Jo Johnson – 2018 Speech on a Greener Railway

Below is the text of the speech made by Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Transport, on 12 February 2018.

Good morning.

It’s a pleasure to be here today.

And where better to discuss the knowledge economy than the British Museum?

A place ‘full of unassailable facts’, according to Trollope.

And a fitting backdrop for this Knowledge Quarter conference.

Since this kind invitation was extended, I have moved from being Universities and Science Minister to being a Minister in the Department of Transport and Minister for London

And the invitation followed me.

In fact, it was clear to me that even as I entered the world of bus lanes, cycle-superhighways and high-speed trains, there was no leaving the knowledge economy.

Our hard infrastructure of roads, railways and airports and our soft infrastructure, in the form of our human capital and the institutions that cultivate it, are of course intimately connected and mutually dependent.

And one of the reasons for the Knowledge Quarter’s success as a cluster is certainly its hyperconnectedness, so obvious in its extraordinary transport links.

St Pancras, gateway to continental Europe, now restored to its Victorian splendour.

King’s Cross Station, transformed in recent years and now catering for 50 million passengers a year.

Euston about to be transformed by HS2, with faster connections to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

Multiple bus routes.

Six different underground lines, as well as the Elizabeth Line and, eventually, Crossrail 2.

The Knowledge Quarter is networked – a quality that’s vital for the transmission of knowledge into practical applications in our economy.

Transport and travel have always been fundamental to the development and diffusion of knowledge.

We can see that in the collection that surrounds us at the British Museum today….

With its countless stories of exploration, adventure and discovery.

And it’s that relationship – between transport and knowledge – that I’d like to discuss today.

During the 19th century, Britain developed from an agricultural economy to an industrial one.

But today, our economic performance is increasingly dependent on our human capital.

Skills, creativity and innovation are more likely to provide a competitive advantage than access to mass labour or natural resources.

At the same time, the relationship between the state, business and citizens is changing.

It was Sir Francis Bacon who said ‘Scientia potestas est’ – knowledge is power.

Today, we all have unprecedented access to information and knowledge.

Tweets and videos go round the world in an afternoon – and sometimes old ones come back to bite too.

Higher education, once rationed to a narrow elite, is now a mass undertaking.

Whereas only 19% of young people went to university in 1990, the proportion is now close to 46% – and this includes more people from disadvantaged backgrounds than ever before.

Technology and political devolution are combining to rebalance power away from the centre – and towards the region, the community, and the individual.

This might sound like a threat to some.

But it’s actually an opportunity.

It’s an opportunity that’s at the heart of the government’s Industrial Strategy.

In our support for hard and soft infrastructure – from HS2 to broadband to our universities and our world-leading science base.

In our creation of elected mayors and devolved authorities.

Building and supporting the knowledge economy across the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine – areas that were global leaders when the industrial economy was thriving, and that are now diversifying into new sectors.

We want the rest of the country to be as hyperconnected as you are here in London’s Knowledge Quarter.

The new industries taking hold in these regions depend increasingly on innovation and specialist knowledge.

Sustainable energy and cyber security in Northern Ireland.

Manchester’s media sector and science parks.

Digital hubs in Leeds and Newcastle.

And fast-growing creative industries in Wales.

But although new knowledge clusters depend on modern skills and innovation, something about them never changes.

Their reliance on good transport links and communications.

The Knowledge Quarter is itself actually part of a much bigger geographical network – sometimes known as the Golden Triangle – linking Oxford, Cambridge and London.

And containing one of the world’s great science and innovation hubs.

Even within this extraordinary Golden Triangle, there is scope for better connectivity.

Which is why we’re reviving the rail line between Oxford and Cambridge.

This route survived the Beeching cuts of the early 1960s, but was torn up a few years later by British Rail.

The closure of the line was one of the most regrettable acts of transport vandalism of the era.

Today, the corridor from Oxford to Cambridge is one of the fastest-growing areas of the country.

It contains not only brilliant universities, but also a great concentration of science and technology employers.

But transport connections between Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford are so poor they create a barrier between hubs of knowledge-based growth.

So we are restoring the old line.

And we aim to have it fully open by 2030.

By reconnecting the two university cities with rail services, and by linking up Milton Keynes, Bedford, Bicester and Bletchley in the Golden Triangle, we aim to create a knowledge corridor that will drive growth and jobs for generations to come.

To develop more of these hubs across the country, we’re carrying out place-based Science and Innovation audits.

To build new consortia and smart regional specialisations.

We also want to deepen connections between knowledge hubs across the UK.

From Scotland to Cornwall to Northern Ireland.

It’s vital we stimulate the knowledge economy by improving transport throughout the country.

That’s why we’re working with Transport for the North on its important plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail.

And it’s why we’re transforming connections between Yorkshire, Lancashire and the Midlands by building HS2, linking 8 of our 10 biggest cities.

The biggest investment in the country’s railways since the Victorian era.

But there’s a clear problem with hypermobility that we must also acknowledge.

We’re travelling twice as much as we did in 1970.

We’re driving more than ever before.

And flying more than ever.

Many thought transport would become less necessary as the Internet grew.

But in fact the opposite has happened.

And while this mobility spurs economic growth, there’s a price to pay.

In congestion.

Overcrowded trains.

Pollution.

And carbon emissions.

In fact there comes a point when too much travel undermines its benefits.

When congestion clogs the network and pollution destroys our planet.

We’re at that tipping point today.

Congestion plagues the Knowledge Quarter and every major city in the country.

The average speed of vehicles in the centre of London is now just 8 mph during the day.

Trollope would recognise these paltry speeds.

That’s a slow trot for a horse. If it carries on declining, we’ll before long reach equine walking pace.

However, occasionally, an opportunity arises to make a breakthrough.

To invest in and roll out technologies that are true game-changers.

Providing completely new solutions to old problems.

And we have one of those opportunities today.

To rethink the way we plan and deliver transport services.

To end our reliance on fossil fuels.

With self-driving vehicles and smart infrastructure.

With digital communications that design transport services around the user.

Our opportunity – if we grasp it – is to make travel easier and more reliable.

To clean up transport emissions.

To diversify our transport industry into new markets, and stimulate knowledge-based growth in our economy.

All while continuing to enjoy the special advantages that good transport connections have always brought.

That’s the challenge.

The pace of innovation in the automotive sector, with driverless vehicles about to change our lives in ways we are only now just grasping, is breathtaking.

So let me instead take rail as my example.

Here there has been less innovation.

Certainly – train services have grown at a remarkable rate since privatisation in the 1990s.

Particularly considering that our railway infrastructure was designed and built for a Victorian economy – not a 21st century one.

As a result we now have one of the most intensively used networks in Europe.

This government is injecting record levels of investment in the railway to help it cope with these pressures and to grow further.

But alongside increased funding, the industry also needs to modernise and to innovate.

Compared with other forms of transportation, progress has been palpably slow.

Yes, we’ve got real-time platform information.

Better train management allowing more services to run on existing tracks.

