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.


David Blunkett – 2005 Speech at Center for American Progress


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, at the Center for American Progress on 13th September 2005.

At The Brookings Institution yesterday, I described the Welfare State as the glue that holds society together and that the key challenge for Government is to help people cope with both the fear and the reality of rapid economic and social change. This pre-supposes that the role of Government is to support the individual at times of transitions or in planning for the future. A different philosophy to the “Social Darwinism” of Herbert Spencer which led President Cleveland in the late 19th Century to pronounce that whilst the individual should support the Government, the Government had no obligation to support the individual – the view epitomised since as “the best form of Government is no Government at all”. So my proposition pre-supposes active if not big Government. But I also believe Governments can not do it alone – individuals and communities as a whole also have a key role to play in fostering greater integration and in supporting all citizens to contribute to society.

The same is true of retirement security. The challenges of globalisation and demographic, social and economic change pose difficult questions for the future of pensions systems across the world – and for Governments, individuals and communities who must find long term solutions to build retirement security in an ever changing climate.

The debates in the UK and US are of a slightly different nature but they are about the same fundamental challenges: Establishing the role of the State in delivering affordable and sustainable social security; finding the best way to protect employer based pensions; and supporting individuals themselves in planning and building both income and assets to support their future.

In the US there is an increasingly urgent question over the affordability of social security with projected social security outlays implied by the current benefit formula rising from 4.3% of GDP in 2004 to 6.4% in 2079. In the UK, the emphasis has been more about the adequacy of state provision with forecast expenditure relatively stable between 5 and 6 per cent of GDP. But the underlying issue is the same – what should be the role of the State in a world where the number of workers per Social Security benefit recipient in the US will have declined from 3.3 to 2 by 2025 – and where the UK dependency ratio will halve from 4 to 2 between now and 2050?

The EU as a whole faces the staggering statistic that while the total working age population is set to fall by 7% over the next 25 years, the population over 65 is set to increase by over 50%.

In our own UK National Pensions Debate we have set out the particular challenges we face on our side of the Atlantic and my Ministerial team and I are travelling the country, sharing these challenges and listening to people’s views. These are emotive issues and it is only by learning from each other and building consensus that we can deliver long-term change.

Neither the State nor the individual can secure the future alone. The Government must have an interest in lifting dependency – the individual and family want and aspire to a higher standard of living than basic entitlement – and the employer must have an interest in attracting and retaining, as well as socially caring for, the workforce.

The security of employer-based pensions is an area where the US and the UK are rightly learning from each other. We learnt from the US Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) in building our Pension Protection Fund – a central component of last year’s Pensions Act that brings real security and peace of mind to over 10 million members of defined benefit schemes in the UK. Yesterday I met Bradley Belt, Executive Director of the PGBC – and the PPF and PGBC will continue working closely and learning from each other.

What is certain is that income in retirement relates to the world of work. As I was reflecting on issues of the welfare state yesterday, so with retirement we have to take account of multiple changes in our working lives, in not just the number, but also the nature of the jobs people do. This is a much talked about element and a real challenge in terms of providing the security in later years which is fundamental to a civilised and independent society.

The issue is how to retain the responsibility of employers and not just the individual, and of course to account for self-employment, especially at the lower income end of the spectrum.

Increasingly people need to be able to choose to work longer and they’ll need the flexibility to switch between jobs and even careers – not just to build their own retirement security but for the benefit of society as a whole.

Those aged 50 and over are a particularly important group to support. While they are much more likely to stay in their jobs than younger workers, if displaced they are much more likely to remain jobless. In the US, of all displaced workers during 2001-03, only 58% of workers aged 50-64 were employed in January 2004, compared with 70% for workers aged 25-49.

Encouragingly older worker retention rates in the US and the UK are higher than in other major OECD countries. For example, based on analysis of data for the period 1998-2002, the probability that a male worker aged 55-59 will still be working for the same employer four years later is 54% in the US, 58% in the UK – but only 45% in Germany and Italy, and only 24% in France.

But we must go further in supporting people approaching traditional retirement – and in giving them the opportunity to choose to work longer if they wish. Of course, the US already benefits from not having a compulsory retirement age – and from next April in the UK it will no longer be possible for anyone under 65 to face compulsory retirement.

One of the things that has been particularly striking in the early UK National Debate events, is the extent to which people don’t know about state pension deferral. As a result of last year’s Pensions Act, someone can now choose to delay taking their state pension, and be rewarded with a higher state pension – increased by a full 10% for each year of deferral – or a lump sum of, on average, up to £30,000 after a five year deferral.

And measures in the 2004 Finance Act will now give people the option to work for the same employer whilst drawing an occupational pension. This will give employees greater flexibility to plan a gradual move from full time work to retirement.

As well as flexibility over when to retire, flexibility over how to save – and the portability of individuals’ savings is an important part of how savings vehicles can adapt to meet the demands of a modern world – where people can have ten jobs in a career instead of 1. This, of course, is where the DC pot can have advantages for the employee over the DB plan – and I have been interested to hear about propsals to extend “auto-rollover.”

I’ve also been interested to learn more about your 401(k) plans where the auto-enrolement, auto-escalation and auto-rollover debates are all key parts of wider question of how individuals can be helped to overcome inertia in building their retirement savings.

In the UK, we are looking closely at the possibility of auto-enrolement – though, of course, we also have a debate about compulsion and whether employers (and perhaps employees) should be mandated make contributions to pension schemes. This is an issue which the independent Pensions Commission will address when it reports later this year.

As well as helping tomorrow’s retirees, the UK Government has already done much since 1997 to improve the situation for people already in retirement – not least by the introduction of Pension Credit which has lifted nearly 2 million people in retirement out of absolute poverty. Indeed, figures from the Institute of Fiscal Studies show that the UK is now in an unprecedented position where those in retirement are no more likely to be poor than any other group in society.

But despite this, there are still sections of society where much more needs to be done. Women in particular have found themselves the victims of a pensions system largely based on a 1940s view of society, when their roles were very different and based on dependence on their husbands. This has led to many not having been able to build up enough national insurance credits for a full state pension. I have already announced that a special report will be produced to look solely at this issue, and we will also be holding a specific National Pensions Debate event to discuss its conclusions.

But meeting the ageing challenge and achieving security in retirement is wider than purely financial issues. I am particularly interested in asset-based forms of security. Tackling the growing assets divide is crucial to ensure future generations are removed from, rather than managed in, poverty. 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 level and a community level – will be absolutely crucial.

Asset policies can offer unparalleled opportunity in the fight to prevent future disadvantage, stopping people falling into dependence when circumstances change, and by enabling families to build intergenerational stepping stones out of poverty.

In this way we can explode the myth that ageing is a barrier to a positive contribution to the economy or society as a whole – moving beyond traditional debates about how to manage dependence and looking to a new world of enabling independence.

Ultimately security, well-being and quality of life is about more than income. It is about health, environment, a sense of belonging, worth, about community and enablement. It is about the glue which holds society together – so moving forward on retirement security is about social capital, not just cash.

David Blunkett – 2005 Speech on Disability


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, in Canada on 16th September 2005.

I’m very pleased to be with you in British Columbia today – to have the opportunity to share experiences with you and learn from you – as we work together in the fight to end disability discrimination – the last great emancipation of our time.

The UK and Canada have a lot in common – and we are learning from each other – for example with your Human Rights Commission and Office for Disability Issues and our New Deal and Pathways to Work.

Western Canada has gone much further than we have in achieving greater accessibility but not as far as we have in other areas which I will come back to. Yesterday I was in Vancouver. With more than 14,000 side-walk ramps, Vancouver is one of the most wheelchair accessible cities in the world. Half of the buses and all but the Granville Street SkyTrain station are wheelchair accessible and the HandyDART is a bus service designed for wheelchair users.

