Ed Balls – 2011 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, to the Labour Party conference on 26th September 2011.


Conference –

It’s a great honour to make my first conference speech as Shadow Chancellor – the first ever Labour and Co-operative Shadow Chancellor – here at our first annual conference in this great city of Liverpool since 1925.

Thank you to Norma for that introduction – and to all the members of our Policy Commission for their hard work this year.

And I want to say a special thank-you to my co-Chair, Cath Speight, for all her advice and leadership as a member of the NEC for the past 11 years.

Cath – you are a great servant to your union and to our party and we all thank you.

And Conference, I also want to pay tribute to our leader – my friend – Ed Miliband.

On Libya, on phone hacking and on the riots – he has shown calm, resolute and courageous leadership:

– not afraid to take on vested interests;

– passionate that we have responsibility in our society from top to bottom;

– determined that the promise of Britain – that the next generation will do better than the last – can be fulfilled.

In Ed Miliband, conference, we have a leader who is genuine, principled, honest and fair…

… a leader who speaks his mind and tells the truth…

… a leader in whom I believe we can ask the British public to put their trust.


And nowhere is it more important that we win the public’s trust for an alternative future – a better way forward – than on the economy.

Speaking to one delegate this morning, she said to me:

“people are really worried about jobs and the cost of everything going up – and they’re all saying, ‘surely there’s a better way?’”

Here in Liverpool, and as a result of the Coalition’s policies, unemployment is now rising again as this city faces the deepest cuts to local services in a generation.

But – a far cry from the scuttling taxis carrying redundancy notices in the 1980s – it is a Labour Council here in Liverpool which is working night and day to make savings and cut bureaucracy so they can protect jobs and keep services for the most vulnerable.

And I say to Liverpool’s Labour leader Joe Anderson – to all our leaders in local government facing difficult times across the UK – and to First Minister Carwyn Jones in Wales – we pay tribute to your leadership and responsibility and determination that there can be a better way:

– yes – a credible plan to get our deficit down;

– but action now – a plan for growth and jobs;

– and long-term reforms to build a stronger, fairer economy;

A Labour plan to get Britain working again.


Conference, let’s face the facts.

These are the darkest, most dangerous times for the global economy in my lifetime.

Our country – the whole of the world – is facing a threat that most of us have only ever read about in the history books – a lost decade of economic stagnation:

– The aftermath of a worldwide financial and banking crash;

– Families and businesses fearful about the future, cutting back on spending and investment;

– Governments all around the world trying to cut spending at the same time;

– Demand sucked out of the economy;

– Stock markets tumbling, banks in trouble, economies stalling, unemployment rising – a vicious circle as slow growth makes it harder to get deficits down;

– Not a crisis of any one country or continent – but a spiralling global crisis – from which no economy can be safe…

… threatening the jobs, pensions and living standards of families here in Britain and across the world.

Conference –

This is not – as the Conservatives claim – simply a crisis of public debt which can be solved – country by country – by austerity, cuts and retrenchment – but truly a global growth crisis which is deepening and becoming more dangerous by the day.

And the world must remember the lesson of the 1930s: that there is no credibility in piling austerity on austerity, tax rise on tax rise, cut upon cut in the eventual hope that it will work when all the evidence is pointing the other way.

I said to you a year ago – you either learn the lessons of history – or you repeat the mistakes of history – that is the choice the world faces today.

But at a time when the world desperately needs a global plan for growth – when it needs wise and strong leadership – where will it come from?

Not so far from the Euro zone – unable to stand together and do what it takes to restore confidence and growth.

Not so far from America – deadlocked by the reckless games of the Republican right.

And Conference, what about our Prime Minister and Chancellor?

Do they urge a change of course in the Euro zone?

No – they applaud austerity, and urge even deeper cuts.

Do they urge sanity in America?

No – George Osborne boasts that his Republican friends in Congress are following his advice.

Do they urge a global growth plan in the G7, the G20 or the IMF?


Confronted with the biggest most urgent global challenge of our age, all they can do is urge other countries to pile austerity on austerity too… ignoring the lessons of history and the evidence here in Britain, and across the world, that austerity just isn’t working.

That is not just a failure of leadership – it is a complete abdication of responsibility too.


But Conference…

It’s not right to blame David Cameron and George Osborne for everything that’s wrong with our economy.

They didn’t cause the global financial crisis.

That crisis was a body blow to our economy and our public finances – we went into recession, lost tax revenues, a big deficit opened up.

Whoever won the last election faced a difficult task to secure economic recovery and reduce that deficit over time.

And that task has been made harder by the economic problems in the Euro-zone, America and Japan.

But the simple question that the government has to answer – the issue on which they can and must be held to account – is this: have their decisions over the past year and a half made things better or have they made things worse?

A year ago, I warned that, with our economy still fragile and a global hurricane brewing, it was not the time to tear out the foundations of the house.

But David Cameron and George Osborne thought they knew better:

– They said a VAT rise and cutting faster than any other major country would boost economic confidence and growth;

– That if they cut public sector jobs, the private sector would more than fill the gap;

– That their plan would make Britain immune from the global storm – and any other course of action would cause stock market turmoil…

And to be fair, some respected people agreed with them.

But we in this Party argued for a steadier, more balanced approach – halving the deficit over four years.

We said that going too far, too fast would choke off the recovery and put jobs at risk;

We warned that cutting spending and raising taxes too fast would create a vicious circle here in Britain too – and make it harder to get the deficit down.

And look what’s happened – even before the global instability of the past three months.

Confidence has slumped.

Our economy has flat-lined now for nine months.

Slower growth in Britain than any other G7 country except Japan.

Unemployment now rising again.

That is why the deficit is already set to be £46 billion higher than the government planned.

Because if you choke off the recovery and put tens of thousands of people on the dole – not paying taxes, claiming benefits instead – then, of course, borrowing goes up.

In the 1980s, the Tories told us – shockingly – that because their economic objective was to reduce inflation, rising unemployment was a price worth paying.

This generation of Tories need to realise if your economic objective is to reduce the deficit, then rising unemployment is one thing you just can’t afford.


So Conference…

.. the global economic crisis is deepening, our economy is badly exposed…

And what do we hear from ministers?

However bad things get… even when we can all see it’s not working:

‘We are sticking to the plan,’ they say

‘We are not for turning.’

‘There is no alternative.’

‘There is no better way.’

They claim that any change of course would lead to a market crisis and higher interest rates.

But our interest rates are at record lows because our economy has stagnated.

Markets are losing confidence in governments all around the world because there is no growth.

And there is a growing chorus of voices calling for a change of course…

Even the IMF now says:

“growth is necessary for fiscal credibility”, and…

“slamming on the brakes too quickly will hurt the recovery and worsen job prospects.”

Yes – a credible economic policy does needs a plan to get the deficit down.

Yes – a credible economic policy needs political agreement to implement that plan.

But an economic policy can only be credible if it works.

And George Osborne’s economic plan is hurting… but Conference… it’s just not working.


But you all heard the chorus from the Lib Dems last week…

You all know what we will hear next week from the Tories…

The only line in the script they’ve got left:

‘It’s all Labour’s fault – we’re just clearing up the mess’.

Conference, we could spend all of our time defending our record… and there is much to be proud of.

But for families today – struggling to pay the bills, worrying about their jobs – being told about the great things Labour did in government isn’t much comfort… it doesn’t pay the bills, help get a job or secure the pension.

Some commentators say the opposite: accept the Tory critique that Labour spending caused the economic crisis; back Tory policy on the deficit; neutralise the issue and move on.

And when they say we made mistakes in government, they’re right… we must admit them and show we’ve learned from them.

The 75p pension rise – that was a mistake.

So was abolishing the 10p tax rate.

We didn’t do enough to get all employers to train.

We should have adopted tougher controls on migration from Eastern Europe.

We didn’t spend every pound of public money well.

And yes – we didn’t regulate the banks toughly enough and stop their gross irresponsibility – here in Britain and all around the world.

But don’t let anyone tell you that Labour in government was profligate with public money – when we went into the crisis with lower national debt than we inherited in 1997 and lower than America, France, Germany and Japan.

And don’t let anyone say it was public spending on public services here in Britain which caused the global financial crisis.

It wasn’t too many police officers or nurses or teachers here in Britain that bankrupted Lehman Brothers in New York.


We didn’t get everything right.

We made mistakes.

But abolishing the Future Jobs Fund and cutting 100,000 jobs for young people out of work… that wasn’t Labour’s mistake.

Scrapping the Regional Development Agencies, ending EMAs, cutting childcare tax credits for working parents… those aren’t Labour’s mistakes.

Wasting £2bn on a reckless NHS reorganisation…

Wasting £100m on elected police commissioners…

Wasting 1bn on a tax cut for the banks…

Wasting billions of pounds on the bills of rising unemployment…

Ripping up our balanced plan, trying to cut the deficit faster any other country and choking off the recovery as a result…

Conference… these aren’t Labour’s mistakes…

They are David Cameron’s mistakes…

And George Osborne’s mistakes…

And Nick Clegg’s mistakes…

Reckless. Ideological. Unfair.

Tory mistakes every one of them.


I think of a family I know in my constituency: self-employed – a husband and wife team – times are hard at the moment – but things are still just about ok – they can pay the mortgage – they managed a holiday with the kids this year.

But they are worried…

Worried about gas bills, petrol, food all going up…

Worried about losing their tax credits and the child benefit..

Worried when they see other local businesses closing down…

And worried too about the future – can they keep up their pension payments, can they afford it when their son goes to college.

Better off under Labour – but it was their hard work which did it.

Deeply aspirational for their kids – but now very worried about their futures too.

Believe me – they don’t want to hear about all the things Labour got right.

And believe me – they certainly do want to know we’ve learned from our mistakes.

But most important…

They want to know that there’s a reason to be hopeful…

That their hard work will be rewarded and their kids will do well…

That there is a better way.


Trying to cut the deficit too far, too fast isn’t working.

The government must adopt a steadier, more balanced plan to get our deficit down and take immediate action now to support the economy and create jobs here in Britain.

So here are five immediate steps the government can and should take right now:

Step one – repeat the bank bonus tax again this year – and use the money to build 25,000 affordable homes and guarantee a job for 100,000 young people – it can’t be right to be cutting taxes on the banks when almost 1 in 5 young people are now out of work.

Step two – genuinely bring forward long-term investment projects – schools, roads and transport – to get people back to work and strengthen our economy for the future.

Step three – reverse January’s damaging VAT rise now for a temporary period – a £450 boost for a family with two kids – immediate help for our high streets and for struggling families and pensioners too.

Step four – announce an immediate one year cut in VAT to 5% on home improvements, repairs and maintenance – to help homeowners and the many small businesses that are so dependent on the state of the housing market.

Step five – a one year national insurance tax break for every small firm which takes on extra workers, using the money left over from the government’s failed national insurance rebate for new businesses – helping small businesses to grow and create jobs.

Conference… a plan to help struggling families and small businesses, get our economy growing and create jobs which are the key to getting our deficit down.

Action on jobs;

Investment brought forward;

Support for families;

Support for homeowners;

Support for small businesses.

Five immediate steps the government could take tomorrow – and if they do so, we will back them.

Call it Plan A plus

Call it Plan B

Call it Plan C

I don’t care what they call it.

Britain just needs a plan that works.


But I have to level with you all – and the country… a plan for growth now will help get the economy moving again and stop the vicious circle on the deficit – but by itself it won’t secure our economic future or magic the deficit away.

A steadier, more balanced, medium-term plan to get the deficit down will still mean difficult decisions and tough choices in the years ahead that any government will face.

Tough choices on tax and spending – like the cuts to welfare, education and Home Office budgets that we set out before the election.

Discipline in public and private sector pay.

And no matter how much we dislike particular Tory spending cuts or tax rises, we cannot make promises now to reverse them.

I won’t do that and neither will any of my Shadow Cabinet colleagues.

And while we know that the Government’s approach to pensions has been confrontational and unfair…

That there is nothing George Osborne would like better than a strike this autumn to divert attention from his failing economic plan…

… we know too that there are difficult decisions on pensions which we cannot duck and that under Labour contributions and the retirement age would be rising too.

Conference – it will not be enough to expose that David Cameron and George Osborne have got the economy badly wrong.

We still know today what we recognised seventeen years ago: we will never have credibility unless we have the discipline and the strength to take tough decisions.

When I left the Financial Times to work for Labour in 1994, it was because I knew that a reputation for credibility and a platform of stability were the essential pre-conditions for achieving our wider goals, and I wanted to play my part.

And Conference…

– Bank of England independence;

– not joining the Euro;

– levelling with the public that saving the NHS needed a tax rise;

– using all the £22bn windfall from the 3G mobile phone auction to repay the national debt – despite Tory demands to spend it at the time;

… the same iron discipline that guided those decisions must guide a future Labour government too.

And let me say these two things today.

First, before the next election – and based on the circumstances we face – we will set out for our manifesto tough fiscal rules that the next Labour government will have to stick to – to get out country’s current budget back to balance and national debt on a downward path.

