Alex Neil – 2012 Speech to SNP Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Alex Neil at the 2012 SNP Party Conference on 21st October 2012.

Just two of her achievements have been keeping the Accident and Emergency Departments at Ayr and Monklands open; and introducing free prescriptions for everybody in Scotland.

These two measures alone have already alleviated unnecessary suffering for thousands of people and saved an unquantifiable number of lives in Scotland.

Nicola, on behalf of the people of Scotland we say to you thank you for all you have done for the NHS in Scotland.

My job now is to build on Nicola’s success and ensure the NHS in Scotland is one our children and grandchildren will be proud of.

That means total rejection of the privatisation agenda pursued by both Labour and the Tories south of the border.

It means maintaining our commitment to free personal and nursing care for the elderly and frail.

Unlike Johann Lamont I don’t believe that free personal care is about getting “something for nothing”.

Johann, do you not realise the elderly and frail people who get free personal care have worked for it, they’ve paid for it through a lifetime of paying taxes and national insurance contributions. And they deserve the best care money can buy.

Labour also wants to end free prescriptions for all, claiming we can’t afford them. Rubbish.

Under the SNP, free prescriptions will be a permanent feature of our NHS and are here to stay. Unlike Labour we understand the language of priorities. And a health service free at he point of use is a TOP Priority

Unlike our opponents we have a vision for the NHS in Scotland.

By 2020 we intend that everyone in Scotland is able to live longer and healthier lives at home, or in a homely setting.

We intend building a health system where we have integrated health and social care, a focus on prevention, anticipation and self-management.

When hospital treatment is required, and cannot be provided in a community setting, care will be provided to the highest standards of quality and safety, with the individual at the centre of all decisions.

The NHS in Scotland faces three major challenges:

Firstly an ageing population means an increasing demand on the health service.That’s why our top priority is the integration of adult health and social care.

It is totally unacceptable when an elderly person or a disabled person suffers because of a bureaucratic battle between a local authority and the local health board.

We are determined to put an end to such nonsense and ensure that everybody gets the quality of both health and social care they need when they need it.

The second major challenge is from the consequences of poverty and deprivation, which the Labour/Tory welfare changes and benefit cuts will make much worse. It’s projected that the actions of the UK Government could mean that over 50,000 additional children would be in relative poverty by 2020. We must do all we can to stop that from happening.

That is why we are doing so much to increase the social wage in Scotland, so that our poorest people get the help they need.

The third big challenge arise from the Westminster cuts.

That’s why we’ve made our money go further by re-investing every penny of the three quarters of a billion pounds already saved from improved efficiencies made by the NHS into improving quality and frontline services in the NHS.

And conference, today I can announce a new initiative to further drive efficiencies to release cash for frontline services for years to come.

We are investing £24 million in the ‘NHS Scotland Carbon Reduction Programme’ which through a number of energy saving schemes will reduce energy costs for Scottish health facilities by £4 million per year.

£4 million per year that will be reinvested in provision of patient care.

The new 3 year programme also has the added benefit of reducing carbon emissions in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Friends, research shows that the single biggest contributor to improving the health of a nation is to have as many people in good, well paid jobs as possible.

That’s why Jobs and Growth are at the heart of all we do. Not only are jobs and growth good for the economy, they are essential to improving the health of our country.

But delegates, no matter how much we do with our existing limited power and resources to create jobs and improve public services we will be able to do far, far more with a YES vote in 2014.

For example, we will have a benefits system that genuinely helps people into work rather than drive them further into poverty; we will have a fair tax system that places the heaviest burden on the broadest shoulders.

But as well as spelling the positive case for a YES vote over the next two years we have to explode the myths being perpetrated by the “Better Together No” campaign.

The No campaign claims that the UK has been a raving success:

Tell that to every family who have lost a young son or husband or brother because of the illegal war in Iraq

Tell that to the young men who have been serving in Afghanistan without the proper equipment to keep them safe and protected – many being the same young brave men who on their return from Afghanistan are now being rewarded with a P45.

The UK hasn’t been a raving success for them.

It hasn’t been a success for the two and a half million unemployed people in the UK.

Or the millions of children, disabled and elderly people living in dire poverty in the UK.

What they promise is “Better Together”. What they mean is:

“Poorer Together”

“More People Being Forced To Rely On Food Parcels Together”

“Unemployed Together”

“More Debt Together”

“More Unwanted Wars Together”

Delegates they must think our heads button up the back.

As the SNP Government has proved we have achieved much more over the last five years than Westminster did over the previous fifty years of London rule over Scotland.

The only way Scotland will be “Better Together” is by being an Independent nation:

– If people want jobs only Independence can deliver

– If they want an end to austerity only Independence can achieve it

– If they want rid of nuclear weapons that can only happen in an independent Scotland

While the Scottish people see the SNP Government as a model of competence, they also know that this lot in London couldn’t run a whelk stall never mind a nation.

Delegates the choice facing the Scottish people is clear in 2014. Turn backwards and undo all the progress our nation has made in the last five years with a No vote or leap forward to a better future for us, our children and our grandchildren by voting YES. Yes to Independence.

Airey Neave – 1953 Maiden Speech


Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Commons by Airey Neave on 29th July 1953.

This is the first time that I have had occasion to address this House and I ask the indulgence of hon. Members. A maiden speech in the House of Commons is a milestone in the life of a new Member and I ask, therefore, for the consideration of hon. Members when I make certain points on the subject of defence.

It may be thought that this is a complicated and difficult subject for a maiden speech, but I have chosen it for certain reasons. In the first place, in my constituency of Abingdon, which I have recently come here to represent, there are certain defence establishments, in particular the Military College of Science at Shrivenham and several other Service establishments, as well as the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell. As hon. Members will be well aware, my predecessor was much interested in defence matters and it would appear that I shall be connected with such matters through having these establishments in my constituency.

There are personal reasons why I should like to take part in this debate and to put forward a few views which I hope will be regarded as not very contentious. The first is that I served for a long time in the Territorial Army, recently leaving it, when I retired about two years ago, and I specialised during the last war in military intelligence. As a consequence I want to lay emphasis on the subject of training in that sphere, and the points I want to make about National Service men are in respect of the time they will spend in the Territorial Army. I also want to suggest certain measures by which they can be attracted towards remaining in the Territorial Army on a voluntary basis.

It is clear to all hon. Members that a certain amount of radical re-thinking is required upon defence policy. I want to preface my remarks by referring to the need for highly trained Reserves. That applies to the policy of having a system of defence under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Highly trained Reserves are essential to any practical scheme of defence. That point has been made by General Eisenhower on numerous occasions and it is in that connection that I shall call attention to the principle that, in respect of the Territorial Army and other Reserve organisations in the future, it is our duty to seek the highest quality as much as quantity by creating large and skilled Reserves. By encouraging the voluntary aspect of service in the Territorial Army, and by encouraging men to remain on after they have done their National Service, the Territorial Army could be made more attractive to the National Service men of the future.

My first point is that the training of Territorial intelligence officers should be encouraged. That is a type of military service which would be highly suitable for certain types of men who might volunteer to remain on in the Territorial Army. There is at present a certain amount of machinery for that purpose in the field security units which exist in T.A. camps, but it should be carried much further. In the war, no branch of the Armed Forces had a higher proportion of civilian soldiers than military intelligence, and it will be well within the knowledge of hon. Members that many men came from offices and factories to carry out this type of work. It is thoroughly interesting work, and although there may be security problems involved in taking on Territorials for this purpose—former National Service men—I suggest that a lot could be done.

I therefore have three suggestions to make which I hope will find agreement in the House. First of all, we should encourage more language training for Territorials. That could certainly be done more widely than it is at the moment. It would be useful to have a pool of trained linguists available from the resources of the Territorial Army. Secondly, it should be possible to send Territorials abroad in connection with the liaison work which may be required if, unhappily, we have to defend Western Europe through the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Individual Territorials could be sent abroad to study such problems in Europe and in other N.A.T.O. countries.

Another point which concerns all Territorial units is training abroad. Would it not be possible to send them abroad a great deal more than is done at present? I know that certain airborne units are being sent abroad for their annual training, but it could be done more generally so that the Territorials could study some of the ground upon which they might unhappily one day have to operate, although we hope that the present relaxation in the international atmosphere will prevent that from occurring.

Speaking of the policy of building up these highly-trained Reserves, I suggest that these are imaginative and interesting methods of training, more likely to attract men to the Territorial Army than an increase in bounty or action of that kind. It may well be that such an increase in bounty would do a lot of good, but if we are to build up skilled Reserves we must attract the sort of people we want by the methods which I have suggested.

