Caroline Flint – Speech to 2011 Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Caroline Flint to the 2011 Labour Party conference on 29th September 2011.

Conference, nearly 45 years ago, in this great city, the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral opened.

Built from the donations of ordinary people, when they had so little to give.

As the dedication reminds us, they did it by touting the streets and pubs and knocking on doors like their own.

They did it with dolls and raffle tickets.

They did it with pools and bingo.

They did it with silver paper and tuppenny legacies.

They did it with cigarette and Green Shield stamps.

They did it with old newspapers and wedding rings.

They did it.

And the day it opened was their day.

That is the history of our party.

From the Christian socialism of the Welsh valleys.

To the self-help tradition of the Rochdale pioneers and the co-operative movement.

And visionary trade unionists like Doncaster railwaymen Thomas Steels and Jimmy Holmes, who moved the motion that persuaded the trade unions to create our great party.

Ours is the story of ordinary people in ordinary communities achieving extraordinary things.

They said that Labour could never win in Dartmouth.

Ben Cooper was prepared to stand up for Labour values.

And he won.

In Barking and Dagenham, when people feared the rise of the British National Party, brave men and women like Josie Channer, stood up against ignorance and prejudice

And won.

In York, Liberal Democrats said that 29 was too young for someone to run the council.

James Alexander proved that only Labour could bring the change that city wanted.

And Labour won.

Labour’s 800 – our new generation of councillors elected in May, prove day in day out that it is not age, it’s attitude that matters.

Every day, in the face of huge, frontloaded cuts.

Thousands of Labour councillors are:

– Giving voice to their communities.

– Defending the services people rely on.

– And building the good society.

The Tories like to talk the language of localism.

But it’s a strange localism that imposes cuts that fall deeper and faster on local councils and communities, than on almost any central government department.

It’s a strange localism that dismantles local services and puts blind faith in volunteers taking up the reins – because, as Ed Miliband has said, you can’t volunteer in your local Sure Start centre or library when it’s already been closed.

It’s a strange localism that sees Eric Pickles take to the TV studios to smear local councillors with cynical, politically motivated attacks.

It’s a supreme irony that a man of Eric Pickles’ stature is the Minister for Meals on Wheels.

And barely a day goes by without another missive from Mr Pickles to local councils.

Frankly, it would take more than a weekly bin collection to get rid of his rubbish.

Labour councils are showing that we are the real party of localism.

Not the party of big government, or an over-bearing Whitehall.

But the party of quality local services, of modern housing, and stronger communities.

Giving people a voice.

Giving them hope – when all the Tories offer is chaos, confusion and fear.

And I want to tell those councillors that we are doing our bit to ensure your voice is heard by the Government.

I am proud of the support my Shadow Team give to you.

So my thanks to:

Barbara Keeley

Alison Seabeck, to

Jack Dromey

Chris Williamson

Angela Smith

And Julie Elliott.

And our Lords team:

Jeremy Beecham

Bill McKenzie and

Roy Kennedy.

And most of all, our thanks to friends, old and new, in local government.

Who keep us on our toes.

And show us the impact of this Government’s failed policies.

And Dave, thanks to you. Your support has been invaluable in the last year.

Conference, one Tory MP said that chaos in the planning system is a good thing.

Well, they’ve certainly delivered on that.

Their planning reforms have already caused confusion and alarm.

But we are living in strange times when the Government reveals that the National Trust is part of a vast left-wing conspiracy

I must be going to the wrong meetings.

Of course, we all want an effective planning system that is able to meet our future needs for housing, transport and infrastructure, and which supports jobs and growth.

And that is exactly what we did in government.

Building businesses and homes, creating jobs, supporting growth.

And we did so, while we created new National Parks. And protected over 1.6million hectares of green belt.

Labour did so, while ensuring brownfield and town centre first policies.

And we won’t let them undermine this now.

It is a disgraceful sight.

To see Tory and Liberal Democrat ministers proudly publicising their opposition to local housing schemes in their back yard.

While standing in Parliament wringing their hands about the need for more homes.

Pure hypocrisy.

The truth is the economy isn’t stalling because of the planning system.

It’s stalling because of the Tories.

Cuts that go too far, too fast. And no plan for growth.

Look at what they’re doing on housing.

First time buyers waiting longer.

Fewer houses built last year than any year since the 1920s.

200,000 new homes cancelled in 18 months

Waiting lists for council houses soaring.

And only half a million mortgages provided last year.

Half the number provided each year during Labour’s first ten years.

Conference, the Tories have sucked the life out of our economy.

And hit the building industry hard.

And for every one of the housing developments cancelled there are skilled people put out of work and small suppliers put out of business.

That’s why we must kickstart the building industry by repeating the bankers’ bonus tax to fund 25,000 new homes.

And why a temporary cut in VAT to 5% on home improvements is vital.

Because George:

You might enjoy it hurting.

But it certainly ain’t working.

Conference, I am proud of what we achieved in our 13 years in power.

Proud of the one and a half million homes modernised.

Proud of the 250,000 affordable homes built in the teeth of a recession.

And proud of the 1 million extra families able to buy a home for the first time.

But I’m honest, too, that we did not do enough.

So today I reaffirm our commitment:

To a decent home for all.

At a price within their means.

In a place they want to live.

To the many people who want to own their home.

Who want to build an asset.

Who want security.

Who want a little more control over their own life.

We will support that dream.

But I also want those same benefits to be spread to those who live in social housing or the private rented sector as well.

Conference, we have ambitions for social housing.

To once again serve its original purpose.

A positive choice for many.

Homes for heroes.

Homes for those in need.

Homes for the hardworking.

And I’m not going to take any lectures on aspiration from a prime minister who believes that, if you get a pay rise you should be kicked out of your council house.

Under Labour, the private rented sector will be properly regulated, so every family that rents has security and choice.

And we will not ignore that more than a million properties in the private rented sector would not meet the decent homes standard.

It cannot be right that housing benefit continues to go into the pockets of landlords who have tenants in sub-standard properties.

Under Labour.

We will end it.

To the family who own their home but worry that their children never will.

To the older person wanting a smaller house.

But close to the church or community they’ve known their whole life.

To the son or daughter still living with relatives.

Or sleeping on the sofa of a friend.

For all those whose voice is never heard.

I say, we are on your side.

And we will fight to keep housing at the top of the agenda.

But we will only do that if we give councils the powers they need to build the homes their communities want.

In government, we were too slow to trust local councils and communities.

We were too reluctant to relinquish the levers of the state.

Too often, we looked like the party of Whitehall.

Not the town hall.

But Ed Miliband and I both know:

The only way you create stronger, safer, fairer communities is by trusting people to make their own decisions.

As our film showed, Labour Councils are pioneering new ways of delivering services.

Reinvigorating civic life.

And empowering local people.

But localism can never mean cutting councils loose.

Leaving communities to fend for themselves.

Or pitting North against South.

Where the Tories try to divide our country, we will seek unity.

Around a funding system fair to everyone, and which reflects need, as well as encouraging growth.

So that every council is able to deliver the services its community relies on.

On May 5th, we took another step forward.

From Gravesham to Gedling, Telford to Ipswich, Hull to Barrow in Furness.

In our great cities.

And in our market towns.

In our villages.

And in our seaside resorts.

Labour is regaining the confidence of the British people.

Town by town.

Street by street.

Door by door.

At every opportunity:

We must win more seats.

And more councils.

Until the Tories’ onslaught on local government is stopped in its tracks.

Today, I say to the British people:

Labour is once again finding its voice in all corners of our country.

The party of community.

The party of localism.

And in 2015, the party of government.

Caroline Flint – 1997 Maiden Speech

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Caroline Flint in the House of Commons on 2nd June 1997.

I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to make my maiden speech during our consideration of this important Bill. To be able to stand here today as the new Member of Parliament for Don Valley and to speak on behalf of my constituents for the first time is a humbling experience—humbling because I am here by the grace and good will of the people of Don Valley and because my predecessor, Martin Redmond, who served the people of Don Valley for 14 hard years of opposition, was deprived of the opportunity to stand here as a new era of Labour Government begins.

In the 10 weeks from my selection as candidate to polling day, I learnt much from the people of Don Valley about Martin. A private man, he remained living in the same village that was his home. He remained friends with the people he knew from before his election. He made time for individuals and he was regarded with warmth and affection. In his maiden speech in July 1983, Martin was able proudly to describe Don Valley’s main industry as coal mining. Now we can but say that coal mining is part of the heart and character of Don Valley, but that it is no longer the main employer. Martin saw the heavy price paid by the mining communities that are strung from east to west of the constituency as their industry closed without the necessary foresight and investment needed to build a new economic life to replace the old.

Like many constituents who supported new Labour on 1 May, Martin Redmond understood the value of work. He believed in reward for hard work, in the respect and achievement derived from a lifetime of work and in the dignity that should be the rightful reward to be enjoyed in retirement. Martin understood the corrosive effects of persistent unemployment and the dangers of enforced idleness. He criticised the insecurity that seemed to be built into too many jobs.

