David Cameron – 2013 Speech at Siemens


Below is the text of the speech made by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, at Siemens in Lincoln on 16th July 2013.

Prime Minister

Thank you. Well, thank you for the welcome and it’s great to be here at Siemens, great to be here in Lincoln. And I think there’s lots of good reasons for being here because what I want to talk about very briefly today is our economy and how I believe our economy is on the mend. I think it’s getting better, I think it’s improving. It’s still early days; it’s still hard work. And one of the reasons it’s getting better is businesses like yours.

I think we all know that in this country we became too reliant on financial services, too reliant on the south of England. We needed to do more to make things again, design things again, export things again and that is exactly what you do here at Siemens. This is a business that exports over 90% of what you do. You’re helping Britain compete and succeed in the global race. And you’re also helping in other important ways in that you are helping train young people.

You take on some 15 apprentices every year but you don’t just do that, you support an engineering school at the university and you’re starting up a UTC – a University Technical College – to help give young people education and training that will give them the ability to work in great businesses like this. So I think it’s a good place to come and visit, to come and hear about what you do, because I think it’s absolutely vital we continue the work of mending our economy.

Now, I’m not going to stand here and say that the job is done or even half-done. I’m not going to say that everything is being fixed, but what I will argue is that we’re making some progress. We said we are going to have to deal with the deficit, which was one of the biggest in the world when we came to office, and we’ve paid down a third of that deficit. We said we needed more jobs in the private sector. Of course, we’ve lost jobs in the public sector – that was inevitable when you have to make cuts – but we created something like 1.3 million jobs in the private sector. We said that we need new small businesses starting up as the engine of growth, and we’ve seen some of the fastest rates of new businesses growing in our country in recent years.

So I think the economy is on the move, it is on the mend, but we have got a long way to go. And we’re only going to keep improving it if, actually, we back people who work hard, who want to do the right thing, and help them get a good place at school, get a good apprenticeship, start their own business and make something of their lives. And that’s what this government should be all about, and that’s what I’m focused on – not anything else, but focused on helping people with their aspirations to get a good job, to make something of their lives and to back businesses like this.

Anyway, I promised no long speech from me so that is it from me. It’s now your questions and my attempt to answer them. And you can ask about anything you like. It doesn’t mean I’ll answer, but I’ll have a go. So who wants to go first? Just put your hand in the air and there are roving microphones.


In the UK we’re an importer of energy. I’m just wondering what the government’s policy is to make sure that we don’t have the lights turned off.

Prime Minister

Well, I think energy security is absolutely vital. It’s one of the tasks of government to make sure we’ve got plentiful supplies of energy and that it’s not too expensive. And we’re going through a big change right now. You know, our old nuclear power stations are running out of time and being switched off. We should become less reliant on coal for environmental and other reasons. So we have to put a lot of investment into our energy industries.

And what we’re seeing is, first of all, we’ve got a good contribution from gas in our country. We’ve still got a lot of reserves of gas in the North Sea and we’ve got pretty secure imports of gas from different parts of the world; we’re not reliant on any one part of the world. We’re not like some countries that get so much of their gas from Russia; we hardly get any of our gas from Russia. So I think we’ve good secure supplies of gas.

We’re going to invest in new nuclear energy. We’ve got Hinkley Point, where a decision I think will be made quite soon and I hope it’ll be a positive one to have a brand new nuclear power station. And I think it’s also important alongside gas, alongside nuclear, to make sure we also invest in some of the renewable technologies. Now they’re not going to be all of the answer, of course not, but I think to make sure we get some of our energy from on and offshore wind and that we look at some of the other technologies – wave and tidal power – I think it’s very sensible for a country like ours.

So what we’ve done, as a government, is actually set out a pretty clear framework. So if you’re an investor into say offshore wind in the North Sea, and we have 70% of Europe’s offshore wind capacity here in the UK, you know that if you build your plant before the end of 2017 you know exactly what you’re going to be paid for the next 20 years.

So Siemens are a big investor in this area. I recently went to the opening of the largest offshore wind farm anywhere in the world, which is called the London Array off the coast of Kent, and we hope that Siemens will go on investing in this technology. It’s not the whole answer but it’s part of the answer.

So a mixture of gas, of nuclear, of renewables I think can make sure we have plentiful supplies of energy. But we’re going to make doubly sure by having something called a capacity payment, so we’re going to introduce a system where we very openly buy a little bit more electricity than we need effectively – a bit more generating capacity than we need – so that we have a buffer, just in case demand rises faster than some people predict. So I’m confident that we’ll solve that problem and make sure we keep the lights on and can supply industry and consumers with plentiful supplies of energy.


On an almost directly-related topic, we’ve been waiting in Siemens with bated breath for the Hull announcement. Kind of would you like to say ‘yes’ today?

Prime Minister

Well, I would love to hear a ‘yes’ today. Look, I think this is a great opportunity, not just for Siemens, I think it’s a great opportunity for Britain. I think if you look at the Humber Estuary you can see that that has an opportunity, if you like, to be a sort of Aberdeen of wind. I mean, you’ve got Aberdeen with the offshore oil industry. I think that Humberside, the Humber Estuary, can be a real hub of investment in industry for the offshore and onshore wind.

So, it’s Siemens’ decision whether they go ahead with this plant in Hull. All I can say is I think the government’s done everything it possibly could in terms of making available finance, in terms of explaining how the energy market is going to work, in terms of giving guarantees against future changes of policy. I’ve even rung up the Chief Executive on one or two occasions, so it’s – in the end it’s a commercial decision for Siemens, a commercial business.

But I think the framework for the energy industries in the UK is probably as clear as anywhere in the world. And you see that from overseas investors who are investing in our nuclear industries, our offshore wind industries, other industries. They say, ‘You’ve set out what the regime is for getting your payments and so it’s now up to us to spend the money.’ So I hope it’ll be a yes and I think we’ll find out maybe today maybe tomorrow.


You’ve talked about energy security. I wonder what your view is on fracking, particularly in the more sensitive areas of the country like Surrey and Dorset.

Prime Minister

Well, I’m in favour of fracking. I think – look, if you look at the big picture, what do we need to do in our country to be a success, right?

We live in a very competitive world. You’ve got the rise of India, the rise of China, these great economies powering ahead. How are we in Britain going to be a success story in the 21st century just like we were in the 20th century? Well, we’re going to be a success story if we play to our strengths, if we invest in great businesses, if we keep up with science and technology, if we invest in our great universities, if we go on inventing things. But as well as that, you’ve got to exploit the new industries and you’ve got to make sure your energy prices aren’t rising ahead of your competitors.

Now, the unconventional gas gained by so-called fracking; if you look at what’s happened in America I think there’s a real lesson for us here in the UK. In America they are now almost self-sufficient in gas. Their gas prices to business are now less than half as much as ours are and the reason for this is they have put a lot of investment into unconventional gas. The figures are actually quite frightening. Europe as a whole has 75% as much unconventional gas as America, so we’ve got less in Europe than America. But whereas they are digging 10,000 wells a year, so far in Europe we’ve dug just 100, so we are way behind.

So I am in favour of fracking. The government is making it easier. We’ve set up an office of unconventional gas. We’re trying to streamline the permissions and the permits that you need. But, of course, there will be sensitivities. We are a relatively crowded island, whereas obviously in, you know, North Dakota in America it’s been easier to dig wells when you’ve got fewer people living on each part of your country, but we should be able to take advantage of this. So, let’s streamline the process; let’s make it possible.

And then of course there will be a public debate locally, but I think one of the ways we can get over this – and I have been making sure we do this – one of the ways we can get over this is if local communities can see the benefit themselves. And so, what we’ve said is for every well dug there should be an immediate £100,000 payment to the local community.

Now, that should be just the start, because of course if you hit unconventional gas supplies and you start to exploit them, that will generate a lot of revenue. And I think the way to get over – some places, obviously, it won’t be appropriate because of the amount of people living there and all the rest of it but, otherwise, I think the way to get over public concern is to say there’ll be real community benefits, and not just benefits going to your local council, but benefits going to your parish, going to your district, going to your – effectively, to yourself, as well. I think if we do that, people will see, ‘Okay, there are downsides of this, there are upsides, but I am going to have a personal investment in it.’ And I think if we do that we can make sure the unconventional gas revolution comes to the UK, and that’ll make us more competitive and give us more secure and cheaper supplies of energy at the same time.


There’s a projection for the NHS over the next six or seven years, that there’s going to be a serious shortfall in the funding. How do you intend to cover that?

Prime Minister

Yeah, very good question; I mean, I think this is a real test for any government, frankly. We got in three years ago with this budget deficit, so what we were spending was much more than what we were getting in taxes – in fact, it was worse than almost anywhere in the world. So, we had to make some cuts. And, actually, as a government, we chose not to cut the NHS. My view was the NHS is too precious; we all rely on it, our families rely on it, so there should be and there will be in this parliament, modest increases in NHS spending.

But frankly, even modest increases in NHS spending aren’t really enough to cope with the pressures on the NHS, because we’re an ageing population, we’re living longer, there are new treatments coming along that are expensive. So, as you say, sir, there is a funding challenge.

How do we meet that? Well, I think the first thing we have to do is try and make sure that we’re spending every penny as wisely as we possibly could, and that’s why one of the things we did in the recent spending announcement is actually we took some NHS money and we gave it to local authorities to spend on social care, to spend it on helping get those people who are blocked in hospital beds, costing the NHS a fortune, who could be better off at home or in a care home properly looked after.

So, I think if we’re more efficient, if we spend the money wisely, I think we can make sure that the NHS deals with the pressures on it. But it’s not going to be easy. And obviously, today you hear the news that we’ve looked into – or the NHS has looked into the 14 hospitals with the highest unexplained death rates, and, you know, I am a big fan of our NHS. I love our NHS. I never want to see any harm come to our NHS but, frankly, we don’t serve our NHS if we cover up wrongdoing and problems. We’ve got to look at those problems, we’ve got to look at any instances of poor levels of care or poor management, and we’ve got to deal with them, and I don’t think the last government did enough of that. I think that they sort of said to the inspectorates, ‘Don’t give us the bad news, I don’t want to know;’ you know, ‘Talk to the hand, the government doesn’t want to hear.’

I do want to know. If there are things going wrong at, say, Stafford Hospital, or things going wrong at any Lincolnshire hospitals, we need to hear about that, we need to send in teams to help turn them around, we need to make sure people get a good service. Now, it will be testing, meeting this funding challenge but, actually, if we spend the money wisely – small, real-terms increases when other public services are taking spending reductions – I think we can deliver a really good NHS.


You mentioned our apprentices, and we are very proud of the apprenticeship programme at Lincoln. Recently, Siemens in Lincoln took part in one of your programmes at the Employer Ownership of Skills programme; we had a very successful pre-employment training programme in Lincoln. I just wonder if you can assure us that you will make sure that red tape and bureaucracy won’t descend upon employers away from the Skills Funding Agency, because there is some indications that that might be going to happen.

Prime Minister

I think this is a real worry. I mean, businesses like yours take on apprentices every year, and that is good for you and it’s good for the country; it’s good for the young people concerned. And there have been something like 1.2 million apprentices taken on since the election; we have put a lot of money apprentices, we’re very keen on the programme. But I think for big businesses like yours, it’s one thing coping with the paperwork and the bureaucracy. For smaller firms, it can be just a no-no; they decide, ‘I don’t want to go near this.’

So, what we’ve done is create a more streamlined system. We have said to big businesses like yours, ‘You don’t have to partner with a training organisation to run these apprenticeships; you can run your own schemes and do it your own way.’ And we have said to small firms, ‘If you haven’t taken on an apprentice before, we’ll give you a bounty – we’ll give you a bonus, for taking on your first apprentices.’ So, I think that bit we can get right.

The bit I’m more concerned about – and it was very interesting talking to some of the apprentices here this morning – is I still don’t think we are getting it right in school, explaining to young people what are the career options. I don’t blame teachers for this, in a way; most teachers, they went to school, they did their A-levels, they went to university. They’re very familiar with that path, but I don’t think we do enough to say to young people that you can get an apprenticeship at 16, you can get a different sort of apprenticeship at 18, there are now higher-level apprenticeships which are the equivalent of a university degree, there are all these earning and learning options aside from the A-level and university option, and I think we need to do better at that. And I think businesses can help us do that by getting into schools and telling young people early on what are the options.

But I think apprentices should be a major growth area for Britain. You know, this is a German company, and I’m not embarrassed to say it: I think the Germans have done apprentices better than the British. There are lots of things the British do better than the Germans, of course – football, cricket, even tennis, now, fortunately – but this is something we can learn from the Germans. They have a fantastically low youth unemployment rate; so do the Dutch. We’re some way behind that. We’re ahead of the Spanish and the Italians and some others, but we can learn more from the Germans when it comes to apprenticeships.


You mentioned about apprentices. What’s being done after the training from your point of view at the moment, and what needs to be done, to ensure the skills stay in the country, within jobs and within business?

Prime Minister

Well, how do we keep the skills in the country once you’ve trained them up? We have got to do more to help businesses. So, you know, if we want to rebalance this economy we don’t want to see less financial services – it’s a good industry, something Britain’s good at – but we want to see more manufacturing, more technology, more aerospace, more in the auto industry.

How do we do that? Well, we’ve got to go through all the things that manufacturing and technology businesses want from the government. Now, I would say there are about three or four things. You want support for apprenticeships because they’re vital for you, so the government’s putting money into apprenticeships. You want support for research and development to develop new products, so we have a tax credit specifically for every pound you spend on research and development. Businesses need competitive and low tax rates, so even at a time of difficult public spending and tax decisions, we have taken the British rate of corporation tax down to 20%, which means that you pay less corporation tax here in Britain than you do in any other G7 or G8 or in fact, I think, G20 country, so we can say to companies like Siemens, ‘Invest more in Britain. Build more in Britain. This is a good place to work.’ Some areas of the country need help more than others, so Enterprise Zones have been another way of encouraging businesses to expand and invest here.