And big improvements in safety.

But the railways of today are ones that in many respects Trollope would again have no difficulty in recognising.

The pace of innovation needs to find a new gear.

Sometimes, those innovations can be relatively modest.

That’s why in October we launched the ‘First of a Kind’ programme…

With Innovate UK and the Knowledge Transfer Network…

To speed up the delivery of new ideas and improvements to rail services.

Today I can announce that the winning ideas from the programme’s first £3.5 million competition include:

A system to guide passengers to available seats when boarding.

Apps that will improve the travel experience for disabled passengers.

And programmes which will educate and inform long distance passengers about the sights they see from their window.

But other innovations have to be on a much bigger scale.

And that’s why I am today announcing a new ambition.

I would like to see us take all diesel-only trains off the track by 2040.

If that seems like an ambitious goal – it should be and I make no apology for that.

After all, we’re committed to ending sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

If we can achieve that, then why can’t the railway aspire to a similar objective?

Rail may be less carbon intensive than road transport.

That’s why modal shift’s so important.

Getting freight and passenger vehicles off the roads onto greener forms of transport.

But that does not absolve the rail industry from cleaning up its own act.

You may have seen stories recently about transport becoming the most polluting sector of our economy.

And the fact that rail emissions have actually increased in absolute terms.

Up 33% since 1990.

This cannot go on.

Now – we are making progress on modernising rolling stock.

For example, the much derided Pacers are going.

Along with other long-standing members of the fleet like Intercity 125s….

Old diesels being replaced by much cleaner trains featuring low carbon and NOx technology.

But we need to go further…

By decarbonising rail, we’ll reduce pollutants and improve air quality, particularly in our semi-enclosed stations.

We will tackle this with the urgency it deserves by setting tough new environmental performance goals in each rail franchise which the train operators will have to meet.

Total electrification of our tracks is unlikely to be the only or most cost-effective way to secure these vital environmental benefits.

New bi-modes trains are a great bridging technology to other low emission futures.

Bi-mode trains fitted with modern diesels – which we started introducing last autumn on the Great Western line and on the East Coast Main Line in 2018 – are less polluting than the trains they replaced.

And as battery technologies improve we expect to see the diesel engines in bi-modes replaced altogether.

With batteries powering the train between the electrified sections of the network.

Or maybe in the future we could see those batteries and diesel engines replaced with hydrogen units?

Alternative-fuel trains powered entirely by hydrogen are a prize on the horizon.

I’d like to see hydrogen train trials on the UK railway as soon as possible.

Hydrogen offers an affordable – and potentially much cleaner – alternative to diesel.

And the technology has developed fast in recent years.

To the extent that Alstom is now testing a train which only emits steam and condensed water – yet is capable of 140 km per hour and a range of up to 800 kilometres.

Which matches the performance of regular regional trains.

Rolls Royce is also looking at this technology

So the next generation of trains is just around the corner.

To speed our journey towards a zero-carbon railway, the government is investing record amounts in public R&D to improve our knowledge base.

Through the environmental performance goals we are setting in each rail franchise, we will hold the train operators to account for progress.

These include reducing energy consumption of trains, depots and many stations.

We have tasked Arriva – the operator of the Northern franchise – to deliver an electric/battery hybrid on the Windermere branch from 2021.

But the drive to decarbonise must come from all sectors of the industry.

So today I am calling on the railway to provide a vision for how it will decarbonise.

And I expect the industry to report back by the autumn.

I want to see a clear, long term strategy with consistent objectives and incentives.

I want to see options like lighter rolling stock and alternative sources of power considered and analysed.

I want barriers to innovation removed, so ideas can be brought to market more rapidly.

And I want to see the railway industry show a lead on this crucial issue.

With train operators, Network Rail, and the companies that supply them – all working together as one team.

So let me finish this speech on a positive note.

Despite the challenges I’ve outlined today, I hope I’ve also communicated my optimism about the prospects for the future of transport in this country.

The organisations here in the Knowledge Quarter have a role to play in developing technologies and know-how that will help Britain to enjoy an even bigger advantage from transport in the future:

Increased mobility for every part of the community – yet less congestion.

More intensive use of the infrastructure – and yet more comfortable travel.

Faster journeys – yet fewer transport emissions. These goals are within our grasp.

A knowledge economy more innovative than ever.

So let’s raise our ambitions – and realise them.

Thank you.

Tobias Ellwood – 2018 Statement on the National Memorial to British Victims of Overseas Terrorism

Below is the text of the statement made by Tobias Ellwood, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, in the House of Commons on 8 February 2018.

I am pleased to inform Parliament that the National Memorial to British Victims of Overseas Terrorism has now been completed at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, and is open to the public to visit.

The process to select the artist and design for the memorial began with a public online consultation in 2016. This consultation identified strong public support and set out what was important to those with an interest ​in the memorial. I am grateful to Baroness Chalker of Wallasey and the other members of the independent panel which took forward the selection of the artists and design for the memorial. They based their decisions on the results of the consultation in 2016.

The overarching themes of the consultation were that the memorial should be a place of remembrance, where people could pay their respects to those who had lost their lives. It was also clear that the memorial should be a place of contemplation and reflection, with many respondents suggesting that the memorial should be a place of tranquillity and quiet reflection, and a place for families to visit and sit. I am pleased with the way that the artist, Alison Wilding, and maker and sculptor, Adam Kershaw have responded to these themes through their work, “Still Water.”

I am grateful also to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, whose officials have delivered this project on my behalf. Those Departments that have a direct responsibility for supporting the families of victims of overseas terrorism will now work together to ensure that the families of future victims of terrorism overseas are connected with the memorial sensitively, and by the most appropriate part of Government at the time. The new, cross-Government Victims of Terrorism Unit is well-placed to consider this work.

On 17 May 2018, on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, I will host a dedication ceremony at the site of the memorial for families that have successfully applied online to attend. Further information, including how to apply to attend the event, can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-memorial-dedication-ceremony.

David Lidington – 2018 Statement on the Infected Blood Inquiry

Below is the text of the statement made by David Lidington, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, in the House of Commons, on 8 February 2018.

I am announcing today the appointment of Sir Brian Langstaff to head the public inquiry into the infected blood scandal. The inquiry will be established under the 2005 Inquiries Act, with full powers, including the power to compel the production of documents, and to summon witnesses to give evidence on oath.

In relation to the appointment of the chair, the Lord Chief Justice was asked to recommend a judge who, in his view, would be best suited to the task. The Lord Chief Justice recommended Sir Brian Langstaff: a highly respected and hugely experienced High Court judge. I have accepted the Lord Chief Justice’s recommendation.

Sir Brian will be the full-time chair of the inquiry from 1 May following his retirement from the High Court. However, in order that those who have been affected by this tragedy face no further undue delay, he will use the intervening period to conduct a further consultation on the inquiry’s terms of reference.

