Douglas Alexander – 2009 Speech to Labour Party Conference

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Below is the text of the speech made by Douglas Alexander, the then Secretary of State for International Development, to the 2009 Labour Party conference.

 

Conference, let me begin my remarks by echoing the words of Bob Ainsworth in paying tribute to the men and women of the British armed forces.

I travelled to Afghanistan, most recently this summer, and I’ve seen for myself their dedication, courage, heroism and yes – their sacrifice.

They do us proud – and conference, they deserve all our thanks.

Now conference, I considered coming to speak to you here today and giving a conventional speech that set out a long list of Labour’s achievements in international development since 1997.

And I am proud of that record.

But instead I decided to do something different – to start with a story:

I met a man in southern Ethiopia at a World Food Programme feeding station. He was waiting for his ration, paid for by the British taxpayer.

I asked him – what was his life like in his village?

He told me, with great sincerity:

“We work hard. We eat little. But we all want a better future for our children.”

Conference, what we have in common with him, are the same values that brought all of us into this party.

Our fundamental belief in the equal worth of every human being.

That we understand that there are values beyond contracts, markets and exchange.

We are a party who hold in the highest esteem the values of solidarity, of mutuality, of co-operation, care and concern.

And as a party we have always understood, that the application of those values cannot and must not stop at our borders.

They in fact call us to show solidarity with those suffering poverty and injustice wherever they may be in the world.

We understand that when markets fail, when injustice persists – we are called upon to act.

Labour will never simply walk by on the other side.

And that is why today, in the face of a tsunami and an earthquake in the Pacific – we stand ready to assist, in whatever way we can.

But conference – I fully understand that we have travelled here from communities across this country – every one of which is being directly affected by the worst global economic downturn in sixty years.

And I know that over the last couple of years in my own constituency, indeed right across Britain – people have seen the cost of buying their weekly shopping, the cost of filling their cars, of heating their homes, of getting a mortgage – go up.

So let us pause, and take a look at each of these crises for a moment.

Food crisis. Fuel crisis. Financial crisis.

What in truth unites them all – is that every one of them represents market failure – and more importantly, that no one government, can adequately address them by acting alone.

They are also, at the deepest level, a stark reminder that our fate and fortunes, here in UK, are now bound together with people in distant lands as never before.

And if the global economic downturn threatens the livelihoods of people here in Britain, I have to tell you conference, we must recognise that it is threatening the very lives of people across the developing world.

In fact, the World Bank is estimating that as a result of the financial crisis as many as 100 million more people across the developing world will be trapped in extreme poverty by the end of next year – enduring an existence on less than .25 a day

So when the threat of global poverty is rising – we will not abandon our efforts to make poverty history.

The Labour Party does not step back – we step up for the fight.

Conference, it was Archbishop Desmond Tutu who said that a promise made to the poor is a sacred thing.

And that is why I am so proud, that our Prime Minister, Gordon Brown on Tuesday confirmed that just as we have led the world in legislating for legally binding climate change targets, and have legislated to end child poverty here in the Britain – that we will now legislate to meet the historic 0.7% UN target and meet once and for all our promises to the world’s poorest people.

And conference, why do we do this?

Because each and every day we see the increasing evidence that aid works.

The British people can be immensely proud that our increases in aid, our commitment to debt relief, have in just the last year – ensured that over 100,000 new teachers have been trained, 100,000 have received drugs to tackle HIV/AIDS, almost 7 million anti-malaria bednets have been delivered, and over 3 million children have been vaccinated against measles.

Each one a precious life saved or transformed.

And whatever the cynics say – even they cannot ignore the global progress that has been made.

Before the economic crisis, the number of people living in extreme poverty had fallen from one third of the global population to just a quarter. Real incomes in the developing world have doubled. And in the last decade alone, the number of children in poor countries out of school has dropped by 28 million.

Conference, we can make poverty history.

But conference, I must tell you that the progress we have made is now at serious risk.

For on top of the economic crisis, dangerous climate change threatens to roll back the advances we have made in last decade.

If I have learned one thing over the last couple of years as Development Secretary it is this – that here in the UK we tend to talk about climate change as a future threat.

But in the developing world – in country after country – it’s a contemporary crisis.

Conference, the truth remains that the people with the least responsibility for the present levels of emissions – the poorest people on earth – are being hit first and hit hardest.

Just last month I travelled with my colleague Ed Miliband to Bangladesh to see for ourselves the front line in the battle against climate change.

There we met villagers living on the exposed sandbanks, who told us that rising flood levels from the glaciers melting in the Himalayas now threaten their very existence.

These are people who are showing great tenacity in the face of fundamental changes in their local environment and their way of life – but who without our help could see their livelihoods and their homes – literally swept away.

We must remember those families – and the fact that for them – the seventy days till Copenhagen are not so much a window of opportunity – but literally a window of necessity.

Unless we now tackle dangerous climate change, it will make poverty the future for millions of our fellow citizens on this planet.

So conference, when people tell you there are no great progressive causes left, no great choices – the truth could not be more different.

I want to make absolutely clear to you now – there is no consensus on international development.

There is a world of difference between a party that would simply re-badge the aid budget as climate finance, and a party – our party, the Labour Party – who this year was the first to say that a fair deal on climate change demands additional resources for the world’s poorest people.

There is a world of difference between a party where 96% of its candidates admit that they would not prioritise keeping the aid budget, and a party – our party, the Labour Party –  that would enshrine that promise in the laws of this country.

There is a world of difference between a party who would export privatisation and assisted places to the health and education services of poor countries – and a party, our party, the Labour Party – that has committed to use British aid money to remove user fees and provide strong public services – free at the point of need.

Conference – their party halved the British aid budget – our party is trebling it.

Just a few years ago – I was privileged – along with many of you here today – to hear Nelson Mandela speak in Trafalgar Square – and he challenged the thousands of us who had gathered there that cold February morning.

He said “Sometimes it falls to a generation to be great”

So, what will our generation be remembered for? This is the choice that confronts us.

The fall of the Berlin wall – yes

The rise of the internet – sure.

But why can’t we also be the generation that secures a global deal on carbon?

Why can’t we be the generation that gives every child the chance to go to school?

Why can’t we be the generation that stops children dying from preventable diseases like malaria and diarrhoea – for which we have the cure.

We have the skills. We have the knowledge. We have the technology.

The question is – as it has always been – do we have the political will?

Well conference – I can tell you now – we do.

We are the party who understand this moment in history.

We are the party who have the values and the commitment to deliver.

We are the party who can help make poverty history.

So let us leave this conference strong in our resolve, united in our purpose, and determined to secure a victory.

Not just for the people of this country – but for all of those in need of a just and fairer world.

Douglas Alexander – 2009 Speech to Progress Conference

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Below is the text of the speech made by Douglas Alexander to the 2009 Progress conference.

 

Good morning and thank you.

I’m grateful to Progress for organising this conference today. Its often said that politics involves both a battle of ideas and a battle of organisation. Progress as an organisation has been vital to both of those endeavours for the Labour Party over recent years, a nd so let me begin by thankig progress for all of its past work, as well as the organisation of this timely and important conference.

Now this morning – in the finest traditions of webinteractivity, I want to start a discussion with you rather than simply offer a speech. And the three central premises that I want to offer, and which shapes my contribution to our discussion are these…

First, this morning I want to argue that far from being a revolutionary phenomena that has and will change everything I want to suggest that new media is in fact giving fresh impetus to old ideas.

Second, I’m going to argue that we need to use technology not as a means of control but as a tool for empowerment.

And finally, I’m going to argue that the media isn’t the message and that in fact the use of new media is not a substitute for a message that resonates with the public.

But lets start with the political context of today’s conference.

Put bluntly, as we always knew, winning a fourth term for Labour will be difficult but is definitely doable.

As Labour’s General Election co-ordinator, I’m under no illusions about the scale of the challenge we face

The polls at the moment are making for tough reading.

We will have less money to spend on the next campaign than any of the last three.

And after a decade in office, we do not have the numbers of members and activists that we had in the past.

Every election is different. But one thing we can be sure of, is that simply doing more of the same, will not be enough.

And that is a real challenge for us, because most political parties – ourselves included – only manage to innovate effectively in their campaigning after what I call near death experiences.

It’s unlikely we would have managed the scale of change we did between 1992 and 1997 had we not had the spur of repeated defeat.

So our strategy for a fourth term will be a huge test of our will, our appetite, indeed our hunger for the power we need to transform people’s lives. For we need to innovate after success, not defeat.

And here necessity and opportunity meet…for new media is going to be central to in the next election campaign.

And developing new approaches in new circumstances is not new for us – in many watys it has been the hallmark of new labour over the years.

That’s why people like Alistair Campbell, Philip Gould, and politicians like Gordon Brown and Tony Blair almost twenty years ago went over to the States to learn from the Clinton campaign about new ways of campaigning> and they came home with a suitcase full of new tools and techniques that shaped our campaigning for years – the benefits of running a campaign from an open plan war room;

– of using soundbites during media interviews;

– of issuing daily lines to take;

– of rapidly rebutting inaccurate stories, and

– of using pagers to get messages out quickly.

This kind of ‘command and control’ approach to campaigning was a key part of the campaign organisation that Millbank came to embody in 1997.

And to a certain extent we are still victims of our past election success – where too many MPs and candidates have come to rely on the national campaign, led from HQ, to assume the responsibility of securing victory.

So one of our key tasks in the months ahead is to build capacity and to create a culture change across our party and the wider progressive Labour movement.

We need MPs, candidates and local parties – more than ever – to own and feel responsible for the next campaign.

That is surely the essence of ‘Labour 2.0’.

Lets take a moment to understand why this is so possible and so necessary.

New media gives us the chance to reach out to far greater numbers of people, in a far more personalised way.

Ten years ago just one in ten people in the UK used the internet. Today, 75 per cent of people are online – part of a worldwide community of some 1.4 billion.

eMarketer estimates that there are 19.5 million men and 18.6 million women in the UK using the Internet. They project that men will retain their majority for the next five years but as more women aged 55 and older become internet users, the male bias in the UK web population will decrease.

Ofcom says that women aged 25-34 are spending more time online than men.

Men and women alike are increasingly turning away from traditional mass media. Over the last ten years the ratings for the 6 O’clock news have fallen by a third. Newspaper circulation over the same period fell by almost a quarter and the projections are that they will fall further.

In contrast, nine out of 10 graduates have broadband and three-quarters of people under 30 would rather lose their TV than their internet connection.

People aren’t just moving their reading, viewing and listening habits online, they are changing the way they interact with media. Wikipedia would not exist without its 75,000 active contributors, providing articles in more than 260 languages. There is a new blog invented every second.

And at the same time major political parties are seeing traditional forms of membership decline.

Now no doubt like all of us I’m looking forward to hearing what Joe Rospars has to say later… and for me, the Obama campaign, holds powerful lessons in how we could use digital media to campaign.

But amidst all the well earned admiration some have suggested that the Obama campaign has rewritten every rule of political engagement. But I don’t think that’s right.

The Obama campaign’s success was both more partial and more powerful. For when I met a rang of the senior team in Washington last month, they described to me how not everything was different and that in fact they had used emails, text messages and social networking as new channels to pursue old political truths.

Instead of replacing traditional campaigning activities, they used online tools to consciously create a pathway for people to get involved with traditional community activism.

Organising events, knocking on doors, making phone calls.

Because getting people to do these traditional things is still vital to winning the battle of organisation in precincts and wards, in constituencies and countries.

The battle of organisation – new media giving fresh impetus to old ideas

And like in so many other areas of our life, the internet is lowering the barrier to entry in the battle of organisation. Now if you want to organise a local campaign, you don’t need to book the community hall, raise the cash and print the leaflets and then find the caretaker with the key.

New media allows this type of organisation at almost zero cost.

It gives us new tools that help our MPs and candidates to position themselves as the centre of community hubs.

One of our candidates – Stella Creasy in Walthamstow, who is speaking later today – is building her lists of local residents and has managed to collect another couple of hundred this week alone. In all likelihood she couldn’t get 2,000 leaflets delivered each week but she can distribute 2,000 e-newsletters.

The data-capture of those email addresses is what makes cost effective and personalised communication possible. But how we use that data is also crucial.

Every piece of campaign communication needs to show people, not tell people, that our candidates are offering useful resources and helpful information about things that have resonance in the local community.

If our candidates don’t think clearly and carefully about why people would engage with them, either on-line or off-line, it doesn’t matter how stylish their websites are or how open their blogs are to un-moderated comments.

The challenge for progressives is to use the full range of digital tools to advance our causes and build our base. And, perhaps most importantly, to engage with people in a space that they already inhabit.

One of our MPs, in a marginal seat in Kent – Jonathan Shaw, MP for Chatham and Aylesford – has used digital media to support a local campaign to save commuter train services.

He ran passenger surveys and consulted constituents by standing at the train station during rush hour – collecting their comments and email addresses. He then persuaded the Managing Director of the Train Company to agree to come on a train with him and be filmed with Jonathan putting the concerns of his constituents to him.

He then posted the video to YouTube and on his website and emailed everyone who had commented to let them know that the MD had responded to their concerns and that they could watch what he said.

It was a traditional community campaign but it was brought to life by new technology and a great combination of on-line and off-line mediums.

Then there’s Liam Byrne’s ‘Rubbish TV’ – where he uses youtube to highlight the council’s poor refuse collection service. And only the other day, I recorded a film for ‘Derek Wyatt TV’ explaining the Government’s humanitarian response to the crisis in Gaza.

Nationally, we need to learn from this type of local best practice.

For let’s be honest, until the advent of the internet – and particularly social networking – national politics has suffered from a problem of scale. A problem which we met with the blunt instrument of the mass media.