And then I think the last thing that manufacturing businesses need – you’ve got to move product around. It’s not just having access to broadband; you need those physical networks, so we need to invest more in roads, in railways, in port infrastructure, all of which is happening in the UK, again in spite of the cuts. You know, we cut the police by 20% – very difficult decision to make. Actually, I think the police have coped brilliantly with it; they have made themselves more efficient, we haven’t seen a big reduction in police officers. But, as a result, we – as a result of difficult decisions like that, we have been able to spend money on capital – on roads, on railways, on port infrastructure – that will make us more competitive and enable us to win.

So, all those things, and I expect some of the people in your firm could think of some other things we should be doing as well. But I think that would be a good start.


Is the NHS safe in your hands? I mean, clearly we’re going to have some revelations from the Keogh review today; what are you going to do to make things better, and when will it be safe for people to go back to hospital in Lincoln?

Prime Minister

Well, first of all, the NHS is completely safe in this government’s hands. We absolutely believe in it, we have invested in it; whereas we’ve had to cut some other public services, we’ve increased NHS investment every year. We should, at the same time of pointing out the difficult things in our health service, we should point out the success stories. Mixed-sex wards are almost abolished, infection rates in hospitals are now down at record lows, waiting lists and waiting times are in a good and reasonable place.

There’s much to celebrate in our NHS, and I love our NHS and I never want to do it any harm, but we don’t serve our NHS by covering up problems and difficulties, and clearly there are some hospitals with too-high mortality rates. It’s right to investigate them and it’s right also as the Health Secretary’s done today to identify those hospitals where we’re going to put them into special measures, send in help to turn them around, and make sure they go back to providing the very best service.

That’s what’s happening today. It’s right to highlight problems where they are, but they’re being dealt with, and people can know that they have a good National Health Service that they can be proud to use and proud to see improved at the same time.


Prime Minister, in light of the release of the BBC’s Annual Report, do you think it’s right that taxpayers are legally required to pay the licence fee while BBC executives are receiving pay-offs of nearly £1 million?

Prime Minister

Well, I think the BBC has to be very careful with the money that it spends. The BBC is in a unique position because it has the licence fee. I support the licence fee. But going with the licence fee is the responsibility to spend that money wisely, and I think it’s quite clear some of the BBC pay-offs have been too high and there hasn’t been enough rigour in this whole process, as was demonstrated in front of the Select Committee, and they need to be more rigorous in the future.

The BBC has strong public support, but they won’t keep that support unless they spend the money wisely.


It’s a question that must be on everybody’s lips, right, and what sort of message does it send out that the politicians or the MPs are looking at 10% pay rises when we’re seeing cuts in public spending and armed forces? And people like ourselves, you know, that we could only wish for a 10% pay rise. But I’d like your opinion.

Prime Minister

I agree, it is – round of applause for that man. I agree. I don’t think it is appropriate. I mean, what happened in the last parliament, just so we remember, there was the scandal about expenses, and the last government decided to make the body that decides MPs’ pay completely separate and independent from Parliament. So it makes a decision.

But I’ve said very clearly to them, including in my office, you know, you can’t propose a pay increase at the time when public sector workers have been told it’s a 1% pay increase and that’s it. You can’t suggest that. And, secondly, whatever you do, whatever you suggest and whenever you try and implement it, you’ve got to cut the cost of politics rather than increase it.

Now, I think there are costs in politics that we could reduce. There are still excesses in the system. And so I’ve said to that body – and they haven’t made a final decision; this pay rise is not written down in stone, it’s not being implemented, there’s a consultation going on. I’ve said to them, ‘Go away and cut the cost of politics, and don’t introduce a pay rise at the time when people are suffering public sector pay restraint.’ And I think that is the right answer.

So we’ll have to see what they say, but they’ve had a pretty clear message from all three party leaders pretty much saying the same thing to them. And they have got time to think again.


You’ve mentioned the potential Siemens investment for the Humber. You’ve even said an announcement could be expected maybe today, maybe tomorrow, in your words. I’d like you to clarify that. But I’d also ask you as a government, do you think you’ve done enough to attract this company into this country?

Prime Minister

Well, first of all, it’s up to Siemens, their decision and the timing of their decisions. That’s not under my control. What is under my control is to say to Siemens we welcome your investment into the UK, we back your business, we support your apprenticeships, we back you with tax credits, we’ve given you the lowest corporate tax rate you could possibly expect, we’re a big fan of your company and we want you to do more here. It’ll be their decision. We have to be competitive with other countries. But as I said, I think the Humber Estuary is right for that sort of development.

But let’s be clear, you know, Britain has got many strengths when it comes to business and industry, and we need to play to all those strengths. As I said, there’s a lot of excitement in our universities, there are a lot of auto industries investing in this country right now. If you look at the British car industry, I’m proud; I’ve got my Jaguar Land Rover cufflinks on from another visit just like this. You know, we’ve got Jaguar Land Rover booming in Britain, we’ve got Honda, Nissan, Toyota, all expanding in Britain. BMW, one of your German sister companies, making Minis just outside my constituency, which wherever I travel in the world I see these fantastic examples of British design and manufacture running round the streets.

So there’s lots to celebrate in terms of Britain’s industrial future, and this government is absolutely behind backing it every step of the way.


Exporting is second nature to this business, but we know how difficult it is. What’s the government doing to encourage and help new exporters from the UK?

Prime Minister

Very good question. It’s one of my favourite statistics. At the moment, one in five of British small businesses export. And if we could turn that from one in five to one in four, we’d wipe out our trade balance altogether. So this is a big national effort required.

What we have, starting at the very top, I hired the Head of HSBC to come into my government as Trade Minister. He’s worked his socks off for the last two and a half years, and I’m replacing him with the Head of BT, one of the most successful British companies that there is in the last few years. And Ian Livingston’s going to be the new Trade Minister starting after the summer, and we have an organisation, UKTI, whose job it is to go round the country and get small businesses to export by encouraging them, by giving them the knowledge, the confidence, a bit of financial help sometimes. And we should do that.

I also take trade missions all over the world. I think if you look at every G20 country, I’ve taken a trade mission to every one apart from Argentina; for some reason I haven’t yet made it to Argentina, but no guesses there.

So I think a big national effort and, you know, we could do better at this. I don’t think there’s any one silver bullet; I think it’s really about encouraging the smaller businesses. For some of the bigger companies, I think export credits have been an issue, particularly in the difficult years of 2008–2010 when credit dried up, and some people say credit’s still not flowing fast enough now. We have introduced some new products to help ensure people’s exports, particularly in big businesses, and we’ve expanded that. And we need to keep working, making sure we’ve got the right products so the exporters really want to use them.

I think if we do all those things, I think it’s important we use all our international connections and expertise. I think Britain is fortunate in that we’re in the G8, the G20, the European Union, the OECD, NATO, the Commonwealth. You know, we are in all the key networks, and we need to exploit all of our memberships of those networks to get the best for our country. And I think we’ve got to look beyond Europe and recognise the fastest-growing economies in the world are going to be, you know, the Russias, the Indias, the Chinas, Malaysia, Indonesia, those countries, and we’ve got to encourage businesses, yes, export to Europe, but also look further afield and build on Britain’s capabilities there.

Again, while we made cuts, actually, when you look at the Foreign Office and our network of embassies around the world, I’ve asked them to be more efficient. I’ve asked them to cut back on some of the excesses. But I’ve said, ‘Actually, we need to open more embassies, more trade missions, more posts around the world.’ I think we’re one of the only European countries with an embassy in every one of the ASEAN countries in Southeast Asia.

So the network’s there, and I hope Siemens will use it, you know. They may be our embassies, but as far as I’m concerned, British businesses, British-based businesses, should use them as your home when you’re exporting.


I just wanted to ask about a big topic in the news at the moment, which is the involvement of our government and GCHQ in mass data collection. This is obviously a very important issue, because we use a lot more data in this day and age than we ever have before, and I just would like to ask of your views.

Prime Minister

Yes, that is a very important question. It’s one of the – one of the biggest responsibilities of the Prime Minister; I am effectively the Minister for the Intelligence Services. And I think it’s very important to understand what they do, to try and explain to the British public what they do and why it’s so important.

So I think first of all, sort of stand back and look at the threats that we face. You know, we saw what happened in America on 9/11, we saw what happened here, 7/7, we know what threats we can face. Every year since I’ve been Prime Minister, our intelligence services have uncovered and prevented at least one major plot every year that could have been a mass casualty event.

So we are dealing with a very serious issue: our national security. And I think it’s very important that we have well funded security services – GCHQ that deals with communications, MI5, which is the domestic security service, and MI6, which deals with overseas intelligence – that we have them well funded, well organised but, crucially, within the law.

There are acts of parliament that determine what they are allowed to do and what they’re not allowed to do. And they’re overseen by a now much strengthened, intelligence and security committee that sits in parliament, that is headed by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former Foreign Secretary, that can examine all the work that they do.

And I’m satisfied that they act within the law. And I’m also satisfied, because this was important in the issues that came up, that they are not using their cooperation with foreign intelligence services to somehow get round the law; they’re not using data garnered from overseas to get round the restrictions that there are in the UK. And I think that’s vitally important. I mean, if you want me to say more I will.

Very simply put, because I think it’s quite reassuring when you hear this, if the police or intelligence service want to know the detail about a bit of communications, i.e. a mobile phone call that Mr A makes to Mr B. If they want to know simply who made the call, where were they, what was the time of the call or who were they calling, that so-called communications data, there is a legal process they have to go through to access that data. So there’s a legal process. But it is very important they can access that. Think of how many murders, rapes, abductions, terrorist investigations, you know… Almost all serious crime, the police will use communications data – the, ‘who called who, when and where?’ – they’ll use that data in the investigation. So it’s very important they have access to that data, all done legally.

That shouldn’t be confused with the content of communications, i.e. what Mr A said to Mr B. Now if the intelligence services want to listen to that they have to have a signed warrant by the Home Secretary. So that’s quite a high bar. So I’m very satisfied, and I’ve simplified it, but I’m very satisfied that garnering information about the data, who called who and when, and garnering information about the content are very strictly controlled in Britain. But do I think it’s important that we have security services, that they can do those things in order to keep us safe? Absolutely I do.

And I see at first hand these very brave people, who never get thanked because we’re not really allowed to know who they all are, working round the clock to keep us safe from very dangerous people who do us harm. So, nothing in the world is ever perfect, but I would argue we have a good system, well run, that we can be proud of in Britain, that helps to keep us safe.


I’m from the Siemens Commercial Academy, which takes students from sixth form straight into full-time employment and funds your degree as well. This year, sadly, we’ve had to drop the degree because of the rise of university fees, which has resulted in the loss of applicants to our scheme. Are you trying to deter young people from going to university and getting a higher degree, a higher education, even given the state of, like, the unemployment in the young?

Prime Minister

That’s a very good question. The answer is: no we are absolutely not trying to deter young people to go to university. And, in fact, recently the numbers of young people applying has actually been increasing rather than falling.

But there is a big issue here which is how do we pay for good universities? It goes back to my argument: if we are going to be a winner in the global race, if we are going to be a success as a country, we’ve got to have good universities with well paid tutors, well stocked libraries, really great technical labs. That costs money. And the only two places you can get it from: you can get it from the taxpayer – but the taxpayer has already got to pay for everything else – or you can ask students to pay. So the decision we took was to say to students that we are going to charge you more in fees for your degree. But what we said, absolutely crucially, is you pay nothing up front. There is no up-front payments, and you only start paying it back when you’re earning over £21,000 a year. So it’s actually only better off students, only successful students that are paying back the money. You don’t start paying back in full until you’re earning £35,000.

So, look, it is a tough decision; it is difficult. But what it means is that our universities can continue to expand, our degree courses will be well funded. They’ll be competitive with other countries around the world, because there’s no point having second-rate degrees and second-rate universities. And I think it’s fair because we’re not asking people to pay back until they are earning a decent wage. But I know it is – it is difficult, but I think the evidence is beginning to show, not only, as I said, that numbers applying are looking good, but also the numbers applying from the most deprived backgrounds have increased. And that’s because we’ve put a lot of effort into bursaries and other packages to encourage people to go to university.

But again, a lot of what I have to do is about making tough decisions that are in the long-term interest of the country. And I think this fits squarely into that. And that’s what you have to do in business. Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions for the future of Siemens, for the future of manufacturing. You have to change things. You have to change processes in order to make sure your business goes on and succeeds in the future.

Can I think you again very much for the warm welcome. Thank you for letting me come and see the amazing work that you do here. Can I congratulate you again on 90% of your business being exports, the massive investment you make in young people and the big investment you make in Lincoln. Thank you very much.

David Cameron – 2013 Business in the Community Awards Speech


Below is the speech made by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to the 2013 Business in the Community Awards held on the 2nd July 2013.

It’s a real pleasure to come and celebrate the work of so many of our leading businesses who are helping to make our country a better place.

Business in the Community are the great champions of this cause.

And it’s absolutely right that they should hold this…

…the Oscars of good, responsible business.

If you want to know why responsible business matters, look at our hosts this evening, Marks and Spencer….

….whose Shwopping scheme, brilliantly advocated by Joanna Lumley, has already raised £2.3 million for Oxfam.

Look at Trading for Good – a new free platform launched today to recognise what smaller businesses are doing in their local communities.

Look at innovative CEOs like Steve Holliday helping companies promote their vacancies to the unemployed…

… or Paul Drechsler showing businesses how to support schools.

And look at the growing number of business connectors…

…people seconded from business working for a year in our communities, to make the links between local business and the local organisations that need the most support.

All of them – and all of you here tonight – are proving two things that I believe very passionately.