In the UK we have, of course, got our Disability Discrimination Act which we’ve updated twice over the last five years and the Disability Rights Commission. We’ve also set about implementing the most profound extension of disability civil rights our country has ever seen.

Last October saw protection against discrimination given to an additional 600,000 disabled workers. And it saw a further 7 million jobs and 1 million employers brought within the scope of the employment provisions of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act.

This year’s Disability Discrimination Act takes us even further. As different clauses come into force over the next 18 months, the Act will extend the coverage of the DDA to at least another 235,000 people – by extending the existing definition of disability to those with HIV infection, cancer and multiple sclerosis effectively from diagnosis rather than from the point at which the condition has some adverse effect. We are also going to treat people with mental illnesses on a par with people with any other impairment by removing the requirement that mental illnesses must be “clinically well recognised.”

The Act will end the anomaly of transport not counting as a service under the DDA and allows us to set an end-date of 2020 for all rail vehicles to be made accessible to people with disabilities, including wheelchair users.

It also places a duty on public authorities to promote equality of opportunity for people with disabilities. And this is a vital step in helping to eliminate the institutional disadvantage that many people with disabilities still face.

For the first time, people with disabilities can have confidence that their needs will be at the forefront rather than being considered as an afterthought.

For example, local authorities won’t be able to consider closing facilities like libraries or leisure services without thinking first about how people with disabilities in the area would be affected.

However, the primary task is to bring about comprehensive change in the way in which those planning or delivering services think about the implications before rather than after they are implemented. We all know this is true of architects and planners but it needs to be equally true of those organising education or social services and, above all, those providing information and advice.

This promotion of equality is central to our vision of a truly fair society offering opportunities for all. And it underlies much of our efforts to empower people with disabilities to realise their ambitions in the workplace as well as in society as a whole.

In Canada in a 2001 survey, 43.7% of people with disabilities had a job – less than two thirds the rate of those without disabilities. The UK rate is just under 50% and just under 75% respectively. So although we have seen a significant increase in the employment rate of disabled adults since 1998 – up by about 9 percentage points – we still have much further to go.

In Canada, working age adults with disabilities are at higher risk of having a low income and, in 1998, nearly half of them relied on Government programmes as their primary source of income compared with 11% for those without disabilities.

We’ve been committed to developing employment programmes to help all people realise their potential and achieve in the workplace. 225,000 people with disabilities have already benefited from our package of New Deal programmes. (The New Deal has a range of strands targeting particular areas of unemployment and offering with conditionality, substantial support.) And we have good and growing partnerships with civil society so that Government alone is not responsible for delivery.

One example of employers, Government and the medical profession working in Partnership is with the Pathways to Work. This is available not just to people with disabilities but is a key part of our programme to reduce the numbers claiming Incapacity Benefit.

The latest Pathways statistics show that the number of recorded job entries for people with a health condition or disability has almost doubled compared with the same period last year. On a national basis this early success would be equivalent to over 100,000 IB claimants being helped into work each year. However, this even when available nationwide is not ambitious enough to challenge the failure of the last 25 years which has led to a quadrupling of the number drawing IB at a time when medical and other forms of intervention have improved dramatically. That is why I shall be bringing forward comprehensive package of reform for wide consultation over the months ahead.

The consultation will begin next month with a policy paper which will set out the next stage of reform to ensure that we can transform the welfare state from a crutch or a mere safety net – to ladder that can help everyone capable of doing so to climb out of dependence. It’s not about paternalism – it’s about something for something – helping people who are prepared to help themselves.

There is a very important distinction which I want to emphasise – and that is between our reforms of Incapacity Benefit and our provision of Disability Living Allowance. The latter in providing non-means-tested support towards offering equality – the former being financial compensation for the inability to earn. Many people with a disability or who are taking long-term medication do not turn to IB but instead to the world of work and self-determination. We believe that work is the best route out of welfare and provides the means to break intergenerational disadvantage and exclusion from the norms of social as well as employment interaction. Active inclusion means overcoming barriers to normal living rather than simply accepting and then compensating for, exclusion from what others take for granted.

But achieving full equality and opportunity in society is about much more than benefits. Ultimately, no Government action, legislative or employment support programme will be sufficient unless it is accompanied by a step-change in public attitudes.

In a 2004 survey, just under half of Canadians pointed to prejudice on the part of individuals and society-at-large as the most significant barrier to inclusion facing people with disabilities – a view shared by citizens with and without disabilities. Only 29% pointed to physical barriers.

The UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit Report in January this year called “Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People” set out an ambitious 20-year strategy to improve the life chances of people with disabilities by promoting independent living supported by individualised service delivery.

It recommended new ways of ensuring more co-ordinated policy making across Government, specifically through a new Office for Disability Issues, and it sought to enable people with disabilities to participate in policy design and service delivery.

The UK Government is taking forward all the recommendations – including the creation of this new Office for Disability Issues – where, as part of our consultation which ended yesterday, we have been looking at your model here in Canada. I’m especially interested in the Social Development Partnership Program’s work with the non-profit and voluntary sector, and the Opportunities Fund’s work to encourage employers to hire workers with disabilities, and help individuals start their own business.

And through another recommendation we are committed to piloting individual budgets and a new Independent Living Task Force to look at the practicalities of such budgets. This is another idea that has routes in British Columbia where in the 1970s the Woodlands Parents Group had formed to advocate the best possible community based resources for their children. They realised that in setting up programmes and services they could not guarantee that people with disabilities would be able to participate fully in the community – and they worried that establishing specialised services might relegate their children to an institutionalised community life. Therefore from the provision for early years education and childcare through the years of schooling and into the skills and avenues into employment, we need to ensure that integration with support, is available at every stage.

Rather than people fitting into services – services need to fit to people with every person with a disability able to choose the supports and services they need from a wide range of possibilities that exist within a given community. Let me give the example of blind and partially sighted men and women. The provision of information is crucial but it needs to be available in a range of formats including Braille, large print and on CD. But this means a range of agencies taking responsibility for ensuring this happens rather than passing over the task to in your case the CNIB and in our case, in the UK, the RNIB.

Although the goal of the 1970s Woodlands Parents Group was not realised at the time, their vision has struck a chord – the idea that individualised funding could open the door to self-determination.

Today, this concept of individualisation is now becoming global. The idea of a menu of choices – focused on the individual – but supported by the community is really both powerful and inspirational. Earlier this week I was in Washington discussing employment programmes with the US Government and yesterday I visited SUCCESS in Vancouver – which last year provided no fewer than 886,000 client services through the support of a dedicated network of 20 board members, over 350 professional staff and 9000 volunteers. In both cases we are seeing the effects of giving people options with which to support themselves out of disadvantage. And when you combine that with a sense of with building assets and social capital – and with volunteering and community engagement – it really does bring hope the future of our society.

Ultimately we are talking about what sort of society we want for ourselves; inclusive and supportive but not paternalistic and confining. We want to liberate people, not patronise them. We want to create independence, but with mutual help – something for something – which is not about abandoning those of working age facing illness or disability but helping them to overcome the additional barriers to a full life.

Where people simply can not, we have obligations which spring from decency and morality – but where people can gain independence we have an obligation – and so do they – to take up in this modern technological era the opportunity to become a full player in life.

If you don’t write yourself off nor will we – is a phrase close to my heart. But I am not saying if I can do it you can – we’re all different.

The coming months will be crucial for both our countries – with both Governments looking to make major changes to their welfare systems. But both Governments must look further in working to change attitudes and embedding the social capital which is central to successful integration and cohesion of our societies.

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.

David Blunkett – 2004 Speech at TUC Conference


Below is the text of the speech on managed migration made by the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett, at the 2004 TUC Conference on 10th November 2004.

This is first opportunity I’ve had since George Brumwell stepped down from the General Secretary’s job at UCATT to thank him for the many years of tremendous battle that he’s been engaged in. He is very familiar indeed with gangmasters given the history of the construction industry and lump labour and all the exploitation that went with it.