And these fiscal rules will be independently monitored by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

And second we know that, even as bank shares are falling again, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are still betting on a windfall gain from privatising RBS and Lloyds to pay for a pre-election giveaway.

We could also pledge to spend that windfall.

But – just as with the 3G mobile phone auction – we will commit instead in our manifesto to do the responsible thing and use any windfall gain from the sale of bank shares to repay the national debt.

Conference that will be Labour’s choice – fiscal responsibility in the national interest.


And on that platform of fiscal responsibility and action now for jobs and growth, we must also build the long-term future of the British economy.

And that means government must act to ensure markets work in the public interest and tackle unfair concentrations of power.

Many of us have had enough experience of government to know that the public sector can fail too:

– that Whitehall doesn’t always know best;

– that well-meaning business regulations designed by public servants can sometimes do more harm than good in the real world;

– that central directions shouted ever more loudly are no substitute for proper public service reforms that get incentives right, tackle market failure and put power in the hands of users.

But we know too that government just walking away is not the answer…

That government has a vital role to play, working closely with business, in making our economy stronger and more balanced for the long-term.

John Denham, Liam Byrne, Angela Eagle and I are working on our new financial, industrial and employment policies.

We can’t claim we have all the answers at this stage.

But we know we can’t tackle our skills deficit unless both government and employers do more.

We can’t have a modern industrial policy without government action:

– to support new manufacturing technologies, including green manufacturing;

– to make the planning system work to support investment and jobs;

– and yes, to ensure a genuinely level playing field for procurement too.

And we can’t tackle the debilitating short-termism which still plagues the relationship between finance and industry in Britain without radical reforms… reforms that must go beyond the tough regulation of the banks that the Vickers Commission has proposed.

That is why Ed Miliband, John Denham and I are determined that Labour will lead a debate on how to tackle short-termism in our economy… including tackling market failures in small business lending… and that means we must now examine proposals for a National Investment Bank for small business.


Conference, these are vital reforms.

Reforms upon which the future of our country depends.

But they are reforms which this Government just cannot deliver.

Because to back these reforms means to reject the debilitating ideology – private always good, public always bad, rising inequality inevitable – which grips this Tory-led Government.

The same view that says government is always the problem, and getting government out of the way the solution and that rewards at the top will eventually trickle down.

It is the same ideology that says private companies running the health service will always be better for patients.

That says cutting police officers, youth services and family intervention projects will somehow make our communities safer.

That claims ‘we’re all in this together’… but then delivers Budgets that hit families with children, hit women more than men and hit people with disabilities hardest of all

It is the same ideology that believes the global financial crisis was caused by too much public spending – and that because they are cutting public spending faster than ever in our history, Britain has become a safe haven.

A safe haven…?

When unemployment is rising, when our economy is flat-lining – how on earth can our Prime Minister and Chancellor say that Britain is a safe-haven?

It may be a safe haven for those who don’t need to work, for those with independent means, and those for whom £9,000 a year tuition fees is small change…

It may be a safe haven for David Cameron and George Osborne and Boris Johnson and their friends…

But for the 16,000 companies that have gone out of business in the last year, Tory Britain is not a safe haven:

– for the young people losing their EMA this term;

– for the women seeing their pensions cut;

– for the families about to see their child benefit taken away;

– for the million young people now out of work…

…Tory Britain is no safe haven.

And for the millions of families struggling with higher bills, worried about their jobs and what their children’s future holds…

…Tory Britain is no safe haven at all.


True to our values…

Willing to make the tough decisions…

For the sake of our economy, for al the British people…

Labour must win the argument.

We must show there is a reason to hope.

We must show that there can be a better future.

There is a better way.

Ed Balls – 2011 Speech to GMB Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the 2011 GMB Conference.


It’s a great honour to be invited today to address your annual conference here in Brighton.

A year ago, I spoke at your conference in Southport as shadow education secretary.

And that day I told this Conference that I came with bad news – that the Conservative Education Secretary Michael Gove had put an immediate stop to the extension of free school meals that this union campaigned for and delivered, through Labour’s National Policy Forum.

Back then, we could only guess at the scale of what this Conservative-led government intended to unleash.

The reckless gamble they were willing to take with our economy, jobs and living standards.

Their determination to force through the deepest cuts to public services for over sixty years – faster than any other country.

And the biggest hit to the living standards of your members in a generation:

VAT up to 20% costing families with children £450 a year and pushing up petrol prices too;

Pensions and benefits uprated by the CPI not RPI on a permanent basis;

Women already in their fifties having to work another one or two years to draw their pension;

Cuts to childcare support;

The youth jobs fund abolished;

Workplace rights scaled back for parents;

Tuition fees to be trebled;

And Educational Maintenance Allowances – support that helped the children of thousands of low paid workers stay on in education – now removed.

And we also had no idea of quite how unable or unwilling Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and their Liberal Democrat colleagues would be to do anything about it.

But we can’t be in any doubt any more.

We know that the global financial crisis was a crisis that happened in every country – it was not a recession made in Britain.

We know that the crisis was caused by the irresponsible actions of banks round the world – but I say this to you in all humility – Labour should have been tougher on them.

And we know we need to get the deficit down and that means tough decisions – tax rises and spending cuts.

But the evidence is all around us – George Osborne’s plan is not working as he expected. And however much he and the IMF now hope this is just a temporary blip, the fact is his spending cuts are going too far and too fast and have seen our economy flat-line in the last six months, as the confidence has slumped and the recovery has stalled.

And by cutting too far and too fast, he is creating a vicious circle in our economy: more people out of work and on benefits will make it harder to get the deficit down. In fact the Government is now set to borrow £46bn more than they had planned.

So today I want to set out why this rash plan is not working – and why the Government should follow Labour’s alternative and balanced deficit plan which puts jobs first.

I want to explain why this week the shadow work secretary Liam Byrne and I will launch a new campaign for a £2 billion tax on bankers’ bonuses which should be used to create 100,000 more jobs for young people, build more affordable homes and support Small Businesses.

But before I do – let me say this…

When Coalition Ministers come to this Conference and warn that they will have to act and legislate if we see a return to the un-rest of the 1980s…

Do not fall for this transparent game…

This attempt by Government Ministers to provoke a row about strikes and blame the stalling recovery on trade union members and working people.

Do not fall for David Cameron and George Osborne and Vince Cable’s desperate attempt to take this country back to the confrontation of the past.

Instead… let us say loud and clear:

We don’t want to see a return to the 1980s.

We don’t want a return to the division and confrontation of the 1980s.

We don’t want a return to the strikes and lost working days of the 1980s – seven times more days lost than under the last Labour Government.

We don’t want a return to the mass unemployment of the 1980s.

We don’t want a return to the rising child poverty of the 1980s.

We don’t want a return to the decaying school buildings, and long NHS waiting lists of the 1980s.

And above all we don’t want to return – ever again – the mass youth unemployment of the 1980s – to a time when young people left school or college and went straight into long-term unemployment – opportunity denied, a terrible waste of talent, which scarred our country for years to come.

That is why we now need a proper debate about an alternative economic policy – a proper Plan B for jobs and growth, which – with sensible cuts and fair tax ris es – is the best way to get the deficit down.

A proper debate which does not falsely claim that the recession and the deficit and now the stalling recovery are all caused by the national minimum wage or better maternity and paternity pay or record spending on the schools and NHS.

You cannot blame this global financial crisis on GMB members, trade unions members, teachers, nurses, carers, lunch-time supervisors – Mums and Dads and Grandparents too.

That would be a travesty – and we must not let David Cameron, George Osborne and Vince Cable get away with it.

Let me say first how much we in the Labour Party value the commitment to a fairer society that embodies this union at its best.

We appreciate the strong and challenging leadership of your general secretary, Paul Kenny.

We appreciate the work your members do up and down the country to improve the working conditions for those in vital industries across our country – whether in our utilities, our public services or in the private sector.

A mature relationship with the Labour Party and the trade union movement working together will be a vital part of any future for a strong and prosperous Britain.

I stand here proud to have served in the last Labour Government.

Where we got things right – even where at times we disagreed – I won’t be shy in saying it.

But when this union made calls which we did not hear – and which in hindsight we should have – I hold my hands up.

Your union led by Paul was at the forefront of bringing key issues to the top of the political agenda.

Paul was the one of the first to make the case that we were too slow to recognise the impact of the unrestricted movement of labour within the rapidly expanding EU.

He was the one saying that we cannot fight racism effectively if we ignore people’s worries about immigration

We were too slow on the temporary and agency workers directive and we should have done more to manage the influx of labour from the EU.

And your members were telling us we were late in addressing the housing shortage – and we were too slow to unlock the door to councils investing in new housing.

But in thirteen years there were times when a mature relationship, based on common values, reaped real rewards for working people.

From tax credits and a national minimum wage to make work pay to guaranteed holidays;

From the right to join a trade union and be represented to new rights for part-time, temporary and agency workers;

And new rights for parents and carers in the workplace.

Our free school meals campaign shows how Labour, working with unions such as yours, can get things right.

And with Brian Strutton and our colleagues in Unison we established the School Support Staff Negotiating Body.

Fair pay and progression is just as important to teaching assistants, caretake rs, cleaners, cooks and lunchtime supervisors as for teachers, nurses, doctors and the police.

The Government is making a profound mistake by abolishing that body.

As I said at the outset, these are difficult times for the Labour Party, the Trade Union movement and above all the people we are here to represent.

Well over twelve months on from the last general election, it is a matter of real regret that I am addressing your conference as the Shadow Chancellor, of an opposition Labour Party rather than as part of a Labour Government.

I remember meeting a group of trade union activists in Manchester last July during the leadership election and one of them saying to me:

“It’s all very well you coming along with your diagnoses of what went wrong and your vision for the next decade – but our members are losing their jobs now. What are you going to do about it?”

It is both public sector and private sector workers who are being hit ha rd by the deepest and fastest cuts of any other major economy in the world

It is GMB members whose jobs are on the line because of the Southern Cross scandal – as well as vulnerable people in their care. And with thanks to the work of your union we know the true impact of the massive frontloaded cuts to local government – hitting jobs and services and hitting the poorest areas hardest.

We should remember that when the government claims that we are all in this together.

GMB members – especially those working part time or in low paid jobs, or women and parents bringing up children – know the truth of that claim.

Because while David Cameron promised to lead the most family-friendly Government ever, the reality is that he is giving the banks a tax cut this year, while his changes to tax and benefits are hitting women harder than men and hitting families with children the hardest of all.

And GMB members know that his real agenda includes seein g the door opened wide to a two tier workforce in our public services as TUPE and other rights are reviewed – and protection against unfair dismissal scaled back.

So when anyone tells us that – after 13 years in Government – Labour needs a period in opposition, I think they need their head examining.

People say to me: Ed, you’re good at opposition.

I reply: I hate being in opposition.

Because however effective we are in holding this Tory-led Government to account.

If we’re out of power, we can’t turn people’s aspirations into realities.

If we’re out of power, we can’t protect the vulnerable and help those most in need.

If we’re out of power, we can’t get every child the support they need to succeed.

We can stand up for jobs, social justice, equality and fairness – but if we’re out of power, we can’t deliver.

And yet having spent the last year travelling around the UK as a candidate for the lea dership of our party, then shadow home secretary and now as Shadow Chancellor, I know that – despite the general election result – the Labour Party and trade union members I have met are not down or despondent but energised and united and determined to do what it takes to see Labour back in Government.

And I was proud, along with many of you – and with mums and dads and Grandparents and teachers and nurses and small business owners too –to be part of the TUC rally on 26 March – a massive and peaceful march that said no to the Conservative–led Coalition’s too deep and too fast cuts.

Because we know the very future of our public services, our welfare state, our economy are now in peril because of the reckless and deeply ideological Tory direction this Coalition Government has taken.

And don’t let anyone tell you the lie that this Government has no alternative because Labour spent too much on schools, hospitals and police.

It wasn’t because we built too many new hospitals or repaired too many leaking roofs in our schools here in Britain that Lehman Brothers, an Investment Bank in New York collapsed.

Yes we did increase public spending – because for 18 years the Tories had starved our public services and I make no apologies for building new hospitals – for building new schools.

And we did so by increasing some fairer taxes such as the national insurance rise in 2003 to increase health spending.

And we were able to do so also because we got many of the big calls on the economy right;

Independence for the Bank of England – which the Tories opposed – delivered stable growth and low interest rates;

We kept out of the Euro, a decision which looks even more sensible when we see the trouble Ireland, Greece and Portugal are facing;

And before the global financial crisis we had the second lowest level of debt of any G7 country – lower than the US, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

And when we left office a year ago, and after some really tough times, we were turning a corner – unemployment starting to fall month by month, lower inflation and the economy starting to grow strongly.

There was still a long way to go, but we were getting back on the right track.

And because more people were in work, paying taxes and not receiving benefits, borrowing ended up over £20 billion lower last year than forecast.

But now George Osborne has ripped up our plan to halve the deficit and decided he will cut the deficit faster than any other major economy in the world – putting up VAT, cutting deep into frontline services, scrapping public and private sector jobs.