My final point can be put much more shortly and it relates not to training in intelligence but to the provision of up-to-date weapons for the mechanics and skilled engineers and, indeed, the infantrymen who are willing and available to join the Territorials at present. I realise that this involves very difficult questions of cost and the whole problem of keeping weapons up to date, but as to the nature of the training, I ask the House to consider that it is very important that mechanics and trained engineers should do a type of voluntary training which does not involve too much in the way of regimental duties or too much foot drill.

Although such duties and training are necessary for certain branches of the Army, I think we ought to provide specialists with facilities to study, in the case of those I have mentioned, the mechanics of new, technical and complex weapons. It seems to me that to adopt this procedure and to cut down the purely regimental duties is a much more effective way of training them, because in my submission it is our duty, in building up a specialist Reserve for the future, to concentrate on quality.

In that connection, although I do not wish to go deeply into the subject, I think the standardisation of weapons should reach down into the Reserves within the N.A.T.O. system. That certainly would be of assistance in bringing about some of the results which I have suggested.

I have made those few points and suggestions for future methods of training in looking ahead to the possibility that we may have to rely upon a long-term plan for training Reserves for the Army and, indeed, the other Services. I believe these are methods by which we can establish an efficient defence system in the future. I thank the House for listening so patiently to my views on the subject.

Mark Isherwood – 2006 Speech on Fuel Poverty

Below is the text of the speech made by Mark Isherwood on 10th January 2006 on fuel poverty.

The Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru states that it is reasonable to expect everyone to live in a safe, warm, affordable, and comfortable home. However, there are growing signs that current housing policy is failing to deliver that.

Wales has the oldest housing stock of any western European nation, with 8.5 per cent of the Welsh housing stock in home ownership classified as unfit. The Council of Mortgage Lenders reports that one in two of the poorest households live in their own homes and 72 per cent of Welsh properties that are officially designated as unfit are owner-occupied. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation tells us that three in five pensioners on low incomes in Wales are homeowners.

National Energy Action states that, across north Wales, 34,000 pensioners are on low incomes or claiming pension credit and 13.8 per cent of households in Wales live in fuel poverty. Each year, there are over 400 excess winter deaths in north Wales and, last winter, the number of excess winter deaths was the highest for five years, with 90 per cent of these occurring in the pensioner population.

I was pleased to support the warm homes campaign and to visit a beneficiary of the home energy efficiency scheme in Kinmel Bay a few weeks ago. However, it is clear that much more needs to be done to target those most at risk from fuel poverty. Despite reports of a reduction in fuel poverty numbers since 1998, as we have heard, Energy Watch states that the true figure is likely to be significantly higher following the huge energy price hikes of the past two years.

Recent research carried out by National Energy Action Wales and the National Right to Fuel Campaign suggest that fuel poverty may have increased by some 80 per cent between 2003 and 2005, affecting up to 304,000 people in Wales.

Fuel poverty is a major cause of illness. Cold, damp housing causes a wide range of circulatory and respiratory conditions and is a key factor in social isolation. Children living in fuel poverty are more likely to miss school as a result of cold-related illness and to have difficulty finding places to study.

There is no better example of that than the Finnegan family in Flintshire. All those responsible, and all those who have looked the other way, should hang their heads in shame. Help the Aged in Wales says that that 1,800 older people died of cold-related illnesses last winter. That was the third year in a row of increases in winter deaths among the over-65s.

These are all reasons for tabling amendment 1. A national strategy will be meaningless without measures for assisting the people identified, and that situation is so often the case with this Welsh Assembly Government. Motions without measures are like hot air balloons without tethers—floating off into the ether, never to be seen again. This is the Government of policy-led evidence—the Government that puts policy before planning, preparation and pricing; trying to please everyone, but delivering for no-one.

Such measures should, therefore, acknowledge the call by Help the Aged in Wales for research into all the circumstances that could be contributing to premature winter deaths, including behaviour on cultural issues, availability of and access to heating grants and schemes, health and nutrition.

Only then can we deliver a focused strategy to tackle fuel poverty. As Citizens Advice Cymru states, geographical factors must also be taken into account so that fuel poverty can be tackled evenly across Wales, and to ensure that people outside easily identifiable groups and Communities First areas are not the last ones to be helped.

The Welsh housing quality standard states that all dwellings must be capable of being adequately heated at an affordable cost. However, as National Energy Action states, this commitment requires more than rhetoric.

It requires adequate resources and effective enforcement. For that reason, amendment 2 expresses concern at the slow progress towards achieving the Welsh housing quality standard by 2012. As the Council of Mortgage Lenders Cymru has stated, sadly, to date, the politics and the process have got firmly in the way of reality. The question is: for how much longer will the council tenants of Wales get less than they deserve and need?

You will recall that I spoke on the budget and severely criticised this very factor decisively and categorically. There is a housing crisis in Wales, and it has been engineered by you during your period in Government.

I will move on to amendments 3 and 4, which relate to progress on the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995 target, introduced on a voluntary basis by the last Conservative Government. In the last Labour Government, a Labour Member of Parliament tabled a backbench motion to introduce statutory targets, with all-party backing, but pressure from 10 Downing Street forced him to withdraw the motion.

However, in Scotland, statutory reporting has been introduced by threatening court action. I urge the Welsh Assembly Government to put its money where its mouth is and to use the powers that it has to implement similar measures here. Let us show that we really mean what we say.


Mae Sefydliad Tai Siartredig Cymru’n datgan ei bod yn rhesymol disgwyl bod pawb yn gallu byw mewn cartref diogel, cynnes, fforddiadwy a chyfforddus. Fodd bynnag, gwelir arwyddion cynyddol nad yw’r polisi tai cyfredol yn llwyddo i gyflawni hynny. Mae stoc dai hynaf unrhyw genedl yng ngorllewin Ewrop i’w chael yng Nghymru, gydag 8.5 y cant o stoc dai Cymru sy’n gartrefi’n cael ei chyfrif yn anaddas i fyw ynddynt.

Yn ôl Cyngor y Benthycwyr Morgais mae un o bob dau o’r teuluoedd tlotaf yn byw yn eu cartrefi eu hunain ac mae 72 y cant o eiddo Cymru sydd wedi eu dynodi’n anaddas i fyw ynddynt yn gartrefi i’w perchenogion. Dywed Sefydliad Joseph Rowntree wrthym fod tri o bob pum pensiynwr ar incwm isel yng Nghymru yn berchen ar eu cartref eu hunain.

Yn ôl National Energy Action, ledled y Gogledd, mae 34,000 o bensiynwyr ar incwm isel neu’n hawlio credyd pensiwn ac mae 13.8 y cant o deuluoedd yng Nghymru’n byw mewn tlodi tanwydd. Bob blwyddyn, ceir dros 400 o farwolaethau gaeaf ychwanegol yn y Gogledd ac, yn ystod y gaeaf diwethaf, y ffigur ar gyfer marwolaethau gaeaf ychwanegol oedd yr uchaf a welwyd mewn pum mlynedd, gyda 90 y cant o’r rhain yn digwydd ymhlith pensiynwyr.

Yr oeddwn yn falch o gael cefnogi’r ymgyrch cartrefi cynnes ac o ymweld ag un o fuddiolwyr y cynllun effeithlonrwydd ynni cartref ym Mae Cinmel ychydig wythnosau yn ôl. Fodd bynnag, mae’n amlwg bod llawer iawn o waith i’w wneud eto i dargedu’r rhai sydd yn y perygl mwyaf o dlodi tanwydd.

Er gwaethaf adroddiadau ar ostyngiad yn y nifer sy’n byw mewn tlodi tanwydd ers 1998, fel y clywsom, yn ôl Golwg ar Ynni mae’r gwir ffigur yn debygol o fod yn sylweddol uwch yn dilyn y cynnydd enfawr mewn pris tanwydd yn ystod y ddwy flynedd diwethaf.

Mae ymchwil diweddar a gynhaliwyd gan National Energy Action Cymru a’r Ymgyrch Genedlaethol dros Hawl i Danwydd yn awgrymu y gall tlodi tanwydd fod wedi cynyddu oddeutu 80 y cant rhwng 2003 a 2005, gan effeithio ar hyd at 304,000 o bobl yng Nghymru.

Tlodi tanwydd yw un o brif achosion salwch. Mae cartrefi oer a llaith yn achosi pob math o gyflyrau cylchredol a resbiradol ac mae’n un o ffactorau allweddol arwahanrwydd cymdeithasol. Mae plant sy’n byw mewn tlodi tanwydd yn fwy tebygol o golli ysgol o ganlyniad i salwch a achosir gan oerfel a’i chael yn anodd dod o hyd i rywle i astudio.