Martin Redmond witnessed a Britain divided between the haves and have-nots—those with work and those without, and those with opportunities and those without. Martin Redmond would have been proud of the start that this new Labour Government have made—the concerted plan to tackle youth unemployment and the plan to shorten NHS waiting lists. He would have been as proud as I am to welcome this Bill, which will make good the key pledge on class sizes for which Labour has received a clear mandate.

Don Valley’s history is steeped in mining. Every previous Member of Parliament came from mining and I pay tribute to them all. Indeed, in 70 years, the constituency has had but five Members of Parliament. James Walton, a miner, was the first Member of Parliament to represent the constituency from 1918 to 1922. He was the only Labour candidate in the history of Don Valley to have the unofficial support of the Conservatives.

I would love to boast that I am the youngest Member of Parliament in Don Valley’s history, but I am not. Tom Williams, later Baron Williams, was elected in 1922 at the age of 34. I would love to aspire to be the constituency’s longest-serving Member of Parliament, but Tom Williams served 37 years, until 1959, and I cannot imagine having such a substantial tenure. He served through great and turbulent times; his seventh general election victory was in 1945. As the right hon. Tom Williams, he then served as Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries until 1959. He made a distinguished contribution to the House and I would be proud to be mentioned on the same page in the history books.

Tom Williams was succeeded by Dick Kelley, who served the people of Don Valley for 20 years. In his maiden speech, in November 1959, Dick Kelley was concerned for the economic survival of the village communities he represented. He pleaded: These villages must be kept alive.”—[Official Report, 9 November 1959; Vol. 613, c. 72.] In the weeks leading up to the 1997 election, that view was expressed to me many times.

I am most grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for having been allowed to make this speech so soon after my election to this House. I would love to have claimed that I was the quickest of the six Don Valley Members to have made a maiden speech, but that honour remains with Mick Welsh, who was Member of Parliament from 1979 to 1983 and who was later the Member for Doncaster, North. He addressed the House just 20 days after the general election. In his maiden speech, Michael Welsh celebrated the genuine community life of the mining villages of Don Valley. Those men embraced, celebrated and championed Don Valley’s culture and communities for the best part of a century. I celebrate it, too.

Don Valley is a changing constituency. It is perhaps fitting that I am the first woman to represent it. I am not from a mining background. At the time of my selection, try as I might to discover that a distant grandparent had once spent a long weekend in Don Valley, I could not. I determined then that honesty was the only policy. My curriculum vitae announced, I won’t try to kid you that I’m from South Yorkshire. I’m not. Labour party members, and subsequently the electorate, welcomed me with warmth and friendliness to put down roots in the constituency, as they did for so many people before who moved from the four corners of the United Kingdom to make Don Valley their home. Indeed, I am very proud to have been made a life member of the Official’s club in Edlington, and to have been presented with a badge bearing the white rose of Yorkshire and welcomed as an honorary Yorkshirewoman.

In his 1941 book about Don Valley entitled “Old King Coal”, Robert W. L. Ward wrote: Men from Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Durham, Northumberland, Wales and Ireland came in hundreds, bringing with them customs, dialects, superstitions and faiths foreign to the Don Valley. Gradually these foreigners from the midlands and the north have become digested by their South Yorkshire hosts. And such digestion has done something to enrich the local strain. The Don Valley that I know is a diverse community. It is dominated by the former mining villages of Conisbrough, Denaby, Edlington, Rossington, and Hatfield—a new addition to the constituency. It is a constituency of striking landmarks, scenic villages and many beauty spots. It includes villages stretching to the borders of Nottinghamshire, such as Bawtry. The constituency has seen a rapid expansion of villages such as Auckley, Finningley and Sprotbrough, with new families and their young children moving to the area every week.

Don Valley is the historic heart of South Yorkshire, boasting two castles—Tickhill and Conisbrough, which is the setting for the classic story “Ivanhoe”, penned by Sir Walter Scott in a room in the Boat inn at Sprotbrough falls. If The Mirror is to be believed, “Ivanhoe” is the favourite book of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

In the book, Sir Walter Scott describes Conisbrough castle. He wrote: There are few more beautiful or more striking scenes in England than are presented by the vicinity of this ancient Saxon fortress. The soft and gentle River Don sweeps through an amphitheatre in which cultivation is richly blended with woodland, and on a mount ascending from the river, well defended by walls and ditches, rises this ancient edifice. Conisbrough castle is part of Don Valley’s past, but it is also part of its future. Along with the Earth centre on the site of the old Denaby main colliery, Conisbrough castle affords opportunities to attract visitors from afar and become part of Don Valley’s economic regeneration.

I know that the people of Don Valley will welcome the Bill, which will pave the way to reducing class sizes. That pledge, coupled with the ambitious goal of raising education standards and opportunities for children and young people, will be received with great enthusiasm by the electors of Don Valley. Families with young people in Don Valley know that, unlike for previous generations, the mines will not provide the gateway to employment for the many. They know that education is the foundation. The achievement of their children will determine their life chances thereafter. The Bill demonstrates that the Government intend to place education at the centre of their programme—the No. 1 priority. Education is the building block for the future, and children must be at the heart of it.

During the election campaign, one French teacher asked me how she could teach French to children in year 7 of secondary school if, when they arrived, some had not yet mastered the basics of written and spoken English. That is a problem that the Conservatives refused to tackle. Standards are the cornerstone of our education policy. Schools are a vital part of any community and have a precious role to play in the life of the small villages that dominate my constituency.

However, schools are not islands, and must be encouraged to share their expertise, spread their best practice and learn from each other. Where a school is failing, we must look to turn it around in six months, not six years. That should be the Government’s ambition. Not to do so is to condemn generations of children.

Gone are the days when the height of Government ambition was to have one good school in every town. That proposal was rejected at the election. We must ensure that every school is a good school; that every school comes up to scratch—nothing less is acceptable. Gone will be the complacency that allowed class sizes to rise steadily throughout the years of the Major Government. By 1996, more than 1.25 million children were in classes of 31 or more. Indeed, in my constituency, more than 2,000 children are in classes of more than 30 pupils.

I welcome the Government’s intention to review the presentation of league tables, because, vital as they are, the many qualities that a school offers—leadership, morale and parental involvement—are all essential ingredients that add value to a child’s education. Those qualities must be reflected in information made available to parents. The Bill makes a start. Those who choose to buy private education for their child are buying one thing above all else: smaller class sizes. Yet for the majority in Britain, the past five years have seen an unrelenting rise in class sizes. That rise must be brought to an end, and the Bill helps to release resources to begin that task.

The Bill will be welcomed by the electorate of Don Valley as a sign of a new Labour Government who govern for the many not for the few; a sign that Britain has turned a page in history and entered a new era. The Government deserve praise for the flying start that they have made, showing in weeks that a change of Government can lead to a change of mood and priorities. I hope that, for the duration of the Government’s term of office, I serve my constituency well in this new era in British life—a period of new hope and great opportunities. As the Member of Parliament for Don Valley, and, perhaps more important, as the mother of three children in state education, I commend the Bill to the House.

Michael Forsyth – 1999 Maiden Speech in the House of Lords

Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Lords by Michael Forsyth on 24th November 1999.

My Lords, it is a great honour for me to find myself a Member of this House and I was particularly glad that I was privileged, however briefly, to sit in this House while its heritage, authority and spirit of public service were still enhanced by the contribution of the hereditary Peers, now sadly banished. I should also like to thank the staff of the House for the courteous way in which they welcomed me and helped me to find my way around, along with the many others who have come in in rather large numbers.

To me it is regrettable that the most independent part of this House has been removed without any credible policy for its replacement. Nobody could ever justify the expulsion of the hereditary Peers on the grounds of utility. No senate on earth has ever benefited from such a wealth of experience and dedication at so little cost to the public purse. Their contribution was informed and valuable.

During my earlier incarnation in another place I had the responsibility of steering rather more than a dozen Bills through Parliament. I have to tell your Lordships that this was the place that I and my officials feared. In the other place people stood up and made speeches which were political and not concerned with the contents of the Bill. It was in this place that every government Minister and every parliamentary draftsman knew that any legal anomaly or oversight would be forensically investigated and challenged. On our parliamentary navigational charts, your Lordships’ House was marked, “Here be dragons”.

I last spoke in Parliament on 10th March 1997. A lot has happened since then: waiting times in the National Health Service have gone up; so have class sizes in schools; police numbers have gone down; the crime rate has gone up; and the beef ban remains in place, even though we surrendered our sovereignty over employment laws and a host of other matters.. The principle of free access to education has been abandoned with the introduction of tuition fees by this Labour Government. The drugs budget, as my noble friend pointed out, in the National Health Service has been cash limited for the first time in its history leading, as it will do, to the rationing of vital treatments. Patients will no longer receive treatment according to clinical need, but according to postcode and the judgments of accountants.