The first is that business has a key role to play in building a bigger and stronger society.

The second, that responsible business is good business too.

I am a passionate believer in the free enterprise system.

I believe that starting a business, selling a product or service, turning a profit, investing and building…

…these are good and noble things.

They create the wealth and jobs we need.

But business has the capacity to do even more.

Responsible business can be the greatest force for social progress on the planet.

From worklessness to obesity…

…from the break-up of families to the break-down of communities…

…from environmental damage to economic dislocation…

…I simply cannot think of an area of public policy where the creative thinking of business wouldn’t help in delivering a better outcome.

And if we have learnt anything from the last two decades, it is surely this…

…that we can’t solve our social problems simply by government changing laws or passing down edicts from above.

We need business, charities and individuals to work together with government.

Not just government action but social action.

Not just government responsibility but personal and corporate responsibility.

That’s how we change our country for the better.

So yes, the moral case for responsible business is strong.

But just consider for a moment the economic case.

Let me explain.

Businesses want low taxes, and as little regulation and interference from government as possible.

And this is a government that is determined to do everything possible to achieve that.

That’s why we are cutting the red tape…

…and cutting corporation tax to 20%, the lowest of any major economy in the world.

But the truth is that governments don’t just interfere for the sake of it…

…they do so because there are problems in our society that need government spending to pay for them.

So responsible businesses can help.

You can help us to tackle the crime, the family breakdown, the education failure that causes the demand for public spending – and therefore taxes to rise.

And there is something else you can do.

You can make sure that low taxes are actually paid.

Right now taxes are higher than they need to be because the international tax system doesn’t work.

Some individuals and some companies are able to evade their responsibilities and that makes taxes higher for everyone else.

So when I made tackling tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance a priority for the G8 in Northern Ireland last month…

…I wasn’t just doing what is right for good government…

…I was doing what is right for good business too.

Now there is one area where I’d like to make a particular plea for business help tonight…

…and that’s supporting our young people.

In the coming months HRH The Prince of Wales is launching a nationwide campaign…

…with the full support of myself, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg…

…to help young people contribute to their communities through service to others.

From working with groups like the Scouts and Guides who have been leading the way on social action for over a century…

…to new programmes like National Citizen Service…

….the Campaign for Youth Social Action will bring together all the different ways in which young people can give something back to their community.

And it will seek to create a legacy of social action that we can pass down from generation to generation.

National Citizen Service is one of the newest parts of this…

…but it has the potential to be one of the biggest.

You know how it works.

Young people from different backgrounds come together…

…first, for an outdoor challenge that takes them outside their comfort zone and makes them work as teams…

…then living together back in their local area working with local businesses and community leaders to learn new skills…

…and finally making their own mark by planning and delivering a social action project that gives something back to their community.

From the first two years alone, we have 35,000 graduates.

This year we’ll double that.

And over time I want National Citizen Service to become a rite of passage in our country that can give our young people a sense of purpose, optimism and belonging.

But to do that – and to make the Campaign for Youth Social Action a great national project – we will need the help of business.

So I’m delighted that tonight the government is supporting a new award which recognises businesses which support social action for young people…

…and I would ask you all to think about what more you can do.

Because this campaign isn’t about government.

And it isn’t about party politics either.

It’s about how together we help young people understand the value of social responsibility.

It’s about the expectations we set.

The culture we build.

It’s about equipping our young people with the skills and character to work, to contribute, to make our country what it can be.

In short, it’s about our future.

So as the children from Emerald Music School who just performed for us so brilliantly put it: imagine it possible.

And then let’s go and make it so.

Thank you very much for listening.

Congratulations again on all that you are doing to make our country a better place.

And have a great evening.

David Cameron – 2013 Teach First Speech


Below is the text of the speech made in welcome to Teach First representatives during their visit to Downing Street, London, on 8th July 2013.

Well, a very, very warm welcome to Number 10 Downing Street. I am an enormous fan of Teach First, of the whole idea of everything that you do, of the massive achievement that you are bringing to our schools. So it is a real privilege to welcome you here.

When you’re a leader of a political party, or Prime Minister, you do get some amazing days out. And obviously I had a pretty amazing day out yesterday at the tennis. And there are other things you get to go and see: the SAS train in Hereford or you get to go and see some of our most incredible universities. I remember going to one where they were working on the Space Programme and the guy said, ‘This really is rocket science.’

But I remember one of the most inspiring days I’ve had in the seven years that I’ve led a political party, and that was going to spend some time on one of your Teach First training days. And I saw then, in the early days of Teach First, the incredible potential of what you do. And in the spirit of teaching I tried to remember my homework for today’s meeting and I want to give you three statistics.

Statistic number one, which is why we need you so badly, is there are 80,000 children every year on free school meals, but typically only 40 of them get to the very best of our universities. And that is, I think, a standing rebuke to us as a country in terms of social mobility and educational attainment.

The second of the figures I have, which I think shows the incredible potential of what you do, is that Teach First is now not only the biggest graduate recruiter, but it is also the fastest growing. So this to me says that there is an incredible appetite for this brilliant programme, and I think that is hugely welcome.

The third of my statistics is also, I think, quite important, which is that we have quadrupled the number of Teach First graduates over the last three and a half years. So I think when you put those things together you can see a programme that is absolutely needed, a programme that is incredibly popular and a programme that has the full support of the Department of Education, the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister.

And let me just say a few of the things about why I like this programme so much. And the most important thing is the context for all of this, and the day today when we launched the new National Curriculum. The context is very simple. We are in a global race. We have to make sure that our students and our school are as good, as stretched, as talented as those in Shanghai, in Singapore, in Helsinki or wherever. We have to compare ourselves to the best in the world and ask ourselves, ‘How can we be up there with the best?’ And that to me is absolutely what Teach First is about.

I asked, I think all of the Teach First graduates out there the same question, which is, ‘When you went to university did you think you were going to become a teacher?’ And the answer from every single one was the same, ‘No I didn’t. I thought actually that probably wasn’t something I’d do. I was going to be a banker,’ or, ‘I was going to be a lawyer,’ or, worse, ‘I was going to be a politician.’

No-one said they were going to be a teacher and I think what Teach First has done is just inspired some of the best and brightest in our country to consider teaching. I think that is something to really celebrate.

I think the fact that Teach First graduates go into some of our most challenging areas and some of our most challenging schools is also something to celebrate. Because you should judge a country by not how well it does for those who have all the natural advantages, but for those who actually don’t have those advantages, are we engineering an education system that can really give the bright kid from the poor home the best chance to get on? And I think that is something absolutely to celebrate in Teach First.

But I think perhaps the thing I like about it almost the most – and this may sound odd from someone who runs the government, as it were – but one of the things I like about Teach First, is that this isn’t a rolled-out, top-down government initiative; this is a Big Society initiative. This is schools, universities and an incredible voluntary body/social enterprise getting together, seeing a need, seeing a pool of talent and thinking, let’s get this sorted.

A bunch of people who set up Teach First saw the lack of educational attainment of so many in our country and simply said to themselves, ‘It does not have to be this way.’ They set up Teach First, with government-backing and help they’ve grown it massively. But, above all, it’s an initiative that brings together schools, universities and a voluntary body: a group of people who wanted to change our country for the better.

So you have my 100% commitment and support. I think Teach First is an absolutely brilliant idea. I think its expansion is wholly welcome. I think we can learn lessons for other sectors, in terms of getting bright graduates perhaps to go into social work and to other enterprises as well.

So it’s a huge privilege to have you here. I have a very, very simple message, which is please just do more of what you’re doing: much, much, much more, and as you do so, you’ll have the complete backing of this government. Thank you very much indeed.

David Cameron – 2013 Press Conference with Prime Minister Enrico Letta


Below is the text of the press conference given by David Cameron at Downing Street, London, on 17th July 2013.

Prime Minister David Cameron

Good afternoon everybody. I’m delighted to welcome Enrico on his first official visit to London, but he is course an old friend of this country, and he made a great contribution at the G8 in Northern Ireland last month. Britain’s relationship with Italy is one of the closest that we have. We’re proud to serve alongside Italian forces in Afghanistan, and we’re proud of what we achieved together in Libya.

We’ve also shown what we can do when we joined forces in Brussels to get the EU budget into better shape and to support economic growth. And we have a wealth of business ties, as we’ve seen actually in the last few days with the new agreement to pipe gas from BP’s field in Azerbaijan to homes and business in Italy. But we believe that we can have even more impact still, and that is what we’ve been discussing today. We share a strong ambition to do more to turn Europe’s economy around, and to create the new jobs that we need.

Now Britain and Italy face different contexts – Italy is in the Euro, Britain is not, Britain is not going to be. But sorting out the economy is an urgent priority for both of us. So we’re both making hard-won progress to get control of spending, so we can escape the debt crisis that weighs our economies down.

We joined forces in Brussels last month to bring the same control to EU spending, and we agree on the importance of the steps underway to bring financial stability to the eurozone. But we also know a lot more work is needed to reform the EU and to tackle the crisis of competiveness that holds Europe back in this global economic race.

So we’ve agreed to put real political commitment behind the talks to open Europe’s trade with the wider world, especially the EU – US free trade talks, which we launched at Lough Erne last month, which could add £100 billion to Europe’s economy. We’re making common cause to reduce EU burdens that get in the way of businesses growing and creating jobs. I’ve established here in the UK a business task force to identify what rules need to be scrapped and changed, and we’ve agreed to build on this with good strong proposals to take to the next European Council, the October Council, together.

And we’re going to work together to take the G8 trade, tax and transparency agenda into the G20 and beyond so the rules of the world economy actually deliver jobs and growth, both for our economies and the developing world. Now people may not talk about an Anglo-Italian engine in Europe, but what’s clear is how much we share this reforming vision for a more open and competitive European Union.

And Enrico, I was very struck by what you said in your interview with the BBC yesterday about the need for reform in Europe and more flexible Europe that would benefit all of us. That’s at the heart of my approach to the European Union, and it’s what I think will make Europe a powerful economic force in the world again. And I believe it’s essential to win confidence and consent of people at home for this agenda.

So, a warm welcome, a great friend of Britain, but it’s great to have you here as Prime Minister and very much enjoying working with you on all of these issues. Enrico.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta

Thank you David, thank you for your kind welcome, first of all, and thank you also for the leadership you’ve shown in the Lough Erne G8 meeting. I think there we reached important agreements on the fight against tax evasion, tax avoidance, against the fiscal paradise. So I think it was a very important G8.

We reached important agreement on Syria, we discussed on Libya, and in our meeting now we discuss on both topics, I think sharing the same worries and trying to find the same solutions. I repeated what I said in the meeting we had some days ago with Prime Minister Zeidan about Libya. We want to have a stabilisation there, we want to train Libya military forces, but of course we want to have them very much involved in having the correct deadline of the decision that we took in Lough Erne, which was I think the correct timetable and the correct solutions that we took there.

Of course it’s very important also the Anglo-Italian joint activity inside the European Union. First of all, on the future reforms of the European Union. We share the need for a more flexible Europe, and I think a more flexible Europe would be very important for both our countries and will be very important for the European Union, because we need to have a more flexible Union.

We need to have – and I completely share what David just said – and what David said was for in the last European Council – we have to be completely aware of the fact that we need to close the gap between our citizens and the European institution. It’s a gap not only for British citizens; it is also for Italian citizens, and I think we can jointly work on that. It will be necessary, and I really think that the Italian semester in the second half of next year could help to reach agreements and to have some important result on this topic.

I will say, also, that on the single market, we have to work; we have to work jointly, because we share the idea that the single market is really a pillar of the European Union integration, and is the pillar shared by all the 28, of course. We don’t share the same currency, but we share the main pillar of the European Union, that is, the single market.

And I think we have to work together, and we decided to have a joint Anglo‑Italian work on how to foster single market and how to work, for instance, on some issues linked to the fact that the single market is – is no more working in some important fields.

If I look at the financial service system at the European level, if I – for other important issues, we have national champions. But we don’t have European champions. It’s very difficult to overcome the obstacles at the borders, and, of course, we are not competitive towards Chinese, Americans, and so on. So, it’s a very important achievement and we have to work very hardly on that.

And of course, other important issues on which we have to work together: the TTAP, first of all; the trade with the United States. We want to – we support, of course, the work of the European negotiators there, but we want – we ask them to be fast. To go – to work fast is necessary to have solutions, agreements, as soon as possible, because the positive end of the TTAP negotiation process will be a success for the European Union, but a big achievement for the UK and for Italy, too.

And of course, the other main issue is the December European Council. The December European Council will be dedicated on defence. Italy and the UK, we share the idea that the European Union has to be stronger; stronger, and stronger as a global player. This is why we think and we want to have a joint initiative, for instance, on the argument of defence industry. That is a very important topic for the European competitiveness, but also for Italian competitiveness and I think for the UK competitiveness.

So, I will here send a final, very, very warm message: I am here to say that it is an Italian interest – and I think a European interest – that the UK stay on board of the European process. It would be important because without the UK on board European Union will be worse, will be less liberal, will be less innovative, less pro-free market, less pro-single market, less global player in the world. So, this is why we think that we can work together on many issues and it would be very important for UK, for Italy and for the European Union.

Prime Minister David Cameron

Thank you, Enrico; a very powerful and clear statement. We have some questions, I think.


Thank you very much. Prime Minister Letta, can I pick up what you’ve just said? Do you think reform in Europe means reform for all member states, or has the British Prime Minister discussed with you the possibility of a special deal for Britain in future?

And Prime Minister Cameron, if I may: you hired a man who also is paid for by a tobacco firm. Aren’t voters entitled to a clear rather than a legalistic answer? Have you ever discussed the subject of tobacco packaging with Lynton Crosby?

Prime Minister Enrico Letta

My answer is very clear: of course we need, all, reforms, and we need reform of all the European Union for all the countries. For instance, we – the countries sharing the same currency – we need to have a more integrated euro area.