Ni cheir enghraifft well o hyn na’r teulu Finnegan yn Sir y Fflint. Dylai pawb sy’n gyfrifol a phawb sydd wedi edrych i’r cyfeiriad arall, wrido gan gywilydd. Dywed Help the Aged yng Nghymru fod 1,800 o bobl hyn wedi marw o ganlyniad i salwch a achosir gan oerfel y gaeaf diwethaf. Dyna’r trydydd gaeaf yn olynol lle gwelwyd cynnydd mewn marwolaethau gaeaf ymhlith pobl dros 65 oed.

Mae’r rhain i gyd yn rhesymau dros gynnig gwelliant 1. Bydd strategaeth genedlaethol yn ddiystyr heb fesurau i gynorthwyo’r bobl sydd mewn angen, a dyna’r sefyllfa’n aml yn achos Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru heddiw. Mae cynigion heb fesurau fel balwns awyr poeth heb dennyn—maent yn codi i’r entrychion, ac yn diflannu am byth.

Dyma Lywodraeth y dystiolaeth a arweinir gan bolisi—y Llywodraeth sy’n rhoi polisi o flaen cynllunio, paratoi a phrisio; ceisio plesio pawb, ond yn cyflawni dim i neb.

Dylai mesurau o’r fath, felly, gydnabod galwad Help the Aged yng Nghymru am ymchwil i’r holl amgylchiadau a all fod yn cyfrannu at farwolaethau gaeaf cynamserol, gan gynnwys ymddygiad yng nghyswllt materion diwylliannol, argaeledd a mynediad at grantiau a chynlluniau gwresogi, iechyd a maeth.

Dim ond wedyn y gallwn ni gyflawni strategaeth sy’n canolbwyntio ar fynd i’r afael â thlodi tanwydd. Fel y dywed Cyngor ar Bopeth Cymru, rhaid hefyd ystyried ffactorau daearyddol i sicrhau bod modd mynd i’r afael â thlodi tanwydd yn yr un ffordd ledled Cymru, a sicrhau nad y bobl sydd y tu allan i grwpiau amlwg ac ardaloedd Cymunedau yn Gyntaf yw’r rhai olaf i dderbyn cymorth.

Yn ôl safon ansawdd tai Cymru rhaid bod modd cynhesu pob annedd yn ddigonol a hynny am gost fforddiadwy. Fodd bynnag, dywed National Energy Action bod angen mwy na rhethreg i gyflawni’r ymrwymiad hwn.

Mae’n gofyn am adnoddau digonol a gorfodi effeithiol. Oherwydd hynny, mae gwelliant 2 yn mynegi pryder ynghylch y cynnydd araf a wneir tuag at gyflawni safon ansawdd tai Cymru erbyn 2012. Fel y dywedodd Cyngor Benthycwyr Morgais Cymru, yn anffodus, hyd yma, mae gwleidyddiaeth a’r broses wedi sefyll yn ffordd realaeth. Y cwestiwn yw: am faint o amser eto y bydd tenantiaid cynghorau Cymru’n gorfod byw â llai na’u haeddiant a’u hangen?

Byddwch yn cofio imi lefaru ar y gyllideb a beirniadu’n hallt yr union ffactor hwn yn bendant ac yn ddiamwys. Mae gennym argyfwng tai yng Nghymru, ac mae wedi’i achosi gennych chi yn ystod eich cyfnod mewn grym.

Yr wyf am symud ymlaen at welliannau 3 a 4, sy’n cyfeirio at y cynnydd i gwrdd â tharged Deddf Cadwraeth Ynni Cartref 1995, a gyflwynwyd ar sail wirfoddol gan y Llywodraeth Geidwadol ddiwethaf. Yn ystod cyfnod y Llywodraeth Lafur ddiwethaf, cyflwynodd Aelod Seneddol Llafur fesur o’r meinciau cefn i gyflwyno targedau statudol, gyda chefnogaeth pob plaid, ond yn dilyn pwysau o gyfeiriad 10 Downing Street fe’i gorfodwyd i dynnu’r cynnig yn ôl. Fodd bynnag, yn yr Alban, bygythiwyd camau cyfreithiol er mwyn cyflwyno trefn adrodd statudol. Erfyniaf ar Lywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru i fod gystal â’i gair a defnyddio’r pwerau sydd ar gael iddi i gyflwyno mesurau tebyg yma. Gadewch inni ddangos ein bod o ddifrif ynglyn â’r hyn yr ydym yn ei ddweud.

Eric Pickles – 2014 Speech at Naz Legacy Foundation


Below is the text of the speech made by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, to the Naz Legacy Foundation annual reception held in the Churchill Dining Room of the House of Commons, in London, on 30th April 2014.

This very sad week we have thought a lot about teachers and their dedication to our country, given the tragic news of Anne Maguire.

I think Naz knew that classrooms are a place to bring people of different backgrounds together and pursue common goals.

This is the messages that the foundation established in his name and continues to promote today.

Being a kind citizen, a helping hand, or a friendly face shouldn’t just fall to the Naz’s of this world, but to each of us who care about our community.

As a government, we cannot force cohesion, or compel people to spend time together.

But as Naz did, and what we can all do, is create the right conditions to break down barriers and encourage communities to come together.

A particular focus for me has been encouraging faith communities to work together, rather than concentrating on their own communities.

Together in Service has not only funded some great projects, but I think it has sent out the right kind of message.

We achieve more by working together than by doing things separately, and we are offering small grants to ramp up their impact and create closer ties.

The Near Neighbours scheme is all about building relationships across faith boundaries, and it has seen a fantastic response. Almost everyone taking part has said that they feel more connected to their community.

As supporters of Mosaic, the Naz Legacy Foundation are enabling youngsters across the country to find inspiration in enterprise. To discover, and achieve their true potential, no matter what their background.

It’s great to hear the Foundation’s next project, the Diversity Programme, to introduce culture and arts to kids who may not otherwise have the chance or that experience.

This is something Naz did for children in his own classroom, and now thousands of others will benefit from this too.

It can be daunting to take on a role in communities. You might not know where to start.

But by opening up a discussion about the sort of communities we want to live in, or simply by encouraging folk just to come together, we are helping to reduce that fear of taking on a new role in society.

Of course, we have great role models in the Naz Legacy Foundation, enablers of education, mentoring, and training. You take the memory of a great man and remind us of the lengths we should all go to to make our communities thrive.

I am delighted this evening that the Prime Minister has asked me to present a Big Society Award.

This is in recognition of the Foundation’s hard work, to inspire young people to strive for excellence, and to play a full part in their community.

It is well deserved, and it is my pleasure to present it.

Eric Pickles – 2014 Speech at Baha’i Faith Festival


Below is the text of the speech made by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, at the Baha’i Faith Festival Celebration held at the House of Commons on 30th April 2014.

I am an enormous admirer of the Baha’i faith.

All faiths in this country put a lot back into their communitiy, but none more so than Baha’i.

In terms of looking out for the vulnerable, in terms of wanting to make friends with people of different faiths, there is always a Baha’i in the mix.

What we all have in common is our basic humanity which binds us. It is this commonality, this ‘oneness’ of the human race, that inspires the Baha’i faith.

Whilst the Baha’i religion is relatively young, your message of harmony and unity ripples down through the ages.

It creates an opportunity for all, rejecting all forms of prejudice, and bringing all faiths together to celebrate what we have in common, rather than focusing on our differences.

These are the qualities we strive to promote in the UK, and luckily for us, there are over 10,000 members of the Baha’i faith in this country, each with the same message of optimism and hope.

Whilst you may not be huge in number, you have an enormous impact. You threw yourselves behind projects like A Year of Service, got yourselves involved in the Big Iftar, and continue to be a shining presence in inter-faith projects around the country.

Your knack of reaching out to people of all faiths, and frankly, those of no faith, and promoting ‘one-ness’ is very inspiring, and a little humbling.

This one-ness in the human race, the one-ness of religion – through your Divine Plan, I know will continue to inspire and motivate young people, and ensure the Baha’i Faith will go from strength to strength, continuing to bring people together here and around the world.

As you celebrate this day of divine felicity, I want to say thank you for making the UK a more tolerant, a more cohesive, and a more cheerful place. I want to wish you all a very happy Rizwan!

Eric Pickles – 2014 Speech on Rwanda


Below is the text of the speech made by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, in Birmingham on 12th April 2014.

