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Marsha de Cordova – 2018 Speech on Fire Safety Remedial Work

Below is the text of the speech made by Marsha de Cordova, the Labour MP for Battersea, in the House of Commons on 19 April 2018.

I am pleased to have secured this important debate. The issue of liability for fire safety remedial work is of great concern to many Battersea residents, as it is to people in many parts of the country, and for good reason. The horror of the Grenfell fire made it clear, if greater clarity were needed, that there should be no complacency on fire safety.

While we await the final publication of the Hackitt review, which is investigating the fire safety regulatory system and identifying who is responsible for failures and what system is needed, the interim report stated that the regulatory system, at present, is “not fit for purpose.” I fear that is the result of successive Governments not treating fire safety with the appropriate importance.

Of the 158 social housing blocks with unsafe cladding, just seven have had the cladding fully replaced. One of the blocks waiting for work to begin is Castlemaine Tower in my Battersea constituency. Its residents have known for 10 months that their building, like Grenfell, has unsafe cladding. No data is available on the progress on privately owned blocks, and Wandsworth Council has not published the number of blocks that have the aluminium composite material cladding that has been deemed unsafe. Given the number of blocks in Battersea, it is imperative the council publish that information. I have requested the information from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The Government must get their act together and ensure that fire safety work is carried out, but to do that they need to resolve, as a matter of urgency, questions on what work needs to be done, who needs to do it and who should pay for it. It is the Government’s responsibility to resolve those questions and, so long as they do not do so, the risk of another tragedy is prolonged.

Here we arrive at the crucial question of leaseholder liability. I welcome members of the Sesame Apartments residents association to the Public Gallery. They have come to Westminster desperate to hear reassurance from the Government. They are leaseholders of an apartment block in Battersea that was completed just four years ago and that last year was found not to meet fire safety standards after a fire in the block damaged multiple apartments, revealing that compartmentalisation had failed.

Worryingly, the fire occurred while a “stay put” policy was in place. Subsequent testing found that the cladding was defective and in need of replacement. In light of the fire safety failures, the “stay put” policy was changed to immediate evacuation, and a waking watch system was put in place as a temporary solution.

As we know, such fire safety failures need proper rectification, and that work needs to be paid for. The waking watch and fire alarm system are anticipated to cost approximately £700,000, which is more than £8,500 per flat. Replacing the cladding is expected to cost around £2 million, which is £25,000 per flat. In total, the cost per flat is estimated at between £30,000 and £40,000.​

After a tribunal ruled last month that leaseholders of Cityscape in Croydon would be held liable for replacing defective cladding, the residents of Sesame Apartments fear the entirety of those eye-watering costs will fall on their shoulders, which cannot be right. They cannot be held liable for these costs. These are hard-working people who scrimped and saved to buy their flats.

Mr Steve Reed (Croydon North) (Lab/Co-op)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. She mentions Cityscape in Croydon North where the leaseholders have a similar problem to the residents she represents. When the issue has previously been raised in the Chamber, the Government have pointed the finger and said that the insurers of the builders, freeholders and managing agents should be bearing the cost of removing and replacing that cladding, but no legal obligation has ever been found on any of them.

The Government are leaving leaseholders hanging with unaffordable debt and living in homes that have become unsellable—homes that they fear are not safe to live in. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government should act now to get the cladding removed from every building where it exists? They can sort out the legalities afterwards. The only body in a position to act now to keep people safe is the Government. Why do they keep refusing to do it?

Marsha De Cordova

I thank for my hon. Friend for making that valid point, which I will certainly be addressing. He is spot on in saying that the Government are the only people who can respond to this issue and deal with the problems that our leaseholders face.

So many of these people are first-time buyers, and many are living in shared ownership properties. They do not have tens of thousands of pounds to pay for the work that needs to be done, and they have done nothing wrong. They bought their flats in good faith and they are in no way responsible for the fire safety failures. To date, the Government have seemingly agreed, saying that, morally, leaseholders should not be held liable for these costs. But my constituents need those words to be backed up by action. For as long as that does not happen, the leaseholders will be beset by fear. After all, how would we feel if we were told that our home did not meet fire safety standards, that we might be asked to pay £40,000 to rectify that and that our largest financial asset, our home, was now a huge liability? That is the situation that residents of Sesame Apartments find themselves in.

I have heard from a teacher who lives in the block and who had hoped to move in order to start a family, but is now weighed down by this liability, unable to sell and trapped in her home. I have heard from a resident, who spoke to me about the heartbreak of the money they had saved for IVF—in vitro fertilisation—treatment now needing to be set aside for fire safety work. I have heard from another whose pride in getting a foot on the housing ladder was crushed when they were told that, just by owning 25% of a shared ownership property, they are now potentially liable for 100% of the costs. Every resident I have spoken to tells me of the stress and fear caused by this liability hanging over their head.

The same is true of leaseholders across the country. Why are leaseholders being put through this ordeal? The Hackitt review is identifying who was responsible ​for fire safety failures, but this is causing anguish. The review might conclude that the Government are responsible, because fire safety regulations are not fit for purpose. It might conclude that the building inspection regime is responsible, because some local authorities have privatised inspections, leading to a serious decline in standards. Or it might conclude that developers are responsible, because they have been cutting costs to maximise their profits. It might conclude any of or indeed all those things, but what it will categorically not conclude is that leaseholders are responsible—of course it won’t.

These are working people who have had no say over the regulations, or over the design or the building of the property, yet it seems that, legally, they are going to be held responsible for these life-shattering costs. As anyone would, they are attempting to contest that, but they tell me how powerless they feel in that process.

We are talking about a small community of hard-working people, but they are confronted by a web of opaque freeholders, management companies, insurers and unresponsive developers, none of whom wants to take responsibility. The residents do not have armies of lawyers at their disposal. It is a David and Goliath situation, and the law is not working for these people. But it not just about that, as for the corporations involved their profit lines are at stake, whereas for the residents it is their homes and their lives. There is a real concern that if this is allowed to run its course and the Government do not intervene, the working people will be paying for failures that are not of their own making—that is unacceptable.

