Karen Bradley – 2014 Speech on Modern Slavery


Below is the text of the speech made by Karen Bradley, the Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime, at Regent’s Park College in Oxford on 1st May 2014.

I am delighted to be here to talk about an issue connected to this college and its historic links to abolitionist Baptists – fighting slavery.

That fight, is powerfully captured in your Slavery exhibition. It documents the horrors suffered by so many men and women, but also serves as an inspiration – telling the story of the individuals who fought so passionately against this evil.

Emma Walsh – the Chief Librarian of your Angus Library and Archive – and her team have done a remarkable job in putting together such an important collection of texts, manuscripts and artifacts. It is a fascinating reminder of the historical fight against slavery – a fight which we must continue today.

Because, as incredible as it seems in the 21st century – slavery does not just exist in the past.

Modern slavery and human trafficking are appalling crimes taking place today, around the world, and here in this country.

The victims are often not visible to others. The men, women and children, British and foreign nationals, who are trafficked, exploited and forced into servitude and abuse, often go unseen.

Many are trafficked from other countries to the UK, sometimes tricked into believing they are heading towards a better life. Others are vulnerable people who originate from this country who are exploited, abused, and find themselves trapped with no way out.

Some are forced into the sex industry or into a life of crime. Others endure backbreaking labour on farms, on fishing vessels, in nail bars and restaurants or any other number of areas where forced labour is present – even working as slaves in people’s homes.

Victims may endure inhumane treatment and appalling physical and sexual abuse.

It is a crime taking place in British towns and cities – exploitation like this can happen on our doorstep, as residents in Oxford are too aware.

In 2013, over 1700 individuals were referred to the UK’s National Referral Mechanism, which assesses trafficking cases and gives potential victims access to support services.

This represents a 47% increase on referrals since 2012, and numbers keep rising.

Greater awareness may account for some of this increase – but the true extent of this appalling crime is still emerging, and we also know that many more individuals remain hidden and enslaved.

Stamping out this abhorrent crime is a difficult and complex challenge.

But although the complexity and hidden nature of this crime means it is not an issue that can be solved overnight, it must never be an excuse to think nothing can be done.

Both the Home Secretary and I – as the Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime – are personally committed to tackling this appalling crime.

Modern slavery vs historic slavery

Today, thanks to the dedication and self-sacrifice of the abolitionists, slavery is illegal across the world.

But while today the chains of modern slavery may not be visible, the suffering is very real.

So our focus must be on the relentless pursuit of the individuals and criminal gangs behind the majority of the modern slave trade.

We must target those criminals and their networks, prosecute and convict offenders, and ensure victims are released and receive the help they need so they can recover from their traumatic ordeal.

The Bill

This government is taking action on a number of fronts.

Last December, the Home Secretary published a draft Modern Slavery Bill.

The Bill – the first of its kind in Europe – would strengthen the punishment of offenders and the protection of victims. It would consolidate into a single act the offences used to prosecute slave drivers and traffickers, and would increase the maximum sentence available to life imprisonment for the worst offenders. It would also introduce Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders and Trafficking Risk Orders to restrict the activity of those who pose a risk and those convicted of slavery and trafficking offences so they cannot cause further harm.

It would also create an important new role – an Anti-Slavery Commissioner – who would hold law enforcement and other organisations to account.

The new strengthened law will not only act as a significant deterrent, but will help ensure more arrests, more prosecutions, and most importantly, more victims are released from slavery and more prevented from ever entering it in the first place.

Police / law enforcement

But legislation is only part of the picture.

Stepping up our law enforcement response must be fundamental to our efforts. That is why we have made tackling modern slavery and human trafficking a priority for the National Crime Agency.

The National Crime Agency – which was launched last October – has a strong mandate for combating serious and organised crime at all levels – nationally and internationally. It will use its enhanced intelligence capabilities to deter, disrupt and bring to justice those responsible for these despicable crimes.

Police, border officials and others on the frontline also have a critical role to play. Training is already mandatory for British Border Force officials and the UK’s College of Policing is developing training and guidance for police officers.

And at a number of ports on our borders, we have deployed specialist anti-slavery teams to help identify potential victims so that they can be helped and safeguarded.

Throughout our work, our main focus must be on protecting and supporting victims.

As part of this work, the UK spends around £4 million annually on specialist support for victims.

We are rightly proud of the work we have done so far protecting victims, but we are not complacent.

That is why we have launched a review of how victims are identified and supported through the UK’s National Referral Mechanism.

We also need to make sure that, when these individuals are ready to leave this specialist support, they can access the right help to recover and move on with their lives, whether they remain in the UK or return home.

Child Advocates

We also recognise that child victims need a tailored approach.

In January, the Home Secretary announced our intention to conduct trials of specialist independent advocates for victims of child trafficking. These advocates will support and guide the child through the immigration, criminal justice and care systems. They will ensure the child’s voice is heard and that they receive the support and protection they need and deserve.

What the public and business can do

But tackling modern slavery and human trafficking is not something the Government can address alone – society has a role to play on wider activity.

We need to work with communities, businesses, professionals and the voluntary sector to have a meaningful impact.

We need to ensure that professionals and the public are aware of the signs of trafficking and what to do if they suspect it.

The number of cases referred to the National Referral Mechanism is increasing, which is a promising sign in terms of people spotting the signs of trafficking, but there is still more to do.

That is why I am committed to improving training and raising awareness across the different sectors, of modern slavery and human trafficking.

We will also be asking the private sector to play its part. Companies must be confident that they do not conduct business with suppliers involved in trafficking.

The Home Office will work with businesses and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to prevent the exploitation of workers.

And we will continue work with airline staff to raise awareness of the signs of a possible victim entering or leaving the UK.

I want the voluntary sector to play a full part too.

It is absolutely vital that we are all joined-up, that we make better use of expertise of NGOs, and that we empower them to better share intelligence with the police, for the sake of current victims, for the sake of future victims and for the sake of justice.


Ultimately it is by people and organisations coming together, not just in this country, but across the world, to tackle modern slavery that we will really make a difference.

So I am delighted religious leaders are also joining the call to action. His Holiness Pope Francis is demonstrating the real role churches and other faith groups have to play by highlighting the ever increasing global scale of the issue.

Earlier this month, the Home Secretary attended an international conference on slavery hosted by the Vatican. The two-day event focused on law enforcement and brought together police forces from over 20 countries.

The ‘Santa Marta Group’, an international group of senior law enforcement chiefs led by Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, was formally established at the conference. The group will meet again in London in November, and has pledged to work together to “eradicate the scourge of this serious criminal activity, which abuses vulnerable people.”

We will also work with foreign governments to strengthen their knowledge and understanding of modern slavery – and to try and stop potential victims in high risk countries from falling prey to traffickers in the first place.

And, we will be lobbying for changes in laws and practices of these countries and learn from them.

There is also much we can learn internationally, both on how to support our source countries better, and how to learn from destination countries’ responses.

That is why the Home Secretary appointed a Special Envoy on Modern Slavery, who has been exploring how other countries respond to this issue, in order to support the development of our work.


Two centuries ago, the abolitionists faced an immense challenge.

Their achievement in opening the eyes of many to the horrors of slavery and ensuring it was outlawed, is truly inspirational.

Today our task is very different.

But we are united by a common desire to stop the suffering of those who endure the misery of slavery.

It is a fight in which many have a role to play. And it is a fight which everyone in this room can help with – we can all take responsibility by raising awareness and demanding transparency about where our goods and services come from.

The more we can raise awareness of the fact this evil crime still exists in the 21st century, the more chance we have of consigning it to the history books where it belongs.

We are at the start of a journey. The road is long, but each step we take can make a difference. The challenge before us is not easy, but I am determined to work together to stamp out this evil and disgusting crime.

Karen Bradley – 2014 Speech on E-Crime


Below is the text of the speech made by Karen Bradley, the Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime, on e-Crime on 12th March 2014.

In 2011, CISCO estimated that the Internet connected over 10.3 billion processes, sources of data and ‘things’.

By 2020, CISCO stated that this has the potential to reach 50 billion.

As a maths graduate, I find that a staggering fact.

But today I’m banking on the fact that personal connections continue to make the biggest difference in our world.

My name is Karen Bradley, and I am the new minister with responsibility for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime in the Home Office.

I’m delighted to meet you all today.

I have only been in office for a few weeks, however in that short time I have been taken by the wide range of activity that is taking place with Industry partners to tackle the threat of cyber and cyber-dependant crime, such as fraud.

You heard yesterday from the head of the National Cyber Crime Unit, Andy Archibald, on how the National Crime Agency aims to develop this cooperation.

Today, I want to give you an overview of what we, in government, are doing to ensure that the UK derives as much value as possible from cyberspace, whilst tackling the threats within that environment.

I would like to set out the changes that are taking place to help us tackle these threats.

I would also like to talk to you about the partnership that I want to see develop between government, industry and our other partners, to bear down on cyber criminals and increase the cyber security of the UK.

The Cyber Threat

Cyber security, including cyber crime, remains a ‘tier one’ threat to national security.

It is costing the UK economy billions of pounds a year.

In 2013, Financial Fraud Action UK noted that cyber-enabled card-not-present fraud cost banks an estimated £140 million in 2012.

In the same year, cyber-enabled banking fraud was estimated at just under £40million .

We also know that our reliance on the internet is expanding at pace.

The Office of National Statistics reported that in 2012, approximately 85% of the UK population used the internet.

Of these, 33 million people accessed the internet every day, more than double the level six years before.

And the methods for access are also rapidly changing, with those using a mobile device to go online increasing by over 50% in two years from 2010 to 2012 [24% to 51%].

These evolutions create new challenges for investigation, as well opportunities for criminality.

The sheer scale and reach of the internet allows criminals to stretch their influence further than ever before – and to cover their tracks.

Today, one of the key threats we are facing is the ability of traditional crime groups to use the ‘as a service’ nature of the criminal marketplace to buy the skills needed to commit crimes that they had not been able to achieve.

We are concerned about the large scale harvesting of data to commit fraud against individuals and organisations.

And, we are concerned about the targeted compromise of UK networked systems to modify or steal data: to gain competitive advantage; gain control of infrastructure or, inflict reputational damage.

Law enforcement must develop and embed a new set of research, investigation and evidential skills, in order to respond.

National Cyber Security Programme

So, what is the government doing on cyber security, and where does industry fit in?

The National Cyber Security Strategy was launched in 2011.

Through the Programme, which underpins this strategy, we have dedicated £860 million over five years to deliver a step-change in the UK’s cyber capabilities.

The National Cyber Security Programme, about to move into its fourth year, has already delivered significant changes to the landscape on cyber.

Notably, the creation of the National Cyber Crime Unit within the National Crime Agency; the development of CERT UK to be launched in the coming weeks, the UK’s first single computer emergency response team for national cyber incident management; and, the launch of the Cyber Information Sharing Partnership, the first secure government-industry forum for information sharing on key cyber threats.

