David Gauke – 2011 Speech to the Tax Journal Group

davidgauke

Below is the text of the speech made by the then Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, to the Tax Journal Group on 9th November 2011.

Good afternoon, and thank you for inviting me to speak here today. It’s a pleasure to speak to so many of the leading legal and business executives from the tax industry.

The businesses that are represented today from the backbone of our economy, and are the driving force for our recovery.

Your companies and your success are critical to meeting the growth challenge, creating the jobs, driving the investment, and stimulating the innovation that we need.

But the businesses here today, and the businesses represented on the panels throughout this conference haven’t assumed the position of domestic and global leadership through mere luck. They have done so through enterprise and ambition.

And it’s the same endeavour that this Government supports to lead us through tough economic times.

It’s no small challenge. We are still in the midst of an economic crisis that stretches back three years. What was once the worst financial crisis in almost a century, a crisis of private and banking sector debt, has transformed into a crisis of sovereign debt.

The focus today is on Greece and Italy, but it’s easy to forget that when we came into Government there was much concern about the UK’s fiscal credibility.

Because we inherited a dire economic situation. The largest peace time deficit the country had ever seen, borrowing one pound for every four that we spent, with Standard & Poor’s putting our AAA rating on negative watch.

But through the toughest Spending Review in decades, we set out plans to eliminate the structural current budget deficit by 2015.

It was a plan that meant S&P took us off negative watch. It’s the reason the market continues to back our debt, with gilt yields falling record lows in recent months. When we came to Government our rates were tracking the likes of Spain and Italy. But we managed to break rank, and now we’re tracking the likes of Germany.

And those low interest rates make a real difference to businesses refinancing debts, and households paying mortgages. An interest rate increase of just one per cent, would take as much as £10bn out of families’ pockets, and would bring unbearable pressure on businesses across the country.

Fiscal consolidation is not an ideological commitment it is an economic necessity. And as we face continued instability, now is not a time to change tack. We have to stick to the plan and we will.

But fiscal consolidation begs the fundamental question…where should the burden lie? Spending or taxation?

In our Spending Review we were clear…the burden would fall on spending. Restoring spending as a share of the economy to a level closer to its historical average.

All the international evidence and experience suggest that consolidation through spending restraint would be more likely to promote growth.

Hand in hand with that, we have to ensure that we have a tax system that supports our businesses.

In today’s globalised economy, tax competitiveness is arguably more important than ever.

After years of tariff reform, technological advance, and information revolution we are operating in a much more fluid world economy.

Globalisation and the free movement of capital and labour have created vast new opportunities, and indeed the UK has capitalised on these. And in difficult economic times like these, free and open markets are the most powerful tool that we have for a global recovery.

But globalisation also brings challenges…where our competitiveness slips, we can very quickly be left behind. And more often than not, business success in the UK has come in spite of rather than because of our tax system.

In 1997, the UK had the tenth lowest main rate of corporation tax in the EU. But by the time we came to office, we’d slipped to 20th

According to the World Economic Forum, on an overall measure of competitiveness, in the last decade we slipped from 4th to 12th in the global league table.

We are committed to reversing the decline that has marred the last decade or so.

First and foremost that means making our tax system an asset. Making sure that we have a tax system that supports growth and doesn’t stand in its way.

Our ambition is to create the most competitive tax system in the G20.

This is a big challenge. But it’s one that we can meet even as other countries rise to the task.

In fact I was struck by comments by the former Labour Cabinet Minister, James Purnell in an article in the Financial Times only last week. In it he argues that the British state has is ‘good at fixing problems’… Thatcher after the Winter of Discontent, Tony Blair on the health service, and he also lists, the Chancellor George Osborne through the deficit reduction plan.

Compare our resolve in tackling our deficit with the fiscal deadlock in the US this summer, or the monetary hesitancy in the Eurozone. In James Purnell’s words, not mine, “Britain’s state governs. It’s one of Britain’s real competitive advantages.”

We are committed to creating a tax system which is competitive and stable will provide business with the confidence to invest and expand over the long term.

Higher taxes on profits simply make the UK business environment internationally uncompetitive…reducing the returns on, and the incentive to invest…undermining productivity to the detriment of our private sector and our wider society, rich and poor alike.

That’s why we are reducing the main rate of Corporation Tax by 2014 it will reach 23% – the lowest rate in the G7 and one of the lowest rates in the G20.

We are resisting the European Commission’s proposals for an EU financial transaction tax. Whilst we support the idea in principle, it can only work if implemented globally. Even the Commission itself estimates that the current proposal could reduce EU GDP by as much as 3.4% of EU GDP, that’s €422 bn. And, as the Chancellor said in Brussels yesterday, the tax will be paid by pensioners not by banks and bankers.

Furthermore, as a home to many of the world’s biggest Multi-national companies, our approach to tax needs to reflect the realities of dealing with companies stretching around the world and over different jurisdictions.

A competitive tax system should recognise that fact.

Central to doing that is a move towards a more territorial system of taxation.

That is why we have taken steps to reform the taxation of foreign branches, introducing an opt-in exemption from corporate tax for the profits of foreign branches of UK companies.

And it’s why we are also taking action to improve the Controlled Foreign Company (CFC) rules… rules that have been in place since 1984 and have become outdated.

The consultation on new CFC regime closed at the end of September and I would like to thank all those who have contributed to the debate that has taken place over the summer. You have given us much to think about and I am grateful for the level of engagement from the industry, including from many of you here today.

There will be an update on the CFC proposals in the next few weeks, ahead of the publication of draft legislation, and we remain determined to embed a competitive CFC regime.

However any reform to the tax system has to consider the issue of fairness alongside that of competitiveness.

Facing the deficit that we do, we have had to make difficult decisions on tax….decisions that at times necessarily involve a trade off with competitiveness. But decisions that nonetheless ensure that we embed a tax system that is fair.

Firstly, we inherited the 50p rate of tax from the previous Government.

And we have kept the rate as a demonstration of our commitment to share the burden for reducing the deficit. But we nonetheless understand that higher marginal tax rates are not good for the UK.

We believe that making this permanent would do lasting damage to the UK’s economy which is why we have repeated that this is only a temporary measure.

Secondly, the bank levy.

We believe that it’s right that banks make a full and fair contribution to cutting the deficit, and a fair contribution in respect of the risks they pose to the UK economy.

It is also intended to encourage banks to move to less risky funding profiles. Encouraging them to look to more stable sources of funding rather than flighty short term funding. Because as we saw in the crisis, a liquidity shock can all too easily turn into a system wide seizure.

Banks need to be more resilient to those shocks. Look to secure stability for the long term, working with the grain of our wider reform programme, to underpin a sustainable and stable economy.

But the levy balances that imperative, with our commitment to maintaining the UK’s presence as a leading, global financial services centre.

In delivering tax policies, there are times where it is necessary to make trade-offs.  There are times when different objectives take us in different directions.

But I think it was helpful for the Chancellor, in his March Budget, to set out his principles of good taxation for a modern age.  They are that:

Our taxes should be efficient and support growth.

They should be certain and predictable.

They should be simple to understand and easy to comply with.

And our tax system should be fair, reward work, support aspiration and ask the most from those who can most afford it.

I have said something about how we have made our tax system more efficient and growth supporting.  And about the need for fairness.

But let me say a little about certainty and predictability and simplicity.

Because there are always pressures to add to the complexity of the tax system.  Usually, this is as a consequence of the belief that the tax system should be used not just to raise revenue but also to achieve other policy objectives.

And, of course, there are times when tax can do just that.  For example, it is legitimate for the tax system to encourage expenditure in research and development.

We know that there is a market failure that needs to be corrected because firms reinvesting in R&D cannot capture all the benefits that accrue from investment in this area.

And there is a place for using the tax system so that externalities are incorporated into the cost of a good, for example.

But there are those that argue that we can go further, that we distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ business practices and tax them accordingly.

On examination, this raises many issues.  Some would say that we should favour ‘long term investment’ versus ‘short term speculation’.

But should the tax system encourage people to hold onto an investment for longer than they want to solely to benefit from a tax break?  That would damage economic efficiency.

We could see whole business models facing a changed tax regime because of the activities of one or two businesses that attract negative headlines – thus damaging predictability.

And the history of providing tax breaks to encourage particular types of behaviour has often resulted in avoidance opportunities that have proved to be very expensive.  Which was then followed by complex anti-avoidance provisions.

There is always a risk that attempts to use the tax system to influence behaviour can result in additional complexity and uncertainty for businesses.

So, for the avoidance of doubt, it is not the Government’s attention to assess all businesses and divide them into producers and predators.  And then apply different tax rates to them, perhaps with a ‘predator surcharge’.

Of course, such an approach would place considerable extra demands on HMRC.

HMRC already faces a substantial and difficult task to effectively protect the tax base, ensuring that businesses and people pay what they owe.

We want a tax system that supports business, that demonstrates that the UK is open for business, but doesn’t leave the tax base open to exploitation.

It’s impossible to protect low and competitive rates, if we’re not prepared to protect the tax base.

This isn’t something that can be achieved through sabre rattling however.

How companies experience the UK tax system is as important to tax competitiveness as the headline rates that we set.

It means that our approach to tax collection has to be as intelligent as it is vigilant.

That’s why I support the work of HMRC’s Large Business Service. And it is why I think it is right than an approach of constructive engagement between HMRC and taxpayers is in the best interest of maximising revenue collection, and expanding business activity in the UK.

It’s an approach based on cooperation and trust. Trust from Government in business not to engage in aggressive avoidance. And trust from business in Government and HMRC to treat them fairly and work in complete confidence.

With ever increasing complexity of business affairs, increased cooperation is the only route to efficient and competitive tax systems. It goes hand in hand with the headline reduction in tax rates.

We’ve come a long way in the last year alone to restore UK competitiveness.

Indeed, according to the World Economic Forum, for the first time in a decade the UK has moved back into the top 10 in the global competitiveness index.

