Jim Fitzpatrick – 2017 Speech on Grenfell Tower Fire

Below is the text of the speech made by Jim Fitzpatrick, the Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, made in the House of Commons on 26 June 2017.

I am grateful for the opportunity to raise the tragic Grenfell Tower fire and to put on record a number of questions for the Government, most of which are on the record already, especially after the statement today by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. I will not be covering the awful response by the authorities locally to the survivors—that is well documented—but I do want to pay tribute to all those who tried to help, volunteers and officials, and to my new hon. Friend the Member for Kensington (Emma Dent Coad), who has performed admirably in the service of her constituents.

Because I was in the London fire brigade for 23 years and I am a former Fire Minister, I have been asked to make many comments on the fire. I need to say that I am no fire prevention expert. I was an operational fireman for 13 years and an elected Fire Brigades Union lay official for 10 years, acting as a safety rep, as well as performing other duties. I am therefore no expert, but I know many who are—those who work with the all-party group on fire safety rescue and in the field of firefighting, fire protection and fire prevention, and of course I had my departmental officials, who were also very knowledgeable.

Armed with that assistance, experience and common sense, there are many questions that I want to ask or, rather, that I want the public inquiry to address. It would be very helpful if the Minister gave the House any details of when more might be known about the inquiry, which will face many questions on many issues. They include: the source of the fire; the rapidity of the spread of the fire; the catastrophic failure of all the fire protection features that the building should have contained; the building’s refurbishment, including the original specifications and the materials actually used, as well as the quality of the work and the finish; the monitoring of building control; the inspection of the completed job by the council, the designated responsible person and the fire service; and the recommendations of the Lakanal House coroner’s inquiry concerning a review of building regulations guidance in Approved Document B and the role of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee. I will finish with the question of the Government’s decision not to equip new schools with fire sprinklers, reversing the upgraded advice that they should have sprinklers, published in 2008.

Mr Speaker, you may know—I would be surprised if you did not—that my original bid was for an Adjournment debate this week on the subject of the governance and accountability of registered social landlords, or housing associations, but obviously matters changed shortly after and I retendered my bid. When Labour came to power in 1997, there were 2 million homes below the decency threshold in our social housing sector. We tackled that challenge aggressively, spending billions on new kitchens, bathrooms, double glazing, central heating and security. The de-municipalisation of much housing brought many pluses in recent decades, but also problems. Those wider problems need examination, as we have heard with the many challenges in recent days, in connection ​with how we provide social housing in the UK. How we address that question sets the perspective for how we approach the build, maintenance and safety of those homes—the kind of housing I lived in for decades.

In respect of the questions I want to raise, I would like to thank Jon O’Neill OBE of the Fire Protection Association, London fire brigade, Sir Ken Knight, Ronnie King, the Fire Brigades Union, the Commons Library and the Lakanal House coroner for their assistance with material for my remarks this evening. Let me take the questions in turn.

The police have apparently identified the source of the fire as white goods on the fourth floor. London fire brigade and the Electrical Safety Council, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter), who I am pleased to see in his place, have been leading the Total Recalls campaign for such faulty white goods—dryers and the like—and for improvement in their design. Initially, the Government seemed well disposed to this. I am pleased to see the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service in his place, as he responded so positively and has had a number of meetings with colleagues about the campaign, which would have required compulsory product registration at the retail point of sale and better manufacturer marking of goods to allow them to be identified after a fire and traced back to source. One person has already died and there have been a series of serious fires, including one in a Hammersmith tower block. Fortunately, the fire integrity of that block was better than at Grenfell. If the Minister responding to the debate has any information about the campaign from his colleague, I would be very pleased to hear it.

As for the fire integrity of the Grenfell block, it is difficult to know where to start. The public inquiry, assisted by fire investigators, forensic specialists from the Metropolitan Police Service and the Building Research Establishment, will pronounce on the cladding and the insulation, why the fire spread so rapidly and what other contributing factors there may be. There will be questions not only about the fire resistance specification of the material used for the refurbished block, but about whether the architect’s original plan was followed, as well as the finish. Those, along with compartmentalisation and correct fire doors, are the basis of the “stay put” policy about which so much has been written. I am sure that the public inquiry will look again at that as well.

The failure of all the cladding panels tested since the fire, allied to the Secretary of State’s startling information from Camden earlier today about fire doors, indicates a complete systemic failure. Many decent local authorities and housing associations are under scrutiny in relation to how they manage their housing stock, and many good construction companies are as well. Questions about monitoring, building control, “responsible person” and fire brigade sign-off, and the rules that we put in place, will all be issues for the inquiry, as well as the question of how contracts are delivered, including the system of subcontracting.

Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Jim Fitzpatrick

I am sorry. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but I have declined intervention requests from other colleagues. If I have time at the end of my speech, I shall be happy to give way.​

I am not sure whether the Minister will be able to comment on any of those building matters. The fire service, as inspector and enforcement body, should offer us some peace of mind, but reports of a 25% reduction in both domestic fire brigade inspections and fire safety audits do not inspire confidence, and perhaps the Minister will be able to comment on the accuracy of those reports. I am pleased to see that the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service is present; he may be able to advise his hon. Friend.

Of course, the Lakanal House fire, the six people killed there and the coroner’s inquiry were a wake-up call, as was the Shirley Towers fire in Southampton, in which two firefighters, Alan Bannon and James Shears, died. Much happened as a result, but not all the lessons were learned. The key lesson for the Government was about the reviewing of the building regulations guidance on fire, as contained in Approved Document B. That is the architects’ bible: it says what is allowed and what is required. The guidance needs to be reviewed regularly to take into account not only new methods of construction, but new materials being used. They are changing all the time, as we can see from the structures and the skyline around us. Approved Document B gives details of when and where sprinklers should be used, and what types of fire alarm system should be mandatory for which types of building.

I welcomed the Secretary of State’s announcement earlier today, and the convening of his new independent expert panel of advisers. As I said to him at the time, the Building Regulations Advisory Committee has historically been central to such work. The last published review of Approved Document B appeared in 2006. Her Honour Frances Kirkham, CBE, the Lakanal House coroner, wrote to the Secretary of State in 2013 saying, very simply,

“It is recommended that your Department review”

Approved Document B. The Secretary of State’s response, in the same year, was:

“We have commissioned research which will feed into a future review of this part of the Building Regulations. We expect this work to form the basis of a formal review leading to the publication of a new edition of the Approved Document in 2016/17.”

As the Minister will know, however, BRAC has not met for five years, although a succession of Ministers assured us that work was in hand.

As late as last Thursday, when I asked the Prime Minister what assurance she could give

“that the review of building regulations and Approved Document B, as recommended by the Lakanal House coroner, will be carried out as urgently as possible, and that the Building Regulations Advisory Committee, which has historically undertaken this work, will be recalled as a matter of urgency”,

she replied:

“That work is indeed in hand.”

She also said:

“Obviously, that will be one of the issues that the public inquiry will want to look at.” —[Official Report, 22 June 2017; Vol. 626, c. 178.]

As I said then, that work does not need to wait for a recommendation from a public inquiry. Can the Minister assure us that the new independent panel of experts will undertake it as a matter of urgency? I should be grateful if he could give us a timeframe for its work programme.​

The final matter that I want to raise, before making some concluding remarks, is Government policy in respect of fire sprinklers in new schools. In 2008, the Minister of State at the Department for Education upgraded the guidance for local education authorities and school governors, and changed the wording on what was expected. He wrote, and the Department published, the following:

“It is now our expectation that all new schools will have sprinklers fitted. Any exceptions to this will have to be justified by demonstrating that a school is low risk”—

for instance, single-storey or brick-built. The Government have changed this guidance, and the now revised version from the Department for Education states:

“The Building Regulations do not require the installation of fire sprinkler suppression systems in school buildings for life safety and therefore BB 100”—

that is, building bulletin 100—

“no longer includes an expectation that most new school buildings will be fitted with them.”

The regulations that it cites are 11 years old. They are overdue for revision, and at least one coroner’s inquiry has requested that they be reviewed. I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm press reports at the weekend that the Government were reversing this and going back to the original guidance from 2008.

Sprinklers save lives, and they are not as expensive as some detractors claim. The situation is not helped by TV adverts, dramas and films incorrectly portraying buildings being flooded whenever a sprinkler head activates. It is only the sprinkler directly above the fire that sprays water, not those across the whole building or even a floor. We know from reports that the cost of fitting sprinklers to Grenfell Tower would have been £200,000. If we divide that by 79—you do the math, Mr Speaker—it works out at just over £2,531 per death, and that figure is likely to come down as more deaths are confirmed.

To conclude, we need to know the terms of reference of the public inquiry as soon as possible. We need to know who is to preside over it, when it will be expected to report and when we can expect interim reports on urgent life safety matters. We need to know when the independent panel will be convened, and when we can expect building regulations and the guidance in Approved Document B to be published.

It has been said often over the past 12 days that the Grenfell Tower fire could have been prevented at best, or at least mitigated. The deaths could also have been prevented, at least in the main. It is right to acknowledge—there has been controversy over this—that the Lakanal House inquiry did not order the retrofitting of all high-rise blocks with fire sprinklers. What it did say was:

“It is recommended that your department”—

the Department for Communities and Local Government—

“encourage providers of housing in high-rise residential buildings containing multiple domestic premises to consider the retrofitting of sprinkler systems.”

It was not quite an instruction, but coming from a coroner’s inquiry, it was a pretty forceful recommendation.

There will be harrowing accounts to come at the public inquiry and/or the inquests. Historically, the vast majority of safety legislation has been written after a ​tragedy or disaster, and that includes fire regulations. Health and safety regulations, which are much derided in the media, save lives but they also cost money. The message from the Secretary of State’s statement today is that there will be a cost to local authorities and registered social landlords, and we need assurances of Government support that will pay to keep our people safe. The full lessons of Grenfell Tower will not be clear until after the public inquiry, but it is clear that actions need to be taken now. The Government have a responsibility. Ultimately, the buck stops here in Parliament with all of us, and we need to commit the support that is needed in communities across the country now.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)

I commend the hon. Gentleman for bringing this matter forward. There are 32 high-rise blocks of flats in Northern Ireland, plus other private high rises as well. Does he think that the independent panel of advisers should include Northern Ireland in its investigation, so that all parts and regions of the United Kingdom can benefit from its findings?

Jim Fitzpatrick

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the matter of the devolved Assemblies, because there are different practices in different countries. I commend the Welsh Assembly in this regard. Ann Jones, a former colleague of mine in the Fire Brigades Union, has piloted legislation through the Assembly, and Carl Sargeant, the Minister, has been on to my office today. The legislation in Wales is different from ours; it has improved and is more protective. I know that there are different procedures in Northern Ireland and Scotland as well. A lead from the Westminster Government would be very welcome, and I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. My last word is to commend the emergency service workers—firefighters in the main—who risked life and limb to try to help. If we give them the resources and the kit, they will do the job, and we stand in admiration of them, as always.

Philip Hammond – 2017 Mansion House Speech

Below is the text of the speech made by Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the Mansion House in London on 20 June 2017.

