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Chris Grayling – 2018 Statement on the Rail Review

Below is the text of the statement made by Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, in the House of Commons on 11 October 2018.

Mr. Speaker,

I would like to update the House on the government’s Rail Review, which we will use to build on the successes of our busy railway, to deliver a network that is fit for the future and better serves passengers.

I will also update the House on the current performance of Northern and GTR.

For a generation before the 1993 Railways Act, British Rail was in seemingly terminal decline. Passenger numbers where falling. Stations were closing. Short term decisions were being made at the expense of the traveling public. The Railways Act brought investment, new services and better reliability.

A quarter of a century later, the situation is very different. Our UK rail network is at capacity in commuter areas, with many of the most intensively used lines in Europe. On many routes, it simply isn’t possible to squeeze more trains onto the network.

As we now know, the railways were not in terminal decline after all – they had simply been starved of investment. Privatisation has reversed the decades of decline and heralded the fastest expansion of our railways since they were built by the Victorians. It has also delivered billions of pounds of investment and radically improved safety. Our railways are now among the safest in the world.

But this welcome expansion has brought new, acute challenges. On major commuter routes across the country, trains are packed each morning. Network Rail, which represents a third (38%) of the industry (based on spend), is nationalised. It is also responsible for over half (54%) of the daily disruption.

But no matter whether it is a failure of the track, a fault with a train, or a customer incident, it is because there is little resilience or margin for error in the system that, when things go wrong, the knock-on effect can last for hours.

This problem is compounded because the railway is run by multiple players without clear lines of accountability.

When I took over as Transport Secretary in 2016 I said that change was needed. I started to bring together the operation of the tracks and trains, which had been split up in the 1990s, to be controlled by single operational teams. This is helping overcome the problems caused by fragmentation, and creating a railway that is more responsive to passenger needs.

I also said that change needed to be evolutionary and not revolutionary, to avoid destabilising the industry. So we have started to shape alliances between the teams running trains and track to create a more joined-up and customer-focused structure.

But the difficulties with the introduction of the new timetable over the summer and the problems we are experiencing with many major investment projects has convinced me that evolution is no longer enough. The collapse of Virgin Trains East Coast has also highlighted the need for radical change.

Simply, we need this change to ensure that the investment going into the railways, from both the government and the private sector, results in better services for passengers and delivers the improved reliability, better trains, extra seats and more frequent services we all want to see.

Last month, my department announced a root-and-branch review of the rail industry.

Keith Williams, deputy chairman of John Lewis and Partners and former chief executive of British Airways, is leading this work and I expect him to make ambitious recommendations for reform to ensure our rail network produces even greater benefits for passengers and continues to support a stronger, fairer economy. Keith Williams’s expertise in driving customer service excellence and workforce engagement will be incredibly valuable as we reform the rail industry to become more passenger-focused.

Keith will be assisted by an independent expert challenge panel from across the country, with expertise in rail, business and customer service.

The panel will ensure the review thinks boldly and creatively, challenging received wisdom, to ensure its recommendations can deliver the stability and improvements that rail passengers deserve. They will be supported by a dedicated secretariat and will now begin engaging with the industry, passengers, regional and business representatives and others across the country, drawing on their expertise, insights and experiences to inform the review.

It will consider all parts of the rail industry, from the current franchising system and industry structures, to accountability and value for money for passengers and taxpayers. It will consider further devolution and the needs of rail freight operators, and will take into account the final report of Professor Stephen Glaister into the May 2018 network disruption, due at the end of the year, which I will turn to shortly.

When we establish what we think is the right approach to mend our railways, it must be properly tested and scrutinised independently.

I have today (11 October 2018) published the Rail Review’s terms of reference, and have placed copies in the libraries of both Houses, together with the names of the Rail Review’s independent panel.

The review will build a rigorous and comprehensive evidence base, and it will make recommendations regarding the most appropriate organisational and commercial framework for the sector that delivers our vision for a world-class railway.

The private sector has an important part to play in shaping the future of the industry, but it is important that the review considers the right balance of public and private sector involvement.

Mr Speaker, some have called for the return to a national, state-run monopoly, and for us to go back to the days of British Rail. There is an expectation that taking on hundreds of millions of pounds of debt onto the government books will magically resolve every problem.

This fails to recognise that many of the problems that customers faced this year were down to the nationalised part of the railways.

It also creates the sense that a government-controlled rebrand would somehow make every train work on time. Those who make this argument fail to tell passengers that the much-needed investment that is taking place today would be at risk, and that taxpayers’ money would be diverted from public services to subsidise losses.

The review will look at how the railway is organised to deliver for passengers. It will look forensically at the different options, and then make recommendations on what will best deliver results in different areas of the country.

The review will conclude with a White Paper in autumn 2019, which will set out its findings, and explain how we will deliver reform. We expect reform to begin from 2020, so passengers will see benefits before the next election.

I have commuted by train for most of my career; over 35 years. I still do. I am proud to be in a government that is supporting a major programme of investment in rail, from Thameslink to the Transpennine upgrade, with new trains in the north, south, east and west.

But I can’t stand by while the current industry struggles to deliver the improvements that this investment should be generating. So it’s time for change.

The review will not prevent us taking every opportunity in the short term to improve passenger experiences. That is the government’s focus, and that is why we are committed to an investment of £48 billion in the railways over the next 5 years.

Mr Speaker, Professor Stephen Glaister’s interim report has provided us with an accurate account of the series of mistakes and complex issues across the rail industry that led to the unacceptable disruption that passengers experienced earlier this year.

We know that in the north, delays to infrastructure upgrades, beyond the control of Northern Rail, were a major factor in the resulting disruption. Richard George, the former head of transport at the London 2012 Olympic Games, is now working with the industry and Transport for the North to look at any underlying performance issues.

In the 4 weeks ending 15 September, over 85% of services met their punctuality targets; the highest level delivered for Northern Rail’s passengers since the timetable introduction in May. Northern is now running 99% of the planned May timetable, and we are working with Transport for the North and the industry to plan further uplifts in services, while prioritising reliability.

In the coming months, passengers across the north will begin to benefit from the brand new trains that were unveiled last week. There will be over 2,000 extra services a week, all the Northern and TransPennine Express trains will be brand new or refurbished, and all the Pacers will be gone.

Mr Speaker,

I now want to turn to GTR which has new leadership and where the reliability of its services have significantly improved; since the introduction of the interim timetable in July, 85% of trains arrived at their station on time.