But we still have a long way to go, and in difficult economic times it is vital that we work together to understand what more, or indeed what less, our Government can do to boost competitiveness and promote growth.

I look forward to working with you all in the years to come.

David Gauke – 2011 Speech to the Hundred Group

davidgauke

Below is the text of David Gauke’s (the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury) speech to the Hundred Group in London, made on 1st March 2011.

It is a great pleasure to be here today.

I know that the PwC Total Tax Survey is in its sixth year… but I think this year’s event – and the findings that Susan has just set out – are particularly timely.

When public finances are incredibly constrained – where difficult decisions are being made on public expenditure – the interest in business taxation has rarely been greater.

Indeed perhaps the easiest, or the most politically palatable approach to bringing down the deficit would be to concentrate on raising business taxes.

That, however, has not been our approach.

We need a pro-growth strategy to get us out of the mess we’ve inherited.

And this means that the UK must remain an attractive place to do business.

A place where you want to locate, invest, and succeed.

Which is why creating the most competitive corporate tax environment in the G20 is such a priority.

Not only through annual reductions to the mainstream rate – bringing it down to just 24% by the end of this Parliament

But also through the introduction of a patent box – making the UK an attractive location for innovative industries.

Moving to a more territorial system – through reforms to the foreign branches and CFC regimes.

And improving the way in which we make tax law – taking a more deliberative and consultative approach.

This has included innovations such as the corporate tax roadmap… and publishing finance bill clauses in draft… both of which have been warmly received by the business community.

As I believe that a Government who are focussed on supporting economic growth must ensure that we have a corporate tax system that is an asset to our economy, not a liability.

A tax system that encourages businesses to come here in the first place, not the reason they move away.

And that this is in the best interests of everyone.

Yet there are considerable challenges we face when trying to get this message across.

First, there is a perception that the total tax contribution businesses make is restricted to the corporation tax they pay.

Yes, corporation tax is important…

…but as the work carried out by the Hundred Group and PwC demonstrates…

…our largest firms make a vital contribution in terms of business rates, irrecoverable VAT, employers National Insurance Contributions, as well as the income tax and National Insurance Contributions paid for employees.

The second challenge we face is that people believe – or at least give the impression they do – that corporation tax is somehow a victimless tax, not paid by real people.

Of course, as with any tax, the incidence will ultimately fall on someone.

As far as corporation tax is concerned, the question is whether the burden falls on shareholders (largely in the form of pension funds) employees (through lower wages) or consumers (as a result of higher prices).

The consensus, among economists at least, is that it’s predominantly the employee who foots the bill.

And it is testament to the lack of understanding of this fact that – when this point was made to a member of UK Uncut on Newsnight – his response was to say that this demonstrated the unfairness of the tax system.

It is rather like someone complaining about the law of gravity if an apple fell on his head.

And the third misperception is that a competitive corporate tax system somehow involves being weak on avoidance.

This Government is determined to be tough when it comes to reducing avoidance.

As part of the Spending Review, we strengthened HMRC’s capacity in this area.

Under our watch all the major banks have signed up to the code of practice on taxation for banks.

In December, we set out bold policies to tackle longstanding avoidance opportunities, including disguised remuneration.

And we have asked Graham Aaronson QC to explore how a General Anti Avoidance Rule might work in the UK and what it would look like.

Because we all know, at the margin, some people try to be too clever by half in an overly aggressive pursuit of lower tax bills.

The truth is the public will not wear this – especially during times like these.

And as their representative, nor will we.

But it is equally unhelpful to try to exaggerate the scale of the problem.

We have all seen some campaigners choosing to stoke the fires of public opinion.

It is a feature of this debate that legitimate behaviour by taxpayers – consistent with both the letter and spirit of the law – is being classified as ‘avoidance’.

This action artificially inflates both estimates and perceptions of the ‘tax gap’.

It is, I think, to the credit of Richard Murphy, author of the oft-quoted TUC tax gap estimates, that he acknowledges the use of allowances and reliefs within his calculations.

Only last month he wrote that:

‘It is a persistent argument of business that the tax gap on corporate profits (which I have estimated to exceed £10 billion a year in the UK) is not the result of any form of avoidance at all, but simply the use of perfectly acceptable allowances and reliefs.

And some of it may be… of course that has to be true.’

And he then went on to argue:

‘…[that] the use of such reliefs is a valid element in the tax gap.’

That is not my view, nor, I think the view of most people.

But it does demonstrate the difficulty and confusion that can exist in this area.

Where a combination of complexity in the law, fluidity in definition and, quite rightly, a strong desire on the part of the public to see that everyone pays what’s due, can often conflate the problem.

It is not surprising, therefore, that individual businesses – some of our biggest high street names, even the guardian media group, whose publications regularly provide comment on tax, for instance – are finding their individual tax affairs under intense public scrutiny.

And it strikes me that this won’t be the last of it.

It will just run and run.

At present many of the more questionable assumptions that fuel this campaign are taking place without effective rebuttal.

So, having set out the challenges that faces a Government wanting to put in place a competitive tax environment, let me set out a challenge to business.

I know that, for most businesses, the sensible course of action is to keep a low profile here.

To avoid being drawn into a contest that is both complicated and unpredictable.

But although that might make sense for the individual, there is a danger that the collective voice of business is getting lost.

We could have a better-informed debate over the coming years if businesses were willing, perhaps, to be more transparent about the tax they pay… and explain the story behind the figures.

At a time when, across the board, the public expect greater openness…

…I think it could be in your long-term interests to engage more forthrightly in this discussion.

To set out your own position. To be more robust on the essential contribution you are making individually to reduce the deficit.

Yes, that may mean greater scrutiny and, for some, this could be uncomfortable.

But it could also be an opportunity… an opportunity to address some of the myths and confusion that exist.

That’s why I welcome the work undertaken in respect of the Total Tax Contribution.

It is a valuable source in the debate

And a constructive first step towards meeting one of the key communication challenges for UK business over the coming years.

A first step toward, generating and maintaining public consensus in support of an effective and competitive tax system in the UK.

Thank you.

David Gauke – 2011 Speech to the Financial Executive Network Group

davidgauke

Below is the text of the speech by David Gauke, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, at the Financial Executive Network Group, on 27th January 2011.

Introduction

Thank you.

It’s a pleasure to be here this morning and to talk a little about the Government’s approach to taxation.

As the Minister responsible for tax policy making, I’m well aware of the issues that have detracted from our tax system.

That businesses require more certainty if they’re to make plans for the future.

That there’s a pressing need to ease the burdens placed on the individual taxpayer.

And that taxation in Britain is far too complex.

In short, we need a simpler, more stable tax system, and this is what I’d like to focus on today.

How the tax system is not simple

Because under the previous Government, simplicity took a backseat to other objectives and constant tinkering.

Whatever the motivation, the lack of strategic direction and the willingness to use taxation in an attempt to meet a range of goals led to increased complexity and further instability…

…dare I mention the almost yearly changes to the small companies’ rate?

And one would only need to look at the evolution of the tax code to get a flavour of the problem.

Since the turn of the century it has almost exploded… more than doubling in size in just ten short years.

In fact, almost amusingly, it got to the stage where Tolley’s began using a smaller font in a fraught bid to keep down the number of pages.

We also witnessed the introduction of two fiscal events for every financial year.

A Pre-Budget Report that carried just as much weight as the Budget.

Each one jam-packed with tax amendments.

Amendments that were almost always made under the veneer of consultation.

While in reality, businesses often had little or no say in tax policy, let alone the frequency of these changes.

During my time in Opposition, I remember having a conversation with one company director who said he’d resorted to hiring staff just to monitor HMRC’s website… as this was the only way his firm could keep track of the spiralling myriad of complexity coming out of Whitehall.

And all too often, this desire for constant change led to ill-thought-out proposals.

All this served to show that policymakers needed to think again about the way tax law is made in this country.

Reform was needed.

And it’s reform that this Government has promised.

With stability and certainty being at the heart of our approach.

But as a Ministerial Team, we’re also mindful of the constraints we face as when trying to grapple with these issues.

The challenges we need to address.

And the complex balances we have to strike.

The first set of these are financial, as we deal with Britain’s debts.

I can tell you it is humbling to enter the Treasury as a Minister for the first time, and face a situation where the country is borrowing a pound for every four it spends.

The excitement of that first red box, was tempered by the amount of red ink in the first briefing. And the experience inevitably stays with us as we contemplate the tax reform this country needs…

…as we consider how we reform our tax system to assist long term, sustainable economic growth.

The second challenge is that of time.

In our 24/7 news culture, politicians have to deliver progress, and usually the deadline is yesterday.

There’s a constant pressure for immediate announcements and rapid impact.

This is something to which the previous Government too often succumbed.

Yet in tax policy, short-term gains are often in tension with fundamental long-term reform.

So we’re setting ourselves against the patchwork quilt, knitted by constant change in the tax system. But at times this doesn’t sit easily with proclaiming on a regular basis that “something must be done”.

And third, there is the balance to be struck between genuine and open consultation and the desire for certainty.

We believe firmly in the benefits of consultation, especially in tax. There are well-established norms about the length of time we should consult for, and it seems only polite to adhere to them.

But we also hear business demands for certainty in our tax system.

So we find ourselves weighing up how best to consult on tax reform without creating undue uncertainty.

Above all, how can we avoid an overall sense that too much of our tax system is in flux at any one time, even as we contemplate the big reforms that businesses say they want to see.

These are challenges we face.

So the question is: how can we create a simpler, more stable, tax system in the wake of:

Fiscal consolidation.

Short term pressures coupled with calls for reform.

And wanting to be open, without causing undue uncertainty.

And our answer has been to adopt a new approach to tax policy.

One that is more focussed on the longer-term.

More transparent, more inclusive, and far less prone to the vagaries that plagued the previous regime.

Our approach to simplification

It’s about accepting that changes to the tax system are inevitable.

But the way you make these changes is not.