The infected blood scandal of the 1970s and 1980s was an appalling tragedy that should never have happened. The victims of this tragedy who have endured so much pain and hardship deserve answers. It is crucial that their views are properly reflected in the inquiry’s terms of reference. Sir Brian will want to listen carefully to the voices of those that have suffered before making a recommendation to me on what the scope of the inquiry should be. I will return to Parliament with the final terms of reference as soon as this process has been completed.

The Government will ensure that the inquiry has the resources that it needs to complete its work. The inquiry will, of course, also be independent of the Government.

It is very important that the inquiry can identify why and how this tragedy occurred and provide answers for all the victims who have suffered so terribly, and can identify lessons to be learned so that a tragedy of this scale can never happen again.

Harriett Baldwin – 2018 Statement on Same-Sex Marriage in Bermuda

Harriett Baldwin

Below is the text of the statement made by Harriett Baldwin, the Minister of State at the Department for International Development, in the House of Commons on 8 February 2018.

We are obviously disappointed about the removal of same-sex marriage in Bermuda. The Domestic Partnership Act, to which the Governor of Bermuda assented yesterday, ensures that Bermudians who have been legally married in Bermuda since the Supreme Court decision will retain their married status and enjoy the same legal rights as those in domestic partnerships.

Less than a year ago, same-sex couples had no legal recognition at all under Bermudian law. While the Act withdraws the entitlement for same-sex couples to marry, it replaces it with a provision for domestic partnerships for all couples, regardless of gender. The intent of the Act is to provide domestic partners with the same benefits as married couples, including provision for pensions, inheritance, healthcare, tax and immigration.

After full and careful consideration of Bermuda’s constitutional and international obligations, the Secretary of State decided that in these circumstances, it would not be appropriate to use the power to block legislation, which can only be used where there is a legal or constitutional basis for doing so, and even then, only in exceptional circumstances. It is important to recognise that the regime for domestic partnerships implemented by Bermuda in its Domestic Partnership Act can also meet the European Court of Human Rights requirement for legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

The Government are committed to promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality globally through projects, partnerships and persuasion. In engaging with the British overseas territories, we have to respect that they are separate, self-governing jurisdictions with their own democratically elected representatives and the right to self-government.

Nusrat Ghani – 2018 Speech on Cleaner Buses

Below is the text of the speech made by Nusrat Ghani, the Conservative MP for Wealden, on 8 February 2018.

Opening remarks

Thank you David [Begg, Chair] for that welcome.

It’s a real pleasure to join you for today’s (8 February 2018) summit.

This is my first formal speech since joining the Department for Transport in the recent reshuffle, and I was delighted to take on responsibility for government bus and coach policy.

Importance of industry

I’m a huge advocate for buses.

Catering for over 5 billion passenger journeys a year.

That’s two thirds of all public transport trips.

Buses are the most effective and affordable way to keep busy towns and cities moving.

And we’re very fortunate to have such excellent coach services in this country too.

Providing a comfortable, reliable and great value alternative to long distance train and car travel.

Put simply, this industry is indispensable.

No other form of public transport offers anything like the benefits that you offer.

Whether it’s capacity, geographical coverage, ease of use, cost, efficiency – I could go on.

For me most importantly, buses provide a unique answer to most of the local transport challenges that we face.

Yet so fundamental are they to British life that they’re often taken for granted.

That’s something that I want to change, with your support.

I want to champion buses and coaches.

To shout about the benefits of bus travel.

How they bind our towns and cities together.

How they provide essential links for rural communities, such as the one I represent in Wealden, East Sussex.

And how they’ll become even more vital in years to come.

Congestion and air pollution

Of course, one of the biggest obstacles to growth is road congestion.

And that’s nothing new.

Buses have been hampered by congestion since the days of the horse-drawn omnibus.

But I want to use the Bus Services Act as a way of encouraging authorities and bus companies to make services more attractive, and create a shift away from car use.

I know it’s a big challenge.

But road transport is going to be revolutionised over the next 3 decades.

New vehicle technologies.

New infrastructure.

The phasing out of fossil fuels.

And digital communications transforming the way passengers plan and use transport….

All of which provide an unprecedented opportunity for buses.

We have to hammer home our message:

That rather than contributing to the problem of nose-to-tail traffic and harmful pollution.

Buses and coaches are a part of the solution.

You’ll certainly have the government’s support.

We have already committed £3.5 billion for measures to improve air quality.

Last year we published plans to tackle traffic pollution, and announced a £220 million Clean Air Fund in the Budget.

Later this year we’ll be unveiling our Clean Air Strategy.

And hosting an international zero-emission vehicle summit.

The opportunity here is to position the bus industry as a leader in environmentally friendly transport.

As a catalyst for greener, smarter travel.

And as the most practical answer to the long term mobility needs of our towns and cities.

Low emission buses

Britain is already a pioneer in low carbon buses.

And the industry can be proud of what it’s achieved in recent years.

We’ve got great companies like ADL, Wrightbus and Optare manufacturing green buses.

We have almost 6,000 low carbon buses in service.

The highest number of electric buses in Europe.

And we also have the largest hybrid fleet of over 3,000 vehicles.

And in 2015, our Low Emission Bus Scheme helped put more 300 green buses on roads across Britain.

And that was followed in November 2016 with a further £100 million investment.

We welcome further interest and participation in these schemes.

The sooner we get more low emission buses on the road, the faster we’ll reap the benefits.

So today I’m pleased to announce that we’ll be awarding nearly £40 million of that funding to 20 local authorities as part of the Clean Bus Technology Fund.

This will be used to retrofit buses with technology to reduce tailpipe emissions of nitrogen dioxide.

Originally we invited authorities to apply for a funding total of £30 million now and £10 million in 2 years’ time.

But we received a large number of strong applications for this round.

And we wanted to start realising the air quality benefits as quickly as possible.

So we’ve made the full amount – just under £40 million – available now to fund two-year projects.

It will enable older vehicles to meet the minimum standards in the Clean Air Zone Framework, particularly in areas exceeding statutory limits.

And I am going to announce the successful bidders:

West Yorkshire.

Bristol and Bath.

Gateshead.

Leeds City.

Transport for West Midlands.

Leicester City.

Oxford City.

Coventry.

Nottinghamshire.

Transport for Greater Manchester.

North Tyneside.

Nottingham City.

Transport for London.

Sheffield City.

Sefton MBC Air Quality.

Southampton City.

Derby.

Essex.

South Tyneside.

And finally, Newcastle City.

I’m grateful to all the bus companies who had a hand in the applications.

Ultimately, we see dedicated ultra low emission buses as the long-term answer – but retrofitting offers a very attractive alternative for now.

Not all local authorities were successful with their bids.

But there will be further opportunities for councils to receive money for retrofitting through the Clean Air Fund.

As local authorities prepare to set out their initial plans for reducing nitrogen dioxide concentrations by the end of March, retrofitting technology will help ensure that more buses help clean up the air in our cities.

And as we look to the future, technology will give us other opportunities to improve the efficiency of buses.