In addition to this, in the last week, the first of the new Class 717 trains that will run on its Great Northern routes begun testing.

GTR is now operating 94% of the weekday services it planned to run from 20 May, including all services during the busiest peak hours. By December 10 it plans to introduce all planned off-peak services. There is, however, more work to do to improve services at weekends.

Since the disruption in May there has been intense scrutiny from the government and its independent regulator, the Office for Road and Rail, on what went wrong and why.

GTR must take its fair share of the responsibility – its performance was below what we expect from our rail operators.

Officials in my department are taking action to finalise how we will hold GTR account for the disruption and the Rail Minister will keep the House updated.

Mr Speaker, our action demonstrates that when passengers experienced severe disruption, this government took action.

To help passengers plan ahead.

To reduce delays.

To reduce cancellations.

To properly compensate disrupted fare-payers.

The Rail Review that I have announced will continue this approach, ensuring the rail industry is always focused on the passenger first and that record investment delivers the services that passengers want and deserve.

James Brokenshire – 2018 Statement on Leasehold Reform

Below is the text of the statement made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 15 October 2018.

I have published a technical consultation on how to implement the Government’s reforms to the leasehold system in England.

This consultation marks the next step in my personal commitment to tackle exploitative and unjustifiable practices in the leasehold sector, making homeownership fairer for all.

Unjust leasehold terms also risk making relatively new houses unattractive to buyers. Therefore, last year the Government announced they would introduce ​legislation to prohibit the unjustified granting of new residential long leases on new build or existing freehold houses, other than in exceptional circumstances, and restrict ground rents in newly established leases of houses and flats to a peppercorn.

In addition, we want to address loopholes in the law to improve transparency and fairness for leaseholders and freeholders. This includes providing freeholders with equivalent rights to leaseholders to enable them to challenge the reasonableness of estate rent charges or freehold service charges for the maintenance of communal arrears and facilities on a private or mixed estate.

Finally, we want to introduce measures to improve how leasehold properties are bought and sold.

The consultation details a number of proposals setting out how our plans may work in practice. It asks important questions to understand people’s views on how this could affect them. It sets out and seeks views on:

how the changes to prevent unjustified new leasehold houses will work in practice, in what circumstances any exemptions will be provided, and how the policy will be enforced;

the future nominal ground rent for new leasehold properties being capped at £10 per annum, and what exceptional circumstances may warrant exemption;

how we intend to provide freeholders with equivalent rights to leaseholders to enable them to challenge the reasonableness of an estate rent charge or a freehold service charge for the maintenance of communal arrears and facilities on a private or mixed estate; and

measures to improve how leasehold properties are bought and sold.

We will use the evidence we gather to inform the legislation and the accompanying impact assessment.

The consultation will run for six weeks and will close on 26 November 2018. It is available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/implementing-reforms-to-the-leasehold-system, and I have placed a copy in the House Library.

Since becoming Secretary of State, I have already taken steps to ensure excessive and unfair leasehold practices are brought to an end. No new Government funding schemes will now support the unjustified use of leasehold for new houses.

This consultation, and the legislation which will follow, will make the leasehold system fairer, more transparent, and cheaper for home owners in the future.

Tracey Crouch – 2018 Speech on Loneliness

Below is the text of the speech made by Tracey Crouch, the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in the House of Commons on 15 October 2018.

I should like to make a statement on the publication of the Government’s landmark strategy to tackle loneliness.

This is a very emotional statement to make. I am standing here at the Dispatch Box with a clear line of sight to the coat of arms representing our colleague who took this issue of loneliness and catapulted it into the stratosphere. I have dedicated a brief nine months to developing the strategy, but Jo Cox dedicated her whole life to tackling loneliness, and the publication of this strategy, which bears her photo, and a copy of which I have set aside for Jo’s children, is dedicated to her. I hope she would be proud.

The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness was set up with a vision to carry forward her important work, and in January the Prime Minister welcomed its report and many of its recommendations, including the appointment of a cross-Government ministerial lead on loneliness, a post which I was overwhelmingly humbled to be offered. I would like to take this opportunity to thank in particular the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) and my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Seema Kennedy) for their vital work as co-chairs of the commission. Their dedication and passion have been essential in leading and driving forward action, and I am personally grateful to them for the cross-party support they have given me since I have taken on this work.

Since then, our work in the UK has gained global attention. Loneliness is increasingly recognised as one of the most pressing public health issues we face across the world. Feeling lonely is linked to early death, with its impact often cited as being on a par with that of smoking or obesity. It is also linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, cognitive decline and even Alzheimer’s.

It is estimated that between 5% and 18% of adults in the UK feel lonely often or always, but they are frequently hard to reach and suffer in silence. The Government are committed to confronting this challenge. The strategy published today outlines the Government’s vision for England to tackle loneliness, complementing the work being done in the devolved Administrations, and creating ​a place where we all have strong social relationships, where families, friends and communities support each other, where organisations promote people’s social connections as a core part of their everyday role, where loneliness can be recognised and acted on without stigma or shame, and where we can all make an effort to look out for each other and ensure that moments of contact are respectful and meaningful.

To get there requires society-wide change, which is why the strategy recognises that Government cannot make the necessary changes alone. It sets out a powerful vision of how we can all play a role in building a more socially connected society. But there is no quick fix to achieving this vision, so it is very much a starting point rather than the end. It largely concentrates on the role Government can play and how we can set the framework to enable local authorities, businesses, health and the voluntary sector, as well as communities and individuals, to support people’s social connections. But it also describes the important responsibilities that we all have as individuals to our family, friends and communities and gives some examples of the great work already under way across the country to create strong and connected communities. It is a cross-Government programme, rather than a programme of one Department, and sets out a number of policy commitments ranging across policy areas such as health, employment, transport and housing and planning, and I am pleased that so many of my colleagues involved in the strategy are sitting alongside me on the Treasury Bench this evening.

I wish briefly to draw five areas to the attention of the House. The strategy sets out a commitment to improve and expand social prescribing across England. It is estimated that GPs see between one and five patients a day because of loneliness. This is a policy that has been very much developed in response to some of the brilliant work by the Royal College of General Practitioners, frontline health professionals and others, and it will change the way patients experiencing loneliness are treated.