And look at what’s happening now:

Our economy – w hich was growing – has now ground to a halt.

Prices are rising for everyone – threatening a rise in mortgage rates.

Unemployment – which was falling month on month – is now forecast to be higher – up to 200,000 higher.

The Treasury borrowed more this April than in any other April – ever.

That’s because there’s a vicious circle.

If the economy isn’t growing and hundreds of thousands of people are losing their jobs, then fewer people pay tax and more people claim benefits making it harder to get the deficit down.

So when George Osborne, Nick Clegg, David Cameron say there is no alternative to deep and fast cuts now.

Let us remember:

That is what Margaret Thatcher said in 1980 – and we saw the devastation to our communities, to manufacturing and youth jobs as unemployment rose year by year for half a decade.

And the previous Prime Minister to say ‘there is no alternative,’ was a Labour Prime Minister , Ramsay MacDonald, in 1931, two years after the 1929 Wall Street Crash – the second biggest financial crisis of the last hundred years.

There is no alternative, MacDonald said, but to cut spending and unemployment benefits to get the deficit down and keep the financial markets happy.

But the Labour party said no – and so did Lloyd George and the Liberals.

And MacDonald had to form a Coalition with the Conservatives to make his cuts.

And what happened?

The Great Depression of the 1930s, mass unemployment and – yes – the deficit got worse.

Conference, you either learn the lessons of history or you repeat the mistakes of history – and that’s what they are doing.

The truth is George Osborne is going too far and too fast – and we’re paying the price in lost jobs and slower growth.

He has replaced Labour’s balanced plan to halve the deficit over four years with his plan to wipe it out – with £40 billion more cuts and tax rises.

And he abolished the youth jobs fund which was helping thousands of young people back to work.

We need to act now to stop another lost generation of young people – like in the 1980s when youth unemployment rose for four years after the recession was over.

Because putting young people on the dole is not just a waste of talent but a waste of money too.

Our plan for a £2 billion tax on bankers’ bonuses to create 100,000 more jobs for young people and build more affordable homes will be put to a vote in parliament – and we’re asking MPs from other parties to back it.

It’s the best way to get the deficit down – and stop Britain’s talent going to waste.

That’s the right and fair thing to do, but George Osborne isn’t listening.

He just doesn’t seem to get it.

He doesn’t get how hard people are being hit by higher vat and cuts in local services.

And he doesn’t get what it means to face the fear or reality of unemployment and the damage this will do to our young people.

For the sake of our country’s future, he needs to think again and start putting jobs and growth first – and he needs to do it now.

Conference, members of this union knows better than anyone

When living standards are squeezed, you know who pays the price.

When public services are scaled back, you know which communities lose out.

When unemployment becomes entrenched, you know which areas suffer most.

When only some children succeed, you know which children will be left behind.

And the reason why our movement campaigned so hard in 1945 and 1964 and 1997 was because we had seen the reality of what Tory Governments do.

Our predecessors saw their communities ravaged by the mass unemployment of the ‘30s.

They saw millions of young people excluded from the chance of a university place in the ‘50s.

And then many of us lived the rough the 18 years of Thatcher and Major Governments and saw:

Child poverty doubling;

Youth unemployment soaring;

Public services slashed to the bone.

So in the coming months let us carry on the hard work of winning back the trust of the British people – because there is so much at stake that is worth winning for.

3,500 children’s centres – that’s what’s at stake;

Health and safety at the workplace – that’s what’s at stake;

A young generation – at risk of mass unemployment again – that’s what’s at stake;

Over 2 million children still living in poverty – that’s what’s at stake;

Our National Health Service – that’s what’s at stake;

The future of our country – that’s what’s at stake.

So Ed Miliband and I and the whole of the Shadow Cabinet will take the fight to the Coalition and show there is a better way.

There is an alternative.

Ed Balls – 2010 Labour Party Conference Speech


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Shadow Education Secretary, Ed Balls, at the 2010 Labour Party Conference.



Today – all across our country – millions of children are going to school no longer putting up with leaking roofs or peeling walls…

…but instead going to one of the 4,000 brand new or fully refurbished schools built in the last thirteen years by our Labour government.

So when people tell you that politics doesn’t make a difference – that ‘you’re all the same’ – let us be proud of what we all achieved together in government.

The best generation of teachers we have ever had.

Over 120,000 more teaching assistants.

3,500 Sure Start children’s centres.

More young people getting an apprenticeship or going to university than e ver before.

The best exam results ever.

And standards rising fastest in the poorest areas.

That is a record of which we can all be proud.

So Conference please join me today in thanking my predecessors:

David Blunkett, Estelle Morris, Charles Clarke, Ruth Kelly, Alan Johnson – and the brilliant team of ministers who worked with me over the past three years – for the enormous contribution they have made to our country.

And I want to pay tribute in particular to David Miliband who – as schools minister – made the inspired decision to launch the Building Schools for the Future programme…

Conference, David has made a massive contribution already – and we all know he has a huge contribution to make in the future too.

But we know too – every one of us in this hall:

It’s the teachers and teaching assistants, the heads and caretakers, the social workers and nursery staff, the cooks and lunchtime supervisors whose publ ic service every day transforms the life chances of children in our country.

They are the real heroes and we thank them all.

Building Schools for the Future

Conference, Vernon Coaker and headteacher Neil Wilson have shown us the difference our Labour government has made for the young people attending Newall Green High School here in Manchester.

I am proud that we transformed hundreds of schools across the country – and today we have not one in two schools below our National Challenge standard as in 1997, but just one in 20 – schools Michael Gove has shown he will now abandon.

But because of Michael Gove’s short-sighted and arbitrary and unfair decision to scrap the Building Schools for the Future programme, over 700,000 children in 700 schools up and down our country will now not be getting the new school building they were promised.

And Michael Gove could not even publish a list of cancelled school buildings without getting it wrong – not just once but five times.

We have heard from Councillor Elaine Costigan from Sandwell about the deep hurt and pain that the mistakes in the lists and the cancelled buildings have caused for children and parents in her ward.

Elaine Costigan.

Four weeks ago a Tory Councillor.

Today proud to be a Labour Councillor fighting for fairness for all local children.

Michael Gove.

The man they told us was a genius – the Tories’ rising star.

They don’t say that any more.

In opposition he might have been able to write good jokes for the House of Commons.

But it’s no joke for all the children whose school buildings have been cancelled and whose hopes have been dashed.

And when I hear Michael Gove say that new buildings don’t make a difference.

I remember last year opening a new school in Knowsley, in a deprived ward on Merseyside, and walking round the magnificent new school build ing with a group of the students.

And asking them what’s the best thing about your new school?

And expecting – as usual – them to mention the Astroturf or the new canteen or the IT suite.

And you know what a girl in Year 9 said to me?

‘We never thought anyone would ever think we were worth a place like this’.

And when I mentioned her remark to the headteacher, he said to me ‘you’ve got to understand, all these millions of pounds, there has not been a building built like this in this community for decades – and my job is to use this chance to raise aspirations and to say to all the students – and their parents too – look, work hard, take the opportunity, show them you’re really worth it.’

And that is why it is such a tragedy that in Sandwell, and Liverpool, and Nottingham and Brent and Wakefield and in 80 local authorities round the country Michael Gove has now told hundreds of thousands of children – sorry, but you are not worth it.

And that is why I was proud to stand this summer with the NASUWT and the NUT and ATL and Unison and GMB and Unite and UCATT and parents, governors and teachers from around the country at the Save Our Schools rally to say to Michael Gove:

Think again.

Change your mind.

Our children are worth it.

Curriculum and free schools

But Michael Gove is not just cancelling new school buildings, he is also narrowing the curriculum and his education reforms will entrench division and inequality.

A few weeks ago I went to see a new BSF building for Mossley Hollins High School in Tameside – set to open next February.

It is an ‘outstanding’ school and the headteacher and the school council took me on a building site tour to see the science labs and the library and the dance studio.

Yes, the new dance studio.

Michel Gove says he wants schools now to focus only on ‘academic’ subjects, to drop our new Diplomas and to shun what he sneeringly calls ‘soft’ subjects like design and technology, construction, music, sports or dance.

Conference, I really don’t think he’s got a clue.

I’ve been to so many schools over the last three years where head teachers have taken me to see a lesson in GCSE dance and said to me: ‘look at that class, it’s not just that we have a great dance teacher in this school but the boost to aspiration and the belief and motivation of the students in this studio from this course will translate directly into their GCSE maths and English results as well’. That is great teaching and great leadership – and we should celebrate our pupils’ achievements and not keep running them down.

But what really upsets me is that as Michael Gove is dashing the hopes of children in state schools around our country, he a nd David Cameron are also travelling round promising new school buildings to a few parents but only if they are willing to opt out of the state system and any relationship with the elected local authority and set up one of their go-it-alone DIY ‘free market’ schools.

A policy which we know from Sweden delivered lower standards and greater inequality.

A policy which even the Liberal Democrat conference agrees is divisive, costly and unfair.

A policy which will divide communities and disadvantage children with special educational needs.

Conference, this is the most socially divisive education experiment for 60 years.

In government, our Children’s Plan was driven by a moral cause:

– that every child has talent and potential

– that some children do face greater challenges because of their disability, their special need or where they live

– but that no barrier is too great to overcome if the community works together to make sure every child can succeed

And our academies programme gave more help and support to underperforming schools in the most disadvantaged communities.

Michael Gove’s academies programme gives extra resources to outstanding schools in more advantaged communities.

And he has cancelled many of the radical reforms of our Children’s Plan:

– guaranteed 1 to 1 tuition for all children – cancelled

– free school lunches for half a million primary school children – ditched

– breakfast clubs for disadvantaged children – mocked

– social work reform – shelved

– the new pay negotiating body for support staff – abolished

– hundreds of new play areas – scrapped

What a shameful record after just five months in Government.


And Conference, our Children’s Plan was important because it said no child should be held back through the lack of proper support, whatever their extra need.

That’s why Alan Johnson and I asked John Bercow to review and improve speech and language support.

And this is a personal thing for me.

I have had a stammer all of my life.

That’s why in the past I’ve often had to speak without notes.

I only started to talk openly about this recently – since being in the Cabinet – because it’s only by talking about it, and being open about the challenge, that I’ve been able to deal with it.

I was lucky. I am pretty tough.

I have had help and support, including from Yvette and friends.

But the lesson for me is clear.

There are hundreds of thousands of children struggle with their speech, or communication or their reading or their learning or a disability which so often holds them back.

Struggling on alone without support – and the understanding of those around you – will never get you through.

But if you can help a child deal with something like that – and help them to beli eve in themselves too – then you put their future back into their own hands.

That is why I am in politics.

That is why all of us are in politics.

To get every child the support they need to succeed.

That is our moral cause.


So when anyone tells me that – after 13 years in government – Labour needs a period in opposition, I think they need their head examining.

People say to me: Ed, you’re good at opposition.

I reply: I hate being in opposition.

Because however effective we are in holding this Coalition to account.

If we’re out of power, we can’t turn people’s aspirations into realities.

If we’re out of power, we can’t protect the vulnerable and help those most in need.

If we’re out of power, we can’t get every child the support they need to succeed.

We can stand up for jobs, social justice, equality and fairness – but if we’re out of power, we can’t deliver.

Liberal Democrats and Conservatives

And yet having spent the last four months travelling around the UK as a candidate for the leadership of our party, I know that – despite the General Election result – the Labour Party, Co-operative Party and trade union members I have met are not down or despondent but energised and united and determined to do what it takes to see Labour back in government.

And let me tell you one reason why our party is so determined and our membership is surging.

Two words:

Nick Clegg.

Don’t forget last year at this Conference, when The Sun newspaper came out for David Cameron, he was on track for an 80 seat majority.

But David Cameron failed to convince the country his party had changed and that he could be trusted.

It was not The Sun what won it for the Tories this time. It was not the Sun that put them into power.

It was Nick Clegg:

– the man whose own el ection leaflets said ’Vote Liberal Democrat or you’ll get a Tory government,’

–  who said ‘stop the Tory VAT bombshell,’

– who said spending cuts now would be ‘reckless’ and put jobs and the recovery at risk.

It was Nick Clegg who has given us:

– a Tory Prime Minister

– a Tory Chancellor

– a massive and unfair hike in VAT

– and a Budget which even George Osborne’s new head of Budget responsibility says will hit the poorest hardest.

I say to Liberal Democrats MPs:

It is one thing to want to be in power.

It is quite another thing to sacrifice your Manifesto and – yes – your principles for power.

But to do so on the backs of the young and the poor and the pensioner and the vulnerable is a disgrace.

But Conference.

While we are shocked to see Liberal Democrat MPs propping up this Coalition government – and if we’re shocked, just think what all the people who voted for them feel like…

… there is a second and more important reason why our party is determined.

Because we know that this is a Conservative government – and it is the Tories we’ve got to beat to win the next election.

Nick Clegg may look like David Cameron and increasingly sounds like David Cameron, but it’s David Cameron who is in charge.

And however much David Cameron and George Osborne use the Liberal Democrats as their human shields, we must not let the Tories off the hook.