The iron Chancellor appears to be suffering from metal fatigue since, according to the Library in the other place, his increases in tax amount to £40 billion and the OECD claims that the tax burden in this country is rising faster than in any other country in Europe. The Civil Service has been politicised. Half of the information officers in Whitehall, including those who used to serve me in the Scottish Office, have been sacked and the remainder brought under direct political control. The promised bonfire of quangos has fizzled out; they remain in existence filled with Labour placemen, a fate destined soon to overtake this House. Parliament has not been modernised by this Government; it has been marginalised by this Government.

I believe that the tradition in this House is for maiden speeches to be uncontroversial. So your Lordships will understand that I resist drawing any conclusions from those facts. If the rules of the House allowed it, I would sing a few bars of “Things can only get better”; but I gather they do not. Although there are some things in the gracious Speech which I believe to be good, I fear that I can find nothing that will deliver that particular slogan’s promise.

At the end of the last Session we were treated to the unedifying spectacle of the remaining 92 hereditary Peers being held hostage lest this House dare exercise its constitutional right to disagree with aspects of the Government’s legislation. To its very considerable credit, this House called the Government’s bluff and stood up for the disabled.

We seem to be moving rapidly towards a situation where Parliament is under the thumb of the executive. The House of Commons is already controlled by the Government: the Lords will be appointed by them. We are becoming the biggest quango in the land. It is clear that this Government do not like revising Chambers. Why else have they opted for a one-chamber Parliament in Scotland? I fear that we are moving defacto to unicameralism in Westminster as well. I believe that that is the answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, earlier today, which was unanswered by the Government Front Bench.

I believe that the new House must have an elected element. But before the composition is decided, the functions of this place must be defined. There will be difficult issues to be resolved in either a partly-elected or wholly-elected House. In the former we would have two or more classes of Peer. But both must be better than a wholly appointed House.

The Government’s plans to reform this House are fatally flawed. They do not know what they want this place to do other than be more acquiescent towards the executive than its predecessor. Hiding behind the fig leaf of a Royal Commission, which they should have set up immediately following the general election—and waited for its conclusions before implementing any legislation—this Queen’s Speech contains no mention of the Government’s view on the future role of this place. I, too, look forward to seeing the Royal Commission’s conclusions. I earnestly hope that when we lift the fig leaf we do not find a fig.

There are some elements in the gracious Speech which I find very difficult to accept, and I find very surprising the reasons why it is difficult for me to accept them. They are difficult to accept because I believe them to be far too Right-Wing and illiberal in their impact. The removal of the right to trial by jury was rightly opposed by the Government in opposition. To describe such a fundamental right enshrined in Magna Carta as “eccentric”, which is what the Home Secretary did the other day, shows vividly how little understanding he has of his responsibilities to guard our liberties and the institutions which protect them. The doctrine that the ends justify the means seems to have survived his conversion from his radical Left-Wing days.

I am not a lawyer, but I am sufficiently familiar with the work of Lord Devlin to know that he wrote the authoritative work on trial by jury. Perhaps I may read a quote from that work, which was written in 1956. It begins: The first object of any tyrant in Whitehall would be to make Parliament utterly subservient to his will; and the next to overthrow or diminish trial by jury, for no tyrant could afford to leave a subject’s freedom in the hands of twelve of his countrymen. So that trial by jury is more than an instrument of justice and more than one wheel of the constitution, it is the lamp that shows that freedom lives”. Those were the words of Lord Devlin. I hope that the Government will ponder them and think again.

The proposal contained in the gracious Speech to stop the benefits of youngsters who do not comply with community service orders is, to my mind, completely crackpot and lacking in common sense. I fail to see how cutting off their means of support will make it less likely that people will reoffend. Many of these youngsters have got into trouble because they have become involved with drugs; they steal in order to get the money to buy them. If money is taken from them, they will repair the loss by committing burglary, mugging or worse crimes. I expected much more emphasis on rehabilitation from this Government and I feel a real sense of disappointment that an opportunity has been missed.

Your Lordships will have seen the Freedom of Information Bill, which has been published. I took the opportunity to read it. There are no fewer than 13 pages of exemptions under the legislation as regards entitlement to information—indeed, 13 pages of exemptions listing the information that we cannot have. It actually makes more information secret than is the case at present. The information officer, under the Bill, should decide whether information should be disclosed, not the Government. That is what is being proposed by the Labour Party north of the Border in Scotland. How can this matter of principle be different on each side of the Border? How can it be right that there is an independent right of access to public information north of the Border, whereas, south of the Border, the Government will decide whether information should be made available?

I appreciate that time is at a premium. Therefore, in conclusion, perhaps I may add that I believe the only true system of checks and balances, which has always relied upon the goodwill and good sense of all participating parties, has been attacked with the constitutional equivalent of a sledge hammer. Out of the debris we must salvage our bicameral parliamentary democracy. I believe that the role of this House in that task will be crucial.

I respectfully submit that the duty which history and the public interest alike impose upon us is to honour the oath that we took by fearlessly asserting the independence of this House and acting as the vigilant guardians of the rights and liberties of the British people.

Michael Forsyth – 1983 Maiden Speech to the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made to the House of Commons by Michael Forsyth on 18th July 1983.

It has been obvious that for many hon. Members tonight’s discussion is a rerun of an almost familiar classic, albiet with some of the leading cast in new roles. For me it is rather different. I was not in this place on 29 November 1982 for the Second Reading of the previous Telecommunications Bill and I was not here for the detailed debates which took place in Committee.

My experience of the telecommunications industry, as a business man and a private individual, seems to be very different from that of many Opposition Members. It is from that experience that I derive my commitment to replace the monopoly that British Telecom has endured with competitive private enterprise. The hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) spoke about charges being made for telephone numbers to be supplied in Chile. That seems to be the reality of the black market experience of far too many of my business colleagues.

The new constituency of Stirling, which I have the honour to represent, is not entirely unknown to the House. Its district council affairs have had to be debated in this place in the past, and I regret that they will have to be discussed once again on Thursday. It is a constituency of great contrasts — and I do not refer to the obvious contrast of a Conservative Member representing an area which has one of Scotland’s most Left-wing and extravagant councils.

The constituency stretches from the north at Collin and Tyndrum and Strathblane in the south, and from the tidal reaches of the Forth to the bonny banks of Loch Lomond, an area of about 800 square miles. It includes the university town and commercial centre of historic Stirling and the old boroughs of Callendar, Dunblane, and Bridge of Allan. From the great rural areas drawn from the former counties of Stirling and Perth, I have a constituency of outstanding natural beauty in which tourism, agriculture, commerce and new high technology-based industries are playing an increasing role. In short, it is a constituency which provides exactly that range of demands which the new private enterprise British Telecom will have to meet. It is a constituency in which industry and commerce require effective speech and telex communications with Europe and the rest of the world and within the United Kingdom, as well as data handling and processing.

A rural area needs effective communications to minimise its isolation, and services that are needed especially in emergencies. Despite the smears and innuendos of the Bill’s opponents, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will ensure that in bringing private enterprise into the communications network he will make provision for meeting social costs within the licensing requirements and the fears that have been expressed about call boxes and the cost of connection in rural areas.

It is because I believe that private enterprise will more effectively meet those demands in my constituency that I speak enthusiastically in favour of the Bill. The arguments do not need to be repeated and I suspect that if they were I should be called out of order. Private enterprise brings a force to bear on companies through competition that makes them more efficient and keeps prices down. Competition, not private enterprise, is at the heart of the debate. I hope that the many speeches which have been made will alert the Minister to the grave dangers of substituting a public monopoly with a private one.

The Government’s decision during the last Parliament to license Mercury showed their commitment to competition, as do the provisions of part II of the Bill for further licensing, provided those powers are used imaginatively to create the maximum possible innovative competition and not to restrict it, as has been so often the case. I hope that the Minister will reconsider the commitment not to issue licences that was made on Second Reading of the previous Telecommunications Bill during the last Parliament. I hope that more licences will be issued and that that commitment will be withdrawn.

As part V of the Bill now stands, British Telecom will be transformed lock, stock and barrel into one company with a dominant position. If it had arisen in any other way, it would almost certainly have attracted the unfavourable attention of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. I wonder whether, even if we proceed along the lines that have been suggested, it might not create a difficulty with our obligations under the treaty of Rome. The City editor of the Daily Mail asked on 23 June: Would it be any less of a monopoly because half the shares had been sold? Do we have to keep British Telecom in its present shape and size? He is not alone in asking such questions.

Some people have suggested the organisation of local services into separate locally owned companies working within the national network. An example that is often quoted is the municipal service in Hull. Others have suggested hiving off the specialist services which make up British Telecom enterprises. I ask the Government —clearly this is not the place to discuss detailed provisions —to consider part V carefully before British Telecom is brought to the market. The experience in the United States, with the break-up of the AT and T empire and the reorganisation of the Bell telephone network, might provide useful evidence.

So far we have considered only the benefits of competition as they affect the consumer, but British Telecom is also virtually a monopoly buyer of telecommunications equipment. In the past, this has led, to put it mildly, to unhappy relations with suppliers, or at least would-be suppliers. This could easily recur if the enterprise and innovation which is important to these support services were stifled in favour of company-inspired regulation and conformity. Only with a wider range of purchasers for products will telecommunications manufacturers be encouraged to recapture their share of overseas markets.