My Lord Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be able to deliver this speech here today.

And I am immensely grateful to the City Corporation for hosting us so soon after the cancellation of last Thursday’s banquet in the wake of the appalling tragedy which was then unfolding in West London.

We have suffered a series of shocking events in the past few weeks: the Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge, and Finsbury Park terrorist attacks; and the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower.

This fire was an unimaginable tragedy. My thoughts are with all those in the community who lost loved ones, and with the many people who are still suffering in hospital, and those who have lost their homes.

Our immediate focus is to ensure that survivors have everything they need in terms of housing, clothes, food and other essentials.

But we must, and will, also get to the bottom of the failure at Grenfell, and take decisive action to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.

As Her Majesty the Queen observed on Saturday, none of us can escape the sombre mood that these events impose.

But we should be cheered by the resilience of our communities and the strength of our shared values which shine through the dark clouds wherever such tragedies and outrages unfold.

And even in the face of such events, the business of government must go on: managing our economy in challenging times, improving our public services, taking the steps that will deliver on our ambition of an economy that truly works for everyone, and, of course, the huge, complex and vital task of negotiating the end of our membership of the European Union, and the terms of the partnership which we want to see replace it.

We have much work to do, and we’re determined to get on with it.

And we have a solid foundation on which to build.

Our economy has come a long way since the dark days of 2009.

Last year we grew faster than any other major advanced economy bar Germany, business has created 3.4 million more private sector jobs, the deficit is down by three-quarters – and below 3% of GDP, while at the same time we have lowered income tax for 31 million people and taken 4 million out of income tax altogether through raising thresholds, with more to come.

Inequality is at its lowest in 30 years, and the poorest households have seen their wages rise more since 2010 than in any other country in the G7, thanks to the introduction of the National Living Wage, adding £1,400 to the annual income of those in full-time work on minimum wage.

A record of which we are proud.

But that’s enough of our past achievements!

I’d rather talk about the future.

Travelling the country in the general election campaign I’ve had hundreds of conversations reflecting the challenges and issues that people face in their daily lives: fears about job security; about wage levels; the need for good schools for their children; a well-functioning health service; decent care for elderly relatives; or access to the housing market.

And it’s clear, as many of my colleagues have noted, that Britain is weary after seven years of hard slog repairing the damage of the great recession.

When I took office last year, I reset the fiscal rules, recommitting to achieving fiscal balance, but doing it over a longer timescale, creating additional fiscal space to support the economy, if needed.

But we must not lose sight of the unchanging economic facts of life.

Funding for public services can only be delivered in one of three ways: higher taxes; higher borrowing; or stronger economic growth.

And only one of those three choices is a long-term sustainable solution for this country in the face of the inexorable pressure of an ageing population.

Higher taxes will slow growth, undermine competitiveness, and cost jobs, so the government will remain committed to keeping taxes as low as possible.

And higher discretionary borrowing to fund current consumption is simply asking the next generation to pay for something that we want to consume, but are not prepared to pay for ourselves, so we will remain committed to the fiscal rules set out at the Autumn Statement which will guide us, via interim targets in 2020, to a balanced budget by the middle of the next decade.

Stronger growth is the only sustainable way to deliver better public services, higher real wages and increased living standards.

I thought we had won that argument.

But I learned in the General Election campaign that we have not.

That we must make anew the case for a market economy and for sound money.

The case for growth.

And we need to explain again how stronger growth must be delivered through rising productivity.

That means more trade, not less: maintaining our strong trade links with European markets after we leave the EU, as well as seeking out new opportunities for trade and investment with old friends and fast growing emerging economies alike.

It means the UK remaining open to the talent, the ideas and the capital that have driven the success of our economy in the past, and will drive it in the future.

But it also means addressing the domestic weaknesses that have plagued us: under investment, both public and private; inadequate skills; and regional disparities.

This government has a plan to address all three.

The National Productivity Investment Fund starts to address under-investment in economically productive infrastructure; T-Levels will overhaul our provision of technical education; and the Industrial Strategy will tackle regional economic disparity.

Lifting productivity growth by even one quarter of one percent a year, on a sustained basis over 10 years would add £67 billion to GDP – that’s £2,400 for every household in the UK.

Productivity is the elixir that raises incomes and living standards, and it must be a national priority to make every learner more skilled; every worker more productive; every business more competitive; and every public service more efficient.

That is the route to higher wages, higher quality public services, and a brighter future.

Productivity in the private sector, as in the public, is driven by investment.

One of my immediate priorities is making sure government is doing all it can to facilitate access for firms, large and small, to patient capital, to allow them to grow and bear the fruits of the flow of innovation that is pouring out of UK universities.

The European Investment Bank, and its offshoot, the European Investment Fund, have been an important source of funding for infrastructure investment and for growth businesses.

I want that access to EIB funding to continue while we are members of the EU on equal terms, so I am engaged with EIB and will provide the assurances it needs to sustain the flow of EIB and EIF funding to UK businesses and projects.

And to ensure that finance continues to be available after Brexit, alongside these discussions with the EIB I can also announce I am expanding the support available to capital funding in the UK.

For infrastructure projects, we will broaden the range of the UK Guarantee Scheme by offering construction guarantees for the first time.

And we’ll consider other credit enhancement tools, such as first loss guarantees, to reduce the financial risk that complex projects face.

To support the venture capital funds that are so important to growth and innovation in our economy, the British Business Bank will raise the limits on the amount it can invest in venture capital funds from 33% up to 50%.

And it will be able to bring forward some of the £400m additional investment that I announced at the Autumn Statement.

In the long-term, it may be mutually beneficial to maintain a relationship between the UK and the EIB after we leave the EU.

And we will explore the options together.

But we cannot take chances. So we will be prepared, in case we do not maintain that relationship.

Because investment is crucial for the economic future of this country, and we will not let Brexit uncertainty slow us down.

Investment is critical to securing economic growth; And so is trade.

The British public know that.

A recent poll showed that 90% of respondents believe that free trade is positive for our economy, regardless of how they voted in the referendum.

We are not about to turn inward. But we do want to ensure that the arrangements we have in place work for our economy.

Just as the British people understand the benefits of trade – so, too, they understand how important it is to business to be able to access global talent and to move individuals around their organisations.

So, while we seek to manage migration, we do not seek to shut it down.

Let me quote you from our manifesto, (just in case, by chance, any of you didn’t read it):

Britain is an open economy and a welcoming society and we will always ensure that our British businesses can recruit the brightest and best from around the world.

Britain has benefited from globalisation.

But we must not turn a blind eye to the growing tide of hostility to it in parts of the developed world.

To counter that, we must push for a new phase of globalisation, to ensure that it delivers clear benefits for ordinary working people in developed economies.

To date, much of the thrust of globalisation has focused on the removal of barriers to trade in goods.

“Globalisation 1.0” if you like – expanding the opportunities for major goods exporters like China and Germany to sell their products to a larger market.

But our economy is 80% services.

And many of our areas of greatest competitiveness are in services – for example, finance and insurance, ICT and communications.

So for the UK to be able to share fairly in the benefits of globalisation, we need to lead a global crusade for liberalisation of services.

And we must employ that logic in our Brexit negotiations, to agree a bold and ambitious free-trade agreement with our EU counterparts that covers both goods and services.

Let me talk in a bit more detail about what we want to achieve from those Brexit negotiations.

The Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech in January set out clearly the arrangements that the UK would like to agree, built around a comprehensive trade agreement in the context of a deep and special partnership that goes much wider than trade.

But we recognise that this is a negotiation, and our negotiating counterparts, while broadly sharing our desire for a close ongoing relationship, will have their own priorities.

So we must be clear about ours.

I have said before, and I remain clear today, that when the British people voted last June, they did not vote to become poorer, or less secure.

They did vote to leave the EU.

And we will leave the EU.

But it must be done in a way that works for Britain.

In a way that prioritises British jobs, and underpins Britain’s prosperity.

Anything less will be a failure to deliver on the instructions of the British people.

So, how do we achieve this “Brexit for Britain”?

Firstly, by securing a comprehensive agreement for trade in goods and services.

Secondly, by negotiating mutually beneficial transitional arrangements to avoid unnecessary disruption and dangerous cliff edges.

Thirdly, by agreeing frictionless customs arrangements to facilitate trade across our borders – and crucially – to keep the land border on the island of Ireland open and free-flowing.

To do this in the context of our wider objectives will be challenging.

It will almost certainly involve the deployment of new technology.

And therefore we’ll almost certainly need an implementation period, outside the Customs Union itself, but with current customs border arrangements remaining in place, until new long-term arrangements are up and running.

And finally, by taking a pragmatic approach to one of our most important EU export sector – financial services.

Let’s be honest, we are already hearing protectionist agendas being advanced, disguised as arguments about regulatory competence, financial stability, and supervisory oversight.

We can have no truck with that approach.

But we acknowledge that, as Britain leaves the EU, there are genuine and reasonable concerns among our EU colleagues about oversight of financial markets that will then be outside EU jurisdiction, but which provide a vast proportion of economically vital financial services to EU firms and citizens.

We saw just such a concern articulated in the EU’s proposal on supervision of CCPs last week.

We must, and we will, engage with all genuine concerns.

And we must be flexible and pragmatic in responding to, and resolving them.

While never losing sight of the principal purpose of the regulatory and supervisory regimes: to ensure financial stability and to protect taxpayers from having to step in to deal with failure.

Getting this right will be critical to the future success of the British economy.

But it will also be critical to the future success of the EU economy.

Remember, 60% of all EU capital markets activity is executed through the UK.

UK banks provided more than £1.1 trillion of cross-border lending to the rest of the EU during 2015.

And almost half of all British private equity investments in 2014 went into companies across mainland Europe.

The financial ecosystem that underpins this activity is large and complex. And critical mass is important.

Let me be clear about this.

Fragmentation of financial services would result in poorer quality, higher priced products for everyone concerned.

And when we talk about complex financial products like derivatives – we need to remind ourselves that these seemingly esoteric instruments are crucial to facilitating everyday commercial and domestic transactions across our continent, allowing households to obtain fixed rate mortgages, airlines to hedge their fuel costs, and farmers to have certainty over the price they’ll get for their produce.

Avoiding fragmentation of financial services is a huge prize for the economies of Europe.

And I believe we can do it if we approach the challenge with three simple principles.

First, we will need a new process for establishing regulatory requirements for cross-border business between the UK and EU. It must be evidence-based, symmetrical, and transparent. And it must reflect international standards.

Second, cooperation arrangements must be reciprocal, reliable, and prioritise financial stability. Crucially they must enable timely and coordinated risk management on both sides.

Third, these arrangements must be permanent and reliable for the businesses regulated under these regimes.

The industry needs confidence in the structures if it is to provide the financing needed to underpin growth in the real economy.

In the UK. And across the European Union.

The future of our economy is inexorably linked to the kind of Brexit deal that we reach with the EU.

And I am confident we can do a Brexit deal that puts jobs and prosperity first, that reassures employers that they will still be able to access the talent they need, that keeps our markets for goods and services and capital open, that achieves early agreement on transitional arrangements, so that trade can carry on flowing smoothly, and businesses up and down the country can move on with investment decisions that they want to make, but that have been on hold since the Referendum.