We used interruption communication – forcing our message on people at the time and in the place we felt they would object to it least. Interrupting them on the way to work via a poster, or as they were doing their shopping via a leaflet, or before or after they watched the news via a Party Election Broadcast.

And so one of the many impressive things about the Obama campaign’s social networking site – MyBarackObama.com – was the way it worked as a user friendly tool – providing news of events in members’ local communities. It also provided maps to find local voters and scripts to use in conversation with them. It enabled supporters to organise some 200,000 of their own events – with no central control.

It was a tool that people used to construct their own politics.

It showed that politicians no longer own politics. And I believe that’s a good thing.

By encouraging people with no formal link with the campaign to become advocates, the Obama team lent a power to their message that just can’t be matched by TV ads – word of mouth. And it lent a democratic credence to their candidate.

Trying to buy your way into a social network really does show that they just don’t get it.

Labour’s new media team – led by Sue MacMillan – is currently in the process of overhauling ‘Members-Net’. Once, just a password protected section of our website, it will soon have a full social networking capability that will be compatible with Facebook.

So if activists organise events on Facebook they can seamlessly transfer them to Members-Net and visa versa.

Another new innovation is ‘Labourspace’ – the policy-campaign social networking site which allows people to promote their own campaigns and pitch ideas for our manifesto.

Online phone banking is an innovation that Democrats used to great effect – and its good that Labour has now introduced one of our own. Already, we have hundreds of activists, making thousands of phone calls to voters in the same constituency in which they live. And they’re doing it from the comfort of their own homes.

That’s the future of telephone canvassing. And it’s a long way from my first experience of it in freezing Teamsters hall in North Philadelphia – where I volunteered on the Dukakis campaign back in 1988!

The battle of ideas – new media is not a substitute for a message that resonates with the public.

And my early experience of that losing Dukakis campaign taught me something else as well. Ideas and ideology really matter in politics. Dukakis never really got that. He declared mid campaign that “This campaign is about competence, not ideology…” and he lost.

And the same truth endures today – New media is not a substitute for a message that resonates with the public.

What matters, is the political arguments we make. Not whether we are using Facebook or Twitter but what we are saying both online and offline.

Whether we’re using email or social networking sites…

Whether we’re using surveys, street stalls or surgeries….

It’s about building relationships with voters…

And it’s about showing them how they can get involved in what we’re fighting for.

Because we fight elections not to change Governments but to change lives.

At the start of this Parliament, the Right used single issue campaign groups like the Taxpayers Alliance and the Migration Watch to run down public services and to play on people’s fears. And let’s face it. The Right were the first movers into the online space – using a host of blogs to advance their ideology.

But a lot has changed in recent month not just in the battle of organisation, but also in the battle of ideas… I was struck by how the public conversation was changing last November when I was on the Panel of Question Time in Basildon, and was being shouted at to nationalise the banks!

Since last autumn, fundamental questions have been raised about the right relationship between markets and governments, between economics and politics, between wealth and power. And in this process it is the orthodoxies of the right that have been found wanting.

Across the globe the Right has been disoriented and diminished by both the financial crisis and the global downturn. In the current climate of global economic uncertainty, our progressive ethics of fairness, stewardship and co-operation have returned to the fore.

So I am confident that Britain needs Labour responses today, even more than in 1997. Our Labour values, of solidarity and collectivism are the ones that can ensure that we come through these tough times without leaving behind the most vulnerable in society.

We are still the party of the many, not the few. The right finds itself stranded in the wrong intellectual space. You can’t privatise, deregulate or even nudge your way out of a global financial crisis.

As a response they are now smply echoing public fears but offering no solutions. They have made a tactical political calculation that they can offer a critique without an alternative.

Now the polls at present are certainly reflecting people’s very real anxieties about losing their jobs or their homes during this downturn. But beneath headline voting intentions, polling also reflects that the public can see that without Labour’s action, things would be much, much worse. And they also understand that the right have nothing to offer, other than to oppose our action and let the recession run its course.

These are unprecedented times. None of the political parties have a map for the uncharted waters that lie ahead – but on the centre left, we have a compass

We have done the right thing:

– by protecting people’s savings,

– by giving the economy a shot in the arm,

– by doing all we can to help people keep their jobs and their homes, and

– by working to claw back bonuses from bankers and prevent rewards for failure.

Now we need to keep our values front and centre, as we look to the future.

Because we will get through this recession and we will need a manifesto that builds on our achievements but also sets out a fresh agenda for the next Parliament and the next economic cycle.

Our progressive values must underpin our commitment to a low carbon, technology rich, globally competitive future for our economy

This is a moment of great challenge – domestically and internationally – but one for which the best response are provided by our enduring progressive values

So, in conclusion, lets be clear.

The next election won’t simply be won online.

But new technology is lowering the barriers to entry. It’s making organising cheaper and easier.

And because voting is and will remain a political act, it wont be the communication of the media that can win us the election, but the communication of our message.

Douglas Alexander – 2007 Speech at Chatham House Aviation Conference

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Below is the text of the speech made by the then Transport Secretary, Douglas Alexander, at the Chatham House Aviation Conference on 6th March 2007.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen.

I’m very pleased to be here today alongside such a distinguished international line-up of speakers and delegates – and I’d like to thank the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, for organising such an important event.

I understand that this is the first time that Chatham House has organised a conference focused on international aviation.

Outsiders may well be wondering what aviation has got to do with inter-governmental foreign relations.  And they may be asking why aviation is of more concern to diplomats or foreign ministries than other international businesses?

To answer those questions we need to go back 60 years.

For right or wrong, the system of bilateral air service agreements which sprung up following the signature of the Chicago Convention in 1944 effectively made international aviation a tool of foreign policy.

Traffic rights became a hard-won prize to be gained through diplomatic negotiations between sovereign nations.  For many countries, protecting a weak, often state-owned, national flag carrier from foreign competition became an overriding objective.

Frequencies on a particular route were restricted to the maximum that the weakest carrier could operate.  No-one paid any attention to the needs of the passenger, or the potential of the market.  Too many passengers chased too few seats – at prices that were too high.

And there were other consequences.  As traffic rights became scarce, nations became unwilling to share them with carriers from other countries.

So the whole question of effective ownership and airline control arose.  The only airlines that benefited from a country’s traffic rights were those owned by its citizens.

At least – when most carriers were nationalised – airline ownership was transparent, and easy to understand.

But with global share ownership and the global flow of capital we’re witnessing today, the situation is far more opaque.

Increasingly, control rules have prevented the airline industry from fulfilling its full potential.

And so we continue to pay the penalty for holding on to an outdated system of regulation.

I believe that aviation should be free to operate like any other competitive, globalised business, consistent with high standards of safety and – yes – environmental responsibility.

So I’d like to talk today about the process and politics of the liberalisation of air services, and I hope dispel some of the myths you may have heard about both liberalisation in general, and the British government’s standpoint in particular.

Yesterday I know that you held an interesting and useful session on regulatory open skies.

Open skies – certainly as the United States uses the term – may well help by removing restrictions on routes and frequencies, but we need to go further, because it does nothing to deal with the issue of ownership and control.

The ultimate prize is an open aviation area – such as we have in the European Union today – with all restrictions on operations and investment lifted between participating countries.

And why is this so important?  Well, as IATA’s 2003 policy statement on liberalisation made clear, airlines need the same access to capital and the same flexibility to serve global markets as those enjoyed by corporations in other sectors.

The benefits would be enormous.  For example, as Commissioner Barrot has outlined, it has been estimated that an EU/US open aviation area could be worth up to 12 billion euros in economic benefits.

Airlines – some of the most capital intensive businesses in the world – would be able to access global capital markets, rather than being restricted to those from their home country.  And airline groupings could move beyond the fragile frameworks of today’s alliances to full co-operation and, where justified, consolidation.

I know that many airlines, including those here today, share that view.

But other commentators continue to oppose liberalisation, based on the sort of myths we heard in Europe when we started creating our own common aviation area.

Back then, we were told that liberalisation would lead to the gradual erosion of services to smaller airports.  But in Europe we have seen precisely the opposite.  The development of low-cost airlines and secondary airports has opened up a tremendous number of new routes and opportunities for travel.

Let me deal with another myth – that liberalisation is bad for employees.  In 2004, the UK Civil Aviation Authority studied the effects of liberalisation on airline employment.

They found it had paved the way for a growth in the market which far outweighed any localised job losses caused by the initial restructuring of operators to take advantage of that liberalised market.

Between 1992 and 2001, direct airline employment in Europe rose by 6%.  And there was no evidence to suggest that Europe’s higher-wage economies suffered, with France, the UK and Austria all showing some of the highest rates of growth.

Ironically, where airlines did fail, the ownership and control restrictions on non-EU national carriers probably contributed to the scale of job losses – because it reduced the potential for mergers with, or acquisitions by, other airlines.

Finally, let’s lay to rest two other popular misconceptions– that liberalisation is bad for safety, and detrimental to national security.  Of course airlines need to be regulated to ensure, among other things, their continued safe operation.

They must be registered and regulated in a place where they do a substantial part of their business, to ensure they comply with established international and national standards.  That’s our system in Europe, backed up by common EU rules, audited and checked by the European Aviation Safety Agency.

I’ve also heard some frankly outlandish arguments about the threat to national security if airline ownership or control passes into foreign hands.  Most developed nations have provisions in competition law for placing conditions on mergers or acquisitions to protect their national security interests.

And in a world where governments have been prepared to allow many other strategic assets – such as water, energy, telecommunications and even defence industries – to be owned by foreign nationals, I really don’t see why the airline industry should be any different.

So, how do we get from today’s largely-closed system to one where the benefits of liberalisation can spread beyond the borders of Europe?

I accept that much of the rest of the world does not yet share our vision.  That means – even if airlines can be opened up to foreign investment under the rules of their home state – they still face the loss of traffic rights with third countries if foreign nationals acquire a majority stake in them.

This means that unilateral action – although bravely taken by some, such as New Zealand – is not likely to be effective.  And, of course, it runs the risk of delivering commercial advantages to those who would benefit from liberalisation abroad while failing to deliver it at home.

So we need to move forward together, with concerted action at international level.  And what better example to set the rest of the world than such an agreement between the European Union and the United States?

Which brings me to the current status of EU-US aviation negotiations.  I know others have given you their views in earlier sessions; now let me take this opportunity to give you mine.  As you will appreciate, with over 40% of the EU-US market, the UK has a particular interest in the outcome of these discussions.

Last week in Brussels, EU and US negotiators held their 12th round of formal consultations.  I welcome the efforts of the negotiators on both sides, and I welcome the improvements that have been secured to the draft text agreed back in November 2005.

We’re still looking at the draft text, and yesterday I held discussions with both Commissioner Barrot and, on behalf of the Presidency of the EU, the German Federal Minister of Transport, Wolfgang Tiefensee. Amidst these discussions, I am very aware of the range of views that our stakeholders have – and which have been expressed to this conference by previous speakers.

Like Commissioner Barrot – I do not take lightly the significant economic benefits that would flow from such an agreement. But given past discussions, I also recognise that the deal on the table falls short of providing the kind of access to the US market that a number of EU carriers would like.

What we really need is a level playing field – so both European and US industries are able to compete fairly with each other.  Geographically and economically, the EU and US represent broadly equivalent markets.

And if a US carrier can operate from New York to London and on to Frankfurt, but an EU carrier can’t operate from London to New York and on to – say – San Francisco, then there remains work to be done.

Now, I am fully aware of the political and legal difficulties surrounding cabotage rights in the US.  That’s why – with the encouragement of the US – we looked at the relaxation of ownership and control restrictions.

As you all know, that process failed in the face of political opposition in Washington.  And, as Virgin Group and its US partners are finding out right now, it’s not easy for a foreign national to enter into an agreement with US investors to set up a new, domestic US airline.

Even if that person is a highly successful entrepreneur with a proven track-record in running popular airlines, it seems that certain incumbents will still encourage the Department of Transportation to use all the legal means at their disposal to block him.

The message that response has sent across the Atlantic is an unfortunate one – that many in the US would rather hold on to ownership and control rules passed more than 60 years ago than adapt to the 21st century – and enjoy all the benefits that a more open approach would bring.

The EU has recognised for some time that, with the current political climate in the US, we are not likely to get a full, transatlantic, open aviation area in one step.  That is why we have been prepared to contemplate a phased approach.

But to take forward that phased approach, we have to be satisfied that there is a clear mechanism in place, with real incentives on both sides, to reach the fully open market that we all judge to be the best way forward.

That’s the issue I and my fellow EU transport ministers will discuss in Brussels later this month.

As you will understand, I am not going to pre-empt those discussions here today.  But let me conclude my remarks by restating that the UK has been clear – right from the start – that we are prepared to end the highly restrictive Bermuda II arrangements, as part of the right multilateral deal – to open our skies, and unlock real benefits for our airlines, our passengers and our economies.

Douglas Alexander – 2007 Speech to Chamber of Shipping Annual Dinner

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Below is the text of the speech made by the then Transport Secretary, Douglas Alexander, to the Chamber of Shipping Annual Dinner held on 22nd January 2007.

 

Mr President, Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you Maurice for inviting me to address you and your guests here this evening.

It’s a great pleasure to be here at the Chamber of Shipping Annual Dinner for the first time as Secretary of State for Transport.

This is an event that reflects the breadth and scope of the maritime industry in Britain.

In such a diverse sector, the Chamber is an influential and unifying force with a powerful voice.

You help unite shoreside workers and seafarers; ship owners and unions; passenger and freight operators and the ports sector; industry and Government.