So we will be a Government of fewer, better thought out reforms; one that engages business throughout policy development; and one that places a greater emphasis on simplification.

This strategy has two separate elements.

The first being to look at the current stock of tax legislation, and eliminating any unnecessary complexities.

The second is about the way you introduce new tax law; the manner it’s communicated; and how it evolves from idea, to proposal, to statute.

In short, our plan to promote simplicity is shared equally between what already exists… and what’s yet to come.

So let me address each in turn.

Starting with the current stock of British tax law.

Improving current stock

Looking at where improvements can be made to current legislation is nothing new.

Prominent members of the Conservative party have been calling for this for a number of years.

That’s why, as one of our first acts in Government, we followed the advice of Lord Howe and announced the formation of the independent Office of Tax Simplification….

…drawing together individuals from across the business, tax and legal professions to provide the much needed institutional ballast, and expert advice that Government has previously lacked.

The OTS has, under the leadership of Michael Jack and John Whiting, the unenviable task of unravelling the tangled wool that is our tax system.

And as a starting point, the OTS is taking forward two reviews: one on simplifying small business taxation, and the other on tax reliefs.

Both of which will be reporting in time for the Budget… identifying options for simplification across each area.

Indeed, this work has already begun.

I’m sure you’re all aware that the OTS has already published a comprehensive list of all the reliefs and exemptions that exist within our tax system.

For me it’s striking that when they began this process in the summer, the general view was that we had no more than perhaps 400 reliefs.

Their assessment shows that we actually have more than a thousand.

Now many of these serve a useful role in our tax system, but it’s not unreasonable to ask if at least some of these reliefs are truly justified.

For example, as I’ve said, I’m all for taking a long term view of the tax system, but do we really need a ‘millennium gift aid tax relief’ when the next one’s not for another 989 years?

But we also know that abolishing reliefs is not as simple as it sounds.

That it’s far easier to give tax breaks, than to take them away.

And that behind every relief, and every exemption, is an interested party who’ll be championing its cause.

We understand all of this.

And in many cases, there may well be good evidence to support a specific relief.

But if we’re serious about simplification, we’ll have to make tough choices.

Yes, there’ll be some losers… this is inevitable.

But there will be far more winners.

Because this is no zero sum game.

The work of the OTS is looking to improve the tax system as a whole.

Reducing complexity.

And ensuring that our tax system works in everyone’s interests.

So that as we get rid of reliefs.

And level the playing field.

We will create a tax system with a broader base, and lower rates.

With overall impact that will be beneficial for the both taxpayer and the British economy.

Tax Policy Making

While the OTS is playing a valuable role in improving the stock of UK tax law…

… we also recognise we’ve got to watch the flow of new measures.

Yes, we need a simpler tax system, one with fewer exemptions and fewer reliefs.

And this means change.

But a little paradoxically, I know that businesses need greater certainty.

As a Government, we’ve taken this as a call to create a more transparent framework within which tax policy is developed…

…a framework that will improve the quality of tax law and the way tax policy is made.

It’s our intention to put simplicity and stability first.

This means setting out our long-term ideas for reform.

Allowing ample time for the scrutiny of Government proposals.

And giving businesses the opportunity to help develop major tax changes.

We kicked off this process in November by outlining our plans for Britain’s Corporate Tax regime.

This reiterated our commitment to lower the headline rate in each of the next four years…

…but also, for the first time, put in place a clear timeline for when changes will be considered to the tax treatment of foreign profits controlled foreign companies; and intellectual property.

This is all part of a more deliberate approach to tax policy-making.

One that is simpler, more comprehensive, and ought to mean far fewer surprises.

In support of these objectives, we’re also allowing for greater scrutiny of our proposals through the publication of draft Finance Bills.

This convention will avoid many of the problems we saw under the previous administration… where badly constructed policies – produced in the absence of consultation – were rushed through Parliament with little consideration of their overall impact.

Last July, we released the first ever draft of the Finance Bill.

In response we received over 60 comments.

And this led to changes being made to 9 of the Bill’s clauses.

On the 9th December, we repeated this process for the 2011 Finance Bill.

Because at every stage of the tax policy-making, we want to involve businesses in our decisions.

To help improve the quality of our legislation, and avoid any unforeseen complexities.

So while I’ll freely admit that life as a Government Minister in the Treasury is very different from my time in Opposition.

That there can sometimes be a temptation to conduct less external engagement – and merely rely on the experience that resides within Whitehall.

We’ve deliberately opted against this approach.

As I understand the value that’s to be had from collecting the thoughts of those who are directly employed in the tax profession.

Who, through their own experience, have ideas about where improvements can be made… that Whitehall doesn’t have all the answers.

As a Government, we’re making engagement with external experts a real priority.

And we’ll continue to seek feedback on the way we make tax policy…

…to ensure that our choices have your backing; that you know the direction we’re heading, and feel confident enough to make long-term decisions about the future.

Conclusion

This is my promise.

And the promise of Government:

That stability and simplicity are at the top of our agenda. That they’re not simply words used for dramatic effect. But are, in fact, firmly ingrained in our approach to tax policy. That through the work of the OTS.

External engagement.

And the publication of draft legislation…

…we’re making the fundamental changes needed to create a better British tax system.

One that is simple, stable, and that is an asset to our economy.

Thank you.

David Gauke – 2010 Speech on Taxation and Growth

davidgauke

Below is the text of the speech made by David Gauke at the Policy Exchange on 22nd March 2010.

It is a great pleasure to speak at today’s event and can I thank Policy Exchange for producing this thought-provoking report.

I want to address most of my remarks to the issue of corporation tax reform and the issues related to that set out in this report.

But before doing so, I would like to say a few words about what is clearly the most eye-catching aspect of this report, the analysis of the impact on jobs and growth of changes in Employers’ National Insurance Contributions.

The report argues that raising this tax appears to be one of the most damaging ways of raising revenue.  The most striking statistic is that the Oxford Economics model predicts that a 2p rise in employers’ National Insurance Contribution means that GDP will, in three years’ time, be 2% lower than it would otherwise be.  And, extraordinarily, that unemployment would be higher by 1m.  The consequence is that, uniquely amongst the tax rises considered, it has a negative impact on the government balance.

These are such striking numbers that the authors of this report urge caution in accepting them.  But what is very striking is that the Treasury model would, apparently, show the same effect.

And this begs the question, what was the advice that the Treasury provided to Ministers in the run up to the announcement in December 2009 that NICs would be increased?

We know that the Treasury was briefing that it was unhappy about the policy and prevailed upon by the Prime Minister.

But did Ministers receive advice that an increase in employers’ NICs would have a significant impact on jobs and growth?

Given what the Treasury model appears to tell us, we can only assume that they did.  And if so, why did the Government proceed with this policy?

This report throws down a significant challenge to the Government.

What is its assessment of the consequences for jobs and growth of raising Employers’ National Insurance Contributions?

Does the Treasury model point to a substantially different impact than is claimed in this report?

Unless the Government comes clean on this issue, there is a strong suspicion that the Government is deliberately pursuing a tax rise which will increase unemployment, slow growth and do nothing to reduce the deficit.  If these numbers are right – and it remains a question – it appears that the Government has once again put politics before economics in a way that is quite scandalous.

Let me turn to the issue of corporation tax.

We have long argued that we should look to broaden the base and lower the rates in the context of corporation tax.

In 1997, our corporation tax rate was lower than the OECD average.  Now it is higher.  In 1997, our corporation tax rate was the 11th lowest, now it is 23rd. We used to have the 3rd lowest in the EU15, now it is the 6th highest.  While the rest of the world has been cutting their corporation tax rates substantially, the UK has been caught up and, in many cases, overtaken.

Although this view is not universally held, we share the view of many commentators and business groups that the corporation tax rate is one of the key measurements in assessing the attractiveness a place to do business.  It is not the only consideration, but if we are to send out a message that the UK is an attractive place to do business and locate profits, a lower corporation tax rate is an important attribute.

And a lower corporation tax rate allows moves towards further simplification.  Rate differentials drive tax avoidance behaviour and this, in turn, drives further tax complexity as the Treasury and HMRC try to prevent this happening.

We are committed reducing the headline rate from 28% to 25% or lower by reducing capital allowances and believe that the UK economy will benefit as a whole from this.  By moving towards a system whereby capital allowances more closely reflect the level of accounting depreciation, we can reduce complexity.  And, given our belief that manufacturing has an important role in future economic growth, we have been engaging constructively with the Engineering Employers Federation and we are keen to consult further on their ideas for a short life asset regime which better reflects the reality of the depreciation rate for certain assets

I have mentioned capital allowances but there are further measures that we can take that would enable us to further lower the corporation tax rate in a broadly fiscally neutral manner.

This brings me to the subject of interest deductibility on borrowings.

For some time, we have argued that there is a need to rebalance our tax system by reducing tax breaks for debt.

First, it will enable us to lower the corporation tax rate which we believe is important in itself.

Second, we believe that our tax system currently favours debt over equity.  As the Policy Exchange paper sets out, the current distortion in favour of debt makes businesses more volatile – prone to exuberant growth in the good times but vulnerable in the bad times.

We do, of course, acknowledge that tax is not the only reason why businesses choose to finance themselves with debt.  Debt can provide a degree of flexibility in financing businesses that equity cannot match and can be cheaper than equity.  For many businesses, the responsible use of debt is clearly a key element in financing.  Our focus is the desire to temper exuberance in leverage whilst not discouraging inward investors in trading businesses that generate employment in the UK.

Nonetheless, we believe that the balance of treatment within the tax system is not right and this can lead to distortions.

To take an extreme and topical case, the current structure of our tax system appears to encourage the situation whereby a successful and profitable business, like Manchester United, becomes loaded down with debt as a consequence of a leveraged buy-out.  Profits and corporation tax payments are reduced as interest payments are increased and the business could find itself in a precarious situation if its success is not continued.

This may be a tax efficient structure but it is difficult to see how this is good for the long term interests of the club, good for football or good for the country.