Social prescribing connects people to community groups and services through the support of link workers, who introduce people to support based on their individual needs. By 2023, the Government will support all local health and care systems to implement social prescribing connector schemes across the whole country. In addition, the Government will explore how a variety of organisations, such as jobcentres, community pharmacies and social workers, refer people into social prescribing schemes and test how to improve this. The Government will also work with local authorities to pilot and test how the better use of data can help to make it easier for people to find local activities, services and support.

The Government will also grow a network of employers to take action on loneliness, working with the Campaign to End Loneliness. The Government strategy includes a pilot with Royal Mail and sets out details of a new pledge that employers can sign up to, demonstrating their commitment to helping their employees to tackle loneliness. I am really pleased that a number of businesses and organisations have signed up, including Sainsbury’s, the Co-op, National Grid and the British Red Cross, along with 18 or so others, as well as the UK Government civil service.

Earlier this summer, we announced that £20 million of funding would be made available from the Government and other partners to support initiatives to connect people. ​In the strategy today, I am pleased to announce that a further £1.8 million will be made available to support even more community spaces and used to transform underutilised areas, including creating new community cafés, art spaces or gardens.

Furthermore, the Government will build a national conversation to raise awareness of loneliness and reduce the stigma. We will explore how best to drive awareness of the importance of social health and how we can encourage people to take action. In addition, Public Health England’s forthcoming campaign on mental health will explicitly highlight the importance of social connections to our wider wellbeing.

Finally, the strategy sets out the Government’s ongoing commitment to this agenda. The ministerial group that steered development of the strategy will continue to meet to oversee the Government’s work on tackling loneliness. The group will publish an annual progress report. My ministerial colleagues in the group, from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, will have their portfolios extended to include loneliness, to show the importance of the agenda across a wide range of policy areas. My colleague at the Department of Health and Social Care, who already has loneliness in her portfolio, will also continue to provide invaluable support on this work.

The Government’s intention is to embed consideration of loneliness and relationships throughout the policy-making process. From next year, individual Government Departments will highlight the progress they are making on addressing loneliness through their annual single departmental plans. The Government will also explore other mechanisms for ensuring that loneliness is considered in policy making, including through adding loneliness to the guidance for the family test.

The Government strategy is a significant first step in the national mission to end loneliness in our lifetimes. An enormous number of people, organisations, voluntary groups and others have helped to produce the strategy; the list published in the strategy of my thanks extends to four pages, so I cannot mention them all here. As there is no way they would have written it into the speech or the strategy themselves, I would like to place on the record a huge thank you to the team of officials who have been enthusiastic secondees from across Whitehall to work on this strategy. They have brought with them invaluable energy and expertise from their Departments, and it has been an enormous pleasure to work with them.

The strategy builds on years of dedicated work by many organisations and individuals. It sets out a powerful vision on how we can all play a role in building a more socially connected society and is supported by important policy commitments to make that vision a reality. I call on all hon. Members across the House to join me in taking action to defeat loneliness. Together we can address one of the most pressing social issues of our time. I commend this statement to the House.

Theresa May – 2018 Statement on EU Exit Negotiations

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 15 October 2018.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House ahead of this week’s European Council.

We are entering the final stages of these negotiations. This is the time for cool, calm heads to prevail, and for a clear-eyed focus on the few remaining but critical issues that are still to be agreed. Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union went to Brussels for further talks with Michel Barnier. There has inevitably been a great deal of inaccurate speculation, so I want to set out clearly for the House the facts as they stand.

First, we have made real progress in recent weeks on both the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration on our future relationship. I want to pay tribute to both negotiating teams for the many, many hours of hard work that have got us to this point. In March, we agreed legal text around the implementation period, citizen’s rights and the financial settlement, and we have now made good progress on text concerning the majority of the outstanding issues. Taken together, the shape of the deal across the vast majority of the withdrawal agreement—the terms of our exit—is now clear. We also have broad agreement on the structure and scope of the framework for our future relationship, with progress on issues such as security, transport and services.

Perhaps most significantly, we have made progress on Northern Ireland, on which the EU has been working with us to respond to the very real concerns we had about its original proposals. Let me remind the House why this is so important. Both the UK and the EU share a profound responsibility to ensure the preservation of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, protecting the hard-won peace and stability in Northern Ireland and ensuring that life continues essentially as it does now. We agree that our future economic partnership should provide for solutions to the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland in the long term, and while we are both committed to ensuring that this future relationship is in place by the end of the implementation period, we accept that there is a chance that there may be a gap between the two. This is what creates the need for a backstop to ensure that if such a temporary gap were ever to arise, there would be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, or indeed anything that would threaten the integrity of our precious Union.

This backstop is intended to be an insurance policy for the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland. Previously, the European Union had proposed a backstop that would see Northern Ireland carved off in the EU’s customs union and parts of the single market, separated through a border in the Irish sea from the UK’s own internal market. As I have said many times, I could never accept that, no matter how unlikely such a scenario might be. Creating any form of customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would mean a fundamental change in the day-to-day experience for businesses in Northern Ireland, with the potential to affect jobs and investment. We published our proposals on customs in the backstop in June. After Salzburg, I said that we would bring forward our own further proposals, and that is what we have done in these ​negotiations. The European Union has responded positively by agreeing to explore a UK-wide customs solution to this backstop, but two problems remain.

First, the EU says that there is not time to work out the detail of this UK-wide solution in the next few weeks, so even with the progress we have made, the EU still requires a “backstop to the backstop”—effectively an insurance policy for the insurance policy—and it wants this to be the Northern Ireland-only solution that it had previously proposed. We have been clear that we cannot agree to anything that threatens the integrity of our United Kingdom, and I am sure that the whole House shares the Government’s view on this. Indeed, the House of Commons set out its view when agreeing unanimously to section 55 in part 6 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018 on a single United Kingdom customs territory, which states:

“It shall be unlawful for Her Majesty’s Government to enter into arrangements under which Northern Ireland forms part of a separate customs territory to Great Britain.”

So the message is clear not just from this Government but from the whole House.

Secondly, I need to be able to look the British people in the eye and say that this backstop is a temporary solution. People are rightly concerned that what is only meant to be temporary could become a permanent limbo, with no new relationship between the UK and the EU ever agreed. I am clear that we are not going to be trapped permanently in a single customs territory unable to do meaningful trade deals. So it must be the case, first, that the backstop should not need to come into force; secondly, that if it does, it must be temporary; and, thirdly, while I do not believe that this will be the case, that if the EU were not to co-operate on our future relationship, we must be able to ensure that we cannot be kept in this backstop arrangement indefinitely. I would not expect the House to agree to a deal unless we have the reassurance that the UK, as a sovereign nation, has this say over our arrangements with the EU.

