William Hague – 2006 Speech to Conservative Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by William Hague, the then Shadow Foreign Secretary, at Conservative Party Conference on 1 October 2006.

Well, there we are: a centre-right leader who’s changed his party, appealed to his country and defeated a left wing government in power for three terms.

And isn’t it great to see from David Davis’s superb speech the unity of purpose and personnel that our party now enjoys.

Our leadership election was so successful that both the other parties wanted one too.

Now Labour’s never ends, and the Lib Dems wish they’d never had one.

And I will tell you this: when I look around the Shadow Cabinet table, and I listen to the canny thoughts of David Davis, the down-to-earth wisdom of Liam Fox, the sharp insights of George Osborne and the brilliant visions of Oliver Letwin and David Willetts – to name but a few – I have never been more convinced that we can win.

And when I go to meet people around Britain – such as the woman I met in a deprived area of Wakefield last week, who said ‘please give us some pride in our country again’ – I have never been more sure that people need us to win.

And when I look across at the Government front bench, six feet away in the House of Commons; Gordon Brown scheming, Tony Blair seething and John Prescott snarling, I have never been more certain that we’ve got to win.

It is one of my great privileges to ask parliamentary questions of our Deputy Prime Minister. Sometimes I think I should thank him for the joy he brings in to our lives.

I am ever so polite to him. Partly because nothing makes him crosser. It’s not difficult to make him cross. Every day he wakes up angry and goes to bed furious.

When we discussed the Olympics I asked him if he might put forward a new sport for Beijing – croquet. I even reminded him of Rule 1c of Oxford Croquet, which says that when you have scored a certain number of times you are declared to be ‘pegged out’ and have to be removed from the game.

Well now he is to be removed from the game. Things will never be the same,

– no more references to the ‘Balklands’,

– never again will we hear that the greenbelt was Labour achievement that they intend to build on,

– no more hitting the voters.

And, let us hope, no more imposition of unwanted regional government, no more transport plans for ten years abandoned after four, and no more jacking up of everyone else’s council taxes while forgetting to pay his own.

Seven years ago John Prescott made the one sensible remark of his life. He looked up at the Dome and said ‘If we can’t make this work, we’re not much of a Government’.

I think that in the ludicrous script for Tony Blair’s farewell tour, which had him being serenaded on Songs of Praise and applauded on Blue Peter, presumably before disappearing dewy-eyed towards some great Cliff Richard villa in the sky, instead of visiting twenty iconic buildings opened since 1997 he need go to only one to sum up his premiership. There it stands – vast, expensive, over-hyped and empty – the perfect monument to the high hopes and pitiful delivery of New Labour.

There we have seen them these last weeks, while our soldiers bravely fight on in Afghanistan, our health workers worry about redundancy and our primary school results decline, ministers doing nothing but fight each other in their own jealous little world. And the bad news for them is that they are not just fighting because they loathe each other, although loathe each other they do. The Labour party is turning on itself because after nine years of their government they have produced a country where violent crime and school truancy have rocketed, where hard-working citizens are ensnared in officialdom, where we are falling behind in our ability to compete just as Asian economies snap at our heels.

They have given us a Government so inefficient that we have 700,000 more public servants but no-one can find a dentist, so incompetent that the Home Office releases foreign prisoners and then fails to find them, loses track of illegal immigrants and ends up employing them, so complacent that as 20,000 jobs are lost in hospitals the Health Secretary describes it as the ‘best year ever’. We have rarely endured a Government that has so rapidly, shockingly and comprehensively lost its way.

I have always argued that Tony Blair is not new at all but is actually another Harold Wilson. The similarities are uncanny, from both starting with the claim to be modern and new, to both ending up disgracing the honours system. And both will have left behind something that could never have been said of a Thatcher, a Churchill, or even of an Attlee – that the whole thing was an act, the entire business a con, and the entire period a wasted opportunity.

And this is the legacy he will leave – he has ensured that politics has never been so mistrusted and the word of government has seldom counted for less. His legacy is that the coinage of politics has been debased amidst the rampant inflation of pre-announcement, re-announcement, false announcement and the search for the days to bury bad news.

And now they seek renewal from Gordon Brown. Well, I just say this about Gordon Brown.

It was my job to respond to his first budget. And I remember how he concealed as a minor reform to taxes on dividends, the robbing of £5 billion a year from the pension funds of the people of this country . By now that comes to some £50 billion, an unimaginable sum. Today, people retiring are already finding their pension funds worth much less than nine years ago. And I say this: I will never believe that anyone who takes away the income of generations of pensioners without even having the decency to admit he was doing it should guide the destiny of our country.

Last week he told the Labour Party there was a poverty of opportunity and aspiration in this country. And for once he wasn’t talking about opportunities for old chancellors of the exchequer to become Prime Minister. He was talking about school pupils. ‘Don’t tell me we couldn’t have done better for them’, he told his Party. We’ve been telling him that for years. But who has been in government for the last nine years while a poverty of aspiration has spread among our schools?

Never in modern times has a Government enjoyed such immense public goodwill and huge parliamentary majorities in its opening years in office. And never have such assets been so squandered.

So let us be in no doubt, as we gather here in Bournemouth this week, that if we wish to serve our country and give people the chance of a better government, we do not really have a choice. We are not a debating club, or a pressure group. We have, all of us have, to do everything we can to make sure our party can win the confidence of the nation.

I hope you agree with me on this: we cannot rely on Labour to lose the next election; we must positively win it in our own right. And I hope you share my excitement that now, at last, it is possible to do so.

It is possible to win, first of all, because of David Cameron. I have worked, one way or another, with the last six leaders of our party and I served as one of them myself. So I think I know what I am saying when I say that for the willingness to listen, readiness to lead a team, and ability to hold steadfastly to the course he has set, David Cameron is already an outstanding leader who deserves the loyalty of us all.

It is possible to win, too, because wherever I travel I see that it is Conservative ideas that are positively transforming people’s lives. When was the last time you heard, anywhere in the world, of schools and hospitals being improved by centralised planning, or industries prospering under state control, or countries getting richer by taxing their citizens to the hilt? The spirit of freedom, decentralisation, and families running their own lives has always been ours, and now it is the spirit of our age.

And the third reason we can win is that when David Cameron tells us to change we say yes, we’re going to do it.

Our party has served Britain for so long because each generation who has led it understood when it needed to move on: whether it be Disraeli’s vision described by David Davis, or Harold Macmillan’s recognition of the need to house millions of people in the 1950s or Margaret Thatcher’s instinct in the 1970s that those millions were ready to own those homes for themselves.

So today, in a new century, we must respond to the need for change. As the destruction of our natural environment becomes a central challenge for all nations, who better to take up this cause than a party whose first instincts are to improve the good and preserve the best?

As drug abuse becomes the greatest scourge of our young people and violent crime escalates, who better to find the answers than a party that has always believed in responsibilities as well as rights?

And why shouldn’t the Party that has been organised from the inside out by women, has traditionally won the most votes from women and brought to office the first woman prime minister in western Europe, – why shouldn’t the Party that has done all these things see that women are fully and properly represented on the benches of the House of Commons?

I went to a reception a few weeks ago for our aspiring women candidates. I was meant to give them encouragement. They were energetic; they were clever; they were accomplished; they were eager to get on with winning; they were immensely impressive – the last thing they needed was encouragement. In fact it was me that received the encouragement.

“You can win”, they said.

“We are your new generation”, they said.

“None of our friends wants Labour anymore”, they announced.

I went away inspired. I went home and I said if we can get half of those people into parliament, Gordon Brown will be run out of Downing Street faster than he can fiddle his figures again.

So now we must do it. You, me, all of us must change even if it’s hard. If changing our party to understand the problems of urban Britain means delving deeply into our troubled cities, we must do it. If it means, for me, learning from mistakes we made in the past, or even being patient with John Prescott, I must do it. And if it means, for you, selecting more candidates who are women candidates, then I say to you, you must do it.

And let us remember too that there are now millions of people in Britain of minority ethnic backgrounds, and that, facing as we do the great issues of social division and home-grown terrorism, the answer is not to reject people but to welcome and integrate them. We will have performed the most powerful service if we can bring forward as members of parliament people who will show all those people that they too can get to the very top in a country which also belongs to them.

Wherever you look, the political world is changing. Last month I was given a lecture about the benefits of privatisation. But I was in Shanghai, and the speakers were from the Communist Party of China.

We will be privileged to hear at this conference from two pre-eminent international figures, each of whom may become president of their great countries, and each of whom also carries a message of change to their party. Nicholas Sarkozy is telling his Gaullists that the French social model has to change. Senator John McCain is telling Americans that climate change must be tackled, and that if we are to defeat attacks on our free society, we must uphold the highest ideals of respect for human dignity ourselves.

Their speaking to us is a sign that our party is once again taken seriously the world over.

Whether they succeed in their own countries is something we cannot influence, but whether we succeed in ours is up to us and us alone. And so as David Cameron seeks to bring necessary change to our party, he will receive from me the most unwavering support.

We live in an age of political cynicism. People have given up having faith in politics. They have heard too many promises from a Government that does not deliver, that counts appearance above reality.

If we have learned anything in recent years it is that people need from us an overall vision of Britain from which our policies are derived, not piecemeal policies adopted one by one. That is why we are right to begin this year by demonstrating our purpose, direction and principles.

We must all be conscious this week of the people we meet around the country. We can picture them now: teachers retiring early and utterly demoralised, residents of noise-ridden housing estates who lives are never free of anti-social behaviour year after year, people with small businesses who are staggered by the red tape, and even people who want to emigrate from what ought to be the best place to live in the world.

They do deserve better. They deserve a party that will trust people to make a difference.

After someone else has made a mess of things, the Conservative Party has always been there to put things right. We have always had the same values – freedom, an understanding that real change comes from individuals and families working together in society, not from the state. And our values have always been relevant because as Britain has changed and grown we have changed and grown. We have always succeeded when we applied our values to the Britain of the present.

If we want to make a difference we need to change with Britain.

The British people want a change of government.

They need us to change, because they need us to win. All of us have our work to do, so let all of us now do it.

David Davis – 2006 Speech to Conservative Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by David Davis to the Conservative Party Conference on 1 October 2006.

David Cameron wants to change the Conservative Party.

I’m speaking today because I’d like to tell you why I agree with him.

There is one change that I want to see more than any other.

A change of government.

Today, I’d like to talk about how I think we’re going to get it; why we’re going to win the next election.

History

The Conservative Party is the oldest and most successful political party in the history of democracy.

We should all recognise that every single significant Conservative Prime Minister was remarkable because they changed the party and transformed the country.

For me the first great Conservative was Pitt the Younger.

The label certainly fitted – he was even younger than the leader we’ve got now.

Pitt took the tired old Tory Party, the party of the shires, of privilege, of turning back the clock, and he made it into a party which was popular, modern, and successful.

So how did he do it?

Well he certainly didn’t do it by throwing the old Tory Party away and starting all over again.

Pitt was a conservative.

He took the essential principle of the Party – loyalty to the Crown and to the nation – and he made it serve the age.

Pitt was a great patriot and a great war leader. He saved the nation from Napoleon.

He was a brilliant administrator. He cut taxes and opened Britain to free trade.

And above all, he was compassionate. He and his friend William Wilberforce brought about the end of slavery in Britain.

Pitt exemplified the principle that to be Conservative is to be modern, freedom-loving, and decent.

Other great Conservatives followed. I can only do justice to three this afternoon.

It’s fair to say that Disraeli shook the Tory Party up a bit.

Disraeli’s genius was that he saw what democracy could do for the Conservatives.

And, he saw how the Conservatives could use democracy to transform our country for the better.

He gave the vote to working men in the urban areas, and passed the largest body of social legislation in the entire Victorian period.

So Disraeli took the Conservative party from the country to the cities.

He made ‘One Nation’ the slogan of our party – the idea that we govern not for any class, or any interest, but for the whole country.

And what about that towering Conservative, Winston Churchill?

After six years of World War Two, the voters chose a Labour government to look after the peace.

So Churchill took a hard look at his own party and realised it had to change.

We had been so busy winning the war that the party organisation was still stuck in the 1930s.

And, people wanted better living conditions than they’d put up with in the 1930s.

Churchill understood that.

And, he changed the party.

He launched the Industrial Charter – that great document which made peace between the Conservative Party and the welfare state.

After six years of Labour, the Conservatives were back in power for 13 years.

In those years, earnings rose twice as fast as prices.

Home ownership nearly doubled.

Savings multiplied by ten.

What was that dangerous phrase coined by Harold MacMillan?

‘We’d never had it so good’.

Of course, it didn’t last. Labour got back in.

Devaluation. Inflation. Stagflation. Strikes. Bankruptcies. Rubbish lining the streets.

All the horrors of government by trade union.

But then came – that’s right – Margaret Thatcher.

Let us never forget what we owe to that lady!

We owe her our freedom from the threat of the Soviet Union.

We owe her our freedom from socialism at home.

We owe her our prosperity, and our pride in our country.

She made Britain great again, and the whole nation knows it.

But as a party we also owe her this:

Margaret Thatcher gave us the perfect example of how a Conservative leader should lead.

She didn’t have an easy time of it at first.

A lot of you will remember:

She had to fight against the old guard that wanted her to stick with ideas from the past.

But she persevered and she took the government of Britain and made it work for the British people.

Like Disraeli, Margaret Thatcher made a whole generation of hard-pressed men and women into Conservative voters.

Vision

So what do all these leaders have in common?

It’s simple.

They were visionaries. Radicals, if you like.

They took the party they loved, and turned it in a new direction: to face the challenges of the day.

Pitt, Disraeli, Churchill and Thatcher were all agents of change, who transformed our Party, and more importantly transformed our country.

During the dark days over the last nine years, I’ve never doubted for one minute that the Conservative Party would have the resilience and resourcefulness to recover.

And, that is why we are the oldest and greatest party in the world.

Because, with every generation we have been able to renew ourselves.

To find in our philosophy the ideas that address the challenges of our time.

And, that is what we are doing again today.

Conservation

We have an odd name, our Party.

Don’t worry – I’m not going to suggest we change that too.

That oak tree is enough for now.

By the way, I don’t mind the oak tree.

Have you noticed that the trunk leans to the right?

That’s good enough for me.

The name Conservative is right.

We want to conserve the things that we love about our country – and which Labour hate.

But we face a particularly formidable task.

To do what we want to do, we are going to have to shock the British people.

Shock them out of their growing loss of faith in our democratic system.

Shock them out of a belief that politics in Britain is progressively more sleazy and corrupt.

Shock them out of the idea that politicians are in it only for themselves.

