speakers with contrasting political, philosophical and educational viewpoints.

And yet, there are still some education academics who question the motives of Tom Bennett, ResearchED and all of the volunteers who help to make these conferences a success. To my mind, this is an indictment of those researchers who choose to disparage this movement, rather than engage and contribute.

Refusal to debate one’s research and share it with teachers, begs a number of questions. Notably, what is education evidence for, if it is not to be shared with teachers? And what is there to fear from presenting and discussing your research at a politically, philosophically and educationally diverse conference?

But presenting one’s research to classroom teachers shouldn’t be countenanced as a fear, but as an opportunity. As should the chance to present, discuss and debate in a vibrant marketplace of ideas such as ResearchED.

The Heterodox Academy is a politically pluralistic group of professors working in various academic fields, drawn together to improve academia by enhancing viewpoint diversity and the conditions that encourage free inquiry. This group – which includes the likes of Philip Tetlock and Jonathan Haidt – has highlighted the cost of a lack of ‘viewpoint diversity’ in social science and humanity departments.

Thankfully, there are many respected academics who are seizing the opportunity to present today. Teachers attending this conference will have the opportunity to listen to Dr Pedro De Bruyckere dispel myths and point to promising avenues for the role of technology in education. Dr Christian Bokhove of Southampton University will be arguing that some myth busting in education is oversimplistic and creates new myths. And Professor Ayako Kawaji is running a session on what we can learn from expressive writing in Japan.

But it is a shame that some would rather stay in their ivory towers than participate today.

The intellectual timidity of those who choose to smear ResearchED, whilst refusing to debate their evidence, stands in stark contrast to the efforts that ResearchED makes to be inclusive for all.

On a very limited budget, armed with little more than the goodwill of speakers and volunteers, ResearchED will run conferences in New York, Toronto and Amsterdam in the coming months. Included in the meagre entrance fee is lunch, snacks and a crèche for parents of young children. All for a fraction of the price of some education conferences. Here endeth the advertisement!

Responding to some recent criticism, Tom Bennett decided to restate the objectives of ResearchED, arguing that it is “important to continually define ourselves, in order not to be misrepresented or misunderstood.”

He eloquently explained his mission to disrupt shibboleths and tip sacred cows:

ResearchED delights in debate, changing paradigms, and helping to generate a polite revolution in the classroom. I started it because I believed passionately – and still do – that education needs a revival, if not a reboot. It labours under so many false dogma and uninformed suppositions that in many ways it resembles medicine in the 18th century, when the doctor’s authority was privileged, and his hunch was the final word. Just as medicine finally succumbed to empirical science, so too should education – as an aid to our decisions, not as an authoritarian mosaic tablet. It should intersect with our every action, so that when evidence is available we use it to inform our pedagogy and policy rather than stifle it. Bogus fads like Learning Styles and Brain Gym are the least of it; wild, unchecked pseudoscience abounds, untested, unrestrained. It is still possible for a teacher to be told that group work is the best way for children to learn, without any consideration of when, and where and how it might be applicable. Teacher talk is reviled, despite the enormous amount of research that suggests that careful, dialogic teacher talk is one of the most effective ways to convey information that is then retained. There are many more example of such things. None of these matters are settled, but every educator should be entitled to hear the evidence on both sides and make up their minds on the matter.

The contrast with those who eschew the international ResearchED conferences could hardly be greater.

Tom is right that it is important to restate one’s beliefs. Not only can we be misrepresented and misunderstood, but we can lose arguments that we thought we had already won.

In this country, we are winning the argument in favour of a knowledge-rich curriculum; we are winning the ‘reading wars’; and parents are voting with their feet on the question of free schools.

We must continue to expound the evidence in favour of how a knowledge-rich curriculum benefits all pupils, particularly the most disadvantaged. In the same breath, we must continue to make the argument for the EBacc. This policy is crucial to ensuring that all pupils benefit from a broad and balanced core academic curriculum at GCSE.

Research suggests that lower participation from disadvantaged pupils in these core academic subjects can negatively affect social mobility. Yet overall, disadvantaged pupils remain 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.

Evidence from the Sutton Trust found pupils in a set of 300 schools that increased their EBacc entry, from 8% to 48%, were more likely to achieve good English and maths GCSEs, more likely to take an A level, or an equivalent level 3 qualification, and more likely to stay in post-16 education.

The authors of that study noted that “pupil premium students benefitted most from the changes at these schools”. That is why this policy is so important and why we must continue to make the case.

But there are some who argue that the EBacc is not right for some pupils – too often these are pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

I firmly disagree with this view.