I add only a few words, lest it be thought that I have forgotten my traditional duty as a new Member to pay tribute to my predecessors. My constituency is carved out of three long-standing ones, all of which have disappeared. All the previous Members, such is their quality — the hon. Members for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) and for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn)— have returned to the House to play a full and prominent part. Therefore, it would be redundant of me to sing their praises.

Mr. Denis Canavan (Falkirk, West) Why?

Mr. Forsyth Their performance is a testimony to that. I look forward to matching their records in dealing with constituency matters in the years to come.

Lord Freud – 2014 Speech on Transforming Welfare

lordfreud

Below is the text of the speech made by Lord Freud, the Work and Pensions Minister, on 27th January 2014 at the Capita Welfare Reform Conference in London.

Thank you…..I am very pleased to be here.

I would like to use my time this morning to reflect on the past 4 years, and in particular how different the welfare landscape is now compared to 2010.

In short, it is very different. And the change has been long overdue.

We are introducing the most fundamental reforms to the welfare and pensions systems for more than 60 years.

These are structural changes designed to reward work, encourage responsibility and help those who need it most.

And we are already starting to see the impacts of these reforms.

When I started looking at the benefits system in 2007 the employment level stood at 29 million, and there were 3.4 million people on inactive benefits.

These figures stood at a similar level when I became a Minister in 2010 [employment = 29m – inactivity = 3.3m]

Today, the picture looks quite different.

Not only, as many of you will have seen last week, have employment levels hit a record high, rising to 30.2 million.

But we now have 2.95 million people on inactive benefits – a drop of nearly 400,000 in the last few years.

There are a number of factors driving these figures, but I believe one of them is the impact of the structural changes we are introducing to the welfare system.

When I wrote my report in 2007 it was clear that we had a system that was discouraging work, and that had written off large numbers of people as ‘incapable’.

It was a system designed around the lowest common denominator, that took away people’s control of their own lives, rather than empowering them:

– it penalised you if you wanted to work more than 16 hours a week

– it said to people with illnesses and disabilities that we didn’t think they were capable of anything, rather than looking at what they could do

– and for some people it meant that when you earned any money, you lost almost all of it in benefit withdrawals

We know that work is good for you, it gives you a purpose, it has huge health benefits and – most importantly – it puts you in control of your life.

Yet we were saying to some people that they would have more money if they stayed on benefits.

We had a system that was actually pushing people away from being in control of their lives.

So we started changing this, bringing in measures to help people find the right kind and level of activity for them, and designing a benefits system that didn’t assume people were incapable.

Because, as so many people delivering services tell us, the real barrier is how people see or think of themselves.

If they haven’t worked, if they have always been given a lot of help by others and not given the means and support to help themselves, then it is unlikely they will be able to take control of their own lives.

Salutogenesis

Behind this idea of giving back control is a theory I find really interesting, from the work of Aaron Antonovsky.

He argued that a purpose in life – what he called coherence – was crucial to understanding human health and well-being.

Whether we can overcome setbacks such as losing one’s job, or dealing with an illness, or whether they overwhelm us is, for Antonovsky, a function of whether these stresses violate an individual’s sense of coherence.

He says life should be comprehensible, manageable and have meaning.

Essentially that people can manage changes if they understand them, they have the skills and ability to manage their affairs and finally that they themselves have a purpose in life.

If people know why things happen to them, and they have the support and ability to manage their lives, they have a fighting chance of being able to maintain their well-being.

So we need to ensure that we support people’s lives by empowering them.

The longer someone is out of work, the less likely their life is to have an overarching sense of purpose or meaning. The less help people receive at vulnerable moments, the more likely they are to fall through the cracks.

And when you see well-being in these terms, then the Department for Work and Pensions becomes almost as relevant for people’s long term well-being as the Department of Health.

Helping people get into work gives them a purpose and meaning to life that may have been lacking.

This benefits society as a whole – work gives people a sense of pride, lifts them out of poverty and provides a model for younger generations to look up to.

Universal Credit

So we need a more responsive benefit system that empowers people. It should reward them for going into work and increasing their hours, not push them away from it.

And that is where Universal Credit comes in.

The idea behind Universal Credit is to create a much simpler and more flexible system that makes work pay…

…ensuring claimants are better off in work than on benefits…

… clearly showing how increasing hours increases earnings…

…while continuing to provide support for those who need it most.

And by having one flexible benefit with better earnings disregards it allows people who face bigger challenges – such as lone parents or people with disabilities – to take part in the economic life of the country and take control of their own lives.

By spring, Universal Credit will be live in 10 areas. From this summer we will progressively start to take claims for Universal Credit from couples and, in the autumn, from families too.

And our plans are for Universal Credit to roll out completely across the country during 2016, with new claims to all existing benefits that make up Universal Credit being shut down during this time.

From there we will move existing claimants of the current benefits over to Universal Credit, and we expect the vast majority of these to be on the new benefit by 2016 and 2017.

Early indications suggest that Universal Credit is starting to have the impact we are looking for.

We are already seeing that Universal Credit claimants are spending twice as long per week looking for work…

…are applying for more jobs per week…

…and are more confident about finding work in the next 3 months than comparable JSA claimants.

And 70% understand that they will be better off for each additional hour in work.

But while we expect that many people will be able to handle these changes well, we must ensure that help is there for those who can’t, or need support at first.

Local support service framework

That’s why I’ve been working incredibly closely with local authorities to develop the Local Support Services Framework.

This framework will do 2 vital things:

First, it will ensure people are supported to make the transition to Universal Credit by helping them adjust to some new aspects of the way they claim benefits.

And second, it will provide longer term support to the small number of people who find it more difficult to make this transition and need to gradually progress towards independence.

This is not simply about providing service lines for people, it is about supporting them to get the tools and skills they need to take control of their own lives.

A lot of hard work has already been done to develop this framework.

In December 2013 we published, in partnership with local government, an updated trialling plan. This sets out how we will work together over the course of the next year to test exactly what works in the delivery of Local Support Services.

That testing will build on the excellent learning that has already been done through the LA led pilots.

Just 2 weeks ago I held a very insightful workshop with all of the LA led pilot teams.

From Lewisham’s innovative triage process…

…to Bath and North East Somerset’s all-encompassing one-stop-shop…

…and a whole host of other examples, we are gathering some really important learning that will play a major role in the development of the Local Support Services Framework.

Direct payments

We have also been testing support for people through the Direct Payment Demonstration Projects, another crucial part of our efforts to give people control over their lives.

It used to be assumed that people weren’t capable of paying their own rent. And of course this made it even more daunting to move into work and manage their finances themselves.

The demonstration projects enlightened us in a number of ways. We discovered that of course a huge number of people are perfectly capable of managing their money. Across the different areas, the average successful rent collection rate stood at 94%.

And as a result more than half of the organisations involved have decided to leave their tenants on direct payment after the pilots ended.

And because the projects mean gradually increasing personal responsibility, they have also brought to light wider social problems as a result of the closer engagement with tenants.

There’s one particular instance that really sticks with me.

There was a family that was living in appalling conditions because the father was a lone parent of 4 children and struggling to cope with a heroin addiction – the benefit system had taken care of all their payments but isolated them.

Because of the projects, and the increased intervention that followed, the relevant authorities were able to step in and provide the appropriate support.

So for some people Direct Payments have proved a useful mechanism for highlighting where they need support.

But for those people who could be moving towards work, getting used to direct payments is crucial in preparing claimants for a seamless transition, and allows landlords an opportunity to increase their rent collection from this group of claimants in a phased and managed way.

I know there have been concerns about will happen when there are missed payments, or where a household isnt coping. So I’ll just describe the safety net we have here.

After 1 month of missed payment we can review the payment process and the claimant’s payment history.

And after 2 months we guarantee to move rent payment back to managed payments.

And these can be cumulative, so its not just about missing a whole month, but can be about a cumulative failure to pay rent.

So, we’ve learned a lot from the demonstration projects.

Indeed, I think they have been so valuable that I am keen that local authorities think about moving people on to direct payments earlier – so that we are supporting people to manage their own finances before they move onto Universal Credit.

Conclusion

Of course, Universal Credit is far from the only welfare change that we are introducing at the moment.

There are many others that are proving equally crucial in delivering the structural changes needed to drive down inactivity…

…but I’m afraid I do not have time to touch on them all in detail this morning.

Suffice to say that there is still much more work to be done.

I know many of you work in the organisations supporting these changes, and that it is not always easy.

But I think we should all be encouraged by the fact that we are starting to see some positive results.

Whether it be the record employment figures, rapid reductions in inactivity, or the positive feedback we are already getting from Universal Credit claimants, I believe these reforms are starting to work…

…and that we are…

…at last…

…starting to give people control back over their own lives.

I thank you for your support in making that a reality, and look forward to continuing this crucial work together in the years to come.

Lord Freud – 2013 Speech on Universal Credit

lordfreud

Below is the text of the speech made by Lord Freud to the Local Government Association on 12th December 2013.

Good morning, it’s a pleasure to be here.