That the promise of today’s bright new government leads inevitably to the broken promises of tomorrow’s tired old government.

And we’ll have to shake voters into the realisation that the Conservative Party is the party to mend that broken faith, clean up that grimy self interest, and deliver on those unmet promises.

And we’ll have to do that by leading by example keeping promises and saying what we mean.

It was Edmund Burke who said that “History is a pact between the dead, the living, and the yet unborn.”

And so the next Conservative government should see themselves as public servants three times over:

As servants of our history, the men and women who made Britain great and who are no longer with us. As servants of today’s nation, the people who we represent today, and as servants of the generations yet to come.

And as Conservatives, we know the best way to serve today’s generation and tomorrow’s is by preserving the best of our country.

Preserve our great nation, and its freedom to act in its longstanding tradition of wise and ethical action in international affairs.

Preserve our great institutions and with them the traditions of liberty and justice, of freedom and compassion that have marked this country out over the centuries.

Preserve our economic skills and competitive capacity, because that’s the only way can we offer security in old age to today’s generation, and a life of opportunity to tomorrow’s children and grandchildren.

And yes, preserve our countryside and environment because only then can we pass on what Margaret Thatcher called the “full repairing lease on our planet”, to the next generation in a form that they can enjoy and that we can be proud of.

You all know that I walk a couple of hundred miles of Britain every September.

Well, almost every September. I was a bit distracted last year.

This summer I walked with my son from coast to coast from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay across the Pennines.

And, as usual, two things struck me.

One is the awesome beauty of Britain.

Hill and dale, moor and fell, river and lake – this landscape is a gift from God.

It is our home – the most precious thing we have.

And we’ve got to conserve it.

So, when David Cameron talks about the environment he shouldn’t be saying anything new or surprising for a Conservative.

There can be no more Conservative idea than the conservation of nature.

And the other thing that struck me was this.

The people.

I walked through farms, villages, market towns.

I walked along pilgrim routes, old trade roads, the tracks made over centuries by the people of this country going about their business.

Today they go by rail, by air and by motorway.

But they are the same people who made those tracks I walked along.

Hardy. Strong.

Proud but not boastful.

Capable of great things – but happiest at home.

The people I talked to this summer reminded me once again why I went into politics.

I am in politics to conserve the tradition of liberty.

Tradition – because it is part of our inherited wisdom, distilled over centuries.

It is not some abstract invention.

It didn’t come by bloody revolution.

It is the bequest of ages.

And liberty – because it is the inheritance of free men and women.

And, we need to conserve that inheritance.

We have to conserve it from our enemies abroad – as we did under Pitt and under Churchill and under Thatcher.

We have to conserve it from our enemies here in Britain.

And, the test of whether we succeed is easy.

When I am locked in political combat with one of our opponents, and life is a bit difficult, I remind myself that what we are striving to defend was protected by millions of lives of previous generations, so a little political discomfort is worth taking.

And I remind myself of W. H. Auden’s poem, the unknown soldier, which contains the lines:

“To save your world you asked this man to die.

Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?”

That is the test we’ve got to pass. That the nation we pass on is one worth fighting and even dying for.

We have a Government whose idea of liberty is forcing us all to carry little cards to prove who we are.

They want to conscript us, number us, put us into little boxes.

They want to control us, manage us, nanny us.

They want to run our lives for us.

They even think they can spend our money better than we can.

And it is the eternal job of the Conservative Party to stop them – and tell them loud and clear that we are a nation of liberty.

That is the job for us.

Change

So, those are things we need to conserve.

Our country.

Our people.

Our tradition of liberty.

But to conserve those things we’ve got to change ourselves..

It has been said that a state without the means of some change is a state without the means of its own conservation.

The same goes for parties.

So what are the things we need to change?

That’s easy.

Too many people still think the Tories stand for the rich.

For the shires of England.

For the established and static not the inventive and creative.

And in a sense that’s all true and right.

We are in favour of people being rich. No shame in that.

As Abraham Lincoln said: ‘You can’t build up the poor….by tearing down the rich’.

We do love the shires of England.

We do respect the long established over the newly invented.

But we are so much more than that.

We are the party of the unfortunate, no less than the Party of the prosperous.

We are the party of the council tenant, no less than the landed gent or the dotcom millionaire.

We are the party of aspiration and hope, no less than achievement and comfort.

We are the party of all the people.

But if we’re going to have any chance of changing perceptions then we have to change our preoccupations.

This Conference should understand that the battle we face is no longer beating the government.

We have done that already.

They are doing are a good enough job of that themselves.

After all, how many more Labour Home Secretaries do you want?

No. The battle we face is no longer about defeating the Government, it is now about winning the people.

We have to talk about the things that matter to ordinary voters.

Nurseries. Schools. Hospitals and GP’s. The school run.

Opportunities for youngsters.

All the things that you and I talk about at home with our families when we’re planning the complicated business of life.

And, we have to change the way we look.

That means widening the range of people who represent us in Parliament.

I know this can be painful.

But we have to do it.

And you know, it’s working.

People out there are taking note.

They see us changing, and they like what they see.

Peroration

I mentioned earlier the dark days of the last nine years.

That was no reflection on the men who have led us these difficult last years.

William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Howard.

They kept the ship upright and afloat and they kept it moving forwards, through all the storms and turbulence.

But I am sure – in fact I know – that each of them recognises what David Cameron has done in 10 short months.

This time last year we engaged in an honest, open and democratic debate about the future direction and leadership of this Party.

I hope you agree that we set an example the other parties would have done well to follow.

It was a privilege to be part of that debate.

Some of you will remember that I said at the time that the process was designed to ensure that the next PM elected by the British people was called David.

And you can be quite sure I wasn’t thinking of David Milliband.

To that end, the time for debate is over. Now is the time for action; action to deliver a Conservative government.

Ten months ago you elected the next Conservative Prime Minister.

It is my job, and the job of all my colleagues, to get David into Downing Street.

And it is your job too.

Because the Conservative Party does not exist for itself.

It certainly doesn’t exist for us, the politicians.

It doesn’t even exist for you, the members – though it certainly wouldn’t exist without you.

It exists for the British people.

We are gathered here this week to re-dedicate ourselves to the job we have to do.

Let us go out from here renewed…

…restored in confidence…

…committed to the fight…

…determined to take our message into every home in Britain.

So that once again we can see:

A Conservative majority in Parliament…

A Conservative government in Whitehall….

…and a Conservative Prime Minister in Downing Street.

David Cameron – 2006 Hindu Forum Speech

Below is the text of the speech made by David Cameron, the then Leader of the Opposition, at Watford Temple on 17 October 2006.

Namaste.

It’s great to be here, especially as we approach Diwali.

Every year, Hindus in Britain and throughout the world celebrate the triumph of good over evil.

The festival of light sends a message of hope and optimism that all of us, of whatever faith, can embrace enthusiastically.

Hindus – making Britain better

Much of what I have to say to you this evening is about the kind of Britain I want to see for everyone.

But first, I’d like to say something about the Hindu community.

It’s no surprise that you have become such a successful part of British society.

Many of the values that Hindus brought with them when they arrived here are those traditionally associated with Britain: tolerance, honesty, enterprise, and respect for the law.

Hindus make up 1 per cent of the population of England and Wales but only 0.025 per cent of the prison population.

You live independently of the Government but never shirk from contributing to society.

Hindus have the lowest level of unemployment of any minority community.

And you help to strengthen those things that have been in decline here, such as commitment to the family.

Hindus are more likely to stay married than people from any other community in Britain.

The Hindu community isn’t simply a part of this country in a strictly demographic sense.

It’s much more important than that.

You’re a vital element of the new Britain that we’re building together.

Every community needs role models.

I want to see more Hindus advance to the highest levels in the Army, the Judiciary and the Civil Service.

I also want to see more Hindu MPs.

People like Shailesh Vara.

Shailesh’s parents arrived in Britain from Uganda with nothing.

Yet, one generation later, he’s in Parliament, he’s in my party – and I’m proud of that.

What everyone wants

Shailesh is a role model for Hindus but he’s in Parliament to represent people of every faith and of none.

It always amuses me when politicians ask each other, ‘What do the Hindus want?’

Or ‘What do the Muslims want?’, ‘What do the Jews want?’

It’s a bit ridiculous really.

By and large, they want the same as everyone else!

Streets that are safe.

Schools that provide a good education.

Hospitals that offer excellent healthcare.

The opportunity to earn enough to look after the family.

In other words, a good quality of life.

That’s what people care most about.

Part of the problem I had when I took over the Conservative Party was that too many of our members had stopped thinking about these things.

Instead of talking about the issues that most people care about, we got bogged down in backward looking disputes.

While parents worried about childcare, getting the kids to school, balancing work and family life – we were banging on and on about subjects like Europe.

I’m not here to make a party political speech but let me say this.

In the past ten months I’ve moved my party back to the centre ground of British politics.

People deserve a real choice of government.

I will make sure that there is always a sensible and moderate alternative to vote for.

Social Responsibility

A strong government needs strong foundations.

That’s not just about individual policies.

It is about a vision of the Britain we all want to see.

A Britain where we do not just ask what government can do.

We ask what people can do, what society can do.

A Britain where we stop thinking you can pass laws to make people good.

And start realising that we are all in this together.

It’s called social responsibility.

Take fighting crime.

It is not just a state responsibility.

It is a social responsibility.

Let’s not pretend that all we need is tough talk and tough laws to bring safety to our streets.

Of course the state must play its part.

The police, the courts, the prison system.

But that is not the end of the story.

It is just the start.

We need parents to bring up their children with the right values.

We need schools to be places of discipline and order.

We need to stand up for civilised values in public places.

We need to design crime out of the housing estates of the future.

We’ve got to stop selling alcohol to children.

But more than this, we need people, families, communities, businesses to step up to the plate and understand that it’s not just about stopping the bad things…

…it’s about actively doing the good things.

Not waiting for the state to do it all, but taking responsibility, making a difference, saying loudly and proudly: this is my country, this is my community: I will play my part.

We need a new spirit of social responsibility in this land.

Social Cohesion

One of the problems we face in building a better society is that there are always forces that seek to divide us.

The tendency to retreat into a ghetto is often as much psychological as physical.

In Britain today we have communities where people from different ethnic origins never meet, never talk, never go into each others’ homes.

After the riots in our northern towns in 2001, the government commissioned a report into why there had been such a massive breakdown in law and order.

In looking into the underlying causes of the violence and destruction the author, Ted Cantle, discovered just how divided our society has become.

Some, although not all, of the fault lies with the policies of successive governments.

We have been encouraged to concentrate on what divides us, what makes us different.

Grants have been doled out not on the basis of need but on the basis of race and religion.

Those who kept quiet and got on with life got very little while those who made the most noise have often been give the most.

We saw in the more recent riots in Handsworth in Birmingham where this kind of state-sanctioned division can lead.

It’s time to discard the failed policies of the past.

We need to bring people together – and bring our society together.

This involves taking concrete steps.

The act of granting citizenship.

Teaching new arrivals how to speak English.

Ensuring that people – particularly young people – mix in school and beyond the school gate through school exchange programmes.

So that they learn for themselves this truth:

All of us – rich and poor, black and white, Hindu, Muslim, Jew and Christian – have got far more that unites us than divides us.

We need to challenge organisations to develop ideas to achieve this.

I’d like to go further.

Last year, I proposed a school leaver programme to prepare teenagers for their responsibilities as adult citizens…

…that gives them the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds…

…and to learn about the realities of life in different communities.

I’m passionate about this.

I’m pleased that we’ve now establish a charity called the Young Adult Trust, led by the youth sector, to do exactly that.

We’re starting to run pilot programmes next week.

It’s very exciting.

The more that people come together – as they already do at university, for example – the more they will discover how much they have in common.

India

This is a worldwide issue.

Recently, I was in India.

I was hugely impressed by what I saw.

By the dynamism of the Indian economy.

By the vibrancy of Indian democracy.

And by the clear sense that here is an emerging superpower.

I made a speech in Mumbai in which I made it clear that I want to see a new special relationship for the 21st century between Britain and India.

We have so much in common.

Not simply because of our shared heritage, values and the English language.

But also because of the challenges we face together.

Key issues such as the impact of globalisation and the threat of terrorism.

And, of course, the need to create and maintain successful, pluralist, multi-faith democracies.

Like any large and diverse country, India has its problems.

But there is a strong sense that everyone – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist and Christian – is an Indian.

Equally, all of here in this country need a shared sense of being British.

I’m not pretending we can simply wave a magic wand.

The issues of social cohesion are incredibly complicated.

They will need sensitive handling.

But I know one thing.

I don’t want to live in a society that’s divided into mutually suspicious blocs based on ethnicity or religion.

I want to live in a society united by shared humanity and a common sense of Britishness.

In conclusion let me say this.

Big challenges lie ahead if we are to build a better country.

I have no doubt that Hindus will play a full part in meeting those challenges.

Hindus in every walk of life.

Not just in the fields of business and enterprise where this community have made an amazing contribution out of all proportion to its size.

But also in the public sector where so many Hindus serve as doctors, as chemists, as civil servants.

We’re all in this together.

Building a better society for our children and grandchildren.

Whoever you are, whatever you do.

As we prepare for Diwali.

Let’s go forward as a happy and united people, into the light.

David Cameron – 2006 Speech on Disabled People

Below is the text of the speech made by David Cameron, the then Leader of the Opposition, at Capability Scotland on 16 October 2016.

First let me thank Capability Scotland for inviting me to speak here today.

The work you do – representing disabled people, advocating for them, providing care – is a great example of the idea that the modern Conservative Party stands for.

It is the big idea of the 21st century: social responsibility.

Social responsibility means understanding that the answers to the challenges we face do not lie in the hands of the state alone.

We must always ask not just what government can do, but what society can do – individuals, families, businesses, social enterprises and community organisations.

The borders of responsibility between state and society can never be neatly defined or set in stone.

For every issue, and every challenge, we must constantly ask ourselves whether we have got the balance right.

It is a fine judgement.

But we bring to this judgement a very different attitude to the one that the Government brings.

Where Labour instinctively reach for the regulatory solution, and trust first and foremost in state action…

…we instinctively reach for the human solution, and trust first and foremost in people and what they can do.

That is what social responsibility means, and over the next few weeks I want to explain its relevance to some of the biggest social challenges our country faces: an ageing population; giving hope and inspiration to young people, and the needs of carers.

DISABILITY

Today, I want to talk about our social responsibility to disabled people.

Earlier this year I announced a process of consultation with disabled people and disability organisations.