And united, the maritime sector is tremendously influential – a crucial part of our transport heritage, and a crucial part of our transport future.

Vital to our economy, and vital to our prosperity.

Since 1997, this country has enjoyed the longest sustained period of economic growth in its history. During that time, the number of ships on the UK register has more than quadrupled.

Today, your industry directly employs more than a quarter of a million people, and shipping has overtaken air transport as the third largest service sector for export earnings.

That’s a terrific success story – and we want to see you continue to build on that success.

We want shipping to strengthen its position as an integral part of our transport network, and an integral part of our economy.

Growing your market by continuing to improve the service you offer. Effectively competing with rail air and roads for freight and passenger business, but also linking up with these other forms of transport, helping to make the UK logistics and distribution sector one of the most sophisticated in the world.

If we’re to achieve this vision, then we need to deal with two major challenges. These are dealing effectively with the impact of carbon emissions on the environment, as we move towards the low carbon economy outlined so compellingly by Sir Nicholas Stern in his review last year; and the challenge of globalisation.

The publication of the Stern Report recently should have left everyone in no doubt about the environmental battle we face.

It’s more important than ever that shipping becomes more fuel efficient, takes full advantage of greener technologies, and better mitigates the adverse consequences of fuel use, to help us fight climate change.

Even though shipping has been seen as an environmentally-friendly form of transport in the past, accelerating world trade means that maritime emissions are increasing – while other modes are making great technological strides to cut harmful emissions – particularly carbon emissions that increase the threat of climate change.

Of course standards to improve the environmental impact of the maritime sector must continue to be vigorously developed internationally through the IMO.

As with aviation, shipping is a global business, and is best regulated internationally.

We are already playing a leading role in persuading states within the IMO to limit CO2 emissions from ships – and will continue to do so. We worked closely with industry last year to develop a paper to encourage the international maritime community to embrace emissions trading.

Progress, unfortunately, has not been smooth – other countries do not share our ambitions – but we must continue to press home this important message.

The message is clear: global regulation for a global industry. But that brings with it some domestic responsibilities.

Which brings me on to the second great challenge we share – the challenge of globalisation.

Just as shipping is well positioned to improve its environmental credentials, so it’s well positioned to become ever more competitive in the global market.

Competing with the best, on quality and reputation. Adding value – not by undercutting competitors, but by going upmarket, and by being better.

I know that you share my vision of an industry that pushes even harder for safer, cleaner ships; an industry that embraces technological change, and offers peerless customer service; a thoroughly professional industry – that can offer more well-qualified youngsters attractive life-long careers.

In many of these areas, you already set high standards and continue to make excellent progress across the board.

The Merchant Navy Training Board and Sea Vision have done some great work in promoting seafaring careers, and the Foundation Degree has had a very promising start since its launch last year.

But the UK is still facing a long-term decline in employed seafarers, and so the challenge is to stimulate the number of applicants, and ensure training is of a consistently high standard across the sector.

Of course, the Maritime Labour Convention will play a crucial role in making maritime careers more attractive to youngsters.

Many of you here tonight deserve credit for your work developing the Convention – a landmark for seafarers across the world – covering issues like health, safety, minimum age, hours of work and crew accommodation.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done to bring this Convention to life and we will work with you closely with you to ensure that the UK plays its part in making it work for the widest achievable benefit of all.

Although in many areas the UK meets or exceeds Convention standards, there are areas where we need to improve.

Corporate Social Responsibility, for example, is vital to improving social, economic and environmental standards.

That means doing more than the bare minimum needed to comply with legal requirements.

Better crew standards lead to safer ships.

Safer ships lead to fewer accidents.

And fewer accidents mean less cost.

We need to continue working together to engage on matters that have an impact on coastal communities – like protecting marine and coastal environments.

We need to set our sights high. Set the standards to which the rest of the world aspires.

And that means different parts of this great industry must work together…..

Government setting the framework for growth and improvement; for maritime safety and pollution control; and regulating ports…..

Industry implementing changes, raising standards, improving profitability, working towards our shared vision for a world-class maritime sector.

Of course, the Chamber of Shipping has done a great deal to represent your interests – on issues like the Marine Bill and the EU Maritime Green Paper, for example.

I’d like to say thank-you – to the Chamber, and to you, its members – for a job well done over the past few years.

I’ve no doubt that you will rise to the challenges of the future – the ‘greening’ of transport, and global competition – and in doing so, you will play a major role in supporting another decade of economic success in Britain.

Douglas Alexander – 1997 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

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Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Douglas Alexander in the House of Commons on 16th December 1997.

 

I am grateful for this opportunity to make my maiden speech in a debate on the national minimum wage, for it is a subject of the greatest importance to many of my constituents.

It is a convention of the House that a new Member should pay tribute to his predecessor. Even if there were no such convention, I would be determined to pay tribute to Gordon McMaster, the Member of Parliament for Paisley, South from 1990. I did not know Gordon well, although it is a matter of pride to me that on the day in 1990 when Margaret Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister I was campaigning for his election on the streets of Paisley. Christmas came early for the voters of Paisley that year, but it was to be another seven years before they had a Government who reflected their will and the will of the people of Scotland. During those years, Gordon came to be viewed throughout the constituency with real pride and affection for his concern and commitment to his constituents.

Like his father before him, Gordon was a gardener by trade. Before entering the House, he played a significant role in establishing a highly successful initiative, Growing Concern, which combined his love of gardening with providing opportunities for disabled people to learn about horticulture. When he entered the House, Gordon’s long-standing commitment to disability issues was reflected in his parliamentary life. He served both as Front-Bench spokesman on disabled people’s rights and as secretary to the all-party disablement group. He was a credit to his parents, Willy and Alison, to his constituency and to the House.

In his work in Parliament and the constituency, Gordon upheld the tradition of service of my first Member of Parliament, Norman Buchan—Gordon’s predecessor. During my childhood, Norman was a frequent visitor to my home. His inspirational conversation and his commitment to socialism in part explain my presence in the House today.

My constituency, which both men represented in their day, is in the county of Renfrewshire. Having grown up and lived there for almost 20 years, I was especially honoured to be chosen by the Labour party to contest the seat and to be given so much support by so many.

The constituency that I have the privilege to represent is proud of its industrial heritage and the hard work of its people: the mills of Paisley, the carpet factory at Elderslie, the town of Johnstone, where the first machine tool foundry in the world was established. The people of my constituency embody many of the best qualities of the west of Scotland—a willingness to work hard, a sustaining sense of humour and an instinctive sense of community at all times.

I am proud of those traditions from the past, but I know that it is the future that matters. In this new economy, all that my constituents ask is to be given the chance to contribute their talents and skills to the work of the nation. Certainly, there are already successes. Paisley university faces the new century as a proud and ambitious institution. Renfrewshire continues its success in manufacturing; indeed, the county produces a third of all Scotland’s manufactured exports. This is the pattern for the 21st century, when we shall have to produce the highest quality goods and services and sell them in an ever more competitive global market.

While traditional industries in the constituency have largely gone, many people in the work force are not equipped with the skills to contribute to, and benefit from, these new successes. To attempt to compete from a position of low skills and low wages offers not a route forward but a route back—back to unemployment, poverty and social division. I must report that more than 2,300 people in the constituency are officially unemployed, almost 600 of them under the age of 25. When they look for work at the local jobcentre, they see positions with hourly wages as low as £2.50 an hour for a cleaner, or £2.80 an hour for a kitchen assistant.

That is why the Bill matters urgently to the people of Paisley, South. For my constituents, it is a matter not of wanting a national minimum wage but of needing one. For 18 years, we had a Government who advanced the idea that the price of greater prosperity was greater inequality and who tried to frighten people out of their commitment to fairness. I am therefore impelled to speak my mind, not solely by anger but by a sense of urgency, to end injustice and to give opportunity to people who have had to wait too long for a Government who are on their side.

The new Government’s proposals offer hope to the people of my constituency. Our victory on 1 May offers an historic opportunity to end the centuries old injustice of poverty pay. I was reminded of just how old the struggle to win decency in the workplace is when, on the night of my election, I entered Paisley town hall to await the result. As I entered the building, I passed the statue of Robert Tannahill, the weaver poet of Paisley. Almost two centuries ago, he was forced to leave the town in search of a living wage. My constituents know all too well that the evil of poverty pay is still with us as we approach the 21st century.

When people look back at our time, let the national minimum wage be the monument by which they remember our commitment to dignity and decency in the workplace. The Government’s Low Pay Commission will bring together businesses, large and small, with employees’ representatives to settle the level of the minimum wage. There will, of course, be a debate about that level, but let there be decisiveness about the principle for the national minimum wage is not an exercise in compassion. It is an investment in our future. It forms an essential part of the Government’s strategy to provide opportunity to work, to ensure that work pays, and to allow advancement through the acquisition of skills. It is a strategy based on the understanding that in the new global economy prosperity is not won at the price of social justice. I am reminded that many of the countries with higher per capita incomes have achieved their success on the foundation of a national minimum wage.

At the age of 15, I joined the Labour party in Renfrewshire because I believed in the values and ideals which had for generations taken members of my family into the Labour movement: a commitment to the belief that while we cherish our individuality we are part of a community with shared responsibilities and linked destinies, and the belief that wealth, power and opportunity should be in the hands of the many and not the few. The Bill advances those historic ideals in the modern economy, and that is why I and my constituents will support it.

Danny Alexander – 2014 Speech to UK Oil and Gas Industry

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Below is the text of the speech made by Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, to the Oil and Gas UK’s annual conference in Aberdeen on 12th June 2014.

 

Good morning.

Thank you Malcolm for that very kind introduction.

You and your colleagues at Oil & Gas UK are doing a first rate job.

And I want to commend you – for the hard work that you do – representing the oil and gas industry.

Whilst we might not always agree on everything…

… you are an influential voice speaking for the interests of the sector.

So for me it is a great honour to address your first annual conference.

And it’s a great pleasure to be invited to do so in Aberdeen.

This is one of the UK’s greatest cities.

As well as being a beautiful and welcoming city with a long history…

… Aberdeen also feels exciting.

It’s the excitement of being somewhere that is a real global hub of expertise.

It’s a bit like being in Silicon Valley in California or at the Science Park in Cambridge…

… a feeling that you are somewhere where the combination of ingenuity, endeavour, expertise, and entrepreneurship can achieve things previously thought impossible.

Because that is what you do – day in and day out.

Whether you are geologists, chemists or civil engineers.

Working on transportation, retail or professional services.

Upstream, midstream or downstream.

You are all doing something extraordinary.

Working against the elements – in one of the most adverse natural environments in the world.

To extract and deliver energy to millions of people across this planet.

To me that is a victory of human enterprise over natural adversity.

As a schoolboy in Lochaber in the 1980s – I know it is what attracted so many of my classmates to work in your sector.

And it’s why today, I know I speak on behalf of the whole UK government when I say…

… that I have – and we have – deep admiration for what your industry does.

You provide almost half a million jobs.

You supply enough energy to meet almost 40% of our country’s primary needs.

You have a world-class supply chain – renown internationally for its expertise and technical capability – particularly in key sectors like subsea, for example.

Your success is a critical part of the long-term economic plan that is bringing growth and jobs to every part of the UK.

This is precisely why the oil and gas industry is one of the UK’s global success stories…

… and why the coalition government has pulled out all the stops…

… and done everything we can…

… to support you.

The North Sea is a hugely important asset to our country.

Our goal is simple to articulate – but hard to achieve – to maximise the benefits that the North Sea can bring to our economy.

That means getting out every last drop of oil and gas that we can.

And in doing that, two key principles have underpinned our approach towards your industry.

The first has been to help you cope with the rising costs of extraction.

Because we know that in smaller, more remote fields it will cost more.

We have done that by introducing and extending field allowances.

That has included a whole range of initiatives:

– doubling the value of the small field allowance

– introducing a £500 million allowance for large shallow-water gas fields

– £3 billion allowance to support investment in large and deep fields, in particular at West of Shetland

– introducing an allowance for incremental investment in older fields

– a new allowance for onshore oil and gas projects

– creating a new cluster allowance for ultra high-pressure, high-temperature projects – something Oil & Gas UK themselves described as a “game changer” for the North Sea

And the impact of all of that has been significant.

Oil & Gas UK calculate that – last year alone – our field allowances directly supported around £7 billion worth of investment in the North Sea.

They have also supported over 100,000 jobs across the industry…

…. around half of them in Scotland.

And our allowances continue to have a positive impact.

Only today, a substantial new project by Premier Oil has received final approval.

The Catcher Project will see £1.5 billion of new investment and over 1,000 new jobs.

The CEO of Premier, Simon Lockett, is clear that the project “has been facilitated by the government’s small field allowances”.

I am very proud – that it is the policies of the UK government that are allowing and enabling this to happen.

The second principle underpinning our approach has been to provide your industry with greater certainty about the future.

That certainty is crucial to your continued success over the coming decades.

That is why, in 2012, we introduced a new approach…

… we were the first government in history to fully commit to future decommissioning tax relief.

With new contracts to give you certainty about the future costs you will face.

So far 61 deeds have been signed…

… a process we expect to help unlock billions of pounds worth of new investment.

Again, by thinking for the long-term, providing therefore jobs and growth today.

But the future does also holds other risks.

As the basin matures…

… production efficiency has been declining…

… fewer wells are being drilled.. . … and over future years other challenges will arise too.

And yet the opportunities are huge as well.

We are determined to work together with you to help make the UK a hugely attractive and exciting place to invest.

That is why the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, asked Sir Ian Wood to conduct his review into how to increase oil and gas production.

Sir Ian is a titan of your industry, and we should all be enormously grateful for the vision he has set out.

He recommended that a new independent agency should be set up to maximise economic recovery by increasing collaboration across the industry.