First of all I want to thank the LGA for their help to ensure that local support services will be a firm part of Universal Credit.

I hope you have all seen the latest update on the Local Support Service Framework (LSSF) that was published last week.

It is the product of very close working between DWP and local government and lays the groundwork for our future work in partnership.

I will touch on the LSSF in more detail later on in my speech, but first I want to take a moment to reflect on Universal Credit (UC).

Universal Credit is no less than a revolution in our benefits system. Where successive governments have applied patches and tweaks, we are bringing in an overhaul. And it is long overdue.

The benefits system we have today was designed to reflect society in the mid-20th century.

It pays little regard to the way that society has changed, from the changing roles of women in the workplace, and the increasing importance of part-time work, to the overall flexibility of the modern labour force.

The idea behind Universal credit – and I am delighted to say we are already seeing this idea bear fruit in the pathfinder areas – is to create a much simpler and more flexible system that makes work pay.

Universal Credit successfully started rolling out in April of this year – 6 months ahead of schedule – in the Greater Manchester area.

We now have live service in 7 areas across the country, and this will grow to 10 areas by spring 2014, giving Universal Credit a national footprint.

And last week we set out the next steps for Universal Credit which build on our firm commitment to expand this programme in a safe and controlled manner.

Too many government – and private sector – projects fail because of a big bang approach. Governments in the past and across the world have built systems, announced a launch, and watched as the wheels fell off.

We have been clear that Universal Credit will break that mould and progress safely and securely.

As I said, by spring, Universal Credit will have live service in 10 areas. From next summer we will progressively start to take claims for Universal Credit from couples and, in the autumn, from families.

Once safely tested in the 10 live Universal Credit areas, we will also expand the roll-out to cover more of the north-west of England.

These steps continue our progressive approach – test, learn, implement – as we deliver this programme.

Our current planning assumption is that the Universal Credit service will be fully available in each part of Great Britain during 2016, having closed down new claims to the benefits it replaced – including working age Housing Benefit; with the majority of the remaining legacy caseload moving to Universal Credit during 2016 and 2017.

I would like to reassure you again that we will maintain the level of funding required to administer housing benefit in 2014/15.

Clearly last week’s announcement of our rollout plans will mean we’ll need to take a close look, with LGA colleagues, at 2015/16 funding.

We’ll need to make sure we take account of the position for those who’ve gone live with Universal Credit, and those who are yet to do so

We will also use the progressive expansion of Universal Credit over the next few years to carefully test how Universal Credit works in practice.

There will be three aspects to this testing.

First: we will look at how staff and claimants interact with the Universal Credit policy and systems on the ground. We are already getting some of this learning in the pathfinder:

86% felt the advice and support they were offered by their adviser matched their personal needs and circumstances

92% said they were being encouraged to find work or to increase the amount they are working

2/3rds agreed it provided better financial incentives to work.

Second: we will look to do more rigorous econometric testing to show the effect that UC has on our key outcome measure – increasing employment levels.

 

And third: we will test how Universal Credit works for and interacts with the most vulnerable groups in our society, and how local support services can work effectively.

 

We already have some evidence to suggest that many claimants will adapt well to the new system.

 

Evaluation from the Pathfinder – which mainly involves more straight-forward jobseekers at present – shows:

 

90% of claims are online

78% of those getting monthly payments were confident they could budget over the month

But while we expect that many people should be able to handle the changes well – we must ensure that help is there for those who can’t, or need support at first.

 

And that is where the relationship between DWP and local authorities is so important.

 

One of the areas where we have worked incredibly closely with local authorities is on the Local Support Service Framework. We published the first version in February this year and just last week we published an updated document – the Local Support Service: update and trialling plan.

 

This sets out how we can work together over the course of the next year to test and trial the arrangements and processes needed to make local support service work.

We want to work closely with you to test different arrangements for partnership working, financial management and the effective delivery of front line services.

We will soon come forward with more details of how you can get involved in this testing and trialling work and I hope many of you will take up that opportunity.

But the trialling and testing doesn’t just begin with the publication of the LSSF. As many of you know there is already much good work going on.

Useful testing and trialling has begun with the benefit cap, where we are seeing how councils can link with Jobcentre Plus and partners to give the right support.

Some of the innovative approaches have really impressed me.

In Croydon, Jobcentre Plus staff have been working with council staff. Joint teams based in the council offices are helping residents together.

This working together means that claimants are no longer pushed from pillar to post – but receive the help they need in once place.

And take the Digital Deal: I visited one of our pilot sites last month, A2Dominion, a housing association in Queens Park. I was very pleased with their work to get residents not only online, but confident and comfortable in doing so.

It is this kind of co-operation – that puts the claimant at the centre of the experience – which I am keen to replicate across the whole Universal Credit landscape.

It is a far better use of resources – and it leads to far better results.

We have also seen interesting examples from the local authority led pilots.

For example: Birmingham City Council wanted to move to a digital by default service for rent management as well as address problems with a number of new tenants who were defaulting on their rent and subsequently losing their tenancy.

They have reviewed the tenant’s journey, introduced a new digital log book, and identified how to nudge and change people’s behaviour.

This has led to both a significant reduction in the level of arrears among new tenants – approximately a 17% reduction at 12 weeks – and administrative savings of £61,000 by publishing online rather than in print.

And I was pleased to hear that in North Dorset Council the job clubs they have set up as part of the local authority led pilots have been a success.

Unemployment in the area has fallen by 13% and they are convinced the job clubs have had a major impact in this.

So, we have seen some really interesting lessons from these pilots already, but there is more I am keen to learn as we work on the evaluations.

In particular I want to get a more concrete picture of what Local Authorities have found works well and – crucially – what they have found doesn’t work so well in providing people with support.

And we are also seeing interesting lessons from the Direct Payment Demonstration Projects.

The Direct Payment Demonstration Projects revealed that many landlords just don’t know their tenants as well as they could.

Direct payments have opened the door not just to help with managing rent – but also to wider social problems that were out of sight.

Housing associations and councils have also been clear about the need for extra tenant support and data sharing. These are areas we are looking at right now.

The Direct Payment Demonstration Projects are coming to an end very shortly, but I’m pleased to say that more than half of the organisations involved have decided to leave their tenants on direct payment, and at least one of the landlords has decided to move all of their working age tenants onto a direct payment arrangement.

Getting used to direct payments is crucial in preparing claimants for a seamless transition into work and will allow landlords an opportunity to increase their rent collection from this group of claimants in a phased and managed way.

It makes a lot of sense, therefore, for local authorities and social landlords to consider encouraging those who will not need support to move onto Housing Benefit direct payments ahead of Universal Credit.

Before I finish, I would like to touch on the announcement made in last week’s Autumn Statement about the move to a Single Fraud Investigation Service.

The Single Fraud Investigation Service will be introduced as a single organisation within the Fraud and Error Services Team in DWP with implementation taking place in a phased approach from October 2014 – March 2016.

This positive next step builds on the great work done by the local authority, DWP, and HMRC pilot sites and will deliver a nationally flexible fraud investigation service covering the totality of welfare benefit fraud, including Housing Benefit and Tax Credits.

We will also work closely with local government, as part of a joint working group, to ensure that we continue to maintain close relationships and share data where permissible, on cases of joint interest, for example Tenancy Fraud.

In addition DCLG and DWP have agreed a £16.6m funding package to support local authorities in England to help local government’s fight against fraud and protect taxpayers’ money.

The newly appointed minister at DCLG, Baroness Stowell, gave a speech on Tuesday setting out further details on this. Similar discussions have taken place between DWP and the devolved administrations

As we step into 2014, the hard work of the last year will continue.

I want you to know we are keen to maintain the strong relationship that we have with local authorities and all the organisations we’ve been working with, and for you to build and maintain partnerships in your communities.

If you want to be involved in testing and trialling to prepare for Universal Credit then don’t hesitate to start activities in your area, or to let us know that you want to take part.

This trialling and testing is absolutely vital to the delivery of welfare reform, and with your input we can make sure that we continue to roll out Universal Credit in a safe and controlled manner.

Lord Freud – 2013 Speech on Welfare Reform

lordfreud

Below is the text of the speech made by the Work and Pensions Minister, Lord Freud, on 2nd October 2013.

Good morning, it’s a pleasure to be here.

When I spoke to you in this same town a year ago, I gave an overview of the changes that were set to come in during 2013 and spoke about the crucial role for local authorities in delivering welfare reform.

It’s been quite a year. The hard work of many of the people here today has been instrumental in enabling the introduction of genuinely significant reforms: Universal Credit, the benefit cap, and Personal Independence Payment to name but a few.

I want to use my time today to remind you why we are bringing these changes in, to update you on their progress, and, wherever I can, to look ahead to the future.

Let me start with the most significant of those changes I mentioned – the introduction of Universal Credit. On the 29 April of this year, the first ever claim to Universal Credit was made in Ashton Under Lyne.

Since then thousands of payments have been made, and thousands more will be made as progressive national roll out begins later this month.

To illustrate why Universal Credit is so significant, I want to reflect for a moment on the history of the area we are in now.