For many, 1994 was a year of progress and inspiration.

The world saw the final end of apartheid, with the election of Nelson Mandela.

Here at home we saw the opening of the Euro-Tunnel, so it would take only around two hours to get from London to Paris. Israel and Jordan ended a 40 year war – and the IRA formally announced they would cease their military operations.

However, a modern world does not necessarily mean a humane one.

As we celebrated hope, others experienced hatred, and none as dreadful as the genocide experienced by Rwandans. To all those Tutsi’s who died and moderate Hutu’s who died, this month in 1994 marked the beginning of 100 days of hell.

100 days of rape, of torture, and of murder. 100 days which took nearly a million lives.

For those who bore witness to Rwanda’s genocide, it was a time that humanity seemed to forget. And as we saw at Kigali’s official commemoration last week, 20 years doesn’t seem so long ago. I am sure that there are memories here in this room today that have been replayed time and time again, as though they were yesterday.

As quickly as day turned to night, wives became widows, and children became orphans. Leaving three quarters of the Tutsi population eliminated, and a nation with a great gaping hole at the centre of it .

So how could this country reconcile to such a loss?

Well we first need to remember.

It is not just the first step to honouring survivors, and the memory of their families, but it is how we ensure that we retain constant vigilance.

My colleague Andrew Mitchell talked about this never happening again, and we know that something like this in some part of the world can happen again.

It requires constant vigilance, it requires prompt action at the first sign of hatred. We have a tradition in the UK of remembrance. We have remembered the Jewish people lost to the Holocaust, the Cambodians that died in the Killing Fields, and we have a duty to remember our Rwandan friends.

Amongst so many experiences of loss and violence, there are always examples of true heroism, tales that are important to tell in the face of such malice.

Stories like that of Senagalese peacekeeper Mbaye Diagne. It was his sense of humour that got him through so many road blocks, and with him hundreds of Tutsi’s stowed in trucks, who would have otherwise been killed,

Mbaye was a good man within a sea of evil. When he lost his life, a small candle, a small flickering light against the darkness went out.

Today we remember all he did for Rwandans.

Or Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian commander and now a member of the Canadian Senate. He was one of the first to warn of the trouble brewing. He urged action. But his words fell on deaf ears.

Despite this, Romeo spoke up after the genocide, and went on to set up both a foundation in Rwanda and the Child Soldiers Initiative.

Today we also remember what Romeo did for Rwandans. And we echo his comments of worry.

These are just two examples, of how the spirit of one person can overcome a world of inaction.

I have often heard survivors of the genocide call themselves the ‘unlucky ones.’ Because they have been left to face a seemingly dark and bleak future. But it is in these times that we must remember that whilst world governments slept, individuals shone through.

Our collective responsibility shapes a new future of telling these stories. Looking past the statistics, which can be so overwhelming, and recalling the stories of survival and determination of the need to carry on.

We remind ourselves of the other side of humanity, the selfless and determined characteristics, that shape the Rwanda we see today.

It is a country to be immensely proud of. Rwanda has the highest number of female parliamentarians of anywhere in the world. Girls are given the same access to education as boys. Less Rwandans are going hungry, more are finding work, and the economic fortune of the country continues to improve.

Rwanda has a future.

It is a future that perpetrators of the genocide could not imagine.

But changing does not mean forgetting.

1994 was not that long ago. The twenty-first century was on the horizon, and we looked towards it expectantly. The era of genocides and mass-killing seemed a distant memory. But for as long as people are judged by the colour of their skin, the religion they worship, or the roots of their ethnicity, our achievements will forever be dwarfed by the callousness of mankind.

Sparks of intolerance can only exist, at the will of our own complacency. And no matter how many years pass – one, twenty, or two hundred, we owe it to Rwanda, and all victims of genocide – to remain vigilant, and to always remember the sacrifice you never deserved to make.

Eric Pickles – 2014 Speech on Holocaust Memorial Day


Below is the text of the speech made by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, on Holocaust Memorial Day on 28th January 2014.


So far this afternoon, we have heard about journeys punctuated with suffering, with immeasurable loss, and with the scars which still bear their memory.

Journeys to a new life are by no means easier – but nonetheless I hope they have brought some healing, and the chance of a new start.

This year is particularly poignant. 75 years have just passed since Kristallnacht – and as we have just heard, 20 years have passed since the start of the Rwandan genocide.

Time does not stand still to allow us to remember. And as time passes, persecution and hatred remain a threat. Which is why our vigilance can never rest.

As Josef Stalin said,

“A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths are just a statistic.”

This is once day dedicated to remembrance reminds us of the people and the stories – not the statistics.

The walls of the gas chambers cannot talk – and the grass of the killing fields have no voice.

Human experience is the best memory.

Your resilience allowed you to journey on; not to forget, but to rebuild your lives again.

Journey’s like Ben Helf-gott’s (Helfgott), who went on to captain the British weightlifting team in the Melbourne and Rome Olympics (1956 and 1960).

Or like Anita Lak-sar Wall-fish’s (Lakser-Wallfisch) – who believes her talent as a cellist saved her from a certain death. She went from the discomfort of playing for SS officers – to co-founding the English Chamber Orchestra.

Or a journey like Kitty Hart Moxon’s – who endured 2 years of concentration camp life and survived the death marches. She trained to become a nurse in Britain. Despite all she had been through – Kitty retained her humanity to care for others, and tend to the sick.

Their new lives couldn’t erase the past, but decades after the Third Reich, they have been victorious over the Nazis, and they are incredible achievements in the face of adversity.

‘Seeing is believing’

And visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau with the Education Trust is one of the most powerful ways of doing so.

The Trust also brings survivors into schools, to share their testimony – and now it is falling to their children pick up the baton and ensure their legacy never fades.

Incredibly, David Herman, survived 5 separate concentration camps – an experience that his daughter Julia Burton now retells in schools. Making sure her father’s story, and the words of a Grandmother she never met, is never forgotten.

Alongside the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the Holocaust Education Trust – there are many other ways we combat anti-semitic, anti-muslim, and other hate crimes.

The Anne Frank Trust uses her moving diary to educate others.

Show Racism the Red Card has got top footballers behind it.

And Tell MAMA brings unacceptable Muslim attacks to light.

Their vigilant work stops the cracks of intolerance forming in today’s society.

Reminding people of why the holocaust happened – is something our Prime Minister truly believes in.

In September, David Cameron announced the formation of the Holocaust commission.

The commission will consider the best way to commemorate the holocaust for future generations.

The road back to Auschwitz is taken by steps. Small acts of intolerance can be very powerful. That is why we must always be vigilant.

We are lucky enough to live in a largely tolerant society. But only a thin veneer separates us from committing such betrayals. Like the anti-semitic salute by a footballer.

We only need to look at recent atrocities in the Central African Republic to see – that one spark of intolerance quickly spreads to an untameable fire.

Our neighbours, friends and school teachers can quickly become our enemies.

Like Kemal Pervanitch’s teacher – someone who he considered a role model – quickly became his torturer.

Kemal has poignantly said before,

“I was a victim. Then I was a survivor. But all I wanted to be was a human being again.”

In spite of the circumstances – those who have rebuilt their lives here have made this country a richer place, A more tolerant place, You make it the great country we are all proud of.

I’d like to end with a quote. One which I think captures our responsibility –

In Joel 1:3, he prophesises –

“Tell it to your children, And let your children tell it to their children, And their children to the next generation.”

Pledging to keep doing just that is what we all must do.

We must continue to remember.

Eric Pickles – 2013 Conservative Party Conference Speech


Below is the text of the speech made by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, on 30th September 2013.


It is always a delight to be working with our yellow chums inside Whitehall, but it’s great to be back at a Conservative Party conference.

Conservatives share common beliefs – a smaller state, lower taxes, trusting the people and championing hardworking families.

After three years in government, it is easy to forget the toxic legacy that Labour left behind.

They mortgaged away our future.

Labour allowed the benefits bill to double, creating a something-for-nothing culture.

We have been cleaning up Labour’s mess ever since.

But imagine if the last three years had not happened, and David Cameron had not walked through the doors of Downing Street.

Imagine a parallel universe of a Lib-Lab Government clinging to power today.

Labour would have quickly lost the confidence of the markets for failing to tackle the deficit.

Mortgage rates would have soared, and after that, taxes too.

The Chancellor, Ed Balls, would be extending his so-called “mansion tax” to ordinary family homes.

Hitting your garden, your patio and your home improvements with soaring council tax.