So what we’re catching up with this morning is an agenda the union movement have been battling about for the last 150 years. Why it’s relevant today is because world-wide people movements have made a difference – not just now but in the past as well. Of course the world changes and economy changes because it’s not that long ago since Auf Wiedersehen Pet was on the television and it was British workers in Germany that were the entertainment.

I think it’s worth just reminding people that we are now responding to the most successful economy – other than in Scandinavia – in the world and we’re actually seeing the requirements of that strong economy in terms of the need for labour and for flexibility. The real task and the challenge that I want to lay out this morning is how to achieve that without the gross exploitation of those workers coming into the country, the exploitation of lower paid workers who are resident and indigenous in the country here and the exploitation of better employers by swept labour being used by those employers who are prepared to undercut in the way that was described almost 100 years ago when the Wages Act was passed.

Francis O’Grady, the Deputy General Secretary of the TUC, and I were sharing a platform a week or two ago in Chesterfield talking about these very issues. About how we have to face up to what is happening in terms of gang masters and the way in which individual unions like the Transport and General Workers and UCAT have been involved over the years in battling for a new gang master legislation which is very welcome and a starting point for getting this right. I was a very strong supporter both in Cabinet and in Parliament for getting that right. We need to ensure that we establish and develop the Stakeholders Group so that we can deal with illegal working and illegal exploitation. We need to build on the TUC’s work with the workers rights leaflet which we have been funding and developing with the TUC in respect of those workers coming in, or already being here from the Accession States under the expansion of the European Union. Of course that has been a really major success. It’s part of what we laid out almost 2 ½ years ago in the policy paper Safe Havens, Secure Borders back in February 2002. Not many people have read it unfortunately, it is on the website though.

The paper is a balanced policy about sensible, legal economic migration underpinned by good social cohesion and integration policies, mirrored and paralleled by legal routes for people to come into the country if they are facing death or torture and are therefore asylum seekers and we’ve developed the United Nations route for doing that. It’s at it’s very early stages and we’ve had difficulty persuading local authorities to take on the challenge of being part of the pilot scheme. My own authority in Sheffield was the first to do this prior to the elections at the beginning of June – others were terrified in case their local media and local electorate took fright. Bolton are just taking on a new traunch of those people coming in legally. I mention this to begin with because we’ve got to get over the way in which some branches of the media confuse legal migration with legitimate asylum with illegal and clandestine entry and merge all of these together into a campaign against people being able to come here to receive a warm and recognition that they play an essential part in the life and wellbeing of our country.

And we have a challenge in the trade union movement because although the leadership of the movement is absolutely committed and always have been against racism and in favour of properly managed legal migration and properly managed asylum policies – the vast majority of trade union members, as demonstrated by the opinion polls both taken internally by the Government as well as those taken by the news media – demonstrate that people are still not only misled and misunderstanding but also deeply fearful and therefore in need of reassurance.

80% of people in this country think that asylum claims rose over the last 12 months when it actually dropped by 70%. They don’t believe the facts and they don’t believe them because they’re not told them by the media. We have a job to do here, we can be as remiss as others in terms of not being able to get the message across as to precisely what’s happening. Two years ago when I reached agreement with the French on the closure of the Sangatte camp – we stopped what was a nightly vision on our televisions and a daily vision on the early pages of the newspapers of people smuggling their way into the country. The impact that those visual images had still rests with us. So, we’ve got a real challenge to actually get across the message both inside and outside the trade union movement about the real facts.

The facts are that we need migrant labour. That we have a vibrant economy and we can have a dual approach which doesn’t see managed migration as a alternative to training, to skilling, to improved education, to better welfare to work policies – but a corollary of them, running alongside them. So that getting it right in terms of skills, of moving people from unemployment, of getting people in the right jobs in the right place, of being able to ensure that those who have previously been excluded from the labour market for all sorts of reasons, can firstly take part-time and then full-time jobs. That’s an absolute imperative, as is making work pay and both the minimum wage and the tax credit system are now beginning to ensure that that can happen. We’ve made progress and I know that people in this audience will want us to make it faster and more effective but we’ve made substantial progress over the last few years in achieving that.

But, we can’t simply meet our needs by that alone. When opposition parties talk about “rigid quotas” (opposition parties that always believe in markets everywhere else except in the labour market), they have to answer a simple question – how on earth can you determine a quota in terms of what employers need to fill vacancies, what the economy needs in terms of the stimulation of growth and productivity and therefore the continuing creation of jobs? The meeting of the challenge of population changes, demographics, of an ageing population and the requirement to be able to sustain us in those changes and to sustain our pension policies and our well-being in those circumstances? How could you do that with a rigid quota laid down in Parliament which would result in anybody to a restaurant and finding as they waited 2 hours for a starter, the manager came along and said don’t argue with me but get hold of your local MP and have an amendment moved next week to the quota because we’re a bit short of labour. More poignantly when the ward’s closed and the nurses are not available or the class size rises about the minimum that I set for infants and we have a crisis in the education system. This would be the result of not allowing a labour market to operate legally and openly and not allowing people to come here in that way.

We have 600,000 vacancies in the economy, we have shortages in particular sections and regions and in the country of Scotland who are pioneering the programme of getting people to move to Scotland and to play their part in the life of Scotland and the Scottish economy. We’re working with the Scottish Executive to enhance that and to make that even more effective.

All of these things come together in terms of opening up what should be a common cause in this country between those in work and those trying to fill vacancies. 31% of doctors in this country originated overseas, 25% of all health workers in this country originated overseas and many of the people who have come here recently under the Accession States changes have been able to fill vacancies, sometimes on a temporary basis that would otherwise have led to very considerable difficulties in sectors of the economy.

I’m proud of what we did on the 1st May, I had to battle extremely hard privately and publicly for what we did because we and Ireland were the only ones who opened up fully the ability to come and work under Accession arrangements. Other countries in varying degrees had to let people of course come as visitors and to move able freely but not to work. As a consequence many people have been pushed into clandestine working across the European economy, undercutting and exploiting other workers and providing a misleading view that somehow they don’t need and shouldn’t have those workers. We chose instead a registration scheme, an open registration scheme. Around 90,000 people in the first 5 months registered. They made a major contribution, many of those who registered originally have already gone back to their countries of origin. 60% in terms of the agriculture sector. And it raises an interesting question about what happens to those who are not registered because they’re not part of EU Accession but are here clandestinely from outside the European Union – something I want to come back to in a moment.

It may well be that some of those come and go. Some of them we pick up as part of the doubling of our drive against illegal working. Some of those claim asylum in country in order to be able to stay and their cases have to be dealt with on their merits. Some of them are prepared to go home, some can’t go home because their countries of origin won’t re-document them and cause major complications. But as far as the EU States are concerned, this has been a tremendous success. You just need to look back to April of this year to see what people were saying about my proposals. There was almost panic. The leader of the Opposition got up week after week on Prime Ministers’ Questions denouncing it as being an opening of the flood gates. There were newspaper articles that almost suggested that people from Central and Eastern Europe would be pillaging wives and daughters. It was utterly bizarre.

I do therefore think that the Government deserves some credit for standing up and being counted on this issue and saying that this is the first step to demonstrating just how well a balanced policy can work in the interests of our country. It can only work of course, if that balance is right. The registration allows people to be treated properly, entitled to minimum standards and decent conditions. It also entitles us to require them to pay tax and national insurance and in the first few months alone £120 million was contributed to GDP and £20 million to tax and national insurance. It would have been a great deal higher but many of these workers are actually quite lowly paid.