The Policy Exchange paper highlights the fact that if interest deductibility were to be abolished outright, the corporation tax rate could be reduced to 17%.

Rightly, the paper points out that this would constitute a very major change in the structure of our taxation system and that any such a move would need to be done with great care.  Regard should also be had to pre-existing arrangements and the critical need to avoid deterring vitally needed investment.  We have frequently stated our belief that tax reforms need to be more deliberative and consultative with better pre-legislative scrutiny – as advocated in Lord Howe’s report in 2008 – and this area is no exception.

Of course, it is very easy for this debate to be polarised into either maintaining the status quo in respect of interest deductibility or its complete abolition.

In reality, there are a number of ways in which interest deductibility could be restricted without pursuing a policy complete abolition.  We want to explore these options.  For example, we are looking at the implications of moving to a more territorial system of taxation.  We do not believe, however, that complete abolition of interest deductibility is practical.

Nobody pretends that these matters are simple and we very much welcome a wide, informed public debate about the issues.  It is important that there is proper consultation and that changes are made in a careful and measured way.  Within these constraints, it is vital that we have in the UK a sense of direction for our corporate tax system.

George Osborne has set out our ambition to have the most competitive corporate tax environment in the G20.  He has also said that we will set out our roadmap for the direction of corporate taxation in our first Budget.  This will set out a sense of direction for the next five years.  It will be a coherent strategy for where we want our corporate tax system to be in 2015 and how we will get there.  Having set out the long term changes that our corporate tax system needs, the UK can then look forward to a period of stability in this area.

This is, of course, an ambitious timetable.  However, we have already put in some serious work on this matter.

In the last few months, we have put together a panel of some of the countries’ leading tax experts to help develop options for reforming corporation taxes.  Their role is to set out some options for reform and the consequences of any approach; options which would be for the benefit of the UK as a whole.

The group includes John Whiting, tax policy director of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, Chris Sanger, head of global tax policy at Ernst & Young, tax policy adviser to Labour in opposition in advance of the 1997 General Election, Head of Business Tax Policy for HM Treasury from 1998 to 2001 and chairman of the tax faculty at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales, Stephen Machin, special adviser at KPMG and former member of the Tax Reform Commission, Bernard Glass, former tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Trevor Evans, former director of business tax at HMRC as well as other senior members of the tax professions.

Many of these people have been putting forward ideas for reforming our corporate tax system for some time.  We have effectively challenged them   to develop some of their thinking for the benefit of us all. This involves issues such as interest deductibility and territoriality, discussed earlier.  It has also been addressing how we can simplify the controlled foreign companies’ regime which we know can be a major disincentive to investment in the UK, and the corporate tax regime more generally, building on the work that has already gone into the discussions with the Treasury and HMRC over CFC reform.

Our objective is to create a tax environment that is good for business.  Good for those businesses already operating in the UK and those who wish to locate their headquarters in the UK.  But also good for those international businesses which want to invest in the UK.

We recognise that the interests of different types of business will not always be identical.  But within the framework of a broader base and lower rates, our objective is to develop a tax system that will be attractive to both outbounds and inbounds.  In short, we want our tax system to be an asset in presenting the UK as a good place in which to do business.

It is evidence of our seriousness in addressing these matters that we have engaged in this process, and are working with such high calibre people, in developing plans in this area.  We hope that this process will mean that, if elected in May, we are in position to move quickly in setting out our thinking in our first Budget.  But I want to stress that we are keen to engage with the wider business community to ensure that we get this right.

There may, unfortunately, be little imminent prospect for reducing the tax burden but there is a prospect of reforming our corporate tax system for the benefit of the UK.

We want to replace complexity and instability with simplicity and certainty.

We want businesses to be able to invest in the UK with the confidence that the UK has an increasingly competitive tax system.

And we want our tax reforms to show that the UK should be the location of choice for business.

Maria Eagle – 2013 Speech to Labour Party Conference

marieagle

Below is the text of the speech made by Maria Eagle to the 2013 Labour Party conference in Brighton.

Conference,

Do you remember David Cameron’s promise on rail fares last year? Capping future increases at just one per cent above inflation.

But remember what actually happened?

The new year slog back to work.

The first commute on a cold, dark January morning.

But the nastiest shock awaiting commuters? A third year in a row of inflation-busting fare rises – some tickets up by as much as eleven per cent.

David Cameron’s broken promise on rail fares.

Because he cannot, and will not, stand up to vested interests.

Because David Cameron will always put the privileged few before working people.

But we can’t be One Nation if we price more and more people off our transport system. If people can’t afford to live near their job, then find the cost of commuting goes up faster than their wages. If young people are told to stay in education, or find an apprenticeship, but then find they can’t afford to get there.

That’s why a One Nation Labour government will tackle the cost of living crisis. Banning train companies from hiking fares beyond strict limits. No more averaging out the so-called fare cap, but an actual cap.

Not on some routes, but on every route.

Let me say this to the train companies:

You make hundreds of millions a year, in a system that pays out more in subsidies than you pay back.

So when fares go up again in January, do the right thing:

Voluntarily cap fare rises, since Ministers won’t.

Do your bit to ease the cost of living crisis.

But if you choose not to act, then a One Nation Labour government will put a proper cap on fares.

You know, Ministers did announce a cap on rail fares last week – new maximum prices for singles and returns.

And the new cap?

£250 one way. £500 return.

And, that’s not even First Class. Conference, what planet is David Cameron on?

And it isn’t just the level of fares that drives people to distraction. It’s the feeling that the system is always trying to rip you off. You buy an off peak ticket. But nowhere does it tell you when off peak actually starts. And every train company seems to use a different set of rules.

So, yes we need to cap fare rises.

But we need a new deal for passengers too.

No more talk of Super Peak fares, meaning your season ticket wouldn’t even be valid on every train.

No more stretching peak time, when it’s actually about stretching profits.

No more confusing tickets, but the exact time you can use it printed on the ticket.

No more inflexibility when you book in advance, so you can’t get the next train – even when it’s empty.

And if you do have the wrong ticket on the train, take off the price you’ve already paid from the cost of a new one.

No more single and return journeys costing the same. Not just in one pilot area after 2015, as the government plans, but across the network.

No more charging more at the ticket office than online, just to provide another excuse to close them.

No more rip offs at ticket machines, but a new legal right to be offered the cheapest fare regardless of how or where you buy a ticket.

No more inflation-busting increases in the cost of leaving your car at the station, when it’s just another way to clobber commuters.

No more ripping people off with internet charges, just because you can’t afford to travel First Class.

And isn’t it time that all trains had wifi in the 21st century? So let’s require it in franchises.

And when train companies are paid £136million by Network Rail for delays, no more pocketing tens of millions of pounds that should be passed on to passengers.

In future, it should be paid to passengers, or not be paid at all.

Isn’t it time to end the racket on our railways, and once again put passengers before profit?

And let’s tackle overcrowding on our railways that can make the journey to work such a misery. So let’s free up space for new commuter services by moving the growth in longer journeys onto a new north-south rail line. Reducing journey times. Getting more freight off our roads.

But, unlike the Tories, let’s use the project as an opportunity to create thousands of new apprenticeships for our young people.

And, unlike the Tories, no blank cheque for any government project. So, as Ed Balls rightly says: we support the idea of a new north-south rail line but, if costs continue to rise – and the value for money cannot be demonstrated, we will have to ask if this is the right priority for £50billion pounds.

So I say to David Cameron: get a grip on this project. Get a grip on its budget. And get it back on track.

And get a grip on the chaos in rail franchising too. Entirely caused by ministerial incompetence. What an appalling, unacceptable, scandalous waste of public money.

Fifty million pounds of compensation to train companies.

Millions more to lawyers and consultants.

The expense of two inquiries.

And now Ministers forced to extend rail contracts by as much as fifty months, while they sort out the mess. And how do you think the crack negotiating team of Patrick McLoughlin and Simon Burns are doing?

With just two out of twelve extensions agreed, the train companies will pay a staggering £78 million less than last year. Enough to have ended above inflation fare rises.

Ministerial incompetence adding to the cost of living crisis.

And now Ministers have come up with a new plan to waste money. A costly and unnecessary privatisation of East Coast trains. It’s on course to have returned £800million to tax-payers. And reinvests all of its profits to benefit passengers. Profits that, from 2015, will be shared with shareholders.

David Cameron: even at this late stage, abandon this costly, unnecessary, ideological, dogmatic, cynical, wrong-headed, vested-interest driven, disastrous privatisation.

But if you go ahead:

End the nonsense that means the only rail company in the world barred from bidding is the one that is running it – and doing so well. Even the French, German and Dutch state railways can bid.

How completely bizarre that Tory Ministers have no problem with a government-run rail service so long as it isn’t British.

So, instead of all this waste, let’s reduce costs in our railway. Save money by bringing a fragmented industry together. With responsibilities currently spread across the Transport Department and multiple separate bodies, brought within a reformed and more accountable Network Rail.

Save money by ending wasteful repainting and rebranding of trains and stations with every new contract. Restore a coherent InterCity identity to national train services, regardless of public or private operator.

Not just reducing waste, but making life easier for passengers too.

Conference. To tackle the cost of living crisis, we need reform of local transport too.

Bus fares, rising by nearly twice the rate of inflation. Transport authorities, powerless to act.

Unable to insist that tickets work across operators.

Unable to introduce smart ticketing, like Oyster.

Unable to cap the daily, weekly and monthly cost of travel.

Unable to require bus companies to let young people travel free.

And unable to take control of local rail services, to create a genuinely integrated network.

All things taken for granted in London.

But David Cameron’s government is making it harder for councils to deliver change.

His franchising fiasco has put the brakes on local control over rail. His decision to rig bus funding now penalises authorities that pursue reform.

I pay tribute to Labour councils and councillors that are determined to fight for a better deal for passengers. Like David Wood, the chair of Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority, now – with his colleagues – pursuing the first ever Quality Bus Contracts. Leading the way and others will follow. Reversing the failure of bus deregulation. Tackling the cost of living crisis.