Because we know the very future of our public services, our welfare state, our economy are now in peril because of the reckless and deeply ideological Tory direction this Coalition government has taken.

There is an alternative 

Take the decision to cancel Building School for the Future.

It is not just educationally short-sighted and unfair.

It is also putting hundreds of thousands of private construction jobs at risk just at the time when the priv ate sector is holding back from investing in new houses or private buildings.

And when the Tories and the Liberal Democrats say we have to cancel our school building programme because getting the deficit down as fast as possible is the number one priority – when they say that there is no alternative to these cuts now, Let us remember:

That is what Margaret Thatcher said in 1980 – and we saw the devastation to our communities, to manufacturing and youth jobs as unemployment rose year by year for half a decade.

And the previous Prime Minister to say ‘there is no alternative,’ was a Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, in 1931, two years after the 1929 Wall Street crash – the second biggest financial crisis of the last hundred years.

There is no alternative, MacDonald said, but to cut spending and unemployment benefits to get the deficit down and keep the financial markets happy.

But this party said No – and so did Lloyd George and the Liberals.

And MacDonald had to form a Coalition with the Conservatives to make his cuts.

And what happened?

The Great Depression of the 1930s, mass unemployment and – yes – the deficit got worse.


You either learn the lessons of history or you repeat the mistakes of history – and that’s what they are doing.

Just think if Clement Attlee in 1945 – when after the war when our national debt was over twice its current level – had said that the first priority was to get the deficit down…there would have been no NHS, no new homes for heroes and no welfare state.

But we don’t need to go back to the history books to see the warning signs over George Osborne’s economic policy – we only need to look across the Irish Sea.

Two years ago, the Irish Government convinced itself they had to slash public services and cut child benefits to get their deficit down as fast as possible and reassure the money markets.

The IMF praised the Irish government for its “sense of urgency”.

And what has happened since?

Recession turned to slump, unemployment at a 16-year high, 19 consecutive months of deflation, consumer spending and tax revenues plummeting, and the deficit worse now than when they started.

The Irish Economist David McWilliams said this week:

“It is like watching a slow car crash. The more they cut, the more the economy will continue to stagnate.”

George Osborne used to say that Ireland has so much to teach us, if only we were willing to learn.

Now he’s the one ignoring the lessons.

Just imagine if Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown had listened to David Cameron and George Osborne in 2008 – and not nationalised the banks, not cut VAT, not invested in a new jobs programme – recession would have turned to depression and unemployment would be much higher today.

And Conference, let me say – I was proud to s erve in Gordon Brown’s Cabinet – we did not get everything right – but he was the right Prime Minister for a world financial crisis and history will give him the credit he deserves.

Of course we need tough decisions to get the deficit down.

But Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown were also right to say: don’t start to cut the deficit until the recovery is secure.

Conference, there is an alternative – a Labour alternative.

We must win the argument – as Alistair said on Monday – that the speed and severity of the Coalition’s ‘ideological’ cuts are both unfair and unnecessary and will put the recovery at risk.

So we must make the case, as Ed Miliband did yesterday, that the credible way to reduce the deficit and get the economic moving again is not to sacrifice jobs and growth – but to put jobs and growth first.

George Osborne

Too many people have worked too hard over the last three years to get us through thi s economic storm to let George Osborne throw it away.

So let this Conference send out a message to George Osborne and David Cameron:

Whenever you put at risk the jobs that we protected.

Whenever your policies threaten the homes that we saved from repossession.

Whenever you put another child and another pensioner back into poverty.

The Labour Party will be there…and we will fight you every inch of the way.

The Leadership

But Conference, there is a final reason – perhaps the most important – why I believe our party is ready for the fight ahead.

Because I believe our Labour leadership contest has shown we have learned the lessons of Labour history – from the 1950s and the 1980s and from more recent times – that to divide is fatal, to look inwards and blame the voters spells disaster.

I have been proud to be a candidate in this leadership election, the first every Co-operative MP to do so, and I want to thank my colleagues who backed me, the CWU, all the party members and councillors and trade unionists round the country who helped me, my brilliant camp aign team –  and Yvette for her immense tolerance.

David, Andy, Diane were great candidates and a credit to our party and we have conducted this election in a truly comradely way.

But for the four of us who finished behind Ed Miliband, there is no shame in losing to someone who has inspired and energised our party – and who brought this hall to its feet yesterday.

And working with him for 16 years in opposition, in the Treasury and in Parliament, I always knew that – for Ed – fairness, opportunity and social justice weren’t just slogans, they were his reason for coming to work in the morning – they were his defining purpose.

Ed, I’ve been proud for 16 years to call you a colleague and a friend.

And now I’m proud to call you our leader.

And it will be my mission to back our new leader, to take the fight to the Coalition and to return us to government in the shortest possible time.


Let that be the mission of us all.

United, disciplined, determined.

Winning the argument for a credible and radical Labour programme.

There is an alternative.

Together we can make sure Labour wins again.

Ed Balls – 2009 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Ed Balls, the then Secretary of State of Children, Schools and Families, to the 2009 Labour Party conference.


Conference, there are over 79,000 social workers in our country today.

Doing a job which can be tough and sometimes dangerous – but which saves lives and makes a huge difference to thousands of families.

And unlike teachers or nurses, fire fighters and police officers where we can celebrate a life saved, a crime solved or a schools  exam results, we rarely get the chance to celebrate the quiet successes of our social workers.

It is the toughest job.

And it has been a really difficult year.

The tragic death of Baby Peter in Haringey shocked the nation.

People were appalled by what happened – by the cruelty he suffered, but also by the collective failure of services in Haringey to keep him safe.

And I had to take tough action – to restore public confidence and to strengthen frontline practice.

Faced with the same circumstances, I would take the same decisions again.

But I know too that there is no more important job in our country than the job our social workers do day in day out:

Keeping children safe.

Looking after children in care.

Supporting the most vulnerable in our society.

That’s why I am determined to do whatever it takes to get social workers the training, the IT, the support they need to do their job.

And it is also why I am asking you today:

– to stand up for social workers;

– to back our Help Give Them a Voice campaign;

– and to join me in saying – for their dedication and their professionalism – thank you to the social workers of our country.

And Conference, what is it that brings people into social work?

What inspires Kevin and Colin, Sharon, Pauline and Colleen – the brilliant public servants we have applauded this afternoon?

We know the answer.

We have just seen it on this stage.

It is the moral cause of public service.

And Conference, this is our moral cause too.

It is this commitment to social justice which brought many of us here today into politics:

– that every child should have the right to be safe and happy and the opportunity to make the most of their talents;

– and that there should be no barrier too great to overcome – not where they live, their parents’ income, their special need or disability,

No barrier too great to overcome if through our collective endeavour we can break down those barriers and give every child the opportunities they deserve.

That is the vision of our Children’s Plan.

That is what we mean by social justice.

And we can be proud of our work together to turn our moral purpose into direct action.

Think of it – in 1997 – no Children’s Centres at all – or free nursery care.

But as Yvette and I know – as many of you know all too well – it is hard to balance work and family life and we all want our children to have the best start in life:

– that is why Mums and Dads can now get the financial support they need to stay at home with their children after they are born;

– a free nursery place for all 3 and 4 year olds, now being extended to 250,000 2 year olds;

– thousands of families with a disabled child now getting the short breaks they desperately need – and parents whose relationships are under pressure, getting help too;

and by March next year, 3,500 Sure Start Children’s Centres – one in every community.

A new and universal pillar of our welfare state delivered by this Labour government.

And in 1997 our country had one of the lowest rates of staying on at 16.

But because we are determined to give all young people the chance to succeed we now have 225,000 young people starting apprenticeships this year.

We’re guaranteeing a place in sixth form, college or training for every school leaver this September.

And we have also legislated so that for the first time in our country’s history, education will be a right for every young person until the age of 18.

For our Labour, trade union and co-operative movement a dream for 100 years and more – now delivered in this century by this Labour government.

And Conference, remember what we campaigned to change twelve years ago:

– leaking roofs and freezing classrooms;

– photocopied textbooks;

– a teaching profession demoralised;

– over half of schools not making the grade.

That was Tory education policy.

And where are we now?

4,000 new or refurbished schools – the biggest school building programme since the Victorian era;

funding per pupil more than doubled;

42,000 more teachers – the best paid in our history – and 183,000 teaching assistants too;

and not half of schools but less than 1 in 10 secondary schools now below our National Challenge standard.

That is the difference made by a Labour government – our moral purpose in action.

Of course, not everyone agrees.

Michael Gove says our state schools are failing.

He wrongly claims that grades are rising because exams are getting easier.

Michael: stop running down the real achievements of our young people and the hard work of teachers in schools round the country.

And conference, unlike the Tories, we will not break our promises on pay and conditions to teachers and head teachers.

We will put teaching on the same professional footing as doctors and lawyers, introduce an entitlement to continuous professional development and reduce workload so teachers can get on and teach.

And we can only do this by protecting the vital role our teaching assistants play every day – and our caretakers, cooks and cleaners too.

That is why I am backing our support staff negotiating body today with new funding so that we can raise the training and recognition of support staff across our country.

And I want to pay particular tribute to the hard work of our school catering staff – it because of their efforts and the campaigning of the National Policy Forum, the GMB, Unison and Party members that this month we started our pilots in Newham and County Durham – free school meals for all their primary school children.

And Conference, we know too that our teachers play a hugely important and trusted role in our communities and with our children.

I say there is no place in a civilised society for bullying of any kind whether because of race, or disability or sexual orientation.

And I say too there is no place for racism of any kind in our schools.

That is why I am today asking the former Chief Inspector of Schools, Maurice Smith, to examine the evidence and make recommendations.

I want us to be confident that we have all the powers we need to keep racism and BNP activity out of all our schools.


I want to say thank you to Cath Speight and the Policy Commission for their debates and advice.

And to our brilliant ministerial team, Dawn and Vernon, Kevin, Diana, Delyth and Iain.

We all know we still have much more to do to break down every barrier so that every child can succeed.

That is why we are uncompromising about raising standards in every school – with schools working together in National Challenge Trusts, Co-op trusts, and our Academies programme to break the historic link between poverty and attainment.

And when children fall behind they need extra help to get back on track – so we will guarantee one to one tuition in primary and secondary schools with extra help and support for children with special educational needs

And because parents do want to know how their children and local schools are doing – we will keep tests at the end of Year 6, but we will introduce a new Report Card so that schools are, for the first time, fairly judged on all they do and parents get all the information they need.

But parents also want their children to go to an orderly school with a strong head teacher who won’t tolerate bullying or disruptive behaviour in the classroom – like Blatchington Mill School in Hove which I visited this morning with the Prime Minister.

So the Schools Minister Vernon Coaker and I are today announcing our new Behaviour Challenge so that every school has good discipline.

And we will back head teachers, and expect all parents to back teachers too, so they have the confidence to use their powers to the full so teachers can teach and all children can learn.

But Conference we will have to meet our goals in tougher times.

It’s been a turbulent twelve months – the worst global financial crisis for a very long time.

Who can now doubt that the swift and decisive leadership of Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling saved Britain – and the world – from sliding into depression?

And we will not shirk the tough decisions to deliver the recovery we need and to get the deficit down.

On tax, those with the broadest shoulders are carrying a heavier burden.

And on spending too, we will make efficiency savings and ensure value for money.

That is the only fair way to protect our frontline priorities.

So let us say loud and clear today:

We are not going to cut back Sure Start or tax credits or threaten child benefit.

That’s David Cameron’s plan.

And we will not deny school leavers the college and apprenticeship places they need or cut our school building programme to pay for an unfair and unfunded free market education experiment.

That’s Michael Gove’s plan.

But you know what shocked me most this summer?

It wasn’t Michael Gove agreeing with George Osborne to cut schools and Sure Start budgets.

It wasn’t Michael Gove running down the achievements of our young people.

It wasn’t his refusal to back our free school meals pilots.

None of that surprised me.

After all, he is a Tory.

But when he said we should exclude all vocational qualifications and Diplomas from league table comparisons of school performance, you start to get the real measure of his plans.

Time after time I’ve visited schools where heads have proudly shown me design or construction, sport or dance lessons and told me those subjects have inspired young people to get good grades,  including in maths and English too.

But Michael Gove says that these are soft subjects which should not count.

What schools does he visit?

How can he say all the pupils in our state schools learning these vocational subjects are second class?

Instead of ending the damaging old divide between first class academic qualifications for some and vocational learning for the rest, he wants turn to back the clock and entrench that divide.

Conference – this is the choice.

Between a Conservative Party determined to preserve excellence for those who have it and a Labour government committed to open up excellence and opportunity for all.

So I tell you:

– we are not going to cut investment in schools and Sure Start;

– we are not going to mandate cuts to frontline services that mean fewer teachers and teaching assistants;

– we are not going to pay for an inheritance tax cut for the wealthy few by cutting investment in our children’s future;

That is the Tory way – and we will fight it from now until election day.

Conference, we know the truth.

When public services are scaled back, we know which communities lose out.

When unemployment becomes entrenched, we know which constituencies suffer most.