The Business Secretary – Unite’s Baron McCluskey of Mersey Docks – would be abolishing Margaret Thatcher’s trade union reforms and turning the clock back to the 1970s.

The Deputy Prime Minister, the ever-cheerful Vince Cable, would still be urging an economic Plan B.

The Equalities Minister, Harriet Harman would be making welfare benefits a Human Right, assisted by her new human rights czar from the Brazilian Workers Party.

And the Home Secretary, Chris Huhne, the newly-elevated  Lord Huhne of Wormwood Scrubs, would be championing that great Liberal Democrat cause:

Votes for prisoners!

And in the dark, over-cast offices of Downing Street, candles would flicker during the 3-day-week electricity blackout

The walls battle-scarred by the years of flying Nokias and smashed keyboards

A dour Scotsman would be quietly cursing Tony Blair for his legacy of boom and bust.

To his left, Damian McBride, his spin doctor, whispering sweet poisons into his ear.

To his far left, Ed Miliband, his policy wonk, urging higher taxes, price controls and land grabs.

In reality, Gordon may be absent. But they are the same old Labour Party.

A vote for Labour still means:

– More spending

– More borrowing

– More debt

– More taxes

– And a return to the culture of spin.

I don’t know if you’ve been reading the McBride memoirs.

It’s twenty quid for a signed copy. The unsigned ones are even more expensive

So let me give you the condensed version.

Yes – there is a Nasty Party.

And it’s called the Labour Party!

At the next election, there will be a clear choice.

Between a modern Conservative Party or back to the future with Red Ed.

Look at the records of both parties.

Under the Labour Government, council tax more than doubled.

We have worked with councils to freeze it, cutting bills in real terms.

Under Labour, house building fell to the lowest rate since the 1920s.

Under Conservatives, house building and first time buyers are back at their highest rate since Labour’s crash, thanks to schemes like Help to Buy.

The economy is turning the corner.

We have built over one-hundred-and-fifty thousand new affordable homes since the election, with more to come.

And we are supporting new family-friendly tenancies in the private rented sector.

Labour build nothing but resentment.

Take Ed Miliband’s latest plan? To confiscate private land and build over the Green Belt.

Resurrected eco towns: the zombie policy that will not die.

It’s the same old Labour.

Hardworking people are still paying the price for Labour.

John Prescott told councils to hike up parking charges, cut the number of parking spaces and use parking fines to punish motorists.

It’s no wonder that nine million parking fines are now issued every year.

Shoppers drive to out-of-town superstores or just shop online, rather than face the high street.

So we will make it easier for hardworking people to pop into the local shop to buy a newspaper or a pint of milk.

We will empower local residents to challenge the excessive yellow lines and unreasonable fines.

We will switch off the parking ‘cash cameras’ and spy cars.

We are helping families with the cost of living, and supporting local shops.

But it’s not only Labour that wastes taxpayers’ money and interferes in people’s lives.

Increasingly the EU interferes in local communities.

Take the EU programme, INTERREG. You have probably never heard of it.

It replaces our national boundaries with pan-European regions.

Such as the “TransManche” –merging the southern counties of England with the north of France.

Last week, at a road show at the Jules Verne Circus in France, the Eurocrats celebrated this region.

Over a hundred million pounds of taxpayers’ money has been wasted on vanity projects.

And what gifts the new citizens of TransManche have received.

A new Atlas, renaming the English Channel. It’s now called “Le Pond”.

“Franco-British master-classes” in circus training.

Giant puppets and cross-border contemporary dance.

And to top the lot, a bold piece of 21st Century transport infrastructure.

The Cross-Channel Cycle Lane.

I struggle to see how Labour Ministers ever thought this was a good idea.

Mind you, Tony Blair did think he could walk on water.

These Euro projects are a symptom of a wider problem.

In quangos and town halls across the land, public sector bureaucrats think ‘Euro funding’ is somehow ‘free money’.

It’s not.

Every cent of EU grant we get back was British taxpayers’ money in the first place.

But there are strings attached.

To get the money, grant recipients must praise the European Union.

If they don’t, they are punished with fines.

Even in this great city of Manchester, a grave injustice has been committed.

Down the road is the People’s History Museum.

The home of the Labour Party Archives,

Containing papers from Kier Hardie, and a Frederick Pickles from Bradford – one of the earliest members of the Labour Party a century ago.

Labour’s Museum took the EU cash, but failed to fly the EU flag.

The punishment?

A seven thousand pound fine.

An outrage. But not a peep from the Labour Party.

Where was Peter Mandelson when Labour needed him?

But now the Commission wants to go further.

Using Lisbon Treaty powers, it wants councils to stamp the EU flag on birth, marriage and death certificates.

It’s optional say the Commission.

We’ve heard that one before. Just look at the EU flag on your driving licence.

Will branding Britons from cradle to grave with EU flags drive economic growth?


Will fining local community groups help balance the EU budget?


Will barmy cycle lanes and the EU’s flying circus make us love Brussels more?


Brussels says it needs ‘more Europe’ to save the Euro.

As Ronald Reagan might have said …

More EU government is not the solution to our problems.

The EU is the problem.

As David Cameron has said, it’s time to return powers to Britain and to let the people decide.

Like Labour, the EU doesn’t care about wasting taxpayers’ money.

But this Government has led from the front in the war on waste.

In my department, we’ve cut our administration by a cool FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-TWO MILLION POUNDS, from savings big and small.

Our corporate credit card spending fell by three-quarters after we published every transaction online.

We’ve cut back the consultants, the temps, the marketing budget.

We’ve stopped translating documents into foreign languages.

And shortly, to save NINE MILLION POUNDS A YEAR, my whole department is going to bunk in with Theresa at the Home Office.

Conservative councils have also led the way in producing quality services at a much lower price.

Sharing back-offices, better procurement and more joint working.

But Labour councils continue to burn money – from their union pilgrims to their Town Hall Pravdas.

Their councils make lazy choices – a “bleeding stump” strategy of axing the frontline, all so they can wave the red flag.

Let one Labour authority speak for them all – Newham.

This council, in one of the most deprived parts of our capital, has spent over one-hundred million pounds on a luxury headquarters, including thousands on designer light fittings.

Three years on, it’s moving back to its old building. All that money wasted.

By an historic accident, the council’s housing arm – Newham Homes – has houses in my constituency in Essex.

Former Right to Buy tenants who bought their own home are being hit with leasehold repair charges of up to fifty thousand pounds.

The local Conservative council charges a tenth of that for the same sort of maintenance.

That’s where I met Florence Bourne.

Florrie was a woman in her nineties, full of energy, full of fun and full of the joy of life that belied her years.

She was proud to have brought up a happy family.

When Mrs Thatcher gave her a chance she bought her own 2 bedroom flat over the top of the local parade of shops,

Then Newham gave her a fifty thousand pound bill.

A crushing sum for a proud woman who had never been in debt before.

Right across the estate former tenants were billed for work that was not done, work that was poorly done, work that was overpriced.

Most shocking of all work that was not necessary, including a replacement roof she didn’t need.

We went to the Valuation Tribunal, and eventually they over-turned the bill.

But too late for Florrie.

The last time I saw her she looked every one of her ninety-three years, weighed down by the drilling, the banging, the dust, the mess, but above all the debt and the worry.

She died a couple of weeks later still believing she owed fifty thousand pounds.

Ninety-three is a good age, but I’m convinced she had a few more good years in her and I blame Newham for its lack of care.

Newham: A council more concerned about the roof over its head rather than the roof over an elderly woman.

This case highlights the scandal of leaseholders being ripped off by inefficient municipal landlords who kick those who took up the Right to Buy.

We need to increase protection for former Right to Buy leaseholders like Florrie.

But this story shows the true face of Labour when in power, locally and nationally.

In May’s local elections, don’t let Labour do to your council what they did to our country


Conservatives will always be on the side of those who work hard and do the right thing.

We trust the people.

We believe in a smaller state.

We stand up for the ordinary guy in the face of state bureaucracy.

And we believe in cutting taxes and charges, helping hardworking people with the cost of living.

We promised change.

We’ve delivered change.

Conservative change for the better.

Eric Pickles – 2013 Speech to the National Conservative Convention


Below is the speech made by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, to the 2013 National Conservative Convention on 19th March 2013.

Conference chums,

Nearly three years on and we are still clearing up the mess left by Labour.

They certainly knew how to trash the economy.

Labour left us with the biggest budget deficit in our peacetime history.

They created a something for nothing culture.

They allowed the benefit bill to double.

Under Labour, more taxpayers’ money was spent on welfare than on defence, education and health combined.