A recent publication from the Institute of Education examining the effect that GCSE choice has on education post-16 added yet further weight to the evidence demonstrating that the EBacc is crucial to driving social mobility.

The paper found the following:

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.

On launching the report, one of the authors, Professor Alice Sullivan, said:

The results show that controlling for both prior attainment, and a range of socio-economic and other factors, pupils who had taken EBacc subjects at GCSE were 7 percentage points more likely to stay on at school.

The EBacc is of benefit to all pupils, irrespective of their prior attainment, background or sex. Indeed, the report found that:

Pursuing an EBacc-eligible curriculum increased the chances of educational progression particularly strongly for girls and white young people, and studying an applied subject decreased the chances of girls staying on. In particular, studying an EBacc-eligible curriculum at age 14-16 increased the chances of studying subjects favoured by selective universities at A Level.

Given the importance of raising attainment for white working-class boys and increasing the proportion of girls taking STEM subjects – particularly post-16 – these results are very encouraging.

The government will continue to make the case for more pupils studying the EBacc. We believe that a core academic curriculum comprising the EBacc subjects alongside other high-quality, knowledge-rich subjects – including the arts – should be available to the vast majority of pupils, because that is what the evidence shows.

As Tom Bennett has said:

You know who benefits most from working with evidence? Children. And of them, who benefits most? The least advantaged. Those with no second chances, no tutors, no jobs waiting for them in publishing no matter how they do. The children who are poor, marginalised, miles away from the opportunities and privileges of the elite. They are the ones who need this the most. It is our duty to overturn every dogma we have, obtain the best evidence we can, and turn that into rocket fuel for the ones that need it the most.

Many schools – including those making the most progress in the country – are providing their pupils with opportunity to study the EBacc suite of qualifications. The government is determined that schools around the country follow the evidence and grow the number of pupils given access to these core academic subjects.

With every new piece of research that confirms the importance of a core academic curriculum to social mobility and improved attainment, we must push back the voices of opposition. We must make the moral and evidence-based case for an academic curriculum for all pupils, regardless of background.

Making the case at conferences such as this, at TeachMeets or in the school staff room is vital. Consider another evidence-based argument, which is now close to being won thanks to tireless work by teachers and academics pursuing the evidence.

For over a century, war has waged in education over the most effective means of teaching children to read. Finally, this fight is coming to an end thanks to the strong evidence in favour of systematic synthetic phonics.

One of the most important interventions in this war came from America’s Rudolph Flesch in 1955. In his book titled ‘Why Johnny Can’t Read: And What You Can Do About It’ Flesch concluded that Johnny was being held back at age 12 for his poor reading ability because he had not been properly taught how to read.

Johnny had been taught to read using a method known as ‘look and say’, in which children repeat written words they see on the page until they recognise the whole word on sight. As they begin to recognise more and more words, so the theory goes, they pick up the ability to read.

This was regarded as easier than the time-honoured method of teaching the sounds of the alphabet and how to blend these sounds into words, the method known as phonics. Flesch was deeply critical of the existing orthodoxy in the USA about how best to teach reading.

For decades, educationalists formed 2 camps – a small group in favour of using phonics was opposed by a larger body that promoted this so-called ‘look and say’ or ‘whole word’ method. According to this now-discredited theory, children would learn to recognise whole words or use context or other stimuli to guess what the word might be.

Thankfully, due to the overwhelming evidence in favour of phonics, there are now few educationalists prepared to deny that phonics should play a role in early reading instruction. Sadly, though, as so often when a losing argument is in its death throes, many decry the false dichotomy between teaching using phonics and using these now discredited approaches to reading.

Instead, many educationalists advocate using a mix of methods, combining guessing at words using context with some phonics training thrown in. Again, the evidence clearly shows that this is not an effective means of teaching children to read.

These fallacious and unevidenced beliefs about reading instruction have blighted the early education of generations of children around the world.

I vividly recall meeting a 9-year-old girl in a school I visited shortly before the 2010 general election. This girl had never been taught to decode. Instead, she had been given books accompanied by descriptive pictures. Rather than using her knowledge of the phonetic code, she was encouraged to guess words using pictures and the context of the story. The tragedy was that at the age of 9 she simply could not read – a situation that should not and need not have been allowed to happen. But, alas, she was not unique.

But in recent years there has been a reading revolution in England’s schools. Last year, thanks to the hard work of teachers and the emphasis the government has placed on teaching phonics, there were 147,000 more 6-year-olds on track to become fluent readers than in 2012.

This achievement is the culmination of evidence-based policy and teaching.

In 2016, 81% of pupils reached the expected standard in the phonics screening check, up from just 58% in 2012. And with 91% of pupils reaching this standard by age 7, there is room for even greater achievement.