The Government seem to recognise that, because they have already said on multiple occasions that they acknowledge that it is morally wrong for leaseholders to be held liable for these costs, but those must not be empty words. The Government have the power to intervene and make this right, and it is their responsibility to make this right. They need to do more than just encouraging freeholders not to pass on these costs. They need to do more than support the Leasehold Advisory Service. They need to step up to the plate and intervene on the behalf of leaseholders.

There are actions that the Government could take. They could, and should, properly look to see whether the developers or the freeholders that profited from cost-cutting and lax regulations are liable for the costs, or they could cover the costs themselves, which is what the residents I have spoken to believe should happen.

If the Government refuse to do that, the least they could do, as suggested by one of the Sesame Apartments residents, is provide loans to cover the costs, thereby allowing fire safety remedial work to begin immediately. The loans could be attached to the freehold and stretched over the 100-year duration of the leasehold, with repayment instalments reflecting that. That would ensure that if leaseholders were held liable, the additional yearly service charge would be close to negligible. It would achieve the key requirements of any intervention: first, it would allow remedial work to begin as soon as possible, thereby minimising the risk and fear of fire; and, secondly, it would allow leaseholders to get on with their lives and not be weighed down by an unaffordable debt. I urge the Government to take action to achieve those goals.

I conclude with two straightforward questions for the Minister. First, it might become clear from the courts that leaseholders are legally liable for the costs. If that ​happened, does she think it would be acceptable? Put otherwise, does she think that residents should be held legally responsible for the costs of fire safety work, even though she knows that residents are in no way at fault?

Secondly, if leaseholders are found to be liable, what do the Government propose to do for those leaseholders who cannot afford the remedial work? I am asking, in essence, whose side the Government are on—David’s or Goliath’s. I thank the Sesame Apartments residents for coming today. I know that they will be listening with interest to what the Minister has to say.

Theresa May – 2018 Speech at Commonwealth Press Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, on 20 April 2018.

This week we have demonstrated that the Commonwealth is united not only by a common history – but by a common future: a future in which we work together for the benefit of all our citizens and for the wider world.

For when many of the greatest challenges we face are global in nature, the breadth of the Commonwealth – spanning six continents and a third of the world’s population – offers a unique perspective in helping to forge the global solutions we need.

No other organisation has our geographical and cultural diversity, while giving all nations an equal role, an equal voice and an equal standing.

And this week we have come together to reach a series of shared commitments that will help to build a more secure, more sustainable, more prosperous and fairer future for all.

This is the first time that security has been a central theme of our leaders’ meeting. And we have shown our resolve to stand together in defence of the rules based international system, and in defiance of those who threaten us all by seeking to undermine it.

Earlier this month the Assad regime violated international rules in the most egregious way by using chemical weapons in an indiscriminate and barbaric attack on its own people.

And while of a much lower order of magnitude, the use of a nerve agent on the streets of Salisbury here in the United Kingdom last month, is part of a pattern of disregard for those same global norms that prohibit the use of chemical weapons.

At this Summit, the Commonwealth has shown that it will play its part in a renewed international effort to uphold the global norms that say these abhorrent weapons should never, ever be used.

The Communique we have agreed today expresses our unanimous opposition to the use of these weapons – and our commitment to strengthen the effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

We must also update our shared international norms so they can protect us from new and emerging threats online.

So we have secured the world’s largest and most geographically diverse intergovernmental commitment on cyber-security co-operation.

The Commonwealth Cyber Declaration will help protect our people and businesses from ever-more sophisticated digital threats – and counter those who would abuse the freedom of the internet to undermine our values, our security and even our democracies.

When it comes to building a more sustainable future, there are few more authentic voices than the Commonwealth, with many island states severely affected by extreme weather events and the scourge of plastics polluting our oceans.

Indeed, we are in London today because of the devastation wrought on Vanuatu by Cyclone Pam in 2015.

So as a global leader in the fight against Climate Change, we are proud that every nation of the Commonwealth has now ratified the Paris Agreement.

And every one of our nations is united behind its highest ambition of pursuing efforts to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

At this Summit we have taken specific action to protect our oceans with the first ever Commonwealth Blue Charter.

The UK and Vanuatu are working together to launch the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution.

And we are already seeing a series of commitments that can mark a breakthrough in the battle to save our oceans.

For instance, Papua New Guinea has banned plastic bags…

…Belize will ban plastic bags, forks and other single use items by 2019…

…New Zealand has announced a ban on microbeads which will come into effect in June…

…The Bahamas is planning to ban plastic bags this year…

…and the UK has pledged to ban plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

This is only the beginning of what will be a defining agenda for the United Kingdom’s two-year Chair in Office – and I am pleased that Prime Minister Trudeau has indicated he will also make this a priority for the G7 in Canada this Summer.

A more sustainable future also means stepping up the fight for better global health.

With over 90 per cent of Commonwealth citizens living in malaria-affected countries, the Commonwealth has a particular duty to lead international efforts to tackle this deadly disease.

So earlier this week I called on Commonwealth leaders to pledge to halve Malaria across the Commonwealth by 2023. And I am pleased that this has been agreed today.

In building a more prosperous future, this is the first Commonwealth summit to make a unanimous statement on the need to fight protectionism.

Our Declaration on the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment will help to expand investment and boost intra-Commonwealth trade to a value of $2 trillion by 2030.

And we will play a leading role in shaping the future of global trade policy, using our unique perspective to help ensure that free and fair trade truly works for everyone.

This includes stepping up efforts to share the technical expertise to enable small and developing states to benefit from the growth of free and fair trade.

It means addressing systemic barriers to women’s full and equal participation in the economy – including increasing opportunities for women to trade internationally and supporting the growth of more women-owned business.

And it means investing in supporting our young people to gain new skills.

And at this Summit we have pledged to ensure that all girls and boys across the Commonwealth will be able to access at least 12 years of quality education and learning by 2030.