The collective sigh of relief will be audible.

The benefit to our economy will be huge, in established sectors like manufacturing, the car industry, financial services, and pharmaceuticals; in emerging areas like biotech, and fintech; in the housing market; in the services sector; in the travel industry, in companies, large and small, right up and down our country, employing, between them, millions of people.

Our departure from the EU is underway.

But ensuring that it happens via a smooth pathway to a deep and special future partnership with our EU neighbours, one that protects jobs, prosperity, and living standards in Britain, will require every ounce of skill and diplomacy that we can muster.

Yesterday was a positive start.

It will get tougher.

But we are ready for the challenge.

And confident that we can deliver, for British jobs; British businesses; and British prosperity.

Thank you. I’m now pleased to hand over to the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney.

Paul Maynard – 2017 Speech on HS2

Below is the text of the speech made by Paul Maynard, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, on 22 June 2017.


It’s an honour to open today’s conference.

It’s an honour; not least because of where we are this morning.

In Birmingham, the city where a thousand-strong HS2 team is getting the project off the drawing board and into reality.

On Curzon Street, just over the road from Birmingham’s original station — opened in 1838, abandoned in the 1960s, and which we want to open again for HS2.

And in Birmingham Science Museum, whose halls show what this city has already achieved for science, technology and transport — and point to what it will achieve in future.

But if it’s an honour to be here, today’s conference is for me also a special occasion for one more reason.

New role and progress on HS2

This is the first speech I’ve delivered in my new job — as Minister for HS2.

For most of the past year, I’ve been working as Minister for Rail.

Taking responsibility for everything to do with our railways.

Except for HS2.

A year ago, that division made sense.

Back then, the HS2 Bill for Phase One — the stretch from Birmingham to London — was a concept that had yet to be approved by parliament.

The route for much of the second phase of HS2 — from Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds — had yet to be announced.

The procurement for the main engineering works, the rolling stock, and the franchise for operating the railway — all had yet to be triggered.

Back then, HS2 was still in the planning phase.

A distinct, stand-alone project.

But today, things have moved on.

Those plans are now starting to be implemented.

On sites up and down the route, the first enabling works are underway — we’ve begun the utility diversions, land clearance and environmental surveys.

We’ll shortly award the multi-billion-pound contracts for the main engineering works.

In April, we began the hunt for designers for 3 brand new stations, at Curzon Street, Birmingham Interchange and London’s Old Oak Common, as well as the expansion of London Euston.

We’ve launched the competition to design, build and maintain HS2’s fleet of trains, and we expect to award the contract in 2019.

By the end of this year, we expect to deposit the bill for the stretch of track beyond Birmingham and on to Crewe.

And we have announced our preferred route for much of the sections from Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds.

Yet today is the start of our integrating this part of the future rail network into the rest of the passenger network.

Because, most significantly of all, I am delighted that today we have announced the shortlist of bidders for the West Coast Partnership franchise — the franchise to operate services both on HS2 and the existing West Coast Line.

One of the 3 consortia in the final round, each with a vast range of skills and much experience, will deliver that integration with us.

One of these bidders will take on the role of running both the West Coast Main Line and HS2 simultaneously.

Their responsibility — for integrating HS2’s services as part of the existing national rail network — mirrors my responsibility, in my new job, to oversee both our existing railways and HS2, and to ensure the successful integration of the two.

The uniting of the HS2 brief and the rail brief under one minister for the first time should be taken as a signal.

Of how far HS2 has come.

But also of the government’s expectations for this project.

That HS2 should not be a railway apart, or a better, faster alternative to the classic rail network.

But rather for HS2 to join the existing network, to expand and enhance it.

The case for HS2

That vision of HS2 as an enhancement of the existing network has always been integral to the case for the project.

And it’s a case still worth making.

Take that old station over the road.

Twelve years after it was built, the West Coast Main Line was completed.

For the first time it became possible to take a direct train from London to Glasgow.

That year, the UK population was 15 million people.

That year, those 15 million people made 60 million rail journeys.

It’s an impressive figure.

But it’s small fry compared to the numbers our rail network caters for nowadays.

Today we have a population of 65 million people.

In 2015 we took 1.7 billion rail journeys.

And the numbers keep going up, year on year.

Already it can be a struggle to get a seat at peak times across much of the network.

If we do nothing, the situation will get worse.

Benefits of HS2

But when we’ve built HS2, our railways will be able to carry an extra 300,000 people every day.

It will be a radical upgrade to Britain’s rail capacity — and not just for the places that HS2 will directly serve.

Yes, there’s the 8 out of 10 of Britain’s biggest cities that will be directly connected by HS2.

And the many more places that will be served by HS2 trains running onto the existing network.

But it’s because we’re treating HS2 as an addition and enhancement to our existing network that the benefits of HS2 won’t be restricted to its passengers – or even just those who live near a future HS2 station.

Thanks to the way that HS2 will free space on our existing network, over 100 towns and cities across the country could benefit from new services on that existing rail network.

We know that transport has a unique power to transform places.

And I’d like us to start thinking about how HS2 will help places along the length and breadth of the country.

I am grateful that, thanks to the hard work of many people in this room today, we are already making good progress: looking at how HS2 can have the same positive effects that high speed rail has had in cities such as Bordeaux and Utrecht.

And how we can bring those effects to places such as Euston, Old Oak Common, Curzon Street, Crewe, Toton, Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds.

It’s great to see, for instance, the plans already being made by the councils and local enterprise partnerships of Staffordshire and Cheshire.

Plans for how HS2 could help support 100,000 new homes and 120,000 new jobs in the area.

Then there’s Leeds City Council’s plans for how HS2 could help reshape the South Bank area of the city.

And Greater Manchester Combined Authority estimates that, by 2040, HS2 will help create 180,000 new local jobs and add £1.3 billion to the region’s economy.

These are some of the big cities and regions directly served by HS2.

Their plans are well advanced, and I am grateful to everyone here who has contributed to these plans and many others.

But I also want to maintain a focus on the smaller places along the route who will receive better rail services as a result of HS2.

Even if, in many cases, it might still be too early for us to make concrete plans in every place.

It’s not too early for us to start to shift expectations.

To think what it might mean, for example, if HS2 can create more seats for passengers travelling between places such as Milton Keynes and Leicester.

Or better intercity services to London from Shrewsbury and Telford, Tamworth and Nuneaton.

Or more intercity services to London, perhaps from Middlesbrough, Hull and Lincoln.

Along with many other places along the line of route.

We know that HS2 will transform Euston and parts of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Crewe.

But we also need to start planning for the way that HS2 will bring improvements across much of the existing network.


Of course, I also want to be clear that the opportunity of HS2 is by no means restricted to the rail network.

It’s an opportunity for our economy as a whole.

Even someone who never travels by train stands to benefit from the thousands of jobs and apprenticeships created on the project.

As well as thousands more created by the better connections HS2 will bring.

During peak construction, we expect HS2 to employ 25,000 people.

And when HS2 is complete, it will support many, many times that number of jobs in the wider economy.

Then there’s the thousands of skilled engineers who will be trained at our High Speed Rail Colleges in this city and in Doncaster.

Each of whom will gain the skills to work on HS2, but also the skills needed to maintain and enhance our existing infrastructure and to work on new projects.

Then there’s all those who will be employed at the HS2 regeneration sites across the country.

Where, in the Leeds South Bank project, 35,000 jobs are expected to be created.

And in this region, the Greater Birmingham and Solihull growth strategy for the areas around the HS2 stations is planning for 36,000 new jobs — and 4,000 new homes.

I could go on — but I know that later today you’ll hear much more about these plans and others.


I’d like to conclude by saying thank you.

Thank you to everyone here who has already done so much to prepare the way for HS2.

Whether you’re planning for regeneration, preparing to bid for contracts on the project or already involved in any way.

The political case for this project has already largely been won.

But to win the public case we need people to see what this project will do for our country.

How it will transform places.

Raise skill levels.

And spread new opportunity.

That’s exactly what – in one way or another — everyone gathered here is helping to do.

So, thank you — and I look forward to working closely with you in the months and years ahead.

Theresa May – 2017 Statement on June European Council

Below is the text of the statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, on 23 June 2017.

At this European Council we dealt with a broad ranging agenda.

We covered issues that are of critical importance to the UK now – such as counter-terrorism and climate change. These issues will remain important after we leave the EU.

That is why we will play a full role while we are members of the European Union, and why we want a deep and special partnership with our EU friends and allies after we leave.

Last night I was also able to update other leaders on the UK’s proposal to give reassurance and certainty to EU citizens who have made their homes and lives in our country.

Let me deal with a few of the items I and other leaders discussed.

On security, there was strong commitment around the table to stand firm in the fight against terrorism and the online extremism that incites terrorism.

I was able to thank our European partners in person for their support and condolence following the appalling attacks in Manchester and London.

Those attacks have not just affected British citizens, but citizens from across Europe – just as British people suffered in the attacks in Paris and Stockholm.

And I say this in a city which has itself suffered great loss from terrorist attacks.

These atrocities have strengthened the need for us to work together to keep our countries safe.

So I urged other leaders to put pressure on technology companies to do more to rid extremist content from the internet and to ensure that law enforcement agencies can access encrypted data.

That is what has been agreed at this European Council, and it builds on the recent work I have done with President Macron of France.

We must continue to work together to combat this evil, to defend our values, and to keep our citizens safe.

On defence, we have welcomed plans for Europe to step up cooperation on capabilities, and for the EU and NATO to work more closely together. The UK will always be committed to the defence of Europe.

On climate change, this European Council reaffirmed the commitment of the EU and all Member States to fully implement the Paris Agreement.

The UK welcomes that joint commitment.

We discussed the importance of the EU pursuing an ambitious trade policy, delivering jobs and growth. That trade must be fair as well as free. The UK will continue to play a leading role in pushing for openness in global trade.

On migration, I emphasised the UK would continue to play its part in tackling the ongoing migration crisis – which is a challenge for our entire continent.

The Council recommitted to a comprehensive approach to the crisis. That means dealing with the drivers of migration while also doing more to stem the flow of migration.

This summit focussed on the Central Mediterranean route, and I confirmed a new UK bilateral commitment of £75 million to meet urgent humanitarian needs while also facilitating voluntary returns of migrants making these treacherous journeys.

Finally, after the constructive start to our Brexit negotiations earlier this week, I wanted to briefly set out to my fellow European leaders the UK’s approach to giving reassurance and certainty to EU citizens living in the UK.

I want all those EU citizens who are in the UK, who’ve made their lives and homes in our country to know that no one will have to leave. We won’t be seeing families split apart. People will be able to go on their living their lives as before.

This is a fair and serious offer – it gives those three million EU citizens in the UK certainty about the future of their lives, and we want the same certainty for the more than one million UK citizens who are living in the European Union.

On Monday, I will publish my proposals in full – and look forward to reaching an agreement at the earliest possible date.