There are few – if any – more important policies for improving social mobility than ensuring all pupils are taught to read effectively. Literacy is the foundation of a high-quality, knowledge-rich education. Those opposed to the use of systematic phonics instruction are, in my view, standing between pupils and the education they deserve.

Unfortunately, the pernicious arguments that ignore the evidence in favour of phonics still abound and are having a detrimental effect on the take up of phonics in some parts of the country.

By 2014, about two-thirds of primary teachers surveyed by the government agreed that the teaching of systematic synthetic phonics has value in the primary classroom. However, 90% also ‘agreed’ or ‘agreed somewhat’ that a variety of different methods should be used to teach children to decode words.

The evidence in favour of using phonics during early reading instruction is overwhelming. Now, the battle is to spread this message to all classrooms. Events such as this one provide an excellent platform for disseminating evidence-based practice. It is important to make and remake the arguments so that all pupils benefit from the very best teaching methods in primary school.

And just as it is important to expound the evidence in favour of effective teaching practice, it is vital to reflect on and celebrate the structural reforms that are driving improvements in England’s education system.

The expansion of academy freedoms to nearly 7 in 10 secondary schools and 1 in 5 primaries has improved parental choice and increased diversity of provision in schooling, injecting challenge and spreading innovation throughout the school system.

Whilst there is plenty of data to demonstrate this success, the most compelling evidence for providing teachers and schools with greater freedom comes from visiting some of the highest-performing academies and free schools in England.

This year, yet another group of free schools saw their first cohort of pupils receive their GCSE results. Whilst we do not have confirmed pupil-level or school-level data, there are a number of schools who appear to have done very well. Schools such as Reach Academy Feltham and Dixons Trinity Academy – both of which serve disadvantaged communities – have reported excellent results.

As with other leading academies and free schools, these innovative free schools pride themselves on having a strong approach to behaviour management and teaching all pupils a stretching, knowledge-rich curriculum.

As more and more of the country’s leading academies and free schools – such as Harris Academy Battersea, King Solomon Academy and the Tauheedul Islam Boys and Girls High Schools – register country-leading academic results for their pupils, we will see a change in expectations and approach in schools around the country.

These high-performing academies and free schools serve as evidence of what it is possible to achieve. They demonstrate the power of having the very highest expectations of all pupils and they have raised what we now conceive of as high expectations. Importantly, they show that a core academic curriculum, serves the interests of all children.

They also dispel the myth that teacher-led instruction and the highest behavioural expectations are only right for certain children in specific regions of the country.

No longer is it tenable to argue that the success of the trailblazing King Solomon Academy can only be achieved in London. One only needs to visit Tauheedul Schools in Blackburn or Dixon’s Trinity in Bradford to dispel that myth.

These arguments are not theoretical anymore. They are empirical.

As well as providing a high-quality education to their pupils, free schools have served as petri dishes. They have shone a light on what works in schools. What whole school policies, which curricula and which pedagogies work best.

And teachers can visit these schools, taking inspiration and ideas from what they see back to their school. Through their excellence and by sharing their stories, these free schools are providing and disseminating evidence.

By pursuing the evidence, fostering innovation and sharing findings with others, free schools have started an education revolution that cannot be ignored. In this way, they mirror what is happening at ResearchED.

Through innovation and a desire to challenge and create new solutions, teacher-led organisations are changing the education landscape. Evidence and empiricism now trumps dogma and received wisdom. And teachers, academics and – most of all – pupils stand to gain.

Thank you.

Alan Duncan – 2017 Statement on Hurricane Irma

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Duncan, the Minister of State for Europe and the Americas at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, in the House of Commons on 12 September 2017.

At last Thursday’s statement I undertook to update the house as appropriate and I thank you Sir for the opportunity to do so now. My Right Honourable Friend the Foreign Secretary is on his way at this very moment to the Caribbean to see for himself our stricken Overseas Territories and further drive the extensive relief efforts that are underway.

The thoughts of this House and the whole country are with those who are suffering the ravages of one of the most powerful Atlantic Hurricanes ever recorded. It followed Hurricane Harvey and was set to be followed by Hurricane Jose.

Over half a million British nationals – either residents or tourists – have been in the path of Hurricane Irma, which has caused devastation across an area spanning well over a thousand miles.

The overall death toll in the circumstances is low, but unfortunately 5 people died in the British Virgin Islands, and 4 in Anguilla.

At this critical moment, our principle focus is on the 80,000 British citizens who inhabit our Overseas Territories of Anguilla, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the British Virgin Islands.