Finally, we have reaffirmed our commitment to a fairer future in which everyone is free to live their life and fulfil their potential.

We agreed the critical importance of the full social, economic and political participation of all our citizens for democracy and sustainable development to thrive.

I have been clear that nobody should face persecution or discrimination because of who they are or who they love. And the UK stands ready to support any Commonwealth member wanting to reform outdated legislation that permits discrimination, including against same-sex relations.

We will continue to protect and advance our core values of democracy, good governance and human rights at the heart of fairer societies.

And we welcomed the return of The Gambia to our family of nations.

This week has also given me the opportunity to hold a series of important meetings with Commonwealth leaders.

On Tuesday I met with the Caribbean leaders where I gave an absolute commitment that the UK government will do whatever it takes, including where appropriate payment of compensation, to resolve the anxieties and problems which some of the Windrush generation have suffered.

These people are British. They are part of us. They helped to build Britain. And we are all the stronger for their contributions.

This week began with the most inspiring gathering of young leaders from across our 53 nations.

And it is with those young leaders where the future of our Commonwealth lies.

So we were delighted to welcome the appointment of His Royal Highness Prince Harry as the Commonwealth Youth Ambassador.

Looking to that future, we have also reached an important longer-term agreement about the role of Head of the Commonwealth.

When Her Majesty the Queen assumed the throne the Commonwealth had just eight members.

Today it has 53.

We meet here today in no small measure because of the vision, duty and steadfast service of Her Majesty in nurturing the growth of this remarkable family of nations.

And on behalf of all our citizens I want to express the depth of our gratitude for everything that Her Majesty has done – and will continue to do.

Today we have agreed that the next Head of the Commonwealth shall be His Royal Highness Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales.

His Royal Highness has been a proud supporter of the Commonwealth for more than four decades and has spoken passionately about the organisation’s unique diversity.

And it is fitting that, one day, he will continue the work of his mother, Her Majesty The Queen.

As we begin the UK’s two-year Chair in Office, I look forward to working with all our Commonwealth partners in fulfilling the commitments we have made and preparing for the next meeting which we have today agreed will be held in Rwanda in 2020.

I began this week by saying that for the Commonwealth to endure, we must demonstrate our relevance and purpose anew.

Today I believe we have done that.

Our Blue Charter, our Cyber Declaration, our commitments to uphold the rules based international order, to fight protectionism, to defeat malaria, and to invest in education for all our young people…

…in all these ways and more, the Commonwealth has found its voice.

And we can look forward to a bright future with confidence.

Theresa May – 2018 Speech at CHOGM Retreat

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, on 20 April 2018.

Good morning and welcome to Windsor Castle; as we’ve seen, a magnificent setting for us to meet, in the best Commonwealth tradition, in the intimacy and privacy of our Retreat.

First let me thank Her Majesty The Queen for her generous invitation into her home, the first time a Heads of Government meeting has been held here in a remarkable history.

I am also struck by the number of Heads of Government we have assembled here today – a powerful demonstration of our commitment to revitalise the Commonwealth, and to tap into its vast potential.

And that vast potential has been clear at the forums this week. Our Commonwealth family has spent the last four days sharing perspectives, and finding ways to make a real difference to people’s lives. I think I speak for everyone around the room when I say that we have all been inspired by what we’ve seen and heard, particularly from our young people.

Yesterday we spoke about our shared challenges as we strive to build a more sustainable, more prosperous, more secure and fairer Commonwealth. Today is a chance to build on that, and for the Commonwealth Heads of Government to talk frankly and openly within the tradition of the Retreat.

Of course a conversation about these challenges cannot ignore the fact that at the very moment international co-operation is so important, some nations are choosing instead to shun the rules-based system that underpins global security and prosperity.

So I look forward to discussing how the Commonwealth can play its part to support this rules-based order, and the very concept of international co-operation.

Today, we also have a number of specific decisions to take, together with a broader conversation about the common future for the Commonwealth that we all want to see.

So I am sure today will be a memorable occasion for all of us, by the end of which I am sure we will all leave even closer friends, and with a unique understanding of each other in ways which cannot be matched by other summits.

Matt Hancock – 2018 Speech at Commonwealth Sports Breakfast

Matt Hancock

Below is the text of the speech made by Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, on 20 April 2018.

Your Royal Highness, your excellencies, lords, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a real pleasure to be here to celebrate the Commonwealth, which is as relevant and important today as it has ever been.

The Commonwealth is an enduring bond that exists between us all and stands for our shared belief in the beacons of democracy and freedom.

The phenomenal Gold Coast Games showed the strength of this connection and the powerful role of sport in bringing people together.

Over the past two weeks we have seen world-class sport, enthusiastic crowds and a record number of Commonwealth nations celebrating medals.

And it was wonderful to see so many success stories from the Home Nations.

Duncan Scott’s six medal haul in the swimming pool. Northern Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan on the Pommel Horse.

Hollie Arnold making Wales proud with her World Record Javelin throw to win Gold.

And Team England’s last-minute victory in the Netball – I’m thrilled to welcome Eboni and Kadeen here today from that gold winning team.

You may think that this is a joke but Kadeen and I are actually going to play netball right after this breakfast. I haven’t played netball for twenty years and I was inspired to get back onto the pitch by your performance.

Just as the Gold Coast Games has brought people together, this Breakfast gives us a real opportunity to come together and reflect on how we can spread the benefits of sport far and wide.

Sport as a social good
Sport is a social good. It brings us together. It can improve physical and mental health, provide valuable leadership skills and promote social integration.

It is also an important way of promoting equality, through giving the spotlight to positive role models for under-represented groups.

I have always loved watching para-sports, especially as Owen Pick, one of England’s promising para-athletes, hails from my constituency.

I am thrilled by this year’s largest ever para-sport programme, a shining example of the diversity of the Commonwealth sports movement.

But for sport to remain a social good we need to make sure it is open to all.

What a fantastic opportunity today to reaffirm our commitment to casting aside barriers to taking part in the sports we love.

Louise – you outlined the important work the CGF has been doing in this area.