So, I think it will be possible to have a common very near future in which we can have treaty changes for having a more flexible Europe in the interest of the UK, but also in the interest of the countries like Italy and like the euro area countries; we need more integration because we share the same currency. So, we can join our interests and we can have a very positive and common achievement on that.


Insisting on the fact that – UK to remain in the EU should see something more on growth and competitiveness. So, how do you deal with that at – and at the same time, you ask, as you did, to reduce the EU budget?

And another little question for Prime Minister Cameron. In the UK you are giving asylum to a Kazakh dissident, which is Mr Mukhtar Ablyazov; the wife and the daughter of Mr Ablyazov were recently sent back from Italy to Kazakhstan, and this is at the centre of a political scandal in Italy. So, I was wondering if you had the opportunity to talk about this with Prime Minister Letta or not? Thank you.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta

Political stability of course is one of the main issues for us, and I am sure that political stability is absolutely essential for bringing growth. Without political stability, it is impossible to have growth. This is why in my meetings this morning with the financial, the business community, yesterday at Chatham House, and with the others, too, I repeated that my first commitment is for growth, recovery, economic reforms, but without political stability it will be impossible.

So, my work is to boost political stability and of course it will be my first mission also having the reform of politics. I talked to David, also, how important was the fact that the Senate approved some days ago the first constitutional change of this long-term process that we are proposing to our country to arrive at the end of the process to a huge constitutional change. That would be very important and now, of course, I will ask to political parties to my country to continue – to continue on this path because it’s the correct path. The political stability is absolutely necessary; if not, it will be impossible to get recovery.

Prime Minister David Cameron

Thank you. On the issue that you asked me: it’s an on-going legal process, so I can’t comment in any way about an individual case. As to your question about the UK seeking reform of the European Union, I think that’s a very simple issue really.

As we were discussing over our meeting, 18 members of the 28 share the same currency; the others don’t. The single currency is driving a process of change in the European Union, and we need to reform the European Union and make it flexible enough so that members of the single currency can make that currency work effectively and coordinate effectively. And those of us outside the single currency can find a comfortable position within the European Union. That needs change; that needs reform.

And I think what Enrico said today is very significant, that in seeking that reform – in seeking change – that Britain does actually have a positive response from the German Chancellor, the Italian Prime Minister, the Swedish Prime Minister, the Dutch Prime Minister. I think there is growing understanding. Not all of us would agree about every change that is necessary, but there’s growing understanding that change is needed to make this organisation work better for all its members.


Question for the Italian Prime Minister first. Sir, could I also ask you about your comment about wishing the UK to stay on board the European process; how concerned are you about Mr Cameron’s proposals for a referendum here in the UK on whether Britain should remain in the EU and the possibility that Britain might vote to leave the EU?

Mr Cameron, when the weather here is as hot as it is in Italy, probably, and people are drinking a lot more, you’ll recall saying last year, ‘When beer is cheaper than water, it’s just too easy for people to get drunk on cheap alcohol at home before they even set foot in the pub. So, we are going to introduce a new minimum unit price’; why the U-turn on that today? Was that campaign advice from Mr Crosby?

Prime Minister David Cameron

Let me take that question first. We’re introducing today what is effectively a minimum price, because we’re saying it’s going to be illegal to sell alcohol below the rate of duty plus VAT. So supermarkets or shops deeply discounting alcohol will be made illegal. So, that will, I think, be a positive step forward, and the Home Office have made a number of announcements linked to this which I think will – will help.

But, on the issue of – of minimum unit pricing, it’s actually quite a similar situation to the issue of plain paper packaging on cigarettes. There are good arguments for it. The argument has a lot of merits, which I myself have spoken about, but I think there are these two problems. There’s the degree of legal uncertainty; it’s been introduced in Scotland, but it’s still under legal challenge. And there’s also question marks about its – behind it and how well it can work. And so when we have more evidence about how it can work and we’ve got more certainty about the legal issues, I think it’s an idea, as I said, that has merit – that I’ll be happy to consider again.

So, in both these cases, decisions made very much by me as Prime Minister, consulting my Cabinet colleagues, but in the end the buck stops absolutely here. These are both decisions that I have made. I think they’re the right ones because we need the evidence base, we need the legal certainty and then we can move ahead. But, until then, it makes sense not to move ahead. But the package we’ve got I think on alcohol pricing, as I say – banning the sale below VAT plus duty – I think is a good step forward.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta

And, of course, I don’t want to enter in a – in a domestic debate, but I would say when the voters have the opportunity to say their decision about the future of the European Union, it’s always a good thing for Europe. So, I personally have no fear about the referendum. It would be for sure something of positive for – for Europe and for the UK, because – I repeat, no fear on that.


Good afternoon. I have the same question for the President and of course your [inaudible] Prime Minister Cameron. If you found a common ground about enforcement, strength and competitiveness, and if it’s possible to connect this issue to the fight against unemployment problem that is very strong in Europe too?

Prime Minister Enrico Letta

Yes it is, because I think that single market – deepening the single market is one of the main issues for having a more competitive Europe. Single market means having the opportunity to have a higher and big dimension for our – for the size of our companies.

Single market means to boost digital agenda. Single market means also to tackle with the red – the red tape problems and, of course, we have in Italy a lot of problems from bureaucracy. And it’s one of the main issues, to cut bureaucracy and to cut bureaucratic costs.

So yes, is the main issue to boost competitiveness and to have and to fight against the unemployment, the only way is to have growth. Without growth, it’s very difficult to win the fight against the unemployment.

Prime Minister David Cameron

Well, I think you’ve heard it. I mean I often go to European Council meetings and I say there is very strong support for the agenda of completing the single market in energy, in digital, in services. There’s strong support for these competitiveness issues. And there’s strong support for the EU–US trade agendas and other agendas.

And I sometimes think maybe people think that I’m inventing this mythical support. Well, you can see here today the Italian Prime Minister speaking very clearly about the single market, about competitiveness, about jobs, about growth that we’ll get if we make these important structural reforms.

And that is a joint Anglo-Italian agenda, one that we’ve decided from our different political traditions and different starting points we’re going to work together on. We’re going to draw in other allies across the European Union, and we hope to really push this agenda, including at the October and December European Councils.

So it’s been an excellent meeting today. Very warm welcome to have you here, Enrico, and I look forward to working with you in the months ahead.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta

Thank you.

David Cameron – 2013 Statement on Murder of Soldier at Woolwich


Below is the text of the speech made by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, on 23rd May 2013 following the murder of a soldier in Woolwich, in London, the day before.

What happened yesterday in Woolwich has sickened us all.

On our televisions last night – and in our newspapers this morning – we have all seen images that are deeply shocking.

The people who did this were trying to divide us.

They should know: something like this will only bring us together and make us stronger.

Today our thoughts are with the victim – and with his family.

They are grieving for a loved one…

And we have lost a brave soldier.


This morning I have chaired a meeting of COBRA.

And I want to thank the police and security services for the incredible work they do to keep our country safe.

There are police investigations and security service operations underway – so obviously there is a limit on what I can say.

But already a number of things are clear.

First, this country will be absolutely resolute in its stand against violent extremism and terror.

We will never give in to terror – or terrorism – in any of its forms.

Second, this view is shared by every community in our country.

This was not just an attack on Britain – and on our British way of life.

It was also a betrayal of Islam – and of the Muslim communities who are give so much to our country.

There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act.

We will defeat violent extremism by standing together…

…by backing our police and security services…

…and above all by challenging the poisonous narrative of extremism on which this violence feeds.

Britain works with our international partners to make the world safe from terrorism.

Terrorism that has taken more Muslim lives than any other religion.

It is an utter perversion of the truth to pretend anything different.

That is why there is absolutely no justification for these acts…

…and the fault for them lies solely and purely with the sickening individuals who carried out this appalling attack.

Confronting extremism is a job for us all.

And the fact that our communities will unite in doing this was vividly demonstrated…

…by the brave cub pack leader – Ingrid Loyau-Kennett – who confronted one of the attackers on the streets of Woolwich yesterday afternoon.

When told by the attacker that he wanted to start a war in London…

…she replied “You’re going to lose. It’s only you versus many.”

She spoke for us all.

Security services

The Police and Security Services will follow every lead…

…turn over every piece of evidence…

…make every connection…

…and will not rest until we know every single detail of what happened and we’ve brought all of those responsible to justice.

I know from three years as being Prime Minister that the police and intelligence agencies work around the clock to keep us safe from violent extremists.

I watch their work every week. They do an outstanding job.

They show incredible heroism, much of which can not be reported.

They have my staunch support and the support of the whole country.

The point that the two suspects in this horrific attack were known to the Security services has been widely reported.

You would not expect me to comment on this when a criminal investigation is ongoing.

But what I can say is this.

As is the normal practice in these sorts of cases, the Independent Police Complaints Commission will be able to review the actions of the police and the Intelligence and Security Committee will be able to do the same for the wider agencies.

But nothing should be done to get in the way of their absolutely vital work.

After an event like this, it is natural that questions will be asked about what additional steps can be taken to keep us safe.

I will make sure those questions are asked and answered.

But I not in favour of knee-jerk responses.

The Police have responded with heightened security and activity – and that is right.

But one of the best ways of defeating terrorism is to go about our normal lives

And that is what we shall all do.

David Cameron – 2013 Speech at the Somali Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, at the Somali Conference held in London on 7th May 2013.

It’s a great pleasure to welcome you all to London and a particular pleasure to welcome President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as my co-chair today.

Here in this room, just over a year ago, we set out to help the Somali people reclaim their country.

Today, I think we are seeing the beginnings of a new future for Somalia. Extremism is in retreat.

AMISOM together with Somali and Ethiopian forces have driven Al Shabaab out of town after town.

Piracy attacks are down by 80 per cent with no vessel attacked so far this year.

The Government is moving ahead.

Under the guidance of the UN, the AU and IGAD, the transitional government that lasted eight years has ended with a proper, legitimate and federal government in its place.

And Somalia doesn’t just have a new President but also a new Parliament, chosen by representatives of all clans.

The international community has kept the promises that we made last year.

The UN Security Council Resolution extended the mandate of African Union forces beyond Mogadishu and increased their numbers.

Mauritius and the Seychelles have taken pirates for prosecutions and 59 convicted pirates have been transferred to prisons in Somaliland and Puntland.

And we are working together relentlessly to disrupt the travel and the financing of terrorists in the region.

But the transformation in Somalia that we have seen has not happened because 50 countries sat round a table in a room in London last year and somehow decided Somalia’s future.

This change has happened because of the vision of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and his team and because of the strength and courage of the Somali people in beginning the long and difficult task of rebuilding their country from the bottom up.

But for all the progress we have seen, huge challenges lie ahead.

Somalia still faces desperate poverty.

Over 200,000 children under-5 are acutely malnourished and just under half of all Somalis live on less than $1 a day.

Despite the gains made against Al-Shabaab the recent tragic and despicable attacks in Mogadishu – including one just last weekend – remind us how much work there is still to do in the fight against terrorism and extremism.

These challenges are not just issues for Somalia.

They matter for Britain too – and to the whole international community.


Because when young minds are poisoned by radicalism and they go on to export terrorism and extremism the security of the whole world, including people here in Britain, is at stake.

And to anyone who says, this isn’t a priority or we can’t afford to deal with it I would say that is what we’ve done in the past and look where it has got us: terrorism and mass migration.

We made that mistake not just in the Horn of Africa, but also in Afghanistan in the 1990s.

And we must not make that mistake again.

Today, nearly two-thirds of Somalis are under 25.

But most young people don’t join Al-Shabaab because they believe in its perverted version of Islamist ideology.

They do it because they are desperate for a few dollars and a mobile phone.

So helping young Somalis to escape grinding poverty is not just vital for the future of Somalia it’s also the best antidote to the extremism that threatens us all.

Somalis make a great contribution to our country here in the UK and their remittances play a valuable role in Somalia, but many would like to return to rebuild their own country.

We need to make it safe for them to do just that.

Let me turn to how I hope we can do that today.

Supporting a new future for Somalia starts with the humanitarian relief that is so vital in alleviating some of the worst poverty anywhere on earth.

I am pleased that Britain is playing a leading role saving lives and helping Somalis build resilience to future crises.

And I hope others will follow.

But Somalia’s new future depends on more than humanitarian assistance.

It’s about the Somali government providing the security, stability and services that are essential for people to secure jobs, to start new businesses and to provide for their families.

This means supporting what I call the golden thread of development the set of key conditions that are essential for growth all over the world.

These encompass basic security for all – including the protection of women against sexual violence that means a military that is effective and respects human rights it means a police force that people run towards not away from and it means a justice system that is fair, dependable and accessible to all who need it.

And it requires government that is transparent and accountable in its use of resources and inclusive and representative of all parts of society.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is today setting out his plans in each of these areas and I hope that as international community we can get right behind him.

First, I hope that together we can back a long term security plan to end Al-Shabaab’s reign of terror forever.

I am pleased that Britain will commit £10 million to help develop Somalia’s Armed Forces and £14.5 million to double the number of police officers and train judges and lawyers.

Britain will also support the new maritime strategy enabling full radio connection all along the entire coastline for the first time in twenty years.

I hope that others here today will contribute too and that countries in the region will stay the course and work with Somalia while it builds up its own forces.

Second, we need to help Somalia develop a transparent and accountable government with an honest, accurate budget so that it can access the vital finance it needs to deal with its debts and provide services to her people.

Under the previous government Somalia struggled with endemic corruption.

So I very much welcome the commitment to public accountability the President has made and the plan he is setting out at this conference.

Tomorrow will see a major international Trade and Investment Conference – with companies from all over the world looking at Somalia as a place to do business.

But for investment to flow and jobs to be created, people need to know where their resources are going.