Commonwealth Realms in the Caribbean have also suffered, including Antigua and Barbuda and the Bahamas, as well as other islands such as St Maarten and Cuba.

We have around 70 British nationals requiring assistance on St Maarten and are working with the US, German and Dutch authorities to facilitate the potential departure of the most vulnerable via commercial means today.

To prepare for the hurricane season, the government acted 2 months ago by dispatching RFA Mounts Bay to the Caribbean in July.

This 16,000-ton landing ship from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary is one of the most capable vessels at our disposal.

And before she left the UK in June the ship was pre-loaded with disaster relief supplies; facilities for producing clean water; and a range of hydraulic vehicles and equipment.

In addition to the normal crew, the government ensured that a special disaster relief team – consisting of 40 Royal Marines and Army personnel – was also on board.

This pre-positioning of one of our most versatile national assets – along with an extra complement of highly skilled personnel – allowed the relief effort to begin immediately after the hurricane had passed.

By Friday night, the team from RFA Mounts Bay had managed to restore power supplies at Anguilla’s hospital, rebuild the emergency operations centre, clear the runway and make the island’s airport serviceable.

The ship then repositioned to the British Virgin Islands, where its experts were able to reopen the airport.

Meanwhile in the UK, the government dispatched 2 RAF transport aircraft on Friday – carrying 52 personnel and emergency supplies for over 1,000 people.

On Saturday, another 2 aircraft left for the region to deliver a Puma transport helicopter and ancillary supplies.

This steady tempo of relief flights has been sustained – yesterday it included a Voyager and a C-17 – and I can assure the House this will continue for as long as required.

And already 40 tonnes of UK aid has arrived, including over 2,500 shelter kits, and 2,300 solar lanterns. Nine tonnes of food and water are being procured locally today for onward delivery. Thousands more shelter kits and buckets are on the way from UK shortly. HMS Ocean is being loaded with 200 pallets of DFID aid and 60 pallets of Emergency Relief Stores (ERS) today. Five thousand hygiene kits, 10,000 buckets and 504,000 Aquatabs, all DFID funded, are going onto the vessel.

As I speak, 997 British military personnel are in the Caribbean. RFA Mounts Bay arrived in Anguilla again yesterday at dusk as 47 police officers arrived in the British Virgin Islands to assist the local constabulary.

We should all acknowledge and thank the first responders of the Overseas Territories’ own governments, who have shown leadership from the start, and are now being reinforced by personnel from the UK.

And many people, military and civilian, have shown fantastic professionalism and courage in their response to this disaster, and I hope I speak for the whole House in saying a resounding and heartfelt thank you.

Now this initial effort will soon be reinforced by the flagship of the Royal Navy, HMS Ocean.

The government has ordered our biggest warship in service to leave her NATO task in the Mediterranean and steam westwards with all speed.

HMS Ocean loaded supplies in Gibraltar yesterday and will be active in the Caribbean in about 10 days.

Within 24 hours of the hurricane striking, my Right Honourable Friend the Prime Minister announced last Thursday a £32 million fund for those who have suffered, but in the first desperate stages, it is not about money – it is about just getting on with it.

And the Foreign Office Crisis Centre has been operating around the clock since last Wednesday, coordinating very closely with DFID and MOD colleagues. They’ve taken nearly 2,500 calls since then and are handling 2,251 consular cases. The government has convened daily meetings of our COBR crisis committee.

Over the weekend, my Right Honourable Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Governors of Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands – along with Governor Rick Scott of Florida, where Irma has since made landfall over the weekend.

I have spoken to the US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe about the US Virgin Islands in respect of logistics support for the British Virgin Islands.

As well as those affected across the Caribbean, some 420,000 British citizens are in Florida – either as residents or visitors – and UK officials are providing every possible help.

My Right Honourable Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to our Ambassador in Washington and our Consul General in Miami, who has deployed teams in Florida’s major airports to offer support and issue Emergency Travel Documents to those who need them.

The House will note that Irma has now weakened to a tropical storm, which is moving north west into Georgia.

And on Friday, I spoke to the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda. The hurricane inflicted some of its worst blows upon Barbuda and a DFID team has been deployed on the island to assess the situation and make recommendations. Put starkly, the infrastructure of Barbuda no longer exists. I assured the Prime Minister of our support and I reiterate that this morning.

On Saturday, my Right Honourable Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Prime Minister of Barbados to thank him for his country’s superb support, acting as a staging post for other UK efforts across the Caribbean.

Mr Speaker, we should all be humble in the face of the power of nature. Whatever relief we are able to provide will not be enough for many who have lost so much. But hundreds of dedicated British public servants are doing their utmost to help and they will not relent in their efforts.