Having trashed our economy, the ones responsible –

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls –

like grumpy adolescents are in denial, refusing to apologise for the mess and the misery they left behind.

We are taking bold action to turn Britain around.

It means that all the tough decisions were left for us to take.

Thanks to George Osborne’s action in reducing the deficit by a quarter so far, mortgage rates are at record lows – helping families with the cost of living.

Local government accounts for a quarter of all public spending.

Our Town Halls have done an excellent job in rising to that challenge.

Take Tory Trafford.

They’ve protected their libraries, whilst Labour in next-door Manchester is closing them.

Take Conservative Cotswold.

A district cutting council tax by five per cent and freezing service charges. Sharing a Chief Executive with West Oxfordshire.

Take Conservative Lancashire.

The county is cutting council tax by two per cent, funding 48 new Police and Community Support Officers, and cutting management and administration by £215 million.

By contrast, it’s Labour councils that have used frontline services and the poor as battering rams against the government.

Take Labour-run Newcastle.

They announced they wanted to abolish every single penny of arts funding.

They were soon rumbled for playing cheap political games.

This is a council which wanted to abolish the arts, but spend a quarter of a million pounds a year on bankrolling a militia of trade union officials in their town hall.

Labour councils charge high taxes.

They fail to deliver value for money.

And they pour taxpayers’ cash down the drain on bad spending.

Come May, our message is clear:

Don’t let Labour do your council what they’ve done to our country.

Now, if you listen to Labour, you’d think that making savings in local councils meant the end of the world.

Actually, councils are still spending 114 billion pounds a year.

Like a doom-monger consulting his Mayan calendar, their Shadow Fire Minister has predicted deaths, arson and chaos.

And in reality, you know what?

Latest figures show fire deaths are down 19%.

Fire incidents are down 37%.

And arson is down 46%.


For starters, we are tackling the causes of fires through prevention, like our award-winning Fire Kills education campaign.

We are telling people simply to check their smoke alarm when they turn forward their clocks next week.

A practical way to save lives.

And fire authorities can save more money from public service reform, through more joint working, better procurement, ending old fashioned practices and doing more for less.

The Labour leader of Birmingham City Council has predicted “the end of local government as we know it”

Well, after three years of savings in town halls across the country, you know what?

Research by Ipsos MORI found that two-thirds of residents have not noticed any changes to the quality of council services.

And according to the Local Government Association’s own polling, residents’ satisfaction with their council tax has increased.

Three of out of four residents are happy with their council.

The LGA found that people felt that councils had become more accountable and more responsive.

Councils are demonstrating better value for money, and focusing on the issues of greatest importance to local people.

Save more and get a better council.

Despite the fact that Alistair Darling was planning £52 billion of cuts, Labour have opposed every single saving that my department is making.

All they offer is weak leadership and failed old ideas.

Whitehall could learn a lot from local government.

There’s still far too much waste and inefficiency.

As Ronald Reagan declared:

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

I hope my department has been a beacon to others on how we can protect the taxpayer pound.

My department is making a 41 per cent cut in real terms on its running costs.

That’s net savings of over half a billion pounds from administration alone.

Cutting spending may be a challenge, but it is also an opportunity to work better.

In Whitehall, my department is actively supporting small and medium firms.

We have trebled the amount of contracts they receive, so they now receive a quarter of all our procurement spending.

We have opened a “Pop Up Shop” on the ground floor of my department.

We have sub-let our vacated space to Oftwat, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, even High Speed 2.

We’re not fussy, we’ll take their money.

The Pop Up Shop is just the start.

Given our location in Victoria, our whole ground floor has great potential for retail – maybe a Pound-stretcher?

Now, our building has a secret.

A secret hidden by civil servants for years, in a way that would make MI5 proud.

Within our basement,

Hidden from public view,

Next door to the emergency bunker,

Just below the Harriet Harman Tranquillity Suite,

Lies… A secret pub.

Officially called the DETR Darts Bar.

Known to others as… The Prezza Arms.

Backed up by secret subsidies, it charges just £1.90 for a small bottle of Chardonnay.

That’s what I call minimum pricing.

Now we’re the department in charge of supporting community pubs.

But there are eight licensed premises within 30 seconds of our front door, so why do we need a government pub?

The bar has fond memories of Prezza.

Mrs Pickles rest assured – I’ve not been frequenting it with civil servants.

But sorry John. It’s a dinosaur. It’ a reminder of another age.

So I’ve called time.

The Prezza Arms has served its last Tia Maria.

The public don’t want to see politicians guzzle cheap drink at their expense.

The House of Commons and its Labour MPs should take note.

The nationalised pub is a symptom of how the state over-reached itself under Labour.

Well, along with our secret pub going, we’ve cut quangos like the Government Offices for the Regions, the Regional Assemblies and the Regional Development Agencies.

Labour’s whole tier of regional government has been abolished.

The Government Office for London has literally been razed to the ground.

Is our great city of London now rudderless?

No. We have local leadership from local councils and from Boris, London’s local mayor.

I am not asking councils to do anything that we haven’t done ourselves

According to the Institute for Government, my department has cut the most from its own Whitehall budget.

Staff levels are down a third, but when we restructured, we did it quickly and we started at the top.

We’ve kept our word:

communities have new rights,

councils have new powers.

residents the power to stop council tax hikes.

We have reversed the trend of decline.

From this April; councils will raise 70 per cent of their income locally, and decide how to spend it locally.

Councils which back local enterprise build more homes and support hard work will go far and be quids in.

We are ending the begging bowl mentality, when councils fell over themselves to appear the most deprived, to go cap in hand to the man in Whitehall.

Yet Labour councils are failing to seize the new opportunities that localism offers.

The Mayor of Liverpool says “he fears the worst” and predicts riots.

That’s not a confident message about why firms should invest in Liverpool.

He’s running his council down and letting his residents down.

To help councils, I’ve published best practice advice on how councils can reduce spending: 50 ways to save.

Across the country, there is £2.4 billion of uncollected council tax.

And you know the council with the worst record in the country?


With £114 million of arrears – equivalent to £500 per home.

They should take time out from scaremongering and get their own house in order.

Councils are losing £2 billion a year on fraud.

Procurement fraud alone costs almost £1 billion.

Practical steps to stop being the victim will cut the cost of being in business.

Did you know that reserves which have been increasing in recent years whilst Labour councils plead poverty?

Councils should use their £16 billion of reserves creatively to invest to save.

All government could save billions from combining services to remove duplication and overlap.

If every council followed the sharing of back office services being championed by the Conservative Tri-Borough initiative in London, they could save £2 billion a year.

These are big sums.

But there are smaller savings which councils can make. Every penny adds up.

Councils should scrap the trade union pilgrims who leech of the public sector.

I’ve no problems with trade unions – but the taxpayer shouldn’t have to foot their bill.

This subsidy of Trade Unions is called “facility time”.

In my department, I can announce we are going to lead the way in Whitehall by facilitating it down to private sector levels.

And we are going to abolish Check-off.

No – not the Russian playwright whose plays are so gloomy that it’s like an evening with Vince Cable.

I mean the bizarre Whitehall practice of the government departments collecting the union subscriptions on behalf of the unions’ barons for free.

Well, the unions can now set up a direct debit like everyone else.

Left-wing councils should scrap their council newspapers like Greenwich Time or Tower Hamlet’s East End Life.

We don’t need municipal horoscopes, town hall TV listings or a weekly edition of Pravda-style propaganda from town hall rags.

Nor do we need the likes of Labour councils paying lobbyists to lobby government. What a waste.

And on lobbyists, let me say this.

The practice of councillors taking money to lobby their own council is wrong.

There will be zero tolerance of corruption on my watch.

A blind eye was turned to back-handers to the police for too long under Labour.

Well, councillors who take brown paper envelopes should expect to go to jail.

And those who offer such brown paper envelopes should expect to join them.

Her Majesty’s Prison Service welcomes crooked politicians with open arms.


Conservatives are on the side people who work hard and want to get on.

And that includes people who have come to our country with ambition and drive.

From Beijing to Mumbai, parents with ambition insist their children learn English. We British should be the same.

I’m proud to live in a country that Christians, and Jews, and Muslims, and Hindus, and Sikhs, and people of no faith, join together to celebrate their Britishness:

– respect for the law

– respect for free speech

– respect for democracy

And have the united desire to do better.

But that can’t happen if we don’t nourish the one thing that unites us all – the English language.

Without a common language community cohesion is undermined, creating economic and social isolation, fuelling, rumours lies and extremists.

Councils that translate documents into multiple foreign languages are doing no one any favours.