The international community must send a strong signal to the International Financial Institutions about the need to follow the World Bank’s lead and help Somalia to deal with its debts and access the vital finance it needs.

And I will seek support for this from my G8 partners when we meet at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland next month.

Third, we must support the new Somali administration as it takes the next steps in delivering a fully federal government in which everyone has a stake and a voice.

That means continuing the process of rebuilding the Somali state in an inclusive way – with all the regions of Somalia around the table.

It means reaching beyond Mogadishu so all parts of the country see a demonstrable benefit from the new government and moving towards the ultimate goal of national elections in 2016, which we discussed this morning.

And while Somalia must focus relentlessly on fighting terrorism it will not bring its people together through military might alone.

So there will need to be an opportunity for those who are willing to reject violence and turn away from Al Shabaab to join the political process.

Mr President, I know you face one of the most difficult tasks of any leader anywhere in the world.

But it is only by bringing the people of your country together and by delivering the security, stability and services essential for jobs and growth that you can deliver the new future for Somalia that is within your grasp.

For our part, let me assure you: we, as your friends and partners, will stand with you as you rebuild your country.

We know that Somalia’s future is shaped by Somalia and with Somalia it’s not something done to Somalia.

Today you are setting out the plans for your country.

Our task is clear: to back you and get behind your plans.

And that is what we will do.

In her book entitled “Keeping Hope Alive” Dr Hawa Abdi – the physician and Nobel Peace Prize nominee wrote about her time in the midst of Somalia’s darkest hours.

She said:

Hope is what remains, as we wait for peace, even as we bleed and we starve it may be that right now, we are living for hope.

Today, after two decades of bloodshed and some of the worst poverty on earth hope is alive in Somalia.

Now it is time to fulfil the hope for the people of Somalia. That is what they have been living and waiting for, and we must not let them down.

David Cameron – 2013 Commons Tribute to Baroness Thatcher


Below is the text of the speech made by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in the House of Commons on 10th April 2013.

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the matter of tributes to the right hon. Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG OM.

In the long history of this Parliament, Margaret Thatcher was our first—and, so far, our only—woman Prime Minister. She won three elections in a row, serving this country for a longer continuous period than any Prime Minister for more than 150 years. She defined, and she overcame, the great challenges of her age, and it is right that Parliament has been recalled to mark our respect. It is also right that next Wednesday Lady Thatcher’s coffin will be draped with the flag that she loved, placed on a gun carriage and taken to St Paul’s cathedral, and members of all three services will line the route. This will be a fitting salute to a great Prime Minister.

Today, we in the House of Commons are here to pay our own tributes to an extraordinary leader and an extraordinary woman. What she achieved—even before her three terms in office—was remarkable. Those of us who grew up when Margaret Thatcher was already in Downing street can sometimes fail to appreciate the thickness of the glass ceiling that she broke through—from a grocer’s shop in Grantham to the highest office in the land. At a time when it was difficult for a woman to become a Member of Parliament, almost inconceivable that one could lead the Conservative party and, by her own reckoning, virtually impossible that a woman could become Prime Minister, she did all three. It is also right to remember that she spent her whole premiership, and indeed much of her life, under direct personal threat from the IRA. She lost two of her closest friends and closest parliamentary colleagues, Airey Neave and Ian Gow, to terrorism. And, of course, she herself was only inches away from death in the Brighton bomb attack of 1984. Yet it was the measure of her leadership that she shook off the dust from that attack and just a few hours later gave an outstanding conference speech reminding us all why democracy must never give in to terror.

Margaret Thatcher was a woman of great contrasts. She could be incredibly formidable in argument yet wonderfully kind in private. In No. 10 Downing street today there are still people who worked with her as Prime Minister, and they talk of her fondly. One assistant tells of how when she got drenched in a downpour on a trip to Cornwall, Margaret Thatcher personally made sure she was looked after and found her a set of dry clothes—of course, she did always prefer dries to wets. On another occasion, one assistant had put in a hand-written note to Mrs Thatcher to say, “Please can you re-sign this minute?” Unfortunately she had left off the hyphen, leaving a note that actually read, “Please can you resign this minute?”—to which the Prime Minister politely replied, “Thank you dear, but I’d rather not.”

Margaret Thatcher was faultlessly kind to her staff and utterly devoted to her family. For more than 50 years, Denis was always at her side, an invaluable confidant and friend. Of her, he said this:

“I have been married to one of the greatest women the world has ever produced. All I could produce—small as it may be—was love and loyalty.”

We know just how important the support of her family and friends was to Margaret, and I know that today everyone in this House will wish to send our most heartfelt condolences to her children, Carol and Mark, to her grandchildren and to her many, many loyal friends. She was always incredibly kind to me, and it was a huge honour to welcome her to Downing street shortly after I became Prime Minister—something that, when I started working for her in 1988, I never dreamed I would do.

As this day of tributes begins, I would like to acknowledge that there are Members in the House today from all parties who profoundly disagreed with Mrs Thatcher but who have come here today willing to pay their respects. Let me say this to those hon. Members: your generosity of spirit does you great credit and speaks more eloquently than any one person can of the strength and spirit of British statesmanship and British democracy.

Margaret Thatcher was a remarkable type of leader. She said very clearly, “I am not a consensus politician, but a conviction politician.” She could sum up those convictions, which were linked profoundly with her upbringing and values, in just a few short phrases: sound money; strong defence; liberty under the rule of law; you should not spend what you have not earned; Governments do not create wealth, but businesses do. The clarity of those convictions was applied with great courage to the problems of the age.

The scale of her achievements is only apparent when we look back to Britain in the 1970s. Successive Governments had failed to deal with what was beginning to be called the British disease: appalling industrial relations, poor productivity and persistently high inflation. Although it seems absurd today, the state had got so big that it owned our airports and airline, the phones in our houses, trucks on our roads, and even a removal company. The air was thick with defeatism. There was a sense that the role of Government was simply to manage decline. Margaret Thatcher rejected this defeatism. She had a clear view about what needed to change. Inflation was to be controlled not by incomes policies, but by monetary and fiscal discipline; industries were to be set free into the private sector; trade unions should be handed back to their members; and people should be able to buy their own council homes. Success in these endeavours was never assured. Her political story was one of a perpetual battle, in the country, in this place and sometimes even in her own Cabinet.

Of course, her career could have taken an entirely different path. In the late 1940s, before she entered politics, the then Margaret Roberts went for a job at ICI. The personnel department rejected her application and afterwards wrote:

“This woman is headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated.”

Even her closest friends would agree that she could be all those things, but the point is this: she used that conviction and resolve in the service of her country, and we are all the better for that.

Margaret Thatcher was also a great parliamentarian. She loved and respected this place and was for many years its finest debater. She was utterly fastidious in her preparations. I was a junior party researcher in the 1980s, and the trauma of preparation for Prime Minister’s questions is still seared into my memory. Twice a week it was as if the arms of a giant octopus shook every building in Whitehall for every analysis of every problem and every answer to every question. Her respect for Parliament was instilled in others. Early in her first Government, a junior Minister was seen running through the Lobby. His hair was dishevelled and he was carrying a heavy box and a full tray of papers under his arm. Another Member cried out, “Slow down. Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The Minister replied, “Yes, but Margaret Thatcher wasn’t the foreman on that job.”

As Tony Blair said this week—rightly, in my view—Margaret Thatcher was one of the very few leaders who changed the political landscape not only in their own country, but in the rest of the world. She was no starry-eyed internationalist, but again her approach was rooted in some simple and clear principles: strength abroad begins with strength at home; deterrence, not appeasement; and the importance of national sovereignty, which is why she fought so passionately for Britain’s interests in Europe and always believed that Britain should keep its own currency.

Above all, she believed to the core of her being that Britain stood for something in the world: for democracy, for the rule of law, for right over might. She loathed communism and believed in the invincible power of the human spirit to resist and ultimately defeat tyranny. She never forgot that Warsaw, Prague and Budapest were great European cities, capitals of free nations temporarily trapped behind the iron curtain.

Today, in different corners of the world, millions of people know that they owe their freedom, in part, to Margaret Thatcher—in Kuwait, which she helped free from Saddam’s jackboot; across eastern and central Europe; and, of course, in the Falkland Islands. A week from now, as people gather in London to lay Margaret Thatcher to rest, the sun will be rising over the Falklands, and because of her courage and because of the skill, bravery and sacrifice of our armed forces, it will rise again for freedom.

Much has been said about the battles that Margaret Thatcher fought. She certainly did not shy from the fight and that led to arguments, to conflict and, yes, even to division, but what is remarkable, looking back now, is how many of those arguments are no longer arguments at all. No one wants to return to strikes without a ballot. No one believes that large industrial companies should be owned by the state. The nuclear deterrent, NATO and the special relationship are widely accepted as the cornerstones of our security and defence policies. We argue—sometimes very passionately—in this House about tax, but none of us is arguing for a return to tax rates of 98%. So many of the principles that Lady Thatcher fought for are now part of the accepted political landscape of our country. As Winston

Churchill once put it, there are some politicians who “make the weather”, and Margaret Thatcher was undoubtedly one of them.

In the Members’ Lobby of the House of Commons there are rightly four principal statues: Lloyd George, who gave us the beginnings of the welfare state; Winston Churchill, who gave us victory in war; Clement Attlee, who gave us the NHS; and Margaret Thatcher, who rescued our country from post-war decline. They say that cometh the hour, cometh the man. Well, in 1979 came the hour, and came the lady. She made the political weather. She made history. And let this be her epitaph: she made our country great again. I commend the motion to the House.

David Cameron – 2013 Q&A at Thales UK


Below is the text of the Q&A session at Thales UK with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, on 4th April 2013 in Govan, Scotland.

Thank you very much for that welcome; it’s great to be here at Thales and a very happy 125th birthday. Earlier today I was winched from a helicopter onto HMS Victorious, one of our Trident nuclear submarines, and one of the things I did on that submarine was look through the incredible periscope made, of course, by Thales to scan the horizon and to look to see what was around. And it was an incredible piece of equipment and a signal of the brilliance of this company and this organisation.

Now, this is an opportunity for you to ask questions and for me to try and answer them, but let me just kick off with perhaps two of the biggest questions that we’ve got to decide as a country over the coming years, and the first one relates to the issue I’ve just spoken of. We have an independent nuclear deterrent in our country – the Trident submarines – and soon we’re going to have to make the decision about whether to replace that on a proper like-for-like basis, and I strongly believe that we should replace it on a like-for-like basis.

Why? Well, because the world we live in is very uncertain, very dangerous; there are nuclear states, and one cannot be sure of how they will develop. We cannot be sure on the issues of nuclear proliferation and to me having that nuclear deterrent is quite simply the best insurance policy that you can have that you will never be subject to nuclear blackmail. So I think that we should make that big decision and I hope that that is something that will be based right here in Scotland.

And that leads me to the second big question that we’re going to have to answer as a country in the next couple of years – in 2014, to be precise – and that is whether to stay together as a United Kingdom, or whether Scotland wants to go its separate way. Now obviously that is a matter for Scottish voters – you will be the ones who decide – but I very much hope the decision will be to keep the United Kingdom together.

And the way I’d put it is this: there are arguments of the heart, but there are also arguments of the head, and I believe the case for the United Kingdom can win on both the arguments of the heart and the arguments of the head. The Scottish nationalists may believe that they have the advantage when it comes to the heart –Braveheart, and all of that – I actually believe we should be very proud of what the United Kingdom has achieved together: the fact that we together have defeated fascism, that we built the National Health Service, that we produced the BBC, that we produced so many great works of art, architecture, literature, so many great businesses, so much great inventing. We should be proud of those things, but I think the arguments of the head – when we look at issues like jobs, like finance, like stability, I think the arguments of the head are even stronger in the direction of maintaining the United Kingdom.

And perhaps defence jobs are a case in point. Over 12,000 people employed in Scotland in defence industries, defence industries that are backed by the whole of the United Kingdom and backed by the United Kingdom with a defence budget which is the fourth largest in the world. And even after the difficult decisions that this government has had to make about defence spending, we’ll still be the fourth largest defence budget in the world.

So those are the arguments you’re going to have to take on and think about in these months ahead before the referendum in 2014, but those are two big decisions we have to take as a country, two big questions we have to answer. I know what my answers are, but this is all about your questions, so who wants to go first?


What does the UK need to do to become more competitive in the international markets? We were trying to export more and more.


Well it’s certainly something we need to do. As your Director put it, I would say exactly the same: we are in a global race. We’re in a race not just with countries in the European Union, but we’re in a race with the emerging countries of the South and East of our world – the Malaysias, the Indonesias, the Chinas, the Indias. And in a way the question is not what do we have to do, but how many things do we have to do?

And I think it starts with people. We need to make sure we are producing bright graduates, we’ve got to invest in education, we’ve got to invest in apprenticeships, we’ve got to upskill all our people. But we’ve also got to think of all the things the government has to do. We’ve got to keep our tax rates down so businesses want to locate and grow here, and that’s why in the budget we cut the rate of Corporation Tax down to 20%. We’ve got to make sure our markets are open. So we’ve got to remain, I believe, members of the European Union. I’d like to reform it, but I think it’s important that we have those key markets open.

There are so many things that we have to do. We have to play to our strengths, and I think defence is one of our strengths. And I think it means you need a very active government that’s prepared to get out there and promote British products and British businesses in the key markets, and that is something I’ve done. I was just saying to your Managing Director, I’ve led a trade mission to each one of the G20 countries apart from Argentina, that’s not yet on my list but I’ve done all the other G20 countries and I’m very proud to have taken Thales on some of those trade missions and to promote the goods and the services that you create.

So I think it’s a massive agenda. It’s about getting on top of welfare, it’s about training our people, improving education, keeping our tax rates down, making sure we’re out there trying to sell in the key markets, and I think it means being more aggressive about that. I think sometimes in the UK we’ve sat back and thought, well we’ve got great technology, we’ve got great people, we’ve got great businesses. No one owes us a living anymore and we have to get out there and sell very hard. And that’s what this government is doing.