We need to maintain this focus. And we need to keep sharing information and knowledge across the Commonwealth on how to use sport to bring people together.

So that everybody can have the opportunity to represent their nation on the global stage.

Sport reflects our common values
Sport at its best is a reflection of our common values.

In the past six years we have welcomed the world to the UK for some enthralling events.

For the Olympics, the Paralympics, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in Scotland, the Rugby Union World Cup, the Rugby League World Cup, the Athletics World Championships and many more.

All of these successful and memorable events had something in common. They showed our nation at its best. Welcoming, open and enthusiastic host cities and exhilarating celebrations of talent from across the world.

And this will be the case in Birmingham too, when it gets the chance to tell its story in 2022.

Birmingham is England’s most diverse city outside London, reflecting the kaleidoscope of cultures that can be found across the Commonwealth.

And believe it or not Birmingham is one of the youngest cities in Europe, at a time when 60 per cent of the Commonwealth is aged 30 or under.

And as we saw at Birmingham’s brilliant handover performance on Sunday, youth engagement will be a major theme of the Birmingham Games.

The Games will aim to promote young people on the world stage – whether they are athletes, performers or volunteers.

Because sport reflects our common future. And the Birmingham Games is about the future too.

It’s about a bright future for the region, and the nation, as a first class destination for education, tourism and trade.

The Games will boost regeneration in the area, with exciting plans being developed for new housing projects and a lasting legacy for culture and sport.

And it will drive an outstanding cultural programme, reaching out to the Commonwealth whilst telling the story of one of its most vibrant cities.

Sporting events aren’t just about what takes places on the pitch, the track or in the pool. They also present a fantastic opportunity to spark new trade relationships and forge new trade deals.

We are committed to building strong and enduring trading partnerships with our friends across the Commonwealth.

As part of this mission, there will be a trade Expo before the Birmingham Games and a four year programme to build business links with Commonwealth nations.

The Expo, and the Commonwealth Games, will be an important milestone in the rich and colorful history of Birmingham.

This is Birmingham’s chance. To show its place as the heart and the soul of the Commonwealth, as it brings together athletes and supporters from across the world.

Not just for the Games, but also for a wider mission. Promoting the power of sport to help change lives for the better.

And making sure we give everyone the opportunity and inspiration to go for gold, across the whole Commonwealth of our nations.

Theresa May – 2018 Opening Statement at CHOGM

Below is the text of the opening statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, on 19 April 2018.

Good morning everybody, can I welcome you again to London, and welcome you to the first session of the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

This is the 25th time the leaders of Commonwealth nations have gathered to address the great issues of the day – although for many of us, myself included, this is the first time we’ve attended as heads of government. So let me extend an especially warm welcome to all the first-time attendees, and in particular to President Adama Barrow, bringing The Gambia back into the Commonwealth fold. Welcome.

I’d also like to formally thank Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of Malta for his work as Chair-in-Office. Your steady leadership delivered a very successful tenure, and it’s a pleasure to receive the baton from you at today’s meeting. Thank you.

It’s a meeting that takes place at a time of significant global challenges. The rules-based international system, which has consistently delivered both prosperity and peace, faces threats in many forms and on many fronts. Climate change and extreme weather continue to take lives and damage livelihoods across the Commonwealth. And the new opportunities afforded by the digital world have brought with them new risks, with our cyber security under attack from individuals and state actors.

All these issues and more will be addressed in a series of meetings over the next two days, both here at Lancaster House and in the retreat at Windsor.

The great strength of the Commonwealth is that all our members have equal status, an equal voice, and an equal right to make that voice heard. So as we tackle these challenges, I want to hear from everyone, and everyone will have chance to speak.

We face many challenges in the world today. But the Commonwealth is a unique organisation and, at this summit, we have an opportunity to deliver lasting change that benefits all of our 2.4 billion people. I’m looking forward to working with you all as we move the Commonwealth towards our common future.

Theresa May – 2018 Comments at Opening of CHOGM

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, at the opening of CHOGM in London on 19 April 2018.

Your M​ajesty, Your R​oyal Hi​ghnesses, Secretary-General, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. ​​ I am extremely proud to be welcoming you all to London – the first full Heads of Government meeting here in almost forty years.

I want to begin by expressing my gratitude to ​Prime Minister Muscat and his team: ​thank you for your incredible hard work. You represent a Commonwealth truth, that the size of a country does not limit its ambition and impact.

I hope that over the coming days and ​months we can ​build on the work you have begun as we forge a future for our common good.

Over many decades this organisation has brought together nations young and old, large and small, to celebrate our common bonds and to work to our mutual benefit.

There have been difficulties, successes, controversies. But I believe wholeheartedly in the good that the Commonwealth can do.

And this week as young people from our many nations gather and contribute their views, our responsibility as leaders is to ensure their voices are heard, and to build a Commonwealth that we can be proud to hand on to the next generation.

For in the Commonwealth we have an incredible opportunity.

An opportunity to show just what can be achieved through co-ordinated action and co-operation, to seize the possibilities open to us as member countries, and together, to take on some of the 21st century’s biggest questions.

How we support our most vulnerable member states as we tackle climate change and improve the health of our oceans, creating a more sustainable Commonwealth?

How we develop through trade, pushing back against protectionism, for a more prosperous Commonwealth?

How we respond to threats to the rules based international order and from cyber-attacks, creating a more secure Commonwealth?

And how, in all this, we advance those common values which our organisation has always stood for – democracy, human rights, tolerance, and the rule of law – so that we establish a fairer Commonwealth?

These are problems nations cannot solve alone. But by working together, we can make a real difference.

Over the past three​ days, we have seen the power of the Commonwealth in action at the Forums for ​business leaders, young people, women​, and civil society.

These discussions have demonstrated the vibrancy and creativity of our organisation – focusing on issues such as improving trade, youth unemployment, education and health – all of which have the potential to transform people’s lives.

And I am looking forward to taking these issues further with the heads of government over the next two days.