Jeremy Hunt, our shadow disability minister, has heard evidence from over 100 organisations.

That work goes on.

And today we are launching what I hope will become one of the main centres of discussion, advice and policy-making for disabled people.

It’s a website: www.thedisabilitychallenge.com.

I am so pleased that Bert Massie, the chair of the Disability Rights Commission, has said that we have “done a marvellous thing” in giving disabled people “a say in what a future Conservative Government would do.”

Well, this website is the way to have that say.

We want to hear from you about the issues that affect your lives – and how change can come about.

BBC AND PARKING

Because the great thing is that change really can come from the bottom-up.

Politicians can help, of course, providing leadership to a campaign and giving it greater profile.

But in the end, the most powerful force for change is society itself.

Let me give you two examples where Jeremy Hunt has shown the power of social pressure, not the law.

Working with the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, Jeremy has persuaded the BBC to double the amount of subtitling on BBC Parliament.

This means that people with limited hearing will be able to watch all major events in the House of Commons.

That is real change for the better.

And here’s another one.

Because of the unique parking pressures in central London, the four inner London boroughs are exempt from the Europe-wide Blue Badge parking scheme.

They operate their own parking arrangements for disabled drivers – which leads to real confusion.

Jeremy has brokered an arrangement which we can announce today.

For the first time, the four boroughs will work together to operate a harmonised disabled parking scheme and increase disabled parking.

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND DISABILITY

In the field of disability, the role of Government is to ensure that the benefits system helps, rather than hinders, disabled people looking for work.

Government is also there to fund and, where necessary, to provide the essential services that disabled people need.

But disabled people need more than Government benefits and Government services.

We need corporate responsibility too: businesses putting in the extra effort, even the extra investment…

…to ensure that they value and make proper use of the talents and abilities of disabled people.

We need civic responsibility: community groups and local government making sure that disabled people have the fullest access to local services and facilities…

…and independent organisations being trusted to provide services to disabled people.

And finally, we need personal responsibility.

This means each of us, as individuals.

Disabled people need to take the responsibility of looking for work if they can, of taking their place in society.

And non-disabled people need to combat their own prejudice and the prejudice of others – to recognise the equal rights of all people to respect and dignity.

THE SEVERELY DISABLED

That principle – the equal right of each of us to respect and dignity – must be the starting point of this discussion.

Every person – no matter their mental or physical condition – is of equal worth.

This is a moral absolute.

Humanity consists not in capability.

We do not derive our worth from our strength – physical or mental.

Our worth is innate in us.

Our humanity is intrinsic.

Indeed that word – humanity – is synonymous with the principle of compassion.

That is why the moral absolute of human equality is most tested, most necessary, when it comes to the most severely disabled people in our society.

As I shall explain, we must make every effort to ensure that disabled people can participate in the life of society – in the community, in work, in public life.

But the fact is, there is a small minority of people who will never be able to participate fully.

In our drive to include disabled people in normal life, we must not neglect those who will never live a normal life.

The other day I met a family who campaign for children on permanent ventilation.

The most important thing for those children is not access to every part of community life.

It is, quite simply, care: care for themselves and care for their families.

These are the most vulnerable people in our society – and they should therefore be the most cared-for, the most well-treated… quite simply the most important people in our society.

DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION ACT

But of course the vast majority of disabled people are fully able and willing to participate in work, in community life and public life.

It was my party which passed the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995, giving disabled people, for the first time, basic civil rights against discrimination.

It became illegal to refuse someone work, or a service, or an entitlement because of their disability.

I am proud of that.

But we have to go further.

Because equality means more than civil rights.

Fair treatment cannot come through law alone.

The first Race Relations Act was in 1965.

The first Sex Discrimination Act was in 1975.

Yet it took years for racism and sexism to start to disappear from public life – and as we know, they still haven’t disappeared altogether.

We don’t want to have to wait that long for disabled people.

Discrimination occurs as much in our culture as in our law – in society, as much as in the state.

That’s why we need to do more.

Our guiding principle should be to ensure that wherever possible, disabled people can participate in every aspect of life, and make their contribution to society.

SERVICES

I want to talk about work in a minute.

But there is more to life than work.

And even work depends on a host of other factors: childcare, housing, transport.

These things matter to all of us, but they matter even more for disabled people.

When the Conservative Party held a seminar on transport issues this summer, a disabled lady was late.

When she arrived, she explained that she’d sat on a train at Euston station for 35 minutes because no-one came to help her.

In the rush of modern life, it is easy for disabled people to get left behind.

The same goes for housing: in our rush to build, and to cram more people into smaller spaces, we can forget the needs of those who need special facilities at home.

According to the Government, nearly a quarter of disabled people who need adapted accommodation don’t have it.

That’s hardly surprising.

The Government’s Code for Sustainable Housing describes accessibility for disabled people as “an optional extra”.

As a survey for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found, there is generally no single agency or department at the local level with responsibility for meeting the housing needs of disabled people.

Other services can neglect the needs of disabled people too.

Services like home help and occupational therapy.

Brilliant people do this work – but why is it so difficult to arrange a visit from them?

Why do they so often say they’ll come sometime between nine and five – meaning you have to stay in all day waiting for them?

How could someone hold down a job faced with that sort of inflexibility?

If supermarkets can give you an hour slot for when they deliver a box of groceries, why can’t social services manage it too?

A point I hear again and again is that people find it easier dealing with their disability than dealing with the agencies that are supposed to help them with it.

It’s often not the agencies’ fault.

Social services are often smothered in red tape.

In England, there’s the Commission for Social Care Inspection…

…Delivery and Improvement Standards…

…Performance Assessment Frameworks (of which there are 26)…

…Best Value Performance Indicators…

…they all take up time, require information, impose instructions.

Here in Scotland, social services are hampered by government in many ways.

A consultation by the Scottish Executive earlier this year found that social services are:

“overwhelmed by bureaucracy… often gathering information for local and national use which is of little value”.

It’s little wonder that there is such a shortage of social workers and care workers in many parts of Scotland.

WORK

Most disabled people don’t want to just be receivers of public services.

They want to be contributors too.

They want to work.

And the basic principle here must be that disability is not a disqualification.

The vast majority of disabled people are able, and willing, to work – whether full time or part time, paid or voluntary.

And yet 50 per cent of disabled people of working age are not in work.

The Government likes to boast that it has achieved near full employment.

And yet the fact is that millions of people of working age are not working – but they’re not categorised as unemployed either.

In order to help Government statistics, they’re simply written off.

There are around five million people who could work, who aren’t working.

Britain has the highest proportion of young men out of work in the developed world.

And according to the most recent Labour Force Survey, 40 per cent of all people of working age who are not working, are disabled.

MIGRANT WORKERS

So that’s one fact: five million people, many of them disabled, often able to work but who are not working.

And here is another fact, corresponding to the first one.

As we write off our fellow citizens from participating in the workforce, other countries’ citizens come to take their place.

The gaps in the labour market are, very naturally, being filled by migrant workers.

That, in itself, is a good thing not a bad thing.

We should not try to unlock the potential of our own citizens by locking out the citizens of other countries.

When willing, able and energetic people come to this country to work, they don’t crowd out other people from the labour market.

As the Fresh Talent initiative by the Scottish Executive recognises, skilled foreign workers expand our economy and make us more competitive.

Ultimately they create more employment.

But it is outrageous for Gordon Brown to claim that we nearly have full employment in this country.

Real unemployment in Britain is around five million – five million people left on the scrap-heap while British firms deal with the resulting labour shortage by employing migrant workers.

That is morally wrong and economically stupid and it has to stop.

We have a social responsibility to help disabled people into the workforce.

When millions of our fellow citizens are locked out of the workforce, we all lose.

They lose the quality of life – the wealth and fulfilment that comes from work.

Taxpayers lose because of the benefits that have to be paid to the unemployed.

And the economy loses because huge productive opportunities are wasted.

So our response to the numbers of disabled people who are not working is straightforward.

For the sake of the people who are locked into welfare…

…for the sake of taxpayers…

…and for the sake of our economy…

…we have to bring them back into the mainstream.

Into work.

WHY THEY DON’T WORK

So let us start by asking the obvious question: why is it that only 50 per cent of all disabled people of working age actually work?

Capability Scotland’s recent survey gives the answer.

Around half your respondents blamed discrimination by employers, who don’t want to hire disabled people.

And around half blamed the benefits system – trapping people in unemployment, because they don’t want to risk their benefits by getting a job.

I want to address these two issues in turn.

CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, nearly 40 per cent of employers are unwilling to consider job applications from disabled people.

And as the Disability Rights Commission reports today, the figure is even higher for people with a history of mental illness.

That is disgraceful.

And it’s unnecessary.

The fact is, most employers do the right thing when an existing employee becomes sick or disabled.

They make it work, both for the company and for the employee.

Yet too many businesses will not make this effort when it comes to recruiting new workers.

Some do, of course.

Companies like the Royal Mail have been far-sighted in their approach to the recruitment of disabled people.

This is the attitude we must expect from all employers.

It is simply a question of corporate responsibility – a key part of our wider social responsibility to disabled people.

CONSERVATIVE PARTY

That applies, of course, to political parties.

I am delighted that Jon Sparks, the chief executive of Scope, is here with us today.

He and I will sign an agreement this morning, between Scope and the Conservative Party…

…committing us to an employment policy which welcomes applications from disabled people.

Scope will conduct an audit of Conservative Campaign Head Quarters, and report back to us on how we can improve the way we work:

…access to our building, our literature, our websites.

They will also advise us on candidate selection.

I am sure they will find we are not perfect.

But I am determined that the Conservative Party becomes properly representative of the country we aspire to govern – and that includes more disabled candidates and more disabled MPs.

GOVERNMENT

Of course, there is one organisation which should be leading the way in corporate responsibility.

The largest employer in the country is the Government itself.

19% of the working age population is disabled – yet less than 5% of civil servants are disabled people.

At the Department of Work and Pensions – the department responsible for helping disabled people into work – only 7% of staff are disabled.

The DWP has actually lost discrimination tribunals brought against it by disabled staff.

All that needs to change.

We’re calling for an annual audit, across the public sector, of practice towards the employment of disabled people.

And if we win the next election, we will make the employment of disabled people a priority for recruitment policy throughout Whitehall and the public sector.

If we’re going to change attitudes in our country, government needs to set an example.

That is what social responsibility means.

BENEFITS: COMPLEXITY

So I want to see employers welcome disabled people.

The other side of our task, however, is to make disabled people welcome work.

As I’ve said, almost all do – in principle.

Almost all have something to contribute.

But the fact is that it’s often very difficult for a disabled person to make the transition into work.

The benefits system often hinders, rather than helps.

Most of all, because of its complexity.

The Disability Living Allowance.

Incapacity Benefit.

The Severe Disability Premium.

The Access to Work Fund.

The Individual Learning Fund.

The Wheelchair Service.

Funding from the local council for housing adaptations.

Funding from Social Services.

Funding from the LEA for Special Education Needs.

It goes on.

And on.

The Disability Living Allowance has a form that is forty pages long.

Half the appeals against DLA awards are upheld – which shows how many mistakes are made.

And you can tell how complicated the system is by this statistic:

26% of spending on families with severely disabled children goes on assessment and commissioning, not on care itself.

What a waste of money and of time.

Here’s another fact.

If you receive direct payments, you have to open a separate bank account for them.

The idea of direct payments is that people can be trusted to buy their own care.

Why do you need a separate bank account?

Direct payments are the right idea.

The problem is you can only get them if you only receive help from social services.

If you’re also getting help from the NHS, you can’t get your social care through direct payments.

I think that’s wrong.

In fact the idea that healthcare and social care should be kept in separate boxes is wrong.

It’s yet another confusion in a system which urgently needs to be simplified.

I’ve heard some real horror stories.

The family which had to wait three years to start getting Direct Payments when their disabled son turned 16 – including the threat of court.

The fact is, it is so difficult to navigate all this that when you’ve got the package you’re entitled to, you don’t want to change your circumstances again and risk it all.

Indeed, the system is so confusing that many people literally don’t understand where the money they receive comes from.

According to the Child Poverty Action Group, some families treat benefit payments as a windfall.

Because the system seems so arbitrary, because they cannot rely on a steady income from the benefits office, they simply spend it as it comes in.

BENEFITS: DISINCENTIVE TO WORK

And worst of all, people know that if they make the wrong move, their benefits can be withdrawn.

When I say “wrong move”, it’s actually often the right move.

People who suffer from a fluctuating condition – say Multiple Sclerosis or Bipolar Disorder – will often be able to work when they enjoy good health.

The problem is that if they suffer a relapse of the condition and have to give up work, they often have to start the whole benefits assessment process again.

So it’s no surprise that many people with fluctuating conditions think it is safer not to risk their vital benefit package by looking for work.

The system penalises responsibility in a variety of ways.

For example, surely it is a good thing if disabled people undertake part-time work, community work, education or training.

And yet all these things can trigger a new Personal Capacities Assessment, which can lead to a loss of “incapacity status” and therefore a loss of benefits.

Yet for many unemployed people these things are often crucial steps back to work.

You automatically lose your Incapacity Benefit if you work more than 16 hours a week or earn more than £80.

Again, this directly penalises part-time work, and encourages people to stay inactive.

BENEFITS: STATE AGENCIES

The same goes for the way contracts for Pathways to Work are awarded.

Contractors are rewarded for placing people in full-time employment – not for finding them part-time or voluntary work.

This acts as a disincentive to help the people in entrenched unemployment, the hard-to-reach groups with more severe disabilities who need help the most.

As Capability Scotland have put it, “Pathways to Work might not be the most appropriate vehicle for supporting people furthest from the labour market back into work.”

As for the New Deal for Disabled People, it doesn’t provide support before placing the client in work.

As a result, take-up is low and drop-out rates are high.

As Capability Scotland put it, “our experience suggests that NDDP might not be the most appropriate activity for people with complex support needs.”

Both the New Deal and Pathways to Work often seem to pick the easy targets.

The hardest cases have got more entrenched.

This is not the fault of the people who work in these agencies.

It is a structural problem.

When central government takes the responsibility for getting people into work, things tend to get bureaucratic and incentives get skewed.

SIMPLIFICATION

So there are the problems in the benefits system.

It is too complex.

It does not incentivise work sufficiently.

And it relies too much on large government agencies.

I believe we can tackle each of these problems.

Our policy review is examining the option of a radical simplification of the benefits package for disabled people.

I welcome the principle of Individual Budgets.

But I’d like to go much further.

Instead of the half-dozen different benefits a disabled person can receive – each with its different conditions and its own application form…

…we should be moving towards a single assessment process, and perhaps even a single benefit.