The national roll-out last year of Action Fraud also provided for the first time, a single reporting mechanism for cyber and fraud.

This has allowed us to improve significantly the number of reports of this type of crime, which we always believed were under-reported.

Between September 2012 and September 2013, the number of reports rose by over 30% from 150,000 to over 200,000.

It also makes links between different frauds, where people and businesses across the country are targeted by the same scams.

These changes, alongside the analytical capability of the NCA’s Intelligence Hub, greatly increase our understanding of the threats that we face.

Serious and Organised Crime Strategy

On 7 October last year we also launched the new Serious and Organised Crime Strategy.

Taking the framework of our Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Contest, our approach has 4 areas of focus: pursue, prevent, protect and prepare.

Pursue – prosecuting and disrupting serious and organised crime.

Prevent – stopping people from becoming involved in, and remaining involved in, serious and organised crime.

Protect – reducing our vulnerability by strengthening our systems and processes and providing advice to the private sector and the public.

Prepare – reducing the impact of serious and organised crime, ensuring major incidents are brought to effective resolution and supporting victims and witnesses.

I will focus today on the pursue and protect areas of our work.


With the launch of the National Crime Agency, and by increasing law enforcement capability at regional and local force level, we are changing the way that we pursue cyber criminals.

Through its new National Cyber Crime Unit and the Economic Crime Command, the National Crime Agency unifies the national crime-fighting response to the most serious, organised and complex cyber and cyber-enabled crime.

The NCA is also forging strong, direct relationships with industry. It will support both proactive investigations and a fast-time response to the most serious incidents.

The NCA will reach through to regional and local policing, in particular through the network of Regional Organised Crime Units – set up to work across local police force boundaries.

Following increased investment this year, dedicated cyber and fraud units are now being developed in each of these regional teams.

Through the College of Policing, we are also working to drive up cyber skills at the local level with a dedicated training programme. We expect 5,000 officers and staff to be trained by 2015.

This is part of a wider programme of work to support the increased capability and capacity of forces to investigate the online elements of crime.

As Andy mentioned yesterday, there are real opportunities for cooperation between law enforcement and Industry on skills.

We all need to keep pace with the technical changes that evolve and ensure all our organisations have the right skills to respond.

I think there is much that we can do together in this respect.


But the UK clearly can’t tackle this global threat alone.

Cyber criminals pay scant attention to international borders and can threaten the UK from locations across the globe.

As Andy noted yesterday, international collaboration is therefore at the centre of the NCA’s approach to cutting cyber crime, such as through its relationship with the European Cyber Crime Centre in Europol. We are also working closely with partner Governments worldwide.

The UK government also continues to play a leading role in shaping emerging EU thinking on cyber, including on the proposed EU Directive on Network Information Security.

I know you discussed this yesterday.

We in government, strongly support the commission’s aim to raise the level of network and information security across the EU.

But, we need to make sure that this complements the good progress we have made on this issue in the UK, and that it does not discourage business from seeking help or introduce unnecessary burdens.


As you have already been considering at this congress, protection is another fundamental part of our response.

Corporate governance is key to this.

It is endlessly frustrating to hear IT security professionals complain that they are treated as being outside the core business of their organisation.

They should be at the heart of it, with the risk of cyber threat being properly managed at board-level.

I know that this will continue to form part of the discussions that you will have at the congress today.

To encourage this, the government has now launched guidance to organisations to adopt simple measures to enhance cyber security, including for SMEs and large businesses.

The 10 Steps to Cyber Security is available on the GOV.UK website.

We have also recently launched specific cyber security guidance which companies can use during financial transactions such as mergers and acquisitions.

I strongly encourage you all to read this guidance, use it and implement it in your businesses.

Following these simple steps will protect firms against the majority of cyber threats.

To complement this, we have been working with industry to develop a basic cyber hygiene standard, due for release shortly.

This will enable businesses to demonstrate that they have put a basic level of cyber security in place.

This supports work being undertaken to certify commercially-available cyber security products for use in public and private sectors.

We also want to support the growth of the UK cyber security industry, with an emphasis on increasing exports.

Government has now set a target for future export growth of £2 billion worth of annual sales by 2016.

With these initiatives, we want to make it easier for companies to negotiate the crowded market and to promote our quality exports, which I know there is a great appetite for.

Awareness raising and protecting customers

But Protect is not just about hardening our physical protective security.

We also need to increase the public’s awareness of how to stay safe online.

As the end user of many of your products and services, their cyber security vulnerabilities can all too easily become your cyber security vulnerabilities.

You’ll hopefully now all be aware of the government’s first national cyber security awareness campaign, Be Cyber Streetwise.

The campaign was launched in January to help individuals and small businesses to understand the steps that they should take to enhance their security online.

I see this as a key aspect of our work into the next year and encourage you to consider how you can also support it, if you are not already involved.

Intelligence Sharing

The final aspect of Protect that I would like to mention is intelligence-sharing.

We must do this more effectively, in order to be able to keep pace with the swiftly evolving threat, to protect ourselves and target our disruptive activity.

The National Crime Agency has new dedicated capability to increase intelligence sharing to and from the private sector.

It produces threat assessments and targeted alerts on emerging threats so risks and vulnerabilities can be reduced.

But, we know that the vast majority of intelligence on the threats that we face lies within the private sector.

I hope that companies will agree to share the information that they hold on threats, and support each other to protect their systems.

The Cyber Information Sharing Partnership (or CISP), provides an important platform for this activity, providing a secure space to share threat information and mitigation advice in real-time.

Following an initial focus on companies that support our Critical National Infrastructure, membership of CISP has now been extended, including to legal firms, academia and SMEs, with over 300 companies having joined.

I strongly encourage you to consider how it might support your organisations also.

CERT-UK, which will house CISP, will also have a crucial role to play following its launch later this year.

Once in place, CERT-UK will work closely with the companies that own and manage the Critical National Infrastructure to help them respond to cyber incidents.

It will also help to promote a greater understanding of the threats faced by wider industry, academia and the public sector.


So what is the message that I want you to go away with today?

I want you to know that we are committed to working closely with you to reduce the threats from cyber crime.

We will bring all our law enforcement capabilities to bear to pursue cyber criminals relentlessly.

And we will provide as much information and support as we can in helping you to protect your systems and customers.

In return, we need you to share information, within the proper legal boundaries, on what you are seeing – both with each other and with us.

You’re on the frontline. You see it every day and we need you to provide your skills and support in the fight to pursue cyber criminals.

And we need you to prioritise the protection of your systems and customers.

I was at the Security and Policing Exhibition in Farnborough yesterday and I saw many good examples of what we have to offer on cyber crime.

I know what we have in this country and that we are flourishing in cyber security. We want to help you get that to customers.

This event is an excellent opportunity to take stock of how this partnership can work.

Thank you.

Karen Bradley – 2014 Speech on UK-Spain Asset Recovery


Below is the text of the speech made by Karen Bradley on 25th February 2014.

I am delighted to open this Asset Recovery Forum here today.

It is a fantastic opportunity for Spain and the UK to work together to get better at confiscating ill-gotten gains from criminals.

I am very pleased to see so many representatives from law enforcement agencies, prosecution agencies and the judiciary. I know you are keen to find new ways and more effective ways of working together.

Serious and Organised Crime – The Threat

Whilst recorded crime in the UK is down by more than 10%, the threat from serious and organised crime remains very real. It costs the UK more than £24 billion every year and is now recognised as a national security risk.

It creates misery for victims and has a corrosive impact on our communities. The sight of criminals enjoying lavish lifestyles funded by the proceeds of crime encourages others to get involved in criminality.

Financial gain is often the motive for serious and organised crime. In many cases we have found criminals fight harder to protect their assets from confiscation than they do to avoid the prison sentence imposed for the crime. And the proceeds of crime are used to fund further criminality.

For too long many serious and organised criminals have been able to stay one step ahead, out of the reach of law enforcement agencies and enjoying the proceeds of their criminality, whether at home or abroad.

Our Response – the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy

The UK Government launched the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy in October 2013, detailing how the Government will reduce substantially the level of serious and organised crime. We will do so by tackling both the threats and the vulnerabilities that enable serious and organised crime.

There are four aspects to the Strategy: Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare.

The first part – Pursue- is about relentlessly disrupting serious and organised criminals. Central to that is our ambition to attack criminal finances by making it harder to move, hide and use the proceeds of crime, which impacts serious and organised crime. We are also building new capabilities and introducing new legislation.

The second element of our strategy is about Prevention, stopping people from getting drawn into serious and organised crime to begin with. Tackling criminal finances makes crime less lucrative and less attractive to those at risk of offending.

Thirdly, we will find new ways to make it harder for criminals to launder the proceeds of their crimes as part of our approach to Protecting government and the private sector from serious and organised criminals.

Finally, using the recovered proceeds of crime to help local communities contributes to our Prepare focus on contingency planning and supporting victims, witnesses and communities.

The National Crime Agency

The National Crime Agency, a new law enforcement organisation to coordinate work against serious and organised crime in the UK and overseas, was launched at the same time as the Strategy. The NCA also brings together intelligence on all types of serious and organised crime, and prioritises crime groups for law enforcement action according to the threat they present.

Partnerships and International Asset Recovery

Criminals are known to move their assets overseas, out of the reach of law enforcement agencies, and our strategy commits us to doing more on international asset recovery.

Partnerships are at the heart of our new strategy and we want to establish strong, effective relationships with our international partners to drive up the amount of assets we confiscate. Our relationship with Spain on this agenda is an immediate priority.

Working together to enforce overseas confiscation orders is good for everyone:

For victims and communities, because justice is done when the criminal is deprived of their proceeds;

For the requesting country, because it prevents criminals escaping the reach of its courts; and

For the enforcing country, which keeps all or some of the assets confiscated, and because no country wants to be a safe haven for criminals and the proceeds of their crimes.

Working Together

I would like to thank the Spanish authorities for their willingness to assist us in the complex task of enforcing UK confiscation orders.

I want to make very clear that, in return, we will make every effort to assist them in returning to Spain criminal assets found in the UK. Let us know which cases you want us to pursue, and we will work with you to ensure that Spanish criminals cannot hide their ill-gotten gains in the UK.

A powerful indication of our commitment to this agenda is the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to post an asset recovery specialist here to Madrid to facilitate this enforcement work. I greatly welcome that decision and I hope this can serve as a model that can be replicated elsewhere.

Spain and the UK have already achieved fantastic results working together. A great example of this is the excellent Operation Captura campaign run by Crimestoppers. Since its launch in 2006, information provided to Crimestoppers by the public has helped capture 58 UK criminals hiding in Spain out of the 78 subjects circulated.

The most recent was David Mather, a convicted heroin smuggler arrested in La Linea by the Spanish authorities, following information given to Crimestoppers by the public, with support and cooperation from the National Crime Agency. A fantastic example of the close cooperation between UK and Spanish Authorities for which I am very grateful.