When only some children succeed, we know which children will be left behind.

And the reason why our Party campaigned so hard to be elected in 1945 and 1964 and 1997 was because we had seen the reality of Tory government.

Our predecessors saw their communities ravaged by the mass unemployment of the ‘30s.

They saw millions of young people excluded from the chance of a university place in the ‘50s.

And then many of us lived through the 18 years of Thatcher and Major governments and saw:

– child poverty doubling;

– youth unemployment soaring;

– public services slashed to the bone.

I say to anyone who doubts whether this is a fight worth fighting,

Let us not learn that lesson the hard way again.

We don’t need to go back to Opposition to remind us why we need a Labour government.

There is only one party that can get us through this downturn and that’s our Party – the Labour party

There is only one party that will prioritise investment in education for all and that’s our party – the Labour party.

There is only movement whose commitment to social justice is so deep in its core that – even in difficult times – we will still invest in our NHS and to support our pensioners and to tackle child poverty.

It is going to be a hard fight. Yes…we are the underdogs.

But in the coming months as we make the phone calls, deliver the leaflets and knock on doors, remember what’s at stake:

– 3,500 Children’s Centres – that’s what’s at stake.

– over 2 million children still living in poverty – that’s what’s at stake.

– our plan to rebuild or refurbish every secondary school – that’s what at stake.

– education to 18 a right for every young person – the future of our country – that’s what’s at stake.

This is the most important election for a generation.

We must rise to the challenge.

It will be the fight of our lives – let us go and win it.

Ed Balls – 2008 Speech on National Curriculum Tests


Made on the 14th October by the Secretary of State for the Department of Children, Schools and Families in the House of Commons.


Mr Speaker, with your permission, I would like to make a statement on National Curriculum tests – and the next steps we will now take to strengthen school accountability.

The far-reaching reforms I am announcing today will:

– strengthen the role of Key Stage 2 national tests for 11 year olds;

– radically reform the current Key Stage 3 testing regime in secondary schools;

– and introduce a new, simpler and more comprehensive way of reporting to parents on primary and secondary school performance.

Mr Speaker, when I made my statement to the House on 22 July, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) was engaged in commercially sensitive contractual negotiations with ETS Europe.

On 15 August, the QCA terminated its five year contract with ETS Europe and recovered payments amounting to £24.1 million – two thirds of the monies due to ETS Europe for the first year of the contract repaid to the taxpayer.

I also announced that the QCA would tender for a single year contract for the delivery of the 2009 tests.

This new procurement is underway and has been informed by advice from Lord Sutherland – whose independent inquiry into the procurement and management of the contract for the delivery of this year’s tests will set out important lessons for all future contracts of this kind.

Lord Sutherland expects to complete his final report before the end of the year.

In my statement in July, I also made it clear that the current testing and assessment regime is not set in stone.

I know that some honourable members were disappointed that – at that time – I was not able to go further. But it was important that we evaluated the case for change before making decisions.

Over the summer, we have been able to study the Select Committee’s report on testing and assessment, which was debated in this House last week.

We have studied more detailed evidence from our Making Good Progress pilots.

And I have heard from a range of experts and partners – including Ofsted, head teachers, teachers and parents.

Mr Speaker, I fully agree with the Select Committee that the principle of national testing is sound.

But I do take seriously concerns raised by the Select Committee, teachers and parents.

Testing, assessment and accountability must encourage and reward the best teaching – so that that it properly supports pupils in their learning and development, and schools are judged fairly on how they support the progress and well-being of every child.

I believe that there are three key principles that must guide our approach.

Our system of testing and assessment should:

– First, give parents the information they need to compare different schools, choose the right school for their child and then track their child’s progress;

– Second, enable head teachers and teachers to secure the progress of every child and their school as a whole, without unnecessary burdens or bureaucracy;

– Third, allow the public to hold national and local government and governing bodies to account for the performance of schools.

Over the summer, and guided by these principles, the Schools Minister and I have looked carefully at our system of national testing and accountability across Key Stages 1, 2 and 3.

Mr Speaker, over more than a decade, testing and assessment has played a vital role in driving up standards in primary schools.

This year, 107,000 more pupils left primary school secure in English and maths than in 1997.

These are the basics that every parent knows their child needs if they are to succeed at secondary school.

And the National Curriculum tests at the end of Key Stage 2 are the only objective measure of attainment in primary schools for parents, head teachers and the public.

The current format of Key Stage tests at age 7 and 11 is not set in stone.

At Key Stage 1, we have rightly replaced externally marked tests with teacher assessment, and introduced new catch-up teaching for children at risk of falling behind.

We will now examine whether the current system of requiring teachers to use nationally set tasks as part of moderated teacher assessment is working effectively.

We are also currently piloting ‘stage not age’ single level tests at Key Stage 2.

While the emerging evidence from these continuing pilots is encouraging, it is too early to decide to proceed nationally.

But I am convinced that externally marked Key Stage 2 National Curriculum Tests are essential to giving parents, teachers and the public the information they need about the progress of each primary age child and of every primary school.

To abolish these tests, as some argue, would be the wrong thing to do.

Mr Speaker, the testing and assessment system has also supported rising standards in our secondary schools – 68,000 thousand more pupils gained five or more good GCSEs including English and maths in 2007 than in 1997.

But having looked hard at the current testing regime, we do not believe that the three principles I have set out justify the Key Stage 3 testing arrangements in their current form.

Parents want to be able to choose the right secondary school for their child and see how their school is performing – but it is usual for them to look at a school’s GCSE results to do so.

Parents also want to be able to track the progress of their children – but the measures we have already announced to improve real-time reporting of progress will mean that parents get much more regular information than just the results of a single national test.

And head teachers have repeatedly told me that a more flexible system of assessment throughout Key Stage 3 would allow schools to focus their efforts more effectively on personalised teaching and learning using the flexibility of the new secondary curriculum.

I have considered a shift to ‘stage not age’ tests in secondary schools, which we have also been piloting at Key Stage 3 over the past year.

But the emerging evidence shows that single level tests at Key Stage 3 are not working effectively – so on the advice of the National Assessment Agency, we will now bring the Key Stage 3 piloting of single level tests to an end.

Mr Speaker, I am today announcing that – as part of a wider overhaul of Key Stage 3 assessment – children will no longer be required to sit national tests at age 14.


– We will ensure every parent receives regular reports on their child’s progress in years 7, 8 and 9 – and that teachers have the training and support to help every child make good progress;

– We will continue to provide Key Stage 3 test papers to any schools that want to use them internally;

– We will ensure that schools properly focus in years 7 and 8 on the progress of those children who did not reach the expected standard at Key Stage 2, with effective one-to-one tuition and catch-up learning;

– And we will introduce an externally marked test, with a sample of pupils to measure national performance, so that the public can hold government to account.

Mr Speaker, some parents find it difficult to judge how well their local schools are doing from national tests or Ofsted reports alone.

So I also want to go further on school accountability.

With the support of Ofsted, and following discussions with social partners, it is our intention to introduce a new School Report Card for all primary and secondary schools.

The School Report Card will help parents to better understand how well schools are:

– raising standards and improving, compared to other schools in their area;

– supporting the progress of every pupil;

– and playing their role in supporting the wider development and wellbeing of children.

It will draw upon the successful model being used in New York City and elsewhere – but be designed to suit our schools.

We will set out detailed proposals for consultation before the end of the year – with a White Paper to follow in the Spring.

Mr Speaker, these are far-reaching reforms and it is vital that we get the details right.

We will draw upon the analysis and findings of the Select Committee report and we will work closely with our social partners to take them forward without un-necessarily adding to teacher workload.

And to advise us on the development of this new system, I am also today appointing a new Expert Group – and placing copies of its detailed terms of reference in the libraries of both Houses.

Mr Speaker, today’s reforms require changes to the procurement of national tests for 2009.

Consistent with our plans for future years:

– we will continue to require pupils to take the national curriculum tests at Key Stage 2;

– but we will not require pupils to take Key Stage 3 tests in 2009.

The QCA is now extending its procurement deadline accordingly.

Mr Speaker, the package of reforms I am announcing today will:

– give parents better, more regular and more comprehensive information about their child’s progress and their school;

– support head teachers and teachers to ensure that every child can succeed;

– and strengthen our ability to hold all schools to account, as well as the public’s ability to hold government to account.

And I commend this statement to the House.

Ed Balls – 2007 Speech on Ending Child Poverty


Below is the text of the speech made by Ed Balls, the then Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, on ending child poverty made on 10th December 2007.


I’m delighted to be speaking here today. And it is timely for me to be here because – as many of you know – tomorrow we are publishing our Children’s Plan.

Over the past six months, we have been listening to parents, teachers, professionals, and children and young people themselves.

We have heard that while there are more opportunities for young people today than ever before, parents want more support in managing the new pressures they face such as balancing work and family life, dealing with the internet and modern commercialism, and letting their children play and learn whilst staying safe.

We heard that while children are doing better than ever in school, we need to do more to ensure that every child gets a world class education.

And we heard that while fewer children now live in poverty, too many children’s education is still being held back by poverty and disadvantage.

If we are going to make this the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up.

If we are going to help all children and young people to fulfil their potential, we need to eradicate child poverty.

This morning, Beverley Hughes and I visited Cardwell Primary School in Woolwich. Cardwell Primary School is located in an area of high deprivation, with over half of the children eligible for free school. But those children’s education is not held back by poverty and disadvantage.

They are not held back because of the commitment of the head teacher – Carol Smith – and her team to look at the needs of the ‘whole child’ – tackling all the barriers to learning faced by their pupils.

And they are able to do so effectively because their school is co-located with a children’s centre that offers a wide range of different services for the local community.

Eradicating child poverty is something I care passionately about. It was something I was deeply committed to when I worked at the Treasury and I have worked with many of you over the past few years.

It shouldn’t surprise any of you that I have carried this commitment with me to my new role as the first ever Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.

Back in 1999, this Government set one of the most ambitious economic and social policy objectives set by any government in the developed world – to eradicate child poverty within a generation.

At that time, we had inherited an intolerable situation. Between 1979 and the mid 1990s, the number of children living in poor households had more than doubled.

By the time this Government came to power in 1997, the UK had the worst rate for child poverty in Europe – indeed, it was one of the worst of any industrialised nation.

Since then, we have managed to stem the long-term trend of rising child poverty by galvanising our efforts around our goal.

Partly through our investment in support for children and families since 1997:

– The reforms to the tax and benefit system that mean that the poorest families will be an average of £4,000 better off in real terms by April 2009;

– The 1,500 Sure Start Children’s Centres that are offering services to over a million young children and their parents;

– And the national minimum wage underpinning all of our support for low-income families.

As a result, there are 600,000 fewer children living in relative poverty now than there were in 1998/99 – the biggest fall of any EU country over this period.

But work has also been central to our ambitions – over 2.7 million more people now in work, including 335,000 more lone parents – bringing the total of lone parents now in work to more than a million.

A child of a lone parent that works is three times less likely to be living in poverty than a child of a lone parent that doesn’t. We know work – for those who can – provides the best, most sustainable, route out of poverty. Better off now, but even better off in the future.

As Michael said, and as you all know and we have discussed in recent months, we still have a long way to go. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation and many of you are questioning whether we can sustain our level of progress.

And I share your disappointment that last year’s figures – for the first time since 1999 – showed an increase in the number of children living in poverty.

In every typical class of 30 children in our schools, 6 or 7 of those children are still living in relative low income poverty. In areas such as London, this figure rises to nearly half.

So meeting the 2010 goal to half child poverty and our 2020 goal to eradicate it altogether is not going to be easy. But I want to be clear that we’re not going to abandon these goals just because the going has got tough. This is when we need to redouble our efforts and when we need to try even harder.

The measures we recently announced in the Budget and in the PBR will take an estimated further 300,000 more children out of poverty. I know some of you are disappointed we have not done more. But our commitment is genuine and real.

Rightly, you will always be campaigning for more immediate help to lift children out of poverty. And when I joined the Chancellor of the Exchequer at No 11 Downing Street last month to meet the End Child Poverty rally, we all agreed that we wanted to see more resources to support families living in poverty.

But I know you will also agree with me that, if we want to eradicate child poverty altogether over the next decade, we will need to have a much broader, all-encompassing approach. It is vital that we prevent children who are in primary school today from becoming tomorrow’s impoverished parents if we are to meet our 2020 goal of eradicating child poverty.

Because this is not a problem we can simply buy our way out of – it’s as much about what we do in children’s centres, in our schools and in the health services we provide for families. It’s as much about how we are preparing our children and young people for work as how much we are investing.

This is why we have taken a series of broader decisions over the last few months. And I believe there are reasons for us to be optimistic about our potential to meet that goal because we now have:

– A new department

– A new joint child poverty unit

– New, simpler but tougher PSAs to drive more action on child poverty locally

– A Children’s Plan being published tomorrow.

I would like to say something about each of these in turn.


Let me start with the new department. For the first time, we have a government department – the Department for Children, Schools and Families – that exists to champion the needs of children and young people.

For the first time, all policy for schools, children’s services, youth services and the Respect agenda have been brought together in one department.