And a One Nation Labour government would make it easier. A simpler, faster route to reform. Devolved funding to give transport authorities greater clout.

Deregulation Exemption Zones, so government can give them the backing they need.

Let me say this to those bus companies that are opposing reform:

You already bid for contracts to run rail services.

You already bid for contracts to run buses in London. And across Europe.

And you can do so in Tyne and Wear.

And wherever councils want to secure a better deal.

Conference.

Let’s take another step to tackle the cost of living crisis, while improving our health and protecting the environment:

When nearly a quarter of all journeys are less than a mile, Let’s Get Britain Cycling.

On this issue Norman Baker and I agree.

He’s tried to get his Tory bosses to take cycling seriously. But while they’ve set out a plan to spend £28 billion on roads, he’s secured just £38million a year to support cycling.

And conveniently forgotten the three wasted years that followed his decision to axe Cycling England and its £60million a year budget.

Come off it, Norman: On ya bike.

So, here’s what we need to do:clear goals to increase cycling.

Separated routes.

Redesigned junctions.

Phased traffic lights.

Cycling Safety Assessments for all new transport schemes.

Restored targets to cut road deaths and serious injuries.

Duties to support Active Travel, as Labour introduced in Wales.

20mph zones, the default in residential areas.

Long term support for teaching safe cycling.

Space on trains.

Secure facilities at stations – required in rail contracts.

Sentencing guidelines reviewed.

Tough new rules on HGVs.

Supporting cycling. Increasing numbers. Improving safety.

Conference. Practical measures to reduce the cost of living.

Capping fare rises.

Reforming ticketing.

Integrating transport.

Supporting cycling.

New help for commuters. Removing barriers facing young people.

One Nation Labour, led by Ed Miliband:

Dealing with the cost of living crisis. Reducing the pressure on household budgets. Delivering a One Nation transport system that works for working people.

Maria Eagle – 2012 Speech to Labour Party Conference

marieagle

Below is the text of the speech made by Maria Eagle to the Labour Party conference on 1st October 2012.

Conference.

Families not only under pressure from energy and food prices, but the rising cost of transport too.

And only real reform will deliver a better deal.

Inflation busting fare rises. Record prices at the pump.

Contributing to the cost of living crisis.

And as I’ve travelled around the country during our Policy Review, let me tell you what I’ve heard:

Young people who say they’ve dropped out of college, because the cost of getting there was just too high.

Commuters who say their season ticket now costs more than the mortgage or rent.

That’s a transport system that isn’t working for working people.

And the response from this Tory-led Government?

After two-and-a-half years. And three transport secretaries:

Bus fares up, and one in five supported services facing the axe.

Because the Government chose to cut funding too far and too fast.

Train fares up, by as much as 11 per cent. Not for one year – but three years in a row.

Because the Government chose to increase the cap on fare rises, then told train companies they could hike some tickets by even more.

And when Labour forced a vote in Parliament last month?

Not one Tory or Liberal Democrat MP voted to limit fare rises to one per cent above inflation.

And just when commuters thought things couldn’t get any tougher:

A planned new ‘super peak’ fare.

So your season ticket won’t even be valid on every train.

Even though most people can’t just pick and choose the hours they work.

And, as if fares weren’t complex enough:

Giving the green light to requests from train companies to close ticket offices.

And fuel prices up too: thanks to a decision to drive VAT up to 20 per cent.

A Government completely out of touch with the impact of rising transport costs.

Labour would be making different choices.

Protecting support for local bus services.

Legislating to make train companies apply the fare cap on every route.

Reversing the increase in VAT, while times are tough.

Immediate measures to ease the pressure on families.

But let’s be honest:

This Government has made things worse, but transport costs were already too high.

Because there are fundamental, long term problems with our transport system.

And only real reform will deliver a better deal for fare-payers and tax-payers.

This Government’s economic failure means we will inherit the toughest pressure on public spending.

So the old answers just won’t work anymore.

Remember back to 1997?

One of our proudest achievements:

Free bus passes for pensioners.

But in a deregulated bus market, there was only one way to deliver it:

We paid the bus companies, and we watched as profits soared.

Now let’s go forward to 2015, and the new challenges we face:

Like helping those young people that I met, who said they couldn’t afford to get to college.

But if the 1997 solution was just to pay the bill, the 2015 answer can only be reform.

So, in return for the profits they make in a subsidised industry:

Requiring bus companies to deliver concessionary fares for young people aged 16 to 19 in education or training.

It’s what we mean by predistribution:

Companies acting responsibly, so that tax-payers don’t have to step in.

In Government we passed legislation to make it possible:

Introducing Quality Contracts, enabling transport authorities to reverse bus deregulation in their area.

But it remains difficult in practice.

So when the Integrated Transport Authority in Tyne and Wear decided to get a better deal for passengers, how did Stagecoach react?

They threatened to close depots, sack drivers and take buses off the road overnight.

Sir Brian Souter claimed he’d rather “take poison” than enter a Quality Contract.

And his Managing Director accused the elected, accountable transport authority of “operating in the same camp as Marx, Lenin and Trotsky.”

Just for wanting a better deal for taxpayers’ money.

And now Lib Dem Transport Minister Norman Baker has stacked the rules on bus funding against transport authorities that pursue reform.

I say to the Government:

Restore a level playing field to Better Bus Area funding.

Consider the case for Deregulation Exemption Zones.

Work with councils, not against them.

And to the bus companies, I say:

You operate successfully in a regulated system right across Europe, and you can do so here.

And only real reform will deliver a better deal on rail.

So that we can end the era of above inflation fare rises, while still delivering vital investment:

The rolling programme of electrification, set out by Labour in government.

The Northern Hub.

A new generation of inter-city trains: to be built in the North East, thanks to Labour.

What a contrast to a Tory-led Government exporting jobs by building the trains for Thameslink in Germany. An appalling mistake that they must not repeat with Crossrail.

And HS2. Delivering new capacity. Cutting journey times across Britain, benefitting cities like Manchester.

I say to the new Transport Secretary: it’s time to get behind this project in a way your predecessors failed to do.

Let’s work together on a cross-party basis to legislate for the whole route in this Parliament.

We began the job of reforming the rail industry in government.

Tackling the legacy of a botched Tory privatisation.

We created Network Rail as a not for dividend company.

Yet tax-payers still don’t get a good enough deal:

Not for the three and a half billion pounds they put into the rail industry each and every year.

We saw again this year: an out of control bonus culture, exposing a corporate governance structure at Network Rail that is not fit for purpose.

So we need greater accountability.

But the real waste comes from the costs of fragmentation:

Like the taxpayers’ money paid to private train companies, just so Network Rail can repair the track.

Even through it’s essential to run their services, and make a profit.

The same companies paid to put on the replacement bus service.

And handed £172 million last year to compensate for delays.

Even though very little found its way to the passengers who’d been inconvenienced.

And then, time and time again, the public sector picking up the pieces after private failure.

Not just the disaster of Railtrack. But companies failing to fulfil contracts to deliver services. Not once, but twice on the East Coast line.

And what have we seen, since it is no longer run for private profit?

£187 million returned to taxpayers this year. £170 million the year before.

Profit that next year will once again be shared with shareholders.

That’s if the contract isn’t won by the German, French or Dutch state railway, who already run large parts of our rail network.

Exporting profits to deliver lower fares on the continent, at the expense of passengers in Britain.

So if we were in government today, we’d provide long term certainty and stability on the East Coast line.

Not privatisation for its own sake: but a real public sector comparator.

And if resolving the franchise fiasco on the West Coast Main Line means the Government has to run that on the same basis? Then we will support them.

Labour’s Policy Review will continue to look at what we can learn from other countries, where the structure of their rail industry is more efficient – and fares are lower as a result.

And we’ll continue to look at how best to empower communities to have a greater say over local and regional rail services.

Because only reform can deliver a better deal.

And motorists need to see change too.

Instead of just talking about it, Ministers should act on their promise to crack down on profiteering by petrol companies.

And tackle the abuses in the car insurance market that drive up premiums.

And when two-thirds of the journeys that we make are under five miles:

Let’s make alternatives to driving, not just a possibility, but an attractive choice.

Not just affordable public transport. But supporting cycling and walking too.

Easing the pressure on the household budget.

And in a year when we’ve seen a 12 per cent increase in pedestrians killed on our roads and the appalling tragedy of eighty-eight cyclists losing their lives, we must have a renewed focus on safety.

I know that Patrick McLoughlin agrees.

So I urge him to restore the axed targets to cut deaths and injuries on our roads.

I congratulate The Times on their Cities Fit for Cyclists campaign.

The Government should implement the campaign’s manifesto for change. In full.

Separated cycle-ways. Redesigned junctions. Advance green lights for cyclists.

Setting aside a proportion of the roads budget to make it happen.

Supporting local authorities to extend 20mph speed limits in residential areas.

Better cycling facilities at train stations and on trains.

Safe routes to schools.

And learning the lessons for England from the innovative Active Travel legislation being taken forward by the Labour Government in Wales.

Conference:

A government out of touch with the impact of rising transport costs.

New thinking from Labour.

Immediate steps:

Protecting bus services.

Capping rail fares.

Reducing VAT on fuel.

Reform to meet fundamental long term challenges:

Empowering transport authorities to regulate bus services.

Tackling fragmentation in our rail system. Putting passengers before profit.

Cycling and walking: a genuine priority.

Because only real reform will deliver a better deal on transport.

Maria Eagle – 2011 Speech to Labour Party Conference

marieagle

Below is the text of the speech made by Maria Eagle, the Shadow Transport Secretary, to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool on 26th September 2011.

Conference.

As Liverpool’s voice in the Shadow Cabinet, I’m proud to welcome you to our fantastic city. A city transformed under a Labour government. A city determined not to be dragged back, despite the best efforts of the Tories and Liberal Democrats. And I pay tribute to the inspirational leadership of Joe Anderson as he steers our city through tough times.