It goes to show that strong bilateral relationships achieve results.

I want us to build on the success of Operation Captura by ensuring that we confiscate the assets of those that we bring to justice.

What should our enhanced cooperation look like?

I would like us to agree some practical steps to help each other.

Firstly, starting today, to get to know each other better, and to understand each other’s legal systems. That is the way for us to understand what the procedural blockages are that prevent us from working together more effectively.

Secondly, to agree with each other a list of priority confiscation cases that we will both pursue. We want to ensure that both of our countries are a hostile environment for serious and organised criminals. We do that through joined-up law enforcement action.

Asset Sharing

Thirdly, to ensure we have a shared commitment to seeing the United Kingdom implement European Union measures on the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders. We intend to implement those measures in the UK on 1 December 2014.

In the meantime, I hope we can explore opportunities to agree an interim Memorandum of Understanding to allow us to share confiscated assets, using the formula established in the EU measures, to ensure that crime does not pay.


So, I call on everybody here today to make the most of this unique opportunity to work together to share innovative ideas and success stories; gain a better understanding of each other’s constraints; and, most importantly, to reach solutions together. It is through the combined efforts of you, the practitioners, that we will tackle serious and organised criminals and ensure that neither Spain nor the UK is a haven for ill-gotten gains.

Thank you.

Thomas Boardman – 1967 Maiden Speech to the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Thomas Boardman in the House of Commons on 20th December 1967.

I understand that there is a happy custom in this House which enables a new Member making his maiden speech to refer to his predecessor, and this I am pleased to do. Mr. Herbert Bowden, as he then was, sat for my constituency for 22 years, did much work for all sections of the constituency and was held in high regard by his constituents. I know also that he was much respected by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House and I am sure that they will join me in wishing him well in another place and in his new job.

I understand that I am also enabled to make reference to my constituency and this I am both pleased and proud to do. It is the south-west part of that great Midlands industrial city of Leicester. The city was reputed to be one of the most prosperous in Europe—a prosperity which I fear has somewhat faded in recent years. But it still compares favourably with most parts of the country.

Its prosperity is founded on a diversity of industries—engineering, footwear, textiles, hosiery, plastics and the like. I believe that its source was the traditional ability of the people of Leicester for hard work, high skills, enterprise, inventiveness and thrift. These are all qualities which I am sure hon. Members on both sides will recognise as virtues. Whether we would agree on how those virtues should be rewarded I will not venture to raise today.

It is because of this diversity of industries in Leicester that the cost of transport is of vital importance today. I want to refer only to that part of the Bill concerning the carriage of freight and to apply it to a commercial test—the test of whether the Bill will add to the competitiveness and efficiency of British industry, which, after all, must be our prime economic aim. Before applying that test, perhaps I should say something about my qualifications for doing so, so that the House can weigh how much or how little to attach to my words.

I say at once that I do not claim to write for the Economist—or so far I have not been asked to do so—so perhaps the right hon. Lady will be disappointed in that. It is perhaps important to refer to my experience in that Lord Robens commented the other day on the lack of experience of hon. Members in making commercial decisions.

I have the ultimate responsibility for the commercial decisions of a group of companies which cover 14 factories in the Midlands and the North. These factories supply components of many types to much of the footwear, motor car and clothing trades throughout the United Kingdom and many other parts of the world. To us, the organisation of transport is one of our key rôles. It is the conveyor belt of our industry and if it breaks down, or something goes wrong with it, not only do our own factories suffer or cease to function but we can cause chaos and hold up production in hundreds of factories throughout the country. So it is from the background of my personal experience that I approach this part of the Bill.

I ask myself what industry needs in transport. On both sides we welcome methods to improve safety for the operator or safety for the public. There are at present countless regulations providing for safety in transport. I shall not take up time in questioning whether these are fully effective or even whether the Bill is necessary in whole or in part to fill in any requirements still wanting.

I turn to what I consider to be the three commercial requirements of transport. One must be flexibility because, however carefully one plans one’s transport to carry one’s goods up and down the country and to the ports, the pattern of trade and demand will change daily and hourly and we must have, for industry, a flexible system which allows us, for example, to divert a lorry load bound for London to Bristol or Birmingham at short notice. The need for flexibility was never better illustrated by the recent dock strikes, when we had to divert lorries from port to port in order to catch shipping space.

This means two things. We have to have the choice, which we now have, to use our own transport, or to use private carriers or British Road Services or container services and the like. They all have an important part to play. Industry and commerce must have choice. We must have the ability to choose the right transport for the occasion. I believe that the third thing we need is competition, because it is only our freedom to switch from one carrier to another or to use our own lorries that enables us to get the keenest price and the good service we demand. I believe that these are the requirements we must have.

How does the Bill measure up to this? I believe that it fails on all these points. The right hon. Lady says that she intends to coerce people into using British Railways and gave as her reasons that only by making us use the railways will we realise how good the new services are and, secondly, that we do not know the true economic costs of our own transport. I think that the right hon. Lady is presuming to know more about how to run our businesses than we do. It is a dangerous assumption that either the lady or the gentleman in Whitehall necessarily knows best.

The right hon. Lady also said that the private sector would not be eliminated. I believe that the private sector will survive but I query how it can survive in any competitive form on the crumbs which fall from British Railways’ table, or how it can survive when its only job will be to plug holes left by the National Freight Corporation. I wonder whether it can be competitive and prosper—or, if it does prosper, whether it will not commit the Socialist crime of prosperity, which would bring upon it the penalty of integration, rationalisation or co-ordination into the public sector.

I believe that the consequences of the Bill on industry—and I believe this out of my own experience, as I am trying to avoid political controversy—could be grave increases in costs due to the direct costs in the Bill, to the costs to people in building up stocks along the pipeline because they cannot be sure of deliveries they now know are certain, and to the costs of the administrative form filling and the bureaucracy that goes with it. These costs will be heavy on industry.

At this time, when industry has been reeling under blow after blow and when it should be straining every nerve and sinew to get on with the job of production, I query whether it is right to introduce this Measure. By the Bill the Minister intends to carry out a major surgical operation on the jugular vein of our industrial and commercial life, and if she has miscalculated—and can she be sure that she has not?—she could put in jeopardy the jobs of millions and the chances of our economic recovery.

David Blunkett – 2005 Speech at National Association of Pension Funds Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Work and Pensions Secretary, to the National Association of Pension Funds conference on 12th May 2005.

Well firstly my thanks for the invitation, and particularly for returning, having had your AGM and the exhibition. I count it as a deep honour that you have bothered to come back afterwards at this time of the day when you could be enjoying the sunshine. I was very worried for a moment, Christine. I thought you were going to say that I had the hide of Churchill and the nose of a rhinoceros, but maybe I will have after perhaps more than 14 months in the job.

I mean let’s not beat about the bush. All of you in this room know more about income in retirement and the issues around pensions than I do, so we might as well start off as I mean to go on – which is that I have got some overview thoughts and I am very happy at the end of them to take questions and comment, but above all, I am prepared to work with you, those who are members of the NAPF, and those associated and working in the industry more broadly, to actually listen and learn and to work with you alongside the Commission, chaired by Adair Turner, to be able to come up with a lasting solution which will take us through the decades ahead and will give certainty and stability on which you can build, and on which the British people can invest their hard earned resources in ensuring that they have a happy and fruitful retirement.

I always find myself, not so much lying, as rushing along with a bed of nails pursuing me. Each job I take on seems to be the unsolvable issue of the moment, and it is just as true in terms of not just the challenge on income in retirement, but also the revisions of the welfare state.

Because the settlement at the time of the post-war era was very much in a different economic, social and cultural environment – and it was presumed that if women did go to work they would work part-time – people were encouraged therefore, if they were female, to opt out of the full national insurance system.

If you go back to the beginning of the pensions system, and you know that better than I do, there were 10 people in work for every 1 in retirement. Now we are down to 4 in 1, and within the next 50 years we will be down to 2 to 1 if we don’t actually change the nature of the working life, the presumptions that people make about that, and the way in which we deal with it.

It is not simply, incidentally, the challenges that Adair laid down with his four pillars, or principles, but actually also whether we are prepared to consider other aspects as well, like the issue – dare I say it after the general election plumbed the depths on this question – of encouraging managed legal immigration into our country, to fill vacancies, to be able to ensure productivity, but also to contribute to the wider delivery of services and the build-up of capital for the generation that will be retiring.

It is also about the issue of ensuring that we get more people into work who are of working age – the 80% aim that we have set ourselves, having reached just a month ago the 75% of the working age population in work. This was something that I laid down when I was last Employment Secretary, because on this bit I have been recycled, it helps to know a bit of the brief anyway when you come into it, and I had 4 years as Employment Secretary, so I was aware of the challenge.

But of course that takes us into other aspects of the reform of the welfare state, such as the way in which we need to get those who have considered themselves to be likely to be unemployable, into employment, and that includes people with disabilities, and that is why the reform of Incapacity Benefit is important, and also getting housing benefit reform right so that it isn’t a discouragement to people taking a job.

Gordon Brown has done an enormous amount in terms of making work pay and taking on the challenge of overcoming poverty, including poverty in retirement. We now have almost 2 million people who would have been considered to be in poverty in retirement who have been aided by the programmes that have been brought in. 2.7 million households, of course, have become entitled to the Pension Credit, and just over 2 million – 2.1 million – to the income guarantee, raising the basic income they were receiving from £69 to just over £109 for a single person.

It is an unsung achievement, although I did meet one or two people in retirement who had the decency during the General Election to shake my hand and say that they were better off than they had ever been.

Of course where they are receiving free accommodation through housing as well, that actually adds to their well-being, but it is often not counted as part of the income, when of course it is. And I think we need to look at – not just now, but in terms of finding solutions for the future – the total income coming into a household where both people are retired, or where there is a single retired person.

And that will in the future mean taking a look at the assets that those people have in other directions, not just other forms of saving, but actually also the passing on from one older generation to a slightly less, but elder generation – the income from ownership of homes where the parent, or the aunt and uncle, in their late 80s or 90s die and pass on to those in their 60s or early 70s a substantial asset, like winning the lottery or the pools. We need to take those into account because otherwise we will delude ourselves. We will become more pessimistic to begin with, but we will also discount what is a substantial additional income for those individuals and we need to bear that in mind.

But take it for granted – and you know this as well as we do – that we have the largest home ownership in Europe, certainly in the developed world, other than North America, and the consequence of that is that we need to take into account what that means vis-a-vis pension requirements across the continent.

You may have noticed that I am desperately trying not to use the term “pensioner”. I have never been politically correct in my life, In fact I have often run into trouble by refusing to be, so this is a kind of reverse political correctness on my part. What really gets me is when people come into my advice surgery and they say: “You see, Mr Blunkett, I am a pensioner”, and they define themselves by the nature of their income.