Finally, on behalf of all of you assembled here in Buckingham Palace, I want to offer ​my heartfelt thanks to​ Your Majesty,​ Head of the Commonwealth.

T​his week you have opened your homes to us – here in London and in Windsor. Over many years you have been the Commonwealth’s most steadfast and fervent champion.

You have been true to the deepest values of the Commonwealth – that the voice of the smallest member country is worth precisely as much as that of the largest; that the wealthiest and the most vulnerable stand shoulder to shoulder​.

You have seen us through some of our most serious challenges.

And we commit to sustaining this Commonwealth, which you have so carefully nurtured.

For your service, for your dedication, for your constancy – we thank you.

Amber Rudd – 2018 Speech on Tackling Child Sex Exploitation

Below is the text of the speech made by Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, on 18 April 2018.

It’s a great honour to be with you all in London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

Our 53 countries are home to 2.4 billion people. And over seven decades, our association has helped nations to deepen and strengthen their democracies, by working together in partnership on issues that affect all of us.

Today across the Commonwealth, we face an unprecedented security threat, threats that do not respect borders and require us to work even closer together to tackle them.

We no longer just need to be concerned about the threat of terrorism.

We face security including serious and organised crime, cybercrime, violent extremism, human trafficking and Hostile State Activity.

So I am pleased to be with you today for the first ever Commonwealth security event. The theme for this year’s summit is ‘Towards a Common Future’ and I want to talk a bit today about what the threat picture looks like in the UK, and how we can have a more secure future, and achieve that together.

The threat faced by Commonwealth countries from terrorism is clear to us all.

Last year in the UK, five terrorist attacks took place in London and Manchester. And 36 people were killed, and many more injured.

As Home Secretary, there are various stages of horror and shock you go through when you learn that there has been a terrorist attack.

The first of course is when you hear for the first time what has happened. That moment when you get the initial news about what’s gone on. When you learn where the attack has taken place, the casualties the scale of the tragedy.

The 2nd stage of horror is when you learn more about the personal stories of the victims and their loved ones.

And there’s one encounter which really sticks in my mind.

It was in the aftermath of the terrorist attack here in London in June 2017, after a van left the road and struck a number of pedestrians on London Bridge. After the van crashed, the three men ran out to the nearby Borough market area and began attacking people enjoying themselves in and around the restaurants and bars

Eight people were killed and 48 injured.

One of the victims was Sara Zelenak, a 21-year-old Australian who had been working in London as a nanny.

She was stabbed while out celebrating getting a new job with a friend.

It was meeting her parents, which I did a few days later, that really brought home to me the agony of losing a loved one in such appalling circumstances.

They told me she had come to London for a once in a lifetime experience.

I really felt their grief.

It’s moments like this that really reinforce how important strong national security is.

And in the UK, we continue to disrupt terrorist plots. Since 2017, 10 Islamist terrorist plots and four extreme right wing plots were successfully disrupted.

And under the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy, we work to reduce the risk to the UK and its interests overseas from terrorism, so that people can go about their daily lives freely and with confidence.

But the terrorist threat is changing, evolving and moving more quickly than ever. And as the threat we face from terrorism becomes more complex, our strategies need to evolve, and they will continue to do so. For instance, like many of you, we are looking at the issue of online radicalisation more closely than ever before.

But recent events here in the UK are a reminder that terrorism is not the only threat to our national security and prosperity.

Last month’s nerve agent attack in Salisbury shows us that we need to be increasingly wary of other states who wish to subvert our democracy, attack our rule of law and are prepared to endanger us with the unchecked use of chemical weapons.

Though the attack in Salisbury has been shocking in its indiscriminate and reckless nature, it is just one part of a progressively worrying picture that we’ve seen in recent times.

Last year, we saw a number of major cyberattacks including the ‘Wannacry’ and ‘Not Petya’ incidents which had significant economic repercussions.

We saw numerous attempts to influence democratic elections through illegal and subversive means.

And we saw significant evidence uncovered of abundant disinformation campaigns being committed in our democracies in an attempt to divide our societies and challenge our values-based approach to domestic and international issues.

But we are determined not to let that become the new normal.

The UK has led the response to this hostile state activity, and we will continue to do so, engaging our friends and partners across the world to provide a coordinated international response to the threat.

We have shown this in our recent response to the Salisbury attack, where we have led the international response to what the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons deemed the first use of a chemical weapons on Western European soil since the Second World War.

And we thank allies who have taken measures in support of the UK’s position. The expulsion of more than 150 Russian diplomats from 28 different countries sent a clear message to Russia that its hostility will no longer be tolerated. However, this is not the end of the story, and we stand ready to go even further should Russia wish to continue its blatant aggression towards us or others.

But there’s another group who pose a significant risk to our security and our prosperity.

That’s the serious and organised criminals.

In the UK there are around 6,000 organised crime groups, comprising approximately 40,000 individuals.

These groups target vulnerable people and ruin the lives of victims and their families, local communities and legitimate businesses. They use online tools and services designed for legitimate purposes – such as end-to-end encryption, cryptocurrencies and the dark web – to facilitate their offending.

Overall, serious and organised crime costs the UK over £24 billion each year.

As the threat evolves rapidly, so must our response.

And I think that there is significant potential for strengthening law enforcement cooperation between Commonwealth countries to tackle serious and organised crime.

Only this morning, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced that it is spending nearly half a million pounds to establish a new partnership between the UK’s Counter Proliferation and Arms Control Centre and the Commonwealth Secretariat to help combat illicit flows of firearms.

Significant potential also exists for strengthening co-operation between Commonwealth countries, including through our enhanced use of INTERPOL. I’m delighted that INTERPOL’s Secretary General, Jürgen Stock, is here to join us today and we will be hearing from him shortly.

But let’s not forget that security is also about safeguarding – safeguarding citizens to make sure they can live freely and without fear.

But it’s a sad fact that around the world today, millions of men, women and children are cruelly enslaved and trafficked.

And to combat this too, we need a truly global response.

In September 2017, we announced we would give £150 million to tackle these crimes internationally.