I do not believe that the UK and the EU are far apart. We both agree that article 50 cannot provide the legal base for a permanent relationship, and we both agree that the backstop must be temporary, so we must now work together to give effect to that agreement.

So much of the negotiations are necessarily technical, but the reason why this all matters is that it affects the future of our country. It affects jobs and livelihoods in every community. It is about what kind of country we are and about our faith in our democracy. Of course it is frustrating that almost all the remaining points of disagreement are focused on how we manage a scenario that both sides hope should never come to pass and that, if it does, will only be temporary. We cannot let that disagreement derail the prospects of a good deal and leave us with the no-deal outcome that no-one wants. I continue to believe that a negotiated deal is the best outcome for the UK and for the European Union. I continue to believe that such a deal is achievable, and that is the spirit in which I will continue to work with our European partners. I commend this statement to the House.

Chloe Smith – 2018 Speech on Democracy

Below is the text of the speech made by Chloe Smith, the Minister for the Constitution, in Brussels, Belgium on 15 October 2018.

Introduction

We agree democracy is essential for free, well-governed societies to prosper.

We in the UK, along with you, are part of a community, extolling the virtues of democracy.

But as the leaders of the G7 agreed earlier this year in the Charlevoix, “democracy and the rules-based international order are increasingly being challenged by authoritarianism and the defiance of international norms”.

It’s up to all of us to work together to defend our democracy and preserve it for future generations. In my view we must respect it, protect it and promote it – those are the themes I will be working on in the UK, Europe and around the world.

As the Minister for the Constitution in the UK Government, today, I will set out what we are doing to defend the UK’s democracy. We are committed to:

– maintaining transparency, fairness and equality for parties, campaigners and voters

– we want to protect the safety and security of the electoral process, free from fraud and interference

– and we want to build on our democratic traditions to remain world leaders in maintaining confidence in our democracy

Transparency for digital campaigning

Starting with one of the challenges we face – for the last three decades the internet has not only revolutionised the way we interact with each other, it has revolutionised the way we do politics, too.

Information is only a moment away, and on the whole those changes are positive.

Thirty years ago, voters also didn’t also have to worry about whether their choice was being influenced by misleading political ads on social media.

The digital landscape poses challenges which we can’t afford to shy away from addressing.

On international affairs – we know that certain states routinely use disinformation, bots and hacking as foreign policy tools. It’s not surprising that they should try to influence other countries democratic systems to further their own agendas.

Democracy is based on citizens being confident that the elections they vote in are fair and transparent.

Governments must act to meet the pressures of digital campaigning so this confidence is assured, in terms of foreign-originated content, but of course also domestic content and debate too.

We are working to protect the news environment so accurate content can prevail and has a sustainable future.

We have to be alive to the fact that traditional news outlets aren’t the main source of information anymore.

We must give everyone the skills they need to distinguish between fact and fabrication.

In the UK, we are publicly consulting on how to require digital campaigning material to include the details of who has produced it.

Because voters need to see which organisation or individual is targeting them.

Salisbury

People need to be informed about the threats facing our country. I am immensely proud of the work done by the National Security Communications Team and the government’s Russia unit in revealing the role of the GRU in the despicable Salisbury attack.

The actions of the GRU are genuinely a threat to all our allies in democracy.

We are working together by sharing information about their activity with our international partners so that others can learn more about the threat they pose.

Safety and security of elections

In the UK, we have seen no evidence of successful interference in our democratic processes. We are vigilant.

I am confident that our voting system is secure.

Whilst UK voting systems do not lend themselves to direct electronic manipulation because our ballots are conducted with paper and pen.

But we recognise that confidence in the electoral system, and participation in it, are very much linked.

In the UK – there’s a reform we’re doing – you only need to say your name and address to get your ballot paper – a test based on a 19th century assumption that people knew their neighbours at the polling station.

Clearly, this process can be open to abuse and needs to be updated for our more modern, populous society.

One approach is to bring the UK in line with other European countries such as the Netherlands, France and Germany and many others where people can confirm their identity when they vote.

Conclusion

We know it is vital that everyone has confidence that their vote is theirs, and theirs alone.

Not only that – they have to feel that their vote matters, and that their voice is being heard, too.

I want the reputation of the UK’s democracy to be absolutely solid:

– known for its transparency and fairness

– known for being a safe and secure electoral system, untainted by misinformation

– I want it known for being a democracy that genuinely does work for every voter

– and known for the willingness of its government to work hard to increase confidence in our democracy for the people it serves

As I said, we must respect, protect and promote our democracy for the next generation.

That work has a vital task for our times.

James Brokenshire – 2018 Speech at Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize Award Ceremony

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State of Housing, Communities and Local Government, on 10 October 2018.

Thank you for inviting to me join you this evening.

It’s a real privilege to be here.

The Stirling Prize is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate British Architecture and since 1996, when it replaced the less august sounding ‘Building of the Year Award’, it has consistently showcased the immense talent coming out of this country.

When James Stirling won the Royal Gold Medal in 1980 he did so not only for his achievements but also for the potential of those ideas never realised.   That connection between accomplishment and promise, between the past and the future, is embodied each year in the Stirling Prize and its shortlisted nominees.

Helping to honour the legacy and inspire future generations of architects.

Thank you for your contribution to our country, our economy and our cultural life.

And it is to the role of the architect I wish to turn.

You are the guardians of quality.

So often the difference between the ugly and the beautiful isn’t because of ‘good architect vs bad architect’ but rather a case of there being little or no architect at all. What I know is we need more of your expertise involved in how we build and create communities, not less.

And ultimately, for me at least, that is why we build.

To create communities.

To create great places to live, work and spend time in.

To create please we are proud to call home.

To create that connection between the built environment and our identity.

At the core of this should be an aspiration for beauty.

Whilst we may debate its precise nature, its existence is beyond doubt.

And our spaces and places should embody this value.

As Secretary of State for Housing and Communities, these issues are an important part of my role.

And something I will be returning to in the coming weeks.

From the individual home through to the new settlements we need to build I pay special attention to the quality of design and style.

We need to build homes which fit with the world around them.

Helping to give confidence to people that development will be sympathetic to its surroundings. Helping grow a sense of community, not undermine it.