So I issued guidance last week to town halls reminding them that there is no requirement to translate literature or signs into foreign languages.

As well as our culture, a big part of what defines our communities is local high streets, shopping parades and local corner shops too.

So we have doubled small business rate relief and cut corporation tax.

But there’s one area where we need to do far more for local shops.


13 years of Labour’s war on the motorist have created an over-zealous culture of parking enforcement.

Extending CCTV, not to catch criminals, but to catch you out the moment you park on a yellow line.

A rigid state orthodoxy of persecuting motorists out of their cars, with no concern about its effect in killing off small shops.

Officious parking wardens move in faster than a Liberal Democrat on the M11.

This needs to change.

Councils should allow more off-street parking spaces, to take pressure off the roads.

They should end dodgy town hall contracts which reward and encourage the proliferation of fixed penalty notices.

I believe we need to give people the good grace to pop into a local corner shop for 10 minutes, to buy a newspaper or a loaf of bread without risking a £70 fine.

This is of course heresy to the left.

Rather than cutting red tape, their answer to every problem is higher taxes.

Rather than making it easier to park, Labour councils want to hike taxes on supermarkets, pushing up the cost of living.

And Labour are eyeing up your home too.

On top of stamp duty, income tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax and council tax, Labour want a new house tax.

Does anyone believe a politician who says the tax will only be for the bigger, more expensive homes?

Their new homes tax would let Ed Miliband send government snoopers into your house and tax your patio, conservatory and home improvement.

Little Brother even wants to tax your children’s tree house.

Rather than climbing new heights to tax people, we should be cutting taxes.

And we’ve done that with council tax.

Under Labour, council tax more than doubled.

But over the last three years, thanks to our council tax freeze, we will have cut council tax by almost 10 per cent in real terms.

Now, no-one likes paying council tax, but we’re making it easier to pay.

Residents now have a new legal right to pay over 12 months if you wish.

It’s a practical way to help families and pensioners with their cash flow.

It will bring down families and pensioners’ monthly outgoings by around £24 for most of the year.

And this on top of our council tax freeze which is saving families over £200 a year.


We may be in Coalition with our yellow chums, but we are delivering Conservative policies and Conservative principles.

A smaller state and one that is more accountable to local taxpayers.

A freer state, standing up for the little guy in the face of state bureaucracy.

And a lower tax state, helping families with the cost of living and putting more money back to your pocket.

Labour offers no solution other than more spending, more borrowing and more debt.

Only Conservatives, with David Cameron’s strong leadership, are dealing with the big challenges that our country faces.

Clearing up the mess left by Labour, and turning our country around for the better.

Eric Pickles – 2013 Speech on Uniting our Communities


Below is the text of the speech made by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, at the Institute of Civil Engineers in London on 15th January 2013.

No-one in this country will ever forget 2012.

Jubilee jamborees, street parties, music marathons.

The special magic Olympian and Paralympian gold rush.

We have not I think seen the like before compressed into a single year.

When you look back, what strikes me is how those events were illuminated by millions of small intense sparks.

Sparks of kindness and sparks of service.

It was a year when volunteering went vogue.

When the biggest army of volunteers for nearly 70 years made things go with a ‘zing’.

And when the loudest cheer at the Olympic stadium went to the games makers.

2012 was also the year when striving people who had struggled to be heard, finally found their voice.

This was brought home to me by the story I heard about Nasrine from Keighley in Yorkshire – the place in which I was born and brought up.

Nasrine came to Keighley a quarter of a century ago from Pakistan. She had always struggled to pick up the language.

Things changed when a very thoughtful neighbour invited her to a mums and toddlers group at the local church.

A group that happened to be supported by our Near Neighbours initiative.

It proved to Nasrine to be the turning point.

With the encouragement of her new friends, she plucked up the courage to enrol at a local college to learn English.

She’s now fluent, nothing can stop her.

She has even completed a food hygiene course, so she can give something back to the new friends that helped her.

Nasrine’s victory, her intense spark of success, triumphing against the odds should be cheered to the rafters just as much as the achievements of magnificent Mo Farah.

But her victory shows why we are determined to back local ambition.

Each person is a vital part of their community.

And when you improve the life of one person.

You begin to improve the lives of those around them.

We saw this time and time again last year.

Take the organisation called the Big Lunch.

This was about more than bringing millions together to enjoy a cuppa and a cake on a picnic table.

Once a community picnic becomes a gathering of neighbours, once you can put a face to a name, you start to get things done as Peter from Northfleet in Kent discovered.

By the time he had finished his meal, he’d gathered more than 90 signatures on a petition for a new zebra crossing near his local primary school.

You break down barriers and good deed leads to another.

It was the same with the Bandstand Marathon.

We helped 200,000 people boogie to the beat.

Now let’s face it from the great and the good to the rest of us we all like to boogie.

But I loved the fact that local people went further.

Ingeniously devising the ‘instrument amnesty’.

So instead of getting rid of old banjos or accordions, unused instruments went to others who wanted to learn to play.

The Jubilee Hour also offered a perfect demonstration of integration in action.

Millions gave up 60 minutes, to mark 60 years worth of service by Her Majesty.

Just like our Majesty, they often went above and beyond.

Hardy folk down in Broadbottom cleared glass from a small river beach.

Birmingham volunteers tidied up the gardens of a local care home.

For many, what started out as an hour’s volunteering looks like turning into a life-time’s commitment.

Members of the Military Preparation College have decided to volunteer about 10,000 hours annually to benefit local communities.

And, while we’re on the subject of helping people to do things for themselves, we’re ensuring youngsters from all backgrounds match skills to their ambition.

I visited Safeside, an education facility in Birmingham to see Youth United in action.

A group of St John Ambulance volunteers teaching other young folk how to give CPR. In return gaining confidence and experience that would directly help them in the jobs market.

It was a lifesaving course in more ways than one.

When you bring together all these intense sparks of commitment and community, what you get is a glowing sense of pride, a real tangible sense of belonging in our country.

The 2011 census said we are more and more becoming a cosmopolitan country.

But 2012 demonstrated why we can celebrate the common threads that unite us.

Last year we seized back the union flag from thugs and extremists.

Not just from the loutish EDL, but the equally vile ‘poppy burners’.

Both fanning the flames of hatred.

Spreading fear.

Clanging their discordant bell of division.

In 2012 we won the argument.

Where they sought to divide, we sought to unite.

Where they tried to pull down the shutters, we put out the bunting.

Where they seek to brick Britain in, we built Britain up.

These extremists want Britain to return to a place and a time that never existed.

And if it had, it would be a nasty, brutish and mean place.

But I think we’ve shown their faces don’t fit.

They are not welcome in modern Britain.

Which will be a relief for taxpayers.

For the past few years they have had to stump up the cost of policing the EDL’s malevolent marches.

Just two of those demonstrations in Luton staggeringly cost almost £2.4 million.

And left the local authority with very little change from £200,000.

That’s money that could have been spent on community policing and solving crime.

What’s more these demonstrations dealt a devastating blow to business and shops on the high street.

Luton’s local shopping centre lost an estimated half a million pounds.

And that doesn’t even take into consideration the losses to local stores, companies and taxi firms faced.

Demonstrations in Bradford, my old much loved city, left businesses out of pocket to the tune of over a million pounds.

It cost £650,000 to police 1,000 protesters.

Now I don’t know about you but £650 per protester doesn’t sound like value for money to me.

Now of course, it’s wonderful we live in a society where people feel able to protest.

And the usual inconvenience is a small price to pay for such rights.

But in times of austerity we simply cannot afford to subsidise this insignificant malignant minority.

Holding thriving businesses hostage.

Hostage to hate.

When protests happens, week in week out, it numbs communities.

Blights places people call home.

Turns neighbourhoods into sinister arenas for conflict and hostility.

You should be able to pop to the chemist, or be able to let your kids go shopping on the high street on a Saturday afternoon, without having checking the calendar to see if the EDL are on the march.

Every community has a basic right to sleep soundly in their beds and to walk without fear on their streets.

I’m glad to see those EDL numbers on the slide.

Now, for some, our approach to integration is a little too simple.

They want a Stalinist 5 year plan.

They want to tell people what to do and what to think.

They believe in focus groups, the graph, the bean bag, and the diversity questionnaire.

Precisely the sort of box-ticking exercise that leads to more bureaucracy not more unity.

Policy makers of the past preferred to fund ethnic groups to help ethnic groups, instead of supporting neighbours to meet neighbours.

Yet the detractors have been bowled over by the success that we’ve had on the ground.

It’s success based in the real world.