We also have to get control of our deficit and our debts, and that links to the difficult decisions that this government has had to make. You won’t survive as a country if you are carrying the huge deficits that we are currently, and that’s why we need to reduce them.


Prime Minister, research and development is an environment for Thales and Thales have striven to be at the front of that over the years. What is this government going to do to ensure that an environment is created for research and development to grow and flourish for companies like Thales?


Well, there are some things that we have done in the short-term which I think can make a difference. Companies have said to us that they like the research and development tax credits, and so we have extended those tax credits. We’ve made them more generous. We’ve specifically made them more generous for small firms. So there are things we can do with the tax system to try and encourage research and development.

But in a way I think the real answer goes all the way back into the classroom and we’ve got to make sure that we are teaching our young people the single sciences. We’ve got to have quality curriculums. We’ve got to make sure that more children study maths, science and technology subjects, and then we’ve got to make sure our universities are well-funded. Now, obviously this is a devolved issue; this is an issue for Scotland to make its own decisions. In England we’ve made the decision to charge quite substantial fees to students and then have those students pay those fees back through a system of loans. And I would argue that is absolutely vital for the future industrial strength of the United Kingdom.

Because as I’ve said, and I’m boringly repetitive about this, we are in a global race; we’re in a global race with universities right across the world. And we’ve got to make sure our universities are well-funded, are financially stable, can take on the best and the brightest graduates, can train them, because they’re going to be the researchers and the technologists of the future.

And in order, I think, in a modern market economy to have well-funded universities frankly there’s only two places the money can come from: it can come from the government, and the government is taking it from the tax­payer, and the tax-payer’s got a lot of claims on their funds – they’ve got to fund the Health Service and pensions and everything else – or you can ask the students, the successful students, to contribute to the cost of that education. And that’s what we’re doing in England. Scots make their own decisions about these things, but I think if we want really good research and development in the future we need well-funded universities, and I think it’s right then to ask students to make that contribution.


Prime Minister, there’s been a lot in the newspapers about further government departmental spending cuts, will this have an impact on defence?


Very good question. First of all, what have we done with defence so far? This government got in in 2010 and we inherited a budget deficit which was bigger than Greece’s, 11% of our GDP. We simply had to make difficult decisions both on spending and on taxation. And the decision we made with defence was not to cut the budget in cash terms but effectively to freeze it. The defence budget is around £33 billion and it’s going to be that all the way through this parliament to 2015. Within that, we’ve said that we need to protect the equipment budget and we do need to make sure that equipment budget is properly funded and we’ve set out how we’re going to do that. But defence can’t be exempt altogether from difficult decisions.

But what I would say is, look at what we’re getting out of what we’re putting in. So it’s frozen at £33 billion, that’s the fourth biggest defence budget in the world. Yes, we’ve had to make difficult decisions in terms of reducing the size of the army, the navy and the air force, but when you stop and think about the future equipment programmes that our services are going to have, I think we can be really proud of what we’re getting in this country.

Take the navy, I’ve just come off one of their submarines. The navy is soon going to have two brand new aircraft carriers. It’s got the Type 45 destroyers, it’ll have the future combat ship, the new frigate, it’s going to have seven hunter killer submarines and of course, if I get my way, the Trident replacement. Now that, on any account, is a pretty substantial navy.

Take the RAF. They’ve got the Typhoons stationed here in Scotland. They’re going to have the Joint Strike Fighters. We’ve got the new Voyager air to air refuelling aircraft. We’ve got the A400M coming on-stream, the modern transport plane. That’s pretty effective.

And for our military, for our soldiers, for our army, I was out in Afghanistan recently, and when you ask our troops in Afghanistan – and I’ve been going every year since 2006 – when you ask, you know, ‘Which bit of kit that others have got that you’d like to have?’ Right now the answer comes back from most of them, I’d say almost all of them, ‘We’ve got really pretty much the best kit in the world.’ And that is particularly true when it comes to protective vehicles. And I know in a minute or two I’m going to pull something, I hope, and open something – or push something, push something, to celebrate what you do at Thales in terms of protective vehicles.

So putting in £33 billion, not immune from difficult decisions. Protection put in place for the equipment budget, but I would prefer to look at what we’re getting out of what we put in. And I think we can look our armed forces in the eye and be pretty proud of what we’re going to deliver.

There’s one other thing I need your help with, though, which is of course we’re reducing the size of the army down to 82,000 but we’re actually expanding the size of the Territorial Army, expanding the size of the reserves. And that’s going to mean a big culture change for our armed forces, but also a big culture change for business. And I really hope business will encourage people to take part in the reserves, and will actually make sure that – and we will lead as an employer in government, that it’s sustainable and feasible to do that. Other countries have larger ratios of reserves to regular forces, and we should do the same.


Prime Minister, you mentioned apprentices. We have a number of apprentices here, and we’re about to start our new intake over the next couple of months. Could you describe what this government is doing to help companies like ourselves take on new apprentices?


Well of course this is a devolved matter, so the funding and organisation of apprentices in Scotland is done by the Scottish government. Certainly in England we have put a lot of extra resources into it, put a lot of extra effort into it, because we’ve got a very simple and clear vision, which is that as people go through school and as they leave school, we want to achieve what I call the new norm which is that you either go to university or you become an apprentice, and we really end the practice of people leaving school at 16 or 18 and just sort of drifting either into unemployment or into a low-skilled job.

Really we should be aiming high, and aiming for everyone to have that choice. And within that choice, I think we’ve got to be clear that the quality of apprenticeships needs to keep being improved. And we’ve put a particular amount of money into higher level apprenticeships, really the absolute equivalent in every way to a degree. And also, I think we’ve got to make sure that people can see an apprenticeship is a route to getting a degree. If we look at one of your competitors, Rolls Royce, half the Board of Rolls Royce are ex-apprentices: people that became apprentices, who went on and did a degree, they learnt and earnt the same time.

And I think we haven’t explained in our schools properly that pathway that is available to young people. Perhaps it’s done better in Scotland. Certainly in England, you talk to young people coming out of school or even going to university and say, ‘Were the options really laid out for you?’ So again, I think we need to get back into the schools and make sure that people are having the real choices put before them. But we need companies like yours to invest in apprenticeships so that people can achieve those goals.


Prime Minister, exports are critical to the Thales site here in Glasgow. What assistance can the government give us in winning more export orders?


Right. Well, what assistance? There are some concrete and practical things we can do. We’ve shaken up the Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD) and tried to develop some new products to help companies like yours export. So we give direct financial support. I think that is one thing we can do that physically helps. I think also trying to make sure that our banking system properly gets back on its feet is vital for export success.

I think we need to make sure we’re fully engaged in all the key markets. Some people think it’s a bit old-fashioned: Prime Ministers loading up airplanes with business people and flying off to different countries, I don’t think it’s old-fashioned at all. I think it is a great big competition out there, and I think that, you know, Britain needs to put its best foot forward and make sure that we are showcasing our best companies, our best technologies, particularly in these fast-growing markets. And I think if you look at the development of India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, they are going to become massive customers of some of the things that we are very good at making here. So we should really have that very active export policy.

I also think it links to actually the first two questions I raised about, do we want to keep the United Kingdom together and are we going to be a front ranked player in terms of defence and nuclear deterrents? And I would argue answering positively to both those questions actually is part of making a big statement about Britain’s role in the world. Britain still is a front ranked power with the fourth largest defence budget. Think of all the networks we belong to. We’re members of the Commonwealth, we’re leading members of NATO, we’re members of the European Union. All these networks are really important in making sure Britain has proper standing in the world, counts for something in the world, and is able to trade effectively in the world.

And I’ll add something into that, which is a bit more controversial, which is that this year we’re achieving a promise that lots of politicians have made, but this government is keeping it, which is to reach 0.7% of our gross national income in terms of our aid budget. Now our aid budget, let me be absolutely clear, is about helping the poorest people and the poorest countries in the world, but it’s also an important point about what Britain stands for in the world.

We’re not in retreat from the world; we are actually a country that is a member of all these different networks I mentioned – significant defence budget, but also a big player in terms of aid and overseas development. And that aid and overseas development, of course we don’t – as used to happen in the past – tie it to trade; we don’t do that, and we’re not proposing to do that, but the fact that Britain is a generous country engaged in the world means that I think we are higher up people’s list of countries that they want to do business with, and if you look at the continent, for instance, of Africa – some of the fastest growing countries in the whole world at the moment are in Africa – and I think it’s right that we have that sort of standing and that sort of relationship with those sorts of countries. So, all those things we do can help us be successful exporters, and we need to be.


How concerned are you about North Korea?


How concerned am I about North Korea? Well, I mean, very concerned. It has extremely dangerous technologies, in terms of nuclear and its weapons. It has a new and relatively unknown leader, and obviously the noises it’s been making in recent weeks and months are worrying and threatening. What matters is that North Korea should abide by all the United Nations resolutions, which have been laid down. We do need to make sure that this whole situation, that the heat is taken out of it. But it is principally North Korea that – almost entirely North Korea that is able to do that and ought to do that.

But I think it’s a good moment to stand back and ask ourselves about the dangers there are in the world and the need to maintain strong defences. I mean, the fact is, as I wrote in a newspaper article this morning, North Korea does now have missile technology that is able to reach, as they put it, the whole of the United States. So, if they are able to reach the whole of the United States, they can reach Europe too. They can reach us too. So, that is a real concern.

And I think the question we need to ask ourselves in the context of this debate about the nuclear deterrent is what will a country like North Korea be like in ten years, 15 years, 20 years? How certain can we be? How certain can we be that its weapons will be secure? How certain can we be that they won’t share weapons and technology with other countries? We can’t be sure of those things, and that is why I think it’s so important to maintain strong defences, to maintain our nuclear deterrent, to maintain that insurance policy against the risks that there are in our world, and North Korea is a good example of that.


Prime Minister, during Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, you engaged in a joint procurement initiative in defence. Do you have the same relationship with Francois Hollande, and do you believe that Britain should be more involved in the European Union?


Right. Well, I have a different relationship with Francois Hollande, but it is a good relationship. I’m going to see him on Monday night actually. I’m going to have a working dinner with him when we’ll talk about all sorts of things, including in particular the development of the European Union. We’ll talk about the situation in Syria, but we’ll also talk about Anglo-French defence cooperation. And I remain totally committed to that for some very good, practical, hard-headed reasons.

If you look at Britain and you look at France, we are similar sized countries. We have similar sized defence forces. We see ourselves playing similar sorts of roles in the world, and I think it’s been a missed opportunity that we haven’t been cooperating much more. And so I sat down with Nicolas Sarkozy, and went through all of the areas where I thought we could collaborate. And instead of, sort of, starting with the easiest and working up to the most difficult, we decided to start right at the top – the most difficult – in looking at some of the nuclear collaboration that Britain and France could do, and we are doing that. That work is going ahead.

And when Francois Hollande was elected, I immediately discussed with him, and he said to me he wanted to keep going with this collaboration. Because I think it is totally in both our interests. If we want to maximise the strength of our defences, if we want to keep our guard high and we want to do that in a way that is affordable, it makes sense for two countries – longstanding allies and partners with similar outlooks on defence – to work together and to share those costs. And I know that Francois Hollande is totally committed to that.

In terms of the European Union, we have some slightly different views. France is a member of the euro; we’re not a member of the euro. France is a member of the Schengen ‘No Borders’ Agreement; we’re not a member of the Schengen ‘No Borders’ Agreement. But I think we can have a grown up relationship on that basis, that you shouldn’t have to join everything in Europe; you should be able to pick and choose a little bit more. For years, France wasn’t a full member of NATO, but that didn’t make them less European.

So, I think it’s right we’re outside the single currency; I think we’re better off with the pound sterling, and we’re going to keep that. But I think we can have a good relationship with the French on the basis that defence is a really important part of what we do together, something we are going to agree about a lot and there may be other areas where we’ll have our disagreements and have different approaches, but I think we can have a perfectly frank and sensible relationship on that basis.

One last question, because I know it’s time to go and push the button on the vehicle integration, or are we all done? Well, can I thank you again very much for welcoming me here today. Can I congratulate you again on your 125th birthday, and can I reassure you that Britain – the United Kingdom – wants to keep its defences strong, and that should mean plenty of work for you here at Thales because you do very, very vital things for our defence industries and, as your Managing Director put it, very, very essential things for keeping our troops safe in the battle field. So, thank you very much for that. Thank you for your welcome, and congratulations on your 125th anniversary. Thank you.

David Cameron – 2013 Speech to the National Conservative Convention


Below is the text of the speech made by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to the 2013 National Conservative Convention on 16th March 2013.

I want to start today with a very clear message for our Party.

About who we are. What we’re for.

We are people who love our country.

Who believe in Britain’s greatness – and believe in restoring it.

Almost three years ago we came into office at a perilous moment in our country’s history.

The needle on the gauge was hovering between decline or success. Sink or swim.

It fell to us in this Party to serve our country in its hour of need.

That is an honour. It is a privilege.

And we must never forget it.

We always knew we’d face pretty big challenges right now.

It’s mid-term.

We’re wrestling with historic debts.

Recovering from the deepest recession since records began.

Fixing a broken welfare system and education system – and yes, a broken society too.

Anyone who thought it was going to be easy – they’re wrong.

Anyone who thinks it’s going to get easier – they’re wrong too.

But let’s remember – above all the background noise – what this is all about:

The national interest: first, last, always.

This is a battle for Britain’s future we are engaged in.

So let the message go out from this hall and this party:

We are here to fight.

We are here to win.

And we have never been more up for the task of turning our country around.

Last October, at our Party conference, I set out the scale of that task.

There’s a global race underway…

…and we’re making sure Britain succeeds in it.