I mention the question of temporary as well as full-time workers because whilst many of the workers from Accession States are able to move freely and go backwards and forwards, there is an issue about avoiding exploitation of workers from the developing world. Many of you will have debated this on occasions – we agonised about it when I was the Education and Employment Secretary in relation to schools. Because very often we wanted people to come to our country with particular skills but we didn’t necessarily want to encourage them to stay forever because their own countries of origin desperately needed them. But there are mutual benefits if people come here to learn, to improve, to gain confidence and to go back and be able to contribute to the well-being of the country that they came from.

I think we need to see this as a much broader policy generally, we need to be able to reach agreements with countries across the world which would reduce the need for people to attempt to claim asylum that there would be much greater freedom if those countries were prepared to guarantee re-entry for their citizens and were prepared to adhere to decent human rights. So, this isn’t just an issue about managed migration or asylum, this isn’t just an issue about fair treatment in our country – it’s also a much broader issue about human rights across the world, genuine freedom of movement and proper treatment of citizens.

So – I just want to put one or two things on the table. I’ve mentioned that we’ve doubled the number of actions, or raids against illegal working and we’re going to step that up quite dramatically.

We’re going to develop with the TUC and the CBI an agreement in terms of dealing with illegal working. We’re going to implement the measures in the Sex Offenders and Sex Offences Act in terms of the trafficking of workers for sexual exploitation. We’re going to strengthen the law on top of the Gang Masters Bill, around the issue of illegal employment and we’re going to work with the TUC on providing additional information to workers coming into our country. All of this needs to be seen alongside the material that we’re now supplying not only to asylum seekers but to new migrants on their rights in Britain and their duties and obligations. This will be provided as part of the development of English language for people coming into the country and of course the new citizenship courses which will be available and will encourage people to take naturalisation.

There is a common cause here between what we’re doing on citizenship in schools which I introduced when I was Education Secretary and what we are doing in terms of citizenship for those who have come into the country and the demand and obligation that we require from our own citizens to provide a warm welcome and an integration of those settling into the communities around us.

So the contribution that is being made overall by migration into this country is something just under 0.5% contribution to GDP. It’s a substantial tranche of our well-being and the flexible way in which we’ve been dealing with these issues over the last 3 years has actually accelerated that process. But it has to be underpinned with quite clear and tough, reassuring policies – which is why we’ve put in place the new security and immigration measures on the French and now on the Belgium coast. Why we’ve been able to reduce dramatically (by 2 thirds) the number of people who are picked up as illegal entrance into the country at the Kent coast over the last 12 months. Why the new legal routes into the country are so important and the quadrupling of work permits is so vital to making this work because people know that they can get here safely and legally and why we need to learn from the Workers Registration Scheme.

Now, people have put to me, could we have some form of amnesty for those who are being exploited more generally, those who are not EU citizens. If I went for an amnesty at this moment in time there would be an absolute flood of people trying to get in to actually take advantage of an amnesty. So I think we’re going to have to approach this in a different way. Not everybody in the TUC agrees with me about Identity Cards but one absolutely certain fact is that until you have a proper identity system and we know who is legally here in this country and who is entitled to work and draw down on free services and we are the only country in the world that has a free health service and open access to pre-University education – then we won’t actually be able to monitor and therefore to be properly able to register and do the job. We can do it with EU Accession States because people won’t receive in work benefits and support and legal right to remain here but we can’t do it for people across the world. That is why I have to get other measures in place first before we could ever consider such a policy. I hope that the work that I’ve announced this morning, the joint work with TUC and individual trade unions and the CBI and small business federation will help.

I hope that the Serious and Organised Crime Agency that we are about to establish will help us to clamp down on traffickers and organised criminals who are behind the clandestine entry. I hope that the further measure that we are about to take which joins Customs and Excise, Immigration, Inland Revenue, the DTI’s enforcement and DWP with the Home Office on a major new drive and pilot scheme in the West Midlands to clamp down on and illegal working will help.

It has to help because your members are undermined just as the individual themselves are undermined by what is taking place. Because the minimum wage is undercut, conditions are ignored, the bad employer actually affects the jobs of those working for decent employers by undercutting prices and unfair competition.

So we’re all in this together and I hope that with the umbrella of sensible, balanced migration and the new integration policies including the new integration loan that I announced at Labour Party Conference, we can start making progress. Not only to provide that warm welcome but to change people’s attitudes in this country. Because if we don’t you’ll hear again and again what you heard from the Co-Chair of the Tory Party last Saturday, Liam Fox, who spoke on the on Saturday morning and lied through his teeth.

He talked about migration being out of hand, he talked about asylum claims going up. He talked about the dangers, he attempted to whip up fears and our job is to reduce those fears. To reduce the fear of difference, to reduce the fear of exploitation, to reduce the fear of someone else taking your job. We need to demonstrate instead that properly organised and properly managed in the community we have a win-win situation here where people being treated properly can also lead to us treating ourselves properly.

That is the message of this morning and I ask the TUC and individual trade unions to ask their executives not just to pass resolutions or be sympathetic – or even sometimes to be critical when they think we’ve got it wrong – but to actually help us to do something about it. Like persuading those 80% of trade union members who don’t have the facts, who are fearful about what’s happening around them and who need persuading. If we don’t do it together I promise you our opponents will exploit that weakness and it won’t be us arguing about what we’re going to do but it will be all of us passing resolutions about what we’d like somebody else to do in a different world when we return to power.

So, here we are, we’re in it together and I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak to you. I’m particularly for all of you coming this morning to listen.

Thanks very much indeed.

David Blunkett – 2004 Speech on ID Cards


Below is the text of the speech made on 17th November 2004 by the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett, on identity cards.

Well, thank you very much for being here and for the invitation. It depends of course upon your passion and whether or not we are in favour of it. I am very happy to take on the challenge of those who feel extremely strongly about the issue of identity cards and the protection of our identity. There was a little group of people outside who burnt a card with my effigy on it. There are 80% of the population at the moment on all the opinion polls who are in favour, so if they keep up those antics, we should get over 90% by the end of the year. When I first started discussing this and it’s almost 3 years ago to the month since it was raised with me rather then my raising it publicly, there was a great deal of scepticism about whether the public themselves would be in favour. By the time I’d published the consultation, we’d reached the point where people at least were smiling about it. There was a cartoon in the Daily Telegraph, which I thought was very apposite, of two dogs smelling each other’s bottoms saying “Well at least with identity cards we won’t have to do this anymore!” So that at least bought a smile to people’s lips.

There have been lies, damn lies on the coverage of ID cards. I saw in a Sunday paper just a few weeks ago a quite remarkable story about how they are going to allow the government to track the shopping habits, the purchasing and the spending habits of the population, where of course, as we know it’s these little cards that actually determine whether people’s shopping habits, whether they’re purchasing, whether their family activity, the exact nature of the purchasing, where the expenditure is made, is all to do with loyalty cards and voluntarily very large numbers of the population now are prepared to have that sort of detail understood by the private sector and often used by the private sector. And I think there’s a real issue about how that should be overseen and supervised and how as part of the debate about the very limited access and use of information in terms of identity cards, we should broaden the discussion in terms of protecting our broader privacy in those circumstances. So I think it’s a really good opportunity now to start debating what is known about us, by whom, who supervises and oversees it and how we can get a grip on it. And certainly with ID cards, the real issues will be about how we reassure people that far from encroaching on their liberty, their privacy and confidentiality, we are able to build-in proper mechanisms to ensure that there isn’t either a drift in terms of the access to it or function drift in terms of the use of the information that is available on the new register.