Success founded on an understanding that integration occurs locally and can’t be imposed by Whitehall.

Those who came to this country from the Jews of the East End to Leicester’s Ugandans, they did not abandon their heritage or culture.

But they were able to make a success of their lives.

They understood that what makes you British.

Has nothing to do with the colour of your skin.

The nature of your religion.

It’s not where you come from.

It’s where you’re going that matters.

And that’s why they adopted the great things this country has to offer.

Our great British liberties.

Like respect for people’s right to free speech, even if you don’t agree with what’s being said.

And respect for the law.

It also comes out as things people consider most important about being British in today’s British Future’s poll.

And our great communities also embraced those other intangible parts of our constitution.

Of course, all those liberties that existed long before the Euro-judges were let loose on the issue.

Our joint sense of tolerance, fair play, and respect for others.

But it’s our willingness.

Their ambition.

Their determination.

To come to the party.

To grab success.

To pick up a dictionary rather than relying on a translator.

That made them a vital part of the British family.

So, when it comes to integration, our priority is to make way.

Remove the bureaucracy.

Snap the shackles of the PC brigade.

Let localism loose.

Use people power so communities can do things for themselves.

Our support for troubled families, community budgets, and neighbourhood planning are clear examples of this approach.

The old Whitehall walls have come down.

Local government fault lines have been erased.

Instead we’re getting organisations together to tackle deep rooted social problems.

We’re removing the dependence from the system and giving local people confidence to strengthen their communities.

In 2012 we discovered, to quote the Chief Rabbi, “the music beneath the noise”.

And in 2013 we won’t skip a beat of that music.

We will keep breaking down the barriers that get in the way of people getting together.

Language is our starting point.

I began by talking about Nasrine, but she is not alone.

Far too many have paid the price for another one of the old statist policies.

The decision to pay for translation instead of trusting people to learn the language.

It has been estimated that the public sector spends as much as £140 million a year translating documents into foreign languages.

Now, it wasn’t that our predecessors were ill intentioned, don’t get me wrong there.

Their hearts were in the right place.

It was just their decisions were simply wrong.

And that made matters worse.

It entrenched division.

Slamming shut the doors of opportunity.

It led us to the incomprehensible situation where no one can speak English as their main language in 5% of our households.

That’s terrible for community relations and bad news for the tax-payer.

It was good to hear recently an apology for these poor policy choices.

It’s just a pity it came 15 years too late.

If we want people to get along it makes sense they speak English.

People should be able to talk, and understand one and another in a nuanced way.

I’m not expecting everyone to adopt the lyrical dexterity of Samuel Johnson or for that matter Boris Johnson.

But this is about getting the best from all our citizens.

Britain is a country built on aspiration.

You work hard to get your first job, your first car, your first home.

But the reality is you need English to succeed.

You can’t really function as a good doctor, a good teacher, a good mechanic, or since we’re in the Institution for Civil Engineering, you can’t be a good engineer, if you can’t talk the language.

Just as you can’t talk to your neighbour, read a bus timetable, or enjoy enormous joy of The Only Way is Essex.

Worse still, our kids don’t have fluent English, are condemned to a very limited life.

We don’t want people’s identity to disappear or cease being proud of their roots or background.

We want them to stay in touch with their culture.

We want them to be proud and ambitious.

So learning English is an integral part of that process.

That’s why, instead of millions lost in translation services, next year we’re ploughing millions into an English language service.

Today I’m launching a competition that will allow local communities to tailor language services to suit the needs of their area.

It will give people the power to improve their circumstances and climb the social ladder.

But more than that it will benefit Britain.

We all miss out, our country is the poorer, if people can’t speak our language.

If they are unable to participate or make an economic contribution.

English is the passport to prosperity all over the world.

From Mumbai through to Beijing every ambitious parent is trying to get their children to learn English.

We should want no less for our children here.

And we need to ensure that intense spark of ambition is felt strongly right across the country.

When need our great communities to succeed, for Britain to succeed.

When they do well, our country is enriched culturally and economically.

Ultimately, Britain can only compete in the global race if we realise the full potential of each and every person in our country.

Another unintended consequence of the previous administration was the attitude to uncontrolled immigration.

Besides they put a strain on our schools, our healthcare and welfare.

Besides the social tension it created.

Was that it stifled a real opportunity for us to develop home grown talent.

British Asian cuisine is a classic example of this.

We all know curry is the favourite item on the menu of people up and down the land.

It warms the cockles of 2.5 million people every week.

Bringing billions into our economy.

It is also reminds us of the way we have taken a traditional dish and added our own unique British twist.

Yet I can’t understand why many chefs were being imported from Bangladesh for this purpose.

When what we should have done was train local people up to that level of cuisine.

That’s why I’m as keen as korma on curry schools.

That are helping us put some domestic glitz and glam back into the industry and enable us to develop a new generation of Master Chefs.

New Atul Kochhars.

To export to India and the rest of the world.

A desire to improve social mobility for all our citizens, is a factor I identified as being integral to integration last year.

But this is about more than curry schools.

We’re also encouraging at least 50 more schools to take part in enterprise challenges.

And winning hundreds more secondary school pupils to work placements in industry.

We’re also moving forward on another element of our strategy – participation.

Our faith communities are past masters of bringing people together.

Alastair Campbell might carp, but we definitely do ‘God’.

Faith provides a clear moral compass and a call to action that benefits society as a whole.

At a time when Christians are under attack for their beliefs in different parts of the world, I am proud we have freedom of belief in Britain.

But in recent year long-standing British liberties of freedom of religion have been undermined by the intolerance and aggressive secularism.

Taking people to task for wearing a cross or a rosary .

Beginning costly legal actions against council prayers – as if they had nothing better to do.

We’re committed to the right of Christians and people of all beliefs to follow their faith openly, wear religious symbols and pray in public.

That’s why I signed a Parliamentary Order last year to protect the freedom for communities to pray.

I am delighted that the principle of wearing a religious symbol at work has today been upheld by the European Court. It’s a very long judgement our lawyers are ploughing through.

Our Year of Service reminded us why faith still counts.

Christians at Harvest festival, Muslims at Eid and Jews on Mitzvah Day, Sikhs on the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev all reaching across the divide – giving succour to the sick, support for the needy, to the poor of all faiths and to people of no faith.

Faith galvanised our communities.

That’s why we will soon be announcing our plans to build on the success of A Year of Service.

Plans that make the most of the energy and the enthusiasm of all those who took part in faith-based volunteering last year.

Alongside this I’ll be supporting a further 190 Near Neighbours projects to keep communities connecting.

Participation stems from what last year I referred to as sharing common ground.

Last year it was about celebration. Next year will be about commemoration.

On the ceiling of this building’s Great Hall is a painted memorial to the war to end all wars.

It is a reminder of the self-sacrifice of those who fought and died for this country in a conflict that began 99 years ago.

They were made up of all creeds, colours and class, and came from all corners of the globe world.

As I stood at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday last year, it occurred to me that this was the first time we stood in silence without a World War One veteran by our side.

But we will continue to remember them.

And this year our preparations to honour the fallen will pick up pace.

Few people have a greater sense of responsibility than our brave armed forces and it’s been another of my priorities to build that sense of responsibility – particularly amongst our young people.

That is why we’ve encouraged tens of thousands of youngsters to join the National Citizen Service, and that will continue.

And we’re also helping hundreds of young people get involved in great activities like the Scouts and Industrial Cadets – helping break down barriers while having a bit of fun at the same time.

Finally, if we’re to encourage people to get on board, we have got to be very clear we need to tell some people where to get off.

As we did last year, we will continue to work to isolate extremism.

Twenty years on from the death of Stephen Lawrence, we will continue to show racism the red card – working with 10,000 students in schools across the country to reject the extremist message.

And a special interest group – led by Blackburn and Luton councils – are undertaking important work locally to tackle the fanatics.

We’ll be watching out for their findings with great interest.

Meanwhile, the money we’ve put into the Monitoring Anti-Muslim Attacks (MAMA) will lay the foundations for reporting and gathering data on anti-Muslim incidents.

There can be no hiding place for the racists in our society.

So in 2013 our mantra is simple; integration, integration, integration.

We will continue reaching hard across the divide

We will continue forging the friendships that strengthen our society and help everyone get on in life.

But if I had one new year’s resolution for this year, it would be to make this year

…like the title of the book I’ve just downloaded onto my Kindle:

“A year of doing good”.

Because it’s those intense sparks of ambition that will light the way for our country.

Those intense sparks that will weld us together as a stronger nation in the years and the decades to come.