This includes a £33.5m Modern Slavery Fund to tackle trafficking and exploitation in partnership with countries the UK receive a high number of victims from.

And today I’m pleased to announce that we will give a further £5.5m for projects aimed at strengthening the Commonwealth’s response to these crimes.

These projects, delivered in countries across the Commonwealth, will work to support the development of human trafficking legislation in parliaments, and will strengthen law enforcement capabilities to disrupt the criminal networks behind human trafficking and identify those most at risk of becoming victims and protect them.

Because we can only hope to succeed in our ambition of combating this detestable crime at home if we work in partnership with our neighbours around the world.

That is also why last year, the UK Prime Minister endorsed a Call to Action to end Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking at the UN General Assembly, alongside over 20 world leaders.

I think there is an opportunity for the Commonwealth to show real leadership on this agenda.

Over 50 countries have now endorsed this Call to Action, including more than a third of the Commonwealth, and more are expected to do so during the Summit.

I encourage all of you to make very clear that these crimes are not acceptable in the 21st century, by endorsing the Call to Action if you have not done so already.

Now, there’s another crime which I haven’t yet talked about which is a real threat to the security of all of our children and that’s the threat of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

We’ve done a lot of work to tackle this both in the UK and internationally, but today I am pleased to announce that we will be going even further.

We will be taking further measures to combat child sexual exploitation across the Commonwealth.

This will include £2 million of Commonwealth funding for international projects to tackle child sexual exploitation online.

A number of Commonwealth countries will receive a share of the £2 million for projects to teach children and young people how to protect themselves online and to put in the infrastructure to prevent child sexual exploitation.

We will also give an additional £600,000 funding for projects to support UK victims. This will help fund a national helpline for victims and bespoke therapy to help children with learning difficulties to share and recover from their experiences of abuse.

And we have begun the process of ratifying the Lanzarote Convention against Child Sexual Abuse. Ratifying this shows our continued determination to play a global role in tackling this crime across the globe.

I hope that these comments have given some insight into the threats we face here in the UK and the threats we are aiming to tackle abroad as well. I’ve talked a lot about the importance of working internationally. And that’s because I am clear that when we stand together as one Commonwealth, we are better prepared to face the threats which challenge us.

Thank you.

Therese Coffey – 2018 Statement on Salisbury Incident

Below is the text of the statement made by Therese Coffey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in the House of Commons on 17 April 2018.

Following the indiscriminate and reckless use of a nerve agent in Salisbury on 4 March 2018, decontamination work is starting this week to bring a small number of potentially contaminated sites back into safe use for the people of Salisbury and its visitors. A lot of preparatory work has been completed already and these plans will now be discussed with the local community and businesses.

In total nine sites, three of which are in the city centre, have been identified as requiring some level of specialist decontamination. The focus will be on returning public spaces to full use as soon as possible, but only where it is safe to do so. The Government will work closely with both the affected businesses and the victims of this appalling act as detailed plans are put into effect.

In the case of London Road cemetery, after extensive investigations and testing, it has been established that it was not contaminated and is therefore being fully reopened to the public today.

The other sites will remain secured and the current scientific assessment is that the remainder of Salisbury is safe for residents and visitors. Public Health England have reaffirmed that the risk to the general public is low.

The community will begin to see more activity from this week and overall it will take some months before all sites are decontaminated and returned to normal use. During this time some cordons will be expanded to ensure safety and allow workers access to the sites with specialist equipment. This will be kept to a minimum wherever possible and the community will be kept informed as work progresses on each site.

The decontamination work is being planned and overseen by my Department with additional specialist advice from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Public Health England, the Department for Health and Social Care, the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence. The work will be delivered in partnership with Wiltshire Council with support from the Ministry of Defence, who are providing specialist teams to carry out the work on the sites. In some cases they will be supported by other Government specialists or specialist contractors.

The Government are basing their approach on the best scientific evidence and advice to ensure all decontamination is carried out in a thorough and careful way. Thanks to detailed information gathered during the investigation and the clear scientific understanding of how the agent works and is spread, the likely level of contamination at each site is known.

Specialists have developed tailored decontamination plans for each site. To refine these plans, specialist personnel will be collecting additional samples from some sites, building on testing carried out during the ​investigation. This information will be used to ensure the plans are correct and that decontamination will be effective.

The decontamination work will involve a process of testing, removal of items which could be contaminated and that might harbour residual amounts of the agent, chemical cleaning and retesting. All waste will be safely removed and incinerated and each site will not be released until decontamination is complete.

This work to bring the closed sites back into public use will go hand-in-hand with the £2.5 million already announced on 27 March to support businesses, boost tourism and meet unexpected costs in the response and recovery effort in the city.

Lord Callanan – 2018 Speech on the European Union

Below is the text of the speech made by Lord Callanan, the Minister of State for Leaving the European Union, in the House of Lords on 18 April 2018.

My Lords, it is a great pleasure for me to resume our debate after the Easter Recess. I hope that all noble Lords enjoyed a good break. I spent most of it studying amendments to this Bill. I hope that some doubts about how seriously the Government take these debates have now been dispelled, as noble Lords will have seen that the Government have already tabled many amendments on key aspects of the Bill. Further amendments will follow, relating to the provisions on delegated powers and on devolution. It is our firm and consistent desire to find consensus in this House on the contents of the Bill wherever possible, and I hope that our debates can proceed on a reasonably collaborative basis.

Unfortunately, as in Committee, we start our proceedings with some amendments to the Bill that the Government cannot envisage accepting—or indeed any variant on them. That is not, of course, to impugn the motivation of those supporting the amendments or to deny the importance of the subject matter. Put simply—this will probably surprise nobody in the House—the Government simply do not agree with the proposed approach.

I am, of course, grateful to all those who have taken part in this debate on the vital issue of our future economic relationship with the EU. As the Prime Minister stated in her Mansion House speech, we are seeking the broadest and deepest possible partnership, covering more sectors and co-operating more fully than under any free trade agreement anywhere in the world today. The Government have been clear that the UK, in its entirety, is leaving the customs union. For the sake of clarity, a customs union—as has been pointed out by many noble Lords—has a single external border and sets identical tariffs for trade with the rest of the world. International trade policy is consequently an exclusive competence of the EU, to avoid the creation of different customs rates in different parts of the EU customs union.