I want to address the issue of “why now?” and why now it is meaningful to actually undertake the project that we are about to legislate on and to develop. The first thing to say is that there is a mistake in believing that what we are putting forward is a replica of anything else that actually exists across Europe and the world. I wouldn’t be arguing for identity cards in the form that they’ve been known in Europe for the kind of measures that we want to take and the protections that we believe an identity card will give us. I wouldn’t do so because we could not actually track and properly verify identity under those schemes because firstly we wouldn’t have a secure and verifiable database of the specific biometrics, the identifiers that route back to our identity as opposed to someone else’s. Secondly, we wouldn’t be able to use that database and the verification mechanisms both through the card and direct from the person to be able to check whether the person who presents themselves, for whatever purpose, is the person who’s identified on that secure database, and thirdly because the uses to which we are now able to put the identity card linked to a database using biometrics has, by necessity, to be the method by which we will be challenged across the world as we use visa and passports linked to biometrics. So the “why now” is all about the meaningful use of a card which in itself is unimportant. It’s the identification of the individual and the use of the biometric, and it may well be that in years to come, the card itself will become superfluous. Technology would allow you simply to move past, or to put 3 or 2 fingers over a particular laser for the identity to be reflected in terms of the database. So the card is almost a reassurance. It’s a reassurance as to what’s there. It’s a reassurance for those learning to use and to provide proper verification of identity. It’s simply about this: how do we know that the person who presents themselves, is the person they claim to be? At the moment we don’t have such verification and we can’t prove it, and secondly we haven’t had methods which were free from, or as free as we could get from, from people being able to forge someone else’s identity. You can forge a card, that isn’t the issue. The issue is can you forge someone’s identity, whose identity is registered on the database? Of course if someone claims to be someone else, registers as someone else and continues for the rest of their life to be someone else, then the database will have them as someone else, until the someone else actually claims to be who they are and then we sort it out, because there can’t be 2 people with the same biometric on the same database claiming to be the same person. I think it’s quite important to spell that out because there is terrific misunderstanding about the issue about being able to forge or multiply identity. You can do what you like with the card but you can’t in terms of routing it back to the database.

And why the necessity of doing it at all now? Well fairly obviously on a very personal level what is it good for in terms for us? If we are going to have to pay $100 a throw to get a biometric visa for clearance to travel to and from the US and there are 4 of us in the family, it’s a lot easier to use a biometric ID card, linked to our new biometric passport then it is to have to pay over and over again in order to be cleared to be able to get to the US, and that will certainly become the case in other parts of the world as well. It’s helpful for us, in terms of being able to establish common travel arrangements in Europe. Not necessary inside but certainly coterminous with the Schengen travel area, in order to be able to do that, alongside our colleagues in France, Germany and Spain who are now developing the issue of biometrics for travel inside and outside the European Union. It’s obviously the case that we need to tackle gross fraud and whilst PIN numbers help, they don’t overcome the massive growth in fraud and organised criminality which is a daily occurrence, and which is actually affecting the lives and well-being of millions of people. And then of course we get onto the issues of terrorism. Now people say to me that they don’t believe for a minute ID cards would actually help in terms of being able to track or prevent terrorist activity and they say “It didn’t stop the terrorist attack in Madrid in March, did it?” And the answer is: “no it didn’t” and I have never claimed that it would have done. The claim is very simple. ID cards, and this is true of their use in other areas, is not a panacea for all ills. It does not prevent, it does not stop, it contributes to being able to put in place another plank in the creation of a wall against those who would exploit our well-being in free societies, in a global economy, in a world of immediate communication where transport across the world allows us to move freely wherever we want to go.

We live in a totally different world to even 20, never mind 50 or 100 years ago. And if something contributes, as it does, to preventing multiple identity being used for terrorists and organised crime, I believe we should take that opportunity. The security service say, and there is no reason on earth why they should tell an untruth, and I’ve checked with the Spanish government who after all were not in government when the attack took place, so they have no vested interest in this, what the situation is in terms of multiple identity and terrorism: 35% of known and identified terrorists have used multiple identities. They use it to hide and prevent tracking of their movements; they use it in order to be able to cover other terrorists and terrorist activities and their contacts and they use it obviously to be able to escape detection. So there is a real contribution, albeit that it isn’t a complete one, in terms of helping us to do that. What is absolutely certain, is that in a modern democratic society like ours where we have free provision of services, the attraction of being in Britain without an easy and verifiable way of ascertaining an individual’s identity, changes the relationship between citizens and residents who contribute towards society around them and those who would draw down on society without making a contribution.

I think it’s a profound values point. Those who argue against free services argue that people misuse them if they don’t contribute to them. People who argue against transfer of income through public services, namely equalisation, providing a fairer society, do so on the basis that people exploit those services and take them for granted. Only by ensuring that we have a something for something society, those who in one form or another contribute towards the well-being of society, in my view, have the right therefore to demand that society support and develop services to sustain them. We have the only free health service in the world. It is estimated that hundreds of millions of pounds a year are drawn down on by people who have no right to use our services – primary and mostly acute care. It’s estimated that we have those in our country who know that they can come here freely and they can present themselves and receive treatment. Now clearly anybody who has an emergency, anyone who is in this country and has reciprocal arrangements, anyone who has a contagious disease that requires immediate action, should receive free treatment and under the scheme we are putting forward that would remain the case. Anyone accessing long term treatment care and expensive services by immediately registering with a GP or presenting themselves at A&E, should actually be able to prove their identity and then we can sort out not whether they receive treatment, and if they are on a long term programme, how it’s paid for. It’s as simple as that.

The same applies in terms of the ability to work in our country. You can’t have a system where we quadruple work permits, where we open up new migration routes, where with the United Nations we get a grip on the exploitation by organised criminals of those who come into our country through asylum but actually want to stay and work. If you don’t have a system that can route out clandestine entry and clandestine working, at the moment schemes to try and clamp down on those who are exploiting others, including gang masters, are very difficult. The 1996 Act clause 8 has been very difficult to implement because employers quite rightly say that they are not an immigration service and they can’t easily ascertain whether someone is legally in the country without great difficulty. The verification process under ID cards would remove that excuse completely and people would know who was entitled to be here and open to pay taxes and NI. In my view that would be a major contributor to social cohesion, to tackling racism, to overcoming xenophobia by ensuring that people know that those who are here in our country have a warm welcome, contribute and are not exploiting themselves, or exploiting others or being exploited by rogue employers who undercut rates by sweat shops. If we really want to get a grip on the sweat shop sub-economy then we will need, I am afraid to those who disagree with me, we will need ID cards to be able to do it.

Let me just say two other things, one about values. A lot of the fear it seems to me in this country about ID cards, apart from the clumsy way in which they were handled in the post-war era, is the history we have of having understandable and legitimate doubts about the intentions of the state, whatever state, whichever government is in office reinforced with what we saw across the world in the 20th century with communism and fascism. It goes back a long way, actually John Stuart Mill wasn’t quite the libertarian that people think he was because he understood that we held common values which were crucial to the glue of society and was not as antipathetic to the philosophies of Rousseau which underpinned the mutuality and solidarity which is much more common in Europe. Kant, I’m afraid, was the great libertarian, who took a view [and people often do subliminally in our society], that there is something inherently suspicious about government itself and if government are doing it, then something must be inherently wrong, there’s going to be oppression, there’s going to be the taking away of freedoms and rights. Whereas of course the private sector, as with loyalty cards, is perfectly alright, no problem about that, whatever they know about us is perfectly legitimate. Now I challenge this because as a democratic socialist, I believe that the great strides in equality and fairness and in creating liberty and in creating a civilised and just society have come about by people joining together through democratic politics to change the world, and they have done so by using politics through government, at local and at national level. And increasingly have to try and do so, including of course, the United Nations, by joining together and having solidarity in overcoming those challenges and I think that it’s time to take on those who simply believe that if governments are engaged in trying to ensure that people’s true identity can be ascertained, there is some suspicious and dangerous philosophy behind it. It can’t be they say, at face value. You can’t really just want to know that someone is who they say they are. Well we do, and we can build in systems that you can’t build for private enterprise to protect ourselves, our citizens, from encroachment on those aspects of our lives that we don’t want the state to interfere with or to know about. Simple identity with simple facts about who you are, where at the moment you are living, seems to me to be completely open to scrutiny as are the things we put on our passports or our driving licenses and it is exactly the same we are seeking from people.