Well I won’t ask you to put your hands up if you would really like to be defined when you have retired as a pensioner, because I will be able to count the results, even if you get it wrong, not like our postal vote system, but a bit more like Robert Mugabe’s system.

We know that what we have got to do is to stop defining people by their income in retirement and we have got to break down the barriers between our working time and our retirement time, so that with employers we can start developing schemes that allow people to retire and come back.

I think Gordon Brown, and Alan Johnson, and Andrew Smith before him, did a really good job in encouraging people to be prepared to stay on – to stay on full or part-time – and to be able to defer taking their basic pension, and therefore get an incentive and a reward for it. I mean after 5 years of deferral, to be able to get between £20,000 and £30,000 in my view is a real promise.

The idea of people being able to take their occupational pension and continue working seems to me to be common sense, and we need to examine how we provide incentives to people who are not in those positions, but want to do a little part-time job when they have retired, and how we can make sure that there is not a disincentive.

I will share something with you, because I think this is really important to see where I am coming from. When my father was killed in a works accident, when I was 12, my mother received part of his superannuation – his deferred gratification, his deferred earnings – but it was just enough to push her at that time into having to pay some income tax, and just enough to push her out of being entitled to other related passport benefits.

She was a generous woman and would have given her last crust – and sometimes we were on our last crust – to anyone else, but she really resented that trap. And if, after whatever time I get in the job, I have been able to work with Gordon Brown in finding a way to increase the tapers and to encourage, not just savings, but the ability to take advantage of them so that we incentivise other people to want to save, to want to be self-reliant, to want to be part of the solution themselves, then I will have been very proud to have been the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

This is crucial, alongside elevating people out of poverty in retirement, which Gordon has said is an absolutely key parameter and has done so much to achieve with the Pension Credit, with the winter fuel allowance, which of course has the advantage that my mother would have welcomed, as not disqualifying you from other benefits and not being taxed, with the TV licence for the over-75s, with the help we gave for this year’s council tax – all of those things are helping.

In the end we have got to ensure that people know that this isn’t an issue for government or for the industry, this is an issue for every single one of us.

So I don’t want, whether it is in reforming the welfare state more broadly, or in reforming pensions and retirement income, I don’t want a safety net any longer, I want an escalator, or even a trampoline where people can jump out of the situation of dependence. I want to feel that people know that yes we will support, facilitate with you in the industry, we will help people be able to gain confidence, that there will be support and assistance in getting it right, but that they are also crucially the solution.

So that from the moment that someone takes on a job, they start thinking about their lifetime income, just as they think about their lifetime aspiration for promotion, for re-skilling, for taking on a global economy where we will change jobs again and again in our lifetime. I mean I have had three in government alone, and look how old I am. Well I didn’t used to look old, but one or two things have sort of greyed my beard, not least being the Home Secretary, which is why most people in Cabinet shave their beards off, by the way, it sort of avoids them being labelled as ageing. But when you have a grey beard, the Prime Minister is inclined to think that your mind will be concentrated on your pension. So here I am.

I think that we have a number of challenges. If we are to develop certainty and security, then we need to welcome what the NAPF and the ABI have been doing in social responsibility in investment, and that means government, so that we do not have in the future the need for the FAS to actually dig people out of a situation where they have been so badly and scurrilously let down. We don’t want in future the need to have the fall-back of the PPF, but we have got it for the time being, and we will make it work, in order to ensure that we can provide for the future. But what we do want is the kind of work you have been doing on ensuring that people can have confidence.

But we also need to reach out to people and give them, as Adair Turner’s Commission is doing, a very clear picture of what has happened. Not just as I described, the change in the ratio of the working to the non-working, but also the great gains of longevity, of actually being able to enjoy our life for longer and in a better condition for longer. Actually challenge people to say but you can’t have the same results without facing the challenges in circumstances where over the last 50 years life expectancy when we have left work has risen from 10 to 20 years, and is rising exponentially all the time.

We can’t have circumstances where people wanted to retire early, or in the case of incentives to get out of a job at times of very high unemployment – and that was the case in the ‘80s, people found themselves on incapacity benefit or on very attractive early retirement packages – and therefore create an environment where people thought they were going to retire earlier, they were going to live longer, and someone else would provide them with an income. And all those challenges across the country, we are all involved in.

I am going to take the Ministerial team, and senior officials, out across the country, into the regions and to the localities. Not just because we learnt, if we didn’t know it before, during the general election, that we needed to listen, to be close to people, to actually share the challenges with people of the future – but because actually I want to hear what those in the industry, those with expertise, those who think they have got an answer, can offer us.

I also want to hear from the public what they really think in terms of their understanding of their responsibilities. In other words, the new welfare state is about responsibilities and not just rights, it is about creating a sense of independence, but underpinned by mutuality and the recognition that we are in this together. It is about, in other words, a different sort of view of the relationship between government and people, between the industry and government, and between the big blocs of the CBI and the TUC and the solutions we can come to.

And so I have spoken personally, as well as on the radio, to Malcolm Rifkind today, and I will speak to whoever might be reshuffled – I haven’t heard the news tonight – in Steve Webb’s job in the Liberal Democrats. I want a consensus with my colleagues in Parliament. I want a consensus with the industry, trade unions and business; I want a consensus across the country; but I want a consensus with the major political parties, because if we are going to have that security and stability and we are going to address the issues of the future openly, as long term questions, not short term fixes, then we will need the political parties to come together.

OK, we will knock bells out of each other about what happened in the past, as we get near to a general election they will be flaking off at the edges, but we do have a couple of years now, with a secure majority, to actually be able to challenge all those involved in wanting to be part of the solution, in having to own being part of the solution, to come up with answers that will be lasting. And I am prepared to do that, if my political opponents are prepared to do it as well.

And not all of us will be satisfied with the outcome. But in June we will hold a joint seminar with Adair Turner’s Commission and Ministers, opening that up so that we can present by the end of June, at least a sense of the direction in which we are going; so that when Adair’s final Commission Report comes out in the late autumn, there will be at least some feel of what the issues have been about, and people can have responded to it already and give us a bit of a steer as to what is acceptable. I think that will help Adair Turner in being able to come out with something that at least has the momentum behind it; the tide running for it.

Because what we don’t want in the late autumn is something coming out of the blue, and then everybody sniping because they haven’t got everything they want, picking pieces out of it, without having had to be made to think before it emerges, what their reaction will be. And then we can challenge people, not to be against, but to work out which bit they can be in favour of, how they can come together to create that sense of momentum. And if we can get it right, then it will be possible, despite differences (of course there will be) to actually face the challenge of the future together.

The facts will speak for themselves, the demographics, the change in health and longevity, the challenge of people who want a better life when they are retired, who want to do more and want to go on the world tours that only the very rich went on in the 19th Century. They will want to be able to drink a decent glass of burgundy – at least I will, I will need to by then – they will want to be able also to pass on to their sons and daughters and their grandchildren something that they have been able to save, rather than having to dispose of it all. But in the end it will be down to them, and not just to all of us in this room tonight to determine whether that is possible.

So the challenge of an enjoyable retirement, of an ever ageing, lengthening population, of a challenge of a nation that will want to believe the quality of life is something for all of us to aspire to, will also have to face the question, and it is a very simple one really: Who pays, and how, on the one side; And at what point are you eligible on the other? If we get that right, which encapsulates the questions that Adair Turner laid down, and the principles that Alan Johnson set out in February in the document, then we can do it together.

I haven’t got the answers yet, but at some point while I am the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, I am going to have to espouse one, and I hope that that answer will gain sufficient consensus to be lasting for the next 100 years. If we can manage it together, you will have something to be proud of because you will have been part of it, and I will be able to drink my burgundy with at least some sense of satisfaction that, although I won’t have actually come out of this with halos round my head – there isn’t a newspaper in Britain that at one point or another hasn’t really enjoyed chipping blocks off me – At least in my heart of hearts, I will have known that I did my best.

Thank you for inviting me.

David Blunkett – 2005 Speech at Remploy Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Work and Pensions Secretary, at the Remploy Conference on 14th June 2005.

Thank you Peter, and thank you to all of you for being here, and for Remploy and Radar for organising today’s sessions which I hope will be both useful to you, and will actually be very informative and helpful to us as we develop what in effect will be, over the next couple of years, the reform of the welfare state for the 21st century. Bearing in mind that most of what we now take for granted has been kind of added to and cobbled together over the last 60 years, it is appropriate to be celebrating the 60th anniversary of Remploy because of course it does mirror the beginning of the post-war settlement. It is that that we are addressing, and you are addressing, and that I will need to get a grip of in the months and years ahead.

A very warm welcome to training providers, to those employers who are attending, and the organisations with, for and on behalf of disabled people. Together with fellow Ministers – and we are all new to the department as it stands at the moment – I think my task will be to listen, to reach out, to hear what people are saying, and to make sure that where we don’t agree, people understand why and that they have been heard.

I am a retread, as you probably know – not a rubber tyre, but a genuine retread – because between 1997 and 2001 I was – as well as being Education – the Employment Minister and I was the Secretary of State with overall responsibility for equality issues in relation to disability, and as it happens the EOC as well. And as Home Secretary I had responsibility for the CRE, so I have covered the field really over the last 8 years. And as a retread I am amazed at some of the things that have moved on over the last four years, and I am also amazed at some of the things that haven’t. So it is interesting coming back into a department and finding what has happened in those particular areas and what hasn’t.

Of course I was the Secretary of State when we established the Disability Rights Commission, when we extended the original Disability Discrimination Act, when we put in place the New Deal for Disabled People, when we extended substantially access to work provision, and when we worked with Remploy and those employed through Remploy on trying to reshape the direction that Peter has already referred to.

And it is interesting again to see how further additions have been made over the last four years. I was looking, as part of coming here today, at the further spread of the obligations under the DDA for smaller employers, the access duties that came into force last October, and incidentally the recognition of sign languages.

And of course the way in which all of you have been involved in trying to make sure that what in theory actually is put in place, happens in practice. And I just want to say this morning that I think one of the big challenges that we have as a society in changing attitudes and culture is still the issue around mental health. Nearly 40% of those who are on incapacity benefit have some form of mental health challenge. Sometimes it is depression, sometimes it is for clinical illness, but the challenge is not simply about how we work to get people off incapacity benefit – which I will come back to in a moment – the issue is how we stop people falling out of work in the first place because of the stresses and strains and because of mental health issues that can sometimes arise out of the conditions of the workplace and the pressures, and sometimes arise when people are worried in relation to the changes that are taking place around them.

And I intend, with Ministers, over the next few months to take a long hard look at occupational health for the nation as a whole, because we now have in the department responsibility for the Health and Safety Commission, but I want us to work much more closely with employers, with the TUC, with the CBI, on the whole issue of how we deal with preventing people becoming ill, preventing people dropping out of work, as well as the broader issues of how we get people back into work.