The nub of the issue is this. If the UK were to remain in the customs union and be bound by the EU’s common external tariff, it would mean providing preferential access to the UK market for countries that the EU agrees trade deals with, without necessarily gaining preferential access for UK exports to such countries. Alternatively, we would need the EU to negotiate with third countries on the UK’s behalf. This would leave us with less influence over our international trade policy than we have now, and would not, in our humble assertion, be in the best interests of UK businesses.

By leaving the customs union and establishing a new and ambitious customs arrangement with the EU, we will be able to forge new trade relationships with our partners around the world and maintain as frictionless trade as possible in goods between the UK and EU, providing a powerful and positive voice for free trade across the globe. There are real opportunities for the UK from increasing our trade with fast-growing economies around the world. The EU itself predicts that 90% of future world GDP growth is expected to be generated outside Europe—a trend expected to continue over the next five to 10 years.

In assessing the options for the UK’s future customs relationship with the EU, the Government will be guided by what delivers the greatest economic advantage to the UK, and by three key strategic objectives. First, we want to ensure that UK-EU trade is as frictionless as possible. Secondly, we want to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland—a commitment that was solidified by December’s joint report. Thirdly, we want to establish an independent international trade policy.

Last year, in its future partnership paper, the Government set out two potential options for our customs arrangements with the EU. These were reiterated by the Prime Minister in her speech at the Mansion House earlier this year. I will give a few more details of those options.

Option 1 is a new customs partnership between the UK and the EU. At the border, the UK would mirror the EU’s requirements for imports from the rest of the world whose final destination is the EU—including by applying the same tariffs and the same rules of origin as the EU for those goods. By following this approach, we would know that all goods entering the EU via the UK would pay the correct EU duties, removing the need for customs processes at the UK-EU border. But, importantly, we would also put in place a mechanism so that the UK would be able to apply its own tariff and trade policy for goods intended only for the UK market.

The second option would be a highly streamlined customs arrangement under which, while introducing customs processes between the UK and the EU, we would jointly agree to implement a range of measures to minimise frictions to trade, together of course with specific provisions for Northern Ireland. This option would include measures to simplify the requirements for moving goods across borders; it would reduce the risk of delays at ports and airports; and it would see the continuation of existing levels of UK-EU customs co-operation, with mutual assistance and data sharing.

Of course, the precise form of any new customs arrangements will be the subject of negotiation, and this will form a key part of our future economic partnership with the European Union. The Government have not just formed this policy arbitrarily but because we do not believe that a customs union is in the best interests of the UK and of UK businesses.

I understand that many noble Lords disagree with our analysis, or believe that our goals are unreachable. However, we cannot support Amendments 1 and 4, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and Amendments 2 and 5, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, which would have the effect of requiring the Government to make a Statement to Parliament on the steps taken towards the delivery of an objective the Government have clearly ruled out.

We in the Government are trying to seek the best possible future arrangements for the UK. I am confident we will succeed, and the progress we have made already in areas that many thought impossible demonstrates how all sides have been willing to break new ground in order to move forwards. We have set out our two potential options for a future customs relationship with the EU, but these amendments would send a signal that the Government will not seek to negotiate them, and instead pursue an outcome that the Government have ruled out.

I hope that noble Lords will accept our sincerity in our negotiating goals. I will also add, before noble Lords make a final decision, that I do not seek to give false hope that the Government will reflect further between now and Third Reading. I therefore hope that the noble Lords, Lord Kerr and Lord Wigley, will not press their amendments.

Chris Patten – 2018 Speech on the European Union

Below is the text of the speech made by Lord Patten of Barnes in the House of Lords on 18 April 2018.

I am delighted to second the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and I will seek to do so as briefly as he did, partly because he was so comprehensive in the arguments for a customs union and partly because we chewed over many of these issues in Committee and we plainly should not deal with them again. So I will not go into the issue of Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic of Ireland, because I spoke twice on that in Committee.

I assume straightaway, because I have a regard for his intelligence, that the Minister responding to this debate is not going to suggest that the referendum result or the Conservative manifesto disqualifies us from proceeding in the direction suggested by the noble Lord. If I am wrong about that, I would be delighted to come back to it later. But there is one point made in the manifesto that I will dwell on for a moment—and, as clergymen occasionally say at the end of sermons, share with you all—because it allows me to bridge to the main argument we have today, which is about trade and trade opportunities for this country.

I confess to the House straightaway that I used to make my living helping to write manifestos, and so I have a certain regard for these things. The manifesto said at the beginning:

“People are rightly sceptical of politicians who claim to have easy answers to deeply complex problems”.

So I ask the House to turn its attention to what we have been promised on trade.

We are told by the Secretary of State for International Trade that a free trade agreement with the EU will be one of the “easiest in human history”. He also told us that, by the end of March 2019, the Government will have put in place or drafted or agreed up to 40 trade agreements with other countries. That is the backdrop. It seems to me that those propositions invite a little scepticism, and in a moment or two I will suggest to the House why that is the case.

I have a degree of expertise in this area for which I do not seek to make extravagant claims—I do not know as much about trade as the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, does, and I know that expertise is a dangerous thing in the present climate. But I did, either on my own or with others, negotiate free trade agreements between the European Union and Mexico, Chile and most of the countries of the Mashreq and Maghreb region. We were part of the negotiation team for China’s accession to the WTO. We failed with Russia—for all sorts of reasons which the House will not be surprised about—and we made only limited progress with Mercosur, the San José dialogue and the Andean pact countries. So I know how difficult these things are, and some of the problems that will be faced in addressing the agenda mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr.

The first thing we have to do is secure our market in the European Union—50% of our trade. We then have to think about the 12% of trade with countries with which the European Union has concluded agreements already and the 8% with which it is negotiating trade agreements already. That adds up to about 70%. Of the remaining 30%, about half is with the United States, a quarter with China and Hong Kong, and the rest with everyone else.