We have had two consultations, one on the original scheme and secondly on the draft bill. The Home Affairs Select Committee have produced their report and we have accepted a very large number of their proposals including that whilst we build the scheme on the biometric passport we actually issue a separate card. We’ve agreed that the purposes of the programme should be put on the face of the bill. We’ve agreed that we should reinforce the very important safeguards about function drift and we’ve agreed and I’m very pleased that he’s here this morning with the Data Protection Commissioner that we should take on board concerns that he quite legitimately raises from his position. And we’ve agreed that we should, through the new Identity Commissioner, widen the scope of the surveillance that he will be able to undertake to protect individual’s interests and that individuals should be able to check, not only what’s being held which is very simple and straightforward, but who has accessed for verification purposes, the check on their identity.

So having already illustrated at the beginning that there is an issue about how we might allow checks to be made on the use of other cards, I think it’s beholden on us to get our card right in the first place. Secondly to make sure that in doing so, the Commissioner can have the powers of oversight necessary in a way that will secure people’s confidence that only accredited third parties can undertake the checks that are required and that we can check who has verified our identity on that database. I think when we do that, when we build in those checks and balances, people will be secure. We know that it’s right, that we should be cross-questioned and held to account on this. It’s a very big programme that we are setting in train, which is why we are going to take time over doing it.

I just want to finish by very quickly explaining why even if we didn’t have ID cards, we would be incurring the bulk of the cost and the necessary identification methodology. If we want, and we’ve already agreed as a nation that we do want, secure passports, the only way to get them is to use biometrics. So the question is do we use 1, 2 or 3? We think that we should endeavour to use 3 biometric identifiers as a safeguard for all of us. Secondly if we are going to have those secure passports, and we are, does it make sense to make sure that they are genuinely secure and that the biometric can be used properly for the other purposes I outlined this morning rather then simply for travel? We believe it is because if we are going to incur the cost which was set out in the UK passport plan for the next 4 years at the end of March of this year, and the costings that went with it, that raised (over the next 4 years) the average passport charge to meet the biometric identifier required. And we need to get those identifiers at the point that someone renews their passport, does it make sense to pay a little extra to be able to have a secure database with a secure method of verification and to issue a card alongside it? In other words the £15 that I announced 2 weeks ago is now our clear understanding of the additional charge on top of the passport for the ID card in 4 years time, lasting for a 10 year period, and we believe it is. Therefore, we are going to have biometrics anyway, we want to use them sensibly, we want them to be properly surveilled and we want to protect people from intrusion and misuse, and we want to use the link database and ID card to ensure that we can protect ourselves as citizens and as individuals and we can have a society in which people are confident about what is happening around them. We can tackle organised criminality, we can stop clandestine working, we can protect our services and we can have a card which reinforces the identity of those in and working alongside us in our society in a way that will help reinforce the importance of citizenship and cohesion. And if we can do that, then we will have a scheme that is worthwhile. And if we can’t, I shall certainly will be remembered in history as one of the biggest political failures that Britain has ever produced!

David Blunkett – 2003 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Home Secretary, to the 2003 Labour Party Conference in Bournemouth on 2nd October 2003.

Thanks to all of you, thanks to those who are here and those who have worked across the country over the last year to make it possible for us to be where we are and thanks to my Parliamentary colleagues and of course to my own advisers and hard working officials. Thanks most of all to my own ministers, 5 women and one gallant man, Paul Goggins, who holds his own very well, and 2 of whom are on government business today, Fiona Mactaggart and Caroline Flint.

I thought I’d start off today by saying I’d give you a few well chosen thoughts – things that have occurred to me over the last year – but my advisers have managed to persuade me not to, and to make a normal speech instead. So, here goes.

20 years ago to the day, today I was elected to the National Executive of this party. It was in Brighton. We had 209 labour MPs, just half the number that were elected under Tony’s leadership in 1997. We had fire in our bellies and Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street. We had made self indulgence an art form.

I was so proud to have been elected to the NEC. It was like being in an inner world; it was almost like having won the election. I was walking down the sea front and I heard some people coming towards me, and they were saying “It can’t be. It is! It must be!…. it’s a curly coat retriever! “.  I have played second fiddle to the dog ever since.

This week’s also a bit special this year for me because I’ve been in the party for 40 years,  – not a year too long –  and I have been reflecting that when I joined the party at 16 all those of my age had spent the whole of their schooling under a Tory government.

I had been reflecting that so many of our young people voting for the first time at the last election had spent the whole of their schooling under a Tory government.

But now, thanks to the leadership of the Prime Minister, many many more children in the future will have the benefit of having been educated under a Labour Government.

And yes they will have had the advantage of hundreds of millions of pounds poured into the Connexions service, yes they will have had the advantage of 370 million pounds through the youth justice board, yes they will have had the diversionary summer programmes started across government – led this year by Tessa Jowell – in order to ensure that youngsters weren’t on the street causing a nuisance but were engaged positively often helping with their community.

But I also reflected that 40 years ago we had similar challenges to today , a time of enormous change, of technological advancement, of the beginnings of globalisation.

There was questioning of Britain’s place in the world, the role of government, and today we have even greater challenges. More rapid change, bigger uncertainties for people around us.

Providing greater security at home and abroad, linking with that that trust and confidence needed so that the progressive agenda that Tony talked about on Tuesday can be espoused by everyone, rather than just the committed.

Stability through economic policy and competence, by choice and not by accident. Led by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown – I nearly called him Lord Gordon Brown!

And I was not trying to predict the decision on the new leader of the House of Lords!

Security in having a job and for the family is a crucial, absolutely crucial foundation, as has been Sure Start. As has been universal nursery education. As has been children being able to read and write at 11 rather than written off. And of course security and stability through our internationalism is crucial to our success.

And doubters, please listen today to what is actually going to be said about what has been found in Iraq.

But conference, security and freedom from fear in our neighbourhoods and communities is vital to winning people over to the progressive cause that we espouse.

Removing the blight on the lives of our people, giving men and women their space back, their parks back, their children’s play grounds back. That’s about equality, that’s about our values.

So is facing unknown threats from new forms of non-negotiable terror, that brings new challenges and it also demands new solutions.  For the most fundamental responsibility of government any government is to protect its people. To give them the understanding that we will be working for them on their side . And where throughout history they have failed to provide that certainty, governments of the left and centre have been swept aside.

So today I just want to say a word of thanks to our security services, to thank the men and women in and out of uniform of our policing services, including those who have worked here at conference, for going the extra mile and doing the job for us.

For as Tony said on Tuesday in the post cold war era the challenges are very different to the past, but no less worrying. I know and you knew that we cannot win the support for the drive for equality and fairness if people cannot hear our message because what is happening in their own lives is so frightening,  is so uncertain that they turn away from the more progressive messages .

Today conference our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marion Bates, gunned down in her shop in Nottinghamshire.

The community of Arnold has been and must be again a peaceful place in which to work and live and communities across the country must be restored to their people, protected from the organised gangs and the gun runners. That is why as delegates have said this morning we are legislating now.

Yes, perhaps years too late, but it is this Labour Government to provide the sentences, the signal, to exclude the replica and adapted weaponry, to ensure that people aren’t frightened by replica guns .

That is why we are funding the disarm trust, working with communities that are determined to rid themselves of the threat that comes from the gun pushers and the gun runners.

That is why we are spreading the message of what works from the trident project in London and in greater Manchester to other police forces, that is why we’re getting communities to link together as I saw in Haringey in north London last week when I visited the peace  forum, a community that has worked with the police to dramatically reduce gun crime and deaths from guns by 30 per cent over the last year.