The Strategy Unit report, the vision for the next 20 years, touched on something that is very close to my heart, and that is about the transitions that we have to face in different parts of our life. It seems to me – and Peter and I went through it and many of you who have been through specialist schooling or training will know – that some of the transitions can be extremely painful. So, if we could, as part of the support that Peter has mentioned, actually help people through those occasions in life, we can make a big difference. It is usually – and this is true of changes of schooling, of change from school through adolescence into training, or the attempt to get work, or changes in employment, or retirement – it is at those critical moments that things go badly wrong and people’s confidence is knocked, and people’s ability to be able to cope is challenged. So I think we ought to be looking very clearly at those points of change and helping people through them.

I think that means that we have got to work, not just with employers, not just with supporting services, but actually also look at the broader community and the strengths that exist in the community – including not for profit organisations and of course those who are campaigning groups as well – to look at how we can work on this.

And I wanted to just say this morning that if we want real equality of opportunity, if we want some meaningful choice, we have got to start examining where we are coming from, obviously in a practical way, but from the point of view of the individual, rather than from the point of view of the provider or even, dare I say it, of a government department. And instead take a look at what people expect for themselves, what they would logically and rationally expect other people to be able to do to support them domestically, socially and in living independently, and why we are not at the moment meeting those expectations. And if we can coalesce around that so that we look not just at what is, but what might be, and how we could put together better the things that exist, then we might get somewhere.

I mean for every single person I have come across and talked to, not just now but over the many years that I have been involved in public life, I have not met anyone who doesn’t agree that actually people being independent, earning their living, being able to fend for themselves is a positively good thing. For some people who have a very severe disability or long term illness, it is not possible for them to actually take up full time work. And I want to just refute something I read in a Guardian article a week ago, which is the idea that I am going to say to people that because I can do something, I expect them to. Peter was quite right, we are all individuals. I am never ever going to say that to people, other than I have said it to my own sons because they needed a kick up the rump! They are not disabled and they don’t have long term sickness – thank God – but when they were teenagers they had what I called sleeping sickness, which is not getting up in the morning and not getting on with it. Well they have got over that very strongly now and I am very proud of them, but the point I am making is that we are individuals and therefore we should tailor what we do to meet the requirements and the point in time that individuals find themselves in.

Pathways to Work has been successful primarily because it has addressed the particular needs of individuals, it is built on the progress we made in developing the New Deal by having the special advisor service, it is built on the idea of a broker who can not only provide that personal advice, but actually broker the delivery of services that make it possible to progress. It is also about working closely with employers and ensuring that people know what can be expected, what the challenges are as well as the possibilities.

I mean nothing in life is entirely rosy and it will take time, too long very often, to sort out support mechanisms, including access to work. I also want to just put on record this morning that we won’t be reducing the budget of access to work, because there were some rumours when I came in that we might be doing that, and there is no way I am going to cut back on access to work – I just want it to work more effectively and efficiently and I would like it to be much more tailored to what is useful for the individual, including how you can passport what individuals have been provided with from one circumstance to another, which I think would be quite a helpful development given that new technology has changed the kind of help that people wanted. I still use a Perkins brailer because I am a luddite, but I have been encouraged over the last weeks and months to use much more up to date equipment, not least when I didn’t have the kind of support services that you have when you are a Cabinet Minister.

So we need to do that, but also – and I want to make a big feature of this in the months ahead – we need to work with the Department of Health. It is absolutely clear to Patricia Hewitt and myself – and I have talked to Patricia about this – that unless we change the speed, the relevance, the actual provision that is available for people, we can’t expect to bridge the gap when people find themselves in a situation where they need immediate help, but more importantly, we can’t expect people to have the confidence to go forward if the people who are advising them don’t understand the potential and the possibilities, and don’t understand the dangers of what they say.

Let me be blunt. Too many GPs actually tell people that they will never work again. Too many GPs write prescriptions which are effectively please go home and atrophy, rather than please can we help you to get into meaningful activity, whether it is volunteering, or whether it is living skills, and subsequently work. And the best prescription you can give anybody would actually be to be able to write: I believe this individual, with the right kind of support, can do a really good job of work, even if it is only part-time, and please will you find them a job, rather than simply saying take these pills and please go away.

So Patricia Hewitt and I are going to work with the Royal College of General Practitioners, with the BMA and others to actually see if we can change the barriers that exist to returning to work, and the barriers to preventing people falling out of work, whether it is from an occupational health policy or whether it is the response you get when you approach a professional. And as a fellow MP was saying to me earlier this morning, it is amazing how people believe professionals, how they presume that people know what they are talking about, when they may have received an hour’s training on the particular issue a very long time ago.

So change is necessary and change will have to come, but it must come with the interests of the individual at heart. So let me just say one quick word about this welfare reform agenda. It is a promise, not a threat. It is really saying to people if you don’t write yourself off, we as a society won’t write you off, and if we as a society don’t write you off, don’t allow anyone else around you to do so either. And if we can provide a virtuous circle where reform isn’t seen as a threat but as a promise, where individuals who have already benefited from improvements can speak out for themselves, can be the evangelist, the advocates for further change; if people who have had bad experiences can be encouraged not simply to say how bad they were, but to help us shape the systems around us to work better, to be tailored better to their needs; if we can get into rehabilitation as well as medical treatment, if we can actually ensure that the benefits system is joined up so that one form of benefit actually encourages you, rather than discourages you from being able to move forward; if we can build on the ideas that Andrew Smith and I put together when I was last in Employment, and which Andrew then was involved in implementing, that actually allowed people to retain benefits rather than immediately lose them, to give people the opportunity of avoiding fear when they take up challenges, when they take the next step, but actually being able to know that things will still be there if everything goes wrong; if we can actually listen to and respond to what people need themselves, we can get it right. So it is a much broader inclusive agenda of ensuring that we can get it right for the future.

Peter has referred to the joint survey that was published yesterday. People do want choice, but they want a choice that allows them at different stages of their life to be able to move from one opportunity to another. None of us any more, disabled or not, will ever have a particular job for life, or even for more than 5 or 10 years. The world has changed from one job for life, to 5,6, 7, 10 jobs in life. Most people don’t want to be on the job that they started with in their 20s, they want to develop in the job, they want to use lifelong learning, they want to retrain, they want to have new opportunities as their own skills and confidence develops. Many people want a different kind of job to the one that their parents had. So welfare reform isn’t simply about the benefits system, in fact it isn’t about the benefits system, it is about avoiding the benefits system being a safety net and creating it as a ladder of opportunity, and giving people the common sense approach to being able to do what is right for themselves at a particular moment in time. It is right for all of us, because we need for people in work to pay for people in retirement; we need people in work to be able to pay for the development of the services; we need a thriving economy which builds on productivity and on growth by having more people of working age in work than ever before – 75% at the moment, with an aim of 80%, which is the highest in the whole of the developed world. But we have a long way to go before we really have an inclusive open society in this country, when so many disabled people are excluded from the same opportunity and choice that other people take for granted. And that is the agenda, it is not one of punishment or of looking at ways of cutting budgets, it is one of liberating people to be able to have the same life chances that other people literally believe is their birthright.

And with Remploy – and we will maintain Remploy’s budget over the next three years – I want to see even more movement into open employment. The agreements we will be reaching will again be based on people’s individual opportunity, on training, on rehabilitation and on supporting them, Peter, when they are actually in work. And it is that latter part that I want to see emphasis on as well, because there is no point in people moving into open employment, no point in persuading employers, unless we support both the individual and the employer through the transition periods through the way in which the uncertainties can be overcome and fears can be reduced.

So if there are apprehensions about where we are going, I would like to allay them, I would like to indicate that we want to try and get this right and we want to do so by working with the grain of what people know is already working. And if we can achieve that, then instead of people constantly hearing what is on offer and immediately thinking what must be wrong with it, let’s try and think together about how we can get it right so that in 5, 10, 15 years time we can look back and see that the reform agenda really did make a difference on the ground, not in theory but in the lives of every single individual. And that is why this morning I came to make quite a low key speech, to say we are in it together and if anybody has got some really bright ideas, I am up for them.

Thank you very much.

David Blunkett – 2005 Speech at Pensions Commission Seminar


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Work and Pensions Secretary, on 21st June 2005.

I would like to offer my thanks to Adair, to Jeannie and to John for the tremendous hardwork that they’ve undertaken and thanks to all of you for participating today, including my own Ministerial colleagues and the opposition spokespeople.

When I came in this morning I discovered that the heaters were pumping out heat rather than air conditioning, and I hope therefore we can avoid the hot-air syndrome that we get in the House of Commons – inevitably adversarial. I think today is one of these rare opportunities where we can get people to actually share thoughts rather than have to counter-pose them and to share the problem with a genuine endeavour to gain a consensus.

If I promise not to posture will you all promise not to posture? If you all promise not to simplify things down to the lowest common denominator I’ll promise not to do that as well.

It’s partly not arriving here today with past policies in the back pocket or with a reminder card of everything that anybody’s ever said before or thought of and trying to work out how, with very different perspectives, we can genuinely come together and identify those things which we do agree on and to work out whether there are methods of persuading each other there is a way forward in the future.

I wanted this morning just to differentiate between past and present and the future because if we’re not very careful we end up in an argument about what we’ve got now rather than having to accept where we are now – from whatever political or professional perspective – and then look at the world in 25, 30 years time and where we would like people to be and what the genuine challenges are that Adair and colleagues have been engaged in.

A dialogue therefore, about the challenges. An understanding of the potential solutions and an ability to build a consensus that is more than just all of us in this room or between political parties, that which actually draws in the population as a whole.

Of course including interested groups and those with professional expertise but actually drawing in people across the country. I’ve certainly found in my six weeks (and it isn’t a very long time, that I’ve been in the job, and it’s true of Malcolm and David as well) that people are up for this – they are genuinely engaged.

If you talk as I did on Friday morning in Manchester, to young people they do actually want information.

They may not be inspired with the idea that they’ve got to think what it will be like when they are 70 when they are just entering their 20s, but they are when you put it to them, really exercised by the nature of the challenge for them and not just for the rest of us in terms of how they get there.

So obviously the first factor is about looking at potential solutions and where we are going.

The second is how do we deal with the challenge of knowing that by the time any solution we put in place is fully operable the longevity that we’ve seen extended over the last 60 years since the end of the Second World War will once again have taken off.

There is a disagreement between people about whether these things are predictable. Alan Walker from the University of Sheffield, who I think is here this morning, actually tells me that it is predictable and that we can track the trends and therefore we have a better idea than we’ve ever had before of just what the challenge will be.

As I said in the Commons yesterday people actually want to live longer, they want live better and more healthily, they want to retire earlier and they want someone else to pay for it.