If it was not conditional on whether you work or not – it would not act as a disincentive to finding a job.

It would be simple, easy to administer and easy to understand.

WORK INCENTIVE

We also need to incentivise work directly.

And so Incapacity Benefit – the money that unemployed disabled people receive – also needs reform.

The committee stage of the Welfare Reform Bill starts tomorrow.

Jeremy Hunt will be leading our campaign to amend the Bill in favour of disabled people.

The Government has said it wants more severely disabled people to be able to volunteer for the Pathways programme.

If this is to be meaningful, we need to look at whether part-time work, voluntary work or community work could be considered valid outcomes for the programme.

For many people these can be vital stepping stones towards full time employment…

…but for others they may be the only realistic destination.

We also need to ensure that, if you have a prescribed medical condition that means you can manage frequent limited periods of work…

…you automatically go back to the same benefit entitlement every time you need to stop working.

And long-term, we need to think about how to overcome the abrupt cut-off for Incapacity Benefit at 16 hours or £80 a week….

…and the even lower earnings disregard for those on Income Support.

At every stage the benefit system needs to help, support and encourage people to take the next steps back into work.

That is the only way we will achieve the goal of independent living.

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE

Finally, we need to put more trust in social enterprises and voluntary bodies.

As Capability Scotland has argued, Pathways to Work and the New Deal for Disabled People have not been effective with the people who most need help in getting into work.

Indeed I suspect that, like the rest of the New Deal, the successes have largely been with those people who would have found work anyway.

I do not believe that large state agencies, no matter how well-meaning, are the right vehicles for helping badly disadvantaged people into work.

Organisations like Forth Sector here in Edinburgh…

…or Unity Enterprise throughout Central Scotland…

…or the Shaw Trust across the UK…

…do great work getting disabled and mentally ill people into work.

I want to see far more use of social enterprises like these.

And not just for employment.

In every field of life, charities large and small are finding better ways of working.

Capability Scotland has two schools for disabled children – I congratulate you on their success.

I also want to pay tribute to a much smaller project – called Abbey Soft Play in Kelso.

When Diane Henderson’s daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, she found there was nowhere safe for her to play in the town.

So Diane set up a social enterprise.

She converted an old disused toilet block into a soft play area for all the children of the town.

Now there are 250 members, about a third of them with special needs.

That’s a great example of how providing services for disabled people can help everyone.

There is a charity called Hurdles, in Bury in Lancashire, which helps disabled children…

“to be able to do what they wish, with whom they choose, at the same time as everyone else.”

That’s a brilliant description of what our ambition for disabled people should be.

And as Hurdles explained in a submission to our Social Justice Policy Group, organisations like theirs are generally better informed about what works than officials are.

They also told us, “often a small local organisation like Hurdles could deliver services at a fraction of the cost” that bigger agencies spend.

I want to see far more use of social enterprises like that – providing a gateway to government services, providing services directly themselves…

…and most of all, helping in all the messy ad hoc ways that human beings need help.

If we are to help the majority of disabled people achieve the goal of independent living…

…and if we are to help the minority that will never live independent lives…

…then we have to change the way we work.

All of us.

We as politicians have our job to do: Jeremy Hunt begins today on the detail of the Welfare Reform Bill.

But we as individuals, as employers, as citizens, have our roles too.

Personal responsibility.

Corporate responsibility.

Civic responsibility.

In a phrase: social responsibility.

That is the way to realise the moral absolute, the equal dignity of every person.

Stephen Crabb – 2006 Speech on Human Rights in Burma

Stephen Crabb

Below is the text of the speech made by Stephen Crabb on 24 October 2006.

Today, Burma’s democracy leader, Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, will mark a total of 11 years under house arrest.

It is therefore highly appropriate that the House consider once again the current situation in Burma, the gross violations of human rights perpetrated by the military regime there, and the actions Her Majesty’s Government can and should take to address the growing crisis. And it’s been more than a year since we had a debate in this House on this subject.

There are other factors, too, which make this is a particularly timely moment for Members to have this debate.

Last month the UN Security Council formally discussed Burma for the first time. And last week the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma, Paulo Pinheiro, presented his report to the UN General Assembly.

This debate has attracted much interest from various NGOs and I am particularly grateful to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Burma Campaign – among others – who have asked me to consider various research notes and other pieces of evidence as I have prepared for this debate.

I am sure I am not the only one who thinks that 90% of everything said from a platform during party conference season is instantly forgettable. And I am sure that this applies equally to all the parties.

But at the beginning of this month, in Bournemouth, I listened to one of the most confident, passionate and meaningful speeches I have ever heard in any political forum. It didn’t come from one of our Shadow Cabinet, or from one of our rising star A-list candidates, or even from one of our elder Tory statesmen.

The speaker was a 25 year old Burmese woman, named Zoya Phang, who used an appearance at the conference to make a heart-cry for her people and for her country.

Zoya spoke of how, at the age of 14, she witnessed a savage assault on her village by troops of the Burmese regime; she spoke of mortar bombs exploding and soldiers opening fire; of her family running, carrying what they could, leaving their home behind. And she spoke of her memories of those killed on that day and the smell of black smoke as her village was destroyed behind them.

But she also brought questions to our conference: Why has it taken 16 years for the United Nations Security Council to even discuss Burma? Why are there no targeted economic sanctions to cut the economic lifeline keeping this regime afloat? Why is there is not even a UN arms embargo against her country?

It was Zoya Phang’s testimony, more than anything, which made me ask for this debate today. And I would like to use my contribution to bring these questions, and others, to the Minister.

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent the last 11 years of her life in detention. Despite an overly optimistic assessment of the situation by UN Under-Secretary General Ibrahim Gambari, who was permitted a brief audience with her in May this year, her detention was extended by a further year just days later.

In addition to the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi, there are over 1,100 other political prisoners in jail in Burma today. They face widespread and horrific forms of torture – and since December last year, the International Committee of the Red Cross has been forced to suspend all its prison visits, due to the restrictions imposed by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

During that month, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma published a report, The Darkness We See, detailing the different forms of torture used. And many political prisoners do not survive the harsh conditions and torture they face in Burma’s prisons.

Another report, Eight Seconds of Silence, details the deaths of at least nine political prisoners since last year. And last week, it emerged that another prisoner, Ko Thet Win Aung, aged 34, died in Mandalay Prison.

Will the Minister and his colleagues demand an independent investigation into the causes of his death and for the findings to be made public?

The 27th September this year marked the 18th anniversary of the establishment of the National League for Democracy (NLD). Yet, even at the same time as messages of support were being sent to the NLD from politicians of all parties around the world, several leading dissidents in Burma – who had already spent many years in prison and had been released – were being re-arrested, including Min Ko Naing, Ko Gyi and Htay Kwe.

Could the Minister please tell the House what action he is taking to raise the issue of these arrests with the SPDC and to secure the prisoners’ release?

Burma has the highest number of forcibly conscripted child soldiers in the world, according to Human Rights Watch. Over 70,000 children have been forced to join the Burma Army.

According to the human rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which has interviewed former child soldiers who have managed to escape, these children – some as young as 10 or 11 – are taken from bus stops or train stations, or from the street on their way home from school.

I know, from hearing previous answers given by the Minister for Human Rights, that he feels passionate about this specific issue of child soldiers.

Please could the Minister with us today update us on what the Government’s most recent actions have been to challenge the regime on their use of child soldiers.

As if the suppression of democracy, the widespread use of torture, the imprisonment of people for their political beliefs, and the forcible conscription of child soldiers were not enough, the human rights violations perpetrated by the SPDC against the ethnic nationalities, in particular the Karen, Karenni and Shan, amount – according to many analysts – to crimes against humanity and, arguably, genocide.

Since 1996, over 2,800 villages in eastern Burma alone have been destroyed. This has been reported by human rights organisations for several years. Last week, in his report to the UN General Assembly, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma acknowledged this figure for the first time.

It is estimated that over one million people are Internally Displaced within the jungles of Burma – on the run, “hunted and shelled like animals” in the words of one report, without adequate food, medicine or shelter.

This year, the number of IDPs rose still further. In the SPDC’s biggest and most savage offensive against Karen civilians in almost a decade, over 20,000 Karen civilians had to flee their villages.

Reports from the Free Burma Rangers and the Karen Human Rights Group reveal horrifying atrocities, including beheadings, severe mutilations and the shooting of civilians at point-blank range. A nine year-old girl was shot, after seeing her father and grandmother killed.

It is essential that we see this campaign for what it is. The European Union and others in the international community have been, in my view, far too timid in the language they have used. They have described this year’s events as an offensive against the Karen National Union (KNU), the Karens’ resistance organisation.

But in reality it was nothing less than a genocidal assault on the Karen people themselves. The vast majority of the victims were innocent, unarmed civilians who had nothing to do with the resistance.

And evidence of the widespread, systematic use of rape continues to mount. Documented in reports such as Licence to Rape by the Shan Women’s Action Network, and others by the Karen Women’s Organisation and the Women’s League of Chinland, it is clear that there is a pattern that wherever SPDC troops are stationed, women are extremely vulnerable.

A Kachin woman told Christian Solidarity Worldwide that rape is “very common” and that “rape happens in every area where there is an SPDC army camp”.

The Kachin have a ceasefire with the SPDC, so rape cannot simply be dismissed as a consequence of “counter-insurgency” operations. Similarly in Mon state, where there is also a ceasefire, women are taken as sexual slaves for the army, as described in the devastating report Catwalk to the Barracks.

In his report the Special Rapporteur says: “Serious incidents of sexual violence against women continue to be reported throughout Myanmar (Burma). Women and girls in ethnic minority areas remain particularly susceptible to rape and harassment by State actors.”

In light of UN Security Council resolution 1674, passed this year, which calls for the protection of civilians in armed conflict and resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, what action is the Minister considering at an international level to bring the regime to justice for these crimes?

Will the Minister assure the House that in the debate at the Security Council in two days time on resolution 1325 on women, peace and security the United Kingdom will raise the situation in Burma, and encourage other countries to do so too?

Will the United Kingdom call on the SPDC to bring an end to the system of impunity for grave violations committed by State actors, including rape and sexual violence?

I would like now to focus on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Burma.

In September, the Backpack Health Workers Team – a group of courageous medics who work in the conflict zones of eastern Burma, at huge risk to their lives, to deliver medical assistance – published a report, Chronic Emergency: Health and Human Rights in Eastern Burma. The findings in the report are an indictment of the regime – and of the international community’s failure to respond.

According to this report, and a similar one published earlier in the year by John Hopkins University, Burma is facing a dire public health crisis, caused by the regime’s lack of investment in health care and its violations of human rights. Eastern Burma, in particular, is now one of the world’s worst health disasters

Chronic Emergency claims that the situation is as bad as the poorest countries in Africa – and yet Burma receives only a fraction of the aid and attention given to Africa. Malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS have reached epidemic proportions.

Infant mortality rates and deaths from treatable diseases are among the worst in the world. Yet Burma’s regime, which spends over 40% of its budget on the military, invests less than $1 per person per year in health and education combined. In the World Health Organisation’s assessment of health care, Burma is ranked 190 out of 191 states. Only Sierra Leone has a worse record of caring for its citizens.

There continues to be a debate about the most effective ways to deliver aid to the people of Burma. Undoubtedly we want to avoid channelling money through the SPDC. I do not intend to try to address all the complexities here – but I want to raise one very simple point.

I am aware that the Department for International Development is in the final stages of carrying out a review of its policy on Burma. I welcome the fact that they have had a review, and I look forward to hearing the outcome. I hope very much that DFID will find a way to provide substantial and much-needed assistance to the over one million IDPs who are as yet unreached by DFID funds.

There are outstanding organisations carrying out life-saving work – groups such as the Backpack Health Worker Teams whose report I have just referred to – and they deserve our support. There is a precedent, as I understand that four other Governments do fund such humanitarian groups. I hope that DFID will join them.

I want to turn now to current political developments – first, within Burma, and then internationally. Just two weeks ago, the SPDC began the final session of its National Convention to draw up a new Constitution for the country.

I hope the Minister will assure the House that Her Majesty’s Government does not give the SPDC’s National Convention one iota of credibility and that he will recognise it for what it is: a sham, and a desperate bid by a brutal military regime to rubber-stamp its own agenda and give itself a civilian face.

The delegates at the National Convention are handpicked and threatened with severe penalties if they criticise the process. The NLD and the major representatives of most of the ethnic nationalities are excluded.

The SPDC plans to put the new Constitution to a referendum. Nobody has any confidence that it will be a free and fair referendum.

What plans does the Minister have to put pressure on the SPDC to invite international and truly independent monitors, not just on the day of the referendum but in the run-up to it?

What hope does he have that there will be a proper period of public awareness raising, information, education and consultation, including freedom for groups to campaign for a “no” vote?

Following a referendum, as I understand it, the SPDC then plans to hold new elections. Only this time they don’t want a re-run of their defeat in 1990. So they have ensured that the proposed Constitution assures them victory. A third of the seats in the legislature will be reserved for the military.

The President must be someone with at least 15 years’ experience in the military. The regime’s civilian militia – the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) – is expected to be used by the SPDC to contest the seats that are not already reserved for the military. The USDA, it should be remembered, are the thugs who attacked Aung San Suu Kyi in Depayin three years ago, during which more than a hundred of her supporters were beaten to death. This is the new face for Burma?

Does the Minister agree with the UN Special Rapporteur, who described the National Convention as “meaningless and undemocratic” and added: “It will not work on the moon … it will not work on Mars”?

Does he also agree that the only way forward for real change and national reconciliation in Burma is tripartite dialogue between the SPDC, the NLD and the ethnic nationalities. The NLD and the ethnic nationalities have repeatedly stressed their willingness to talk. What action is he taking to push for meaningful tripartite dialogue?

Just over a year ago, the former Czech President Vaclav Havel and the former Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu commissioned an international law firm to assess the case for bringing the issue of Burma to the UN Security Council agenda.

Their report, Threat to the Peace, concluded that there was an overwhelmingly strong case for bringing Burma to the Security Council agenda. It concluded that Burma meets all of the major criteria for Security Council action.

It recommended a Security Council discussion, and a binding resolution which would require the SPDC to release all political prisoners, to open the country to international human rights monitors and humanitarian aid organisations without restriction or interference, and to engage in meaningful tripartite dialogue and a transition to democracy.

And last month, a year after Threat to the Peace was published, the UN Security Council formally discussed Burma for the first time. This followed two informal UN Security Council discussions on Burma which have taken place over the last year.