How are we going to manage with the countries with which the European Union has negotiated deals already? I spent a particularly dreary afternoon on Maundy Thursday looking through the European Union-South Korea trade deal. It was dreary not because it is not a good deal—indeed, it is such a good deal that the Foreign Secretary not long ago boasted about the great increase in British trade with South Korea—but because it is even longer than a long day’s journey into night. It runs to 1,400 pages, 900 of which just list tariffs. The idea that you can simply Snopake the words “European Union” and insert “United Kingdom” and grandfather that trade agreement in nanoseconds—even nanoyears—is absurd.

First of all, the South Koreans know that we are the demandeur. They will know that we have a trade surplus with South Korea at the moment, which might make them a little resistant to being as helpful as they were with the European Union, which is, anyway, a much bigger market than the United Kingdom—500 million to about 65 million. There are technical issues as well that will be particularly demanding. I will not try to explain to the House—because I have only a vague notion of what it means—the problem with trigger volumes preventing surges of agricultural imports to a country. But that issue is one that will involve not just negotiations with South Korea but tripartite negotiations between us and the European Union as well as the South Koreans.

Even more important are rules of origin—something that used to be well understood by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. Not long before the Foreign Secretary made a speech saying that there was no reason why we should not, after leaving the European Union, stay in the single market, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union pointed out that, on balance, he was in favour of staying in the customs union because, even though you would not then be able to do independent trade deals on your own, the issue of rules of origin was so important that we had to stay within the union so that that did not present problems for us.

Rules of origin is a problem that comes up straightaway when you look at the South Korea deal. Under rules of origin, each party is able to do without tariffs provided that up to 55% of what it is exporting is made in its own back yard. That is fine within the European Union, but the car industry in this country makes only 41% of the cars that we export in Britain. So straightaway, cars—and you can go down the list of tariffs—would not be able to go tariff free into the South Korean market.

The South Korean trade deal provides 99% tariff-free access after five years. It is a terrific piece of trade diplomacy. Incidentally, it provides that access after five years, but the trade deal that the South Koreans did with Australia does not come into full working order, even on a more limited range of goods, for 20 years—so it was a very good piece of negotiation by the European Union. The idea that we can just do that and all the other trade deals overnight, over a month or over a year, without any problems is for the birds. It belongs to the category denounced in the manifesto.

After we have dealt with the issue of the 12%, or maybe 20% by then, of the market that is covered by existing or future trade deals—“future” before we leave the European Union—between the European Union and other countries, we then deal with the three other categories of country. The first is China. China, admittedly, has done a trade deal with Switzerland and also with Iceland. Switzerland has done 38 trade deals with other countries, as opposed to more than 50 between the European Union and other countries. The deal between Switzerland and China is a very good example of how difficult it is to get into bed with an elephant. The Swiss have agreed hardly anything with the Chinese about services and nothing about cars, but they have accepted that China will have, for a number of goods, tariff-free access to Switzerland straightaway. In return, Switzerland gets tariff-free access to China after 15 years. So sleeping with elephants is a bit of a problem. I imagine that we would be looking to open up prospects for services—which, as the noble Lord said, is not an issue particularly involved here—but, apart from that, I am not quite sure what we would be hoping to get out of any future deal with China.

What about Australia and the Commonwealth? As the noble Lord said, one of the basic axioms in trade policy is that you double the distance and halve the trade. The notion that the Australians will open up their market further for us without making demands in return is, again, nonsense. They will ask for us to make concessions in the field of agriculture, which may take some explaining to small and medium-sized farmers in this country.

What about India? I noticed the other day that the European Union suggested that it might be easier to do a deal with India when we were no longer members of the European Union. In fact, we were always the back-markers when it came to negotiations with India. Why? Because we were concerned about opening up access to our services in India. Why? Because the Indians wanted in return for anything we were prepared to ask for greater scope for visas for Indians coming to this country, and we were not prepared to allow that.

Finally, the United States represents 15% of our market, but we expect Richard Cobden’s legatee, President Trump, to open up the American market to the United Kingdom’s exports. Are we serious? We would be pressing for opening up procurement with the United States, and the United States would be pressing for opening up procurement with us in the National Health Service. I am not going through chickens again because we had chickens up to our eyebrows in Committee, but I remember a wonderful speech given by my noble friend Lord Deben about chickens. I wish I could remember every word of it, but it was a pretty compelling argument on the difficulties of doing a food deal with the United States. President Trump will not be there for ever—but, in my experience, the Americans were not pushovers when it came to doing trade deals.

I have two last points. Is our ability to do trade deals or to export overseas held up by the fact that we are members of the European Union? When I last looked, Germany was a member of the European Union. Germany exports two and a half times as much to China as we do and exports more to India than we do. So the reason we do not do better in export markets must lie somewhere else. I do not agree with the point made by the Secretary of State for International Trade. I do not think that it is because British businessmen and exporters are—what was his expression?—fat and lazy. That is not why we do not do better. The truth is that between only 10% and 15% of companies in the country actually do serious exporting. They are mostly medium-sized or large companies—and guess what they want? They want the best access possible to the closest market. And where is that?

So I do not think that blethering on about global Britain, or pretending that we have not been global Britain for years, or repeating “The Road to Mandalay” whenever one is travelling, is going to make a spectacular difference to our trading opportunities. I think very strongly that we will not do any better than we are doing within the customs union, given that we start from a position in which we export to the European Union three and a half times as much as we do to the United States, five times as much as we do to the Commonwealth and six times as much as we do to all the BRICs combined.

So I support the amendment with some enthusiasm and I repeat what my noble friend Lord Hailsham said in Committee: namely, that there are times in one’s political career when what is alleged to be party loyalty comes way behind trying to stand up for the national interest. I intend to do that on this amendment and elsewhere on Report, and in doing that I think I will be repeating what I would have been able to say with the full support of my party for most of the time I have been a member of it.