Vince Cable – 2008 Speech to Liberal Democrat Conference

vincecable

Below is the text of the speech made by Vince Cable at the 2008 Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Liverpool.

I don’t want to overdo my Stalin joke.

But I did, I think, capture the pathos of Gordon Brown’s sad decline: from ruthless to rudderless: bully to bumbler; from Brezhnev to Black Adder.

He genuinely saddens me.

After Blair was obsessed by image and positioning.

We hoped Brown would be a serious man with serious ideas and a serous commitment to social justice.

No chance.

Within weeks he was dressing up in a Penguin suit to grovel to a Saudi king who presides over the execution of women for immorality and corruption which makes the late President Mobutu look like a small time pick pocket.

The nuclear power lobby, the airport expansion lobby, the arms dealers all know they have a true friend in Downing Street. And, as for social justice, he stands ready to copy whatever regressive, badly thought out wheeze the Tories dream up on a boozy night out at the Bullingdon Club.

But the real issue is competence. Gordon Brown’s list of disasters is becoming as long as the list of Don Giovanni’s lovers:

Northern Rock; lost data on 15 million families;

mismanaged reforms to CGT and non-dom taxation;

Metronet and the disastrous London Underground PPP;

tax credit overpayments;

the QinetiQ sale;

Railtrack;

IT mismanagement in HMRC;

the collapse of occupational pensions;

Equitable Life;

Individual Learning Accounts;

Film Tax Credit:

U-turns on SIPPs and Company Incorporation

and

Operating and Financial Reviews.

That’s just for starters.

In fact, the Conservative’s should be benefiting more than they are from the government’s serial incompetence.

They have a problem.

Their own history. Black Monday.

15% interest rates.

3 million unemployed.

Record repossessions.

All that.

Cameron and Osborne have an Alzheimer’s strategy: a fervent hope that the country will lose its collective memory of Conservative government.

These days the Tories simply don’t seem to know what they stand for.

They don’t even seem to believe in tax cutting any more.

Or perhaps I am being a little unfair.

They do have a programme of targeted tax cuts.

Top priority target is a further inheritance tax cuts designed to favour dead millionaires.

Dead millionaires are clearly at the heart of the Tory core vote strategy.

We, on the other hand, have been consistent and right in our analysis of the UK economy.

I warned Gordon Brown almost 5 years ago that there was a growing problem of personal debt, much of it secured against a dangerous bubble in the housing market.

Since then, inflation and house prices have reached levels, in relation to income, unsurpassed in our history and the highest in the western World.

The truth is that just as binge drinking has become one of Britain’s main recreational activities, binge lending has now become the mainstay of the economy.

Banks have become the financial equivalents of a Wetherspoons pub – but with even less of a sense of responsibility.

They make their money by getting people to borrow more than they can handle.

The mess afterwards is someone else’s problem.

The binge in lending has fuelled the house price boom.

Housing has become unaffordable for millions of young first time buyers.

Borrowers are struggling to maintain their debts.

Too much unsustainably cheap credit created an unsustainable ratcheting up of house prices.

People have been duped into believing that acquiring property is better than saving and a more reliable store of value than a bank account, shares or a pension.

Yet this is a market that is, and always has been, dangerously volatile.

After the binge, there is inevitably a hangover.

It is just starting.

House prices are now falling month by month across the country.

Debt arrears are mounting.

Repossession orders and repossessions are rising rapidly back towards levels last seen in the mid 1990’s.

Negative equity is back.

Serious economic analysts worry that our home grown problem of asset deflation will interact lethally with the global credit crunch.

And also global inflation in energy and food prices could combine to create a perfect economic storm.

If there is an economic storm the public will want to know that the ship is being steered by people who know what they are doing.

During the Northern Rock crisis the boat was drifting listlessly.

Captain Brown was hiding in his cabin.

And Midshipman Osborne was jumping excitedly in and out of a lifeboat.

We knew what had to be done.

But the Government only finally listened after months of indecision.

The delay caused untold damage to Britain’s reputation and cost a fortune in legal and accountancy fees.

Now the Government has seen the benefits of listening to the Liberal Democrats perhaps they can make it a habit – to tackle the dangers of our slowing economy.