I am aware that the United Kingdom, along with the United States and others, worked very hard to bring Burma to the formal agenda, and I wish to express my appreciation for the Government’s efforts and welcome the successes that have been achieved. However, I also want to urge the Minister that the need for a binding resolution on Burma has never been greater. The discussion at the Security Council recently is a very significant step forward. But talk is not enough.

The UN Special Rapporteur recommends specifically to the UN General Assembly to call on the Security Council to: ‘respond to the situation of armed conflict in eastern Myanmar (Burma) where civilians are being targeted and where humanitarian assistance to civilians is being deliberately obstructed, and to call on the Government of Myanmar to authorise access to the affected areas by the Special Rapporteur, the United Nations and associated personnel, as well as personnel of humanitarian organisations and guarantee their safety, security and freedom of movement’.

Does the Minister support the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations? What action is the United Kingdom taking to bring about a binding resolution, and to ensure the support of other Security Council members?

I wish to conclude by looking at some other steps which the United Kingdom could take. I applaud the robust statements made in the past by the Minister for Human Rights, and I reiterate my gratitude to the Government for the efforts made within the UN Security Council to seek a stronger international position. But I wish to suggest that there are some additional steps that could be considered.

Firstly, with great respect to the efforts of the Honourable Member for Makerfield, I would like to see greater engagement in the issue of Burma at a higher level in the Government – by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary.

I recognise that there are many challenges on the international scene at the moment, but given Britain’s history with Burma, and given the severity and the duration of the suffering of the people of Burma, I hope that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary will give the situation a higher priority than they have done so far.

Secondly, the UK is the second largest source of approved investment in Burma. Although most major British companies which previously invested in Burma have withdrawn, companies all over the world use Britain to invest in Burma via British-dependent territories such as the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda. The Government could introduce legislation to ban investment in Burma from Britain or British-dependent territories.

Thirdly, the Minister should consider ways to strengthen the EU Common Position when it is reviewed this year.

Will the Minister tell the House why, despite the Common Position’s provision for a freeze of assets held in Europe by listed regime officials, less than £4,000 has been frozen across all 25 EU member states?

What action is the Government taking to address this within the EU?

The strongest feature of the EU Common Position is a limited investment ban, introduced in 2004. European companies are banned from investing in a number of named state-owned enterprises. But on this list of named state-owned enterprises are a pineapple juice factory and a tailor shop, but no enterprises in the key sectors of oil, gas, mining and timber.

The military regime in Burma is propped up by oil, gas, timber and gems – surely not by pineapple juice?

Fourthly, DFID provides no financial support for Burmese pro-democracy and human rights operating in exile but carrying out vital work in documenting and disseminating information – groups such as the Shan Women’s Action Network and the Karen Women’s Organisation who have helped to bring the issue of rape to the world agenda; media organisations such as the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) Radio and Television stations which broadcast news into Burma and provide an essential source of information; and democracy organisations such as the Government-in-Exile, the National Council of the Union of Burma or the trade union movement.

If developing democracy and civil society is to be a priority, why does DFID not fund this kind of work for Burma?

Finally, it is becoming increasingly obvious that what is occurring in eastern Burma, particularly to the Karen, Karenni and Shan, amounts to more than just the “counter-insurgency” that the SPDC call it.

The crimes of widespread rape, forced labour, mass displacement, torture, use of human minesweepers, destruction of villages, destruction of livelihoods and destruction of lives, surely amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. There is a strong case to be considered of genocide, or attempted genocide.

Article 2c of the Genocide Convention provides as one definition of genocide: “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”. Genocide does not have to involve the destruction of a whole race. Nor does it even entail mass killing.

Earlier this month the Hon Member for Cardiff North asked the Minister, by way of written of PQ, if genocide is being committed inside Burma. His answer expressed no view on this. At the end of June, to the Hon. Member for Buckingham, he said that ‘there is currently insufficient evidence to establish that the intent to commit genocide exists.’

I would like to ask again whether it is the view of HMG that the Burmese regime is committing genocide.

Does the Minister agree that there is a need to thoroughly investigate allegations of crimes against humanity and genocide or attempted genocide? If so, what action is he taking?

In describing the current situation in Burma, I have barely begun to scratch the surface of the regime’s legacy of fear and suffering.

I have not, for example, described the use of forced labour; nor have I detailed the lack of religious freedoms which blight the lives of Christians among the Karen, Kachin and Chin ethnic groups, and the Muslims among the Rohingya.

But it is clear that, across the full range of basic human rights, the Burmese dictatorship systematically restricts, denies and undermines the freedoms that should be enjoyed all peoples in Burma.

In his book, The Case for Democracy, Natan Sharansky describes the differences between freedom societies and those he calls ‘fear societies’ which are ruled by regimes which deny freedoms to their peoples and suppress human rights.

A community of free nations throughout the world will not, he says, emerge on its own. ‘It will require both the clarity of the democratic world to see the profound moral difference between the world of freedom and the world of fear, and the courage to confront fear societies everywhere.’

We have a duty to confront – in the ways I have described – the fear society that has been imposed by the regime in Burma.

I will close with the words of Zoya Phang at the Conservative Conference three weeks ago: ‘Promoting human rights and democracy is not imperialist. It is not a cultural issue. It is everyone’s business.’

We need to use our privileged position here in the UK to make the situation in Burma the urgent business of the international community.

David Cameron – 2006 Speech on Northern Ireland

Below is the text of the speech made by David Cameron, the then Leader of the Opposition, at the Institute of Directors in Northern Ireland on 26 October 2006.

It’s a great pleasure for me to return to Belfast as the guest speaker at your annual lunch.

As I said in Scotland recently, every part of the United Kingdom is precious to me and the Party I lead.

That applies equally, of course, to Northern Ireland.

I’ll deal with the prospects for political progress briefly.

But today I want to talk mainly about the importance of economic progress.

Part of that involves economic liberalisation and achieving competitiveness in the global marketplace.

And I’ll explain how I believe we can do that.

By promoting deregulation

By introducing tax reform.

And, particularly in the context of Northern Ireland, by increasing the size of the private sector as a percentage of the economy as a whole.

But I’m going to argue that if economic progress is to bring social stability, economic liberalism – low taxes, deregulation, stable monetary policy – is not enough on its own. We need to add to it, with ideas for economic empowerment.

We must recognise that the rising tide of the open economy does not always lift all boats and that, for some people, the bottom rungs of the ladder to prosperity are broken and need to be fixed.

That means investment in training, skills, education and recognising the human and personal development that people need to help them out of poverty.

This, in turn, needs a new approach to politics. Government alone cannot empower people or give them the tools for success.

We need social responsibility. A new role for the voluntary sector, for social enterprise and, yes, for business.

POLITICAL PROGRESS

But first, the political situation.

Following St Andrews and as we approach the first deadline in the Governments’ timetable, it’s worth telling you my position.

My Party supports devolution.

We believe that government is better when it is closer to people and when decisions are taken locally.

I’m in no doubt that a fully functioning Assembly will provide much greater degree of accountability for local decisions than can ever be the case under direct rule.

Decisions about domestic rates or academic selection should be made here, not in Whitehall or a Westminster Committee Room.

St Andrews was clearly a significant step forward towards the restoration of devolution.

I wish Tony Blair well and hope that this initiative succeeds.

But power-sharing will only work if every political party and every Minister in the Executive sticks to the same, basic democratic rules and gives full support to the police, the courts and the rule of law.

So the reality is that Sinn Fein must deliver on policing.

No more is being asked of them than that they play by the same democratic rules that are accepted by every other political party in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Backing the police means more than just joining the Policing Board.

It means reporting crime and co-operating with the police at all levels.

It means encouraging people from your community to join the police.

And it means passing on evidence of crime to the police – such as in the case of Robert McCartney.

Sinn Fein must be clear about these things. But I hope Unionists will be equally clear – about their response.

If Sinn Fein makes these moves – as St Andrews requires them to do – then, difficult as it undoubtedly will be for some, I believe that unionists would be absolutely right in re-establishing a power-sharing, devolved government.

That means locally elected and accountable ministers from both main traditions working together for the good of Northern Ireland.

It is a big step for Dr Paisley to sit down with Mr Adams. But in time it has to happen if devolution and power-sharing are to take place and work.

And success also means a commitment to co-operation on matters of shared interest with the Republic of Ireland and throughout these islands as a whole.

And it means presenting to the world a new, outward looking and optimistic face of Northern Ireland.

Such a political settlement would set the seal on the transformation that’s taken place in Northern Ireland over the past fifteen years.

My Party wants to make it happen – and while we are the Opposition, we are the loyal Opposition – and we will never play politics with the future of Northern Ireland.

ECONOMIC PROGRESS

Let me turn to the economy.

Enormous progress has already been made – a great deal of it down to you in the business community.

Everyone knows that, for Northern Ireland, economic success has been one of the dividends of political change.

What is less clearly understood is that economic success has, in turn, driven forward that political change.

Unemployment is lower than in most other regions of the country.

One only has to look at the city centre here in Belfast to see the amount of new investment that’s coming in – here, and also in towns and cities across Northern Ireland.

House prices are rising faster than virtually anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

And of course without the threat from terrorism people are able to go about their daily business in a way that was unthinkable just over a decade ago.

I accept that there are big problems that need tackling.

The transport infrastructure needs modernising. Investment is required to upgrade water and sewage services.

But on the whole there is reason for optimism about the progress that Northern Ireland has made.

ECONOMIC LIBERALISATION – Competitiveness in the global marketplace

In order to sustain progress, we need to recognise the harsh realities of the competitive global economy. Business can locate anywhere. So government needs to get real about competitiveness.

We need a Government that asks some straight forward questions.

Are we making it easier, or harder, to set up a business?

Are we making it easier, or harder, to employ people? Is the overall burden of tax, public spending and borrowing going up or down?

Politicians need to understand the realities of life for the entrepreneur and wealth creator.

Does it take an employer more time, or less time, to fill in their tax return?

Is an employer spending more time, or less time, dealing with red tape?

Are the costs of complying with legislation and regulation going up, or down?

These are the real tests of an open economy. Those are the questions my government would ask. At the moment Labour cannot give positive answers to those questions.

Unfortunately, under the current Government the United Kingdom has slipped from fourth to tenth in the world economic competitiveness league.

With regulation up, tax up, interference up, the foot of government is pressing down on the windpipe of British business. We’ve got to take that foot off.

DEREGULATION

One way to do that is to make the economy competitive is to reduce the burdens that business faces.

The CBI estimates that £50 billion of new regulations have been introduced since 1997.

We need to tackle regulation at source. We need to look at the vast expansion of litigation under no win / no fee. We need to stop the gold plating of directives. And we need to go further, not having dozens of goals from an EU negotiation – but just one: to get out of the Social Chapter.

TAX REFORM

Let me say something about tax.

Under the current Chancellor, business has been, quite simply, over-taxed. We used to have some of the lowest rates of business tax; now we have some of the highest.

In the modern world, firms are competing not just within Northern Ireland…

Or in an island of Ireland or UK context…

But in a global market where the challenge from countries like China and India grows more formidable by the day.

And in the modern world, it’s the lower-tax economies that will be the most competitive.

You know better than me that we only have to look south, to the Republic of Ireland, to see the truth of that.

Northern Ireland shares a land border with a country that currently enjoys a much lower rate of corporation tax than we do in the United Kingdom.

People here are aware of this – and are calling for taxation measures to help.

There’s widespread support for the idea that Northern Ireland should have a separate rate of corporation tax to the rest of the UK.

And there’s the Northern Ireland Manufacturing Group’s campaign on industrial de-rating.

Across the country, there are lots of calls for tax cuts.

I hear them. I understand them.

Last week, the Conservative Party’s Tax Commission published its report.

The members of that Commission, led by Michael Forsyth, are men and women with a wealth of experience of industry, trade, finance and social policy.

They are also independent minded.

They have done what I asked and presented my Party with a menu of options for tax reform that deserve serious consideration.

Tax breaks specific to Northern Ireland would have to be thought through in the context of overall Exchequer support for this part of the UK and the precedent that might be set for other parts of the United Kingdom.

I will look seriously and with an open mind at any well-argued, carefully modelled case that business here puts forward.

But we are clear about the framework of our tax policy.

Sound money means that we shall always put stability ahead of tax cuts.

So we will not be promising up-front, unfunded tax reductions at the next election.

But we will share the proceeds of growth, so over time we will be able to reduce taxes.

We will also rebalance our tax system.

Green taxes on pollution will rise to pay for reductions in family taxes.

The Tax Reform Commission’s report sets out some options for doing that.

But tax reform isn’t just about reducing or rebalancing taxes.

It’s also about making tax much more simple and transparent.

Tax law in the UK has developed in a piecemeal fashion over a long period of time without any systematic or overall review.

Tolley’s Tax Handbook of the British Tax Code was 4,555 pages in 1997.

Nine years later it has doubled to over 9,800 pages.

That’s 10 times longer than Tolstoy’s War and Peace. And I’ll tell you something else…it’s much less of a good read.

A survey of British businesses carried out for the Tax Reform Commission found that more than three quarters of businesses thought the tax system had become more complex in the last five years.

And the number saying the tax system had become less complex?

Two per cent. They must be either incredibly clever or incredibly stupid.

Rising complexity is at the root of the increasingly antagonistic relationship between government and business over tax avoidance.

A simpler tax system would stop the endless game of cat and mouse.

Complex taxes are harming our competitiveness and driving away investment.

We believe that when it comes to business tax, by removing exemptions and broadening the base on which tax is charged, we could simplify the system and reduce headline rates.

That will be our goal.

GROWING THE PRIVATE SECTOR

Within Northern Ireland, the private sector is performing well.

Northern Irish companies are doing fantastic business the world over – Mivan, Lagan, Norbrook and FG Wilson to name a few.

But I agree with those who say that the Northern Ireland economy needs re-balancing.

Currently around two-thirds of it is dependent, directly or indirectly, on the public sector.

That compares with about one third in the south-east of England.

It makes the local economy particularly susceptible to a slowdown in the current growth in public expenditure.

Only last month the First Trust Bank’s quarterly survey of the Northern Ireland economy concluded that ‘overall economic growth is likely to slacken in 2007’ and warned:

‘Businesses that are dependent upon the state sector should recognise that public expenditure growth in the years ahead will be slower than in the past’.

That is not healthy.

So there is a widespread consensus – that includes the Government – on the need to reduce the role of the state and the public sector, and to boost the private sector in delivering growth and prosperity.

My aim is clear – to make the United Kingdom the best place to set up and do business.

And, within the UK, to ensure that Northern Ireland is a full participant in this dynamic enterprise culture.

ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT

Of course, economic prosperity benefits everyone but we should be honest in acknowledging that some people are not in a position to take advantage of it.

That is why any policy of economic liberalisation must be accompanied by economic empowerment for those left behind.

There is growing prosperity here, but also some of the most disadvantaged parts of the United Kingdom, suffering all the problems associated with social exclusion.

I saw some of these at first hand when I visited the Shankill area last December.

A place where very few people have even a single GCSE… where the opportunities for getting on and getting up are incredibly limited.

While grammar schools in Northern Ireland produce the best exam results in the United Kingdom, there are still far too many children leaving school with few, or no, qualifications.

Of course I oppose the Government’s attempts to change the status of schools without the approval of people locally. But we must also do more to encourage those in the most disadvantaged areas to see education as an opportunity, not an irrelevance.

Reading is crucial, too.

If you can’t read, it’s hard to play anything more than a walk on part in the economy.

In Northern Ireland, just under a quarter of 11 year olds failed to achieve level 4 or better at Key Stage 2 English.

Put simply, that means they don’t have command of the basics.

Getting children to read competently when they leave primary school is the greatest single contribution we could make to transforming their opportunities in later life.

Today, there are almost 20,000 young people in Northern Ireland who are not in work or in full time education.

We can’t afford to write them off or leave it to the paramilitaries to give them some sense of purpose in their lives.

So economic empowerment means fixing the broken rungs at the bottom of the ladder from poverty to wealth.

There are 113,000 people in Northern Ireland on incapacity benefits, many of whom have the ability and the will to work – at least part-time – if the system only supported and encouraged them to do so.

Human capital is the most important resource of the open economy.

I see it as a key task of modern government to find ways of helping excluded groups back into the mainstream of our society.

And more often than not it will not be the Government that has the answers – it will be social enterprises, voluntary groups, community organisations and, yes, business that has the answers.

So yes we need to roll back the state in terms of rebalancing the economy, between the state sector and the private sector.

But we also need to roll forward society in terms of all recognising our responsibility to help the disadvantaged and build a strong society.

That is what I mean by social responsibility – recognising that government alone cannot tackle these problems.

We should be looking at a new deal with the voluntary sector – longer term contracts and funding to deal with the toughest challenges.

We should look at new ways to help those stuck in deprivation – perhaps easing the rules that say you lose benefit if you do more than 16 hours voluntary work. For many that is the path back to work – so why block it?

And just as Enterprise Zones helped in the 1980s with a broken economy, why not create Social Action Zones, cutting burdens from business and charities that help crack deprivation in some of our poorest neighbourhoods.

When I was growing up, when I first began working in politics, Northern Ireland only ever seemed to be associated with bad news.

Today, Northern Ireland is changing – and for the better.

There’s still some distance to travel and some issues to be resolved.

But hopefully we’re getting there.

I want to see Northern Ireland as a peaceful, stable and prosperous part of the country.

I want to see a shared future for people of all traditions, based on reconciliation, democracy and the rule of law.

And I look forward to working with you over the coming years to help make that a reality.

I want politics in Northern Ireland to be about the real things – schools, hospitals, tax, not about timetables, deadlines and institutional arrangements.

And I want the Conservative Party to be a part of that new politics.

We’re moving in a new direction.

Leading the debate. Pulling ahead of a tired Government. Developing policies for the future.

In doing so, one thing is certain.

My Party’s commitment to Northern Ireland, and to all its people, will be whole hearted and unshakeable.

William Hague – 2006 Speech at the Policy Exchange

Below is the text of the speech made by William Hague in London on 21 February 2006.

For some Conservatives, living in the past is an attractive temptation. But I’m sure you’ll understand why going back in time holds fewer attractions for me.

I want instead to look forward – to ask what will be required of our leaders in the future. I want to ask, in particular, and very topically in the light of last week, whether Gordon Brown’s beliefs make him capable of dealing with the challenges that face Britain today.

Any study of the past shows that most successful Conservative leaders have been at their most successful when leading the process of change the country needed.

William Pitt transformed our taxation system from a medieval model to a modern one, led Britain from the sidelines of Europe to a central position on the global stage and laid the foundations for future industrial greatness.

Robert Peel accelerated that transformation by taking on the country’s protectionist interests and advancing the cause of free trade.

Benjamin Disraeli ensured the benefits of economic change were more widely spread and broadly accepted, and in the process secured our future, by introducing legislation to protect workers, provide them with homes and guarantee clean air.

And Margaret Thatcher, of course, provided the inspirational leadership which allowed our country to renew itself after years of drift and decline by equipping us with the freedoms and national self-confidence to shape the future.

The essence of Conservatism has always been a belief in human nature as distinct from abstract ideology. And the essence of human nature is adaptability, flexibility, ingenuity. Conservative policies throughout the ages have always been designed to give these virtues room to grow.

The Left, by contrast, have always been trying to constrict human freedom, to direct human energies down specific approved paths.

For me, there are profound ethical and philosophical reasons to take issue with the Left’s general approach. But, crucially, there is a more important reason why we should all reject the instincts of the Left to control and direct. They just don’t work.

One of the key problems with the Left is that they develop an analysis of whatever a good society needs to be – whether its keener on science, or more generous to doctors or more thoughtful on climate change – and then they seek to implement that change through crude mechanisms, which involve a growth in state power, a diminution in individual freedom, a squeezing-out of innovation, difference, diversity and creativity and end in the dogmatic pursuit of targets which events have long rendered redundant.

By its very nature this approach is stuck in the past – it is inappropriate for the fast-moving world in which we live. And it holds us back from making the changes we need to make to respond to the real challenges of the 21st century.

If this Left-wing approach of controlling, directing and interfering were simply an alternative set of ideas advanced by socialist nostalgics it would be our duty as politicians concerned about the country’s future prosperity and security to challenge them. But the task of taking on this philosophy has become imperative – because it drives the man everyone expects to be the next Prime Minister.

Gordon Brown appears to worry whether he and the country are on the same wavelength. He knows that the country preferred Tony Blair to him as leader of the Labour Party, and saw him as not quite right for the job in 1994.

There are worries that the sort of person who could edit the Red Paper on Scotland, and who once called for the massive extension of state power to advance a socialist utopia, may not be the best person to lead a competitive market economy.

To meet these worries and concerns the Chancellor, in recent weeks, has been dropping names and swapping costumes. They call it Project Gordon.

He’s let us know that he’s now a friend of Alan Greenspan and Bill Gates – to try and prove that he’s got over his resentment of capitalism.

More touchingly he’s been wearing Ralph Lauren-style shirts and Tom Cruise-style flying helmets. Let me give him a word of advice based on personal experience: headgear and party leadership don’t go well together.

But this superficial makeover does not, and cannot, alter the Chancellor’s essential make-up.

The qualities of left-wing thinking I discussed earlier – the tendency to channel, control, organise, direct and boss in conformity with dogma and in a way which inhibits growth and change – are central to Gordon Brown’s way of operating.

On the economy Gordon Brown isn’t happy concentrating on getting the fundamentals right. He uses the entire tax and benefits system to remake British society and alter British behaviour in conformity with his grand plan for us all.

Business is told how to invest through the creation of specific incentives. The way in which tax credits are designed is absurdly bureaucratic. Little gimmicks in every budget demonstrate that Gordon Brown wants to use public money to pay for whatever may be on his private agenda.

This whole approach – the belief that the economy is there for politicians to tell us how to live, rather than generating the wealth which gives us greater freedom to decide how we want to live – is stuck in the past.

As I’m afraid, is the Chancellor’s approach to public service reform.

Gordon Brown has spent much of the last month telling us he’s in favour of reform. In the abstract. But show him any real reform and suddenly his supports seems to evaporate into fudges, hedges and muttered generalities.

The Chancellor is still to spell out which aspects of the Blair reform package are right, and why. His fabled intellectual firepower has been curiously muted. Can the Chancellor tell us just what role LEAs should have in the future provision of schooling, and why. What is the philosophical view he takes of who should commission, and who provide education? And what are the practical consequences in terms of policy? Does he share Tony Blair’s admiration for school choice on the American model, which the Prime Minister spelled out in the foreword to the Education White Paper? If not, why not?

On all these questions – silence.

On the central debate about how we equip the next generation for the rigours of competition in the 21st century we have equivocation, prevarication and endless, endless repetition. Oh, how we’d love to have some detail. For just a minute. But the Chancellor prefers to duck these future challenges.

Should independent providers supply more than 15% of NHS care? Silence.

Should poorly performing police officers continue to be able to enjoy generous protection for their failings? Silence.

Should the new trust schools be encouraged to form links with business to help get new funding from the private sector into education? Silence.

The Chancellor is apparently giving more speeches in the weeks to come – I’m looking forward to the answers to questions like these. And if Gordon doesn’t address them then we’re entitled to assume that what he – the roadblock to reform – means by reform and what the country means by reform are very different things.

The Chancellor prides himself on the long-term benefits of his decision to give independence to the Bank of England; but there could hardly be any set of developments less calculated to sustain the long-term competitiveness of the British economy than the cocktail of higher business taxes, increasing business regulation and decreasing pension provision to which the Chancellor’s policies have subjected us.

Until we have decisive evidence to the contrary we’ll have to conclude that the only progressive change the Chancellor is really interested in is changing his address. Instead of accepting that the country needs new thinking, he’s still stuck in the old Westminster mindset which holds that the replacement of one oligarchy with another is all the change the country needs.

Now there have been areas, outside the economy, where the Chancellor has favoured us with more of his thinking than others. Britishness is one.

On one level, Mr Brown’s recent talk of Britishness is an attempt to highlight one of the most serious challenges we face – the challenge of creating a cohesive society in an increasingly diverse nation.

Of course, there is a part of me which wonders if the Chancellor’s desire to emphasise Britishness is his way of dealing with the West Lothian question.

Now that we have devolution, and the Scottish Parliament has become an established feature of Scottish life, the question still remains. How can the member for Kirkcaldy vote on what is right for the citizens of Kirklees when the citizens of Kirklees no longer have any say over what happens in Kirkcaldy on devolved issues. As the Leader of the Opposition during the debates we had on devolution I feel no pleasure in pointing out that Scottish Labour MPs forcing through changes to England’s laws does not make for a more harmonious and United Kingdom. Anyone who thinks that we can carry on legislating for England in exactly the same way as we did before devolution is clearly living in the past. When even senior Labour backbenchers have begun to recognise this, so should Gordon.

Anyone who imagines that murmuring about Britishness is a substitute for serious and sustained thinking about the West Lothian question is definitely living in the past and is definitely in need of help. In due course, we expect that Ken Clarke’s Democracy Task Force will give the Chancellor some.

The Chancellor’s efforts to grapple with the question of national identity were not, however, just restricted to attempts to legitimise his own anomalous constitutional position as an MP. They also related to one of the central challenges of the 21st century.

Our society is changing fast. As we become more diverse ethnically and culturally there is less consensus around shared values.

Consequently there is potentially less acceptance of the need for shared sacrifice.

And that increasing diversity therefore raises profound questions about how we fund public services, protect our citizens against internal and external threat and project our identity on the global stage.

I believe these profound questions require deep thought. Which is why I am delighted that David Cameron has set up his policy group on national and international security to look at these inter-related challenges. And its also why I am so pleased that David has shown the lead in putting forward innovative new means of promoting national cohesion through his programme for school leavers, an idea the Chancellor has been trying belatedly to appropriate for himself.

When he hasn’t been trying to borrow our ideas on national cohesion the Chancellor has been trying to import them from elsewhere. In his most recent speeches on Britishness he has talked enviously of American front gardens with a flag on every lawn, suggested we emulate the American tradition of veterans’ day and flirted with the American practice of teaching children their nation’s history as a continuous narrative. As we have previously said, there is something to be said for some of these suggestions. But there is more to the American experience than totems and symbols.

The Chancellor, rightly, recognises that America has been hugely successful over many generations in forging, and reforging, national unity out of immense ethnic and cultural diversity. E pluribus unum – from many one, as their coinage proclaims.

But America’s success – the reverence accorded to the flag by those of every faith, the respect for the sacrifice of veterans felt by those of every background, and the ready acceptance of a shared national story felt by Americans old and new – has depended on a central willingness to defend the vigour, independence and continuity of the nation’s common institutions.

America’s common institutions – its constitution, its Presidency, Congress and Supreme Court, its federal system, its symbols of national loyalty from the forces to the flag – have been carefully nurtured by politicians of both major parties.

They recognise that diversity is best protected by assiduously supporting the framework which underpins those common institutions. And America’s politicians also know what we knew in Victorian times – a stable constitutional bedrock gives a country’s citizens the security they need to innovate, experiment and lead in a globally competitive world.

Gordon Brown’s problem in providing the country with the stability, security and cohesion it needs is that he has been at the heart of a Government which has consistently behaved in a cavalier fashion towards constitutional safeguards. And he shows little sign of being willing to escape the assumptions which have shaped Labour’s approach in the past.

Labour’s constitutional agenda on coming to office was heavily influenced by the anti-British radicalism of thinkers such as Tom Nairn, whose thought permeated the work of groups such as Charter 88 and then found expression in the approach of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in Government.

Labour introduced a welcome measure of devolution for Scotland – but without thinking through its ramifications for England and for British unity.

Labour launched a potentially promising reform programme for the House of Lords – but then left us with a House which is even more susceptible to patronage, no more independent of the executive, and no more capable of pursuing its historic and essential balancing functions.

Labour continues, in defiance of popular opinion, to push powers to the regional level, a programme almost precisely calculated to alienate local feeling while undermining a collective sense of Britishness.

Labour are determined to press ahead with a programme of local government reform which would see our county structure replaced with new abstract authorities.

Today, David Miliband, a member of the Cabinet, is giving a speech calling for people to be given more power over their lives and more power as communities. Yet no Government has left the citizen with a greater sense of powerlessness, nor attacked so unsparingly the established mechanisms of local democracy. We have one member of the Cabinet moving power to a local level, while the rest of the Cabinet are busy amalgamating police authorities, ambulance trusts, crime and disorder partnerships and fire control centres – removing local control and accountability across the board, and diminishing faith in local democracy.

In addition, Labour are intent on pressing ahead with European integration without ever having provided the House of Commons with an adequate mechanism for scrutinising legislation.

Labour have allowed the executive to grow in power, secretive, unscrutinised and unaccountable, as more agencies, quangos and taskforces operate without adequate democratic control, claiming for themselves the authority bestowed by serving the ruling ideological agenda.