And in May, Liverpool told the Liberal Democrats what we thought of their decision to sell out this city. To prop up a Tory government. We defeated them in seat after seat. And I want to welcome to his first conference our energetic new councillor for Wavertree: elected in May at just 18 years old: Jake Morrison.

It’s great to see Liverpool leading the way on transport. Outside London, the only city to take control of its rail network. Keeping fares down. And about to introduce our version of London’s Oystercard: the Walrus – the first travelcard in the country that buys more than just your ticket.

And wouldn’t it be good if London was once again led by someone who understands why transport matters? Someone who doesn’t let bus and tube fares spiral, but brings them under control. So let’s ensure the next Mayor of London is a Labour Mayor: Ken Livingstone.

Devolving funding and decision making over transport is making a real difference in our cities. But in government we didn’t go far enough.

That’s why our policy review has been looking at how we can devolve more transport responsibilities. Local and regional rail services. Investment in our roads. These are decisions that should be made locally, by integrated transport authorities. Not just in our major cities but right across the country.

And, just like in London, powers to deliver bus services in the way that best suits each community. Quality Contracts were a good start. But the incentives to use them just aren’t there and the risks too great.

In too many places: No accountability. No way for local communities to set priorities. Profits, not passengers, too often driving decisions.

So, our policy review is looking at the right way to reverse bus deregulation.

But it’s not right to say that this government doesn’t believe in devolution. When it suits them.

Like devolving to local authorities the cuts to local transport. Half a billion pounds, this year alone.

Setting back the progress we made on road safety.

Setting back initiatives to get people cycling and walking.

Cutting bus services: Reducing opportunities for young people. Increasing social isolation.

Just think back to the election. Remember the TV debates? Remember David Cameron’s outrage when we warned that free bus passes for older people were under threat? Yet he’s slashed funding for the scheme. So bus routes are being cut. And now, up and down the country, pensioners want to know: what use is a free bus pass without a bus?

And do you know what is even more despicable?

Ending reduced fares on coaches for older and disabled people. Cutting a lifeline. Causing misery and isolation this Christmas.

And who has been in the driving seat of these cuts? Liberal Democrat Transport Minister, Norman Baker. Fast becoming a modern day Beeching for the buses.

The same Norman Baker who promised to cut rail fares at the election. But is hiking them by 8%. Not for one year. But three years in a row.

Eye watering ticket prices. Not my words. But Transport Secretary Philip Hammond’s. Has there ever been a Secretary of State so out of touch with the day to day lives of millions of people, up and down the country?

And the Lib Dems just let him get away with it.

And what has Norman Baker got in return?

The centrepiece of his conference speech last week:

The Road Signs Review.

I think we know which road signs will survive his review.

No left turn.

U-turn here.

And no doubt we’ll be seeing lots more Give Way signs.

Giving way on rail fares.

Giving way on bus cuts.

Norman Baker: the Give Way Minister in a Give Way party: that’s the Liberal Democrats in this Tory-led Government.

It’s right to blame the government for bus cuts and fare rises.

But the transport companies have a social responsibility too. And since privatisation, we’ve not seen enough of it.

We’ve stood by the bus companies as the government has cut their subsidies. Now I want them to stand by Britain’s next generation.

So today I call on them to work together. And in return for the support they receive, invest some of their profits in Britain’s young people. And in time for the next academic year, deliver a concessionary fares scheme for 16-18 year olds in education or training. And if they don’t, the government should insist that they do.

And we need greater responsibility from the train operating companies too.

So when rail franchises come up, here’s what the government should do.

Not reward companies that walk away from franchises to avoid payments to Government. Then expect to bid again or carry on making money somewhere else on the network.

Not reward companies who stealthily widen peak time, to charge the highest prices for more of the day.

Not reward companies who average out the fare cap, so commuters pay way over the odds for a ticket. Even though Tory ministers tell them it’s OK.

That’s the irresponsibility at the top that Ed Miliband has pledged that a future Labour government will tackle. No more something for nothing in our privatised industries.

And let’s be honest. Our rail system is not fit for purpose and needs radical change. And I think we were too timid about this in government.

It cannot be right that the rail industry costs the taxpayer £4bn a year, yet a few at the top can walk away with hundreds of millions of pounds in profit every year.

The Tory answer? Close ticket offices. Sack frontline staff. Profit driving infrastructure, not just services. Back to the days of Railtrack.

But there is an alternative.

Isn’t it time to tackle the fragmentation of our rail industry that is the disastrous legacy of the Tory privatisation?

Because it is madness that the taxpayer has to pay compensation to train companies while track is repaired – even though it’s essential to run their services.

It is madness that the taxpayer then pays the same company again, so that their bus division can provide a rail replacement service.

I think that if your train is replaced by a bus, your ticket should cost less. But under our fragmented industry, that won’t happen. Because the train companies will just pass on the cost to the taxpayer.

The country wants us to find a better way to deliver rail service in Britain. That’s what we heard loud and clear in our policy review.

They manage it in other parts of the EU. And we can do it here.

So, over the coming months, we will be looking at the right way to bring order back to the chaos in our railways.

And let’s have a new deal for British train manufacturing too.

When the Prime Minister took his Cabinet to Derby, home of our last train manufacturer, he said he’d support local businesses. Then placed a massive order for new trains with a company that will build them in Germany.

It’s time to nail a lie.

If the government thought the tender was wrong: they had every right to rip it up and start again.

The truth? As Philip Hammond has admitted: it just didn’t occur to him.

Because this is a government that cannot think beyond the bottom line.

The local workforce at Bombardier should be proud of the way they are fighting. Not just for their jobs, but for the future of train manufacturing in this country. And we should be proud of the fantastic job that our local Labour MPs – Margaret Beckett and Chris Williamson – are doing. And the effort and resources of the trade unions, leading this fight. We stand with you and we must keep fighting for those jobs.

And let’s make sure that never again do we stack the odds so badly against Britain.

So today I say to Philip Hammond: there is no faith that your Department will give British manufacturing a fair chance. So hand over responsibility for ordering the new Crossrail trains to Transport for London, which – thanks to Labour – has a track record of buying British. And, while we’re at it, let’s show our commitment to rail devolution by letting them manage more of London’s suburban rail services. Providing another opportunity for British train manufacturing.

And let’s set out a long term strategy for investing in our rail infrastructure.

No more talk of classic rail, but a network transformed with a programme to complete electrification and introduce a new generation of high speed inter-city trains. And, yes, let’s also tackle capacity problems between north and south. And in the only credible way it can be done.

That’s why it was Labour that set out plans for a new high speed line. Not just from London to Birmingham, but on to Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds. Cutting journey times across the UK, benefitting Glasgow and Edinburgh. And, yes, bringing Liverpool under 100 minutes from London.

But the Tory-led Government is only planning to take powers to construct the line as far as Birmingham which casts real doubt on their long term commitment to delivering high speed rail in the north. They should think again and ensure the whole route is included in the forthcoming legislation.

And let’s make it a line that is affordable for the many, not the few. Because when Philip Hammond says, that if you work in a factory in Manchester you will never use it. But, not to worry, because you’ll benefit when your company director does. I’m sorry but that is a Tory vision for high speed rail, not a Labour vision. Philip Hammond may think it is a rich man’s toy, but I don’t. I know you don’t. And a future Labour government never will.

So, Conference.

We have a tough journey ahead of us.

We’ve only just set out.

So celebrating what we achieved. Recognising what we got wrong.

We’ve started to chart a new course for transport.

Putting communities in charge, here in Liverpool and across Britain.

Tackling irresponsibility at the top.

Backing British manufacturing, jobs and growth.

Affordability, our number one priority.

That’s Labour’s new direction for transport.

Maria Eagle – 1997 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

marieagle

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Maria Eagle in the House of Commons on 17th June 1997.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech in this important debate. I am particularly happy to be able to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Watts) on his first contribution, and I am sure that we shall hear many more contributions from him.

Garston is positioned to the south of most of the well-known Liverpool landmarks, and it is a mixed residential and industrial constituency. It includes some of the docks and the old industrial heartland of the city, much of which was devastated in the early 1980s. Were I to list the factories and employers who have gone from my constituency, it would be a depressingly long list. Liverpool, however, is irrepressible and the people are of the best sort. There are encouraging signs of hope and renewal, especially in the single regeneration budget partnership areas of Speke, Garston and Netherley valley.

Garston’s borders are logical on three sides—the River Mersey, the green belt at the southern edge of the city and the M62. The border on the fourth side runs almost down Queens drive, but not quite. My constituency is perhaps the most socially and economically diverse of all the Liverpool seats and as such, it has always been a volatile swing seat. It used to be a true marginal, but it has lately swung strongly to the Labour party. Although I might like to think that that phenomenon coincides precisely with my appearance on the scene, in fact it predates it. Garston’s progress to an 18,000-plus Labour majority has been aided enormously by the slow death of the Tory party in Liverpool.

Whichever of the two—the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) or the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague)—who are vying to be Leader of the Opposition is successful in grabbing that poisoned chalice, he might profitably reflect on how his party can ever again be relevant to the people of my constituency. If he finds an answer, he may well be on the way to renewing his party. As recently as 1979, Garston was held by the Conservative party, but now it is a very distant third.

Garston contains some of the most desirable and expensive housing in Liverpool, in the Woolton and Allerton areas, and has the highest proportion of owner-occupation in the city, but it also has huge peripheral estates in Netherley and Speke and some very poor private terraced property in Garston, some of which is unfit for human habitation. Unemployment is well above the national average and all indices of deprivation show Liverpool to be very poor—one of the poorest regions in the European Union. Large swathes of my constituency suffer the problems associated with unemployment and poor housing—poverty, ill health and crime, to name just three—yet the community spirit is strong.