And between government and industry.

Today I can announce that the new agency will be called the “Oil and Gas Authority”.

We have been thinking about where it should be based.

It is my view that it should be headquartered at the heart of the UK’s oil and gas industry.

So I can tell you today that it will be based right here – in Aberdeen.

This city and your industry deserve that commitment – and I am very proud to make it.

And next week we will start the recruitment process to appoint their new CEO.

The new Oil and Gas Authority will work with the government on a wholesale review of the ring-fenced tax regime for the oil and gas industry…

… looking at everything from tax rates to tax allowances.

Because the North Sea is an extraordinary economic asset…

It generated almost £5bn worth of corporation tax revenues last year alone.

Impressive as that is, it is considerably lower than in the past.

Tax revenues have been declining for several years…

… and independent forecasters expect them to continue declining.

But just because the North Sea is becoming less of a tax asset…

… it doesn’t mean it can’t remain a top economic asset.

The review will look at how we achieve that transition.

In my mind, it is clear that, in the future, the North Sea will need to face a lighter tax burden than it does now.

Because that is the only way we can continue to attract investment, to extract full economic value, in the face of increasing costs, is to do it that way.

And next month we will launch a call for evidence to make sure you can all have your say as part of that review.

Field allowances.

Decommissioning relief.

A new agency based in Aberdeen.

A review of taxation.

All of that shows – I believe – the strength of the UK government’s commitment to the future of your industry.

The reason we’ve been able to do all of that…

… and the reason why we’ll be able to do more in future…

… is that we have stuck to our long-term economic plan.

It has meant taking some tough decisions to live within our means as a country.

When plenty of people said we should change course…

…. we stood our ground…

And the plan is now working.

In the past year we – the UK – have grown faster than any other major industrialised economy.

Thanks to your efforts, growth is balanced across sectors.

Almost one and a half million jobs have been created across in the private sector.

And our economy is set to continue recovering faster than any other G7 nation this year.

Britain is bouncing back.

We are able to look forward to the future of your industry because we are part of the United Kingdom.

I know how important stability and predictability is to the oil and gas community.

It is clear to me that the way to ensure stability is to be part of a larger and more diverse economy.

Because the UK as a whole can much more easily afford to sustain production and investment in the North Sea.

Let’s look at the numbers.

For the UK, oil and gas is 2% of our total tax receipts…

And decommissioning relief represents around 1% of our GDP.

As a separate country, oil and gas taxes would make up nearly 14% of Scottish tax receipts…

And the cost of decommissioning relief would be about 12% of Scottish GDP.

You don’t have to take my word for it.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies…

… a truly impartial and independent institution…

… set it out in crystal clear detail only last week.

The IFS say – and I quote – “Scotland is likely to face greater fiscal challenges than the UK”.

In other words, by staying in the UK, we would borrow proportionally less than a separate Scotland – from day one.

Scotland’s deficit – as a share of GDP – would be double that of the UK.

And that gap between the two gets bigger and bigger over time.

One of the main drivers of that is – I quote – “the likely long-run decline in revenues from oil and gas production”.

So what is the Nationalists solution to that question?

To make up hugely over-optimistic forecasts for future North Sea tax revenues.

Take, for example, the latest figures the Scottish government published, last month.

They are more optimistic than just about every other projection out there.

More optimistic than the views of most independent experts.

It’s yet another unrealistic prediction in a long list.

Like £1.5 trillion wholesale value figure yesterday – which assumes that gas prices match oil prices – when you all know that gas has sold for little more than half the price of oil.

Or ignoring the fact that this figure doesn’t include the costs of extraction – whether to pay for infrastructure, staff or drilling costs.

That’s not a very cautious approach to take the uncertainty your industry faces.

In this debate, I say, the nationalists’ numbers simply don’t add up.

By staying in the UK, our bigger and more diverse economy can help smooth the volatility in North Sea tax receipts.

This is my view – but it happens to have the backing of the independent IFS – I quote:

The eventual decline of oil revenues would likely prove a much more acute problem for an independent Scotland than it would for the UK.

This means that Scotland would likely need to implement further tax increases and/or spending cut.

For that reason, you should take guarantees of stability under independence with a big pinch of salt.

And be clear also…

As an economy.

As an industry.

There is a UK dividend from staying together.

As a United Kingdom we can ensure a brighter future for you and your sector.

You are the jewel in the crown of British industry.

So if you agree with me…

… I hope you will join me in making the case…

… that the people of Scotland should say “no, thanks” to independence.

We should all be proud of being Scots.

And feel proud about everything that your industry has achieved in Scotland.

But we can have the best of both worlds.

We have already increased powers with the Scotland Act in 2012.

That includes giving Holyrood greater control over a range of taxes – including the power to set a Scottish rate of income tax.

It’s the biggest act of financial devolution in Scotland’s history.

It means that we can find Scottish solutions to Scottish issues…

… while remaining part of a stronger and more stable United Kingdom.

There’s just under 100 days left until the referendum.

It’s the most important vote in the history of the United Kingdom.

Let us not forget that history when we head to the polls.

A history which has seen British ingenuity emerge triumphant time after time.

Over the centuries, our four nations have worked together to change the world.

The UK led the charge exploring oceans and continents across the globe.

We were the centre of the industrial revolution.

During the twentieth century we led innovations in science, culture and finance – to name a few…

… while twice fighting and beating tyranny when it threatened to take over the world.

All of that thanks to the hard work of the British people.

Whether Scottish, English, Welsh or Northern Irish.

We all have separate identities.

But our history leaves no doubt that…

… whatever our differences…

… there’s far more keeping us together than forcing us apart.

And the conquest of the North Sea symbolises the interconnectedness of our identities on these islands.

Scottish engineers, English drillers, Welsh divers and Northern Irish geologists.

All working together.

Showing how the United Kingdom is much greater than the sum of its parts.

I am a Highlander, a Scot, a British citizen and a European.

And one thing I know…

…deep inside me…

…is that together we achieve so much more than on our own.

So let’s stay as one United Kingdom.

Where the oil and gas industry can face the future with confidence and optimism.

Thank you very much.

Danny Alexander – 2014 Speech on Scottish Fiscal Policy

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Below is the text of the speech made by Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, at the Apex Hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 28th May 2014.

 

Good morning and welcome.

As you know, today the UK government is publishing the most comprehensive and definitive study of how independence would affect Scotland’s finances over the next 20 years.

I look forward to answering all your questions.

But first I would like to say a few words to set out this analysis.

On the 18th of September we face the most important vote in Scotland’s history.

Whether or not to remain part of the United Kingdom.

It’s a momentous decision.

And in my mind, there is no doubt.

By staying together, the Scottish and the UK economies can continue to grow and prosper.

And as a nation, we can continue to make the choices needed to live within our means and grow our economy.

But I know that many people are still undecided.

And the single biggest question in their minds is…

“Will we be better off together?”

So today…

…I can answer…

…yes, we will be better off.

Because there will be a huge benefit to staying in the United Kingdom…

You could think of it as a “UK Dividend”.

Or 1,400 reasons why we’re better off together.

So what is the UK Dividend?

There is a detailed explanation in the document we are publishing today.

Five key building-blocks underpin our analysis.

There is little dispute about each one of those…

… because they’re all based on reasonable and responsible assumptions…

… and all five are seen by independent organisations as significant factors in Scotland’s future. And together they tell a powerful story.

The first building block is what you might call Scotland’s financial starting point.

Should Scotland become independent, it would start off in life in a worse financial position than the UK.

That is the view of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Centre for Public Policy for Regions, Citigroup and many others.

Even the Scottish government’s own figures show that Scotland would face a shortfall between what the governments gets in tax and what it spends on public services.

So, as a separate country, Scotland would be running a bigger deficit than the UK – from day one.

Indeed, independent forecasters show that, in 2016, Scotland would be borrowing over 5% of national income.

That is double the deficit of the UK.

And the difference equates to around five and a half billion pounds…

…from day one.

But that’s just the starting point.

The second building block covers the direct cost of setting up a new state.

For example, as an independent country, Scotland would need to set up new institutions.

A new passport office.

A new benefits agency.

Or a new tax collection authority…

… that last one alone – as ICAS set out last week – would cost £750 million.

We have taken the best independent estimates, which put the cost of transition at up to 1% of GDP.

For Scotland that figure would be £1.5 billion.

At the same time, as a separate country, Scotland would have to pay higher interest rates to borrow in financial markets.

A whole range of experts, from the National Institute to Deutsche Bank, calculate that, under independence, interest rates are likely to be around 1% higher.

That’s worth £500 million per year in additional debt interest costs.

The third of our five building-blocks is the cost of the Scottish government’s promises.

They’ve set out their policies in the recent White Paper – but not the costs.

So we’ve looked through the fine print.

Put it through the Treasury’s models.

Using tried and tested methods…

… and calculated that the Scottish government’s new policies would cost at least £1.6 billion every year.

The fourth factor is the future of oil and gas production.

It is an indisputable fact that North Sea oil production has been declining for many years.

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility has made an impartial assessment of this.

They estimate that oil and gas revenues will fall by around 95%, as a share of our economy, over the next 20 years.

And the fifth factor affecting the future finances of Scotland is our more rapidly ageing population.

This is the well-established view of the UK Statistics Authority, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the International Longevity Centre, and many others.

As Gordon Brown explained last month, the number of Scottish pensioners will rise from 1 million to 1.3 million over the next 20 years.

It means a shrinking number of working age people would have to pay for a growing number of old age pensioners.

So an independent Scotland would have to spend more to deliver the same services as now.

So where does all that leave us?

A worse starting point.

The cost of setting up a new state.

Unfunded policies.

Declining oil revenues and an ageing population.

All of that…

… easily avoided by staying within the UK…

… is worth fourteen hundred pounds.

For each person in Scotland…

… each year…

…for the next 20 years.

That’s the UK Dividend.

And the further ahead you look the more the pressures build.

That dividend…

… is our share of a more prosperous future.

It is the money that will pay for better public services and a fairer society.

Money for more teachers in better classrooms.

For nurses and midwives.

To put £1,400 per person in context…

On aggregate, it represents 11% of Scotland’s total public expenditure.

That’s equivalent to around two thirds of the total National Health Service budget in Scotland.

It’s almost as much as Scotland’s whole education budget.

So what does £1,400 mean to you and to me?

Well, for example, £1,400 is more than enough to pay for a year of free school meals for three children.

£1,400 pays for 10 weeks of someone’s state pension.

Alternatively, instead of cutting public services to fill the gap, as a separate country, the Scottish government could raise taxes.

For example, today the UK reaches what is known as “tax freedom day”.

That’s the day in the year when, on average, people stop giving their income to the government through tax and instead start keeping the money they’ve earned for the rest of the year.

But, as a separate country, each person in Scotland would have to hand over their income to the state for two more weeks.

Another way an independent Scotland could offset the £1,400 UK Dividend, without cutting public spending…

… is to increase the basic rate of income tax from 20 to 28%, increase VAT from 20 to 26% and increase duties on alcohol, tobacco and fuel by about 40%.

Of course, the nationalists will say that we’re wrong.

They will just continue to peddle myth after myth….

… saying that taxes wouldn’t be higher, that there’s loads of oil left, that public services won’t suffer, that growth will be stronger, that breaking away won’t be hugely expensive, that new institutions can be set up for free…

And all of those myths are refuted by the information we publish today.

And I am very happy to answer questions on all of that.

We are talking about Scotland’s finances over the next 20 years…

…they are talking about what’s happened over the past 5 years.

We are focused on the future – they are stuck in the past.

To conclude.

Today we have shown that, by staying together, Scotland’s future will be safer, with stronger finances and a more progressive society.

Because as a United Kingdom we can pool resources and share risks.

It means a UK Dividend…

… of fourteen hundred pounds a year.

For every man, woman and child in Scotland.

And if our history teaches one lesson, it is this…

… together we achieve so much more than on our own.

So let us look forward to a prosperous and a fair Scotland – thanks to the dividend that comes from staying in the UK.

And that is why…

… if you have your doubts…

… if deep down you feel that we’re better together…

… today we give you fourteen hundred reasons…

… why we’re better off together too.

Thank you very much.

Danny Alexander – 2014 Speech on Scottish Independence

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Below is the text of the speech made by Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, on 30th April 2014.

 

I’m glad to see so many of you here this morning…

In a week when we can all celebrate good economic news.

Yesterday’s GDP figures were yet another example of the strength of the UK economy right now…

With – in the first quarter of this year – all three main sectors of the economy growing at above 3 per cent on a year earlier.

This is the first time this has happened in ten years…

It’s the result of the hard work of people…

From the southernmost point of Cornwall an area we granted national minority status last week…

All the way up to the Shetlands…

And it is another excellent example that – as a United Kingdom – we are well and truly seeing the recovery we so badly needed, thanks to the Coalition’s economic plan.

I remember when I was first invited to join the Treasury…

At a time of a grave economic outlook…

One of the best pieces of advice I was given…

Was that I would need to have a sense of humour about things.

And four years on, that has certainly been true!

I’ve been called a Ginger Rodent by Harriet Harman…

I’ve been told I bear a passing resemblance to Beaker from the Muppets countless times…

And a couple of weeks ago I found out about a new photo blog…

Called The Adventures of a Lego Danny Alexander.

Now, it’s perhaps true that the referendum campaign here in Scotland…

Hasn’t provided many laughs so far.

And given both the enormity – and the irreversibility – of the choice we face…

That is perfectly understandable.

This is, after all, the most serious decision any Scot will ever take.

But increasingly, as the campaign continues…

When it comes to some of the statements and assertions made by nationalists…

You really do need a sense of humour.