Queen Elizabeth II – 2017 Queen’s Speech

Below is the text of the Queen’s Speech, made in the House of Lords on 22 June 2017.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons.

My government’s priority is to secure the best possible deal as the country leaves the European Union. My ministers are committed to working with Parliament, the devolved administrations, business and others to build the widest possible consensus on the country’s future outside the European Union.

A bill will be introduced to repeal the European Communities Act and provide certainty for individuals and businesses. This will be complemented by legislation to ensure that the United Kingdom makes a success of Brexit, establishing new national policies on immigration, international sanctions, nuclear safeguards, agriculture, and fisheries.

My government will seek to maintain a deep and special partnership with European allies and to forge new trading relationships across the globe. New bills on trade and customs will help to implement an independent trade policy, and support will be given to help British businesses export to markets around the world.

My ministers will strengthen the economy so that it supports the creation of jobs and generates the tax revenues needed to invest in the National Health Service, schools, and other public services.

My government will continue to improve the public finances, while keeping taxes low. It will spread prosperity and opportunity across the country through a new modern, industrial strategy.

My government will work to attract investment in infrastructure to support economic growth. Legislation will be introduced to ensure the United Kingdom remains a world leader in new industries, including electric cars and commercial satellites. A new bill will also be brought forward to deliver the next phase of high-speed rail.

My government will continue to work to ensure that every child has the opportunity to attend a good school and that all schools are fairly funded. My ministers will work to ensure people have the skills they need for the high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future, including through a major reform of technical education.

The National Living Wage will be increased so that people who are on the lowest pay benefit from the same improvements in earnings as higher paid workers. My ministers will seek to enhance rights and protections in the modern workplace.

My government will make further progress to tackle the gender pay gap and discrimination against people on the basis of their race, faith, gender, disability or sexual orientation.

Legislation will be brought forward to protect the victims of domestic violence and abuse.

My government will reform mental health legislation and ensure that mental health is prioritised in the National Health Service in England.

Proposals will be brought forward to ban unfair tenant fees, promote fairness and transparency in the housing market, and help ensure more homes are built.

My ministers will work to improve social care and will bring forward proposals for consultation.

My government will ensure fairer markets for consumers, this will include bringing forward measures to help tackle unfair practices in the energy market to help reduce energy bills.

A priority will be to build a more united country, strengthening the social, economic and cultural bonds between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

My government will work in cooperation with the devolved administrations, and it will work with all of the parties in Northern Ireland to support the return of devolved government.

A new law will ensure that the United Kingdom retains its world-class regime protecting personal data, and proposals for a new digital charter will be brought forward to ensure that the United Kingdom is the safest place to be online.

Legislation will also be introduced to modernise the courts system and to help reduce motor insurance premiums.

My government will initiate a full public inquiry into the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower to ascertain the causes, and ensure that the appropriate lessons are learnt.

To support victims, my government will take forward measures to introduce an independent public advocate, who will act for bereaved families after a public disaster and support them at public inquests.

My ministers will continue to invest in our gallant Armed Forces, meeting the NATO commitment to spend at least two per cent of national income on defence, and delivering on the Armed Forces Covenant across the United Kingdom.

My government will bring forward proposals to ensure that critical national infrastructure is protected to safeguard national security.

A commission for countering extremism will be established to support the government in stamping out extremist ideology in all its forms, both across society and on the internet, so it is denied a safe space to spread.

In the light of the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, my government’s counter-terrorism strategy will be reviewed to ensure that the police and security services have all the powers they need, and that the length of custodial sentences for terrorism-related offences are sufficient to keep the population safe.

My ministers will ensure that the United Kingdom’s leading role on the world stage is maintained and enhanced as it leaves the European Union.

As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, committed to spending zero point seven per cent of national income on international development, my government will continue to drive international efforts that increase global security and project British values around the world.

My government will work to find sustainable political solutions to conflicts across the Middle East. It will work to tackle the threat of terrorism at source by continuing the United Kingdom’s leading role in international military action to destroy Daesh in Iraq and Syria. It will also lead efforts to reform the international system to improve the United Kingdom’s ability to tackle mass migration, alleviate poverty, and end modern slavery.

My government will continue to support international action against climate change, including the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Prince Philip and I look forward to welcoming Their Majesties King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain on a State Visit in July.

My government will host the Commonwealth Summit in April of next year to cement its relevance to this, and future generations.

Members of the House of Commons:

Estimates for the public services will be laid before you.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:

Other measures will be laid before you.

I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

Justine Greening – 2017 Speech on Social Justice

Below is the text of the speech made by Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Education, at the Guildhall in London on 21 June 2017.

Thank you very much Alan [Milburn – Chair of the Social Mobility Commission] and to both of you for doing what I think is a very important piece of work.

Clearly our country does face many challenges but we will meet them by building up our people together.

I grew up in a working class family, I was one of those working-class kids.

There were two things I really believed in from the word go.

One was a fundamental fairness in the link between effort and reward and wanting to understand that if I was willing to put that time in, put the persistence in, that I would be able to see some results for that.

The other thing I believed in was a meritocracy.

Because I think talent is spread evenly throughout our country, throughout our communities; and fundamentally our country would be better the more we can unlock all of that.

When you put those things together, a strong link between effort and reward, a real meritocracy, then you have empowered people.

And when you have empowered people you have an empowered country.

And I think when you’ve got empowered people you have stronger productivity and that’s something that all of the organisations that are part of this Index today have fundamentally understood.

It’s a virtuous circle in the end.

I happen to think, as well, that this isn’t just the smart thing to do.

It’s not just about a business case for companies or for organisations.

It is the right thing to do.

A more socially mobile Britain will be a happier place. Communities will be stronger when we achieve that.

I think we can change the internal plumbing of our country to make it more socially mobile.

We don’t have to accept where our country has come from and where it is today and see that as the only course that we can take in the future.

But that’s going to be up to all of us to make the future different from the past and from where we are now.

We do need to recognise that there are a myriad of barriers – some of them big but some of them small – that stack up against people who are starting perhaps from further behind.

People who, when we talk about a level playing field, are the ones furthest away from having it.

I certainly remember from my own childhood growing up in Rotherham it was a very difficult time, actually.

Many of the children growing up in that town, including myself, saw our parents lose their jobs and you felt like you were a long way from seeing opportunity on your doorstep.

This steady realisation as quite a young child for me, that to get opportunity I was going to have to work a long time, and very hard, just to get myself into a position to be able to start to have some opportunities.

I knew also that the beginning of that was education and probably being able to go university.

Which is why the fact that so many more disadvantaged children are now getting into university for the first time, why people like me back in the 80s and 90s are no longer the norm and actually it’s pretty normal for people from those backgrounds to get to university now, why that’s so important.

But it’s clear that it’s not just government, it’s not just education that plays a role in driving social mobility.

I like to think that I’ve got the best job in government and I think that it’s the most important job because it’s the one that helps people develop our country’s human capital.

But what we want to see are companies and organisations in our country using and developing that further when those people become adults and get into the workplace.

We don’t want people to just be going into jobs.

We want them to be going into careers where they can continue to develop themselves and their ideas and their potential throughout their whole life, not just at the beginning of it.

That’s where business comes in.

That’s also where communities and civil society comes in.

The launch of this Index today is about starting to put some numbers and evidence around how we can do that systematically and at scale.

I’d like to congratulate all of the organisations that are in this first Index and achieving a score.

Because you are showcasing what some of that best practice, that can take very different forms, can look like.

It will be the evidence that you are gathering that helps other organisations get further and faster over the coming months and years.

Some of you are doing blind recruitment on CVs.

Some of you are looking at different ways of assessing candidates when they present for job interviews.

I think that some of the work that’s been done in my own profession of accountancy in widening the routes of people into that profession in particular have really helped open it up to a brand new generation of different sorts of people – and all for the better.

Alan talked about how it’s not just about some of these crunchy changes we can make on process, it’s all about changing attitudes.

Again, I can draw on my own experience of being confronted with receiving the sharp end of unconscious bias.

I remember interviewing to go into an investment bank after I became qualified at PwC – and it’s fantastic to see PwC in this Index.

Part of that time spent at that company was being taken out to lunch.

I did the interview and the interview was fine and I got taken out to lunch by 2 of the junior mangers in this investment bank.

We sat down in a little Italian restaurant and they handed out the menu and the waitress came to take our order.

I remember trying to work out whether I should order the meal in Italian, which was the prime name in this menu alongside each meal, or whether I should read the English translation underneath.

In a split second I decided that I’m not a pompous person, I thought I’d just read the English.

And I could tell with the body language that I’d just failed a test, because I was meant to have had the confidence, apparently, to have just said it in Italian.

Now it wasn’t that I didn’t have confidence, I absolutely had lots of confidence as a person but I just had a different attitude to how I felt it was appropriate to behave.

And frankly, did it really matter either way?

Probably not, anyway.

But the point is you had a sense of it being part of a test.

And I had a sense of it being a test I failed not because I wasn’t going to do a great job at that company but just because I came from a different place and had a different attitude to that situation.

These are the small things that add up to big differences in terms of whether or not, in the end, people get opportunities.

I should say the great news is that company is also in this Index today, so again I think that’s fantastic progress.

There are real benefits for all of the organisations in today’s Index. I think they will simply do better.

There is evidence that says that companies that are more diverse, that crack these issues of social mobility, do better.

Because when they are taking decisions they are having broader discussions, they consider a variety of different things from different angles, and the decisions they take are better, the outcomes they achieve will be better.

And, actually Alan is right that doing this isn’t always easy but there are some things that companies did that scored in this Index that are straightforward and that can actually be done tomorrow, if organisations and businesses want to do that.

That’s what we want to see.

We want to see people getting on with change that removes the barriers that are holding some of our most talented youngsters back.

It doesn’t always cost a penny.

It’s just about changing how we approach these issues, changing how you approach processes, changing how you then develop people when they’re in your companies.

It’s also about changing hearts and minds.

I think if all organisations were able to do this, if they were all able to have that business case that social mobility brings, the advantages from it, it would be one of the biggest rocket boosters that we could put under the UK economy in coming years.

And it would be one of the biggest advantages the UK could have globally as an economy in the coming years, if we were to systematically make more out of our human capital than other countries around the world.

That’s why it’s so important.

This Index also matters not just because it starts to give us the evidence – and I love the evidence to help us develop policy – it gives us the transparency as well to see who’s doing what.

And I want to increasingly use these sorts of evidence bases to help us drive government policy.

We looked very closely at the work that the Social Mobility Commission did in relation to place; the communities and parts of our country where things were most stacked against young people doing the best for themselves.

We fundamentally took that as our starting point for where we would set up our Opportunity Areas.

I want us to look equally hard across Government and how we can see these companies as exemplars and how we can work to help make sure that what they are learning and what they are demonstrating is spread far more broadly, far more widely and far faster across our whole country.

I know that all of this means working in partnership, and I really do hope that, as Alan said, we can start to achieve a true, meaningful cross-party consensus on driving forward on social mobility.

Not just a debate where we recognise where we agree on this, but a debate that goes beyond that to say ‘well what are we going to do about it?’