That is why we will give support to the police, to be able to do the job better and that is why I’ve recruited the head of the Boston police in the United States, Paul Evans, whose force reduced gun crime by 40 per cent over 6 years to head our standards unit in the Home Office.

To bring experience,  to spread best practice, to ensure that we get the message across that the reality of the moment may well be the challenge of guns, but it will not be the reality of tomorrow if this Labour Government succeeds in getting a third term in office to carry forward our agenda.

And yes there are new and not so new giants, disease, ignorance, want – some of the 5 giants that we tackled after the second world war have not gone away across the world or even in some parts of our country.

But new giants have taken their place.

And that is why we cannot afford to consolidate, that is why we have to take the lead, that is why we have to be ahead of the game in thinking what the issue of tomorrow will be.

There is no equality, there is no true freedom, there is no self fulfilment .

If you can’t live or walk safely down your street, if you live next door to the family from hell if your child is face with infected needles in the playground, those are the realities for too many of our communities.

If you can’t use the park or playground freely, if Mums can’t walk safely to the shops.

That is what our Labour Government are seeking to tackle.

Yes, to empower the police, to empower environmental health officers, to empower housing officers to take action on anti social behaviour.

Because there are rogue landlords who take our money, your money, with no responsibility whatsoever for what their tenants do.

There are gangs led by opinion formers, who at the moment cannot be dispersed.

There are parents who despite enormous support, and we will give more support through parenting orders, still will not take responsibility for the actions of their children.

And if they need help we will give it them.

But I promise you this, if parents couldn’t give a damn about what their children are doing we can.

Not because we own our brother or sister but because their actions will destroy our lives and our communities.

And that is why transforming as Charlie says the criminal justice system is not about knocking judges, it is not an attack on civil liberties, it is about the civil liberties of those who’s lives are ruined and blighted by what goes on round them.

And the actions of those who live next door to them.

I want human rights, I want to help rebuild respect within the family and outwards into the community, I want rights and duties to go hand in hand.

I don’t want anybody to believe that under this government enhancing the rights of victims actually diminishes the rights of the accused because it doesn’t.

New approaches to everything we’re doing will balance what we need to do to get tough with those who abuse the system, who treat the criminal justice system and those in it with contempt whilst providing the necessary support and understanding.

We’re doing so with new sentencing policies, intensive community sir supervision, reducing reoffending through prolific offender programmes , tough community action, but balanced by common sense in terms of those crimes which warrant the kind of response which I think men and women across the country are crying out for.

Is there anybody in this room that seriously believes that someone who has committed multiple child murder and rape – and I’ve seen the cases over the 2 and a half years I have been Home Secretary – should not get the sentence that is being challenged in the House of Lords in the next 2 weeks?

A sentence that really does mean that if you committed that crime life should mean life. So putting victims and witnesses first, putting the needs of victims and communities first is at the heart of our agenda it is just good common sense.

New community justice centres, mentioned already this morning which will actually ensure that the prosecutors, the judges, and the probation service.  Funny what you pick up at party conference.

The community justice centre will engage the community with justice and justice with the community, and believe me I have seen it work.

This is about civil renewal and citizenship.

The balance we can see in what we’ve done, updating the outdated,  the arcane sex offences laws has taken almost a century, strengthening the sex offender’s laws including protecting children from the Internet has also taken far too long.

That is the balanced approach of this Labour Government, of this Home Office team, protecting women and yes girls against gross abuse through trafficing for sexual exploitation with a new 14 year sentence.

That is a common sense agenda, that is at the heart of a Labour Government. Radical action to prevent and stamp out domestic violence, that is our agenda, a labour agenda for a Labour Government. and just fancy, all this from a Home Secretary who is supposed to be authoritarian.

But conference, one of the greatest challenges, and it’s been mentioned today, one of the greatest challenges not for government but for our nation is the scourge of hard drugs. It destroys families, it kills individuals, it debilitates communities.

I met a father of a 19 year old earlier this year from south Wales, a young man who had been involved in sport, who been fun loving, whose family didn’t believe there was a problem, until one day they found that he’d been hooked because people are hooked by other human beings on to heroin.

He died in squalor in the toilets of the bus station.

Died without anyone near him to care for him and love him.

I want us in the resources that we’re putting in, the powers we’re giving in the clamp down we’re making, in the reallocation of priorities to get a grip of the organised criminals who kill those young men and women, who destroy our communities, who undermine family life and of course who engineer the committing of further crime to feed the habit.

And that is why I challenge the Conservative and Liberal party in the House of Commons over their stance in relation to organised jury intimidation and jury fixing.

Many of these gangs across the country, and we know it, are organising now to ensure that they go free.

By frightening to death the men and women who come forward for jury service.

And if those intimidated juries have to be replaced by a judge sitting alone it will not be an act of sabotage on civil liberties it will be providing liberty and freedom for all of the rest of us who have to put up with the actions of those gangs day in and day out.

And yes gradually we’re succeeding. The reality is that crime has fallen, fallen by a quarter since 1997.

Not enough, not yet felt to be enough, but progress.

Fewer victims, fewer victims are because of the street crime initiative over the last 18 months, 17,000 fewer men, women and youngsters robbed and mugged over the last year alone.

And yet again the matter of fairness and equality comes in.

You are less likely now under this Labour Government to be burgled. 39 per cent less likely.

But you are still more likely to be burgled in our most disadvantaged areas than in the leafy suburbs, that’s just a simple fact.

And yes as it’s been said this morning, too often in the past we gave up this agenda to our opponents.

Now it is our opponents who are giving up the agenda to us. Look at the less than dynamic duo, Ollie and Simon.

Oliver follows his name sake from Dickens, wherever Simon leads he goes.

Both of them say one thing and do another. Every step we take they try to under mine.

But how do you dislike someone who is so nice to you? So much the anxious friend on the Today programme to give me a helping hand.

It is a bit like Paul Keating the former Prime Minister of Australia who described an attack on him like being flogged by a warm lettuce.

In my case it is more like a brussel sprout. But Oliver has a little army, Oliver’s army. Not elected, many of them hereditary, for the time being.

Campaigning against the powers we want to give to the police.

Against the powers we want to give to environmental health officers, to local authorities to be able to do the job.

Against the powers to tackle those organised criminals I was talking about. Trying to water down everything that we do in the House of Lords. Against, against, against, but on the doorstep, for, for, for.

Actions denounced as centralist, seeking consistency denounced as interference.

But when things go wrong, when blame is to be apportioned who do they seek to blame? Us of course. Total hypocrites.

For, conference, it is not the carrying through of responsibility by us but the question we need to ask them : if you don’t believe in carrying the responsibility of government , should you really be standing for election at all?

If you don’t believe in what you are doing, why follow it through?

And of course Oliver is a bit like Dickens in the sense he cries for more, more, he bangs his spoon on the table, you give him gruel, he wants cake, he’s a properly little Marie Antoinette, but when he comes to finding the a money he will do another of those disappearing acts like he did in the last General Election.

They want fewer ministers and they want a home land Tsar. Less government but more demands on government.

And if I were Oliver I’d disappear and spend more time on how difficult it is to be a shadow Home Secretary, struggling with the burdens of finding something to criticise.

But regrettably Simon Hughes never disappears. Ever present, ever speaking, ever so boring.

As Churchill once said of Montgomery: ‘in defeat unbeatable, in victory unbearable.’

But even by their standards of duplicity the stance on anti-social behaviour is breath taking.

When they know they will be held to account and will lose their seats they are in favour of it as they are in Scotland signing up to exactly the legislation that the hypocrites have voted against in the House of Commons and will vote against in the House of Lords.

These are the people on the streets of Brent who told people they wanted to clamp down on crime, they were in favour of greater powers, and ten when they get in the commons they vote against it.