Because apparently, the same risks that apply to other countries wouldn’t apply to an independent Scotland.

Another financial crisis, for example, would pose no problem…

Because according to Business for Scotland…

The banks that needed bailing out in 2008 received funds according to the location of their operations…

Rather than the location of their headquarters.

A claim that ignores the reality…

That when the financial crisis hit…

It was the government of the United Kingdom that stepped in to recapitalise RBS and HBOS…

And the taxpayers of the United Kingdom that extended £275 billion of total support to RBS alone.

The nationalists may stick their heads in the sand when it comes to the global financial system…

And the profound consequences of independence for Scotland’s financial sector.

But I haven’t heard the reality put better than by the former Governor of the Bank of England who said that…

Banks are international in life, but national in death.

Second, there are the extraordinary set of claims that seek to reassure those living in Scotland…

That nothing much would change with independence…

Like the continued, belligerent, assertion that Scotland could – and would – keep the pound.

But while I can respect that Alex Salmond is passionate in his desire to break up the UK…

… he has to face up to the fact that the rest of the UK does not have to – and would not want to – continue to share the credit card.

There is also the fantastical claim, made in the White Paper…

That an independent Scotland would share a third of the UK’s institutions and services…

…despite the fact that this is completely unprecedented anywhere in the world.

This is a claim we have to listen to…

Whenever an institution crops up that the nationalists haven’t had time to think about…

Be it the National Lottery or the Met Office or the Passport Office…

So it won’t surprise me if next Saturday night…

Alex Salmond declares that an independent Scotland will share the UK’s automatic place in the Eurovision Song Contest final!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been attending public meetings on the referendum in the Highlands.

And all of the myths I’ve just put forward are ones that have been put around by the nationalist campaign.

So I wanted to give this speech today, precisely because we cannot allow false or misleading claims by separatists to go unchallenged.

We need to make sure that when people go to the polls in September…

For the most important vote they will ever cast…

They are making an informed choice…

Based on evidenced facts.

Everyone in this room this morning knows the importance of balancing the books.

Indeed every family and individual in Scotland understands the tough choices involved in matching up outgoings with incomings.

It has been one of the defining features of the government to tackle the UK’s deficit and rebalance our economy.

And as our strong, growing economy and falling deficit shows…

…ours is a strategy that is working for all parts of the UK.

But by contrast, it is one of the defining features of the Scottish Government to ignore the realities…

…of Scotland’s larger deficit…

…and falling oil revenues…

because – unfortunately for them – these facts demonstrate quite clearly that we are better off together.

The nationalists’ assertions on Scotland’s finances are at best ill-informed…

And at worst, deeply misleading to Scottish voters.

In a few weeks time, I will set out government analysis of the many fiscal benefits of the United Kingdom…

But this morning I want to focus on debunking some of the more dangerous economic myths being propagated…

Namely those around oil and gas receipts.

And those around the national deficit.

On oil, there are some frankly incredible myths being put forward by the nationalists.

The first is the Scottish Government’s claim

…that the wholesale value of remaining oil and gas reserves amount to £1.5 trillion.

As with most of the Scottish Government’s oil numbers though…

…this is not only based on the most optimistic scenario for North Sea extraction…

…it is based on a scenario where oil price is the same as the price of gas.

But in recent years, gas – which accounts for 40% of forecast oil and gas production…

Has sold for little more than half as much as the equivalent volume of oil.

Yet over-optimism is not the Scottish Government’s worst offence in this particular example.

No, the fact is that the £1.5trillion figure doesn’t include any costs for getting the oil out of the ground…

And into the petrol pump.

It is apparently news to the nationalists that…

Oil rigs cost money to build and run…

Pipelines under the sea are expensive…

New technologies require investment…

And oil workers expect to be paid.

All told, more than £1 trillion is likely to be needed to extract the remaining oil and gas resources assumed by the Scottish Government.

So once you’ve taken these inconvenient overheads out of the equation, the value is much much lower…

And revenues for Scotland much much smaller.

But the nationalists aren’t ones to let a good fact get in the way of a nice electoral soundbite…

And so they claim – in their infamous Oil and Gas bulletin from last March – that more than half of oil and gas reserves have still to be extracted…

And thus plenty of government revenues from oil and gas are still to come.

But we simply cannot trust their forecasts:

– not just because they are more optimistic than any other published forecasts…

– not just because “there is a high degree of uncertainty around future North Sea revenues” – not my words…

The words of John Swinney in his private paper to colleagues…

But because the Scottish Government’s oil and gas tax forecasts have already been shown to be spectacularly wrong.

The Scottish Government forecast that in 2012-13, a Scottish share of North Sea oil and gas revenues would be almost £7 billion.

As it turned out, total UK oil and gas revenues were only slightly above £6 billion.

And for the financial year just passed 2013-14, the Scottish Government forecast that a Scottish share of North Sea revenues would be higher still…

More than £7 billion.

Well, HM Revenue and Customs has today confirmed that total UK North Sea revenues last year were £4.7 billion.

So over the past two years alone…

The revenues coming from oil for the whole UK…

Have been more than £3 billion below the Scottish Government’s most cautious forecasts.

Over the whole six year period of the Scottish Government’s Oil and gas bulletin 2012 to 2017…

Their most cautious forecast for Scottish oil and gas revenues is £41 billion.

Yet the independent Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that whole UK revenues will be just £25 billion over the same period.

It doesn’t matter how deep you drill into the figures, they simply don’t add up.

It shows that the Scottish Government and realistic projections go together like water and oil…

And it leaves tens of billions of pounds missing from the Scottish Government’s White Paper.

Tens of billions of pounds that – under independence – can’t be raised across the UK

…but will have to be raised from Scottish businesses and individuals…

Or cut from Scottish services.

I have absolute faith in this country’s human resources.

And our resilience and work ethic…

Just as we Scots have always proven we have the imagination and the creativity to push boundaries in science and the arts and economics and exploration…

I have absolute faith that this country will keep producing great women and great men…

Who can push those boundaries further.

But while we should celebrate that our human resources have such potential…

We need to be realistic when it comes to our natural resources.

Our oil reserves are finite.

And we mustn’t let over-optimistic, unproven-projections…

Raise false hopes for economic plenty.

Better off as part of the UK

Let me deal with two final myths together…

Both the nationalists’ claim that Scotland would be better off…

And have lower taxes, higher spending and no austerity if we were independent…

And their biggest myth of all –

Their claim that the pro-UK campaign is only negative, or scare-mongering.

Because what these oil numbers published today show…

…and what I will argue for the next few weeks ahead of our final analysis paper…

…and the next few months ahead of the referendum

…is the indisputable point that we are better off together.

According to a range of independent estimates…

As part of the UK…

Scotland will face a smaller deficit, lower taxes and higher levels of public spending, both in the short, and the long term.

Independent organisations like the IFS, the CPPR and others have all shown that an independent Scotland would face a deficit of more than 5 per cent of GDP in 2016-17.

And forecasts from the IMF suggest this would be the second highest deficit of any advanced economy in the world.

On the other hand…

As part of the UK…

Scotland would be part of a nation with a deficit forecast of just 2.4 per cent of GDP in 2016-17, and falling further in subsequent years.

This means that…

In the year 2016-17 alone…

Independent experts agree that £1,000 less would be borrowed for each and every Scot as part of the UK…

Than would be the case in an independent Scotland.

An evidenced, positive reason that we are better and more secure together…

Today, in 2016-17 and beyond.

The Scottish Government know the fiscal position of an independent Scotland provides a “challenging context”.

Again, not my words but John Swinney’s private memo to his cabinet colleagues.

And today we now know that the figures in the white paper are already out of date.

But rather than confront these risks and uncertainties, the nationalists simply choose to peddle myth after myth.

They claimed the white paper would answer all the questions about independence.

That it would be the most detailed guide ever produced to a new country.

Instead, the white paper is full of false promises and misleading claims…

Based on an optimistic forecast for oil revenues that are already out by £3bn a year…

…containing policy proposals that are not funded and would not be affordable…

…and commitments that the Scottish Government pretends it can make on behalf of other nations and international organisations.

It is time for the Scottish Government to confirm what we all know…

…that the white paper was wrong.

A month ago the Centre for Public Policy for the Regions called on John Swinney to issue revised and realistic oil and gas forecasts…

…to correct the discredited Oil and gas bulletin

…and the errors at the heart of the White Paper.

I am repeating that call today.

The Scottish Government must confront the fact that it is promising tax revenues and public spending that it cannot deliver.

It should revise its oil and gas forecasts…

…Or – better yet – adhere to international best practice and follow an independent forecast like the OBR’s.

It is the very least that the Scottish voters deserve.

But I would like to end by saying – that there is actually one Scottish myth that I absolutely cannot – and would not be able to – disprove.

She’s about forty foot long…

Publicity shy…

And she lives in my constituency.

And if anyone here today, or any of your families…

Wants to come up to Loch Ness and spend a weekend looking out for her…

They will be very welcome indeed.

In short, there is more evidence for the Loch Ness monster…

Than there is for many of the calculations and the claims that have been put forward by the nationalists to support their case for separation.

I want everyone in Scotland to be part of an influential country…

Where businesses can thrive…

Where the economy can grow…

And where people can lead long, healthy, happy lives.

We have all those things as part of a United Kingdom.

We benefit from the shared sovereignty – and shared economy – that we enjoy as part of the strongest union of nations in world history.

And as Billy Connolly said yesterday…

And he put it better than any politician could…

The more people stay together, the happier they’ll be.

It would be a real folly – and a real danger – to put so much of what we have at risk.

Especially if we based our decision to do so on the over-optimistic, uncosted claims of the ‘Yes Campaign’.

We need to continue challenging these myths.

And we need to continue making clear to the people of Scotland that we really are better together.

Thank you.

Danny Alexander – 2014 Speech at Eurotunnel

dalexander

Below is the text of the speech made by Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, at Eurotunnel on 23rd April 2014.

 

Thank you very much for welcoming me to Eurotunnel today.

I’m particularly delighted to be able to visit during your 20th anniversary year.

Over 330 million people have travelled through these wonderful tunnels.

To put that in some sort of context, it’s more than the entire population of the United States.

This Cross-Channel Fixed Link – and Eurotunnel as its operators – has had a huge impact on the transport and logistics industries…

Not to mention the UK economy more broadly.

The rolling motorway concept – with a crossing time of just 35 minutes – has never been more important.

The factories, supermarkets and consumers of today demand to-the-minute precision.

And Eurotunnel – for 20 years – has been delivering just that.

For 2.5 million cars every year.

For 1.4 million trucks every year…

And for thousands of high-speed passenger trains and rail freight trains too.

There’s something fabulous about the awesome engineering that makes our bridges, roads, railways and tunnels.

And let’s face it, when it comes to infrastructure – things don’t come much bigger and better than the Channel Tunnel and its supporting operations.

Even after 20 years, you stand out as exceptional.

Now, I want to spend this morning talking to you about why I love infrastructure so much…

Why I think it’s so important to our economy.

And what the government is doing to make sure we have an infrastructure fit for the 21st century.

But first I want to pay tribute to two very important groups of people.

The first group is the group of people who actually built this thing.

Over 15,000 thousand men and women were employed in the construction phase of this project.

An incredible work force that has delivered a stunning piece of engineering.

Sadly, 10 people lost their lives and I think we should reflect for a brief moment on that sad sacrifice.

The second group of people is YOU.

The men and women who run what is a unique commercial enterprise.

You should all be incredibly proud of what you do…

And what you add to the regional and national economy.

Now I know that – quite understandably – your 20th anniversary will be a real opportunity to celebrate your success.

To celebrate your success so far, and to reflect on everything you’ve done for the UK economy.

But it’s also an opportunity to look forward to the possibilities for the future…

And I was very excited to hear that there is plenty of capacity to further increase the use of the tunnels.

By 2020, there will be another 500,000 trucks using the tunnel each year.

And another 4.5 million passengers…

And this is good news for British businesses looking to export.

Good news for the British public.

And good news for British jobs too.

As if that wasn’t impressive enough…

Eurotunnel is now embarking on expansion and on a major new energy project.

You’re not only focusing on delivering higher and higher passenger and freight numbers – important though that is.

You’re looking at how this unique infrastructure asset fits into the wider infrastructure of the UK and Europe.

And the plans I’ve been hearing about to increase capacity on the M20 motorway exit are as ambitious as they are crucial.

Those four new lanes will support the forecast growth in the use of the tunnel.

And they will also help smooth the flow of vehicles into, and out of, the south east of England.

I’m aware that in certain circumstances – problems with the ferries or exceptional peak demand – vehicles end up backing up onto the M20.

And I’ve been told that Kent Police have to implement ‘Operation Stack’ on such occasions and use the M20 as a giant lorry park…

Which causes massive disruption across East Kent.

So the expansion of your approaches will really benefit the local, regional and national economy.

It’s a great example of joint working between private business, and local and national government.

On top of that, the plans to broaden the number of routes by passenger trains using the tunnel are really significant.

Because for every Brit – like me – looking forward to a whole new range of weekend break destinations becoming accessible, they’ll be tourists and business people all across Europe looking to come to the UK. These new routes will also open up new opportunities for British business; increasing access to some key European markets.

And anyone who thinks Eurotunnel is just about transporting goods and people will soon need to think again.

Because your plan to run a 1 Giga-Watt electricity interconnector to link the French and UK power grids has huge potential.

I’ve heard today how this will help the UK to balance its supply and demand of energy.

And it’s a great example of optimising existing infrastructure for vital new uses.

Now while you’ve got 20 years of real success to look back on…

With plenty of exciting work to come!

But – while there is a hell of a lot more work to come from us – I’m pleased with the progress we’re making.