A debate that focuses on the 80% that we can agree on, rather than the 20% that we don’t agree on, that we seem to spend our time dysfunctionally arguing about instead of getting on with things that we can make progress on instead.

That’s what I want to see happen as a change in Parliament.

We all need to realise that we will only move forward on social mobility and only make a change on it if we can set aside some of the areas where we don’t quite see eye-to-eye but instead focus on the areas where we absolutely have common ground and then work together, tirelessly and persistently, on that – whether it’s the government, in politics, or whether in our communities, whether in schools, in businesses, in civil society.

I think we can change things in our country but it is going to take a mammoth effort of people coming together and working together and making this a true movement, as Alan said.

The path to success isn’t going to be glamourous.

No one thing is going to be that silver bullet that changes everything overnight.

It’s going to be thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions of people doing things differently in their own lives, in the sphere of influence that they’ve got in their own organisations, day to day.

It’s as much as anything a change of heart in our country that we need to really drive social mobility.

We need people who recognise that they already have opportunity to understand that they too absolutely have to play a role in making sure that those who do not now get it as well.

That’s our task, and I think that’s the task also of British business, the ultimate opportunity-giver in our country.

It may not be glamourous but if we can make progress on this it will be transformational.

Because I believe that using all of the talents of people in our country is no longer an optional extra in Brexit Britain. It’s absolutely essential.

And I think the sooner that we can win this argument to put social mobility right at the heart of everyone’s agenda – including in government, in Parliament – the better.

And I think the more united, fundamentally, our country will be.

We do want a positive movement for change on social mobility. And it should be hope and social mobility that is the real antidote to today’s ‘day of rage’.

Thank you.

Amber Rudd – 2017 Statement on Terrorist Attacks

Below is the text of the statement made by Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, in the House of Commons on 22 June 2017.

With permission Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the terrorist attacks we have seen since Parliament last sat.

There has been no summer like it.

When we rose seven weeks ago, we left this House in the wake of the worst terrorist attack our country had seen in over a decade. With Khalid Masood trying to strike at the heart of our democracy.

He was foiled that day by one of our brave police officers. But tragically it has proved to be the first of many attempts to bring terror and hate to our streets.

Two months later, a cowardly and devastating attack in Manchester left 22 people dead and 59 injured after a suicide bomber targeted children at a concert in the Manchester Arena.

On the 3rd of June, a van was deliberately driven into pedestrians on London Bridge before three men got out of the vehicle and began stabbing people in nearby Borough market. Eight people were killed and 48 injured.

And then on Monday, almost exactly one year after Jo Cox was brutally murdered in Birstall, we woke to the news of the return of far right terror, when a man viciously drove into a group of Muslim worshippers in North London. One man who had fallen ill before the attack died and nine others were treated in hospital.

Westminster. The Manchester Arena. London Bridge. And now Finsbury Park.

36 innocent people dead and over 150 hospitalised. A tragic loss of innocent life.

Last week I met a mother and father who had lost their daughter in the vicious attacks on London Bridge. She had been stabbed while out celebrating her new job with a friend in Borough Market.

Just under two weeks before, she planned to be at the arena in Manchester where Salman Abedi committed his heinous crimes, but she decided not to use her ticket.

She had come to London to enjoy a wonderful trip away, a once in a lifetime experience. But instead it was the last trip she ever made.

I know everyone in this House will want to join me in expressing our sorrow for the pain her family will be feeling. And all those families who have lost loved ones.

As well as passing on our thoughts and prayers for those victims who are still trying to recover from the trauma and tragedy of these events.

I also know that the House will want to join me in acknowledging the incredible efforts of our emergency services during this difficult period.

The events of recent months serve to remind us of the bravery, professionalism and, above all, incredible sacrifice made by those who work to keep us safe.

As Home Secretary there is nothing more saddening than standing before Parliament to deliver a statement like this.

These acts of terrorism represent the very worst of humanity. They seek to spread fear, intolerance, hate.

Countering this threat has always been a crucial part of the work of this government. That’s why we have introduced measures to disrupt the travel of foreign fighters. That’s why we have passed the Investigatory Powers Act which gives the police and intelligence service more powers and tools that they need to keep the public safe. And that’s why just seven weeks ago we legislated to strengthen our response to terrorist financing with the Criminal Finances Act.

We have also protected overall police funding in real terms since 2015, increased counter-terrorism budgets and funded an uplift in armed police officers. We are now in the process of recruiting over 1,900 additional security and intelligence staff.

The Channel programme, which offers voluntary tailored programmes of support to people assessed as being at risk of radicalisation, has supported over 1,000 at risk individuals since 2012.

And following referrals from the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit, social media providers have removed 270,000 pieces of illegal terrorist material since February 2010. But we are entering a new phase of global terrorism and many of the challenges we are facing are unprecedented.

We now believe we are experiencing a new trend in the threat we face. Between June 2013 and the Westminster Bridge attack in March this year, the security services foiled 13 plots linked to or inspired by Islamist extremists. But since just then, we have seen 5 plots prevented as well as 3 such Islamist extremist plots succeeding and the appalling attack of course on Finsbury Park earlier this week. We must do more.

We must do more to defeat ideologies of hatred by turning people’s minds away from violence and towards pluralistic British values.

We must make sure that these ideologies are not able to flourish in the first place.

We must do more to force tech companies to take down terror-related content from their platforms.

And we must also do more to identify, challenge and stamp out the extremism that lurks in our communities.

That is why we will be setting up a Commission for Countering Extremism. For just as the Labour government in the 1970s set us on a course to tackling racial inequality in this country by setting up the Commission for Racial Equality, we need – and must – do more to tackle these extremists who seek to radicalise and weaponise young people in Britain today.

Doing more also means asking difficult questions about what has gone wrong. In light of the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy will be reviewed to make sure that the police and the security services have what they need to keep us safe.

In addition to this, there will be a review of the handling of recent terror attacks to look at whether lessons can be learned about our approach. I am pleased to announce that David Anderson, former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation will be overseeing it.

Mr Speaker, what we have witnessed in Manchester and in London are the depraved actions of murderers, intent to tear our country apart. But each act of hate has been met by overwhelming defiance.

In Borough Market recently, I saw stallholders dishing out olives into plastic pots, shoppers searching for delicious treats and tourists flicking through guidebooks in the shadow of the Shard. Rather than being divided by recent violence, people seemed ever closer together.

We should follow the example of the traders and the shoppers of Borough Market.

What terrorists want is for us to fear and turn in on one another.

But we will never give terrorists what they want.

We will stand together and we will make the point that terrorists will never win. That our values, our country, our unity will prevail.

I commend this statement to the House.

Theresa May – 2017 Statement on London Bridge Terrorist Attack

Below is the text of the statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, on Downing Street, London on 4 June 2017.

Last night, our country fell victim to a brutal terrorist attack once again. As a result I have just chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency committee and I want to update you with the latest information about the attack.

Shortly before 10:10 yesterday evening, the Metropolitan Police received reports that a white van had struck pedestrians on London Bridge. It continued to drive from London Bridge to Borough Market, where three terrorists left the van and attacked innocent and unarmed civilians with blades and knives.

All three were wearing what appeared to be explosive vests, but the police have established that this clothing was fake and worn only to spread panic and fear.

As so often in such serious situations, the police responded with great courage and great speed. Armed officers from the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police arrived at Borough Market within moments, and shot and killed the three suspects. The terrorists were confronted and shot by armed officers within eight minutes of the police receiving the first emergency call.

Seven people have died as a result of the attack, in addition to the 3 suspects shot dead by the police. Forty-eight people are being treated in several hospitals across London. Many have life-threatening conditions.

On behalf of the people of London, and on behalf of the whole country, I want to thank and pay tribute to the professionalism and bravery of the police and the emergency services – and the courage of members of the public who defended themselves and others from the attackers. And our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and with their friends, families and loved ones.

This is, as we all know, the third terrorist attack Britain has experienced in the last three months. In March, a similar attack took place, just around the corner on Westminster Bridge. Two weeks ago, the Manchester Arena was attacked by a suicide bomber. And now London has been struck once more.

And at the same time, the security and intelligence agencies and police have disrupted five credible plots since the Westminster attack in March.

In terms of their planning and execution, the recent attacks are not connected. But we believe we are experiencing a new trend in the threat we face, as terrorism breeds terrorism, and perpetrators are inspired to attack not only on the basis of carefully-constructed plots after years of planning and training – and not even as lone attackers radicalised online – but by copying one another and often using the crudest of means of attack.

We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are. Things need to change, and they need to change in four important ways.

First, while the recent attacks are not connected by common networks, they are connected in one important sense. They are bound together by the single, evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division, and promotes sectarianism. It is an ideology that claims our Western values of freedom, democracy and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam. It is an ideology that is a perversion of Islam and a perversion of the truth.

Defeating this ideology is one of the great challenges of our time. But it cannot be defeated through military intervention alone. It will not be defeated through the maintenance of a permanent, defensive counter-terrorism operation, however skilful its leaders and practitioners. It will only be defeated when we turn people’s minds away from this violence – and make them understand that our values – pluralistic, British values – are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.

Second, we cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed. Yet that is precisely what the internet – and the big companies that provide internet-based services – provide. We need to work with allied, democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremism and terrorist planning. And we need to do everything we can at home to reduce the risks of extremism online.

Third, while we need to deprive the extremists of their safe spaces online, we must not forget about the safe spaces that continue to exist in the real world. Yes, that means taking military action to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But it also means taking action here at home. While we have made significant progress in recent years, there is – to be frank – far too much tolerance of extremism in our country.

So we need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out – across the public sector and across society. That will require some difficult and often embarrassing conversations, but the whole of our country needs to come together to take on this extremism – and we need to live our lives not in a series of separated, segregated communities but as one truly United Kingdom.

Fourth, we have a robust counter-terrorism strategy that has proved successful over many years. But as the nature of the threat we face becomes more complex, more fragmented, more hidden, especially online, the strategy needs to keep up. So in light of what we are learning about the changing threat, we need to review Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy to make sure the police and security services have all the powers they need. And if we need to increase the length of custodial sentences for terrorism-related offences, even apparently less serious offences, that is what we will do.

Since the emergence of the threat from Islamist-inspired terrorism, our country has made significant progress in disrupting plots and protecting the public. But it is time to say enough is enough. Everybody needs to go about their lives as they normally would. Our society should continue to function in accordance with our values. But when it comes to taking on extremism and terrorism, things need to change.

As a mark of respect the two political parties have suspended our national campaigns for today. But violence can never be allowed to disrupt the democratic process. So those campaigns will resume in full tomorrow. And the general election will go ahead as planned on Thursday.

As a country, our response must be as it has always been when we have been confronted by violence. We must come together, we must pull together, and united we will take on and defeat our enemies.

Nicola Sturgeon – 2017 Speech at SNP Spring Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the SNP, at the party’s spring conference held on 18 March 2017.

It’s great to be here in the Granite City.

To look out at a conference hall packed with so many people from all walks of life and from every corner of our country.

You reflect the strength and depth of the SNP.