And my department shares responsibility for youth justice with the Ministry of Justice – and I am actively working with Jack Straw on how we tackle the causes of youth crime because our approach must be based on prevention.

For child health with the Department of Health.

For children’s sport and play with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

For alcohol and drugs with the Home Office.

And of course, with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Treasury for child poverty.

Understandably, many of you will be wondering what this will mean in practice – is it simply a superficial rebranding exercise or is it a more meaningful change that signals that we are going to do things differently?

I am committed to making sure it is the latter by focussing on all the barriers to learning faced by all today’s children and young people. As the Department for Children, Schools and Families, we can make sure that – at a national level – we are focusing every policy that relates to children and families on tackling child poverty. And we will be able to drive local leaders – from lead members and directors of children’s services to children’s centre managers – to see the work as part of our shared challenge to tackle poverty.

But collaboration at the centre of government needs to be matched – or even exceeded – at a local level.

That’s why we are supporting the LGA’s Narrowing the Gap project, led by Christine Davies.

And that’s why we will champion all the good examples of integrated working between Children’s Information Services, Children’s Centres, Extended Schools and Job Centre Plus.

We need this to become the norm, not the exception, if we are to provide the best support to all parents and families.

Central to this is the provision of affordable, accessible and reliable child care, so that parents can go to work – and fulfil their own ambitions – safe in the knowledge that their children are being well looked after.


Second, our new joint Child Poverty Unit. This is the working expression of how we will do things differently. Sitting in my department, it brings together expertise from DWP and my Department under one banner – and will enable us to co-ordinate our efforts to tackle child poverty more effectively, engaging both local leaders as well as strengthening action across central government, working with the devolved administrations. I am looking at what we need to do to meet our 2020 goal with Alistair Darling and Peter Hain.

One of the most important things about the new unit is that it will be outward facing – it will actively seek and incorporate your views and expertise.

I am very grateful to Martin and to Barnardo’s for allowing Neera Sharma to be seconded to the new Unit.

And I am delighted to announce that we have now appointed a new Head for the Child Poverty Unit – Caroline Kelham, who joins us from the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, where she has recently been leading work on the Government’s Good Childhood Enquiry.

Under Caroline’s leadership and with your support, the Unit will address all policy relating to child poverty – employment, education, health, housing, family and child wellbeing. Its first major task will be to map across government all that we’re doing to tackle child poverty and moving in the right direction.


Third, the new PSA announced in October reaffirmed our commitment to half child poverty by 2010.

But in addition, we have a whole set of simpler and also tougher targets that will, in the long term, lay the foundations for us to eradicate child poverty.

It’s important that, for the first time ever, we have a target not only on raising the achievement of all children, but on narrowing the achievement gap and making sure all young people are on the path to success. We see that as vital if we are to break intergenerational cycles of poverty, not just lift children in the current cycle out of poverty.

We will share responsibility for the Child Poverty PSA with the Treasury and with DWP. A board of senior policy experts will oversee delivery of the target. They will report jointly to Alistair Darling, Peter Hain and me, so the emphasis is firmly on joint working. But again, I want to be clear about this. It doesn’t just mean that, once a year, we’ll listen to a progress update on whether we’re going to meet our target or not. Alistair, Peter and I all see this as something we need to drive forward on a day-to-day basis if necessary – if that’s what it takes to meet the 2020 goal.


Finally, tomorrow we are publishing the first ever Children’s Plan, to put the needs of families, children and young people at the centre of everything we do.

Building on a decade of reform and results, and responding directly to what we heard from parents, teachers, professionals, and children and young people themselves, it will reinforce our commitment to eradicating child poverty and ensuring that all children and young people are happy, healthy and grow up to be successful.

It will consider what more we can do across all of the services we provide to help poorer families in areas such as childcare and children’s play.

It will also set out what more we can do to help narrow the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.

There are early signs that the attainment gap is narrowing – the latest figures show that the gap in GCSE average point scores between pupils receiving free school meals and those not narrowed by 6.2 points from 2004 – 2006.

But we know we need to do more. That is why we have allocated more money for children’s centres, money to support disadvantaged children to access enriching activities through extended schools and one-to-one tuition for those who are falling behind.

And the Children’s Plan we will set out what we can do to get excellent individual services – Sure Start centres and mid-wives, schools and GPs, youth centres and youth offending teams – working together with parents and services co-located in schools to spot problems early, tackle barriers to learning and then act effectively. That is our vision for schools in the 21st century and 21st century children’s services to make England the best place to be a child.

You will no doubt already have heard that we are committing an additional £18 million to provide home safety equipment for families living in the most deprived circumstances. Because we know that children under five from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are much more likely to die or be injured as a result of household accidents.

We also know that disabled children are much more likely to be living in poverty than non-disabled children.

Today, and on top of the £280m to fund short breaks that we allocated in Aiming High for Disabled Children, I can announce that I am allocating £90million over the next three years to invest in facilities to help disabled young people go on short breaks with their peers.

As you will know, since 1973, we have been investing in the Family Fund to support severely disabled children and their families on low incomes. We will now also provide £8.4 million over the next three years to allow us to raise the age threshold of Family Fund support to include young people aged from 16 to 18. That means 16,000 more grants over the next three years for the families that need it most.


There’s one particular point I’d like to raise with you again today and I know that you have been discussing this morning – what we can do to gain more public support for our efforts to reduce child poverty.

We agree we need an ambitious campaign which creates the space and provides the impetus for real progress:

– forging new alliances and empowering new groups to join the campaign

– winning the backing of the voluntary sector and faith groups

– building a broad-based, cross-party consensus in our country around tackling and ending child poverty is the only way to meet our goal.

Over the past few years, you have made real progress.

You’ve almost trebled in size, bringing in members from new areas and sectors to build much broader support around the shared goal of ending child poverty.

And you’ve always maintained a constructive dialogue with Government, focussing on the long-term prize.

Yet we know that we still sometimes have a hard enough job convincing local leaders and practitioners that they have to take child poverty seriously and do what needs to be done.

And emerging findings from research undertaken by my colleagues at the Department for Work and Pensions mirror your own concerns – that there are significant public misconceptions about child poverty, and that many people don’t think child poverty exists in Britain – or fail to see the connection between children living in poverty and poor health or poor achievement in schools.

We need to work with you to ensure more and broader support. And we will do so.


I’d like to end by thanking you for your ceaseless energy – keeping the focus inside and outside government where it needs to be. Your work is invaluable in helping us turn this ambitious – but vital – goal into a reality.

And as we begin to look in detail at how best to achieve our target of eradicating child poverty by 2020, it is important to recognise that many of the parents and young adults of 2020 are children and young people today.

It should no longer be acceptable for poverty to be something that’s inherited by successive generations.

It shouldn’t be an automatic marker for poor health or underachievement.

Breaking that cycle is an important part of what our Children’s Plan sets out to do.

In 2005, when the global economy was in a downturn – when the going got tough – we redoubled our efforts and we rose to the challenge of tackling child poverty.

I and my colleagues in Government are determined to do so again. But we need your support and we need you to continue to work with us to help us to achieve our goal.

Thank you.

Arthur Balfour – 1902 Speech on Becoming Prime Minister


Below is the text of the speech made by Arthur Balfour in the House of Commons on 14th July 1902 on becoming Prime Minister.

I can assure the House that it is not easy for me to express in adequate terms my sense of its kindness on this occasion. The right hon. Gentleman, in the words he has spoken, has really moved me more than I can well say; and the manner in which his most kind observations have been received, not only among my own friends and supporters, but among Gentlemen on the other side — with whom I am so often brought into what I hope is never unfriendly collision— I can assure them I feel most deeply. In fact, I am quite incapable of saying anything more.

By leave of the House I think I ought to say one word, though it will only be one word, about the distinguished statesman whose services the country has lost by the new arrangement which has been entered into. It would be improper, and, indeed, impossible, for me to express my personal feelings on the subject, nor would it be any more proper, though it would be easier, to express the loss which Gentlemen on this side of the House, and the Party to which I belong, feel on the subject. But it is the glory of British statesmanship that we have never regarded our Party Leaders, because they are Party Leaders, as otherwise than representative of the country of which they are statesmen. And when I remember that Lord Salisbury has been, I think, four times Foreign Secretary, and three times Prime Minister, and that probably there has not been a man in our generation whose name has carried more weight outside this country, and who has done greater services to the State within this country, I think it will be felt that I can hardly allow the occasion to pass without expressing my deep feelings of the immense public loss which this country has sustained in his retirement from the public service.

Vera Baird – 2007 Speech on Legal Aid Reforms


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, Vera Baird, on 13th March 2007.


I am grateful for the opportunity to address this conference. We have just seen in those video clips the importance of advice in helping the most vulnerable in our society. It is no coincidence that my ministerial responsibilities include both legal aid and social exclusion. Advice, both specialist legal advice and general advice, can make a real difference in lifting people out of difficulty. I want to talk to you today about the benefits of early advice and consider what legal services should look like for rural areas in the future.

Let me begin by recapping on the founding principles that are part of the advice system for which I am responsible – legal aid. Flowing from the Rushcliffe Report in 1945 and enacted in the 1949 Legal Aid and Advice Act, it was decided that a “judicare system” should be set up so lawyers would cater for the needs of the poor as well as the affluent. The poor would be able to receive legal advice so as to prosecute and defend a legal right and both counsel, like me, and solicitors would benefit from fair remuneration for what was clearly important services.

These principles were right then and, I believe, they are right now. We have to move the system forward so that it is sound for the future. What happened was that, unlike now, only lawyers increased on what they already did and broadened the client base, but it was all based on history, it was never planned to ensure the adequacy of supply. So in some places there was over supply and in some undersupply. It was a haphazard, piecemeal approach, which is how it has grown. Following a lot of development and consultation, the Community Legal Service was launched in April 2000. Its aim was to make the provision of legally aided and other advice services less fragmented, and to allow people to be sure to get the local advice that best suited their needs.

That is our commitment. It is vital that people can get good quality legal information and advice. I have no doubt at all that many of you in this room will know why. You will have seen the positive effects that the work you have carried out has had on your clients.

However, the case in favour of advice gets stronger when we combine the experience that providers, like you tell me about, with the evidence base from Pascoe Pleasence and the Legal Services Research Centre that we have now. We know from material produced by the Legal Services Research Centre that the provision of good early advice prevents relatively simple civil issues from tumbling into multiple problems causing distress and chaos.

A client may have a problem with their welfare benefits, and be unaware of the allowances to which they are entitled. Without that income they may be unable to meet financial commitments which in turn leads into a debt problem, which could lead to housing problems, family strain and family problems. It is easy for these problems to become more complex. Early legal advice is so important to prevent things from spiralling out of control.

Causes of Action, the bedrock of Pascoe Pleasence’s research, shows that the likely outcome is that people and problems can do well with advice. But if someone has a problem, but does not get help, they will tumble into problems. However, if they get some advice but it does not deal with the whole problem, the outcome can be worse. This was the evidence base on which the Community Legal Service Strategy, ‘Making Legal Rights A Reality’ was launched, almost a year ago.

Since then another piece of research ‘A Trouble Shared’ by Professor Moorhead, has shown that people tend to present with multiple problems, often in inter-related clusters, and vulnerable people have more problems which stress them, so they cannot deal with them themselves. Yet in half of the sample, if they got advice, a few weeks later when they were re-interviewed, they had other problems which the advisor had not unearthed and they were not helped. Often the problems were linked so were exactly in the same category, and the problem was worse than before they got advice. Advisors do not deal with issues seamlessly and if is not their expertise, they don’t see the problems even when they are linked. They don’t refer on well and because stressed and vulnerable people don’t go to appointments, they fall into poverty and worse.

Community Legal Service Strategy

The Strategy sets out the Commission’s intention to purchase legal services in ways that reflect clients’ problems and make it easier for them to access services. It will be a more holistic service, contracting with clients, which in short means providing a more holistic service and contracting with suppliers who can provide advice across several areas of law. At the moment there are few suppliers providing the comprehensive service clients need. The two main organisations delivering advice, Law Centres and Citizens Advice Bureaux are a case in point. I hugely admire the ethos of both, and I met with the Law Centres Federation yesterday. At present only one Law Centre provides services across the full range of core social welfare law categories – Community Care, Housing, Debt, Employment and Welfare Benefits. The most common number of categories delivered by Law Centres is three. It is a similar picture for CABs with the majority of bureaux – 134 holding contracts in two of these core categories.

The nature of our current supplier base does not therefore support the individual in helping them to resolve multiple problems. That is not to diminish in the slightest way how good the current service is being delivered. But it does mean that we have work to do to ensure that holistic service is available. So we propose establishing Advice Centres and Networks to enable us to better join up services and deliver an integrated and improved service that meets clients’ needs.

So what does this mean in practice?

Since the Strategy was published there has been much discussion with interested parties about the distinction between a Centre and a Network. In essence there is not much of a difference; both will offer the full range of social welfare law services and ultimately will operate under a single jointly commissioned contract. But on the whole Networks rather than Centres are the name of the game.