We made infrastructure a key priority.

I am driven by the knowledge that we can only build a stronger economy by investing in our infrastructure.

If we want to build a strong, thriving economy for the 21st century…

Then we need to have the infrastructure to support it.

And the government has to lead by example.

And we have to create the right climate for businesses to invest.

Research suggests our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could have been 5% higher each year between 2000 and 2010 if our infrastructure had matched that of other leading global economies.

So, despite the need to tackle the deficit, we’ve prioritised vital capital investment.

Of course, infrastructure generates short-term benefits as it is built, improved or maintained.

It requires materials and services, with jobs created right along the supply chain.

And I’m told that Eurotunnel provides 830 direct – and 3 000 indirect – jobs in the UK.

But the long-term impact is far more significant.

New or improved infrastructure can give people access to more and better jobs.

It can improve the choice, price and quality of goods and services for consumers, helping to raise living standards.

And it can enable businesses to interact with a greater number of other firms.

In short, it supports economic growth.

It’s impossible to overstate this point.

The only way to build a stronger economy that will last.

The only way to improve living standards is for businesses to invest and for a substantial part of that investment to be in infrastructure.

You at Eurotunnel are a shining example of private investment.

So what are we as government doing to make sure that our roads and rail and digital and energy networks are amongst the best in the world?

Well, we’re providing high level planning.

We’re helping with local planning.

And – most importantly – we’re working on financing.

On high level planning, we published the first ever National Infrastructure Plan in 2010…

And we’ve refreshed it every year since.

This document sets out our analysis of the infrastructure that the UK needs, and our strategy for delivering it.

And we also publish an infrastructure pipeline…

Which acts as a prospectus for investors:

– identifying key infrastructure requirements for decades to come

– and alerting us to pinch-points in supply chain capacity, to make sure we are well equipped to meet our infrastructure needs

For example – and from where I stand this example seems particularly relevant – analysis of the pipeline indicates significant new tunnelling capability will be required to deliver key projects like HS2 and Thames Tideway Tunnel. Together with Crossrail, government has invested in a new tunnelling academy to ensure we build these key skills to meet the demand.

On local planning we’re committed to speeding up and streamlining the planning system.

And – amongst other reforms in this area – just this month we opened a new Planning Court.

This is a dedicated court to consider Judicial Reviews of major infrastructure schemes…

Which will prevent them from being held up by frustrating delays.

In 2011, if an application went all the way to a final hearing…

It would take – on average – just over a year.

Under the new Planning Court, this time will be cut in half.

On financing, as I’ve already said, the government is also prioritising public investment in infrastructure, including for the likes of High Speed 2.

Incidentally, I was delighted to travel to Folkestone on HS1 this morning.

Another example of infrastructure delivering economic growth.

I urge any critic or opponent of HS2 to look at the success of HS1.

But as a government we’re also helping kickstart vital privately financed infrastructure projects…

By providing financial guarantees – through our UK Guarantee Scheme – to help get them off the ground.

That scheme has helped pave the way for the Mersey Gateway Bridge, where construction will start imminently.

And guarantees are also supporting a coal to biomass conversion at Drax Power Station…

And the extension of the Northern Line to Battersea.

And earlier today the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change announced a package of investment in renewable energy infrastructure that will bring forward up to £12 billion of private sector investment, generating enough clean electricity to power over 3 million homes.

These are all helpful developments – and they are all having an impact.

But we need to be realistic…

And we need to realise that updating this country’s infrastructure won’t happen overnight.

It will take time, and it will require continued close working between government and the private sector.

But we are seeing strong progress.

Since 2010, over 2000 infrastructure projects or improvements to infrastructure been successfully completed.

That’s ten projects every week.

Projects large and small, all over the UK.

Don’t worry, I don’t plan to talk to you about each and every one.

But I do want to give you a flavour of what’s been delivered.

– flood defences, over 500 schemes have been completed – including vital defences protecting thousands of homes along the River Trent in Nottingham, and on the Humber in Stallingborough

– transport, over 650 upgrades are now complete – from the enormous new London Gateway Port, to hundreds of train station improvements up and down the country

– energy generation, over 850 projects have been completed….

Including the £1.5 billion London Array offshore wind project, the £1.3 billion gas-fired power station in Pembroke, and the world’s largest solar bridge at Blackfriars Station.

Those 850 projects also include many smaller scale green energy schemes of local significance. The Osney Lock Community hydro scheme in Oxford is a great example.

And there have been a number of communications, science, waste and water projects completed too.

So whether it’s a transport upgrade that makes a real, tangible impact on a local community…

Or a major energy scheme of national significance…

The government is delivering.

And by working in partnership with companies like Eurotunnel – people like you – we can continue to transform the UK’s infrastructure.

Together, we can provide the infrastructure this country needs to support jobs and growth.

You are a world leading example of what our engineers can achieve.

You are a world leading example of the positive economic advances that infrastructure delivers.

I have hugely enjoyed my visit here today in your 20th year.

Thank you so much for hosting me.

George Osborne – 2015 Budget Speech

gosborne

Below is the text of the 2015 Budget Speech made by George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on 18 March 2015 in the House of Commons.

 

Mr Deputy Speaker,

Today, I report on a Britain that is growing, creating jobs and paying its way.

We took difficult decisions in the teeth of opposition and it worked – Britain is walking tall again.

Five years ago, our economy had suffered a collapse greater than almost any country.

Today, I can confirm: in the last year we have grown faster than any other major advanced economy in the world.

Five years ago, millions of people could not find work.

Today, I can report: more people have jobs in Britain than ever before.

Five years ago, living standards were set back years by the Great Recession.

Today, the latest projections show that living standards will be higher than when we came to office.

Five years ago, the deficit was out of control.

Today, as a share of national income it is down by more than a half.

Five years ago, we were bailing out the banks.

Today, I can tell the House: we’re selling more bank shares and getting taxpayers’ money back.

We set out a plan. That plan is working. Britain is walking tall again.

So Mr Deputy Speaker, the critical choice facing the country now is this: do we return to the chaos of the past?

Or do we say to the British people, let’s go on working through the plan that is delivering for you?

Today we make that critical choice: we choose the future.

We choose, as the central judgement of this Budget, to use whatever additional resources we have to get the deficit and the debt falling.

No unfunded spending.

No irresponsible extra borrowing.

For no short term giveaway can ever begin to help people as much as the long term benefits of a recovering national economy.

In the Emergency Budget I presented to this House 5 years ago I said we would turn Britain around – and in this last Budget of the Parliament we will not waiver from that task.

For we choose the future.

Our goal is for Britain to become the most prosperous major economy in the world, with that prosperity widely shared.

So we choose economic security.

This Budget commits us to the difficult decisions to eliminate our deficit and get our national debt share falling.

We choose jobs.

This Budget does more to back business and make work pay, so we create full employment.

We choose the whole nation.

The Budget makes new investments in manufacturing and science and the northern powerhouse for a truly national recovery.

We choose responsibility.

This Budget takes further action to support savers and pensioners.

We choose aspiration.

This Budget backs the self-employed, the small business-owner and the homebuyer.

We choose families.

This Budget helps hard-working people keep more of the money they have earned.

This is a Budget that takes Britain one more big step on the road from austerity to prosperity.

We have a plan that is working – and this is a Budget that works for you.

Economic forecasts

Mr Deputy Speaker, the British economy is fundamentally stronger than it was five years ago – and that is reflected in the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Today, figures are produced with independence and integrity by Robert Chote and his team, and I thank them for their work.

The OBR confirm today that at 2.6%, Britain grew faster than any other major advanced economy in the world last year.

That is fifty per cent faster than Germany, three times faster than the euro-zone – and seven times faster than France.

There are some who advise us to abandon our plan and pursue the French approach.

I prefer to follow the advice the Secretary General of the OECD gave us all last month: “Britain has a long term economic plan – and it needs to stick with it”

“A long term economic plan” – now there’s someone with a way with words.

We need to stick with that plan at a time when global economic risks are rising.

The biggest development since the Autumn Statement has been the further sharp fall in the world oil price.

This is positive news for the global economy. But the overall boost this provides has not yet offset the rising geo-political uncertainty it causes.

And the Eurozone continues to stagnate.

So at this Budget, the OBR have once again revised down the growth of the world economy, revised down the growth of world trade and revised down the prospects for the Eurozone.

And they warn us that the current stand-off with Greece could be very damaging to the British economy.

I agree with that assessment.

A disorderly Greek exit from the euro remains the greatest threat to Europe’s economic stability. It would be a serious mistake to underestimate its impact on the UK, and we urge our Eurozone colleagues to resolve the growing crisis.

The problems in Europe remind us why Britain needs to expand our links with the faster growing parts of the world.

We’ve made major progress this Parliament. I can report that the trade deficit figures published last week are the best for 15 years.

And we will do even more – so today I am again increasing UKTI’s resources to double the support for British exporters to China.

We have also decided to become the first major western nation to be a prospective founding member of the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, because we think you should be present at the creation of these new international institutions.

Mr Deputy Speaker, you would expect weaker world growth, weaker world trade and weaker European growth to lead to weaker growth here in the UK.

However, the OBR haven’t revised down Britain’s economic forecasts – they have revised them up.

A year ago, they forecast growth in 2015 at 2.3%.

In the Autumn Statement that was revised up to 2.4%.

Today, I can confirm GDP growth this year is forecast to be higher still, at 2.5%.

It is also revised up next year, to 2.3%.

That is where it remains for the following two years, before reaching 2.4% in 2019.

So the OBR report growth revised up – and their numbers confirm that growth is broadly based.

For we are replacing the disastrous economic model we inherited.

Between 1997 and 2010, investment accounted for less than one fifth of Britain’s economic growth – four fifths came from debt-fuelled household consumption.

Meanwhile manufacturing halved as a share of our national economy, and the gap between the North and South grew ever larger.

I can report since 2010:

Business investment has grown four times faster than household consumption.

Britain’s manufacturing output has grown more than four and a half times faster than it did in the entire decade before the crisis.

And over the last year, the North grew faster than the South.

We are seeing a truly national recovery.

Employment

Mr Deputy Speaker let me turn now to the rest of the forecasts.

This morning we saw the latest jobs numbers.

It is a massive moment. Britain has the highest rate of employment in its history.

A record number of people in work.

More women in work than ever before.

And the claimant count rate is at its lowest since 1975.

For years governments have talked about full employment – the government is moving towards achieving it.

Unemployment today has fallen by another 100,000.

And compared to the Autumn Statement, the OBR now expect unemployment this year to be even lower.

It is set to fall to 5.3% – down almost a whole 3 percentage points from 2010.

When we set out our plan, people predicted that a million jobs would be lost.

Instead, over 1.9 million new jobs have been gained.

Because our long term plan is based on the premise that if you provide economic stability, if you reform welfare and make work pay, and if you back business, then you will create jobs too.

Today’s figures show that since 2010, 1000 more jobs have been created every single day.

The evidence is plain to see – Britain is working.

And Mr Deputy Speaker, what about those who say “the jobs aren’t real jobs; they’re all part time; they’re all in London.”

Nonsense.

How many of the jobs are full time? 80%

How many of the jobs are in skilled occupations? 80%

And where is employment growing fastest? The North West.

Where is a job being created every ten minutes? The Midlands.

And which county has created more jobs than the whole of France? The great county of Yorkshire

We are getting the whole of Britain back to work with a truly national recovery.

Living standards

Mr Deputy Speaker, it is only by growing our economy, dealing with our debts and creating jobs, that we can raise living standards.

To the question of whether people are better off at the end of this Parliament than they were five years ago we can give the resounding answer “yes”

You can measure it by GDP per capita, and the answer is yes – up by 5%

Or you can use the most up-to-date and comprehensive measure of living standards which is Real Household Disposable Income per capita.

In other words, how much money families have to spend after inflation and tax.

It is the living standards measure used by the Office for National Statistics and by the OECD.

On that measure I can confirm, on the latest OBR data today, living standards will be higher in 2015 than in 2010.

And it confirms they are set to grow strongly every year for the rest of the decade.

The British people for years paid the heavy price of the great recession.

Now, the facts show households on average will be around £900 better off in 2015 than they were in 2010 – and immeasurably more secure for living in a country whose economy is not in crisis anymore, but is instead growing and creating jobs.

Mr Deputy Speaker because we have strong growth and a strong economy we can also afford real increases in the National Minimum Wage.

This week we accept the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission that the National Minimum Wage should rise to £6.70 this autumn, on course for a minimum wage that will be over £8 by the end of the decade.

And we’ve agreed the biggest increase ever in the apprentice rate.

It’s the oldest rule of economic policy. It’s the lowest paid who suffer most when the economy fails and it’s the lowest paid who benefit when you turn that economy around.

Inflation

Mr Deputy Speaker household incomes also go further because we now have the lowest inflation on record.

The OBR today revise down their forecast for inflation this year to just 0.2%, and revise it down for the following three years.

It is driven by falling world oil and food prices. Not by the kind of stagnation we have seen on the continent.

But we will remain vigilant.

I am today confirming that the remit for the Monetary Policy Committee for the coming year remains the 2% symmetric CPI inflation target.

And I am also confirming the remit for our new Financial Policy Committee too, so that this time we spot the financial risks in advance.

The fall in food prices is good for families; but it reminds us of the challenge our farmers face from volatile markets.

The National Farmers Union have long argued they should be allowed to average their incomes for tax purposes over five years; I agree and in this Budget we will make that change.

We will also use this opportunity to lock in the historically low interest rates for the long term.

I can tell the House that we will increase the number of long-dated gilts that we sell.

We’ll also redeem the last remaining undated British Government bonds in circulation.