This area is, of course, no stranger to great change. Credited with being the home of the industrial revolution, it was at the heart of a transformation that had hugely positive consequences, but that also threw up a host of new social challenges.

Beveridge’s five giant evils of disease, ignorance, squalor, idleness and want were in part a product of this new industrial age. And from their identification, of course, came the birth of the modern welfare state.

But just as government was putting the finishing touches to Beveridge’s vision in the mid-20th Century, it was already finding itself behind the curve.

Postwar society was already changing – and with gathering speed.

Women began entering the workforce in much greater numbers. Full-time, ‘jobs for life’ became a thing of the past, while part-time, flexible work became the norm for many.

And the result? We found that a welfare system built to deal with 1940’s society was no longer able to deliver the support that people needed in a modern, flexible labour market.

For many people, taking work became almost a waste of time because of the way their benefits were withdrawn. That was if they could understand the horrendous complexity of the system in the first place.

Successive governments recognised elements of this challenge, and introduced individual ‘fixes’ to try to deal with it.

But often these fixes created as many problems as they solved.

Tax Credits are a good example: a laudable principle – making work pay – failed to really deliver in practice because it was bolted onto the pre-existing system, making things incredibly complex.

Universal Credit is different. It is based on a ‘first principles’ approach to the welfare system, a fundamental overhaul rather than another tweak or fix.

It creates a simple system, one that makes work pay at all hours and – most crucially – one that is flexible and responsive to a modern labour force.

Employers themselves are recognising that universal credit will bring much needed flexibility. Let me read you a quote from a Recruitment Hub Manager at B&Q:

One of our employees, Vicky, who has caring responsibilities, has until now only been able to work 16 hours a week due to how her benefits would have been negatively affected if she had accepted more hours offered by B&Q. With the introduction of Universal Credit she’ll have the opportunity to flex up her hours either on an adhoc or permanent basis and earn more without losing all of her Universal Credit.

And here is Phil Eckersley, Managing Director of ‘Home Instead Senior Care’ in Wigan:

Universal Credit will have a direct positive effect on my business. It will enable jobseekers and employees to work as much as they wish around their family and dependents’ commitments.

Of course such a fundamental change cannot be introduced overnight. We have been really clear about our commitment to introducing Universal Credit in a safe and controlled manner.

That’s why we started with a Pathfinder approach from earlier this year. And that’s why later this month we will begin the progressive national roll-out of Universal Credit as we expand to a further six Jobcentres.

We are also making significant progress in rolling out the wider elements which are critical to driving cultural change.

For example the new claimant commitment – which more firmly sets out claimants’ responsibilities – will be rolled out nationally from October, and we are already starting to roll out improved digital services across Jobcentre Plus.

So momentum is building, and this is an exciting time.

But I am also acutely aware that if Universal Credit is to work, it must work for the most vulnerable people.

I am absolutely determined that when more vulnerable claimants come onto Universal Credit we are ready to provide them with the support that they need.

That is why the Local Support Services Framework is so important. It is about how we – working with local authorities – can ensure that we are ready to deal with the additional or growing support needs that come from the introduction of Universal Credit.

To do this, we are putting a really strong emphasis on local partnerships between Jobcentre Plus district managers, local authorities and housing and charity sector providers.

We will be publishing an update to the Framework shortly, which will include information on testing and trialling. The testing and trialling will include aspects of the financial model and incentive structure, as well as exploring use of the European Social Fund as a potential funding stream.

We will also be testing the development of Personal Budgeting Support initiatives. This trialling is so important because it allows us to include lessons learned into the next iteration of the framework.

The updated Framework will also provide an update on key points of progress and agreement since the publication of the Framework in February. We then plan to issue a more comprehensive version of the Framework in autumn 2014, to inform local authority budgeting timetables for 2015 to 2016.

As many of you will be aware, the local authority led pilots are already testing elements of this framework, by introducing support services designed specifically to best suit local needs.

For example I’ve heard about how Lewisham Council in South London has developed a structured triage approach to identify vulnerable people who may require additional support with the transition to Universal Credit.

Claimants are contacted over the phone to discuss their skills and experience across the financial, digital, housing and employment spheres.

Scores are then assigned to the claimants answers. If they are considered ‘vulnerable’ a further support appointment will be triggered, where claimants are provided with tailored support plans and referred for specialist help where needed.

But when we talk about vulnerable claimants, I am aware that there are some concerns about the introduction of Direct Payments.

We must not lose sight of why this change is so important though. A driving principle behind Universal Credit is that the transition between being out of work and in work should be straightforward; people should not be scared of taking work.

Monthly housing costs paid directly to claimants are a key step to breaking down that barrier, as they reflect the way that the large majority of people are paid in work.

The Direct Payments Demonstration Projects are showing us what support people will need to make the transition to Direct Payments and what safeguards will need to be in place.

Nonetheless, we are alive to the concerns that some have had. As a result, we have developed a package of safeguards to protect landlords, including alternative payment arrangements for those with the greatest need and an automatic trigger point should claimants accrue arrears of up to two months’ rent.

We are also working on an early warning trigger should one month’s worth of rent accrue through persistent underpayment.

This gives us the optimum balance between empowering claimants to take control of their finances and minimising unnecessary risk for landlords.

It is still early days, of course, but initial results from the Demonstration Projects are encouraging. Figures from May 2013 show that the average rent collection rate is 94%.

I am keen that, as we move forward with this, we will continue to work with landlords in particular on preparing people for these changes. As part of this I hope that we will see some people moving on to Direct Payments before they move on to Universal Credit, so that they take that additional step towards work readiness early on.

Another of the big changes we have seen in the last year is the introduction of the benefit cap – which has now been rolled-out across the UK.

The introduction of the benefit cap has been a great example of how government and local authorities can work together to deliver reform. For this, I would like to offer a candid and genuine thank you to local authority staff.

The implementation of the cap highlights the positives of a progressive roll-out. It was introduced in April 2013 in four local authorities; then in two tranches over the summer and has now been successfully rolled out across the country.

The implementation approach was agreed with the Local Authority Association Steering Group. We agreed that lessons learned from phased rollout should influence the national approach. It did and we therefore agreed to manage delivery over ten weeks in two tranches.

We also gave local authorities low volumes in the first week so they could check all systems and processes worked; and we supported them through best practise events attended by hundreds of local authority staff. It’s been a steady and ultimately successful approach.

And we continue to work together to deliver the changes this policy is intended to create. For example I have been to Croydon where the local authority and DWP work side by side in the same building offering employment, housing and budgeting support.

It is public service at its best; working together to change lives for the better.

It is worth noting that since claimants were notified of the benefit cap in April 2012 over 15,000 claimants identified as living in potentially capped households have moved into work.

Indeed, research findings show that, of those aware that they were affected by the benefit cap, almost half took action in response, with the large majority of them either looking for work or undertaking job-related activities.

Like I said, we mustn’t lose sight of why these reforms are so important and I think these early results show the real significance of this policy.

And to continue the theme of cross government working, let me also update you on the progress of the Single Fraud Investigation Service pilots.

This is another example of smart working across central and local government to fully integrate policies and procedures to deliver a single service that investigates the totality of welfare fraud. Four pilots went live last November, with several more to follow this year.

Several colleagues have commended the working relationships and the sharing of expertise that has enabled the pilots to operate well.

This collaborative working led to the first prosecution of a case dealt with by the SFIS pilot earlier this year. On the 18th June a woman from Hillingdon was successfully convicted of fraudulently receiving an overpayment of over £13,000.

However, although the pilots have demonstrated the real positives of partnership working they have also identified some of the limitations of the current approach.

For example there have been clear challenges where people have been working across multiple locations, under different managers and with different terms and conditions.

These findings have informed the next stage of the process, which will explore how best SFIS should move forward as an integrated organisation.

But let me assure you that as we take this work forward we will continue to fully engage with local government representatives, local authorities, HMRC and our key stakeholders at every step of the way.

This is a period of great change for all of our people and we want to work closely with you to minimise the impacts that any transition might have.

As you will all be aware we have also introduced the removal of the spare room subsidy this year. I recognise the hard work that all local authorities are undertaking to deliver this important policy.

As with all our reforms, we are gathering evidence, learning and sharing best practice. We recently responded to concerns from the sector by increasing in-year funding for local authorities by £35 million to help support those affected to navigate the transition to the new arrangements.

That includes a £20 million contingency fund, which will provide extra support to local authorities who can demonstrate they are supporting their tenants to make the long term positive changes we’re all looking for.

I have been heartened by many of the innovative solutions I’ve seen and urge you all to continue this crucial work.

So, it has been a challenging year, but a very significant one.

We have introduced a number of far-reaching social reforms, based firmly on the principles of incrementalism, testing and learning, and partnership working.

And these will continue to be our watchwords in the months and years ahead.

It is my firm belief that it is only through the application of these principles that will we be successful in achieving our ultimate aim – the delivery of a welfare state fit for today’s society.

And I look forward to continuing to work with you on making that a reality.

Lord Freud – 2013 Speech on Universal Credit

lordfreud

Below is the text of a speech made by Lord Freud on 28th January 2013.