You are a reminder that other parties might appeal to one section of our community or one part of our country.

Not the SNP.

We are a national party.

A national party with a truly internationalist outlook.

Our priority, now and for the generations who come after us, is to build a better Scotland for everyone who lives here – no matter where you come from.

Often, in these times, I am reminded of our dear friend, the late Bashir Ahmad.

Bashir came to Scotland from Pakistan in 1961 to work as a bus driver.

46 years later he became Scotland’s first Asian member of our national Parliament.

The first time he addressed an SNP conference, Bashir articulated this simple message.

‘It’s not where we come from that’s important…’ he said.

‘It’s where we are going together.”

Today, with the forces of intolerance and xenophobia seemingly on the rise across our world, Bashir’s words have never seemed more appropriate.

Let us rededicate ourselves, today, to the spirit of that message.

Inclusion, tolerance, diversity.

Let’s make these the foundation stones of the better Scotland we are seeking to build.


It is great to see so many of you here today.

But I hope you will forgive me…

…because my speech this afternoon is not really aimed at you.

Of course, I could be going out on a limb here…

…but I am assuming I already have your support.

I am assuming that you need no persuading that Scotland should not be dragged out of Europe by a Tory government intent on a disastrous hard Brexit.

And I am guessing that you are already convinced that Scotland has what it takes to join the family of independent nations.


Our job is not to talk to each other.

It is to reach out to those not persuaded – to put ourselves in their shoes.

To understand the hopes, fears and ambitions of all our fellow citizens.

And to do what we can to establish common ground.

Always remember Bashir’s words – carry them with you in your heart.

What matters is ‘where we are going together’.

These words don’t just apply to how we treat those who from other countries.

They must apply to how we treat each other – all of us who live here and call Scotland home.

We all want the best for our country – we just have different views on how to achieve it.

As Scotland’s government, we bear a special responsibility to offer a hand across these differences, to build consensus where we can.

So let us resolve to argue our case with passion and commitment, yes, but – at all times – with courtesy, understanding and respect.

In that – as in everything else – it is my job to lead you by example.

That is why I speak today not just as SNP leader to our party conference.

But as the First Minister, to all of Scotland.

I know that the plan I set out on Monday was music to the ears of SNP members and independence supporters up and down the country.

And let me set out again what that plan is.

After the terms of Brexit are clear but while there is still an opportunity to change course, the people of Scotland will have a choice.

There will be an independence referendum.

But I also know that for every one of us who is full of excitement and anticipation, there will be someone else feeling nervous and anxious, perhaps even resentful.

In the last few years it has been one big decision after another.

You have been bombarded with statistics, claims and counterclaims.

You might have had heated discussion with friends and family.

Even though you may feel – like we do – that 2014 was a positive and vibrant exercise of democracy, you might not relish going through it all over again.

I understand that.

So I want you to know that I did not reach the decision lightly.

Indeed, for months, I have strived to find compromise and agreement with the Prime Minister.

Despite our overwhelming vote for Remain, the Scottish Government accepted that Scotland, within the UK, would leave the EU – but that we should seek to retain our place in the single market.

We proposed substantial new powers for the Scottish Parliament – short of independence – that would help protect Scotland’s interests in a post Brexit UK.

But instead of meeting us half way or, frankly, any of the way, Westminster chose to dig its heels in.

Our efforts at compromise with the Prime Minister met with a brick wall of intransigence.

And that is a concern that should resonate far beyond Scotland.

The Prime Minister’s attitude should worry all of us hoping that negotiations with Europe will not be a disaster…

…because – and let me put this bluntly – if she shows the same condescension and inflexibility, the same tin ear, to other EU countries as she has to Scotland then the Brexit process will hit the rocks.

Of course, that’s the outcome that hard line Brexiteers are agitating for.

But it would be in no-one’s interests.

So as Article 50 is about to be triggered, let me say this to the Prime Minister.

Stop putting the interests of the right wing of your own party ahead of the interests of the people of our country.

For me, though, the Prime Minister’s refusal to budge an inch meant that I had to make a decision.

I could take the easy option.

I could let Scotland drift through the next two years, hoping for the best, but knowing that the worst is far more likely…

Waiting for the chance to say I told you so….knowing that by then it might be too late to avoid the damage of a hard Brexit.

Or I could make a plan now to put the Scottish people in charge of our own future.

I choose to put the people in charge.

The fact is our country stands at a crossroads.

The future of the UK looks very different today than it did two years ago.

We know change is coming.

The only question is what kind of change.

And on that we are not powerless.

We can still decide which path we take.

Whatever our different opinions on independence, we can all unite around this simple principle.

Scotland’s future must be Scotland’s choice.

Which brings me to the Prime Minister’s statement on Thursday.

To stand in the way of a referendum would deny us that choice.

It would mean that the path of our country was determined, not by us, but for us.

Decided by an increasingly right wing, Brexit obsessed Tory government.

A government that some predict will be in power now until 2030 and beyond…

…thanks in no small part to the embarrassing shambles of an opposition that Labour has become.

A Tory government, dominated by the likes of Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, deluding themselves about rebuilding the empire and re-floating the Royal Yacht Britannia…

It seems they want to go back in time.

But it’s not just nostalgia for empire that they are keen on.

They clearly long for the days before we had a Scottish Parliament.

The days when Tory governments could do anything they wanted to Scotland, no matter how often they were rejected by the voters.

The days when they could impose the poll tax, destroy Scottish industry and deny all demands for constitutional change.

Well, the Prime Minister should understand this point. And understand it well.

Those days are gone and they are not coming back.

Next week, in line with the mandate secured at last May’s election, we will ask the Scottish Parliament to agree that the Scottish people should have the right to choose our own future.

We will ask Parliament to agree that this choice should be exercised at a time when we know the terms of Brexit…

…but before it is too late to take a different path.

And we will ask Parliament’s permission to seek the legal authority that will allow the people of Scotland to have that choice.

If a majority in the Scottish Parliament endorses that position, the Prime Minister should be clear about this.

At that point a fair, legal and agreed referendum – on a timescale that will allow Scotland an informed choice – ceases to be just my proposal, or that of the SNP.

It becomes the will of the democratically elected Parliament of Scotland.

To stand in defiance of that would be for the Prime Minister to shatter beyond repair any notion of the UK as a respectful partnership of equals.

She has time to think again and I hope she does.

If her concern is timing then – within reason – I am happy to have that discussion.

But let the Prime Minister be in no doubt.

The will of our parliament must and will prevail.

Of course, the Tories’ reluctance to allow Scotland a choice is not hard to fathom.

They are now terrified of the verdict of the Scottish people.

They know, as well as we do, that what is at stake in the years ahead is not just our place in Europe, important though that it is.

What is at stake is the kind of country we are going to be.

With independence, the country we become is up to us – all of us who live here.

We can choose to be a compassionate country – with a big heart and a helping hand for those in need.

An open country that doesn’t pull up the drawbridge and look inwards…

…but one that encourages the best and brightest from around Europe to make Scotland their home…

And not just from the goodness of our hearts, but for reasons of hard headed self interest as well.

Scotland needs people to want to work here – in our businesses, our universities and our public services.

Of course people have concerns about immigration that need to be addressed. I know that from my own constituency.

But as we decide the kind of country we want to be, we must be clear about the choice on offer.

For the current UK government, ending free movement comes before everything else – including the health of our economy.

It is their number one priority.

And make no mistake.

For Scotland, the result will be lower living standards and a hit to our prosperity.

So, not just for the sake of our values…

…but for our economic future as well, it’s time to take a different course.

It’s time to stand against the demonisation of migrants.

And to stand up for those who choose to join us in building a better Scotland.

Of course, we don’t yet know exactly what the Tories want a post Brexit UK to be like.

But there are two recent developments that point the way.

Last year, under pressure, David Cameron accepted what was called the Dubs amendment.

It committed the UK to providing a safe haven for unaccompanied child refugees – some of the most helpless and vulnerable people on our planet.

But last month, the UK government called a halt to the Dubs scheme.

They said that their new approach to refugees was ‘absolutely right’.

Well, I beg to differ.

I think it is absolutely wrong.

It is inhumane and it must be reversed.

The second issue is the status of EU nationals.

Men and women who have built lives, families and careers here.

People who – overnight in June last year – lost all certainty about their futures.

It is a depressing commentary on the state of British democracy that it took the House of Lords to do the right thing.

But, fair play to them – they did. They secured an amendment to the Brexit bill guaranteeing the right of EU citizens to stay in the UK.

It is therefore even more depressing that the Westminster government then whipped its MPs in the House of Commons to overturn that guarantee.

It is indefensible.

You cannot lecture others about politics not being a game – while you are using the lives of human beings as pawns.

Let me make this clear.

In an independent Scotland, the SNP would guarantee – unequivocally – the right to stay here for all EU citizens who do us the honour of making our country their home.

Compassionate, open-hearted and hard-headed – that’s the kind of country I want Scotland to be.

We must be resourceful and enterprising as well.

No-one owes Scotland a living…

…but we are more than capable of earning our own success.

In the debate about our future, the people of Scotland deserve to hear us speak frankly about the challenges facing the Scottish economy…

…the challenges of independence…

…and the challenges we will face under an austerity obsessed Tory government pursuing a hard Brexit.

We should embrace that scrutiny.

Opponents of independence, as is their right, will make their case by highlighting what they see as the difficulties.

It will be up to us to demonstrate how those difficulties can be overcome.

But as we do so, let’s never forget this…

…we have the strongest foundations on which to build.

Advantages that few nations can match.

Unrivaled energy resources.

Some of the world’s best universities.

Strength in finance and business services.

Cutting edge expertise in life sciences and advanced manufacturing.

A truly world class food and drink industry.

And the best tourist attractions anywhere in the world.

Well, almost the best…

…according to Rough Guide, we are actually the second best country in the world to visit this year.

But we are aiming for the top spot!

The point I’m making is this.

As we debate our future, let’s do so openly and honestly.

But let no one – for or against independence – ever seek to run down Scotland’s strengths and our nation’s great potential.

What we must all do is strive to make our country even better.

So, when we look at a fiscal deficit created on Westminster’s watch, let’s decide that allowing Westminster to keep making the same mistakes over and over again is not the best way to deal with it.

Instead, let us be a country that works out how to build, grow and innovate our way to a stronger and more sustainable future – in a way that keeps faith with our own values of social justice.

A country that makes its own choices.

Like choosing to invest in public services and a brighter future for our young people…

…not in a new generation of nuclear weapons.

Our Growth Commission is currently working on a clear plan for Scotland’s economic future.

The Commission will conclude its work over the next few months and we will then present its outcome for public scrutiny and debate.

It will address the challenges we face in a hard headed and realistic way.

But it will also set out the massive opportunities we have as a country – if we choose to grasp them.

You know, since the Brexit vote, I’ve had loads of messages from people in other parts of the UK asking if they can move to Scotland.

Now, I’m sure many of them are joking.

But there is a serious point.

The UK is about to turn its back on membership of the world’s biggest single market.

Imagine what will happen if Scotland chooses to stay.

We will become a magnet for talent and investment from all across the UK.