Helping to ensure our places are fit for the future, casting our eyes on the coming innovations in technology whilst keeping our feet firmly grounded in what communities want and need.

That’s why tonight is so special.

In recognising and celebrating the essential role of style, design and yes, architecture.

I’d like to congratulate all those shortlisted for this prestigious award.

You have all earned rightful plaudits for your work. Tonight we celebrate not just the winner – but all of you.

Thank you all for what you do.

And the very real contribution you are making in creating communities we can be proud of.

Thank you.

Theresa May – 2018 Speech at World Mental Health Day Reception

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, on 10 October 2018.

I’m really pleased to be able to welcome you here to Number 10 on World Mental Health Day.

And I want to say a huge thank you to everybody here for everything you are doing to transform how we look after mental health, here in Britain but also around the world.

Because as I’ve been discussing with a number of you and with some young people earlier – for too long, too many people have suffered in silence in fear of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions.

While those who have sought help haven’t had the access to care they would have for a physical ailment.

Putting right that historic injustice is – I think – one of the defining challenges of our time.

We all know someone who has been affected by mental health problems – whether a family member, a colleague or a friend.

Yet average global spend on mental health is just 2.8 per cent of government health spending worldwide.

And we have to change this.

For we are not looking after our health if we are not looking after our mental health.

And we need that true parity between physical and mental health, not just in our health systems but elsewhere as well – in our classrooms, our workplaces, in our communities too.

That is why we were so pleased this week to host the first ever Global Ministerial Summit on mental health.

And in this landmark agreement we see more than 50 countries have supported the declaration to achieve equity for mental health in the 21st Century.

And I am delighted that we have representatives from many of those national delegations here with us this afternoon.

Now we must turn those words into action.

Here in the UK, as you’ve just heard, I have made parity of care a priority for our long-term plan for the NHS.

And as a result, our record investment in the NHS will mean record investment in mental health.

For the first time ever, the NHS will work towards standards for accessing mental health services that are just as ambitious as those for physical health.

The Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, led by Simon Wessely, will enable the government to bring forward historic new legislation – and it is amazing that it has taken so long for us to review our mental health legislation – to help ensure that all people treated under the act are treated with dignity and respect.

We are investing more than £220 million over the next decade in the mental wellbeing of our brave armed forces – changing the culture, so those in need are not stigmatised but rather encouraged to step forward and then helped to return to the frontline. And we are ensuring that we have the right mental health support for our veterans too.

Our new campaign – Every Mind Matters – will train 1 million people in mental health awareness, with the first pilot beginning today in the West Midlands ahead of a national launch next Spring.

But I want us to go further, in particular in two areas: how we prevent the tragic loss of too many lives from suicide and how we support the mental wellbeing of our young people.

I think it’s utterly heart-breaking that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 and most likely to occur among those who are disadvantaged in our society today.

And we cannot stand by and allow this injustice to continue.

But to tackle it we need to focus on the full range of challenges that those at risk of suicide are so often facing – from ill-health to debt or unemployment; from family breakdown to bereavement or loneliness; from drugs and alcohol dependency to homelessness.

And we need to break the stigma that so often prevents people from talking when they are at their most desperate.

For this to happen we need to give suicide prevention the priority it deserves.

So I am today appointing Jackie Doyle-Price as the first ever Ministerial Lead for Suicide Prevention.

And what Jackie will be doing is bringing together a national effort to tackle this injustice – working with all of you here – across national and local government, with suicide and self-harm prevention experts, clinicians and those personally affected by suicide. This will include charities like one whose representatives I’ve just met – the Campaign Against Living Miserably – who have campaigned so tirelessly on this issue.

Jackie will also explore how we can harness the latest technology – such as predictive analytics and artificial intelligence – to identify those at risk of suicide.

She will be looking at the support offered to families affected by suicide.

And she will also help to ensure there are effective suicide prevention plans in every local area – and we’ll be publishing a national progress report by Spring next year.

As we do all of this, we are committing up to £2 million for the Zero Suicide Alliance over the next two years to improve suicide awareness and training across the NHS and beyond.

And we will ensure that when people do want to talk, there is someone there to listen.

So we are also committing up to £1.8 million for the Samaritans’ helpline over the next four years, to ensure that it remains free for everyone who needs it, when they need it, 24 hours a day.

As I said, I also want us to do more to support the mental wellbeing of young people.

Half of all mental illness, as we know, begins by the age of 14 – and with young people spending more time online, the strains on mental wellbeing are only going to increase.

So it’s critical that we not only deliver parity of care between mental and physical health – but that we do the same for prevention too.

That is why we are making education about mental health and resilience a mandatory part of the national curriculum.

And we are developing an entirely new mental health workforce that will support schools to get the right help early to young people with mild to moderate mental health needs.

Recruitment has just begun for the first cohort of trainees. They will begin studying in January and be fully trained working in schools by the end of next year.

But we need to go even further in ensuring that mental wellbeing and resilience is at the forefront of our whole approach to supporting young people.

For generations, we have measured our children’s physical health throughout their childhood.

And we have done the same with their academic attainment.

But we haven’t done this for their mental wellbeing.

That not only sends the wrong message about the importance of mental health but it also denies us vital data that can help transform the support we provide for generations to come.

So we are going to change this.

From next year, we will publish an annual State of the Nation report every World Mental Health Day to highlight the trends and issues in young people’s mental wellbeing.

And we will provide schools with an approved framework which can help them with measuring all aspects of their students’ health, including their mental wellbeing.

Now, when I first became Prime Minister, I stood on the steps of Downing Street and pledged to fight the burning injustices in our society.

I think there are few greater examples than the injustice which faces those with mental health conditions.

But working together we can change that.

We can end the stigma that has forced too many to suffer in silence.

We can prevent the tragedy of suicide taking too many lives.

And we can give the mental wellbeing of our children the priority that it so profoundly deserves.

So let’s do that. And let me thank you all again for everything that you are doing to support that vital mission.

And let’s go forward together, determined to ensure we improve people’s mental health and give help and support to those that need it.

Jeremy Hunt – 2018 Speech to the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, on 11 October 2018.

On behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – and our co-hosts, the Department for International Development and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – I’m delighted to welcome you to this conference.

Our task simply is to address one of the greatest challenges facing humankind. How can we protect the magnificence of the natural world from the criminal gangs who threaten human beings just as surely as they plunder the planet?