So we’ve got to actually try and get round that conundrum of getting people to actually see that whilst it’s a promise to live longer, whilst it’s a joy to have a healthier life, whilst every single one of us wants to ensure that we can contribute not just to our families but to the wider community in our older age – and whilst we want to travel and we want to have the ability to be able to use the assets that we have accumulated over the years – it is a simple fact that in enjoying and seeing the prospect of old age people are not fully aware of the challenges that we are discussing today.

I think the major one is to get people, Adair, to actually think about what they want for themselves, what is the income they think they can live on?

It takes us beyond the issue the people will want to debate, and we in the political arena have to debate, which is the issue of what the basic pension offers and who actually gets to a full basic pension and of course that is part of the foundation. But it takes us way beyond that, because even in their wildest dreams people who want a Citizens’ basic flat rate pension know that people will not want – and certainly the people who are advocating it – will not want to live on that basic pension.

They will want something a lot better for themselves and their family.

So the genuine National Debate has to be simply more than what Government or business are doing. It’s about how we change a culture and change the attitudes towards it.

So very briefly I just want to say where I think that we from the Government side, are coming from in terms of the debate.

We know that compulsion for many people but not all, exists anyway through the State Pension, but 3 million people aren’t engaged even with the actual basic pension entitlement. The second state pension, what was once SERPS, has because of the historic nature of it, 8 million people outside it but it is accepted a compulsory pension requirement with the £11 billion that we pay in relation to the rebate for the personal pensions.

I do want people during the day to describe to me once again how they think they can use the same money twice, because I still haven’t got it after six weeks, as to how you can take money out of one pot and use it in another and still have it in the same pot, and I have read all five of the Harry Potter books so far and I’m looking forward to learning how we can magic that out of the air.

People then get angry with me and say that people are not presenting the facts correctly, well that’s fine lets hear them, lets have a debate on how we can, whether it’s DC or DB, actually sustain and maintain occupational pensions and how we can persuade the 4 million people who are currently in an occupational pension scheme but not making a contribution – to make a contribution themselves. That is why Adair, I think all of us, there may be some exceptions, are really interested in the issue of opt-out as opposed to opt-in – “auto-enrolment” as some call it.

And can I ask that we all set our mind to de-mystifying some of the terminology because it’s very clever for us all to use terms that bamboozle the world outside and make everyone look really clever in the industries and the interest groups, but actually it doesn’t do any good whatsoever for people. So if we can, simplify the language in relation to pensions.

I mean one of the complaints of the young people I met was that when they were presented with material it was so voluminous it had so many pseudo-choices that it confused them rather than clarified things.

So if we can do that so much the better.

And how do we move from something like the stakeholder pension to something that simplifies and codifies without undermining the commitment that people have made, the 2 million in the case of stakeholder pensions, to what they’ve signed up to.

In other words the security and certainty that people seek.

And just one other plea – simplicity – that I don’t think anyone can argue with. But simplicity and equity rarely go together and therefore we do need to work out how in simplifying, codifying, pulling things together so we don’t just have further sticking plasters we actually accept that there will be in many instances, a real debate about the equity of what we are doing.

I promise just one word about assets. The point I was making and Nick Timmins was part of the interview so he knows it’s true, is that we are going to see an even bigger divide in terms of assets than we see in terms of income in the future.

People will inherit from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles in some parts of the country and some of the socio-economic groupings very substantial assets and they will need to take that into account and we will need to work out how we assist people who do not have assets. Traditionally they have rented their property, there has been a generational disadvantage, how do we help those people to build an asset in the way we’ve tried to do with the Child Trust Fund.

And whether people agree with the Child Trust Fund or not, I think it is unarguable if we are going to break future poverty as opposed to ameliorating it, we need to ensure that asset divide is overcome and I’m going to carry on speaking about it as long as the Prime Minister keeps me in this job because I think the consequences of ducking it are that we deal with the immediate issue of the disposable income of individuals rather than the growing asset divide.

My final point is just on that – we’ve actually built a system at the moment to deal with the immediate aftermath of the historic failings.

The failings to recognise the social change from the post-Second World War era which disadvantaged, grossly, women. Adair if we do nothing else in the months ahead we’ve got to address the disparity that’s existed in terms of the past policies that persuaded women to pay the lower National Insurance contribution and for many women who have been carers not just of children, but often later in life carers of relatives who otherwise who would have been even more dependent on the state and we need to avoid that syndrome in the future by taking that into account.

We need to be aware that despite the Pension Credit – again people have been critical of it, but it has lifted 2.7 million households out of immediate poverty -despite the Pension Credit, despite the changes that have been brought in the Fuel Allowance, despite the Council Tax provision that was announced by the Chancellor, despite Council Tax Benefit and Housing Benefit that are rarely debated in relation to the impact this has on the income that people can draw on or the income that is foregone in retirement, despite all that, we know that what we’ve done now can not be repeated in 30 or 40 years time because if it were we wouldn’t have overcome poverty in retirement, we would have simply maintained a system of ameliorating it.

So if we’re going to join with individuals, with business who have an interest not only in recruitment and retention but in the equity and the social responsibility in society, with the Government in terms of finding solutions, it will be, regrettably, having to face up to extremely complex questions of how we get from where we are now to where we want to be and how yes, sometimes, we have to set aside the knockabout in order to achieve it.

I appeal through those who are here this morning to persuade their colleagues in the media that we might just have, just for once, a few months of sensible debate and if we make choices and others think we’ve got it wrong they’ll knock bells out of us – and I’ll be very happy to go on and have bells knocked out of me – but just for the moment it would be really sensible if we were able to have that dialogue in a sense that drew together the facts, the information, the potential ways forward and we shared them together and I’m very grateful for all of you being prepared to do that this morning.

Thank you.

David Blunkett – 2005 Speech on the Asset State


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, on the Asset State on 5th July 2005.

Today the UK has the highest employment rate of any of the G8 countries. Unemployment is at a 30 year low and there are more people in jobs than ever before. A foundation of economic stability combined with investment in the New Deal and Jobcentre Plus has made this possible – beginning to tailor support to the individual and to break down barriers to work for many who had previously been written off.

In 1997, one in five families had no-one in work and one in three children were growing up in poverty. By supporting people in work and providing financial security for those who can’t work, we have now lifted over 2 million children and nearly 2 million pensioners out of abject poverty. Already we have taken major steps in tackling poverty and in building assets and social capital.

But in a world where longer healthier lives mean that the ratio of people in work for every person in retirement is set to halve in the next 50 years, we simply can not afford to be denied the skills and contributions of all those who can and want to work. The nature of the working life must change – as must the presumptions people make about that and the way in which we deal with it.

For too long the welfare state has been a safety net into which people fell and remained. I want it to become a ladder – supporting and enabling people to lift themselves up – to realise their potential and fulfil their ambitions.

We need to go further in breaking down barriers to work and tackling poverty. We need to address the modern world of the 21st Century where people can have 10 jobs in a career rather than 1; and where increasingly people’s assets are going to be as, if not more, important than people’s income – something that’s crucial for following generations as well as for current quality of life.

If we are to prevent future poverty as opposed to ameliorating it, the support we provide to enable people to build assets – both at an individual and a community level – will be absolutely crucial. If we duck this issue – we deal only with the immediate issue of an individual’s disposable income rather than the growing asset divide.

Recent years have seen an ownership revolution – from business and share ownership to homes.

Since 1997, household net wealth has grown by around 50% in real terms – with total household assets, including savings, pensions, life insurance and housing, standing at over £6 trillion.

The growth in home ownership has been particularly striking. In the 1950s, only 30% of British people owned their own homes; 70% rented. Today 70% own their own homes and 30% are renting. There are 18 million owner occupied houses, with a million new homeowners since 1997. This amounts to a 9 per cent rise in the numbers of homes owned and, encouragingly, the increase has been greatest in the least prosperous regions.

While 70% is comparable to many other English-speaking countries and significantly higher than the owner-occupation rates in European countries such as France (56%) and Germany (41%) – it is well below that of several Eastern and Southern European countries such as Portugal, Greece, Slovenia and Hungary, all of which have ownership rates above 75%.

When in April, Gordon Brown announced a new shared equity offer for thousands of new homebuyers, he said that it was time to see Britain as a wealth-owning democracy and a beacon for the world.

The Deputy Prime Minister’s Five Year Plan “Homes for All” set out the Government’s intention to assist at least 80,000 households into home ownership by 2010 as well as providing opportunity for up to 300,000 social housing tenants to buy a stake in their home. The Government has now confirmed that it hopes to increase the former by a further 20-30,000 following negotiations with private lenders, making it up to 110,000 in all.

Assets policies can offer unparalleled opportunity in the fight to prevent future poverty – stopping people falling into poverty when circumstances change and by enabling families to build inter-generational stepping stones out of poverty. Rather than merely being forced to depend on income support and other passive social policies that ameliorate poverty, assets provide a break to poverty in the future.

Just imagine the change in the next thirty years when Grandparents, aunts and uncles pass on their assets to the next generation in a way that was never possible before.

But as well as opportunity there is also danger. For those who are asset-poor will become ever entrenched in their poverty and ever further from the asset-rich.

We face a new equality challenge. There are still major issues of income inequality – but physical assets and financial holdings, share and bank balances, all provide the backcloth to the divide of the future.

As do non-material assets such as education and social capital. This can range from family and friends to the kind of communities people live in – both geographically and in terms of shared interests, concerns and aspirations.

There is also evidence that assets change behaviour with people thinking and acting differently when they are owning or accumulating assets.

Longitudinal studies show the value of holding assets. Research by John Bynner at the Institute of Education, using the National Child Development Study, found that holding assets in early adulthood led to better health outcomes, superior labour market performance and greater marital stability.

Assets and wealth ownership can provide security for people during times of change as well as significant positive psychological effects which can lead to improved life outcomes.

As Michael Sharraden said “Incomes feed people’s stomachs, assets change their minds.” My take on this is that income equals decency as a society but assets equal expectancy and self-determination in society.

Assets help the individual determine his or her own route out of poverty – as with, for example, individual development accounts in the US helping people to build resources to start a business or buy a car.

In this country the Child Trust Fund offers a first stepping stone to self-reliance and a stake in the world for those without inherited assets or substantial family income.

As early as 20th May, nearly half a million Child Trust Fund accounts had been opened out of 1.7 million vouchers sent out. We need to explore and exploit the potential of the Child Trust Fund to promote financial awareness and asset-building from a very young age.

The introduction of the Savings Gateway was also explicitly aimed at helping individuals and families build assets. In the initial Saving Gateway pilot, established in 2002, the Government matched individual’s savings pound-for-pound up to a limit and provided tailored financial advice and education to participants. The final evaluation report confirmed that matching can encourage genuinely new savers and new saving. The evidence showed that participants doubled their saving with minimal substitution from existing savings.

A new, larger £15 million pilot was announced in last year’s Pre-Budget Report. The accounts will run for 18 months and the first are already open. Halifax bank is providing banking facilities in six areas and the pilot will test alternative matching rates, different monthly contribution limits, the effect of an initial endowment and the support of a wider range of community financial education bodies. It will also be made available to a wider range of income groups than the first pilot and will inform the development of matching as a central pillar in the Government’s strategy for promoting saving and asset ownership.