We’ll have paid off the debts incurred in the South Sea Bubble, the First World War, the debt issued by Henry Pelham, George Goschen and William Gladstone.

And Mr Deputy Speaker, since the pound goes further these days, now is a good time to confirm the design of the new one pound coin.

Based on the brilliant drawing submitted by 15 year old David Pearce, a school pupil from Walsall, the new 12 sided pound coin will incorporate emblems from all four nations – for we are all part of one United Kingdom.

Banks and debt

Mr Deputy Speaker, I now turn to the national debt.

Lower unemployment means less welfare.

Compared to the Autumn Statement, welfare bills are set to be an average of £3 billion a year lower.

Lower inflation means lower interest charges on government gilts; those interest charges are now expected to be almost £35 billion lower than just a few months ago.

Rising unemployment, and compounding debt interest, contributed to our national debt problem.

But they weren’t the only cause.

It sent the national debt rocketing up by a third.

We have already sold the branches of Northern Rock; and raised £9 billion from Lloyds shares. Now we go further.

Today I can announce that we are launching a sale of £13 billion of the mortgage assets we still hold from the bailouts of Northern Rock and of Bradford and Bingley.

Lloyds bank has returned to profit and is paying a dividend – so we can continue our exit from that bailout too.

We will sell at least a further £9 billion of Lloyds shares in the coming year.

The bank sales, lower debt interest and lower welfare bills presents us with a choice.

We could treat it as a windfall, even though we know the public finances need further repair.

And with an election looming, some of my immediate predecessors may have been tempted to do this.

But that would be deeply irresponsible.

We’d be spending money we didn’t really have.

Racking up borrowing our country couldn’t afford.

We’d be repeating all the mistakes the last government made – instead of fixing those mistakes.

So today, the central judgement of this Budget is this: we will use the resources from the bank sales and the lower interest payments and the lower welfare bills to pay down the national debt.

We put economic security first.

For higher national debt leaves our nation exposed, harms potential growth and costs taxpayers billions of pounds in debt interest.

That would be throwing away billions of pounds we should be using to fund our public services and lower taxes.

Five years ago, national debt was soaring.

That’s why in my first Budget I set a target that we would have national debt falling as a share of GDP by 2015-16, the last year of this Parliament.

The Eurozone crisis made that task here at home all the more difficult, and for much of the last five years it looked like we might fall short.

I can announce this to the House:

The hard work and sacrifice of the British people has paid off.

The original debt target I set out in my first Budget has been met.

We will end this Parliament with Britain’s national debt share falling

The sun is starting to shine – and we are fixing the roof.

So the OBR report today that debt as a share of GDP falls from 80.4% in 2014-15; to 80.2% in the year 2015-16.

And it keeps falling to 79.8% in 2016-17; then down to 77.8% the following year, to 74.8% in 2018-19 before it reaches 71.6% in 2019-20.

Mr Deputy Speaker, national debt as a share of our national income has been increasing every single year since 2001.

Those thirteen years amount to the longest year-on-year rise in our national debt since the end of the seventeenth century.

Today we bring that record to an end.

And there’s a consequence for our fiscal plans.

Because the national debt share is falling a year earlier than forecast at the Autumn Statement – the squeeze on public spending ends a year earlier too.

In the final year of this decade, 2019-20, public spending will grow in line with the growth of the economy.

We can do that while still running a healthy surplus to bear down on our debt.

A state neither smaller than we need; nor bigger than we can afford.

For those interested in the history of these things, that will mean state spending as a share of our national income the same size as Britain had in the year 2000.

That’s the year before spending got out of control and the national debt started its inexorable rise.

Deficit

Mr Deputy Speaker, when we came to office, the deficit stood at more than ten per cent of our national income – one of the highest of any major advanced economy and the largest in our peacetime history.

The IMF says we’ve achieved the largest, most sustained reduction in our structural deficit of any major economy.

Today, the OBR confirm that it now stands at less than half of the deficit we inherited.

But at 5% this year, it’s still far too high – and it must come down.

With our plan it does.

The deficit falls to 4% in 2015-16; then down to 2% the following year; and down again to 0.6% the year after that.

The deficit is lower in every year than at the Autumn Statement.

In 2018-19, Britain will have a budget surplus of 0.2%; followed by a forecast surplus of 0.3% in 2019-20.

We will also comfortably meet our fiscal mandate and Britain will be running a surplus for the first time in 18 years.

That leads to borrowing. Every one of the borrowing numbers is lower than at the Autumn Statement too.

We inherited annual borrowing of over £150 billion from the last government.

This year borrowing is set to fall to £90.2 billion; a billion lower than expected at the Autumn Statement.

It falls again in 2015-16 to £75.3 billion; then £39.4 billion the year after that, before falling to £12.8 billion – in total that’s £5 billion less borrowing than we forecast just three months ago.

In 2018-19, we reach an overall surplus of £5.2 billion – a £1 billion improvement compared to December.

In 2019-20 we are forecast to run a surplus of £7 billion. So growth is up.

Unemployment is down.

Borrowing is down in every year of the forecast.

We reach a surplus.

All contributing to a national debt now falling as a share of national income. Out of the red and into the black – Britain is back paying its way in the world.

Spending

Mr Deputy Speaker, lower borrowing and falling debt as a share of GDP will only continue with a credible plan to control public spending and welfare.

As we end the Parliament, we can measure the scale of the achievement.

The administrative costs of central government will be down by 40%.

We have legislated for welfare savings of over £21 billion a year.

And because savings have been driven by efficiency and reform, the quality of public services has not gone down – it’s gone up.

Satisfaction with the NHS is rising year on year.

Crime is down 20%.

One million more children attend good or outstanding schools.

But the job of repairing our public finances is not done.

And here’s a very important point the country needs to understand.

National debt as a share of GDP is now falling.

We’ll only keep it falling if we commit to the fiscal path set out in this Budget.

If we deviate from this path, if we go slower or borrow more, the national debt share will not keep falling – it will start rising again.

After all the hard work of the British people over the last 5 years to reach this point, that reversal would be a tragedy.

Britain is on the right track; we mustn’t turn back

And in order to deliver that falling debt share we need to achieve the £30 billion further savings that are necessary by 2017-18.

I am clear exactly how that £30 billion can be achieved.

£13 billion from government departments.

£12 billion from welfare savings.

£5 billion from tax avoidance, evasion and aggressive tax planning.

We have done it in this Parliament; we can do it in the next.

Fairness

The distributional analysis we publish today confirms that that the decisions since 2010 mean the rich are making the biggest contribution to deficit reduction.

I said we would all be in this together and here is the proof.

Compared to five years ago:

Inequality is lower.

Child poverty is down.

Youth unemployment is down.

Pensioner poverty is at its lowest level ever.

The gender pay gap has never been smaller.

Payday loans are capped.

And zero hours contracts regulated.

Even more than this, opportunity has increased; the number of university students from disadvantaged backgrounds is at a record high, apprenticeships have doubled and there are fewer workless households than ever before.

And in this Budget we are providing funding for a major expansion of mental health services for children and those suffering from maternal mental illness.

Those who suffer from these illnesses have been forgotten for too long.

Not anymore.

We stand for opportunity for all.

And we have created a fairer tax system. Further proof we are all in this together.

The share of income tax paid by the top 1% of taxpayers is projected to rise from 25% in 2010 to over 27% this year – that is higher than any one of the thirteen years of the last government.

We’re getting more money from the people paying the top rate of tax.

Because we understand that if you back enterprise, you raise more revenue.

And the House will also want to know this – the lower paid 50% of taxpayers now pay a smaller proportion of income tax than at any time under the previous government.

We are delivering a truly national recovery.

Tax avoidance

Mr Deputy Speaker in this Budget everything we spend will be paid for and this requires the following decisions.

We have already taken steps to curb the size of the very largest pension pots.

But the gross cost of tax relief has continued to rise through this Parliament, up almost £4 billion. That is not sustainable.

So from next year, we will further reduce the Lifetime Allowance from £1.25 million to £1 million.

This will save around £600 million a year.

Fewer than 4% of pension savers currently approaching retirement will be affected.

However, I want to ensure those still building up their pension pots are protected from inflation, so from 2018 we will index the Lifetime Allowance.

We have had representations that we should also restrict the Annual Allowance for pensions and use the money to cut tuition fees.

I have examined this proposal.

It involves penalising moderately-paid, long-serving public servants, including police officers, teachers and nurses, and instead rewarding higher paid graduates.

In 2010, city bankers boasted of paying lower tax rates than their cleaners; the rich routinely avoided stamp duty; and foreigners paid no capital gains tax.

We’ve changed all that – and it was this Prime Minister who put tackling international tax evasion at the top of the agenda at the G8.

We will now legislate for the new Common Reporting Standard we have got agreed around the world.

Our new Diverted Profits Tax is aimed at large multinationals who artificially shift their profits offshore.

I can confirm that we will legislate for it next week and bring it into effect at the start of next month.

I am also today amending corporation tax rules to prevent contrived loss arrangements.

And we’ll no longer allow businesses to take account of foreign branches when reclaiming VAT on overheads – making the system simpler and fairer.

We will close loopholes to make sure Entrepreneurs Relief is only available to those selling genuine stakes in businesses.

We will issue more accelerated payments notices to those who hold out from paying the tax that is owed.

And we will stop employment intermediaries exploiting the tax system to reduce their own costs by clamping down on the agencies and umbrella companies who abuse tax reliefs on travel and subsistence – while we protect those genuinely self-employed.

Taken together, all the new measures against tax avoidance and evasion will raise £3.1 billion over the forecast period.

I can also tell the House that we will conduct a review on the avoidance of inheritance tax through the use of deeds of variation. It will report by the autumn.

We will seek a wide range of views.

Mr Deputy Speaker, my RHF the Chief Secretary will tomorrow publish further details of our comprehensive plans for new criminal offences for tax evasion and new penalties for those professionals who assist them.

Let the message go out: this country’s tolerance for those who will not pay their fair share of taxes has come to an end.

Banks

Because we seek a truly national recovery, today I also ask our banking sector to contribute more.

Financial services are one of Britain’s most important and successful industries, employing people in every corner of the country.

We take steps to promote competition, back FinTech and encourage new business like global reinsurance.

But as our banking sector becomes more profitable again, I believe they can make a bigger contribution to the repair of our public finances.

I am today raising the rate of the bank levy to 0.21 per cent. This will raise an additional £900 million a year.

We will also stop banks from deducting from corporation tax the compensation they make to customers for products they have been mis-sold, like PPI. Taken together these new banking taxes will raise £5.3 billion across the forecast.

The banks got support going into the crisis; now they must support the whole country as we recover from the crisis.

Libor and charities

Mr Deputy Speaker, in each Budget we have used the LIBOR fines paid by those who demonstrated the very worst values to support those who represent the very best of British values.

Today I can announce a further £75 million of help.

Last week’s service of commemoration reminded us all of the debt we owe to those brave British servicemen and women who served in Afghanistan.

We will provide funds to the regimental charities of every regiment that fought in that conflict; and we will contribute funding to the permanent memorial to those who died there and in Iraq.

And in the 75th anniversary year of the Battle of Britain we will help to renovate the RAF museum at Hendon, the Stow Maries Airfield and the Biggin Hill Chapel Memorial so future generations are reminded of the sacrifice of our airmen in all conflicts.

We will provide £25 million to help our eldest veterans, including nuclear test veterans.

Many members on this side have also written to me asking for support for their local air ambulances.

We’ve backed brilliant local charities in the past, and we do so again today – with funds for new helicopters for the Essex & Herts, East Anglian, Welsh and Scottish air ambulances, and for the Lucy Air Ambulance that transports children requiring urgent care.

Our blood bike charities also do an incredible job. I am today responding to the public campaign and refunding their VAT.

We’ll also set aside £1 million to help buy defibrillators for public places, including schools, and support training in their use to save more lives.

Talking about people who save lives, and who sometimes sacrifice their own life to do so, we will also correct the historic injustice to spouses of police officers, firefighters, and members of the intelligence services who lose their lives on duty.

And there’s additional money today to support the fight against terrorism.

The £15 million Church Roof Fund I set aside at the Autumn Statement to support church roof appeals has been heavily oversubscribed – so I am today more than trebling it.

Apparently, we’re not the only people who want to fix the roof when the sun is shining.

Every weekend thousands of people go out and raise sums for their local charities across Britain through sponsored events and high-street collections.

I am significantly extending the scheme I introduced that allows charities to claim automatic gift-aid on those donations – increasing it from the first £5,000 they raise to £8,000.

That will benefit over 6,500 small charities.

And, Mr Deputy Speaker, we could not let the 600th anniversary of Agincourt pass without commemoration.

The battle of Agincourt is, of course, celebrated by Shakespeare as a victory secured by a “band of brothers” It is also when a strong leader defeated an ill-judged alliance between the champion of a united Europe and a renegade force of Scottish nationalists.

So it is well worth the £1 million we will provide to celebrate it.

National recovery

Mr Deputy Speaker

Our country does not rest on its past glories.

Within just fifteen years we have the potential to overtake Germany and have the largest economy in Europe.

Five years ago, that would have seemed hopelessly unrealistic; economic rescue was the limit of our horizons.

Today, our goal is for Britain to become the most prosperous of any major economy in the world in the coming generation, with that prosperity widely shared across our country.

London is the global capital of the world, and we want it to grow stronger still.

Today we confirm: new investment in transport; regeneration from Brent Cross to Croydon; new powers for the Mayor over skills and planning; and new funding for the London Land Commission to help address the acute housing shortage in the capital.

For we don’t pull the rest of the country up, by pulling London down.

Instead we will build on London’s success by building the Northern Powerhouse.