The world’s population now stands at 7.5 billion human beings, that’s a fivefold increase on a century ago, reflecting humanity’s remarkable progress against poverty and disease. Since 1990, the global infant mortality rate has fallen by over 50 per cent. Almost everywhere, people are living longer and healthier lives – and we should give thanks for that cardinal achievement.

Yet as we have succeeded, other species have gone dramatically into decline. It was Yuval Noah Harari, from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who described homo sapiens as the “deadliest species in the annals of Planet Earth”. By about 12,000 years ago – long before our ancestors invented the wheel or iron tools – we human beings had already exterminated about half of the world’s large mammals.

Today, the process has gone still further. If you placed all the people in the world on a giant set of scales, they would weigh about 300 million tonnes. But if you gathered all the surviving wild animals – of every size and species – and placed them on the other end of the scales, their combined mass would be less than 100 million tonnes, three times less than us.

The global population of vertebrate animals has fallen by almost 60 per cent since 1970. It’s even worse news for particular animals: forty years ago, Africa had about 1.3 million elephants. Today, the figure is down by two thirds to 415,000. In Asia, the population of wild tigers has dropped by 95 per cent since 1900.

The illegal wildlife trade is not the sole cause of the disappearance of wildlife, but we all suffer from its malign effect.

The same criminal networks that smuggle tusks and horns and hardwood also traffic in guns and drugs and people. They launder money, engage in modern slavery, fund conflict and thrive on corruption. By one estimate, the illegal wildlife trade is the fourth most profitable criminal enterprise in the world, generating as much as $23 billion.

Last year, the authorities in Hong Kong achieved the biggest ivory seizure in history, intercepting a shipment of tusks weighing 7.2 tonnes. For that one consignment, the smugglers or their accomplices will have killed at least 700 elephants.

In the process, these bandits were looting the natural wealth of Africa. From Mongolia to Laos, from Angola to the Amazon, the illegal wildlife trade robs sovereign nations of their resources and deprives some of the poorest countries in the world of the revenues of their biodiversity.

The World Bank estimates that governments lose as much as $15 billion every year from illegal logging. Money that could be spent on schools and roads and hospitals; instead much of it goes to criminal gangs who harm people even as they despoil nature.

If anyone asks why we devote effort and resources to combating the illegal wildlife trade when millions of human beings still endure war, hunger and disease, then here is the answer. This trade threatens some of the poorest people in the world, destroying livelihoods, empowering criminals, and depriving governments of the means to provide essential services.

The interests of humanity cannot be separated from the interests of the natural world. The one depends on the other.

So we are all here today because of our common resolve to combat this trade – and we are all looking for the most effective methods. Let me share some of the actions that Britain has taken, and where we think they could be more effective alongside a global coalition.

My predecessor, Lord Hague, called the first London Conference on this subject in 2014 and the framework we agreed then provides the best guidance for our response.

Firstly, we need to eradicate the market for illegal wildlife products. Secondly, we must ensure our laws are strong enough to deter the criminals. Thirdly, we must rigorously enforce those laws. Finally, we need to provide sustainable livelihoods for those who might otherwise be tempted by the short term gains of poaching.

Last year, the British Parliament passed the Criminal Finances Act, strengthening our powers to combat money laundering and freeze unexplained wealth. Since then, we have placed another law before Parliament that would ban domestic ivory sales.

We are now testing our legislation and enforcement capabilities using the methods developed by the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime. Britain will be the first G20 country to go through this exercise and put our own house in order.

We will also contribute £250 million to the UN’s Global Environment Facility by 2022. Along with other donors, we secured agreement for a 30 per cent increase in the budget of the UN’s Global Wildlife Programme.

The Department for International Development is working alongside many of the governments represented here today in order to help provide alternative livelihoods for poor communities.

We are helping countries to improve their governance, strengthen the rule of law and achieve sustainable economic growth. I was pleased to announce another £3.5 million of technical support to help countries “follow the money” behind the grand corruption associated with the illegal wildlife trade.

The criminals don’t respect borders; if one nation toughens its laws, the smugglers will move into a neighbour. If we improve the protection of one endangered wildlife population, they will target another species – or the same species in a different country.

Our response has to rest on international cooperation and it’s so fantastic that 85 governments are represented here today. We welcome the trans-frontier approach to conservation – including “Green Corridors”- which we will do everything we can to support.

This conference will complement our joint work at the UN and CITES, which is the right forum to agree international rules and identify any species in need of extra protection.

But we know that governments and international organisations can’t address this problem alone. That’s why this conference includes businesspeople, NGOs, scientists, law enforcement experts and youth organisations.

We have brought the Interpol Wildlife Crime Working Group to London because we need to ensure that seizures result in prosecutions and convictions.

I offer a special welcome to the game rangers who are present. In the last year, over 100 brave rangers have been killed in the struggle to protect wildlife. We must do more to equip and safeguard the courageous people who risk their lives to guard the natural majesty of their homelands.

I welcome the representatives of communities who live alongside wildlife. I know how easy it is to romanticise that experience if you happen to reside in the safety of London so we all look forward to hearing more about how to reduce human-wildlife conflict from people who understand the issue best.

Yesterday, His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge launched a new private sector Financial Taskforce, designed to bolster the struggle against the illegal wildlife trade.

I hope that we all will use this conference to create new networks and learn from what has gone right as well as what has gone wrong. Nepal, for example, has doubled its tiger population since 2009; in fact not a single rhino or tiger has been poached in Nepal for the last four years.

Let me close by repeating my welcome to London. Let us all leave this conference with a renewed determination to thwart the criminal gangs who inflict grave injury on people with deadly consequences for animals. If we fail to act, quite simply we will never be forgiven.

Theresa May – 2018 Speech at Regions Drinks Reception

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, on 11 October 2018.

Thank you all for coming today. I know some of you had to travel some considerable distance.

We all know that free, plural and vibrant media is the backbone of this country’s democracy. This is a belief that I and the government hold very strongly. Your coverage, be it in print or broadcast, is a reflection of the rich diversity of the views that can be found right across the United Kingdom.

I think it is true to say, regional and local media is fearless. It is independent and we are committed to safeguarding its future.

I know from the discussions I have with my own local paper the significant pressures that are on regional and local press at the moment. Nowhere is this more true than in print journalism where the rapid changes in consumer behaviour and technology have led to falling circulations and advertising revenues. As we know, a quarter of local papers have closed in the past decade.