For example, if we know how much passenger demand there is for a particular route or service, we can look at providing the appropriate size of vehicle for the job…..

Not just cutting the number of empty seats.

But cutting costs and emissions too.

Bus Services Act

I’ve already mentioned the Bus Services Act, and how it’s designed to make bus services more attractive to the travelling public.

That’s something I will be focusing on in the months ahead.

New enhanced partnership powers will enable local authorities and bus operators to work together to improve services.

And new franchising powers, replacing the existing Quality Contract Scheme, will also improve the management of buses in the regions where they apply.

I’m keen to see the open data provisions in the act benefit passengers too.

One of the existing barriers to passenger growth is that it can be difficult to obtain information on bus fares, routes or times.

Where the information does exist – on the web, for example – it can be inconsistently presented, or be buried in unwieldy and hard-to-decipher timetables.

But by making data open and accessible, software firms can create apps that package and deliver the relevant information to smartphones at the click of an icon.

So the open data should make it easier for passengers to use the bus network.

We published guidance on implementing the measures in the Act last November.

And we’ll publish further regulations and guidance this year.

Conclusion

So – to sum up – I see the future as full of opportunity.

If buses are crucial to our transport system today….

Then as road transport is transformed over the coming decades….

They will become more important than ever.

And I’ll be doing everything I can to spread the message.

I’ll be getting around the industry over the next few months, and meeting as many of you as possible.

To hear your views on how we can best support growth.

But one thing is absolutely clear.

The key to success is partnership. Government and bus industry, local authorities and operators working together. For the benefit of the passenger, for the benefit of bus operators, and for the benefit of Great Britain.

Maria Caulfield – 2018 Speech on Autism

Below is the text of the speech made by Maria Caulfield, the Conservative MP for Lewes, in the House of Commons on 6 February 2018.

As a female MP, I am honoured to have secured this Adjournment debate on the 100th anniversary of women gaining the vote.

Last week saw the launch in Parliament of the “Autism and education in England 2017” report of an inquiry, which was co-chaired by myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), that formed part of the work of the all-party parliamentary group on autism. The report came about due to our first-hand experience as new MPs of listening to many parents who visited our surgeries to tell us their stories of the difficulty of getting support for a child with autism.

The often invisible nature of autism means that it can be difficult for a child to get a diagnosis. The process can be long and difficult for parents, often taking years rather than months. Parents feel that the extreme pushing that they have to undertake to get a diagnosis for their child often means that they are labelled as bad or difficult parents who just cannot cope with a naughty child. As a result, a diagnosis can be missed or delayed by many years. Many parents tell me—I know that colleagues have had the same experience—that they often have to resort to paying for a private assessment so that their child can get a diagnosis and start receiving the support that they need.

The problems for parents and autistic children do not end even once a diagnosis has been made. The lack of support that they receive in our schools and education system is shocking, and teachers, who desperately want to help these children, can feel inadequate and unable to offer support because they have had little or no training. I am pleased to say that that will change this year, because initial teacher training will include dealing with children on the autistic spectrum. However, that will not tackle the lack of training for existing teachers and headteachers.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)

I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing this debate. We are all in the Chamber for the same reason: we know constituents who have faced such problems. A Northern Ireland Department of Health report confirmed that there has been a 67% increase in the number of school-age children across all trust areas in Northern Ireland who are diagnosed with autism. I am sure that the figure for the hon. Lady’s area is similar, so does she agree that that massive increase must lead to an increase in the support for such children in schools? If each class has a classroom assistant, it is a vital step towards improving educational outcomes for children with autism.

Maria Caulfield

I agree. Our report found that as many as one in 100 children attending our schools is on the autistic spectrum, which means that a significant number of children need our support.

Our inquiry heard from teachers who told us not only how they struggle to support students in mainstream schools because of a lack of special educational needs provision, but about the difficulties they experience because they have not received training. That comes on ​top of a lack of specialist provision for children for whom mainstream education is not sufficient. However, such children are often placed in mainstream education, which just cannot cope with their needs.

Dame Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con)

I congratulate my hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) on their first-class report, which will make a big contribution in this area and a big difference to people’s lives.

Does my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield) agree it is not just initial teacher training—autism awareness training is being included in that training for the first time this year—but the training of teachers who are already in place, such as by the Autism Education Trust, that is making a difference? In the light of her study, would she go further and say that school leaders, school governors and other people involved in educational institutions should also be trained in autism awareness?

Maria Caulfield

My right hon. Friend is correct, and one of our report’s findings is that the training needs to go wider than just teachers. I will touch on that when I come to our recommendations.

Given the lack of support, children on the autism spectrum often end up in crisis. If they had received the support they needed in the first place, and if they had received a quicker diagnosis, such children would often thrive in school.

Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby) (Lab)

I commend the hon. Lady on the report of her inquiry, which she co-chaired with the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman).

Cora Leeson, who is a passionate campaigner and advocate for children with autism in my constituency, contacted me after the launch of the report to highlight her concern about the number of fixed-term exclusions from school of children with unidentified SEN, including those with autism. Does the hon. Lady share my concern about the educational attainment of children who are being excluded because they have not received a diagnosis or because, if they do have a diagnosis, they are not receiving appropriate support within mainstream schooling?

Maria Caulfield

The hon. Lady is right. Some 17% of children with autism have been suspended from school at some point. Of that number, 48% have been suspended three or more times, and 4% have been permanently excluded, so the current school system is not working for a significant number of children. That has consequences in later life because, as experts told our hearings, if these children have the right support, they should be doing well in school. Because of their educational outcomes, only 16% of autistic adults currently end up in full-time work, and only 32% end up in any type of work at all. That tells us that their experience in the early years of being excluded or suspended from school has an impact on their educational attainment, which has a long-term impact on the rest of their lives.

Robert Courts (Witney) (Con)

I declare my interest at the outset. My wife is a music therapist, and much of her work is with children who have autism, which gives me an insight into many of the challenges that families face.​

I am listening to my hon. Friend with great interest. Does she agree that children with special educational needs have just as much right to be educated as every other child, and that that education can make a real difference to their ongoing lives? We must not forget them, but we must also not forget their parents, who can often feel very isolated. SEN provision in schools can make a real difference for parents, too.

Maria Caulfield

My hon. Friend is right. These children have not just a right, but a legal right. As the inquiry heard, the most frustrating thing is that existing legislation should be providing for such care in the education system. We have not only the Children and Families Act 2014, but the Autism Act 2009, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) introduced. The 2009 Act, which is the only disability-specific piece of legislation that we have in England, sets out how autistic adults should be supported.

The problem is therefore not that the legislation is not in place, but that it is not being upheld. As the 10-year anniversary of the Autism Act approaches, we need a national autism strategy to help children and young people, to ensure that the current laws are upheld, and to make sure that all autistic children receive the help to which they are legally entitled. Without that, we will continue to hear these desperate stories of parents and their children who are not getting the support that they need.