Do you know the jungle book has got absolutely nothing on them. You remember Ka, the snake, “Trust in me”. Well, in the political jungle they take some beating, but beating we will give them.

We did it in Sheffield and in Oldham and elsewhere and we’ll do it. And on crime they know just where they stand. For square behind the human rights of the perpetrater.

On criminal justice they know just where they stand, full square behind the nearest lawyer.

On nationality and asylum they know where they stand, facing in every direction at once depending on which audience they happen to be talking to. What a bunch.

And, yes, one of the delegates said they under mine confidence in democratic politics and they do, because it takes time, the reality is it takes time to turn an oil tanker, to put in place the powers, to change the operation of policing to spread best practice.

It takes time to get community support officers, street and neighbourhood wardens to expand the civilian support service, to make more use of technology and of forensic science.

Yes, and to reform as Charlie was spelling out this morning the criminal justice system.

That is the reality. It is the reality we have to face in government and it’s the reality that we will carry forward.

For at last year’s conference I promised more policing. I promised actually a target of 132 and a half thousand policemen and women by next March. March of 2004. Conference, that promise has not only been kept it has been massively exceeded.

Three years ago we had 124,000 policemen and women, 53,000 police support staff. No CSOs, no national programme of street and neighbourhood wardens.

The investment we have made is now on our streets, not paved with gold but paced more and more by crime fighters, more than ever before.

Because today I can announce that the new figures to the end of August since the beginning of this year we have recruited a staggering record total of an additional 4,118 policemen and women. A total since 2000 of 12,200, and we have got now a total across the country of 136,000 , 386 the largest number this country has ever known.

With just under an extra 10,000 support staff and with the new community support officers coming on to our streets we now have over 200,000 crime fighters for the first time in British history.

And with John Prescott’s neighbourhood renewal fund and the investment in street more dens and the work that’s going on for local authorities we’re building new partnerships.

With community safety partnerships, through local government, with local people.

We’re making it happen on the ground and in cutting bureaucracy.

We are freeing people up to leave the station.

With increased visibility and availability and accessibility people will feel and understand that it is happening, that we’re fighting crime and at the same time we’re not making crime pay, because our proceeds of crime act is now gaining us a million pounds a week from those who have robbed and distorted other people’s lives.

Today we’re announcing the first tranche of that money, 15 and a half million into front line experience to make the most of the new powers, 7 million into the community projects including the adventure capital fund, all of it going back into fight crime and to enable civilian as well as uniform staff do their job.

And it is all about civil renewal, it’s all about citizenship, it’s all about an agenda of engaging with and mobilising people in their own lives to change the criminal justice system, to change what’s happening on the ground in their communities, to be part of the solution, to feel that they identify and they belong , pride in community, pride in being part of what is taking place, and at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the 20th century municipal enterprise rose to the challenge about bringing about change in the twentieth century the great strides of the Welfare State.

And now in the twenty-first state mobilising people in a very different world, a future world where their aspiration, their needs, their wants will have to be met in new ways.

A future with fairness, reducing fear and fear of crime but also refuting and putting aside fear of difference and fear of change.

Conference, the British people have always been warm and welcoming to others across the world, our history is full as has been said this morning of embracing those at greatest risk, of ensuring that people could seek sanctuary, and under this Labour Government that will continue, must continue, to be the case.

But where there is misunderstanding, there will be fear. Where there is uncertainty there will inevitably be doubt. And that is why we seek to reassure, that is why we seek to put in place confidence, that is why we ensure that the voices of racists can be drowned by telling the truth, that is why I’ve had to put border controls into France for the first time, that is why we closed the Sangatte centre, that is why we secured the freight depots and the channel tunnel.

That is why we have also opened up new asylum routes with the United Nations so that no longer will people have to pay if they can afford to pay the traffickers, the organised criminals, to smuggle them across the world.

So from next month we will begin the programme of United Nations nominated victims of torture and threat of death across the world to be able to come to our country and we will set that alongside the development of our work permit system, the largest now in the world, 200,000 this year alone to allow people to come and work openly, legally, legitimately in our country, to make a contribution, economically and culturally to our country, to dramatically change the balance and to change the balance in the message we send, because I believe that men and women of this country will welcome those from across the the world if they know that what we’re doing is trusted, they can be confident in its administration, they know that we’re seeing off organised criminals and on that basis we can demand of them that they join with us in seeing off the BNP and the racist who destroy our community.

So this balanced policy is simply about getting it right .

It is about the confidence we need , and it is about the values we espouse.

Values that I have held since I entered the party all those years ago, and a part of the values I believed in was that rights and responsibilities had to go hand in hand.

Our party grew from the community and from the trade unions, to come together, all of us together, in common cause .

Today we must take people with us as never before, working with people alongside people, speaking to and acting with people in their own communities.

Hope rests not just on legislation but on changing the culture of society round us .

Its what drew me into the party, I suspect it is what drew you into the party. Embracing those for whom a change of government would make little if no difference . But also inspiring those and winning those for whom a change of government would spell disaster.

That is what we’re about at this conference today, 2 terms in office is not enough, not enough to prepare Britain for the century ahead. Not enough to devolve power to people and influence into communities.

Conference, yes, we are best when we’re bold, we’re best when we’re united , we’re best, truly best when we’re labour but we’re best of all when we’re in touch with providing aspiration to , speaking the language of the people we seek to serve , their views, their voice, our voice in unison, our voice, their voice is in the challenge of the years ahead and from this conference our voice and their voice will be united in common cause to ensure that that third term is ours.

David Blunkett – 2003 Speech on Airport Security


Below is the text of the speech made in the House of Commons by the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett, on 13th February 2003 on airport security.

Since Tuesday, there has been an enhanced level of security throughout the capital. As the Metropolitan police said in its statement, which was made on behalf of all those engaged in the operation, this was likely to be most visible at Heathrow airport. At the request of the operational services, it was agreed that, as in the past, the armed services could be called on for preventive and protective measures.

It may help the House if I set the events of this week in the context of what was said in my statement of 7 November, and if I recall key points. As I made clear, we face a real and serious threat. We know that al-Qaeda will try to inflict loss of human life and damage upon the United Kingdom. That is why we have explicitly pointed to some of the most obvious risks, such as to transport infrastructure, and why the Government have taken a range of measures to improve public protection. In doing so, we have been mindful of the importance both of keeping the House informed, and of keeping continuity of operational policing and security measures.

The House will forgive me if I quote the most relevant passages of the statement of 7 November. I said:

“Aviation security measures remain at an enhanced level following the attacks on September 11th and the government keeps these measures under constant review. From time to time additional protective steps are being taken, and will continue to be taken as the situation demands.”

The statement continued:

“Where threats are specific, we seek to thwart them. Where they are general, we seek to analyse them, and take whatever responses we believe to be necessary to ensure the protection of the public.”

This is precisely what we have done this week, and will need to do from time to time in the future. If the situation were to change, I would inform the House. If there are specific incidents-as tragically occurred in January, with the death of Detective Constable Oake-I will come back to the House. However, I do not believe that it is responsible to provide a running public commentary from the Dispatch Box on every end and turn-any more than previous Governments did during the past 30 years, when facing the threat from Irish terrorism. As with those Governments, our view is that we must do nothing to undermine the work of the police and the security services. We have to make fine judgments, which must ensure the safety of sources of information. The terrorists must not be able to assess what we know and how we know it.

We must give the public the information that they need to protect themselves and others. We did precisely that with the statement last Tuesday morning. However, we must also avoid frightening people unnecessarily or causing the sort of economic and social damage that does the work of the terrorists for them. The public must be alert but not alarmed. That is why I have consistently-and again this week-facilitated confidential briefings for the shadow Home Secretary and the Liberal Democrat spokesman.

Finally, I again pay tribute to the work of our police, security and armed services. We owe them our deepest gratitude for the continuing vigilance, courage and professionalism that they have shown.