We are committed to ensuring that the benefit system encourages households to save appropriately – and particularly for those on lower incomes. From April 2006, the threshold above which savings begin to reduce eligibility for Income Support, Jobseekers’ Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit will be raised from £3000 to £6000. And the upper capital thresholds for Income Support and Jobseekers’ Allowance will increase from £8,000 to £16,000.

But access to mainstream financial services is restricted for many people on low incomes, imposing costs on those who can least afford them and preventing people from getting started on the savings ladder.

The scale of the challenge that faces us is highlighted by the fact that currently someone in a poor area is eight times less likely to start-up a business than someone from a wealthy area.

The Government’s strategy for promoting financial inclusion established a Financial Inclusion Fund of £120 million over three years to support access to banking, affordable credit and money advice.

In December 2004, the banks and Government agreed to work together towards the goal of halving the number of adults in households without a bank account – and to demonstrating significant progress in that direction within 2 years.

Together we need to look at further steps to build individual and family assets – but we also need to build assets for neighbourhoods and communities.

Futurebuilders is an innovative programme to assist front line voluntary and community organisations to build their capacity to increase the scale and scope of their public service delivery.

The fund – which has been allocated £125 million for the first three years and now a further £90 million for the subsequent two years – focuses on those services where either the private sector has shown little interest or the public sector has had difficulty in delivering effective services, but where the voluntary and community sector has the potential to bring added value.

Run by Futurebuilders England, a not for profit organisation located outside Government, Futurebuilders will invest in a minimum of 225 exemplar schemes and work towards creating a step-change in community sector service delivery, leading to greater self-sustainability for organisations and providing a longer term source of investment finance for service delivery for the sector.

The Adventure Capital Fund also plays an important role in helping to build assets held by community rooted and accountable organisations, as part of a wider asset building agenda.

ABL is a development trust in Bradford and the only building, in the worst affected area, not to be burned down in the riots of 2001. With an investment from the Adventure Capital Fund coupled with a commercial mortgage and pressure on the local authority, ABL has gone from having virtually no assets to having a managed workspace – incubating and supporting hundreds of businesses, worth £3.5m. The building produces revenues of £40,000 which are distributed as small grants to build social capital at a local level and heal the divisions of the past.

The Adventure Capital Fund has also invested in some credit unions, which play a key role in the wider agenda of building financial assets amongst the very poorest.

In Speke, Liverpool – the second poorest ward in the UK – the Riverside credit union received a grant and loan not only to build a more professional service, but also to increase its ability to attract wealthier savers. For example, a local GP was so impressed by the health benefits for his patients that he and his partners decided to bank with the credit unions, injecting capital that almost matched the initial investment.

It’s also important to see commercial financial institutions playing their role in the community. For example in Sheffield, Barclays have provided the core funding for the development of a community finance organisation called “Financial Inclusion Services Yorkshire.” The project involves a Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI), and a local credit union working in partnership and is being led by a former member of Barclays staff as part of their community placement programme.

Voluntary and Community organisations make a significant contribution to communities both through the direct services they deliver but also through their contribution to building social capital. The “ChangeUp” programme is funding the development of the support services for these frontline voluntary and community sector organisations so that they can successfully achieve their objectives for communities.

It’s incumbent on us all to work across and outside Government – including considering the concept of a community audit of investment in an area and how people can shape or control these resources for long term gain rather than immediate service delivery.

I’m also keen to look at how we can develop the social fund. In the short term, changes to the budgeting loan scheme from next April, supported by additional funding of £210 million over 3 years will give greater consistency and transparency in access to budgeting loans and will strengthen the contribution that the Social Fund can make to affordable credit.

In the longer term, we can not stop there, but must look more widely at whether the fund should be operated by Government or whether there is scope for greater partnership arrangements with third sector lenders. Social Fund reform could also link to the Savings Gateway and the wider financial inclusion agenda – so people build assets, become more financially confident and do not need to rely on emergency payments from the State in the future. Crucially this would entail looking at how to assist people with planning for the depreciation of the household goods and essential equipment purchased through the loans.

But even taking all this into account, the divide between a smaller number of have nots and a larger number of those sharing in prosperity, poses a real challenge. It isn’t the Galbraith 30-30-40 but it could well be the 10-75-15 – with as high as 15% excluded from society and prosperity. A dangerous potential persistent excluded minority – where generational disadvantage is passed not only from generation to generation – but through the community itself.

Those who can, leave; those who can find an alternative place for their child’s education do so; those who can’t – sink into ever greater despair. That is the reality for some neighbourhoods. Our task now is to snap open the trap: Through Surestart; through decent high quality education; through the immediate amelioration of poverty and our Welfare to Work programmes; and through fundamental regeneration programmes to provide a lasting legacy rather than an ephemeral pick-me-up where professionals arrive to do good but leave on the first tram as the programmes come to an end over the next two years.

We haven’t finished demolishing the evils that Beveridge identified in 1942 – namely want, idleness, ignorance, squalor and disease – which a new welfare state had to confront.

But it’s a different form of cliff-edge that we are talking about now. It’s a cliff-edge of taking individuals out of dependence on amelioration and into greater self-determination; taking communities out of the dilemma of time-limited funding and establishing an asset-base for the future.

I want the reform of the Welfare State to be a crucial element in both addressing this central issue and in focussing minds on a different role for the state than has been necessary over the last 60 years.

Reform of Incapacity Benefit and Housing Benefit require active welfare policies to help people on the road to greater self-determination. At the heart of pension reform has to be giving everyone the opportunity to build assets for the future.

Welfare policy needs to get much better at preparing people for difficult times or transitions in their lives.

Collectively we must examine how we face the asset and aspiration gap at home – just as we are concentrating rightly at the G8 on the much bigger, much more difficult and more dangerous gap worldwide.

Together we must work to bridge the gap between the asset-rich and the asset-less. Together, Government and the financial services industry must work with individuals, families and communities to unlock the potential of an asset state and build a future of welfare that does our part here in the UK to make poverty history.

Jeremy Corbyn – 1983 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons


Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons on 1 July 1983.

I should have thought that in four years’ time the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) will be an unpaid, unemployed employee of a non-existent local authority, if he follows the logic of his own arguments.

This is the first time that I have spoken to the House. It seems a million miles away from the constituency that I represent and the problems that the people there face. Islington, North is only a few miles from the House by tube or bus. We are suffering massive unemployment and massive cuts imposed by the Government on the local authorites. There are cuts in the Health Service. In common with the rest of inner London, we have lost all grant funding for education. That is a measure of the contempt with which the Government have treated Islington, North — indeed, the whole borough of Islington.

The borough has suffered an unprecedented media attack in exactly the same way as the GLC suffered because it was singled out as fair game for editorials in the Daily Mail, The Sun and other newspapers. The previous Member for Islington, South and Finsbury used an Adjournment debate in the House to raise complaints about the borough council on a number of matters.

It is significant that just this week the Minister received a letter from Islington borough council about objections made to the district auditor about the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, the Islington News Co-operative and the council’s newspaper, Focus. The district auditor replied on detailed terms. He said that he felt that there was no case for the borough council to answer in the light of the allegations made by the previous Member. It is unfortunate that little publicity is likely to be given to the district auditor’s reply compared to the publicity that was given to the allegations made against the borough council in the run-up to, and during, the election campaign by Conservative and Social Democratic party members.

The borough which I have the honour to represent has suffered a stupendous loss in rate support grant since 1979. In 1979 £55 million a year was paid to Islington borough council. That was the Government contribution to the needs of that rundown inner city area. It is indicative of the Government’s determination to create massive unemployment in inner city areas and demonstrates their ignorance of the problems that people face in such boroughs that the Government grant is now down to £32 million and is destined to go down further. That is a massive indictment of the Government. The hon. Members who now represent Islington will speak up continuously on that problem and will speak up for a borough that has been maligned by the Government and the press mercilessly over the past two years.

Unemployment in Islington is as bad as anywhere else in London. If one takes the rate together with those of the neighbouring boroughs of Hackney, parts of Waltham Forest and Enfield, there is a horrific picture. There is 20 per cent. registered unemployment. Far more people are unemployed than that. About one third of those who are out of work at the moment in Islington have been out of work for more than a year. Within a few minutes of the House are areas in Finsbury Park where there are black people of 20 and older, both women and men, who have never worked since leaving school at the age of 16. They have little but a great deal of contempt for the Government and for proceedings that are adopted by the Government in attacking such boroughs. They have little regard for a system that seems destined to force them to stay permanently on the dole. I shall convey that spirit to the House as often as I can. The people in my constituency are bitter and angry.

The number of jobs that we have lost in the past few years give the lie to the argument that, if workers demand high wages, somehow or other they are pricing themselves out of a job. Conservative Members have often lectured us about that. In fact, the average wages in the borough of Islington are well below the national average. At the same time, thousands of jobs have been lost in the past two years. Very few vacancies are notified to the Holloway employment office and there is a feeling of hopelessness that is perhaps paralleled in other parts of the country. That is serious.

Another factor makes people suffer. Islington is an inner city borough where less than 40 per cent. of the population can purchase a car. Presumably many hon. Members drive through it on the way to their constituencies. Day in, day out a vast amount of commuter traffic also thunders through, as well as heavy goods vehicles and dangerous overweight juggernauts. Hon. Members may have seen reports last week of a serious road accident that occurred in St. Paul’s road which is a route for heavy lorries trundling through my constituency, bringing death and danger in their wake.

I hope that the call for a London-wide lorry ban is taken in a debate on London as such a danger cannot be allowed to continue on our roads. There never was a justification for allowing the size and weight of lorries that exist on our roads, and there is even less justification with the completion of the M25 for any opposition to a heavy goods vehicle ban throughout London. The argument that such vehicles serve London’s industry and businesses is fallacious and wrong. At least two thirds of the vehicles that thunder down the Archway road, along the Holloway road, St. Paul’s road and into Graham road in Hackney are travelling straight through London and using the city as a short cut to the Channel ports.

As the Government have taken so much money from Islington borough council and the neighbouring borough councils of Haringey, Hackney, and to a lesser extent Enfield because the Government have friends there, it is incredible that they should countenance spending more than £30 million on the building of a new stretch of motorway — the Archway motorway project — leading more traffic into inner London. That is another matter that I hope to bring often before the House.

The plight of the Health Service in my borough is serious. I am sponsored by the National Union of Public Employees and until yesterday I was employed as an organiser for that union. I am well aware of the cant and hypocrisy that is spoken about the Health Service. The Health Service in London has suffered more than almost any other service in the past few years. Cuts are made day in and day out. At this moment, 53 London hospitals are under threat of partial closure, ward closure or complete closure. Further, the jobs of about 4,000 health workers are at risk under the lunatic policy of continuing to cut health spending in every sense in inner London.