So let me issue this open invitation today.

Scotland isn’t full up.

If you are as appalled as we are at the path this Westminster government is taking, come and join us.

Come here to live, work, invest or study.

Come to Scotland – and be part of building a modern, progressive, outward-looking, compassionate country.

It is down to us to make the economic case for independence.

To answer, clearly, the questions that people ask. And we will.

But we should also be clear about this – those who argue for Scotland to stay in the UK have big economic questions to answer too.

We know that down that path lies austerity, cuts and the impact of leaving the single market.

The Westminster government is now even openly threatening a race to the bottom in tax, wages and working conditions.

That is no basis for a modern economy.

The kind of economy we are seeking to build is founded on a different vision.

Not a race to the bottom…

…but investment to lift people up.

That’s our plan, not just with independence, but in the here and now.

Since we took office, Scotland’s productivity – so crucial to our economic prospects – has grown by almost ten percent.

Productivity in the rest of the UK has grown by just one-tenth of one percent.

So we have a good record, but we have more to do.

Key to our success will be digital skills.

It is estimated that if we make better use of cloud technology and big data, the benefits to our economy could be over £5 billion a year.

Recent studies estimate that we need more than 12,000 new workers with digital skills every year.

And yet only a quarter of businesses report that they are doing anything at all to develop the technology skills of their current workforces.

We need to change that. Scotland can’t afford to lose out on the digital revolution.

So I can announce today that we will establish a new, three year, £36 million support fund to meet the upfront costs of digital skills training.

Helping business to invest in their staff and build our country’s future.

A strong economy is the basis for strong public services.

In a few weeks, people across the country will make their judgment on who should run local services.

The Tories have based their entire campaign for these council elections on denying the people of Scotland the right to choose our own future.

Our campaign is all about improving Scotland’s communities.

And here we have a clear choice too.

Last month, our budget invested hundreds of millions of pounds of extra resources in local services.

The Tories voted against that budget because it didn’t deliver a tax cut for the highest earners.

Same old Tories. Tax cuts for the richest and just cuts for the rest.

So my message today is clear – don’t let the Tories get their hands on your local services.

On May 4th, vote SNP.

We work to build a better Scotland every day.

In May, as well as contesting the council elections, we will mark ten years of our SNP government.

I am proud of the work we have done…

…but I know we have much, much more to do.

Today, I want to thank everyone, up and down the country, who works in our public services.

I want to thank particularly those who work in our NHS.

Today, of course, there are more people working in our health service than ever before.

The additional staff employed since we took office would fill this auditorium 6 times over!

And that is necessary.

With populations getting older, pressures on health services across the world are intense.

Nowhere, perhaps, do we see that more clearly than in our accident and emergency services.

But there we also see the commitment of our NHS professionals.

In Scotland, 90.8% of patients are seen within the 4 hour target.

That’s still not as good as we want it to be…

…but it is better – by a significant distance – than any other part of the UK.

In England, the figure is just 77.6%.

More than 13 points behind Scotland.

Perhaps someone should have informed the Prime Minister of that fact before she had the brass neck to lecture us about governance.

But we have more to do.

One of the challenges that our NHS faces is the increasing number of people seeking support from mental health services.

Actually, that’s a welcome development.

It shows that the stigma that stopped people asking for help in years gone by is now fading.

But it places an obligation on us to invest more in services to meet that need.

Over the next few weeks, we will publish our new, ten year Mental Health Strategy.

That strategy will focus not just on traditional mental health services.

It will look at what we need to do across the NHS and in wider society too.

For example, we know that GP surgeries and A&E services are often the frontline for mental health.

And outside the NHS, we know that too many who end up in our prisons and police cells have mental health issues that go untreated.

We want to change that.

So let me outline today just some of the action we will take.

We will increase the mental health workforce, giving access to dedicated mental health professionals –

– to all of our A&E departments, 24 hours a day

– to all of our GP practices

– to every custody suite in every police station

– and to our prisons.

In total we will increase the budget by £35 million over the next five years to support the employment of 800 additional mental health workers in our hospitals, GP surgeries, prisons and police stations.

Providing health care to those who need it is one of our most important responsibilities.

But I have made clear that the defining mission of our government is education.

I believe Scotland as a country has the right to choose our own future.

But we must also make sure that the people who live here have the means and opportunity to make choices about their own lives.

That means building a country where every child can make the most of their talents.

We are determined to close the attainment gap in our schools.

But we know that life chances are too often determined before a child even starts school.

Doubling the provision of high quality, state funded childcare – as we intend to do in this parliament – is therefore a key part of our plans.

Rightly, when we talk about the childcare revolution, we focus on the benefits for children and parents.

But there is another benefit.

Delivering our pledge will involve the recruitment of thousands more people to work in our nurseries.

We need to demonstrate how much we value this work.

I am proud of the steps our government has already taken to extend payment of the Living Wage.

We have led by example in the public sector.

And we have encouraged businesses to see the benefits, not just for their staff, but also for their bottom line.

I can confirm today that we intend to apply that approach to our expansion of childcare.

In public sector nurseries, staff already receive the living wage.

But there are currently around 1,000 private nurseries helping to deliver our free childcare

…and currently around 80% of the childcare staff who work in them don’t earn the living wage.

That’s 8000 people in total.

There are few more important jobs than caring for our youngest children.

So I can announce today that, by the end of this parliament, we will invest £50 million to ensure that all staff working in private nurseries delivering our childcare pledge are paid the real living wage.


We can do all these things to improve the lives of the people of Scotland because we are in government.

And it is a privilege to serve.

That privilege to serve is something we should never take for granted.

We must earn and re-earn the trust of the people each and every day.

The opportunity to serve our country in government was something past generations of SNP members could only dream about.

But it is down to their efforts that I stand here before you as First Minister.

When the story of our party and of Scotland’s independence is written, it will be those who worked so hard against seemingly impossible odds who will take centre stage.

And there is little doubt that one person and one date will stand out.

Winnie Ewing, 1967.

Exactly fifty years ago, Winnie won the Hamilton by-election and made this famous declaration:

“Stop the world. Scotland wants to get on.”

Let those words resonate today.

We are a European, internationalist party, leading a European, internationalist country.

We will make sure that our voice is heard here at home.

And we will stand up for Scotland’s values abroad.

One of those values is self determination…

…an unshakeable belief in the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine our own future.

Last week, I had the very sad honour of speaking at a memorial service for one of the greatest advocates of that principle, the late Canon Kenyon Wright.

When he chaired the Constitutional Convention, Kenyon posed this question of the then Tory government’s opposition to devolution –

“What happens”, he asked, “if the other voice we know so well responds by saying – we say no and we are the state?”

His answer to that question, so relevant again today, was this:

“Well we say yes and we are the people”.


As we go forward we must work to win the support of the people and communities we serve.

We must always work to build a better Scotland – for everyone who lives here.

We must stand up for our country.

…and always trust the people.

As we approach this crossroads in our national life.

Let us resolve to give Scotland a choice.

Let this message ring out today.

Scotland’s future will be in Scotland’s hands.

Tim Farron – 2015 Speech on the Future of the Liberal Democrats

Below is the text of the speech made by Tim Farron, then standing in the leadership of the Liberal Democrats, at the IPPR on 25 June 2015.

Thank you, David, and thanks also to IPPR for inviting me to deliver this talk. IPPR has always been one of the leading think tanks on the progressive wing of British politics. I welcome the interest you’ve shown in Liberalism, and I hope that in the next few years you will further develop the arguments in your 2007 book on Liberalism, Beyond Liberty.

Now let me be frank. The election on May 7th was an utter disaster for the Liberal Democrats. In terms of our vote and number of MPs we are back to the level of the 1970 general election, when the Liberal Party won six seats on 7.5 per cent of the vote, compared to this year’s eight seats and 7.9 per cent.

Compared to the last election, in 2010, we lost almost two-thirds of our vote and over 85 per cent of our MPs. There is no other occasion in the entire history of the Liberal Democrats or the Liberal Party, stretching back to the early nineteenth century, on which we have lost such a high proportion of our vote or our seats.

It’s therefore entirely reasonable to ask the question: what is the point of the Liberal Democrats? Do we have a role to play in a country which appears to have rejected us so comprehensively?

It won’t come as a surprise to you that I think we do! And I’m not alone. Since the election Party membership has surged by more than 30 percent, we are the fastest growing political party in the UK – that 18,000 people have, without being prompted, had the same thought, at the same time, and then done something about it… well that’s a phenomenon, indeed it is a movement. That’s more than just encouraging – it’s a signal that there are so many people out there who are Liberals at heart, who understand the threat that Liberalism faces, who think Liberalism’s worth fighting for and who see the Liberal Democrats as their vehicle and their voice.

Even The Guardian has now reached that conclusion. Having compared us during the campaign to ‘rinse aid in a dishwasher … probably useful, surely not essential’ – they decided after the election just three weeks later that, ‘in the absence of a liberal party, one would have to be invented – and indeed … one will now have to be reinvented and rebuilt’.

The result on May 7th might have been a rejection of the Liberal Democrats, but it was not a rejection of Liberalism. Rather, it was a consequence of our decision in 2010 to enter into coalition with our historic political enemies. We did the right thing by our country, and I am proud of Nick and all that we achieved, but our party was hugely damaged by the perceived submerging of our identity and by the tuition fees issue which undermined the electorate’s trust in us. Our election campaign did not help too much either: a campaign which seemed to say that we were desperate to get back into government and didn’t much mind with whom, while wholly failing to communicate what we stood for and what we believed. We said something about what we would do, but we did not tell people who we are.

I want to be very clear, though: I am not repudiating the coalition. We were right to enter into coalition in 2010 and can be proud of what we achieved. Indeed, we proved that coalition government can be stable and successful and that people should not fear coalition in the future. But I spoke about all this at length to the Gladstone Club a couple of weeks back, so you’ll forgive me for not repeating myself here.

In fact we achieved a lot for Liberalism in the coalition. The Agreement included: a rise in the income tax threshold to £10,000; the pupil premium to give extra resources for children from disadvantaged backgrounds; restoration of the earnings links for the state pension; a banking levy and reform of the banking system; investment in renewable energy; the immediate cancellation of plans for a third runway at Heathrow; an end to the detention of children for immigration purposes; the dropping of plans for identity cards; agreement to reach the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for overseas aid by 2013; the introduction of a fixed-term parliament of five years; and reform of the House of Lords.

With the exception of Lords reform, every single one of those objectives was achieved. And we managed more in the five years that followed: same-sex marriage, the world’s first Green Investment Bank, the triple lock for pensions, two million apprenticeships, free schools meals for the youngest pupils, and much more. I don’t believe any of that would have happened without Liberal Democrats.

And that’s just the positive things we achieved; I don’t have time to list all the Tory commitments we blocked. Over the next five years people will see exactly what a difference we made. In fact, the last six weeks have shown pretty clearly what an outstanding job Nick Clegg and his team did.