Bambos Charalambous (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)

Does the hon. Lady agree that there is also a need for speech therapists, child psychologists, occupational therapists and other health professionals to support the special needs of those children in being diagnosed with autism in the first place?

Maria Caulfield

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. This is absolutely about not just teachers, but the whole support staff. Our report calls on the Government to introduce a national autism strategy by the end of 2019, which should include training for school staff, the provision of a specialist curriculum for all pupils who need one, and measures to reduce bullying and promote inclusion in schools. We also ask for an understanding of autism to be embedded in the education system, and we want ongoing training for teachers, including headteachers.

We are asking local authorities to collect data on children in their areas, because commissioners cannot plan a service if they do not know how many children are in need of it, and on what part of the autistic spectrum those children sit in. The needs of a high-functioning autistic child are very different from those of a child at the other end of the spectrum, so local authorities need to be collecting data so that they can adequately commission services.

We ask that Ofsted is required to monitor the implementation of the 2014 Act. One of the most striking pieces of evidence we heard in our inquiry was the admission of Ofsted inspectors that they do not always assess how children with autism are supported in schools when they carry out their inspections. If that is not being enforced, it is no wonder that schools are not getting the resources they need to support these children.​

We also ask that local authority staff—this point was made in an intervention—as well as teachers receive training about the requirements of the 2014 Act. This is about more than teachers, who know that they need training, because a range of individuals involved in supporting children could also do with such training.

The Secretary of State came to our launch in Parliament last week. My hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle has met him since, and I know that my right hon. Friend is supportive of our report’s findings. He has asked us to list the aspects of our report that we could introduce into policy, so we will certainly follow up on that. As a society, we are failing autistic children and their families, and that has a key implication for a huge number of people in our society.

During our inquiry on autism and education in England, we heard that too many families face an uphill struggle to obtain the help and support to which their children are entitled. Children with autism only have one childhood, so there is only one chance of getting it right. The impact of getting it wrong can be far reaching for the rest of their lives. We therefore urge the Government to look carefully at our report, and to develop a national autism and education strategy before the end of 2019 that will support local authorities to become more effective commissioners for children on the autism spectrum and ensure that schools are equipped to ensure that autistic pupils are supported in the way the existing law says they should be. In the words of a suffragette, Emily Wilding Davison, this is about “deeds not words”.

Theresa May – 2018 Speech at Vote 100

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, at Vote 100 at Westminster Hall, in London, on 6 February 2018.

The 6th of February 1918 may not be as well-known or instantly recognisable as the dates of the wars, battles and coronations that have shaped our nation’s history.

But there is no doubt it was a day that forever changed our nation’s future. A day when, for the first time, we went from being a country where most people could not vote to one where most people could.

It was another decade before equal suffrage was achieved.

But on that February day – seven centuries after Magna Carta, almost 90 years after the Great Reform Act – the Mother of Parliaments finally earned the right to call itself a true democracy.

A 1909 postcard published by the Women Writers Suffrage League shows a woman being dragged from the feet of Justice by the masked thug of Prejudice. And so it was in real life.

Because the right to vote was not handed over willingly. Rather it had to be forced, over many years of struggle, from the hands of those who held it for themselves. All around us here today are reminders of what that struggle looked like.

Through that small door away to my right is the cupboard where Emily Wilding Davison hid on census night. Up the stairs is St Stephen’s Hall, where the statue of Viscount Falkland still bears the mark of Margery Humes, who chained herself to its spur.

Outside, beyond the grand arched window, lie New Palace Yard and Parliament Square, scene of such brutality when suffragettes clashed with police on Black Friday. Now these stories now dwell in the history books, dusted off to share with visiting constituents and schoolchildren. Yet in this hall tonight we see the living legacy of the suffrage campaigners. Hundreds of female Parliamentarians, past and present.

Women who serve or have served as ministers and shadow ministers. A female former Speaker of the House of Commons. A female Prime Minister.

A century after women won the right to send MPs to Westminster, nearly all the parties represented here have a female leader or deputy leader.

The women in this hall come from every corner of the country, indeed from right across the world.

We represent many parties and almost every point on the political spectrum.

None of us are exactly alike, none of our stories are the same.

Yet every one of us is here today because of the heroic, tireless struggle of those who came before us.

Women who led a campaign not just for themselves or their families, but for generations as yet unborn.

Of course, women were not the only people brought into public life by the 1918 act.

It also enfranchised, for the first time, more than five million working class men. Men who – for four, bloody years – had been expected to fight and die for their country, yet had not been trusted with the right to choose who governed it.

So the granting of Royal Assent was a truly momentous moment in our history. Yet when it came, the celebrations were muted.

In 1918, Europe was still at war. In the words of Emmeline Pankhurst – the founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union, who I’m proud to say was later adopted as a candidate for the Conservative Party – “the sorrows of the world conflict precluded jubilations”. A century on, we’re putting that right.

And not just this evening. As we’ve heard, the celebrations and commemorations will run all year long, both in here in Parliament and across the country.

In an age where millions around the world are denied the right to vote and millions here at home are apathetic about exercising it, it’s only right that we all learn more about those who fought so hard to extend the franchise.

We don’t hear enough about these Edwardian radicals.

In fact I think for many people, the first time many of us encounter the suffragettes is when we see Mrs Banks in Mary Poppins. It’s certainly an entertaining introduction to the “soldiers in petticoats”. But in terms of detail I think it leaves a little bit to be desired.

We owe such a debt to the suffrage campaigners that they deserve greater recognition. And that’s why, later this year, a statue of Millicent Fawcett will be unveiled in Parliament Square, It’s why the government is also helping to fund a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst in her home town of Manchester.

And it’s why the Government has put £5 million towards events marking this year’s centenary. Events that will recognise and celebrate not just the Pankhursts and the Fawcetts, significant though they were. But also the many other women whose roles are often overlooked. Marion Wallace Dunlop, the illustrator of children’s books who staged the first suffragette hunger strike. Sophia Duleep Singh, the Maharaja’s daughter who faced both sexual and racial prejudice as she played a leading role in the Women’s Tax Resistance League.

Helen Ogston, the “woman with the whip”, who in 1908 was driven from the stage by an angry mob during a suffrage rally in Maidenhead – a town that, many years later, I have the privilege of representing in Parliament. And, of course, the thousands – tens of thousands – of ordinary women and men whose names are lost to history. Some risked arrest and imprisonment. Others were forced out of their jobs. All faced being shunned by family, friends and society.

Yet each played their part in securing a right we should never take for granted – and a right that is still not secure today. Because a century after women were first enfranchised, some are still prevented from taking their place on the electoral roll. Many survivors of domestic abuse are unable to register for fear of revealing their address to an ex-partner. That effectively means the threat of violence is removing women’s right to vote, something that is simply unacceptable. That’s why just before Christmas, the Government laid a series of statutory instruments that will make it easier for those who are at risk of abuse to register and vote anonymously.

Those changes will be debated in the House of Commons tomorrow. I’m sure that, in the week of this significant anniversary for women voters, MPs of all parties will set aside their differences to support this important change.