I am very pleased to be with you today – and for the opportunity to update you all on our vision for Universal Credit and on the progress of our wider welfare reforms.

But first let me set the context for Universal Credit.

Universal Credit will simplify the benefit system and tackle welfare dependency by making work pay.

It will reward people who go back to work by ensuring they are better off in work than on benefits. In fact, around 300,000 people will move into work as a result of Universal Credit. Three million families will be better off by around £168 per month.

The majority – 75 per cent – will come from the bottom two fifths of the income scale and transitional protection means no-one loses out by moving over to the new system.

As well as improving financial incentives, Universal Credit will offer seamless support for people making the transition into work, making it easier to understand the effect on their income and bringing an end to an absurd situation where a claimant’s benefit stops as soon as they start work.

There will be an early roll out of Universal Credit (the Pathfinder) in April 2013 in the North West to test the new system with local authorities, employers and claimants in a live environment. This will be a gradual process to ensure we get it right.

The programme will roll-out nationally from October 2013. It will be introduced in stages – as is right and appropriate for such a large programme.

We will pay Universal Credit monthly to reflect the fact that 75% of people in work are paid that way. The system will be designed around the patterns of working life, but we will make sure people who may struggle, don’t fall through the cracks.

Universal Credit is being designed as an online service, where people can make a claim and report changes just as they do with online banking – for many people this will be more convenient.

Digital services are already an integral part everyday life. Around 78 per cent of working age benefit claimants already use the internet – 48 per cent of those say they log on every day – many to search for jobs online.

But we know not everyone will be able to use online services. And so we are making sure that there will still be face to face and telephone support in place – the important difference is that this support will be geared towards helping people to use the online services in the future.

There is no doubt in my mind that Universal Credit will dramatically change the lives of millions of people in this country for the better by helping them to become financially and digitally able.

The new system will mean that a claimant’s experience of receiving Universal Credit will be brought into line with the world of work.

This is a huge change from the outdated and overburdened system we currently have and we will need to take the time to do it properly and put in the proper resources.

That’s why the work we are doing in partnership with the local authority associations on a local support services framework is so important. The framework will ensure effective local partnerships are put in place to help claimants budget and get online.

Since last summer we have been testing the type of support that we may need through twelve Local Authority-led Pilots. In addition, from April four local authorities Oldham, Wigan Warrington and Tameside will take the lead in supporting claimants in the Pathfinder areas of Greater Manchester and Cheshire. These authorities have already been highly proactive ahead of the pathfinder going live in April. They are currently setting up training courses for claimants who need help getting online, and installing computers into community centres and working with housing associations (in Wigan) to extend online accessibility for local residents.

We are also looking at how banks and credit unions can offer suitable financial products. For example, budgeting accounts (sometimes knows as “jam jar” accounts) so that claimants can budget and put by sums of money each month to pay their rent and household bills.

Around 4.2 million DWP claimants already have a bank account. However, historically some people on a low income have experienced difficulties in accessing and using banking products, often coming up against disproportionate penalties charges.

For Universal Credit we want to ensure as a minimum that claimants have access to an account such as a Basic Bank Account with standing order and direct debit facilities, which are safe and secure.

Alongside new banking products we will ensure vulnerable claimants such as people with debt problems, or those with poor numeracy skills are given practical support at the onset of their claim.

In practice this will mean that someone with debts may be referred to a debt advisory service for budgeting advice and someone who is not able to navigate the web, will be offered face to face or telephone support to help them make a claim for Universal Credit.

These bespoke services will be led through Local Authorities and other local organisations. As a result we expect many vulnerable claimants to become both financially responsible and digitally able. This will open up a wealth of new opportunities because of improved computer skills, such as new jobs through online job searches, better buying power and discounted utility bills through better banking facilities and access to reputable credit.

These are the key interconnecting features that will ensure a smooth and successful transition onto Universal Credit.

However, we recognise that there will always be some hard cases. Where this is the case vulnerable claimants could be made an exception to the payment rules for a period of time. Budgeting support will also be made available to support these individuals so that they can make a successful transition over time to the Universal Credit standard monthly payment.

If this is the case we will consider three levels of interventions.

Firstly we will look at a claimant’s ability to pay housing costs – in full and on time. Secondly we will consider whether monthly payments are suitable. And finally we will look at whether it’s appropriate for a split payment to be made to that household.

It will not however necessarily be the case that all three interventions will be put in place at any one time – that will depend on each person’s individual circumstances.

Much of our rules around alternative payment arrangements will fall from the work we are already doing in the six demonstration projects areas across England, Scotland and Wales to test the support needed for people to make rent payments direct, and to ensure the financial position of landlords is protected.

Paying housing costs direct is an integral part of Universal Credit and an important way of helping people to manage their own finances and become more independent.

But I know there is some concern that the switch may cause a ‘mass’ of claimants to fall into arrears at the onset. But that’s not going to be the case. The fact is that claimant transition will be gradual over a four year period. There will be no big bang effect and we do not expect landlords to suffer sudden losses of income.

Early findings from the demonstration projects show the majority of people are meeting their rent payments in full and on time. Over the first four months, 6,220 social tenants were paid their housing benefit directly and rent collection rates stood at 92%.

We will continue to test different rent arrears “trigger” levels so if a tenant falls behind on their rent, payment will switch back direct to the landlord and additional support will be offered to the tenant.

Of course Universal Credit is not the only reform we are making.

Last year marked major milestones in reforming Britain’s welfare system, and 2013 will be no different.

This year is about making reform a reality.

And we are on track to do so:

Universal Credit, starting with a pathfinder – in April

Personal Independence Payment also starting to roll out from April

The implementation of the Benefit Cap – from April

Localising elements of the Social Fund – from April.

To name just a few of the programmes the Government is implementing.

This change cannot come soon enough.

Lord Freud – 2011 Speech on Reforming Welfare

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Below is the text of the speech made by Lord Freud in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 6th December 2011.

My session this morning is on the welfare revolution.

And it really is a revolution. There is an awful lot going on at the moment.

The Work Programme is up and running, helping long term unemployed people find sustainable work.

The Sickness Absence Review was published a couple of weeks ago and we are working hard on the Government’s response.

Disabled people’s benefits are being reformed to make them fairer, more accurate and easier to tailor to individual need.

But today, I don’t want to talk about any of that.

Today, I want to focus on what’s at the heart of the welfare revolution – the Universal Credit – which we plan to introduce from October 2013.

This is a new income replacement benefit that will support people both in and out of work.

It will replace the complex array of benefits currently paid to people with little or no income with just one payment.

It will be simpler to claim, easier to understand and administer and more effective and responsive than its predecessors.

We are working on a real time information system that will mean we are able to find out how much people are earning and readjust their Universal Credit payment accordingly. This is better for people whose earnings fluctuate and will help to reduce fraud.

Most importantly of all people will know what they are entitled to.

We will withdraw Universal Credit at a steady rate as people start to earn more money.

This means if someone takes a job or increases the hours they work they will be able to work out exactly how it will affect their benefits – and see for themselves that they will be better off in work.

Today’s welfare system is a complicated mixture of benefits that have been added together, piled one on the other in a piecemeal way, as successive governments have sought to address different needs.

It hasn’t been improved so much as extended and stretched beyond any relevance to its original intention.

And what we’ve ended up with is unintended consequences, rules so complex that the civil servants administering them struggle to understand them and people trapped in welfare dependency are unable to find a way out of the system and get back on their feet.

This is not what Beveridge intended.

The introduction of Universal Credit will remove the rules and regulations that prevent people from getting back into work quickly.

It will take the welfare state back to first principles.

We want a welfare system that provides financial support for those unable to work – that goes without saying.

But for those who can work we want a system that encourages a return to employment as quickly as possible.

That’s how welfare support should work.

But today’s system barely works at all.

Let me take you through some of the vagaries of the current system.

The current Jobseeker’s Allowance system means you need to work 16 hours or more to come off benefit and see a real increase in your income.

However, for those remaining on benefit and working less than 16 hours, anything they earn over £5 if they are a single person, slightly more if they are a lone parent or disabled, will result in their benefit being reduced pound for pound.

This means someone over 25 can’t work for even one full hour per week at minimum wage without seeing an instantaneous fall in benefits.

If someone does find work for more than 16 hours per week but it is low paid they may be entitled to tax credits.

But they’d need to end their benefit claim and submit a new claim for tax credits.

The benefits system and the tax credit system don’t interact with each other.

So people trying to leave benefits find their benefit income stops instantly but there can be a long wait before tax credit payments start.

This gap in household income can be catastrophic for family finances.

It encourages people either to retreat back into the benefits system or worse, never try to leave.

Universal Credit deals with this issue.

The tax credit and benefit systems are brought together so there’s no need to move between different systems.

When someone does take a job the Universal Credit payment is tapered off at a steady rate so there’s no sudden loss of benefits.

There’s no catastrophic drop of income.

And there’s no 16 hour cliff edge, the Universal Credit will relate to the actual amount someone earns not disappear at an arbitrary number of hours.