Schools that are world-class.

A welfare system that works.

And crucially – a stronger economy.

Now politicians can always talk…

…so here, today, I want to give you a progress report.

First, schools.

In just the past six months we’ve opened over 400 new Academies…

…making it more than two and a half thousand opened so far.

We’ve got dozens more free schools in the pipeline…

…adding to the 80 that have already opened their doors.

Started from scratch; independent schools; inside the state sector.

We’ve announced tougher tests for trainee teachers…

…more rigorous GCSEs…

…a new national curriculum – and it’s got proper, narrative history back at its heart: Kings, Queens, battles,dates – our island’s story in all its glory.

And what about welfare?

We said it’s wrong for people on welfare to see their incomes going up faster than people in work…

…so last December we made the tough decision to up-rate benefits by just 1 per cent.

We said we’d get Britain working…

…and unemployment has fallen again and again since the Conference.

In fact today we have more people in work than ever before.

On our economy, things are still tough.

But remember this:

The deficit – it’s been cut by a quarter.

Corporation tax – cut to one of the lowest rates in the G7.Private sector jobs – up by more than one million. Yes, more than one million new jobs under this Government.

Up in Liverpool the docks are being renovated, creating 20,000 new jobs over the coming years.

We’ve got Jaguar Land Rover creating thousands of jobs in the West Midlands.

Nissan creating hundreds of jobs in Sunderland.

Last year we exported more cars than any other year in our history.

This year it was confirmed we’re now Germany’s chief trading partner…

…and you know what – we overtook France.

A month ago I took a massive trade delegation to India…

…and our exports there are up by more than half in the past three years.

Our exports to China – almost doubled.

To Russia – more than doubled.

Friends, when Britain is getting back on her feet and back on the map……it can only mean one thing…

…the Conservatives are back in Government.

And let me say this about the global race.

We won’t succeed unless the European Union really drives growth…

…and I was in Brussels yet again yesterday making that argument.

Let me tell you about those trips to Brussels.

Since I last spoke to you at the conference in October we’ve kept the rebate…

…cut the 7-year Budget…

…got an historic agreement to cut regulation instead of endlessly increasing it.

And yes: when it comes to Europe, it is this Party that’s going to negotiate a better deal for Britain…

…and this Party that is finally going to give the British people their say.

This is what Conservatives do.

We make Britain stand tall and proud again.

And for us, this global race is not just about GDP.

It’s about saying to the mum who’s worried about her children’s future…

…we are building a country where there is a future…

…so your kids won’t have to get on a plane to get on in life, they can make it right here in Britain.

It’s what this party’s always been about – aspiration.

Helping those who really do want to work hard; and get on; and make a better life for their family.

And here, friends, is a big difference between us and the Labour party.

Labour say they’re on the side of the little guys…

…but the point is this…

…in their vision the little guys stay little.

We’re about helping people stand taller. Reach further. Do better. Not patronising people, patting them on the head and putting a benefit cheque in their hands…

…but looking them in the eye as equals…

…knowing that nine times out of ten if you give people the tools – the stability at home, the rigour at school, the opportunity at work – they will finish the job and write their own success story.

And that is the crucial point. We give people the tools to succeed. Yes, we believe self-reliance is a good thing, but that doesn’t mean “you’re on your own”.You can’t just say to the teenager who no one has ever believed in: “pull yourself up by the boot-straps”.

I know the leg-ups I got in life.

A loving family, wonderful parents, a great school and university.

Aspiration needs to be nurtured.

And this party has always understood that.

We want people to climb up through their own efforts, yes…

…but in order to climb up they need the ladder to be there in the first place…

…the family that nurtures them, the school that inspires them, the opportunities there for them.

Great Conservatives down the generations have put those ladders in place.

When Churchill invented the labour exchanges that helped people into work.

When Macmillan built new homes.

When Thatcher fired up enterprise so people could start their own businesses.

That’s what we’re doing in the Conservative Party right now.

And here, today, I want to focus on what we’re doing for our young people.

There are far too many people in their teens and twenties who are right at the start of their lives – but can feel it’s the end of the line.

No one’s believed in them.

No one’s given them a chance.

That’s what I’m determined to change.

We are building an aspiration nation.

A country where it’s not who you know or where you’re from…

…but who you are and where you’re determined to go. My dream for Britain is that opportunity is not an accident of birth, but a birth-right.

Like Churchill said: “we are for the ladder. Let all try their best to climb”.

So let me tell you about the ladder we are building for our young people today.

The very first rung – of course – is a loving family…

…and that’s why we must start with those who have no family – who start their lives in care.

Just listen to this.

Around a quarter of the people in our prisons were in care as children.

And the real tragedy is that so many of these stories could have been avoided.

There were people desperate to give children a loving home, but the system said ‘no’.

It takes on average almost two years for a child to move into a loving home…

…and do you know what, black children can typically wait a year longer.

Time and again the system said you need the perfect ‘ethnic match’.

That is wrong and we’re changing it.

We’re making it clear to everyone working in our adoption system: we must move faster – and what matters is not the colour of a family’s skin, it’s the love that’s in it.

The next rung on the ladder is a decent education.

Most of us parents are the same.

We want our children to learn the basics – and then to see their unique talents nurtured.

For me it’s one of the big joys of being a Dad…

…seeing something your children are good at…

…sometimes wondering “where on earth did they get that from?”…

…but then thinking where they’ll go with it.

I say it loud and proud: Samantha and I are pushy parents.

And I want the education system in this country to be like the pushiest, most sharp-elbowed, ambitious parent there is.

Because for years we had the opposite.

We had a left-wing establishment that had bargain-basement expectations of millions of children. They dumbed down the qualifications.

They turned their face away from sinking, failing and coasting schools.

They said: “well, some kids from some estates were never going to do that well anyway, so let’s just stick them on soft courses rather than challenge them.”

You know – those so-called progressives did more to stunt progress and opportunity than almost anyone else in our country.

And it makes me angry.

It makes me angry when I think of children the same age as mine just being marked down and written off…

…no-one noticing their talents or doing anything to nurture them…

…what a complete and utter waste of potential in our country.

So where they broke those rungs on the ladder of aspiration – we are fixing them.

Where they said…

…“all must have prizes”…

…primary school children should take calculators into maths tests…

…grammar and spelling – well they don’t matter…

…after all: it’s elitist and old-fashioned to care about these things…

…we have said: you’re wrong and it’s time to wake up.

Our children can’t compete in this world without a real education.

So we’re getting calculators out of those maths tests…

…and we’re saying spelling, grammar and punctuation – they do matter and children should be marked on them too.

Instead of dumbing down, we’re sharpening up.

Instead of saying: things like single sciences are too tough for kids to study…

…we say: we can’t ask our children to reach for the stars unless they know why they’re there in the first place…

…and today, for the first time in a long time, the number of young people studying science at GCSE – it’s going up. And you know what else the left-wing establishment didn’t like?

Competitive sports – because there are winners and losers.

We say: sport forms character; builds team-work; helps children to succeed.

Yes, you win some; you lose some – and you’ve got to learn that.

Now for years Government thought you could just set a target for sport and that would fix the problem.

But it doesn’t work like that. One of the reasons why private schools do so brilliantly with sport isn’t targets – it’s that they have teachers there who love to teach sport.

The fact is you can make all these speeches you want and set all the targets you like; but if you want sport taught – you’ve got to employ teachers who do just that.

So I am proud to announce today that this government is going to fund more sports teaching in our primary schools…

…the equivalent of 2 days a week of teaching for every school…

…£150 million of extra funding.

And that money has to be spent on sport. Nothing else.

We all know how we felt watching those Olympics and Paralympics.

Cheering our hearts out for Jess Ennis and David Weir.

This is about making sure that legacy really means something…

…so the next Mo Farah won’t be stuck at home on the sofa, they’ll be competing for Team GB.

The next rung on the ladder is education after school.

Is it any wonder some of our young people were left confused.

18 year-olds were told: “Go to university, it’s the ticket to success”…

…then they heard: “oh, but you know they’re all mickey mouse courses these days”.

Then it was: “what businesses actually want is real skills”…

…but they looked at doing something vocational and found this alphabet soup of qualifications, many of which were worthless.

That is the hopeless situation Labour left.

So we’re sweeping that confusion away – and have this clear ambition:

We want it to be the new norm in our country that at the age of 18, every school leaver either starts an Apprenticeship or goes to university.

Two clear paths. Both highly respected.

If you think this can’t happen, look at Germany.

Their universities are good. Their apprenticeships are excellent.

And they have one of the lowest rates of youth unemployment in Europe.

We can have the same here.

Already we’ve reformed university funding.

Why? Because I’m determined that we go on being able to afford world-class universities.

And to the students: you don’t pay a penny of those fees back until you’re earning £21,000. Not one penny.

And you know what?

Since the new system came in, in spite of all the warnings, applications haven’t gone down – they’re going up…

…and the application rate for the poorest students is at its highest level ever.

We’re making big changes to apprenticeships too.

We’ve started new Higher Apprenticeships…

…designed by companies like Rolls Royce and Siemens…

…every bit the equal of the best degrees.

And remember: over a million apprenticeships have been started since we came to office.

This is how we back the aspirations of young people – and help them to win in the global race.

The next rung on that ladder for young people is work: a decent job for decent pay.

Think of the young woman who has slogged her way through college, sitting at her parents’ kitchen table, writing out application form after application form because she’s desperate for a decent job.

Now what do we say to people like her?

Labour say: We need more spending, more borrowing, more debt – and everything will be fine.

When will they learn?

You can’t borrow your way out of a debt crisis.

We say that the old economy they left us was built on debt and spending and out-of-control immigration.

It didn’t work for Britain – and it didn’t work for young people.

Never let them forget – youth unemployment went up by 40 per cent under Labour.

So we have a new approach.

Instead of welfare that pays people to sit at home instead of go to work…

…we’ve done things like introduce real work experience to get you off the dole and into a job.

Instead of out-of-control immigration – we’ve got a grip on it.

Instead of training schemes that just sent people through the revolving door from benefits, to a job for a bit, and then back onto benefits again…

…we’ve got a Work Programme which pays out when people get into long-term work, not some quick fix.

And we’re seeing results. The number on out-of-work benefits – it’s down.

Net migration – it’s been cut by a third.

Under Labour, in those so-called boom years, over half of new jobs went to foreign nationals…

…with this Government that’s been cut to just ten per cent in the last year.

And we had a record set last year too: more private sector firms in existence than any other year in our history.

We’re backing that with Start-Up Loans.

If you’re 30 or under and you’ve got a business idea you can apply for a few thousand pounds to get it going – and then you pay it back at a decent interest rate.

I launched these last year and they’re running at hundreds of new loans a week.

We’re not offering young people a false promise, but giving them a real future: a country where if they work hard they can get on in life.

And friends, for most young people, getting on in life means one more thing: a home of their own.

Now some people say, after the boom and bust of recent years, is this still realistic? Shouldn’t we get used to the more continental style of renting our homes?

The people who say this often do so from the comfort of the flat or house they bought when prices were low.

Well I remember getting the keys to my first flat, and walking through the door and having that great feeling of owning your own place…

…and I know that for young people in our country the dream of home ownership never dies.

And it’s not just young people.

Let me read you a letter I got recently from a woman in West Sussex.

She says: My mother has lived in the same house for 37 years and it has always been her dream to buy it.

This year we completed the purchase of our home thanks to the council discount being increased… with the new discount we made the purchase effortlessly.

She ends the letter: “we are now proud home owners”.

That’s something this Government made possible.

And I’m determined we do more.

Where councils aren’t doing enough to let people buy their own homes – we’re getting after them.

Where young people are finding it tough to raise a deposit – we’re helping them.

Where builders have land but can’t get finance – we’re getting those loans to them.

Where government-owned land could be released for new homes – we’re making it happen.

Where offices are standing empty and they could be turned into flats – we’re making that happen too.

It comes back to this.

In our country, do we want this to be the generation that lets home-ownership slip back to what it was in the 19th century: a privilege only afforded by the wealthy or those with rich parents?

No: we want to be the generation that builds a new property-owning democracy for the 21st century.

Like I said in my conference speech: we are not here to defend privilege, we are here to spread it.

Let me end by saying this. We have before us less than one thousand days until the next General Election.

Less than one thousand days to target the seats, get our message out, win the majority our country desperately needs…

…and we have a real fight on our hands. But if you want to be stirred for that fight, just think of this.

Think of what the first hundred days of a Labour government would mean.

Wealth creation – trashed.

Businesses – slated.

Free schools – shut.

Quangos – opening.

The welfare cap – reversed.

The welfare rolls – accelerating.

The unions back in Downing Street.

And yes: Ed Balls back in the Treasury.

Anyone in this party who’s in any doubt who we should be fighting, what we should be debating, where our energies should be focussed…

…I tell you: our battle is with Labour.

Let’s not mince our words: this is a bunch of self-satisfied, Labour socialists who think they can spend your money better than you can, make decisions better than you can and tell you what to do…

…and we should never, ever let that lot near government again.

That’s who we’re fighting against.

And we know who we’re fighting for.

For all those who work hard and want to get on.

For the mother who wants a better life for her children.

For the young people who dream of their first pay-cheque, their first car, their first home…

…we’re saying if you are ready and willing to work hard to get those things then we in the Conservative Party are with you.

We are building an aspiration nation.

Where no one knows their place.

Where the future’s wide open to everyone with the dream and the drive to seize it.

This is a battle for Britain’s future. Does this party ever shy away from the fight? No.

I’m up for it.

This party’s up for it. So let’s give it everything – I mean everything – we’ve got.

David Cameron – 2013 Press Conference after Brussels EU Council Meeting


Below is the text of the press conference statement and Q&A following the Brussels EU Council. The press conference was held on 15th March 2013.