The need to expand anonymous registration is a reminder that the Act we’re commemorating tonight was only one step on a long journey.

I’m the 54th person to be Prime Minister of this country, but only the second to be a woman. Women make up half the population of this country, yet only a third of its MPs. I’ve long campaigned to get more women into public life at all levels. It’s not about appearances, or even just about giving women an equal chance to get on. I want to see more women in politics and government because greater female representation makes a real difference to everyone’s lives.

The same is true of the many other groups who do not see themselves properly reflected in public life.

People from minority ethnic groups, members of the LGBT community, people with disabilities, or those from less privileged backgrounds. At last year’s election, the proportion of MPs who were educated at comprehensive schools reached a record high – but it’s still just 51 per cent.

So let us celebrate this centenary, and give thanks to those who gave their all so that we might be here today.

But let us also commit ourselves to continuing their work.

To carrying forward the torch they passed to us.

To securing the rights they fought for and ensuring that everyone, regardless of background, is able to play a full and active role in our democracy.

The brave women and men who came before us left us the most precious inheritance.

Now let us all, through words and deeds, be their fitting heirs.

Theresa May – 2018 Speech on Standards in Public Life

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in Manchester on 6 February 2018.

One hundred years ago today British democracy was transformed. With the passage of the Representation of the People Act on 6 February 1918, most women aged over 30 and the 40% of men who did not own property gained the right to vote in Parliamentary elections for the first time, and with it, a say in making the laws of the land.

It was a great expansion of democratic participation – tripling the size of the electorate and empowering voices and perspectives which for centuries had been excluded.

Gender equality at the ballot box was not achieved for another ten years, and I am proud to say under a Conservative government.

But with the 1918 Act, the die was cast.

And it is wonderful to be here in Manchester to mark its anniversary. This great city was one of the centres of activism for women’s suffrage. It was the birthplace and home of one of the icons of the movement, Emmeline Pankhurst. I heard about the campaign for women’s votes from my godmother, whose parents were active in the cause and knew the Pankhursts.

So I am delighted that this year, with funding from the government, a statue of Mrs Pankhurst will be erected in this city as a lasting monument to her courage and vision.

And as Leader of the Conservative Party, and the co-founder of Women2Win, which works to encourage more women to stand for public office, I am proud that Emmeline Pankhurst was one of our pioneers, being selected as the Conservative candidate for the Whitechapel and St Georges constituency in east London in 1928. And the simple fact is that we don’t have nearly enough monuments to the great women of our country’s past – and I am pleased that we are now starting to set that right.

Today we celebrate a huge and irreversible step towards creating a truly universal democracy, and the beginning of a representative public debate.

But I also want to take this opportunity to reflect on the nature of our public life today.

As we remember the heroic campaigners of the past, who fought to include the voices of all citizens in our public debate we should consider the values and principles that guide our conduct today, and how we can maintain a healthy public debate for the future.

For while there is much to celebrate, I worry that our public debate today is coarsening.

That for some it is becoming harder to disagree, without also demeaning opposing viewpoints in the process. I believe that all of us – individuals, governments, and media old and new – must accept our responsibility to help sustain a genuinely pluralistic public debate.

Freedom of speech in a democracy

In that task we build on the finest of traditions and the firmest of foundations. Britain’s liberal democracy has long been respected around the world for its tolerance and decency. It is defined by values which have a universal appeal. Freedom of thought and expression within laws which are democratically made. The competition of ideas leading to collective progress and improvement. Respect for those with different viewpoints.

These principles have been at the heart of the British tradition of liberty for generations. From John Milton at the height of the English Civil War arguing against censorship and in favour of the ‘free and open encounter’ of different opinions, to John Stuart Mill in the nineteenth century, advocating ‘searching for and discovering the truth’ by way of free speech and debate, a philosophy of freedom of expression in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance has been one of this country’s great intellectual gifts to the world.

In an open market-place of ideas in which different viewpoints can coexist and people are free to make the case for their own beliefs opinions can be changed, arguments won and progress achieved.

Votes for Women

Mill, working in collaboration with his wife Harriet Taylor, was a leading advocate of women’s rights. But the cause of women’s suffrage had to overcome entrenched opposition, just to be heard. As an early campaigner, Margaret Wynne Nevinson, wrote:

Sometimes, the hostility of the people was so great that the police were alarmed. Occasionally, we were taken to the police station and kept there for safety till far into the night.

Those who fought to establish their right – my right, every woman’s right – to vote in elections, to stand for office and to take their full and rightful place in public life did so in the face of fierce opposition.

They persevered in spite of all danger and discouragement because they knew their cause was right.

Eventually, through a free and open encounter with the opposing view, the truth of their arguments won the day. And we are all in their debt.

Progress to be proud of

A century on from the first votes for women, we can look back with pride on the enormous strides which we have taken as a society.

A century ago women were forbidden the franchise, could not sit on a jury or be admitted into the professions. Today, I am proud to serve as Britain’s second female prime minister in a Parliament with more female MPs than ever before.

In 2018, the United Kingdom’s most senior judge is a woman. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police is a woman. The Director of the National Crime Agency is a woman. Women serve as England’s Chief Fire Officer and Chief Medical Officer. The CBI and the TUC are both headed by women. At Holyrood, a female First Minister debates against a female opposition leader. In the National Assembly for Wales, a woman leads the third party. The two largest parties in Northern Ireland are led by women. And at Westminster, where suffragettes chained themselves to statues and hid in a broom cupboard on census night, the Leaders of the House of Commons and the House of Lords are women. Black Rod, whose predecessor ejected suffragettes from the palace precincts, is a woman. A century ago the Home Secretary and Director of Public Prosecutions were grappling with the direct action of suffragettes. Today, both those offices are held by women. And just like the movement for women’s votes, many other causes began as marginal and unpopular campaigns. They sent down their first roots into the stony ground of indifference and hostility.

They were championed by courageous people from all parties and none who braved abuse and ridicule, violence and persecution in a tireless quest for justice.

Sixty years ago, being gay was a crime and it was legal to discriminate on the basis of race.

Fifty years ago firms could advertise the same jobs with different salaries for men and women.

Thirty years ago, there was no legal compulsion to provide facilities for disabled people.

Today there are more openly gay people in prominent positions in public life than ever before.

More people from black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds are in Parliament, in the media and business.

And disabled people play a more active role in our society than they ever have.

Real injustices still remain for women, for LGBT people, for black and minority ethnic Britons, for people from poorer families and for people with disabilities.

But if we cast our eyes back to well within living memory, we can see just how far we have come.

These improvements have been achieved through free and open debate leading to progressive, democratic change.

Collectively, they have helped to create an ideal as yet still not fully realised, but closer today than it has ever been of a public sphere where wealth, gender, sexuality, race, and disability present no barrier to full and active participation on a basis of equality.