The 16 hour rule has also had an impact on childcare support.

Under the old rules working parents could not claim help with registered childcare unless they worked more than 16 hours per week.

For lone parents in particular this made it particularly difficult to start to move into work.

Universal Credit deals with this issue.

We want to remove these barriers so parents can begin a gradual return to work.

Therefore, under Universal Credit, support for the costs of childcare will be available to all lone parents and couples, where both members are in work, regardless of the number of hours they work.

It will mean that for the first time around 80,000 extra families will be eligible to receive support through childcare.

Similarly, the rigidity of the present system makes any form of flexible working, whilst reliant on state support virtually impossible.

The current system is too clunky and slow to respond to changes in hours and incomes.

This means unemployed people have been unable to take work unless the employer can guarantee a minimum number of hours.

This rules out large numbers of agency jobs or casual work. It has made our unemployed population less flexible than the migrant workers who are filling those vacancies.

It is part of the reason why the number of people on out of work benefits remains around the five million mark.

Universal Credit deals with this issue.

Payments will be based on real time earnings.

So, people can work varying hours and still be confident of a minimum level of income.

The current system infantilises people.

It takes budgeting powers away from people by paying their rent and some of their bills for them.

Benefits are paid weekly or fortnightly, whilst most employees receive a monthly salary.

Benefits are paid to individuals where as most families manage their budget as a household.

This means the whole experience of claiming benefits has become completely removed from the experience of receiving a wage.

This encourages dependency because people literally do not know how they will cope without the support of the state.

Under Universal Credit the default position will be a single, monthly, household payment, wherever possible.

This means benefit claimants will have to manage their own finances – their full finances – so when they do find work it’s easier to leave the safety of the welfare system.

We will provide budgeting support for those who need it. This is a real opportunity to really change people’s lives by giving them the tools they need to take control of their finances.

That’s what the welfare revolution is all about – that’s the final goal – to bring an end to long-term benefit dependency and begin a cultural transformation.

Now I do have one more thing I want to talk to you about today – Support for Mortgage Interest payments.

These are payments made towards the interest on benefit claimants’ eligible home loans.

We think these payments should only be short term, to help people out when they fall upon hard times, so they don’t lose their homes.

The current system of SMI payments does not encourage people to get on top of their own finances.

It is also not sustainable. Even with today’s low interest rates it costs government £400million a year.

We want to recover some of the SMI money so we can reinvest it in helping more people.

For new claimants we are looking at options for recouping that money either when a house is sold or by levying a charge on the property for long term claims.

Today we have published a call for evidence seeking views on a number of options for retrieving some of these funds. We are also reviewing other aspects of our help for home owners.

The call for evidence closes in February next year and we are keen to hear your views.

All I have done today is mention a few small areas where our welfare reforms are going to change things for the better.

And these examples are replicated again and again as we bring coherence to a system that has been inadequate for too long.

But these reforms aren’t about designing a nice, sensible system.

They are about people.

They are about freeing people to get back into work.

Our welfare reforms are about transforming lives.

And that’s why they are worthy of the term welfare revolution.

Lord Freud – 2011 Speech on Entry Level Employment

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Below is the text of the speech made by Lord Freud in London on 5th July 2011.

The stark message from today’s report is that we simply have too many unskilled people, not enough intermediate skilled people, and increasingly need very highly skilled people.

For a country coming out of recession this is a wake up call.

We are seeing slow and steady recovery, and the type and range of skills we will need to maintain growth is changing.

But this is not just about having skills for their own sake.

We know that people who leave school with no qualifications are over three times more likely to be out of work than people with a degree.

And there are wider benefits to having skilled people in work.

Some researchers estimate that a one percentage point reduction in the proportion of working age people with no qualifications would provide a net social benefit of between £32 and £87 million from reduced property crime in Britain.

But, as this report makes clear, skills training must be related to the reality of employment.

I was disturbed to read the findings of Professor Alison Wolf’s study into vocational qualifications published just a few months ago.

She found that among 16 and 17 year olds between a quarter and a third are in, or moving in and out of, vocational provision which offers no clear progression into employment.

We’ve developed vocational training that does not lead to a vocation.

We are teaching skills that are neither use nor ornament whilst at the same time employers are crying out for better skilled candidates.

This is madness.

We must ensure the skills system is geared towards the needs of employers.

But having the right skills is just one part of the picture.

As this report has found, for entry level jobs, having the right attitude to work is just as important, if not more so, than even basic skills.

Whilst the scope of today’s report is much wider than young people – looking, as it does, at all potential entry level candidates – it made me think of the Wolf report and our failure to properly equip the young with the skills they need in the real world.

I think, as a society, we have let young people down by not preparing them for life beyond education.

But worse than that, we have stood by as they have been sold a lie.

We have allowed reality television to make them an empty promise of overnight success.

Saturday night talent shows make ten second celebrities of ordinary people.

This is not harmless viewing; implicit in this programming is the notion that you can get something for nothing.

That if you wait around long enough your true talents will be discovered and fame and fortune will be yours.

It is time for these reality shows to get a reality check.

The rise of the cheap, temporary celebrity has eroded people’s responsibility to support themselves.

We have a triple whammy of failure for young people in Britain today.

The education system does not prepare them for the world of work.

The benefits system encourages inactivity.

And celebrity culture tells them it’s all going to be fine, that their moment in the sun is just an audition away.

It is small wonder that we have well over a million** **16-24 year olds who are not in full-time education or employment.

The real challenge of the CSJ’s report is how to restore employability in the unemployed.

The report quotes one employer who summarised employability using the acronym PRIDE:

– Professionalism

– Reliability

– Interest

– Determination

– Enthusiasm

How do we restore the principles of PRIDE in our young people and more generally in the long term unemployed?

We in Government hold some, but by no means all, of the levers for change.

As the CSJ report rightly points out family, peer groups and wider society also have an enormous impact on aspirations and expectations.

This is as much about culture change as it is about Government reforms in education or welfare.

Government is tackling these issues head on.

We have accepted Professor Wolf’s recommendations to improve the system of vocational education for 14-19 year olds.

And we are committed to raising the age of participation in education or training to 18 by 2015.

We are also committed to integrating employment and skills – making the real world of work the focus for skills training.

We will improve basic skills like literacy and numeracy by providing a full subsidy for basic skills training in England for everyone aged over 19 years old, regardless of benefit status.

We will also fully fund training for people on active benefits to address skills gaps, working with individuals and employers to ensure training is tailored to their needs.

And all training will be accredited meaning over time credits from completed courses will add up to full formal qualifications.

We are empowering Jobcentre Plus to work more closely with local employers, colleges and private providers to help ensure that flexible and responsive provision is delivered to meet the needs of employers and communities.

One of the most important aspects of this is work is ensuring they understand the local labour market and are able to respond accordingly.

Frontline services are being encouraged to operate much more strategically and have been granted the power to tailor support to the individual at the right time for them, rather than at specific points in time.

Additionally, Jobcentre Plus is now able to use data about current and emerging vacancies to identify future skills needs.

District managers will then work with local training providers to develop short courses designed to meet those needs.

In addition, from August this year we will give Jobcentre Plus advisers the power to require some benefit claimants to attend training if they are clearly missing specific skills which would help them to get a job.

We have increased the funding for apprenticeships to over £1.4bn this year, enough to train 360,000 apprentices, delivering real opportunities to progress across a range of industries.

Apprenticeships are an excellent way of building capacity for the future and ensuring young people in particular are able to move into fulfilling and sustainable careers.

For long term unemployed people welfare reforms will provide a much more responsive benefits system and personalised back to work support.

Universal Credit will deliver a real time tax and benefits system, making it much easier for unemployed people to take short term, flexible jobs like those offered at entry level.

At the same time the new Work Programme will provide tailored support for people finding it difficult to find work.

This support is being delivered by private providers who are paid by results.

The emphasis is on sustainable employment with providers earning more money the longer they support someone to stay in work – up to £13,700 over two years in some of the hardest to help cases.

We have not dictated to providers how they should provide support so that they are free to use whatever methods they know work and to develop innovative new ways to improve existing methods of support.

However, we know from this report and our own experience that often providers choose to develop effective relationships with employers so that they are able to more accurately match the right candidate to the right job.

And the emphasis on sustainable employment means that providers will be incentivised to offer some form of in-work support.

This could reduce the risk to employers of hiring some of the harder to help, long term unemployed as there will be some level of consistent support available to the new employee.

There are a number of further steps Government is taking to tackle this issue.

For example, over the summer we hope to launch the new sector based work academies.

These are sector specific packages of training and work experience with a guaranteed interview at the end.

They are focused in sectors that have high volumes of vacancies – often at entry level – and included accredited qualifications.

Government is providing practical solutions, we are pulling all the levers we can but it must be a combined effort.

We need employers to work with us to ensure training actually provides the skills they need.

We need training providers and employers to work closely to design and deliver training and work experience packages.

We need educational reform so young people are able to gain qualifications that are worth something to both students and potential employers.

But most of all we need to restore PRIDE in our young people and long term unemployed, that’s about societal change and is a task we all share.