Good afternoon and welcome. I think this Council has had a number of useful discussions and some measured and good progress has been made. Four issues really: the EU budget, the British Presidency of the G8, the European economy and the issue of Syria. I’ll just say a word about each.

On the EU budget, I remain of the view that we did a good deal; we did a really important deal for the future of the EU budget. We cut the limit of the EU credit card, and that limit is going to stay cut. There should be no change to the ceiling that was agreed, and the Council is clear about this. Of course the European Parliament will have points it wants to make, will have ideas it wants to put forward, will have flexibility it wants to suggest, but the ceiling is the ceiling, the rebate is the rebate, and they aren’t going to change.

Second, the G8 . It was an opportunity for me to spell out the agenda that we’ll be pursuing at Loch Erne in Northern Ireland in June: three key economic issues on tax, transparency and trade. On tax, I do think it’s important that we have international cooperation to stop tax evasion and to deal with aggressive tax avoidance and that is the agenda we’ll be pushing at the G8 and obviously it applies in the G20 and the OECD as well.

Transparency, this is important. Because we want to make sure that when developing countries discover oil, gas, mineral deposits, we want to make sure that these are a blessing and not a curse and too often in the past they’ve proved to be a curse. And I think the most important thing we can do there is greater transparency, greater transparency for governments, greater transparency for companies, greater transparency about laws and rules, and I think the G8 can give a lead there.

The third issue is trade. As you know, the trade deals that are on the table would add 2% to European Union GDP and help create 2 million jobs but of course trade shouldn’t simply be an issue for the rich men’s club of the world, it should also be an issue where we see an expansion of trade deals between developing countries and indeed within developing continents, particularly Africa where there are still many complex rules and bureaucracy that stop it achieving its full rate of growth.

Added to those three Ts of tax, transparency and trade, we’ll also have a discussion – and I hope some progress – on issues related to terrorism, how we close down the ungoverned spaces, how we confront the poisonous narrative that the terrorists feed off, how we work together to improve security cooperation right across North Africa and also how we deal with the problems raised by hostage taking. So that is an issue I want us to pursue and discuss at the G8.

Third point to make is in terms of progress on European economic growth. Last night’s discussion was useful. Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande and I achieved, I think, an important breakthrough, which is this: the European Commission has been looking at the greatest burdens identified by small and medium sized enterprises. And remember, it is small and medium sized enterprises that have provided 85% of the new jobs in the European Union over the last decade. They’ve identified ten key areas, the SMEs, where they want burdens reduced and we have now mandated the commission to set out in June how they’re going to reduce those burdens. They’ve also by autumn got to produce a list of unnecessary European Union rules that need to be reversed.

As you know, I’ve spoken about the fact we are involved in a global race, a race where we need to compete and succeed, we need a more flexible, a more open, a more competitive Europe, that was the theme of my speech about Europe . I believe we’re beginning to achieve some of those things, because we need a Europe that doesn’t overregulate; in fact, we need a Europe that starts to take regulation off. We need the ratchet to go in the other direction, and with the Commission’s help we are now starting to see some progress on that front in the two ways that I identified.

Finally on Syria, it is worth reflecting that we are two years into this dreadful conflict. There are probably over 70,000 people who’ve lost their lives and I think we have to be frank that what the international community has done so far – of course it has helped in terms of humanitarian assistance, and I’m proud of the role that Britain has played there; of course it has helped to put pressure on the regime, and I’m proud of what we’ve done at the UN and here at the EU – but it hasn’t overall worked in terms of stopping this conflict and achieving transition in Syria.

I think that Foreign Secretary William Hague achieved an excellent outcome last week when he changed the rules so that it is possible to give technical assistance to the Syrian opposition, because we want to help them in what they’re doing, we want to shape them in what they’re doing in order to help provide a better outcome, but Francois Hollande and I have agreed it is also right to look at further changes in terms of the arms embargo, because at the moment it is basically still treating the Syrian regime in a pretty similar way to the Syrian opposition.

This will be debated by foreign ministers, but I think it is just worth taking on for a moment the two arguments that the opponents of change make. The first is that what is required in Syria is a political solution, not a military solution . W ell, of course people want a political solution, of course I want a political solution, but this is not an either/or situation. I think in fact we’re more likely to see political progress if actually people can see that the Syrian opposition, which we have now recognised, that we are working with, is a credible and strengthening and growing force.

The second argument people make is of course if you change the rules under the arms embargo, the arms will go to the wrong people, to which my answer is: that is what has happened already. And actually it’s important for countries like Britain, France, working with the Americans, working with other allies in the Gulf, to help the opposition, to work with the opposition, to shape the opposition and to make sure that it is those parts of the opposition that support a democratic and pluralistic Syria where minorities are properly protected, that those are the organisations getting our help and getting our assistance.

So President Hollande and I made some of these arguments in the discussion this morning. The foreign ministers will meet, and I hope further progress will be made. But in the end, this is not about process. In the end this is about really working out everything we can do to help achieve a transition at the top in Syria, but also to help, shape and work with the Syrian opposition, who we now properly and rightfully recognise.

That was all I wanted to say, happy to take some questions.


Prime Minister, I’d like to ask you about Syria please. You said that you and the French President – who I know you had a meeting with yesterday – raised this this morning. You didn’t say what response you got from the other European leaders here. I wondered if you could tell us please what support, how much support or how little support, you’ve got from other European leaders.

And the French President has said overnight that if the EU will not agree to what you and he are asking for, changing those sanctions that run out at the end of May, then the French are prepared to act on their own. Now, can I ask you is Britain prepared to act along with the French if there is not agreement in the EU? We’ve already seen Britain and France combine on Libya, for example. Are we going to see a similar thing in Syria or are you confident you might get the agreement you want in the EU?


Well, first of all we should recognise the progress that was made last time these arrangements were discussed, where we wanted to have that changed so it was possible to give technical assistance to the Syrian opposition forces. We have that change; we’re able to do that; that’s right, that’s good. As things stand today, I’m not saying that Britain would actually like to supply arms to rebel groups. What we want to do is work with them and try to make sure that they are doing the right thing, and with technical assistance we are able to do that. So that is the first point I’d make.

In terms of the discussion this morning, this is a leaders meeting; it’s not a meeting where we were debating conclusions or bits of text. It was an opportunity to make some arguments, to make points and to try to start the process of persuading people who’ve been less willing to move on this that there really are very strong arguments for saying that what is happening now isn’t working, and I sensed that there was a good understanding of that.

What President Hollande has said about this issue is pretty similar to what I said to the Liaison Committee last week. Look, Britain is a sovereign country; we have our own foreign security and defence policies. If we want to take individual action, we think that’s in our national interest, of course we’re free to do so. The way it works in the European Union, if you want to come to a common position, as we have on this issue, you can, and then you can either keep renewing that common position, or you can decide not to renew that common position. Obviously so far, what we’ve done is amend that common position so that we have been able to give technical assistance.

But if I thought our national interest was best met in another way, just as the French President would always stand up for France, I would always stand up for British interests. And on these issues, France and Britain do work well together; we do have, I think, a common analysis of what is wrong in Syria. We want to work together with allies in the Gulf to try and help bring about the change that we want to see, and I’m glad that relationship is working well.


What brought about the urgency for the French position yesterday? There seemed to be a very big shift from things going quite slowly to quite a different position being adopted by the French and indeed by you.


Well I think you’d obviously have to ask Francois (Hollande) that. I think the key point is this, it is March . Where we are now, these embargo arrangements have to be either renewed in May or amended in May or discontinued in May. So it’s right to have this debate. The most important thing that’s happened in the last few days over this issue is the amendment of the embargo arrangement, so that Britain and France, working together with allies, can help the Syrian opposition. We want to help them to save lives. We want to help them to bring about a transition in Syria.

It is worth standing back and asking, why are we debating and discussing the approach we take? Well, the answer is because two years in, 70,000 people are dead. There’s a huge refugee and humanitarian crisis. Assad is still in place. He’s still being strongly supplied and strengthened by others, and we need to put pressure on to bring about the transition that is necessary for the Syrian people, necessary for the stability of that region, and in our national interest too.


Just to follow up on what you said, that Britain you’re saying would not actually like to supply arms at this point, why does it matter then to change the arms embargo?


Well I think first of all, what we most wanted to be able to do, as I said, is the technical assistance, which we wouldn’t have been able to do under the existing embargo, and that’s why it’s good that it’s changed. I think we should be asking ourselves the question though, is it right to have an arms embargo that basically still sees a sort of parity in terms of who you help between the regime and the opposition? Is that the right approach? Shouldn’t we be sending a pretty clear signal, just as we’ve sent a signal that we recognise the opposition, shouldn’t we be sending a more clear signal that there is a fundamental difference when it comes to the regime and the opposition?

But this debate can now take place amongst the foreign ministers. I hope that a good common position can be achieved, but I think the French and British arguments are very strong about why we need to argue for changes in order to make sure that we speed up the transition process in Syria.


Could I take you back to a domestic issue: Leveson? How confident are you on Monday’s vote, and if protecting the free press is such an important issue of principle, why are you prepared to continue in a coalition that may legislate to stop it?


Well, obviously we’ll have to wait and see exactly what transpires on Monday, but what I think is good news is that we are bringing this issue to a conclusion. What I think we can’t go on with is a situation where the victims and the public don’t know what sort of press regulation we’re going to have. That needs to change. We can’t go on with a situation where, you know, bill after bill, the government’s legislative programme is potentially hijacked or contaminated with motions and amendments that are about something completely different.

So that’s why I think it’s right to bring this to a conclusion. There’s a very good proposal on the table of a Royal Charter and some minor clauses on exemplary damages. That’s the option I’m putting forward. I think the good news – and obviously I’ve been sat here in Brussels – but it seems to me that the other parties are moving away from a sort of full-on legislation on Leveson and accepting that a Royal Charter is the right way forward. Well, that’s good. If we can get on with what I’ve got on the table and pass the legislative clauses I’ve put down, that would be I think real progress.

But it’s right to bring this to a head. In the end, I think that is the best thing for everybody concerned, and I’m pleased that this has I think, now sped up everyone’s thinking process about what they really want.


If I could just ask you a quick one about Army pay. The Armed Forces Pay Review Body says that troops deserve an increase in the X-factor element of their pay to compensate for the added strain put on them by cuts and redundancies. Do you agree that they deserve that rise?


I think that our Armed Forces do an incredible job, and I think they should be probably rewarded, and I think we should always listen to independent bodies. The problem I have with the story in the Telegraph is that it is factually, I am afraid, incorrect, because the decision that I was advised over and made –which was to say to the individual concerned after their term was up that they had done a good job but their term was completed – that decision was made before the report was received. So while we’re talking about press regulation, always a good idea to check the facts before you write the story, in a self‑regulatory sort of way, of course.


We got a new pope this week, Pope Francis, and he said – he has said in the past that Britain has usurped the Falkland Island. Do you agree with him?


Well I don’t agree with him, respectfully, obviously. I would make two points. First of all, there was a pretty extraordinarily clear referendum in the Falkland Islands, and I think that is a message to everyone in the world that the people of these Islands have chosen very clearly the future they want. And that choice should be respected by everyone. As it were, the white smoke over the Falklands was pretty clear.


Do you believe voters should get the right to sack MPs who disgrace themselves in Westminster bars? And following on from that, do you think Eric Joyce is a fit and proper person to be an MP?


Well obviously I haven’t been able to follow every aspect of this story as I’ve been in a room with my 27 colleagues. But I do support the recall proposals that were in our manifesto. I still think it is right if we can find a way of putting this in place. I think it’s an important idea. As for Eric Joyce, I think this is going to have to be properly looked at, and I’m sure that the authorities both inside and outside of the House are more than capable of doing that.


The Austrian Chancellor today told us that the Austrian government is decidedly against the lifting of the arms embargo, and would in that case consider calling back the UN Blue Helmets from Austria on the Golan. Wouldn’t that create a new element of instability in the area, if the UN peacekeepers on the Golan are getting out?


Well, obviously we take a different view. I commend the work that Austrian and other troops do as Blue Helmets all over the world. I think it’s incredibly important that we have UN monitors, UN forces, UN peacekeeping forces. But UN peacekeeping forces should always do the job that they’re mandated to do, and I think saying that one decision about a UN peacekeeping force over here is affected by an entirely different decision over here, I don’t actually think is the right approach.


Can I ask whether you’ve managed to discuss and perhaps gain any ground on bonus caps at this summit, and what’s the risk that we actually get overruled?


The issue wasn’t discussed at this summit. The Chancellor made our position very clear. A couple of points. One is, this D irective, CRD IV, covers a huge amount of other ground . It covers important ground in terms of capital requirements, in terms of Basel conditions. And Britain, as the leading financial power in the European Union should be properly listened to over these vital issues. That is the first point that I would make.

The second point is that in whatever ways possible, we will continue to make sure that, of course, we accept there do need to be rules, and we have the toughest transparency regime I think of any major financial centre. But we do not want to do endorse in any way an approach that will be self-defeating. If we find that financial institutions start to behave in an entirely different way, then actually, we won’t have achieved what I think the European Parliament and others in the European Union want to achieve.

So we will continue to make sure that this is done in a way that is sensible, in a way that doesn’t damage the City of London, which – and I make this point in Brussels – is not just an important financial centre for Britain and an important provider of jobs, but is Europe’s financial centre, too. And I think this is also important to bear in mind when we think about the potential of other European countries to go ahead with the financial transactions tax.

What we ought to be doing at these councils, as I’ve said, is talking about how we win in the global race. How do we make Europe more competitive? How do we get more industries to come to Europe, not leave Europe? And that is the context in which we should be thinking of financial services. Yes, they must be properly regulated, but actually, they do provide growth, jobs, investment, not just within the United Kingdom, but it’s a very important European industry as well.

Thank you very much indeed for coming. I’m sure that we’ll see each other at another one of these European councils before too long.