That is why we launched the Cairncross Review, to examine what more we can do to improve the long term sustainability of high quality journalism, because it is that high quality journalism, at a local and regional level, that is so important in underpinning our democracy.

Obviously, we’ll wait for the review’s findings and recommendations before we make specific policy decisions but nothing is off the table. This commission was launched because we see that there is a problem there and we need to have those voices looking into it for us and coming forward with their recommendations.

I have already heard of one group that has been sending in not just comments on the challenges but also some solutions. And I am sure that you all will be talking not just about the challenges you face but how you are also reacting to those challenges, to the digital age and what you are doing to improve sustainability. And I am sure you all have ideas on what the government might do to help in this area.

As a member of parliament, I have often seen that it is regional and local media which is a trusted source of news for millions of citizens. It keeps all politicians alive to what really matters beyond the Westminster bubble – understanding what is happening out there is so important for us all. Of course, we see it in our own constituencies but getting that wider reflection of what happens is important.

When that trusted local news comes under threat, then I think democracy suffers and people become ever more vulnerable to disinformation. So this is our local press, it is your profession, it is imperative that we work together to ensure it has a very good and viable future.

So thank you for all that you do to maintain those local independent voices, and we want to work with you so that we continue to see that vibrant local and regional press. That is an important element, underpinning our democracy.

Damian Hinds – 2018 Speech at the Confederation of School Trusts Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Damian Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education, on 11 October 2018.

Good morning everyone. I am delighted to be able to join you for this historic conference – the official launch of the Confederation of School Trusts.

Together you have long been a strong and essential voice for the power of setting school leaders free when it comes to raising school standards.

As the Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association, for some years now you have worked alongside government to make sure more schools and school leaders have the freedom to make the best decisions on behalf of their pupils and their communities.

Under the leadership of Leora Cruddas, I know the next few years will be just as productive. And I know – new name aside – you will continue to be an important voice for the autonomy and for the benefit of multi-academy trusts.

Today, it is more clear than ever that your voice is needed.

Our country has a long and complex history when it comes to the status and structure of our schools.

If you just look at the last few decades we’ve had the introduction and then ending of grant maintained status followed by the City Technology Colleges – really the genesis of academies, then the first academies under Tony Blair, followed by their massive expansion under this government.

Slowly and surely, most have come to accept a fundamental point: it is heads and school leaders that should be in the driving seat for deciding what is best for their schools, accountable to their pupils and parents.

Today I want to re-make the case for freedom, for diversity, and for accountability in our school system.

For going forwards, not backwards, as we strive to achieve a world-class education for every child, whatever their background.

It’s worth, first of all, underlining just how far we’ve come on improving our schools these last eight years. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our teachers and school leaders.

There are 163,000 more six-year-olds now on track to be fluent readers than in 2012.

A reformed curriculum and qualifications.

We have seen the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers narrow across all stages of education.

But the job isn’t finished.

I want every child, in every classroom, in all parts of the country to have a world-class education.

No one left behind, whatever their background. That is what I will strive to achieve.

And I’ve said many times since I took this job that education is a people business. There are no and there can be no great schools without great teachers and great leaders…

As you know, in everything we’ve been doing to improve education these last few years, we have put a strong focus on handing power back to schools, back to school leaders – recognising that you are the ones best placed to make the right decisions for your pupils, your communities.

It’s when you give good people the power to make their own decisions that you unleash their creativity, allow them to drive improvements based on what they know works.

To this end we have opened hundreds of new Free Schools, drawing in talent and expertise from different groups and backgrounds, giving local communities and parents more freedom and choice, so every child can go to a good local school that suits their needs.

Take the Reach Academy, Feltham, a small school set up in an area of high deprivation by a group of teachers who felt that pupils don’t always flourish in larger educational settings.

The size of the school allows teachers to work closely with parents and pupils they have high expectations for what every child can achieve. And the results are impressive, Ofsted rated the school ‘outstanding’ in 2014, and the school was one of the top performing schools nationally for progress in 2017.

We have also helped many more schools become an academy and join a Multi Academy Trust.

The vision behind Multi Academy Trusts is a simple one. It’s about schools coming together to achieve more than they can on their own.

Whereas in the past schools could be trapped in poorly-performing Local Authorities that lacked the capacity to help them improve. Now there is real choice for schools – they’re not just prisoners of their geography they can join a Multi Academy Trust and get the support they need to improve.

And the support they need to innovate.

Take WISE Academies in the North East, which – since 2012 – has taken on nine sponsored academies all of which previously had significant performance concerns.

This trust has reduced teacher workload through more efficient lesson planning and the creation of shared learning resources they have introduced new ways of teaching such as maths mastery techniques brought over from Singapore.

What is the result? Every school that has been inspected since joining the trust has been judged as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.

Going back further, there are schools like King Solomon Academy, which opened as a new academy as part of the Ark network in 2007.

Serving a highly diverse community in one of the most economically disadvantaged wards in London, Ark King Solomon has twice been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. While the Academy’s Progress 8 scores in 2016 and 2017 were among the best in the country.

Are there examples of trusts where things have gone wrong and children have been let down? Yes.

Should we accept that? No, not for a moment. Rare as these cases are, I’ll be talking more about how we prevent them from happening again in a moment.

Each and every year there are new examples of leading Multi Academy Trusts turning around languishing schools and improving results.

And, in addition, we’re seeing trailblazing schools and school trusts seizing the chance to innovate. It should not surprise us that the majority of academy schools choose to become so.

But let’s step back a moment. What would happen if this was reversed? And we took power away from heads and school leaders?

At the end of key stage 4, pupils in secondary free schools have made more progress on average than pupils in other types of state-funded schools.

Today, in the Academy Programme, more than half a million children now study in a good or outstanding sponsored academy, which typically replaced underperforming schools. Of the schools taken out of local authority control and made into a sponsored academy, by the end of last year, 65 per cent of those which had been inspected saw their grades improve from inadequate to either good or outstanding.

The other great thing about our system today is that it addresses failure. In the past, schools that failed were allowed to stay under local authority control for far too long. The academies changed all that.

Consider Beaver Green Primary School in Ashford, Kent – a school judged Inadequate by Ofsted in 2013 and with a long history of underperformance. It became an academy in 2015 and last year the school was Ofsted-rated Good in all areas, with the Early Years Provision being rated as outstanding.