So why did we do so badly in the election? Ask random members of the public what they remember about the coalition, and will they list any of those achievements? While we were sweating over our best policies, people weren’t listening. Tuition fees created a barrier – like those force fields in Science Fiction films. We fired our best policies and achievements – and they were brilliant policies and achievements – and they just glanced off the electorate because the tuition fees barrier – that lack of trust – was too strong.

So we need a fresh start. We have to prove, from first principles, why Liberalism in Britain still matters. So I’ll start by defining what I mean by Liberalism – what are the underlying beliefs and values that underpin our approach.

All political philosophies rest on a view of human nature. The Liberal view is an optimistic one. We are not naïve about human beings, but we are not cynical and negative either. We believe that people do not need an overbearing state to help them do right. When afforded the freedom, dignity and respect that is due to all individuals, people generally show an enormous capacity to use their talents for good.

We believe that, as rational beings, individuals are capable of judging their own self-interest. Indeed, they are the only ones able so to judge; no one else, whether politicians, priests or officials, can do that so well. The enabling society is therefore one in which each individual has the freedom to pursue their own ends as they judge best.

My first core value, therefore, is liberty – the right of people to make the most of their lives: free to develop their talents, to say what they think and to protest against what they dislike according to their own values, free of a controlling, intrusive state and of a stifling conformity, and free to choose their own occupation or to set up their own business. A diverse society is a stronger society.

This liberty must be protected with a framework of law. We have a steadfast commitment to human rights, because there are some things no government should ever be allowed to do to anyone, because the rule of law is the bedrock of freedom and prosperity, and because people are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect whatever their nationality or background.

Since Liberals believe that every individual is of equal value, we are internationalists from principle. We believe that the free movement of people and the free exchange of ideas, goods and services across national boundaries enrich people’s lives, broaden their horizons and help to bring nations together in shared understanding. We believe that immigration is a blessing and not a curse.

My second core value is democracy – but by democracy, I mean much more than just a mechanism for counting votes. I mean a spirit of equality, openness and debate, a coming together to decide our future fairly and freely, without being dominated by entrenched interests or financial power. A state that supports freedom has to be a democratic state, with power dispersed as widely as possible and built up from below, in which politics is not an activity confined to a tiny elite but something everyone can take their part in, as and when they choose. And we believe in the decentralisation of power – both political and economic – to the lowest level consistent with effective government, because the more locally an institution operates, the more responsive and transparent it can become.

My third core value is fairness. Every individual is entitled to respect, whatever their income,

way of life, beliefs or sexuality. That means that the state must treat citizens fairly – whether in the way police officers deal with young people on the streets, the way Jobcentres treat benefits claimants, or the way the tax authorities treat small businesses. It means fairness in other aspects of life, too, such as employees having a say over their conditions of work.

But liberty and democracy and fairness alone are not enough, because people’s ability to realise their own goals is critically affected by their circumstances. Nothing robs you of your liberty more than poverty, ill-health, poor housing, or a lack of education.

This isn’t just about high-quality public services and an effective welfare safety net, vital though they are. An unequal society – and Britain has one of the most unequal in the Western world – is weaker not just for those at the bottom of the pile but for everyone. The citizens of a less equal society suffer from poorer health, lower educational attainments, higher crime rates, and lower levels of trust and co-operation than their more equal counterparts. Government therefore needs to act to reduce inequalities in income and wealth. Inequality is not just immoral, it is impractical – it wastes the talent of the diverse people and places of our country.

My fourth core value is environmentalism. Climate change, pollution and the degradation of the natural world pose one of the biggest threats to our welfare, to our economy and to our freedom that we have ever seen. We have to act both at home and internationally to promote green technologies, producing clean energy and transport, stopping the waste of natural resources, and protecting nature. The market by itself cannot achieve this; government action is needed across the board to set standards, provide new infrastructure and promote innovation – and in the process build a competitive economy and improve everyone’s quality of life. If we are going to defeat climate change, we need bold action. What the Green Party don’t get is that we won’t create and sustain the positive action we need on climate change with a message of doom and gloom. We need to communicate hope – because going green can bring a better quality of life for everybody, whether they’re climate wonks or not.

This leads on to my fifth core value: quality of life- because some things, like the beauty of the natural world, or music and poetry and art, or spending time with friends and family, should never be sacrificed on the altar of profit or growth. A society in which people feel happier and more satisfied in life is one which is answering the needs of its citizens.

Where else in the political spectrum are these core values represented? Is there another party that fights for liberty, democracy, fairness, internationalism, environmentalism and quality of life?

It shouldn’t take too long to dismiss the Conservatives. David Cameron’s attempts to present himself as a liberal Tory, hugging huskies, hugging hoodies, building the big society, are long gone. Whether he really believes in any of that I strongly doubt – but if he does, he shows no signs of reining in Theresa May’s introduction of the so-called snoopers’ charter that we blocked.

He stands behind George Osborne’s assault on the welfare state, with £12 billion of cuts to who-knows-what benefits to come – a Chancellor who could with a straight face claim that ‘we’re all in it together’ while cutting the top rate of income tax. Cameron fought the election on a manifesto that simultaneously promised to cut ‘carbon emissions as cheaply as possible, to save you money’ and to end all public subsidy to onshore wind, the cheapest form of renewable electricity – therefore ensuring that the average cost of renewables will go up, while losing jobs and investment.

He has no interest in reforming the electoral system that gave his party a majority on 37 per cent of the vote. He will block any attempt at reform of party finances or election spending limits, to make sure that the bankers and hedge fund managers who fund his party can buy future elections too.

He won the election not on a story of optimism, of a plan for ensuring better times for families and communities, but on a narrative of fear, of a Labour government propped up by Scottish Nationalists – in the process claiming that a vote for the SNP was illegitimate and thereby fanning the flames of Scottish separatism. When it comes to a choice between the good of their party and the good of the country Conservatives always put their party first.

What about Labour? Liberal Democrats have tended to see the Labour Party as closer to our own progressive aims, partly because we have more of a history of cooperation with Labour governments – in Scotland from 1999 to 2007, in Wales from 2001 to 2003, or in the Lib-Lab Pact in the 1970s.

And I think they score a little better than the Tories on some of my tests: the last years of the last Labour government saw positive developments in environmental policy, they fought the last election on a redistributive package that nicked one of its main planks – the mansion tax – from us, and they’re generally supportive of UK membership of the EU.

But just remember what they were like in government. Even ignoring taking Britain into an illegal war, their record in other respects was unimpressive. Income inequality actually rose during New Labour’s term in office, while the seeds of the banking crisis were sown in their failure to regulate effectively the financial services sector.

Their record on civil liberties was shameful; they were just as eager as the Tories to encroach ever more on freedom in the name of the war on terror. Even their cheerleader in the quality press, the Guardian, recognised, in an editorial on 15th May, that the Labour Party ‘is just as authoritarian as it is libertarian, and – with the impressive exception of the early Blair years – has been constitutionally conservative through much of its history’. The Guardian obviously forgot, incidentally, that Blair’s constitutional programme was set for him by the Cook-Maclennan Agreement, drawn up with the Liberal Democrats. In the last Parliament Labour joined with the Tories to block reform of the House of Lords and were at best lukewarm, and often hostile, over the AV referendum.

What about UKIP? I’m not aware we share any value with them; they are the polar opposite of everything we stand for. And while the SNP is unlike UKIP in many ways, in one way they are the same: they exalt the race over the individual, they value people in terms of their nationality, not their character, they foster intolerance of others just because they are different.

Finally, the Greens. I admire their dedication and their commitment to environmental aims, but at base they value the planet over its human inhabitants, which leads them into authoritarian and illiberal territory. It’s attractive to some because it promises a short cut to solve the huge problems of climate change, or inequality. But it isn’t rooted in a reality that understands how people behave – emotionally or politically. Policy by wishful thinking or authoritarian dictat ultimately doesn’t work – and I fear that many of their policies haven’t been rigorously thought through . Ultimately though, my concerns with the Greens are that they simply aren’t liberal. Free choice isn’t an inconvenience – it’s a fundamental part of what it means to be human, yet for the Greens it’s treated almost as an add on.

So my conclusion is clear: while there may well be other parties with whom we can agree on particular policies, with whom we could cooperate in campaigns – for example for a yes vote in the EU referendum – there is no other party that is remotely Liberal in its basic philosophy, that shares our beliefs and values. So if Liberalism is worth fighting for, then logically the only course open to us is to rebuild the Liberal Democrats into a force than can fight for it effectively.

And in turn that means building a campaigning movement, not just a political machine. It means ensuring that all of our campaigns – to stay in the EU, to retain the Human Rights Act, to defend the pupil premium because it attacks inequality, to oppose the Tories undermining the welfare states and selling off housing association homes, to promote green energy instead of shale gas – must be underpinned with a positive message of belief in this country, in its citizens and their communities. Our policy must be not just about what we will do but whom we are.

This has always been the great cause of Liberalism, a creed which is now needed more than ever – an optimistic confidence in the capacity of ordinary people to make the most of their lives, fulfil their talents and realise their dreams, and the belief that it is the duty of government – active, ambitious, liberal government – to make this possible, to create the conditions in which people and their communities can flourish.

I want to lead a party that motivates people to care about great causes, not dull managerialism. To inspire the movement that has come about since May 8th.

I want to argue that inequality is wrong because every individual is equally precious, because inequality crushes the spirits of those at the bottom of the pile, because it creates a poorer society where the bonds between people count for less, because it is a stupid waste of talent, effort and resource. It is a brake on prosperity and work.

I want to campaign for a bold environmental policy, not just because I believe that climate change must be tackled, though I do, but because green energy and transport means cleaner air and water, because green products and green exports will be the ones that succeed in global markets, because, as David Attenborough put it, ‘the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.’

I want to persuade people to vote for the EU, not just because of jobs and trade, important though they are, but because the European Union is the most successful peace process in human history, because we do not resent our neighbours, we love them; because open societies allow the human experience to widen and the human spirit to flourish, because it is better to treat foreigners as sisters and brothers, not as people to be feared or scapegoated when things go wrong.

None of this will be easy, it will be a long hard slog, but I am confident that it’s possible. Remember, there was only seven years between David Steel taking over the Liberal leadership in 1976 after the devastation of the Thorpe scandal and the Alliance’s record-breaking vote in 1983. I don’t see why our recovery shouldn’t be much more swift than we fear, but it is not a given, we will have to earn it.

We’ve done it before, in the 1950s and ’60s, when the Liberals under Jo Grimond recovered from near oblivion to challenge the Tory-Labour stranglehold on power; in the 1970s, when we adopted the approach of community politics, building on our local roots, fighting alongside local campaigners to make life better in a myriad of little ways for individuals and their communities; and in the 1980s, when I was a proud foot soldier as Paddy Ashdown and colleagues rebuilt the Liberal Democrats from the ashes of merger to argue the case for a fairer, freer, greener Britain.

In each case we recovered because we knew that there was a cause worth fighting for: Liberalism. Liberalism is unique, it belongs to no other party. I am not about to allow the movement of Gladstone, Lloyd George and Grimond to die on my watch. Britain needs Liberals, it needs Liberal Democrats. Our cause must be fought for. I hope to lead that fightback.