While the model for Centres is based on pulling all the key services into a single legal entity, Networks would bring together a consortium of organisations to provide services. Networks would therefore be likely to have multiple providers able to provide similar complimentary rather than competing types of advice.

The core objectives for any Network will be firstly, that once a client contacts any part of the Network they will have access to the help they need to resolve their multiple problems; and secondly, to reduce the amount of times a client needs to be referred on, avoiding the fallout I referred to.

Networking suppliers has been attempted before within the CLS, mainly through Community Legal Service Partnerships (CLSPs) and of course informal networks also exist throughout the CLS. While some individual networks have been successful in creating better referral processes for clients, The Independent Review of the Community Legal Service concluded that, overall, CLSP referral protocols were not working. It was found that clients are often referred inappropriately, signposted, or not referred at all.

To add value to current models of delivery it is essential that we improve the referral of clients. An ‘end-to-end’ service in Networks must go beyond just signposting clients to other local organisations but instead operate a full client management system. This will mean effective joint working and clients between appropriate Network members and will include the referral of a client where a Network member cannot do more. Those are the principles behind the strategy but each Network will be different. Models for Networks will vary according to local need and on the local supplier base and the quality and quantity of local provision. It is not about imposing the same template brought out from London, we will build on what is there.

Partnership working

One common theme of Centres and Networks will be partnership working. We can only deliver legal advice, not general advice. We need to ensure people get the right level of advice, relative to the severity of their problem.

Centres and Networks will bring together our core funding for specialist legal advice together with local authority funding for more general advice. Joint commissioning will have the added benefit for us, of combining local authority expertise in patterns of local need together with the Commission’s expertise in ensuring quality and value for money in the procurement of legal and advice services.

The LSC will commission the core bundle of social welfare law categories together with family. The budget for each area will be derived through a national funding formula so as to ensure that each area of the country receives an appropriate allocation for needs. The allocation of funding will no longer be based merely on the historic national pattern of spending that has just grown.

Recent discussions between the LSC and Cornwall County Council have been a great success in forging a strong working partnership between these two major funders of advice services in Cornwall. And it gives me great pleasure to be able to announce today, that the Council and the LSC will be working in partnership to develop a Community Legal Advice Network for Cornwall. Following the success of Gateshead CLAC, which is just starting and I am opening in May, Cornwall is the first CLAN and I am very pleased that it is the first model for what I think reflects rural and semi-rural areas.

Whilst it is too early to speak about the proposed network in any great detail I can say that this is good news for those in Cornwall, in need of legal advice. It will involve building on the work Pascoe demonstrated to locate the troubled, in a systematic way, to plan advice services as a whole. We will work out how to deliver it despite rural, transport and demographic problems. We have to engage practitioners about what they do now, how they work and who is delivering to whom, how they outreach or not and where supply types are good. A lot of work will need to be done over the coming weeks and months to develop the advice Network for Cornwall. The LSC and Council will publish further information in due course and will be seeking the input from local solicitors on how the network can be delivered so as to effectively meet client need.

Different forms of advice – technology

Obviously these days, delivering advice is not just about going to an advice agency or a solicitor’s office. In rural communities, and particularly in places like Cornwall where distances between towns can be vast, there needs to be a variety of provision. Community Legal Service (CLS) Direct, for example, offers free information and advice to everyone by phone (0845 345 4 345), the Internet (www.clsdirect.org.uk) and a range of legal leaflets. This service can be particularly helpful for those living in more isolated geographical areas.

Whilst the service is by no means intended to replace face-to-face advisers’, I am aware of the weaknesses, such as more vulnerable and complex issues may not emerge, but it has huge value. In half of cases, problems don’t emerge face to face, especially not the vulnerable. Research tells us that already around half of legal aid clients make first contact with an adviser by phone; and half of these solve their problems without visiting a solicitor or advice office.

Telephone advice can work better, as some people are reluctant to walk through the door of a lawyer’s office, as they are ashamed of their problem and find lawyers intimidating. Telephone is easier, less judgemental and you’re more in control and can hang up if they are not getting the advice they need. You will hear more about CLS Direct from John Sirodcar later this afternoon but the numbers and satisfaction rates for the service look very good with over 70,000 cases being handled through the service in 2005/06 and projections for 100,000 cases in the next twelve months.

But it is important that we don’t stop there – the phone is not enough, the advice sector needs to continue to develop innovative ways of delivering advice. We should be thinking about provision of e-mail advice for clients, particularly those with disabilities, who are not able to access face-to-face services. It is not just the young who e-mail, older people do too. We should consider how we can build up online advice tools like the one being developed by the Consumer Credit Counselling Service for people with debt problems. This works well, organised by credit card and local suppliers through internet contact. We need to think about using webcams to give advice directly to people’s homes. This afternoon you will be hearing from The East Cornwall Citizens Advice Bureaux Initiative and how they are looking to use video conferencing to cut down on the need to travel long distances. All around us in our daily lives we see technology getting smarter, quicker and more economical. We should make the most of that in delivering advice.

Impact of fixed fees and outreach

Although the main focus of this conference is access to advice and how services should work together to provide for rural communities, I also briefly want to touch upon the changes to legal aid fee schemes that will be introduced from October this year. It is well known that after consulting, we changed the detail and timing of the proposals and will support practitioners throughout the change.

I want to stress that not one penny is being cut from the budget for these cases. Money is being sliced in a different way. But those fees include all the amounts appropriate to the elements of vulnerability and complexity currently experienced by providers with their clients. Fixed fees are about standard cases. If a case becomes more complex – 3 times the level of the fixed fee – it goes out and is dealt with on a hourly basis so you can deal with vulnerable people and multiple problems. We will support the transition for the NfPs.

All proposals have adhered to rural proofing guidance. The LSC will, as the conference shows, as we are here, ensure that all roll-out of proposals set out in the Way Ahead, closely take into account rural needs and with Cornwall CLAN at the forefront is how we ensure that.

Some areas are better supplied than others. One of the aims of the changes will be to bring about a redistribution of supply to meet gaps in provision. Moving to a national fee should encourage growth of supply across the country. The LSC has looked at how providers would fare under the new fees based on their current workload and case lengths. More than 60% would improve profitability under the scheme. In other words the majority of providers in this region are already working at levels that will see them make a profit out of fixed fees. It is imperative that we use fixed fees to drive that up so that more people can be helped, many of them are already doing this.

Across the country productivity of not for profit agencies increased by 19% over the past 12 months. But this figure assumes that providers will be working in exactly the same way as they are doing now. They need to reorganise to pre-empt the reforms coming in October.

Crucially, the proposals enable outreach to continue to play an important role in serving more remote communities. Regional offices continue to have resources to agree extra payments for outreach work where this is needed to secure access. This applies to all services, whether delivered via Centres, Networks or the unified contract. As a matter of practice, regions have been making payments to NFPs for some outreach arrangements by agreement. These are usually to cover travel time and costs but some may include other expenses and why not client’s travel time if it is easier and not problematic. This discretion for regions to make extra payments for outreach where they consider it necessary for access, will continue after 1 April 07.

There are some excellent examples of outreach within West Cornwall in particular. Penwith CAB hold the Specialist Quality Mark in debt & welfare benefits and cover Penzance, Hayle, St Ives and Isles of Scilly. Kerrier CAB hold the SQM in debt, welfare benefits and employment and cover Redruth and Camborne. These services will be able to continue under the new payment schemes. Peripatetic advisors are necessary in some places – we understand the need for outreach.


This event demonstrates the depth and breadth of organisations working to deliver advice across the region. Most importantly it demonstrates a real commitment from you and us to overcoming issues about distance and access, in order to help some of the most vulnerable people in our rural communities get advice. The CLAC will combine yours and the council’s local knowledge and our funding for core legal advice and the council’s financial commitment to general advice to work together to provide, on a planned basis, the best advice supply to the public there has ever been. Your work does make a real difference and I am championing that across government. I hope you all enjoy the remainder of the day and I look forward to taking your questions on the panel.


Vera Baird – 2006 Speech on Equality Through Justice


Below is the text of the speech made by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State of Constitutional Affairs, Vera Baird, on 11th November 2006. The speech was made at the Law Centre’s Federation Annual Conference at Salford.


Good afternoon, I want to thank the Law Centres Federation for asking me to speak to you today. The theme of this conference is equality through justice. It will not be news to any of you here that the DCA and LSC are currently in the process of analysing the responses to the recent consultation exercise held, following Lord Carter’s review of legal aid procurement. Ensuring equality through justice is what the Carter proposals are all about. This is a message I reiterated when I met Not for Profit providers during the summer. We need to make changes to the system to make it more efficient, so that we can use our money well, to get advice to more people. We also need, specifically, to rebalance criminal and civil legal aid spending to put more resources into that project.

So I want to speak to you about two principle issues. Firstly about the Carter review. And secondly about the future of the Community Legal Service, and the role of the Law Centres Federation.

1. Carter

Legal aid is a key part of the welfare state, with whose history you are well aware, flowing from the Rushcliffe Report in 1945.

Since then our country has changed dramatically, But publicly funded legal advice and representation hasn’t kept up with the pace of change.

The system has grown organically, with suppliers providing what they want to provide, rather than being developed in a planned, systematic way, to provide what people need. This is not a criticism – in particular not of you, who have always been very close to your communities. It now needs to be made to work better. Which is why Lord Falconer asked Lord Carter to look at how legal aid services were being procured. And why I believe that we can use the blueprint he has created as the basis for a sustainable future which ensures continued, equitable, access to justice.

I know that in recent weeks there has been some talk about the government’s commitment to the Carter reforms. So let me make this clear right at the outset: we are absolutely committed to fixed and graduated fees. I will not shrink from defending that principle which I think can drive improvements. But of course, the exact shape of some of the reforms needs your input, which is why we consulted, and why we are listening to what respondents have told us.

Fixed and graduated fees need to be appropriate to the nature of the work. We want providers to be able to do the most effective job and to have incentives related to this. And we certainly need an effective supply base.

There is no getting round the fact that the legal aid budget is finite. This is something that is not going to change so we need to continue to work within our funding parameters. It is not under-funded. It is the best system in the world but it is also by far the most expensive system. It is therefore vital that we ensure that every pound of the Legal aid budget is spend on delivering effective and high quality advice services to those who are most vulnerable and disadvantaged. I strongly believe that we can get more out of the Legal Aid budget if we can deliver it as efficiently and effectively as possible.

This is why we need to bring these reforms in as quickly as possible, subject to getting them right. The money available for legal aid is limited and the longer they take to introduce, the more will existing cash pressures be an issue that cannot be dodged. These reforms are designed to provide a viable long-term solution – rather than forcing us to make short term, reactive changes to individual schemes, to no useful end.

In terms of the Law Centres Federation’s specific response to Carter, there are a few key points I would like to pick up. I know you have concerns about case mix, and the potential for ‘cherry picking’, and point out that often Law Centres take on many complex cases that other suppliers won’t. It should not be necessary or appropriate to turn away more difficult cases as standard fee levels are based on average case costs that include a range of complexity.

The LSC is still considering suggestions on fee levels as part of their continuing data analysis. We want all suppliers to be capable of taking on all types of case, including complex ones, so we do not want our fee regime to encourage some suppliers to take on only the most complicated cases.

Adapting to the proposed changes will be easier for some of you who are already working under Solicitor contracts. However we intend to ensure that appropriate advice and support is made available to all organisations, that need it or want it, throughout the transitional period, as the new arrangements are brought in. In particular, a gentle supportive transition will help agencies, currently on contracts for hours, to manage the proposed change in payment methods from advance to arrears. It is clear that we can’t just change from one to the other or anything like that and we will discuss how to phase in the changes and work out a way to value work in progress. I know that now you are being asked to ensure that you provide hours and then you will be asked not to provide hours at all but to do cases on a fixed fee basis and clearly we have to be helping with that cultural transition as well.

The Legal Services Commission is responsible for purchasing specialist legal advice from the legal aid budget. We probably ought not to have been providing Level 1 generalist work and that will no longer receive funding from the Commission. However, the value of generalist diagnostic work is clear and we are in no way looking to scrap this work. Clearly the proposals for Community Legal Advice Networks (CLACs) and Community Legal Advice Centres (CLANs) which foresee combining LSC and local authority money in providing holistic advice ought to point a way forward for funding this.

I know the Law Centres Federation has also made some quite detailed comments on the Immigration and Asylum section of the consultation. The graduated fees proposed have been designed to be as flexible as possible, consisting of standard fees for Legal Help and Controlled Legal Representation advice plus additional payments for representation at each interview and hearing attended. We believe that the proposed scheme represents a workable and fair average for the work undertaken at the different stages of the case, whilst maintaining cost-neutrality of the total immigration and asylum budget. However, of course, all responses are currently being considered and the scheme will be reviewed in light of the comments, information and cost data received and where fees are cost neutral it is easier to take more time to fix them.