Throughout the constituency, community-led groups and businesses have sprung up to try to tackle the problems—whether by way of credit unions taking banks to the estates, such as those in Netherley and Speke, long since abandoned by commercial institutions, or by way of employment and regeneration initiatives, the list is almost endless. SMART, ARCH, CREATE, VANT—I could go on for many hours about the good work of those organisations in my constituency, but time is short. Suffice it to say that the capacity of the people of Garston constituency to fight for improvements and life chances for themselves and their families is endless and inspiring.

Despite the efforts being made, however, regeneration is never an easy task. Some basic problems must be tackled by the Government, and I shall address one of the most basic problems in my constituency, which the Government can and should tackle—the provision of adequate housing. First, I want to refer to three of my predecessors—Eddie Loyden, David Alton and Sir Malcolm Thornton. All have represented part of my constituency and all left this House on 20 April or 1 May.

Many hon. Members on both sides will recall Eddie Loyden as a modest man, but a determined fighter for his constituents and for his strongly held socialist beliefs. A seafarer and a docker, his fight on behalf of the families of the victims of the MV Derbyshire typifies him. I know that hon. Members will join me in wishing him a long and active retirement.

David Alton was another respected representative of the Grassendale ward of the Garston constituency. He has now gone to the other place where, I have no doubt, he will continue to speak up for Liverpool.

Sir Malcolm Thornton, who left this House at the behest of his constituents in Crosby rather than of his own volition, was the Member for Garston between 1979 and 1983, so I ask the indulgence of my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Ms Curtis-Thomas) if I make some remarks about him. Our paths crossed in 1992, when I fought Crosby for Labour while Sir Malcolm Thornton fought it for the Conservatives. I came, as I recall, a rather glorious second. I recall seeing Sir Malcolm again on 2 May 1997 after his shock defeat. He was as courteous and gracious in defeat as he had been in victory five years previously. I am sure that all hon. Members wish him well in his future endeavours, whatever they are. I certainly wish all my predecessors well.

Something else all my predecessors and I share, apart from having had the honour of representing Garston, is that we have all made maiden speeches about housing. That illustrates how, across party and through time, the issue has been so important in Garston. It still is.

Council housing in Liverpool is, in the main, very poor. Of more than 45,500 dwellings, almost 27,000—over half—are structurally substandard or in poor condition. Much of the stock is ill maintained, some of it designated defective under housing defects legislation, and some which is defective has not been designated. The local authority estimates that £700 million is required to bring the stock up to standard. The standard in Liverpool council housing for heating is one gas fire. Damp, disrepair, mould growth and the consequences for the health and well-being of the occupants are endemic throughout the stock. Those consequences include needless and difficult additional burdens for thousands of my constituents who already have many other burdens to bear.

I know about this, not just because 80 per cent. of my constituency case load relates to housing problems, but from my experience before the election as a solicitor in private practice in Liverpool, specialising in housing law. During my time in the House, I want to achieve an improvement in living conditions for those in the poorest housing. Before my election, I used the courts—civil and criminal—to achieve that for those who sought my help. Now I shall use legislation. However improvements are achieved, they are long overdue.

In her maiden speech in 1945, Bessie Braddock—a well-known Liverpool Member of Parliament whom I feel I can cite because she had a connection with Bennett street in Garston—told of families of 10 in her Liverpool, Exchange constituency who were forced to live in overcrowded conditions. At my first constituency surgery after the election, I was consulted by a constituent who complained that she and her family of 10 were overcrowded in their home in Speke, yet she had no immediate prospect of adequate housing. Little seems to have changed in Liverpool.

We must do something about that state of affairs. That is why I welcome and support the Bill. It begins to tackle the housing crisis that has been worsened by the dogma of the Conservative party and bequeathed to the nation. It makes provision for the Secretary of State to take into account capital receipts set aside for debt redemption when issuing supplementary credit approvals. That sounds dry and technical, but it will get some of the £5 billion of locked-up set-aside capital receipts back into the equation for rebuilding and rehabilitating social housing. The measure is long overdue, delayed purely by the previous Government’s prejudice against social housing.

In Speke and Garston, in Netherley and Childwall valley, we need repairs and improvements to houses—and soon. I welcome other initiatives that the Government are supporting, such as establishing housing companies and mechanisms to involve tenants. I believe passionately in the strength, sense and ability of ordinary people to shape and transform their lives, given half a chance. I have a particular belief in the capacity of Liverpudlians to do that. Their solidarity, community spirit and adaptability are demonstrated every day on the estates to which I have referred. Let us ask them what they want to do, and listen to the answers.

Landlords, even social landlords, do not have a monopoly of wisdom—certainly not in Liverpool. The best of them would not claim to. I hope that, with the backing of the Government, determined to make a difference in Speke and Netherley, things will change. The Bill is a good start. Perhaps we can then ensure that the next hon. Member for Garston—who, I trust, will not come to the House for many a long year—will be able to choose a different subject for his or her maiden speech.

George Eustice – 2014 Speech on British Farming

Below is the text of the speech made by George Eustice on 25th February 2014.

Introduction

It is a pleasure to be with you today at my first NFU Conference, but I would like to begin by giving Owen Paterson’s apologies. As many of you will know, he recently had an eye operation. Owen is not one who likes to rest – as I’ve discovered – so he has been itching to get back behind the wheel, but he has taken medical advice to make sure he allows for a full recovery, so that when he does return we will once again have him firing on all cylinders.

I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the great work that Peter Kendall has done over the past eight years at the helm of the NFU. I have joked before that Peter has almost seen as many farming ministers during his tenure as the Queen has seen Prime Ministers with, I think, no less than six of us over the last eight years.

But he took over at a difficult time for the industry when the horrors of the 2001 Foot and Mouth crisis were still very much fresh in everyone’s mind but I think he leaves the NFU at a time when the farming industry has far more confidence in its future and in its ability to meet future challenges. This transformation is in no small part due to the determination of Peter and his team. He has tirelessly made the case for British agriculture and put farming back at the heart of our countryside and rural communities, so Peter: thank you for what you’ve done and good luck in what comes next.

My message today is that the industry should have confidence in its future. Firstly, as Peter pointed out, there is growing consumer interest in food provenance. People want to know where their food comes from and how it was produced, and they are increasingly looking for locally sourced products.

Secondly, we have a rising world population set to top 9 billion coupled with increased demand for more westernised foods such as dairy products and meats.

As a result, demand for food is forecast to rise by 60 percent by 2050 and that means we need a vibrant and profitable farming industry in the UK to meet this rising demand and to supply these new markets.

Flooding

But before returning to these themes, I want to start by addressing the issue of flooding and the action this government is taking to get people’s lives back on track.

We have suffered the wettest winter for 250 years and the impact has led to thousands of properties being flooded and many families’ lives being turned upside down.

As the Prime Minister has said, we understand the hardship and disruption this causes families and businesses and we will do everything in our power to help the recovery operation now underway.

It was recently put to me in an interview with the BBC that the government was only announcing the actions it has taken to be popular. Believe you me, the one thing I have learnt over the past six weeks is that there is nothing popular about handling a floods crisis but the government has pulled out all the stops to meet this crisis head on.

Environment Agency staff have been out 24 hours a day making sure that flood protection assets have been working correctly. While it is of little comfort to those whose homes have flooded, it should be noted that the flood defence infrastructure we have in place has protected over one million homes that would otherwise have been affected.

We have also set up a crisis fund of £130m to help repair damaged flood defences. We have relaxed the Bellweather rules around government support to local authorities to ensure that they have the support they need.

We have given leeway to businesses affected so that they can delay paying Business Rates and we have instructed agencies from HMRC and the Rural Payments Agency to make allowances for these businesses affected by floods.

As the problem escalated, we put thousands of troops on standby to help protect communities, and the emergency services have worked around the clock.

There is nothing like a crisis to draw the farming community together. Perhaps it’s because we are used to it!

But countless farmers have been out there helping their local communities and their fellow farmers by offering straw or shelter and fodder to help those farmers affected get through the crisis.

Take, for example, the fantastic emergency response organised by the local NFU, and supported by farming charities, at the Sedgemoor Auction Centre to provide emergency fodder to those farms affected with many other farmers offering help.

In order to continue to support the recovery in the medium term, I can announce that Somerset County Council has agreed to work with the NFU to provide a continued storage site for feed and fodder. The site will be managed by two co-ordinators bolstered by a group of voluntary organisations and local businesses in order to make sure that farmers are able to get their businesses back up and running as quickly as possible.

The government will play its part too.

Today, I can announce further details of the £10m Farming Recovery Fund.

It will assist with 4 key areas of recovery offering support with uninsured losses to help get farms back into production again.

Firstly, it will help with the restoration of grassland. Secondly, it will support restoring productive arable and horticultural land, where soil structure has been damaged. Thirdly, restoring field access for vehicles and finally, improving field drainage.

To provide fast support for those farms that have been flooded, there will be an immediate response fund with grants for up to £5000 and which will cover up to 100 per cent of the eligible costs. This will be open for applications later this week.

There will then be a second part of the fund which will be held back initially so that funds are still available to help those farms which continue to be affected but where it is too soon to be able to assess the full extent of the damage.

Once we have a better picture of the scale of the damage we will reassess the upper limit for grants and we will keep the scheme under constant review so that it remains flexible and is targeted at those in greatest need.

We’ve also made changes to the Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme to better help farms in flooded areas to build resilience and protect farm productivity in the future.

And from 1st April, rural homes and businesses affected by the floods will also have access to one-off grants of up to £5000, to help make them more resilient and better-protected from future flooding events.

Longer term, as Peter mentioned, we need to learn lessons. The Environment Agency has had river maintenance pilots underway since October.

These aim to allow farmers and landowners to de-silt their own watercourses without unnecessary red tape.

And we plan to have a new streamlined consenting mechanism in place by 2015.

In Somerset, the Environment Agency has overseen one of the biggest pumping operations the country has ever seen in recent weeks.

And we have committed to dredging the Levels as soon as it’s safe and practical to do so. We are working with local partners on a long term plan to reduce flood risk and improve resilience.