A society where every voice counts. And when everyone has a say in the laws and policies of our country, everyone benefits. I have seen it in during my years in Parliament. As it has become a more diverse and representative place, it has better reflected the concerns of all sections of society. And in my experience, women often bring a different approach to politics than do men. For women, politics can be as much about listening and learning from others as it is about broadcasting your own views and opinions. And that is all to the good. Because when there isn’t just one way of doing things or one perspective on an issue, our understanding is enriched and we can achieve better outcomes.

The threat to our public debate

But today, the ideal of a truly plural and open public sphere where everyone can take part is in danger. A tone of bitterness and aggression has entered into our public debate. In public life, and increasingly in private conversations too, it is becoming harder and harder to conduct any political discussion, on any issue, without it descending into tribalism and rancour.

Participants in local and national public life – from candidates and elected representatives to campaigners, journalists and commentators – have to contend with regular and sustained abuse.

Often this takes the form of overt intimidation. Social media and digital communication – which in themselves can and should be forces for good in our democracy – are being exploited and abused, often anonymously.

British democracy has always been robust and oppositional. But a line is crossed when disagreement mutates into intimidation. When putting across your point of view becomes trying to exclude and intimidate those with whom you disagree.

Women in the nineteenth century had to contend with open hostility and abuse to win their right to vote in the twenty-first century it cannot be acceptable for any women – or any person – to have to face threats and intimidation simply because she or he has dared to express a political opinion.

Sadly, that has all too often become the case.

A hundred years after bringing all voices – male and female, rich and poor – within our Parliamentary democracy we now face the prospect of our country’s public debate becoming oppressively hostile and participation in it a risk which many are unprepared to run.

We can all see this change happening and I know that many share my concern about it.

Just last week, the Leader of Haringey council resigned, citing, ‘sexism, bullying, undemocratic behaviour and outright personal attacks’ which had left her ‘disappointed and disillusioned.’

It is a depressing coincidence that in the week we are celebrating the first inclusion of women in the democratic process, one of the most senior women in local government has in effect been hounded out of office. In our universities, which should be bastions of free thought and expression, we have seen the efforts of politicians and academics to engage in open debate frustrated by an aggressive and intolerant minority. It is time we asked ourselves seriously whether we really want it to be like this. Whether we are prepared to accept a permanent coarsening and toxifying of our public debate, or whether, together, we will take a stand for decency, tolerance and respect.

Whether we choose to be a society in which we define ourselves by our differences or whether we want to be members of a community of common interest.

Those of us – the vast majority of all political persuasions – who want a healthy and pluralist public debate, where civility and tolerance are the default setting and abuse and intimidation have no place where every voice counts and no one is bullied out of speaking their mind have a responsibility to stand up and help deliver it.

Action we will take

Last year I commissioned the Committee on Standards in Public Life to conduct an investigation into intimidation following last year’s general election.

Their report makes sobering reading.

In this centenary year of votes for women its finding that ‘candidates who are female, black and minority ethnic or LGBT are disproportionately targeted in terms of scale, intensity and vitriol’ is a cause of deep concern. Such abuse risks undermining the diverse democracy which we have built in this country over succeeding generations.

But the committee’s report also points the way forward.

It presents a credible plan of action to help build a more civil public debate and I welcome its recommendations. All of us in public life have a responsibility to challenge and report intimidating behaviour wherever it occurs.

We must all seek to uphold the highest standards of conduct.

We must set a tone in public discourse which is neither dehumanising nor derogatory and which recognises the rights of others to participate.

In word and in deed we should never engender hatred or hostility towards individuals because of their personal characteristics.

And we must not allow disagreements about policy or questions of professional competence to lead to vitriol and hostility.

These responsibilities fall on each of us as individuals, and collectively on the political parties.

My Party has already put in place a new code of conduct for all representatives which puts respect and decency at its core.

And we have proposed that the other political parties follow us in signing a respect pledge for all campaigning, and I hope that they will take us up on that suggestion.

For its part, the government will act on the Committee’s recommendations.

We will take action to make our electoral process more robust and offer greater protections for people taking part in elections.

While intimidation is already a crime, we will consult on making it an offence in electoral law to intimidate candidates and campaigners.

And because some candidates and their families have been targeted for abuse in their own homes, we will extend to candidates for local government the same protection which parliamentary candidates have to keep their home addresses secret.

I can also confirm that the National Police Chiefs Council and the College of Policing will implement each of the recommendations in the report which refer to them.

This includes ensuring a clear standard is set for the police when dealing with intimidation and online activity during an election.

And it is online where some of the most troubling behaviour now occurs.

Social media

Social media is one of the defining technologies of our age. For millions of people, particularly young people, it is the means by which they engage with the world, express opinions and communicate with family and friends. In many cases this is clearly a force for good. More voices can find clearer and wider expression. Campaigns can gain publicity and traction.

Through the ‘Me Too’ movement, victims of sexual harassment and assault have felt empowered to speak out using social media.

But as well as being places for empowering self-expression, online platforms can become places of intimidation and abuse.

This is true for children facing the daily misery of online bullying, where a smartphone allows their persecutors in effect to follow them home and continue to torment them even after school has finished. And it is also true for many adults. This squanders the opportunity new technology affords us to drive up political engagement, and can have the perverse effect of putting off participation from those who are not prepared to tolerate the levels of abuse which exist. The Committee on Standards in Public Life makes a number of recommendations for action which social media companies can take to address this problem.

It sets them a clear challenge to do much more to ‘prevent users of their platforms from being inundated with hostile messages on their platforms, and to support victims of this behaviour.’ The social media companies themselves must now step up and set out how they will respond positively to those recommendations So far, their response has been encouraging, and I hope they will continue in that spirit. For its part, the government will publish our Internet Safety Strategy in the spring. It will set out details of a comprehensive new social media code of practice. It will cover the full range of issues we considered in our green paper – from enforcing community guidelines, to preventing the misuse of services.

It will make it easier for people to report inappropriate, bullying and harmful content when they come across it and ensure that firms have clear policies for taking this content down.

We will also establish a new Annual Internet Safety Transparency Report, to provide UK-level data on what offensive online content is being reported, how social media companies are responding to complaints, and what material is removed.

And to ensure that the criminal law, which was drafted long before the creation of social media platforms, is appropriate to meet the challenges posed by this new technology, the Law Commission will conduct a review of the legislation relating to online offensive communications.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life also called for the government to legislate to shift the liability of illegal content online towards social media companies.

These platforms are clearly no longer just passive hosts of the opinions of others, so we will look at the legal liability that social media companies have for the content shared on their sites.

The issue is far from straightforward, so we will consider carefully what approach we should take.

We are already working closely with international partners and social media companies themselves, to understand how we can make the existing frameworks and definitions work better and assess whether there is a case for developing a new definition for these platforms.

Press sustainability

Changes in technology are also having a profound impact on one of the cornerstones of our public debate – our free press. Good quality journalism provides us with the information and analysis we need to inform our viewpoints and conduct a genuine discussion. It is a huge force for good.