I know you are concerned that these reforms will reduce your ability to hold providers of public services to account. This is certainly not our intention. In fact, an argument I am keen to sell to my colleagues around Government is that using the feedback from advice agencies is an excellent way to identify where things are going wrong and to take steps to improve services. The movement to fixed fees offers opportunities for the best agencies to expand. The most efficient NfP providers will be able to retain a surplus equivalent to private firms’ rate of profit. That surplus will be unrestricted funding and can be used to develop other services, such as lobbying or campaigning.

Although the LSC are understandably looking to deal with fewer, larger suppliers, the proposals do still offer the opportunity for small, entrepreneurial and BME firms to both exist in the current market and to increase their profitability. The proposal of a minimum fund-take as a pre-requisite for obtaining or keeping a Unified Contract, should not automatically mean the loss of a contract. Those agencies that seek to remain small, locally-based or niche providers, can play a key role as sub-contractors or as the general advice providers within Community Legal Advice Centres and Networks. I have made clear that there will be a diversity impact assessment on all of these proposals to ensure that there is no unjustifiable disproportionate effect on these suppliers.

2. The future of the CLS, and role of Law Centres

The need for providers to work together brings me onto the future direction of the Community Legal Service and the role that Law Centres can play. The DCA/LSC want to build on the valuable services delivered by advice agencies such as Law Centres – not replace them. Through the CLS Strategy the point is to work with advice providers in creating fully integrated and holistic services that provide clients with a full range of high quality advice and legal services.

Law Centres are central to this aim and work with some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in society. That work is made possible by committed and dedicated staff. Work that has had an immensely positive impact on the local communities that you serve.

Complex and interlinked problems require integrated and holistic solutions. This is what evidence, such as the Legal Services Research Centre’s Causes of Action tells us. To achieve this providers will need to change the way they work (for example through linking together to deliver services via the CLAC/N models), to ensure that clients are offered a more holistic service. You will be aware that the research shows that problems cluster and if there isn’t early advice they can multiply. You will know that people quickly succumb to referral fatigue if they are referred on and that someone with a problem who seeks help and only gets partial advice can suffer a poorer outcome than someone who doesn’t seek advice at all.

It is also important to note that the CLAC/N model is not set in stone – we are willing to work with suppliers, Local Authorities and other key stakeholders in developing models that work locally and involve local expertise. It is in everyone’s interests that we demonstrate flexibility.

The key, intrinsic, point about CLACs is that they will offer integrated advice services across a range of social welfare law categories.

At present only one Law Centre provides services across the full range of core social welfare law categories – Community Care, Housing, Debt, Employment and Welfare Benefits. Five Law Centres offer advice in just one of these core categories; nineteen, twenty-nine, and three Law Centres offer advice in two, three and four of the core social welfare law categories respectively. And of course Law Centres do not do much Family advice. Some new research from Richard Moorhead and another called “A Trouble Shared” shows that though not the most frequent problem cluster, which is debt-welfare benefits-housing, the cluster of problems around family breakdown is the most complex and potentially the most serious, and that makes clear how important it is to have advisers available who can work together on all the aspects of an individuals problems either literally in a one-stop shop or in some closely integrated arrangement.

Let me make it clear, we owe the Law Centres who work tirelessly up and down the country, and all the staff that work within them a huge debt. I am in no way trying to denigrate the absolutely crucial and first class service that you deliver. Quite the opposite in fact, in many cases, Law Centres will be excellently placed to bid for CLAC contracts, and I would strongly encourage Law Centres to do this. “A Trouble Shared” was based on watching advisers interviewing and later interviewing the client – and there was also a process of reviewing a larger number of files. Of the 59 interviews recorded, subsequent conversation with the client suggested that in 28 cases the client had problems other than the one dealt with which had not been brought out or not dealt with. Sometimes this was a linked problem and that does suggest that we still have a lot to learn about ensuring holistic advice.

But, if there is one thing I can say to you today above all else, it is this. We want to build on the expertise and community presence held by Law Centres. We would like to see Law Centres at the heart of CLACs and CLANs. Can I encourage Law Centres to work together and in partnership with other advice providers so that our service becomes systematically client- focused?

I hope that you can see the various reforms we propose not as obstacles but as supports towards improved services and I look forward to working with Law Centres as we move forward.

Thank you all for your time this afternoon.

Paddy Ashdown – 1999 Liberal Democrat Conference Speech


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown, at the 1999 Liberal Democrat Conference.


The easy thing for me to do today would be to give you one of those sort of end of jumble sale speeches, where you say thank you to everyone, and say what a success it all was.

Well, there are a great many people who deserve to be thanked.

But I have always tried to avoid making comfortable speeches to you. And I see no reason to make this an exception.

My first ever speech to you – 11 years and 22 conference speeches ago – was about signposts for the way ahead.

I’d like you to treat this one, not as a signpost, but as a message left behind for you to consider as you plan the future under our new leader, Charles Kennedy.

And incidentally, a word about Charles.

In choosing him you have, I believe, chosen a leader of exceptional ability, who will, I have absolute confidence, lead us to greater and greater success in the future.

I look forward to being able to support him in that task. And I know that you will give him and the Party the same unfailing commitment which has made our successes possible over the last eleven years.

And now, a brief look back before looking forward.

Eleven years ago, the first thing we did in the Liberal Democrats was take our liberal agenda and update it.

That new thinking gave us the distinctive messages, which won us the votes, that made us strong, that gave us a role to play on the field of politics as we do today.

That’s the order. First the ideas; then the votes; then the influence; and then the power.

Recently, we have talked a lot about strategy. And rightly so.

But no strategy will work, unless we have something fresh to say and offer something distinctive to vote for.

As a Party, we now have some of the most long-established policies in British politics.

And that can be good.

We have been a party ahead of our time.

Many of our most long-standing policies are actually being implemented. Many more have stood the test of time.

But in some areas we are, I fear, running the risk of becoming rather lazy and complacent in our thinking.

If we Liberal Democrats will not think afresh, then we risk falling into the easy trap of leftist, oppositional politics. And that would mean making ourselves irrelevant again for a generation.

Political parties are always prone to bouts of introspection. We love discussing ourselves with ourselves. We too often believe that all the important questions are internal ones.

They are not.

We live at a time when the questions before us are, quite literally, of global proportions.

Before I say my goodbyes, I want to talk to you about two of these.

I make no apologies that I have spoken to you of them before. Because I believe they are at the centre of the new politics, which we should be at the centre of.

The first is the globalisation of power.

And the second our growing interdependence on each other.

They are the two big facts of our times.

You know, whenever, in history, power breaks free from the structures created to control it, change becomes inevitable – often violent change.

So it was with the barons and Magna Carta. So with Cromwell’s Parliament and the King. So with the growth of industrial power and the Great Reform Act.

And so it is today.

Power is accumulating, often with frightening speed, in the hands of the global players – the commodity brokers, the internet operators, the satellite broadcasters, the multinational traders. All operating unfettered and unlimited by the structures of any government or the constraints of any ideology, or the limits of any creed or culture.

We have begun to talk about this at this Conference.

But do we yet realise the scale of what is involved ?

Here is a thought for you.

A nations currency, perhaps more than anything else today, is seen as a symbol of its national identity – look at the destructive emotions so easily stirred up by the anti-Europeans in this year’s elections. And look out for more of it – much more of it – at the next General Election.

Yet the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, speaking at a conference of central bankers three weeks ago, said that the growth of internet trading risks making central banks completely irrelevant. And with them, incidentally, the capacity for Exchequers to collect taxes for public expenditure – and so for governments to govern in the traditional modern sense. Indeed there is no reason why private firms like Microsoft or News International, should not set up their own currency for internet trading and investment. The Gates Groat. Or the Murdoch Shilling. Rupert’s Rupee!

And that is only one example of the changes that globalisation will bring

Here is the inescapable fact.

Power is now moving, increasingly, beyond the confines of the nation state and is rapidly making many of its institutions irrelevant.

We must start taking global governance seriously.

The nation states, their governments and their politicians are going to hate it. But the longer they leave it the more powerless they will become; the more chaos will be caused and the more painful the transition.

If we as the Party of internationalism will not lead this new thinking, who will?

We will need new doctrines for international intervention in places like Kosovo and, more recently and tragically, East Timor. New structures to enforce control of global pollution; new ways to harness the power of the global market place whilst placing limits on its capacity to destabilise and disrupt.

The new world order needs institutions and rules to match.

But if globalisation is the most important change in the exercise of power in our age, then our increasing interdependence on each other is the key condition that governs our existence as individuals.

The question that has plagued me is this. If nation states cannot any longer protect their citizens from the effects of global power, who can ?

That question took me all the way back to that great revolutionary and thinker, Tom Paine.

The times may have changed, but the question hasn’t. We may be talking about global power, not the power of kings. But the central issue remains: How do we give people dignity and control over their own lives?

And the answer remains, by giving them power and encouraging them to work together.

We used to look on society as a machine. Well ordered, neatly constructed. If only the right person pulled the right levers in the right order – hey presto! All would be well. Marxists believed this. Socialists believed it. Some Social Democrats – forgive me – believed it. Some Liberal Democrats still seem to believe it. And Conservatives, above all, believed it.

And they were all wrong.

Society is not a machine. It is a living, breathing organism, like the people who make it up. It needs to be understood as an entity. Each portion is dependent on the other. Damage one and you damage the whole.

Now we need a name for this idea. And the one I am going to use is mutualism – or, at the risk of offending – new mutualism.

I have tried to persuade you of this idea before. I first wrote about it 10 years ago in ‘Citizen’s Britain’. And I have become increasingly convinced that this idea of mutualism lies at the centre of the new politics.

One commentator, Peter Kellner, says this about it:

Mutualism understands that: we have both rights and responsibilities…. It seeks to rescue the virtues of co-operation and the principles that gave birth to the co-operative movement, from the strangling embrace of socialism. “What matters is not where power comes from, but how it is used, how it is checked and how far it is dispersed”.


Mutualism recognises that our own capacities and self reliance, together with the strength of the communities we live in, matters, probably, more than the governments who govern us, or the nations we belong to.

Here is a theme for liberals, in the widest sense, in the years ahead.

How do we create mutual economic structures, that recognise the common shared interest and interdependence of shareholders and customers and workers?

Do we understand that Governments have a duty to regulate market behaviour, but ought to avoid becoming a market player?

Do we accept the revelation that markets too, are social institutions, whose players, too, have responsibilities as well as rights?

Do we recognise that the key equality that we seek, is not equality of outcome – or even, as I used to think, equality of opportunity – but equality of access?

And do we understand that, because of this, the free market and strong competition are the best means by which ordinary people can get access to what is otherwise always going to be dominated by the bandit capitalists and the economically powerful ?

Perhaps most difficult of all for us as self confessed radicals; are we prepared, to liberate the great institutions that deliver our public services – education, health, justice, welfare – from the clammy embrace of corporatism, whether national or local, in order to make them human in scale and responsive to the interests of the consumer, not the producer?

We have become far too staid, far too conservative – yes, conservative – in our thinking about public services in the Liberal Democrats.

As liberals, our place is to be on the side of the citizen, not the state. Of the consumer, not the producer. What matters is not who provides the service, but how good the service is.

You know, in Jo Grimond’s time we used to have a slogan. “We hate the Tories. But we distrust the state”. It’s not a bad one for the years ahead!


Now to the bit I’ve dreaded.

I hate good-byes. So I will use the words of one of my heroes, William Wilberforce.

A few days before his death he wrote his last letter to a friend who had asked him, how he had done this extraordinary thing, the conquest of slavery. He wrote this:

We did not march as a marshalled army towards a distant obelisk. We travelled the highways and byways, gathering friends and flowers as we went.

Over the last 11 years we have travelled many highways and by-ways together.

And Jane and I have gathered so many friends and so many flowers.

You have given me, quite simply, the pride and the purpose of my life. To have had the privilege to lead you has been the greatest thing I have ever done _ or ever will do.

And you have been a great Party to lead.

Which is not the same thing, incidentally, as an easy Party to lead. You have been uncompromising at times, when I wanted you to bend a little.

Uncomfortable at others, when I could have done with an easier ride.

You have been unbelievably stubborn when I tried to take you in a direction you didn’t want to go.

And unbelievably curmudgeonly at times when I thought I was delivering you a success.

But you have been recklessly generous in forgiving my faults.

Indomitable, especially when we had to face defeat.

And through it all, you have done all I have asked of you and more.

So often I left Westminster tired and dejected, to go out to meet you and campaign with you, in the knowledge that it was my job to inspire you. But ending up with you inspiring me by your trust and your hope and your unshakeable will to win.

And we have achieved great things together.

Things which they said could not be done – but which we have done. We have given millions of our fellow citizens the benefit of government informed by the things we stand for.

We have helped to bring a tidal wave of change which will, for ever, alter the nature of the country that we serve.

We have laid the foundation stone, at last, for a modern Britain, in which the liberal ideal will be stronger and more relevant than it has been since the very earliest years of this century.

It has been a privilege to have been a member of this Party these last 11 years, let alone its leader.

And I have been able to hand over that leadership to Charles Kennedy, with pride and love and confidence.

I can think of no good way to end this.

So I will do so with what my grandmother used to tell me was the Irishman’s blessing.

May the road rise with you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. And the rain fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.