The effects of health cuts are very significant. If a hospital is closed, it might suit Health Service planners and the DHSS, as they might consider it to be an efficiency factor. What happens in reality is that people who were used to going to a convenient local hospital cannot do so, the waiting list for major operations gets longer and longer and the care of the sick is forced more and more into the home and on to women.

Yet the Government had the temerity to issue a press statement before the election about the value to society of private medicine, the development of private hospitals and encouraging people to spend their money on private health care. That freedom of choice does not exist for the constituents of Islington, North. They cannot afford private medicine. They do not wish to see private medicine develop or the obscenity of a private health service and pay beds continuing to exist in National Health Service hospitals. My colleagues and I at the National Union of Public Employees wish that topic, which is a crying scandal, to be brought before the House.

Greater scandals are also taking place in the Health Service. I could list, time permitting, all 53 hospitals in London which are under some form of immediate risk. I will not go through them all but I will draw some to the attention of the House. The south London hospital for women, which is most in the news, is due to be closed. Apparently, as a result of a decision made last night, the ball is now in the Government’s court. If the Government do not provide the money for the running of that hospital, it will close. That hospital was founded because women wished to have a health service in which they felt confidence and trust. It was founded for women, run by women and continues to provide a valuable service for women in south London. It will be a scandal if that hospital is allowed to close.

I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that the closure will not go ahead and that Government money will be provided to keep that vital facility open. Women suffer more than anyone else from Health Service cuts. They suffer through having to wait for operations and it is usually they who end up caring for the sick who cannot be cared for by the Health Service.

On the arguments about spending in the Health Service and the setting of cash limits, I have some useful information—all gleaned from DHSS sources and put together by the London Health Service campaign. The cash limit revenue allocations are compared with the surplus or shortfall, allowing for 5.6 per cent. inflation. There is some argument about the applicability of that figure to the Health Service, but that is the figure used. Only two health authorities in London—Croydon and Hounslow and Spelthorne—had a surplus of cash limit allocation compared with their expenditure. Every other authority was seriously overspending. As anyone who has served on a health authority will know, overspending means cuts, longer queues for major operations and beds deliberately left vacant not because they are not needed by the sick but because the Government are not prepared to provide the money to care for the sick. That is the reality of the situation.

As I have said, north Islington has suffered Health Service cuts perhaps as bad as those in any other area. The borough as a whole has recently lost Liverpool road hospital, the City of London maternity home and the casualty facility at the Royal Northern hospital, placing frightening and devastating pressure on the remaining facilities at the Whittington hospital which itself is now threatened with the closure of one wing. Disasters of that kind occur daily in the inner city areas. That is why people are so angry and it is incredible that only 13 Conservative Members can be bothered to attend today’s debate on these matters.

The DHSS has mounted a privatisation campaign in which it has consistently tried to lecture local health authorities about how efficient it would be if private enterprise played a part in running the Health Service, stressing the efficiency of laundry, catering, portering and gardening services. The private sector is already making a fortune out of drug sales to the health authorities. When Conservative Members lecture health workers who demand decent wages, they never criticise the massive profits made out of the Health Service by the drug companies.

Moreover, the lectures about the need for privatisation in the Health Service are not matched by the experience of health authorities which have brought in private enterprise laundry, portering, catering and cleaning services. In all cases they have said that the services are not only inefficient but difficult to control because one is constantly dealing with third parties whose interest is not the care of patients and the efficient running of a National Health Service that is free at the point of use but only the profit that they can make out of it.

With all the problems that London now faces —massive unemployment, problems of public transport and traffic management, and the rest—it is extraordinary that the Government should choose this moment to mount a fantastic media campaign against the GLC and, in a couple of lines in a badly written and ill-thought-out manifesto, to say that they intend to abolish the GLC. The real reason why they wish to abolish it is because they could not gain control of it at the last election. If the GLC were abolished, London would be the only capital in the world, so far as I can discover, without some central democratic and unitary local authority to administer its business.

It is amazing that the House should spend time debating the abolition of the GLC when it should be debating the lack of democracy in so many other areas of London life. I have dealt at some length with the problems of the Health Service. Greater democracy is needed in the Health Service. It would be advantageous to have a London health authority to discuss the problems of the Health Service in London rather than continuing the balancing act between expenditure in inner London and the needs of counties such as Essex, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and so on, as the regional health authorities consistently do, with the result that London suffers from an even worse Health Service.

We hear a great deal about democracy and freedom of choice. I find it incredible that at the same time as the Government propose to abolish the Greater London council and to take away the democratic powers of the Inner London Education Authority they allow London’s undemocratic police force to continue its operations and they allow Sir Kenneth Newman to make monstrous attacks on people who merely demand some form of democratic representation in the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds on London’s police force.

I hope that the House will return again and again to the debate on the democratic running of London. It is clear that the Government are determined to take away all democratic rights of local government in London. They tried to destroy our borough councils. Now they seek to destroy the GLC and the ILEA.

I represent an area of London that has suffered as much as any other from the policies of this Government, and I shall be telling the House repeatedly that we do not intend to take these issues lying down. We shall not allow unemployment to go through the roof. We shall not allow our youth to have no chance and no hope for the future. We shall not allow our borough councils to be attacked mercilessly in the way that they have been by the Government and by the press in the past year. We shall return to these issues because justice has to be done for those who are worst off and unemployed in areas such as the constituency that I represent.

David Blunkett – 2005 Speech at Brookings Institution


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, at the Brookings Institution on 12th September 2005.

Work is the best road out of poverty and dependence. The Welfare State is the glue that holds society together. The welfare system should therefore be geared to assisting people of working age out of the necessity to rely on continuing support, as well as being geared to provide security and decency for those who we would all accept require substantial ongoing personal care.

The challenge is how the provision of financial benefits can be turned from a safety net or crutch into a ladder or escalator, assisting people through through rapid change and insecurity, and geared to their return to independence.

What we need is to reinforce the glue of self help underpinned by mutual help. If individuals or families sink into long-term hoplesness and dependency, we all experience the consequences: not just in picking up the pieces but in the behaviour of society and the disintegration of our communities.

People talk of the broken windows theory of neighbourhood policing. But what of the broken spirit theory of neighbourhood disintegration? What of the disappearance of social capital?

The role of government is something which in the 21 st Century we need to constantly reappraise; to ensure appropriate provision to help people through the life cycle at times of transition, but underpinned by the concept of something for something, receiving but responding.

In a modern world where people can have ten jobs in a career rather than 1; where growing dependency ratios may mean longer working and where international market forces will impact on the very nature of the work people do; these transitions are ever more acute and the changes for society ever more dramatic.

Across the EU over the next 25 years the total working age population will fall by 7%, while those over 65 will rise by 51%.

In Europe we are taking advantage of new opportunities and debating how best to combine an approach to increased globalisation with policies for greater social inclusion, so that the have nots do not once again lose out in the face of rapid economic and social change.

As part of the UK’s Presidency of the EU we are seeking to build on the best traditions of solidarity and consensus that have built Europe’s success, to deliver our shared social justice goals, but also to recognise the challenges of a new globalised economy and the perils of hiding people from the realities of global trade and rapid development.

With almost one in three people in Europe deemed economically inactive, the future success of welfare provision will depend on tackling unemployment and building the right support to enable people to reconnect with the workplace.

We have ambitious targets to raise employment levels, providing not just more but better jobs; providing not just benfits but opportunites for people. As we look to build a consensus in Europe on how best to deliver our shared social justice goals, we need to provide active inclusion.

We have never advocated taking on the US social and welfare model, we have different culture and history, but we are also learning from one another. That is why the debate in Europe matters.

The best security we can offer to the people of Britain and Europe in a global economic and free trade environment is to take on the challenge of the world of tomorrow, to help people overcome their fear of change, support them throughout the life-cycle and ensure that they are equipped to be able to deal with the rapid developments that are taking place around us.

In 2003 China was responsible for a third of the world’s growth, and although China only has 7% of world trade at the moment, in 40 years, it is estimated to have the largest economy in the world. These dramatic changes in the world represent opportunities as well as challenges – which is why Tony Blair’s recent visit to China and India was so important.

Five years ago, the EU agreed in Lisbon, Portugal to drastically raise the employment rate across Europe. Here in the UK, we’ve recently set an ambition of getting 80% of the working age population in work.

The first phase of our reforms was back in 1998, when we introduced the New Deal. This has been a bedrock of our progress to date. The New Deal for Lone Parents has helped nearly 320 thousand lone parents into work and the lone parent employment rate has increased by 10 percentage points since 1997. The older worker employment rate is now 56.2% with a growth rate about 2.5 times that for the working age population as a whole. By contrast, in the EU as a whole, only about 40% of over 55s work.

The second phase is to go further – and in particular tackle inactivity. So far we have managed to halt the increase in those claiming Incapacity Benefits, (which has grown more than three-fold over the 1980s and 1990s) with new claims down 30% and the first fall for a generation in the numbers claiming. But with 2.8 million on Incapacity Benefit this remains our biggest challenge – although, importantly, this is very different from Disability Living Allowance or measures in place for carers.

I’m about to publish a policy paper which will set out a new approach to tackling this problem. It will address the structure of benefits, and be underpinned by a something for something agenda that helps people through rapid change and fear of the unknown with stability and security – but on the basis that they are prepared to engage.

But this will not be enough on its own. We need to be innovative in involving all those who can help to develop programmes and initiatives that will help people fulfil their potential in contributing to society. And I am keen to learn from others in this.

Later in my visit, I shall be looking at a number of US projects – including the Ready4Work programme in Chicago which brings together Government, employers and community and faith-based organisations in partnership to provide training support and jobs for ex-offenders, with the aim of reducing re-offending through the positive experience of work.

If we are to address the needs of our people and economy for the 21 st century, building assets and social capital will be crucial for those who don’t have inherited wealth, highly paid jobs or other forms of capital.

We accept, as you do, that this is not a job for Government alone. Corporate Social Responsibility is highly developed in the US. We’re interested in pursuing this approach in the UK – not through protection of the old style employer – but by highlighting the self-interest of retaining workers, encouraging employers to take on those who are economically inactive and to ensure that we don’t write off anyone who is willing to do their bit – by helping themselves on the road to work.

Helping our communities adapt for the future is not about ameliorating poverty, but actually overcoming intergenerational disadvantage in order to root out poverty and exclusion. That is the challenge for the future.

To conclude, no system can afford to stand still – but we must adapt from where we are. It’s not where we’ve come from that matters, but where we want to go. We have to balance rapid change with support for people through the State and together with civil society. The welfare state can no longer be seen as a crutch or a mere safety net on which to fall – but must be a ladder by which people can escape poverty and not fall back.

With the right support in place, we can raise employment, skills and productivity and improve social inclusion and cohesion, at a time when the integration of communities worldwide has never been more important.