Gordon Brown has been at the centre of this web. He has turned the Budget speech into a partisan occasion that bears little relation to the Budget itself. He has accumulated power in the Treasury, and reduced Parliamentary scrutiny by timetabling Finance Bills for the first time; he has manipulated statistics, sometimes to the point of meaninglessness; his statements to Parliament are rarer than those of anyone else in the Cabinet; and he has taken not answering the question to an art form which only the Prime Minister can aspire to.

This mistreatment of Parliament means that Brown is in a weak position to propose constitutional reform or loyalty to national institutions.

On devolution, House of Lords reform, regionalisation, local government reform, European integration and executive power, Gordon Brown’s approach still betrays the thinking of those radicals who were influencing young minds when he was at university.

The Chancellor has been shaped by that past. The Government has been shaped by their agenda. And the Chancellor is a defender of that agenda, incapable of disowning it, even as he must see how it undermines our national stability and sense of security.

The tragedy of Mr Brown’s attempt to grapple with the question of national identity is that he has wholly failed to recognize the role of common institutions in pulling a diverse society together. He is too much a prisoner of the Government’s past, unable to admit the damage that has been done by the Government to our institutions, and hence unable to offer any coherent vision for re-invigorating those institutions.

Vague talk of Britishness, and a sudden love of flagpoles, is no substitute for renewing faith in Britain’s institutions.

The potency of the challenges we face in the next century

Economic competition from rising nations

Radical Islam using states abroad, radicals here and networks globally to subvert democracy

Climate change posing difficult questions about energy use and economic development

Social change requiring us to rethink obligations across generations and between partners

All require us to have a Prime Minister certain of his own identity, free of ideological baggage from the past, uncompromised by failure in Government, sufficiently at ease with Britain that he doesn’t need constantly to redefine what Britishness means, sufficiently ambitious for Britain that he doesn’t shirk from embracing radical reform and clear-sighted about how our common institutions need to be renewed.

There is someone who has recently made clear his intention to replace the Prime Minister at an early date and who I think will prove to have these attributes and that vision.

On the evidence of the policies and the rhetoric with which he has favoured us in recent days, I am afraid that man is not Gordon Brown.

That is his tragedy.

Let us hope it does not become the nation’s…

George Osborne – 2006 Speech on Women at Work and Childcare

Below is the text of the speech made by George Osborne in London on 27 February 2006.

It is a great pleasure to be here today to talk about how we help families balance their lives at home and at work. It is particularly good to do so in the presence of so many members of the Women to Win campaign and representatives from so many childcare charities.

For too long there has been a false impression that women’s issues are somehow separate from mainstream politics and mainstream policies. But every part of politics, and every policy, is as much for women as it is for men. Indeed, mothers are often the member of the family who has by far the most direct contact with public services like schools, hospitals and public transport and may have a deeper insight into what needs to be done to improve and reform them.

So the different perspectives and emphasis that women have cannot be treated as an additional extra, to bolt on to existing policies, but instead must be an integral part of our political system.

And to do that, we Conservatives need to appeal more to women, and to be represented by more women – more women of the calibre and ability of Eleanor Laing and Maria Miller, who join me on the platform today.

The Conservative vote amongst women was eight points behind Labour at the last election. We were level amongst men. Among women aged 18-34 we came third. At the last election almost half of the candidates in our 50 least winnable seats were women, but in our 50 most winnable seats, just one in eight were.

The Conservatives need more women at all levels in the Party, not only so that we look more like modern Britain, but even more importantly, so that we think like modern Britain. Only with more women in key positions will we, or any other Party, properly represent the people we aspire to lead. That is why the far-reaching changes David Cameron is making to candidate selection, including the Priority List, are so important.

It is not about political correctness. It is about political effectiveness.

Of course most issues are important to both women and men. We all care about the level of crime, the state of the health service, and the affordability of housing. But by ensuring that both men and women play an integral part in our Party at every level, we can be even more effective on those issues that we know are especially important to women.

One of those issues is childcare. For too long it has been seen as peripheral to the mainstream political debate.

Not any longer. David Cameron and I are determined that support for families and their childcare needs will be at the heart of what we offer the country at the next election. And I am not just saying that because David’s just returning from paternity leave.

For Britain is changing.

Just fifteen years ago, 59 per cent of women of working age with dependent children were in paid employment. Today that has risen to 68 per cent. And the group of women that have entered the workplace most rapidly are mothers of children up to age four.

There are many complex reasons behind these changes. Social and demographic changes are a factor. And increasingly both parents need to work. As research showed just last week, there is a huge financial cost, estimated at over half a million pounds, to taking time out of work to stay at home and look after a family.

Let’s be honest. In the past the Conservatives have given the impression that young mothers should stay at home.

Today the Labour Party gives the impression that all young mothers should work.

Both are wrong. Both are trying to impose choices on mothers. We need a new approach for a new generation. Instead of imposing a choice on mothers, we should support the choices that mothers make for themselves.

Mothers who work should not be made to feel guilty. Nor should mothers who stay at home. Let us stop trying to tell families how to live their lives. Let us instead support the lives that families live.

Every parent feels the stresses and strains of balancing work and family life. We live in an age in which only 10 per cent of people work a nine to five, 40 hour week – in which many feel that they’re actually working 24/7, and have not so much a work/life balance as a work/life imbalance, especially when it comes to childcare.

We are constantly juggling the pressures of work and family; relying on relations, friends and neighbours as well as paid carers for childcare; struggling with costs, searching for information about childminders or breakfast clubs or playgroups; and negotiating their way through the complexity of tax credit system. These problems do not get easier as our children grow older – in fact the demands on the parent can grow.

Looking for childcare is breathtakingly complex, and especially formidable for lone parents or parents from disadvantaged groups, or for parents with disabled children.

And the issue of childcare is not just about quality of life for parents.

It’s about children – their health, their development, their happiness, their opportunities. In short, it’s about giving them the best start in life.

For all the evidence shows that the quality of childcare from a very young age affects life chances and educational outcomes.

A single telling fact should cause politicians of all parties to hang their heads in shame: it is harder now for a child born to a low income family to escape his or her beginnings and climb to the top of the employment tree than it has been for nearly two generations. Over the past thirty years, social mobility has fallen. And it continues to fall.

Some on the left use this fact as evidence that all young mothers should work and the government must provide all childcare.

As Gordon Brown put it in December, when it comes to balancing work and family life, only the state can guarantee fairness. His eyes lit up when he called the provision of childcare for children up to 48 months “a whole new frontier of the welfare state”. At its worst it is a vision of a Brave New World: rows of mothers at work and rows of tiny children in uniform state-run nurseries. A real nanny state.

Instead, I believe that every family wants something different from childcare. Each has different needs, different desires and different decisions to take. You cannot impose a one-size-fits-all model of childcare provision.

So what is our alternative vision?

We are three years from the next election and just twelve weeks into David Cameron’s leadership, so I am not about to announce detailed policies. We have an excellent shadow team in Paul Goodman, Tim Loughton, Trish Morris, Eleanor Laing and Maria Miller who are working together to develop those policies. They will be supported by our Policy Group on Social Justice which today I am asking to help us with the hard-headed research and innovative thinking that will underpin their work.

But I do want to spell out three clear principles that I believe should guide that thinking.

The first principle is that we should provide financial support for the childcare choices that families themselves make; not use financial support as a stick to force parents into a particular choice.

There are some on the right who say the state shouldn’t be providing any financial support at all. I do not agree. Society has an interest in helping women who work to also provide the best care for their children. We cannot encourage women to have good careers and be good mothers, and then leave them to fend for themselves.

So government has a key role in making good childcare affordable.

Sadly, our childcare costs are now among the highest in Europe. According to a recent Daycare Trust survey, the cost of a typical full-time nursery place in England has outstripped inflation by nearly 20 per cent during the past five years.

The childcare tax credit was supposed to help. But many parents complain that instead of relieving the burden, the sheer complexity of the tax credit system seems to add to the work/life imbalance that they feel.

Perhaps that is why less than a quarter of low income families claiming both the child tax credit and the working tax credit claim the childcare tax credit element too. Parents can’t use it, informal carers can’t access it, and its eligibility is restricted.

I want our policy group to look at ways of making the support provided by the childcare tax credit simpler and much more user-friendly so that parents can actually use it. I would welcome the advice of those charities and voluntary organisations, like the Citizens Advice Bureau, who are currently trying to help navigate mothers through the existing maze.

I also want to look at whether we can expand the range of childcare that is supported. At the last election Theresa May produced imaginative proposals to do just that and in particular to unlock the expertise of family relatives. We should look closely at those ideas as we move forward. For the Government’s own research shows that 74% of the total childcare chosen by parents is informal, yet the Government is doing little to support those choices.

Of course, I am not about to write our 2009 Budget. Decisions on the support we can provide for childcare must take place within the constraints of controlling public spending. What I am talking about today is the broad framework, and providing financial support to families for the childcare choices they make is the first principle of our new approach.

The second principle is that we should expand the range of childcare choices available.

The Government should not be seeking a monopoly in the provision of childcare or nursery places. Yet that is what Gordon Brown’s implies when he talks about expanding the frontiers of the welfare state.

That is not what parents want. They want to choose for themselves from an array of sources that suit their needs and the needs of their children: between one-to-one care to groups, between state and private nurseries, between informal and formal care, between the qualified child-minder or nursery assistant and their own family and friends.

Research shows that the best way to improve children’s life chances, and both their social and intellectual development, is to understand the careful balance between the individual care a child receives and the role more formal group care has to play. Research clearly shows that good quality formal childcare and pre-school stimulates children, often resulting in an earlier development of verbal and cognitive skills. And this has to be balanced with the need for emotional support in the early years which may be better delivered in a one to one situation. So we can see that there can never be just one solution to the care needs of a child and that is why flexibility in provision is vital.

We want to allow and encourage the private and voluntary sectors to play a larger role in raising the life chances of children and striking the right balance between play and learning in the nursery and classroom.

That means insisting that all providers, whether or not they’re part of SureStart, operate on a level playing field.

Let me be absolutely clear. We support SureStart. We are not planning to close it down. But we do have concerns about the way SureStart is developing – concerns that are shared by many on the left.

One of the most attractive feature of the SureStart scheme and the new children’s centres when they began was that both were embedded in the local community, run by those who had campaigned to bring the new project to their area. But as the initial SureStart scheme is being broadened out across the country, and new children’s centres are created, control is increasingly been handed over to local authority bureaucracies and real community involvement is diminishing.

Good local voluntary and private provision is being crowded out. For every two new childcare places provided in the last eight years, one existing place has been lost. Of even greater concern are the falling occupancy rates. Two years ago 85 per cent of available childcare places were taken up; latest figures put the number now at just 76 per cent. This threatens the survival of childcare providers.

When David Miliband argued last week that an ever-expanding state is not crowding out the voluntary sector, here is clear evidence that he is wrong.

So we support SureStart and children’s centres. But we want them to develop in the spirit in which they began by involving local families closely in the management and operation of their centres. And we do not want the Government rigging the childcare market against those private, voluntary and independent providers operating outside the SureStart umbrella.

Again, it is all about us supporting the choices that families make, not make those choices for them. That is why expanding the range of childcare choices is the second principle that guides our approach.

The final principle flows from our understanding that good, affordable and diverse childcare is only one part of what society can do to support the choices that mothers make about balancing their work and home lives.

Government also has a role in protecting the careers of women who want to take time off to look after their children, particularly when they are just born.

Many good employers offer generous maternity support. They understand the importance of a motivated, happy and loyal workforce.

But we do need to provide legal protection to those who are not fortunate enough to work for those businesses. That is why at the last election and today we support the extension of maternity leave and maternity pay, although we recognise the cost that that imposes, especially on smaller businesses, and so we will reduce the burden of regulation elsewhere.

And we applaud the protection provided by the Equal Pay Act. There have been Conservative Governments in office for over half of the thirty years the Act has operated and during that time the pay gap has itself halved.

But we cannot be satisfied with where we are. I agree with the Women and Work Commission when they say today that there is still much to do. A pay gap continues to exist – particularly for part time work. And part-time, flexible working is central to how many mothers try to balance their responsibilities. So the message from my party should be firm. Unequal pay based on sex discrimination is completely and totally unacceptable in this day and age. We will do what it takes to stamp it out.

Let me conclude.

Providing financial support for families who use childcare. Increasing the choice of childcare available to parents. Protecting women who want to be good mothers and have good careers. These are the principles that will guide our thinking in the months and years ahead.

We reject those who say that a women’s place is in the home. We reject those who say that all women should work. We will support choices women make about their lives, not impose choices on them.

That is modern compassionate Conservatism.

Stephen Crabb – 2006 Speech at the Welsh Conservative Party Conference

Stephen Crabb

Below is the text of the speech made by Stephen Crabb at the Welsh Conservative Party Conference held in Llandudno on 4 March 2006.

One year ago this conference met at the Millennium Stadium – Wales was running away with one of the most stylish rugby Grand Slams of recent times.

And Michael Howard was knocking us all into shape to fight an election campaign which brought our Party its first increase in Westminster representation in 22 years and our first seats here in Wales since 1992.

Now, whatever problems our national rugby squad may currently be having in terms of leadership and on-field performance, and we hope they are a temporary blip.

Under David Cameron, our Conservative Team is building strongly on Michael Howard’s success and taking us closer to Government than we have been for a very long time.

They liked the policies, but not the party. We have made considerable progress in the last twelve months. But let’s not pretend that winning the next election will be easy. There is still a lot of ground to make up.

One of my most frustrating experiences during the general election campaign was to regularly come across voters who would tell me, passionately, that they could not wait to see the back of Tony Blair, and that they supported our policies for more police or our policies for to help pensioners, or our stance on immigration…

… then only to be told by these very same people that they still would not be voting Conservative on May 5th.

And a lot of my colleagues in Parliament encountered exactly the same thing: many people just could not bring themselves to vote Conservative despite the huge and manifest failures of the Labour Government.

There is no question that our campaign themes were high on the public’s agenda; and no question that they liked what we were offering.

So why couldn’t they vote for us?

Let me suggest one reason: In the society we live today, there are many voters who just cannot and will not lend their support to a party which they feel does not embody their own fundamental values and aspirations.

No matter that we had some strong headline policies which they liked a lot. They want to support a party that is on their side.

And currently, there is a perception – a misperception – that the Conservative Party is not.

Too many people feel – wrongly – that the Conservative Party just does not exist for them;

Three months ago David Cameron was elected Leader of this great, historic Party with a mandate to ‘Change to Win’.

A mandate to go out there and demonstrate to the British public that our Party is able to renew itself; is able to adapt to the changing world; and understands just what needs to be done to improve life in early 21st century Britain.