But in recent years, especially in local journalism, we have seen falling circulations, a hollowing-out of local newsrooms and fears for the future sustainability of high-quality journalism. Over 200 local papers have closed since 2005.

Here in Greater Manchester, several local newspapers have closed, including the Salford Advertiser, the Trafford Advertiser and the Wilmslow Express.

This is dangerous for our democracy.

When trusted and credible news sources decline, we can become vulnerable to news which is untrustworthy.

So to address this challenge to our public debate, we will launch a review to examine the sustainability of our national and local press.

It will look at the different business models for high-quality journalism. And because digital advertising is now one of the essential sources of revenue for newspapers, the review will analyse how that supply chain operates. It will consider whether the creators of content are getting their fair share of advertisement revenue. And it will recommend whether industry or government-led solutions can help improve the sustainability of the sector for the future. A free press is one of the foundations on which our democracy is built and it must be preserved.

Tolerance and decency

But the action we need to take to secure our democracy goes far beyond rules and reviews. It goes to the heart of how we conceive of political differences and, more profoundly, how we treat each other. At its best, British public life is characterised by the values which we have traditionally been most proud of as a nation. Fierce rivalry, yes, but also common decency. A rejection of extremism and absolutism. We have seen that spirit most clearly at some of our darkest moments. We saw it during the Second World War, when Conservative and Labour politicians put their rivalries and political differences aside to unite in defence of our common values. And we saw that spirit again recently, when Tessa Jowell made her deeply moving speech in the House of Lords about her own experience of suffering from a brain tumour and what more we can do to help people live well with cancer. She held peers from all parties spellbound, and all responded to a speech of great courage with an acknowledgement of our shared humanity. Because while political differences may separate us, and while those differences may at times be profound, so much more unites us. When we forget that fact, when we harden our hearts against those with whom we disagree when we exaggerate differences, doubt motives, accuse others of bad faith we risk destroying genuine debate and we leave open the path to extremism and intolerance.

We were reminded of that truth so tragically in 2016, when a politically-motivated extremist murdered the MP Jo Cox. Following that outrage, some inspirational words from Jo’s maiden speech rightly entered into our common political lexicon. Describing her experiences as a candidate, the new MP for Batley and Spen, said:

While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.

It is a lesson which we must never forget.

Conclusion

That sentiment chimes much more closely with how the public feel about politics than do shrill and tribal insults. Most people don’t view politics through an ideological prism. They want politicians to work together to improve their lives and our country. They expect disagreements and debate about the best way forward. But they also want practical solutions which will improve people’s lives. As the famous suffragette battle cry put it – they want ‘deeds not words’.

And each day in Downing Street when I pass the framed portraits of my 53 predecessors, 52 of whom were men I focus not on what I can say but on what I can do to make our country a better place.

Negotiating a Brexit deal that respects the vote of the people and delivers a prosperous future for everyone.

Improving our schools, our colleges, and our universities, so every young person in this country, male or female, from every background, has the greatest chance to get on and do well in life.

Tackling the injustices which still hold too many people back.

And as the woman at the head of our country’s government, a century after my grandmothers were first given the right to vote, my mission is clear.

To build that better future for all our people, a country that works for everyone, and a democracy in which every voice is heard.

Matt Hancock – 2018 Speech at Downing Street Charities Reception

Matt Hancock

Below is the text of the speech made by Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, at 10 Downing Street, London, on 5 February 2018.

Hello and welcome to Number Ten.

Firstly, I’d like to apologise that I’m not the Prime Minister…

But it’s an honour to address so many people who do so much, working tirelessly every day, to make life better for the citizens of this country.

For this I would like to thank you and this is a view that is shared by the Prime Minister and the whole Government.

All of you in this room have made a valuable contribution to society, and have helped improve life in your communities through your charitable work.

I applaud all our charities – not only those in the room here today.

Every parliamentarian is aware of the amazing work you do. Just last Friday I was at a Cancer Research UK store in Newmarket in my constituency, where I heard about the fundraising and the research that they do.

After the visit, one of my colleagues who was on the visit came up to me and said that without cancer research funding she wouldn’t be here today.

You do a huge amount to help people in their communities, and respond to those in need wherever they find them.

We all share a mission.

Whether it’s in Government, the public sector or the charitable sector, we are all in our jobs to serve the public and to improve people’s lives. That is what gets us out of bed in the morning.

We all want the same results, and we will achieve them so much more effectively, if we work together. There is so much we can do.

I believe the future lies in greater collaboration, not only between charities and Government, but with business too.

You have all played your part, whether it’s through fundraising, donating, volunteering or making a corporate contribution.

My brilliant colleague Tracey Crouch announced in November that she intends to develop a Civil Society Strategy. I really hope that you will work with her to make this happen.

And just like you found the door today open, my door is always open to you.

Thank you so much again for all your work – this reception is the very least that we can do for you all. Have a wonderful afternoon.

Penny Mordaunt – 2018 Statement on Global Education

Below is the text of the statement made by Penny Mordaunt, the Secretary of State for International Development, in the House of Commons on 2 February 2018.

Developing countries have made huge strides in expanding schooling in recent decades, so that most children are now able to access primary education. The UK has contributed to this impressive achievement: between 2015 and 2017, we supported over 7 million children, including in some of the toughest places in the world.

However, the world is still facing a learning crisis—half of the world’s children are expected to finish primary school without learning basic numeracy and literacy. This amounts to around 387 million children who will not be able to fulfil their potential.

We have a moral obligation to help every child get a decent education—but it is also firmly in the UK’s national interest. Educated populations are an essential element of prosperous and stable countries which will be the UK’s future trading partners.​

The UK is a world leader in support for education in developing countries and, together with France, we have designated 2018 as the global year of learning.

DFID’s new education policy, which I am launching today, sets out my three priorities for action to ensure more children are learning the basics:

We will support efforts to drive up the quality of teaching in developing countries. Skilled, reliable teachers need to be the norm everywhere.

We will support education systems to stand on their own two feet, using resources effectively to ensure children learn.

We will prioritise children with disabilities, children affected by crises and hard-to-reach girls. During this global year of learning, I will also be drawing attention to other aspects of the learning crisis. At the disability summit in July I will highlight the plight of children with disabilities; at UNGA in September, I will call on Governments to stamp out violence against children in school; and at the World Bank annual meetings in October, I will focus on the role that education plays in driving human capital and prosperity.

Today I can confirm that the UK will boost its contribution to £75 million per year for each of the next three years to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). This will be an almost 50% increase in our annual contribution to the GPE and demonstrates our determination to show leadership internationally to get children learning. This funding will provide quality education to 880,000 children each year. Our investment will be used to drive improved performance and efficiency and we have capped our investment at 15% of the overall GPE budget. This new commitment comes in addition to the vital work of DFID directly through its sizeable bilateral programmes on education.

I am proud too of the role the UK is playing globally and proud to lead a Department which is dedicated to making a difference in children’s lives.

A copy of the policy document will be placed in the Library of the House for the availability of Members.