Finally, although there has been much predictable political debate about spending on flooding, the simple truth is that spending on flood defences is a major priority for this department. This government has continued to increase investment despite the challenges facing the public finances.

In the last four years we have spent over £2.4 billion on flood defence infrastructure compared to £2.2 billion in the final four years of the last parliament. In the years ahead we plan to invest record amounts.

In 2012 we increased spending by £120 million, and we insulated the Environment Agency from departmental cuts last year. We agreed an unprecedented 6-year capital settlement from 2015/16 to 2020/21 of £2.3 billion on flood defence.

The Rural Economy

But at Defra, as well as responding to emergencies, we also need to focus on creating the right environment for businesses to grow, and that requires a long-term economic plan. The rural economy is worth £211 billion a year. Rural areas are home to one fifth of the English population, yet they support nearly a third of England’s businesses. That’s around half a million businesses. Small and medium enterprises employ around 70 per cent of employees in rural areas and they are the lifeblood of the rural economy, and the engines of local growth. We need to get the conditions right for all these businesses to thrive. That means cutting the deficit, cutting fuel taxes, creating more jobs and improving skills wile sorting out the welfare system. This long-term economic plan builds a stronger, more competitive, economy and secures a better future for Britain by helping spread growth and prosperity all over our country.

For years, the rural economy and farms were ignored but today, the Government is doing everything it can to support them. And that means more jobs, more opportunities and more financial security for hard working people.

Economy and regulation

I said at the beginning of my speech that there were reasons to be optimistic about the future prospects of farming in Britain. But we will only realise that potential if we stick to this long term plan for growth. And today I want to talk about two key areas: cutting regulation and promoting innovation.

First on regulation. As many of you will know, I spent ten years working in the farming industry. And even 20 years ago, the burdens of regulation were high. It is partly because of my own experience in the industry that I want to bear down on the burden of regulation today.

This government has done a lot already.

At the beginning of this year Owen Paterson announced major changes to the livestock movement rules that we plan to implement in 2015. This will make it easier for farmers to manage movements from their holdings to grazing land.

We’ve just published the conclusion to the Red Tape Challenge on Agriculture.

In total we will scrap 156 regulations and simplify 134 more. And we’re going to slash guidance. Reducing by at least 80% the amount of guidance that farmers have to follow and saving them around £100 million a year.

We’ve also made progress on earned recognition which was one of the key recommendations of the Macdonald Review. 14 out of 31 on-farm inspection regimes now allow businesses to earn recognition, leading to reduced regulation.

Earned recognition in the Environment Agency Pigs and Poultry scheme saves farmers £880 a year. And on animal feed it could reduce the total number of on-farm inspections by 10,000 a year.

But while much has been done, there is more to do. We want to drive down the burden of farm inspections further.

We’re introducing new measures to enable agencies to target their inspections more effectively towards those businesses that pose the highest risk. And we are going to review the existing cross compliance regime to ensure that any sanctions are fair. We are pushing hard at an EU level for sanctions and penalties to be more proportionate.

So we will not let red tape hold your businesses back.

The farming and food sectors have a key role to play in this Government’s Long-term Economic Plan. They’re the drivers of local growth, and the foundation of economic security.

Innovation

But I want to talk about innovation. If we want a competitive and successful farming sector then, as well as reducing burdens on business we must also promote innovation.

After major advances in farming productivity in the immediate post war period, improvements in productivity have stalled in recent years. The UK has always had an excellent reputation for science and technology. We need to build on this to capitalise on the very real opportunities that exist for growth.

In July, we launched the first ever Agri-Tech Strategy in the UK committing £160m to translating our excellent science into industry-led, practical applications. £60 million will go on promoting the commercialisation of knowledge and £90m will go to developing world class centres of excellence in research. There has been a huge amount of interest already.

As well as innovation we need new entrants to the sector. All industries need new talent to move forward and farming is no exception. I want to move away from the position where only those who inherit a farm can own their own businesses. We need other models from profit sharing to contract farming to ensure that the bright young talent in agricultural colleges today can fulfil their aspirations. And as Peter mentioned, we need to promote the status of farming as a career in our schools.

Protecting plant and animal health

I want to say a few words on protecting plant and animal health, because safeguarding the health of plants and animals is not only vital to our environment but also to our farming industry and the wider economy, so where there are problems, we have acted.

One of the biggest threats to animal health and our livestock industry in the UK today is bovine TB. For anyone who thinks this disease is a problem for just a few farmers in remote parts of England they should just look at the facts.

Between January and November 2013, over 30,000 cattle were slaughtered, an average of over 90 cattle a day. The continued spread of this disease poses a growing threat to farmers in parts of the UK that have largely managed to avoid it until now.

We all know that BTb is a difficult disease to fight.

There is no single measure that will, on its own, solve the problem.

Instead we need to pursue a range of options which together can make a difference and turn the tide on the disease. It is why we are researching the potential for vaccines and it is why we continue to take further steps to improve cattle movement controls to limit the spread of the disease. But let’s be clear: there is no example anywhere in the world of a country that has successfully tackled TB without also dealing with the reservoir of the disease in the wildlife population.

While the badger cull policy is contentious, we believe that it is a vital element of any coherent TB eradication strategy.

Last year farmers in Gloucestershire and Somerset, the NFU, Defra and many others collectively took a very difficult but also very significant step forward in farmer-led efforts to tackle the disease reservoir in the badger population.

I pay tribute to the work of all those involved in the pilot culls often in the face of intimidation and harassment.

We have learnt many things from our experiences last summer, so it’s important that we give due consideration to the Independent Expert Panel’s report before making a decision on culling in new areas.

But without prejudging this decision, Natural England has encouraged anyone interested in a badger control licence to start planning ahead and make an expression of interest.

Exports

So, cutting red tape, encouraging innovation and safeguarding plant and animal health all set the right environment for farm businesses to grow. And I want to conclude by talking about some of the opportunities.

Yesterday I was in Dubai for the Gulfood exhibition, where over 100 British companies were present promoting British food and food catering equipment manufacturers.

Our exports to Dubai increased by 14 percent last year and there is growing demand for British dairy products and British lamb.

Owen Paterson has prioritised opening new markets since being appointed. In the last year alone we have opened up 112 markets for animals and animal products, contributing to an increase of nearly £180 million in these products to non-EU markets. The latest provisional figures show that British food and drink exports have grown to nearly £19 billion in 2013 and there is room to grow even further.

In just the last year:

– we signed a deal on pork with the Chinese that has contributed to £9 million of growth in the pork market, in addition to £12 million of growth in hides and skins;

– we secured a deal on beef and lamb to Russia worth up to £100 million over the next three years;

– we agreed a deal on porcine genetic material with China, which alongside live pig exports is worth up to £45 million over five years; and

– in October we re-launched the joint government and industry Export Action Plan, which commits us to deliver £500 million of value to the UK economy by supporting 1,000 companies with their international growth by October 2015.

The world’s population is growing. Tastes are changing and we want British Agriculture to be at the forefront of supplying these new markets.

Concluding remarks

So I want you to know that this Government backs the business of British farming. You are at the heart of our long-term economic plan.

We are working with the sector to increase resilience. And We are creating the right environment for businesses to grow and flourish. We are cutting red tape and farm inspections. We are encouraging all forms of innovation in agriculture. We are making significant progress in safeguarding our plant and animal health. Together, we are growing the rural economy.

We cannot do this without you. We need to work to ensure that the changes we make are the right ones and are implemented in the right way.

I look forward to working with you and your new President closely, making the sector ever more resilient, ever more successful.

Anthony Eden – 1955 First Speech as Prime Minister

Below is the text of the first speech of Anthony Eden in the House of Commons as Prime Minister made on 6th April 1955.

I must, first, try to acknowledge the very generous words which have been used by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and all those who have spoken in the House this afternoon – in well-deserved terms – about my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Attlee) rightly said that this is not the time for us to appraise my right hon. Friend’s work. For one thing, he is, fortunately, still among us; and we all know quite well that whenever he returns to us from his holiday he will still be the dominating figure among us.

But while we admit that this is not the time for such an appraisal, perhaps the House would permit me a very few words on this subject, because for more than sixteen years we have been so intimately associated in political work, and, as it so happens, I have never spoken about this before. As I reflect over those years, and think of them in the terms of what we yet have to do, certain lessons seem to me to stand out for us in the message of what we have done.

First, I think, in work, was my right hon. Friend’s absolute refusal, as his War Cabinet colleagues knew so well, to allow any obstacles, however formidable, to daunt his determination to engage upon some task. With that, courage; and the courage which expresses itself not only in the first enthusiastic burst of fervour but which is also enduring, perhaps the rarer gift of the two.

Although my right hon. Friend has perhaps the widest and most varied interests in life of any man we are likely to know – and that is true – I still think that his great passion was the political life and that he brought to the service of it a most complete vision. No man I have ever known could so make one understand the range of a problem and, at the same time, go straight to its core. I believe that in statesmanship that will be the attribute which many who knew him would place first among his many gifts.

Apart from these things, in spirit there was the magnanimity, most agreeable of virtues; and, let us be frank about it, not one which we politicians find it always easy to practise, although we should all like to do so. In part, perhaps, this was easier with him, because I think he always thought of problems not in abstract terms but in human values; and that was one of the things which endeared him to all this House.

Finally, as has been so well said, there was the humour — the humour based on the incomparable command of the English language, which was so often our delight, not least at Question Time. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be deeply moved by the things which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have said of him this afternoon, for he loves this House — loves it in companionship and in conflict.

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and others have been kind in their welcome to me. I enjoyed very much the Melbourne reflections. The right hon. Gentleman, with his deep knowledge of history, will not, however, have forgotten that Melbourne, although always talking of leaving office, contrived to stay there for a very long time indeed. But I have no desire, I beg him to believe, to emulate that in its entirety. For the rest, I can only say to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Father of the House, too, that I have been deeply touched by what has been said this afternoon and that, for my part, I will do all I can to serve our country.