Working across party lines, and in partnership with the councils of the north, we are this week publishing a comprehensive Transport Strategy for the North.

We are funding the Health North initiative from the great teaching hospitals and universities there.

We are promoting industries from chemicals in the North East to Tech in the North West

And I can today confirm agreement with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority for a new city deal.

Our agreement with Greater Manchester on an elected mayor is the most exciting development in civic leadership for a generation – with the devolution of power over skills, transport and now health budgets.

I can announce today that we have now reached provisional agreement to allow Greater Manchester to keep 100% of the additional growth in local business rates as we build up the Northern Powerhouse.

For where cities grow their economies through local initiatives, let me be clear: we will support and reward them.

We will also offer the same business rates deal to Cambridge and the surrounding councils, and my door is open to other areas too.

For our ambition for a truly national recovery is not limited to building a Northern Powerhouse. We back in full the long term economic plans we have for every region.

The Midlands is an engine of manufacturing growth. So we are today giving the go-ahead to a £60 million investment in the new Energy Research Accelerator and confirming the new national energy catapult will be in Birmingham.

And we’re going to back our brilliant automotive industry by investing £100 million to stay ahead in the race to driverless technology.

And to encourage a new generation of low emission vehicles we will increase their company car tax more slowly than previously planned, while increasing other rates by 3% in 2019-20.

We’re also connecting up the South West, with over £7 billion of transport investment, better roads, support for air links, and – I can confirm today – a new rail franchise which will bring new intercity express trains and greatly improved rail services.

We are confirming the introduction of the first 20 Housing Zones that will keep Britain building, along with the extension of 8 enterprise zones across Britain, with new zones in Plymouth and Blackpool too.

We’re giving more power to Wales. We’re working on a Cardiff city deal and we are opening negotiations on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon.

The Severn Crossings are a vital link for Wales. I can tell the House we will reduce the toll rates from 2018, and abolish the higher band for small vans and buses.

It’s a boost for the drivers of white vans. The legislation devolving corporation tax to Northern Ireland passed the House of Lords yesterday. We now urge all parties to commit to the Stormont House agreement, of which it was part.

In Scotland, we will continue working on the historic devolution agreement, implement the Glasgow City Deal, and open negotiations on new city deals for Aberdeen and Inverness.

While the falling oil price is good news for families across the country, it brings with it challenges for hundreds of thousands whose jobs depend on the North Sea.

Thanks to the field allowances we’ve introduced we saw a record £15 billion of capital investment last year in the North Sea.

But it’s clear to me that the fall in the oil price poses a pressing danger to the future of our North Sea industry – unless we take bold and immediate action.

I take that action today.

First, I am introducing from the start of next month a single, simple and generous tax allowance to stimulate investment at all stages of the industry.

Second, the government will invest in new seismic surveys in under-explored areas of the UK Continental Shelf.

Third, from next year, the Petroleum Revenue Tax will be cut from 50% to 35% to support continued production in older fields.

Fourth, I am with immediate effect cutting the Supplementary Charge from 30% to 20%, and backdating it to the beginning of January.

It amounts to £1.3 billion of support for the industry.

And the OBR assesses that it will boost expected North Sea oil production by 15% by the end of the decade.

Mr Deputy Speaker, it goes without saying that an independent Scotland would never have been able to afford such a package of support.

But it is one of the great strengths of our three-hundred year old union that just as we pool our resources, so too we share our challenges and find solutions together.

For we are one United Kingdom.

Science and innovation

Mr Deputy Speaker, we back oil and gas and we back our heavy industry too, like steel and paper mills.

I’ve listened to the Engineering Employers, and I will bring forward to this autumn part of our compensation for energy intensive plants.

But since we aim to be the most prosperous major economy in the coming generation, then we must support the latest insurgent industries too.

So we take steps to put Britain at the forefront of the on-line sharing economy.

Our creative industries are already a huge contributor to the British economy – and today we make our TV and film tax credits more generous, expand our support for the video games industry and we launch our new tax credit for orchestras.

Britain is a cultural centre of the world – and with these tax changes I’m determined we will stay in front.

And in the week after Cheltenham, we support the British racing industry by introducing a new horse race betting right.

Local newspapers are a vital part of community life – but they’ve had a tough time in recent years – so today we announce a consultation on how we can provide them with tax support too.

Future economic success depends on future scientific success. So we’ll add to the financial support I announced at the Autumn Statement for postgraduates, with new support for PhDs and research-based masters degrees.

We’re also committing almost £140 million to world class research across the UK into the infrastructure and cities of the future, and giving our national research institutes new budget freedoms.

And we’ll invest in what is known as the Internet of Things. This is the next stage of the information revolution, connecting up everything from urban transport to medical devices to household appliances.

So should – to use a ridiculous example – someone have two kitchens, they will be able to control both fridges from the same mobile phone.

All these industries depend on fast broadband.

We’ve transformed the digital infrastructure of Britain over the last five years.

Over 80% of the population have access to superfast broadband and there are 6 million customers of 4G that our auction made possible.

Today we set out a comprehensive strategy so we stay ahead.

We’ll use up to £600 million to clear new spectrum bands for further auction, so we improve mobile networks.

We’ll test the latest satellite technology so we reach the remotest communities.

We’ll provide funding for Wi-Fi in our public libraries, and expand broadband vouchers to many more cities, so no-one is excluded.

And we’re committing to a new national ambition to bring ultrafast broadband of at least 100 megabits per second to nearly all homes in the country, so Britain is out in front

Small business

Mr Deputy Speaker,

You can’t create jobs without successful business. As well as the right infrastructure, businesses also need low, competitive taxes.

In two weeks’ time, we will cut corporation tax to 20%, one of the lowest rates of any major economy in the world.

There are those here who are committed to putting the rate of corporation tax up.

They should know that this would be the first increase in this tax rate since 1973, and a job-destroying and retrograde step for this country to take.

And rather than increasing the jobs tax as some propose, we’re going to go on cutting it.

This April we will abolish National Insurance for employing under 21s;

Next April we will abolish it for employing a young apprentice;

And I can confirm today that 1 million small businesses have now claimed our new Employment Allowance.

From this April we’re also extending our small business rate relief and our help for the high street.

But in my view the current system of Business Rates has not kept pace with the needs of a modern economy and changes to our town centres, and needs far-reaching reform.

Businesses large and small have asked for a major review of this tax – and this week that’s what we’ve agreed to do.

The boost I provided to the Annual Investment Allowance comes to an end at the end of the year.

A better time to address this is in the Autumn Statement.

However, I am clear from my conversations with business groups that a reduction to £25,000 would not be remotely acceptable – and so it will be set at a much more generous rate.

Today I’m announcing changes to the Enterprise Investment Schemes and Venture Capital Trusts to ensure they are compliant with the latest state aid rules and increasing support to high growth companies.

Mr Deputy Speaker, businesses, like people, want their taxes to be low. They also want them to be simple to pay.

We set up the Office of Tax Simplification at the start of this Parliament and I want to thank Michael Jack and John Whiting for the fantastic work they have done.

To support five million people who are self-employed, and to make their tax affairs simpler, in the next Parliament we will abolish Class 2 National Insurance contributions for the self-employed entirely.

And today we can bring simpler taxes to many more.

12 million people and small businesses are forced to complete a self-assessment tax return every year. It is complex, costly and time-consuming.

So, today I am announcing this.

We will abolish the annual tax return altogether.

Millions of individuals will have the information the Revenue needs automatically uploaded into new digital tax accounts.

A minority with the most complex tax affairs will be able to manage their account on-line.

Businesses will feel like they are paying a simple, single business tax – and again, for most, the information needed will be automatically received.

A revolutionary simplification of tax collection. Starting next year.

Because we believe people should be working for themselves, not working for the tax man.

Tax really doesn’t have to be taxing, and this spells the death of the annual tax return.

Duties

Mr Deputy Speaker, we want to help families with simpler taxes – and with lower taxes too.

So let me turn now to duties.

I have no changes to make to the duties on tobacco and gaming already announced.

Last year, I cut beer duty for the second year in a row and the industry estimates that helped create 16,000 jobs.

Today I am cutting beer duty for the third year in a row – taking another penny off a pint.

I am cutting cider duty by 2% – to support our producers in the West Country and elsewhere.

And to back one of the UK’s biggest exports, the duty on Scotch whisky and other spirits will be cut by 2% as well.

Wine duty will be frozen.

More pubs saved, jobs created, families supported – and a penny off a pint for the third year in a row.

Fuel

Mr Deputy Speaker,

I also want to help families with the cost of filling up a car.

It’s a cost that bears heavily on small businesses too.

The last government’s plans for a fuel duty escalator meant taxes would rise above inflation every year.

But I want to make sure that the falling oil price is passed on at the pumps.

So I am today cancelling the fuel duty increase scheduled for September.

Petrol frozen again. It’s the longest duty freeze in over twenty years.

It saves a family around £10 every time they fill up their car

Personal Allowance

Mr Deputy Speaker.

We believe that work should pay – and families should keep more of the money they earn.

When we came to office, the personal tax-free allowance stood at just £6,500.

We set ourselves the goal – even in difficult times – of raising that allowance to £10,000 by the end of the parliament

We have more than delivered on that promise.

In two weeks’ time it will reach £10,600

That’s a huge boost to the incomes of working people and one of the reasons we have a record number of people in work.

Today I can announce that we go further.

The personal tax-free allowance will rise to £10,800 next year – and then to £11,000 the year after.

That’s £11,000 you can earn before paying any income tax at all.

It means the typical working taxpayer will be over £900 a year better off.

It’s a tax cut for 27 million people and means we’ve taken almost 4 million of the lowest paid out of income tax altogether.

Because we pass on the full gains of this policy, I can make this announcement today

For the first time in 7 years, the threshold at which people pay the higher tax rate will rise not just with inflation – but above inflation.

It will rise from £42,385 this year to £43,300 by 2017-18.

So an £11,000 personal allowance.

An above inflation increase in the higher rate.

A down-payment on our commitment to raise the personal allowance to £12,500 and raise the Higher Rate threshold to £50,000.

An economic plan working for you.

And in this Budget the rate of the new transferable tax allowance for married couples will rise to £1,100 too.

That’s the allowance coming in just two weeks’ time to help over 4 million couples – help that they would take away, but we on this side are proud to provide.

Savings

Mr Deputy Speaker,

This Budget takes another step to move Britain from a country built on debt, to a country built on savings and investment.

Last year I unlocked pensions with freedom for millions of savers.

But there is more to do to create a savings culture.

Today I announce four major new steps in our savings revolution.

They are based on the principles that cutting taxes increases the return on savings, and that people should have freedom to choose how they use those savings.

First, we will give five million pensioners access to their annuity.

For many an annuity is the right product, but for some it makes sense to access their annuity now.

So we’re changing the law to make that possible.

From next year the punitive tax charge of at least 55% will be abolished. Tax will be applied only at the marginal rate.

And we’ll consult to ensure pensioners get the right guidance and advice.

So freedom for five million people with an annuity.

Second, we will introduce a radically more Flexible ISA.

In 2 weeks’ time the changes I’ve already made mean people will be able to put £15,240 into an ISA.

But if you take that money out – you lose your tax free entitlement, and so can’t put it back in.

This restricts what people can do with their own savings – but I believe people should be trusted with their hard earned money.

With the fully Flexible ISA people will have complete freedom to take money out, and put it back in later in the year, without losing any of their tax-free entitlement

It will be available from this autumn and we will also expand the range of investments that are eligible.

Third, we’re going to take two of our most successful policies and combine them to create a brand new Help to Buy ISA.

And we do it to tackle two of the biggest challenges facing first time buyers – the low interest rates when you build up your savings, and the high deposits required by the banks.

The Help to Buy ISA for first time buyers works like this.

For every £200 you save for your deposit, the Government will top it up with £50 more.

It’s as simple as this – we’ll work hand in hand to help you buy your first home.

This is a Budget that works for you.

A 10% deposit on the average first home costs £15,000, so if you put in up to £12,000 – we’ll put in up to £3,000 more.

A 25% top-up is equivalent to saving for a deposit from your pre-tax income – it’s effectively a tax cut for first time buyers.

We’ll work with industry so it’s ready for this autumn and we’ll make sure you can start saving for it right now.

So Mr Deputy Speaker:

Access for pensioners to their annuities.

A new Flexible ISA.

Backing home ownership with a first time buyer bonus.

And one other reform.

Today I introduce a new Personal Savings Allowance that will take 95% of taxpayers out of savings tax altogether.

From April next year the first £1,000 of the interest you earn on all of your savings will be completely tax-free.

To ensure higher rate taxpayers enjoy the same benefits, but no more, their allowance will be set at £500.

People have already paid tax once on their money when they earn it. They shouldn’t have to pay tax a second time when they save it.

With our new Personal Savings Allowance, 17 million people will see the tax on their savings not just cut, but abolished.

An entire system of tax collection can be scrapped.

At a stroke we create tax free banking for almost the entire population.

And build the economy on savings not debt.

Conclusion

Mr Deputy Speaker, five years ago I had to present to this House an Emergency Budget.

Today I present the Budget of an economy stronger in every way from the one we inherited.

The Budget of an economy taking another big step from austerity to prosperity.

We cut the deficit – and confidence is returning.

We limited spending, made work pay, backed business – and growth is returning.

We gave people control over their savings and helped people own their own homes – and optimism is returning.

We have provided clear decisive economic leadership – and from the depths Britain is returning.

The share of national income taken up by debt – falling.

The deficit down.

Growth up.

Jobs up.

Living standards on the rise.

Britain on the rise.

This is the Budget for Britain.

The Comeback Country.