And at the heart of that mission to reconnect with a wider audience in the country is a mission to tackle poverty and social injustice.

As the Leader himself said ‘I want the next Conservative Government to care about every Briton’s quality of life… Patriotism is about the crown, the flag and our nation’s institutions but it is also about believing in justice for everyone… People are crying out for a change, for fairness and opportunity’.

And this part of the Conservative package cannot be a bolt-on extra.

This mission – to address the most difficult social questions of our time – has to be at the centre of everything we say, and everything we stand for, in the months and years ahead.

Because, without it, I am afraid too many people will still think we are on someone else’s side.

We need to ‘Change to Win’.

But let’s not think the social justice message is just part of some clever plan to get us the keys of Downing Street.

It’s at the heart of the new agenda for our Party precisely because we are living in such a damaged, broken society where too many people are denied the opportunity to achieve their full potential.

And, here in Wales, we don’t have to look very far to see just how enormous is the task we face.

If the Welsh Conservative Party is looking for a mission for the coming Assembly elections – then this is it – to re-focus public services in Wales in accordance with a radical, social justice imperative because Wales desperately needs new thinking and new action.

Take homelessness.

National Assembly figures show that the number of people recorded as homeless is continuing to rise.

The number of homeless households in Wales doubled between 2000 and 2004. And Shelter Cymru estimates that at least 50,000 people experience homelessness in Wales every year.

Since Labour came into power in 1997 the use of temporary accommodation has trebled.

And if these figures aren’t bad enough, just remember that Wales also has the worst housing conditions in the UK, with an estimated 225,000 people living in unfit accommodation.

Take dentistry.

Wales is only just waking up to the social justice implications of the collapse in NHS provision in many parts of Wales.

As increasing numbers of adults – and children – now find themselves without access to any dentist, what will be the consequences for oral health among the poorest and most vulnerable in society?

Ladies and gentlemen, if you had told the people of Pembrokeshire back in 1997 that, within 8 years, they would see the near-wholesale disappearance of NHS dentistry in their County under a Labour government they would not have believed you.

Yet, this is exactly what has happened; and is happening in many other parts of the country. And I predict Labour will reap a whirlwind because of it.

Or we can look at low pay.

Low pay, especially among women, is an increasingly significant cause of poverty in Wales.

One in four women in full-time jobs and 60 per cent of those in part-time jobs are paid less than £6.50 and hour.

Rural communities like Pembrokeshire, Gwynedd and Powys are among the worst affected, where too many women – especially single mums – cannot afford to go out to work because of childcare, travel and other costs.

This is just one of the reasons why 27 per cent of children in Wales are living in poverty, a figure higher than the British average.

We also need to examine closely the link between disability and poverty.

Why is it that the proportion of disabled adults living in poverty is double that of people who do not have disabilities?

Why are three quarters of all those receiving the main out-of-work benefits for two years or more disabled?

Why is it that a disabled person with a degree is more likely to looking for work than a non-disabled person with no qualifications?

And why is it that a disabled person is paid, on average, 10% less than a non-disabled person for doing exactly the same job?

Never again must we go into an election with the majority of disabled people thinking that the Conservative Party does not stand for them.

We could look at so many other areas and see the negative social impacts created by Labour’s failure in Wales:

Farming – where thousands of farmers earn a wage that would be illegal in any other industry – being brought to its knees by a Government that has ignored every opportunity it has had to get a fairer deal for Welsh farming families.

Or Education – where the number of children achieving GCSE grades is lower in Wales than in the rest of the United Kingdom, and truancy rates are unacceptably high.

Or Household Debt – where too many Welsh families face crippling levels of debt. A quarter of all households in Wales now have consumer credit commitments amounting to more than 10% of their annual income.

All these must be key battlegrounds for us at the next election.

Building social justice starts with an agenda to restore competitiveness to the UK economy and to capture more of the fruits of the enormous increase in global trade.

It requires policies that encourage stable families and gives relationships – especially where children are involved – every chance of success.

And, yes, it requires action to remove the disincentives created by the tax and benefit system that serve to undermine marriage in our society.

It will also mean unleashing the dynamism and creativity of the voluntary sector in a way we have not seen for many years.

So many of the really effective projects I see providing solutions to social problems are not linked to the state at all, but are organised by motivated and focussed voluntary groups which have a deep understanding of the communities in which the are working.

And building social justice will require radical reform of our public services.

Gordon Brown has tried the old fashioned model of just pouring huge sums of money into services with the result that public sector employment has increased massively at the expense of commerce and productivity has declined.

Too few benefits are being seen at the sharp-end by the people whose lives depend on high quality public services.

This has to change.

Conference, I believe that the Conservative mission for this country is to ensure there is a safe floor beneath which no man or woman can fall, but also no ceiling above which no man or woman can rise.

Today in Wales, far too many people are finding that the floor is not at all secure and that there is a very low ceiling indeed, trapping them in their circumstances.

Even one of Labour’s very own think tanks now admits that inequality is increasing under this Government.

We must make this our agenda.

We have always been the Party of opportunity

We must show now that we are also the Party of social justice.

That we stand for everyone in society, especially those on the margins.

That we want to make sure that everyone can fulfil their own unique potential;

And that no-one gets left behind.

David Cameron – 2006 Speech at Equal Opportunities Commission Event

Below is the text of the speech made by David Cameron, the then Leader of the Opposition, on 13 March 2006.

The Conservative Party and the Equal Opportunities Commission share a common goal.

We want to make sexual inequality history.

That needs a serious commitment.

It needs clear policies.

And it needs leadership.

What I’d like to do today is look at some of the problems we face and outline some solutions.

It’s not a comprehensive package.

You wouldn’t expect it to be at this stage in the policy cycle.

But I hope you’ll agree it’s a fair start.

You explained that the Conservative Party has a credibility problem in this area …

… that we haven’t said enough about this subject in the past.

Clearly we have work to do.

One cause of our reticence is a source of some strength as well as a source of weakness.

We respect the private sphere.

We have a reluctance to tell people and institutions – including our own party – what to do.

We are not great at signing up to grandiloquent charters. We prefer practical measures

But this should mean that when we do make commitments, we really mean them – and will then go on to do what ever is necessary to deliver them.

More Conservative Women MPs

As practical people, it is only right that we should start with our own party.

That is why the first speech that I made as leader was about electing more women MPs.

I believe that the gross under-representation of women on the Conservative benches short changes not only women but also the Party itself.

How can we draw on all the talents of the country when we habitually exclude half the population?

I’ve put in place an action plan – the Priority List – which gives Conservative Associations the opportunity to select candidates from a pool of very talented people. Half of them will be women.

Of course, in any individual selection process the best candidate may be a man.

But, and this is the key point, it’s just as likely to be a woman.

This change in selection procedures is a huge exercise.

All selections for Westminster seats have been stopped.

All candidates have been made to reapply to the list.

And if, after a few selections, we find that an unacceptably low proportion of selected candidates are women we will take further action.

I will do what is necessary to ensure that the Conservative Party will have far more women MPs after the next election.

A better balance of men and women in our party is not just about fairness, it’s about effectiveness.

Ask 10 men and 10 women what they think are the big issues of the day and you might get the same answers.

I doubt it …but you might

Ask them to rank those issues in order of priority, or to raise issues of particular concern to them, and some fundamental differences will start to appear.

The point is a simple one – I want the Conservative party to understand and reflect the priorities of modern Britain. Unless we look and think like modern Britain that is far more difficult to achieve.

Put another way, I want the conversation within the Conservative party to be more like the conversation we should be having with the rest of the country.

Childcare

In many households – including my own – the topic that comes up the most often in conversation is childcare.

It’s something few families with children can avoid.

Fifteen years ago, 59 per cent of women of working age with dependent children were in paid employment.

Today that figure has shot up to 68 per cent.

And the group of women who are entering the workplace most rapidly are mothers of children up to age four.

It’s up to us as a society to give mums the support they need.

Some may choose to stay at home and that’s a valid and worthwhile choice.

But the majority will return to work and that’s an equally valid and worthwhile choice.

Society shouldn’t try to direct women but to direct help to women where it’s most needed.

Before the last election we agreed with the Government’s proposals for extending maternity leave.

In addition we supported the idea of allowing mums to take the additional money but over a shorter time period. That is something we should consider again.

Instead of imposing a choice on mothers, we should support the choices that mothers make for themselves.

Mothers who work should not be made to feel guilty. Nor should mothers who stay at home.

Let us stop trying to tell families how to live their lives.

Let us instead support the lives that families live.

As George Osborne has said, there are three principles that should guide my party when thinking about childcare and parenting.

Providing financial support for the childcare choices that families themselves make; not using financial support as a stick to force parents into a particular choice.

That means looking at whether we can expand the kinds of childcare supported by the childcare tax credit.

Secondly, expanding the range of childcare choices available.

That means ensuring the government does not seek a monopoly in the provision of childcare or nursery places and that voluntary and private providers are not crowded out.

And third, realising that government has a role in protecting the careers of women who want to take time off to look after their children, particularly when they are just born.

Many good employers offer generous maternity support. They understand the importance of a motivated, happy and loyal workforce.

But we do need to provide legal protection to those who are not fortunate enough to work for those businesses.

More flexible working

One of the reasons that many women don’t go back to work after having a baby is that flexibility isn’t an option.

This can be a loss to them to their employer and to the economy.

We need innovation in working practices to allow more women to work again.

Flexible working is the way forward for serious employers.

85 per cent of Microsoft’s UK workforce works flexibly.

As a result the company has better retention rates and higher morale than before.

And the example of JetBlue’s ‘homesourcing’ programme in the US is an interesting one.

With 400 women employees almost always working from home, taking customer bookings online, they are at the vanguard of flexible working.

And their employees are happier, and as a result – more productive.

And it isn’t only American firms who are making changes.

A hi-tech manufacturing firm in my constituency has introduced almost totally flexible hours, with employees told to work their 38 hour week on their terms.

That’s good news for everyone but women are particularly happy about a system that recognises their responsibilities and meets their needs.

But the benefits of flexible working are not universally understood.

The EOC’s own research suggests that a majority of managers are not yet comfortable with it.

Our job is to help get the message out.

Flexible working is good for women, good for employers and good for society.

And it’s particularly important for modern families – especially with only 10 per cent of people working nine to five.

We come in all shapes and sizes and we want the ability to mould our work ours to suit our family circumstances – not the other way round.

Equal Pay

Closing the pay gap must be at the heart of our commitment to end inequality.

After thirty years of the Equal Pay Act, women’s pay is still nearly a fifth lower than men’s – and for women working part-time, the pay gap is around 40 per cent.

The fact that the Act was passed thirty years ago, and yet the pay gap is still so wide proves that there is no magic wand.

I believe one of the most potent tools in ending this scandal is much greater transparency.

We need to challenge the culture of secrecy about pay that holds sway in too many British workplaces.

I know it is easier said than done in some situations.

It’s no secret how much I earn – or Jenny, for that matter.

But many employees have no idea how much their co-workers are paid.

It’s in this climate of concealment that unfairness can thrive.

How can you challenge the facts if you’re not allowed to know them?

Of course there are complex situations where it may not be possible or pertinent for people to know their colleagues salaries, but instead of asking “why should I be transparent” , employers and employees should be asking “why not”.

Transparency should be the norm, not the exception.

And all of us need to change our cultural attitudes to pay by being much more open.

In these areas – childcare, equal pay, flexibility – it’s not just that we have an obligation to help deliver equality, we will be failing our economy if we don’t.

Pensions

The next issue I want to mention – women and pensions – is far more one of straightforward unfairness.

Many people don’t realise that the full state pension is not automatic.

Women who take time out from working in order to bring up children or look after elderly relatives are placed at a severe disadvantage.

Those who have made National Insurance contributions for less than 10 years don’t count.

That’s almost one and a half million women excluded from pension entitlements.

We have to make sure that the reform of the pension system that follows from the Turner report provides a fairer deal for women.

At the last election, David Willetts put forward some interesting ideas about allowing people who had taken career breaks to care for children or relatives to buy back lost years.

He also suggested that the ten-year rule on contributions should be abolished.

We must look at correcting some of the worst inequities of the past as well as ensuring fairness and equality for the future.

Carers

The last area I want to discuss is one I feel incredibly strongly about. Carers.

One in eight of the population is a carer.

It’s estimated that carers save the Treasury £57 billion every year.

58 per cent of them are women, and 67 per cent of working age.

Only 16 per cent are able to work full time, with work being totally out of the question for more than one million carers looking after someone for more than 50 hours per week.

Often, with a complicated benefits system, the state makes life harder for them and not easier.

I help care for a severely disabled child – my son.

It’s what I do at the start of each day. It’s sharpened my focus on the world of care assessments, eligibility criteria, disability living allowance, respite breaks, OTs, SENCOs, and other sets of initials.

But I would not dare to call myself a carer.

The work that full-time carers or those with little extra help do is unbelievable.

They risk ill health. They battle with bureaucracy. They give up work. They often give up much of life. And they do it to ensure that someone they love stays at home rather than going to an institution.

We don’t do enough to celebrate that work, and thank these tireless people.

And we don’t do enough to help them.

There is a big agenda for the Conservative party to drive forward.

Why is it, according to a recent Mencap survey, that only 22 per cent of the parents of severely disabled children get more than 2 hours help per week from the state?

Why do only a fifth get any respite at all?

So we need to consider clear rights to respite care.

Why is it that more than a quarter of the budget used to support carers is lost in “assessment and commissioning costs” instead of going to where it is needed most?

So we should look at expanding direct payments, putting money in the hands of carers and those in need of care to provide for themselves.

Helping carers is the best way to help those they are caring for.

Conclusion

Jenny asked in her speech – can the Conservative Party be the true party of the modern family.

My answer is a big “yes”.

She points the way by saying that we must combine our traditional position of support for the family with our belief in choice for everyone.

That’s right.

My personal belief in the importance of family is based on my own experience, yes. But it is also based on the answer to a very simple question.

Which institution in our society does more than any other …to care for the elderly … to look after the disabled …. to bring up children with the right values … to pick up the pieces when things go wrong with drugs, alcohol, or mental health …

… and which institution does all of these things for free?

It’s the family.

Thank you again for today.

Quite rightly you will set a simple test for our policies. It will be the same one that I set.

In all the areas I have mentioned – pay, child care, pensions, flexibility and the gender balance of my own party – will our policies help to eradicate inequality and deliver fairness?

And when it comes to the family: do our policies encourage families to come together and stay together and be that strong force at the heart of our society we all want to see?

These are vital tests – and ones that I am determined to meet.