Or how about Newfield Secondary School in Sheffield – it was inadequate from 2006 until October 2010.

But when the school became an academy it really started to improve.

And it was inspected in March 2017 for the first time as an academy and was judged Good.

What I hope is clear from me is that my strategy is to trust you to get on with the job.

Let me give you an example. Take mobile phones.

We heard a couple of months ago how France would be banning mobile phones in schools.

Please be in no doubt what I think about mobile phones.

I firmly believe that kids in schools should not be on their phones. I strongly support schools that ban phones.

But when people asked me if I was going to follow the example of France and impose a national ban – I said no.

Because that’s autonomy in practice. Heads know best how to run their schools and achieve the objectives they want without any unintended consequences. And meanwhile we have given teachers the powers to confiscate phones if necessary, and also to investigate cyber bullying that goes on beyond the school gates.

There are other areas where I want to proactively stress schools’ autonomy.

One thing I’ve realised doing this job is that too often schools get told that my department or Ofsted expect them to follow the latest fads and fashions in the sector, no matter how time-consuming for teachers and how little evidence there is that they actually benefit the child…

I’m talking about things like excessive progress monitoring, annotated seating plans, triple marking, deep marking, DIRT marking, colour coded marking, you-name-it marking. All things that have added, quite unnecessarily, to teacher workload over the years.

That’s why I asked Professor Becky Allen to chair a workload advisory group, to understand why schools are drowning in data and make recommendations to change this. Their report will be published soon, and will set out actions to give schools greater flexibility in the choices they make about how data is used.

And that’s why Amanda Spielman, myself and others recently made a video stressing that schools are free to follow their own judgement when it comes to lesson plans, the data they collect, the marking policies. I say it again: you don’t need to do any of this for me, for DfE, for Ofsted.

So what next for our school system?

Earlier in the year I launched our latest round of applications to become a free school – specifically targeting areas where there is a real demand for good schools.

And yet again we’ve had a great deal of interest… I’m looking forward to launching the next wave soon.

And from Monday we will start receiving bids to open special and alternative provision free schools. We are also inviting applications from our best universities to open new maths schools.

In 2015, there were around 3,200 Academies and Free Schools in Multi Academy Trusts. We have now around 6,200 this year and I think that’s a trend which will continue. In the last 12 months, we have received 600 applications to convert to an academy.

At the same time there will still be diversity – this is one of the strengths of our education system.

Ultimately a good school is a good school – and that’s what we’re encouraging, whether academies and free schools, the maintained sector, comprehensives, grammar schools, faith schools and more.

We’re also encouraging more people from different professions and backgrounds to sign up to be governors and trustees.

We have already had some success in recruiting trustees from business and industry through our Academy Ambassadors programme to sit on boards.

And in June I issued a call to arms, urging individuals to sign up, and their employers to let them… At the same time the National Governance Association launched their Everyone on Board campaign.

And since then we’ve seen the number of people registering their interest to be a governor through our Inspiring Governance programme double – with over 200 signing up every month.

I also want to say a few words about accountability.

Of course, autonomy can never be absolute. Otherwise we’re talking about autocracy.

Clearly, accountability remains vital.

And, as I said earlier, children only have one chance at an education – they all deserve the best.

That’s why we have Ofsted, inspections and performance measures.

We now have a better assessment system for schools.

Whereas once we measured a school’s performance by its A-C pupils – now, through progress 8, everyone’s progress counts, everyone’s performance is measured.

This stops a disproportionate focus on the C/D borderline, to the detriment of others at both ends of the scale.

And it’s fairer to those schools with the challenging intakes. It properly captures the progress they actually make on behalf of their pupils – by taking into account where they started.

There’s still improvements we can make.

First and foremost, I don’t want our accountability system to stifle schools and drive workload – I want it to be supportive, helping schools that need it to improve, intervening only where there’s failure, and leaving the rest to get on with it.

To this end, I recently published a statement setting out key principles for how I see the accountability system working in the future, which we will be consulting on shortly. In the future, an Ofsted Inadequate judgement alone would lead to hard action to convert a Local Authority maintained school to an academy. And schools will no longer face those visits from Regional Schools Commissioners’ advisers that can feel a lot like inspections.

On those rare occasions when a school is failing – be in no doubt – we will intervene fast and take the serious action necessary. We will also offer support to schools that need it sooner – preventing failure before it happens.

What about MAT accountability?

Trusts clearly have an increasingly important role in our system and we need to make sure that our system of oversight and decision-making keeps up with this. Of course, as this audience is aware, we already hold MATs to account in many ways.

When it comes to finances, academies are in fact more transparent in their reporting than other schools, for example independent scrutiny of annual accounts.

It’s because we have this transparency we know all about it when there are failures – and we are well-placed to take swift action.

For example, recently strengthening the requirements in the Academies Financial Handbook on related party transactions and executive pay.

There’s more we can do however. I want you to have confidence that our assessments are transparent and fair. And I want to make sure that schools and parents can easily access vital information about a particular trust, and the performance of the system as a whole.

I have also been clear that I do not want to introduce anything that would create more workload for teachers, leaders, and governors.

It’s about getting the balance right between effective assessment – without imposing new burdens with little benefit.

That is why I am working with the sector to figure out how this will work.

In particular I want to hear proposals from MAT and school leaders; your views are crucial.

So during this term we will be getting out and talking to the sector, unions and, importantly, school leaders themselves. We are convening roundtables and meetings with trust chairs and CEOs across the country.

I know that CST are thinking about what a new model of MAT assessment might look like and will be sharing that with us, so as members I encourage you to contribute to that.

Freedom. Diversity. Accountability.

That is the school system I believe in.

And I think it’s the system you believe in too.

I have met many headteachers and many school trusts since taking on this job including those serving some of our most disadvantaged communities. And I know they are driven by a deep sense of mission and a moral desire to provide equality of opportunity to all pupils, wherever they are born and whatever their background.

To them, to you, I have a simple message: thank you.

Looking back on all the reforms we’ve made these last eight years – we’ve come a long way. In particular, narrowing the attainment gap between children from different backgrounds. And yet – that gap is still too wide.

Some places have seen dramatic gains, but others still need extra help.

We must keep going, spreading opportunity to the parts of the country where children are still let down by the depth and breadth of education available. Every child should be able to go to a great school.

I want us to move forwards, together, working with organisations like yours. Listening to you and, yes, being challenged by you.

Working together to offer every child a world-class education.

Thank you.