The Bank of England has to be freed up to use interest rates more aggressively by making sure that its inflation target reflects the fluctuations in house prices.

We cannot and should not try to stop lenders adjusting to higher standards of risk management.

But the binge lenders have to accept some of the pain they happily inflict on their borrowers.

There will have to be a check on repossessions so that we do not have a massive fire sale of homes and a pandemic of homelessness.

No one should face repossession until there has been an opportunity for independent financial advice.

The bank must be required to offer a range of alternative properly regulated options, including shared ownership.

The vultures who are exploiting the situation must be brought within mortgage regulation.

These are, necessarily, palliatives.

We also need to think ahead to a different model of growth.

It should not depend on a debt financed, unsustainable, short term splurge in consumer spending.

It should instead draw on long term investment in this country’s human resources of skill and science, respecting environmental limits and repairing a fractured sense of social solidarity.

But the truth is that in the immediate future there are hard times ahead.

There will be financial casualties.

Neither I nor anyone else can offer a pain free solution as the excesses of the last few years are purged from the system.

What we must insist on however is that everyone contributes according to their means.

We cannot tolerate a two nation society divided between the tax payers and the tax dodgers.

The extent of tax avoidance amongst many rich people has become a national scandal.

The super rich are complaining because our spineless government decided to tinker with capital gains tax.

But they will still pay far less than their cleaners – 18% versus 20% plus 10% NICs.

They will still pay less than half the tax rate they paid under Mrs Thatcher and Nigel Lawson.

But all we hear is a whine of self pity.

Let me be clear.

I have no problem with people making serious money through hard work building businesses and creating jobs.

There have to be realistic incentives in a market economy.

But the idea that the super rich should be elevated above taxation is immoral and deeply insulting to those on modest incomes who pay their full whack of tax.

Then we have the so called non-doms. These are people who, on the strength of having no more overseas connection that a foreign father, can choose not to pay any tax on their overseas income and capital.

And they can avail themselves of a battery of off-shore tax loopholes which enable them to avoid tax on UK income and capital. Probably 5 million people – many in this room – are eligible.

Growing numbers are taking advantage.

After ten years of dithering Gordon Brown has decided to act.

As a veteran of the struggle against Mrs Thatcher’s poll tax, he has decided – you’ve guessed already – to introduce a poll tax.

Billionaire Lakshmi Mittal is to pay the same tax as a non-dom shopkeeper.

Not surprisingly, the Tories agree that this is fair, indeed, they claim to have thought of it first.

Yet there has been an almost hysterical reaction from the City.

How dare British politicians query the tax privileges of the rich?

If we are not careful, they say, Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs living in £80 million houses will no longer feel welcome.

They might go somewhere else.

That’s tough.

Let them go.

We say that foreign expatriates are welcome to live and work in Britain.

But when they have been here seven years, they pay British tax like the rest of us.

Pay up or pack up.

And it isn’t just rich individuals who dodge tax.

Companies are at it as well.

There are only two reasons for British companies to operate from Caribbean tax havens: secrecy and tax.

I salute the journalists who are running the gauntlet of libel lawyers by exposing the tax affairs of leading British companies who use Caribbean bolt holes to avoid tax.

Tesco admitted last week that it had organised itself to avoid £250 million in stamp duty this way, £10 for every UK taxpayer.

While the super rich and corporate Britain uses every dodge in the book to avoid paying tax, those on low pay face higher taxes.

The one certainty about next week’s Budget – because a commitment was made last year – is that 23 million workers and pensioners will pay 20% on their first slab of taxable income, instead of 10%.

5.3 million people will pay more tax.

The Lib Dems don’t want higher overall levels of tax.

We want to see fairer taxes making sure that the tax dodgers are brought to book.

It means that the very well off pay a bit more in capital gains and income tax so that low and middle income families get a tax cut – 4p in the pound of national income tax.

We also believe that tax can be used, albeit carefully, to change behaviour.

That is why we argue for green taxes, particularly on polluting aircraft, raising revenue for our package of tax cuts elsewhere.

The evidence, from the Government’s Climate Change Levy, is that environmental taxes do change behaviour.

And they raise revenue – which we would use to cut taxes in a progressive way.

We should also be using taxes to discourage binge drinking.

There is massive evidence of the damaging effects of alcohol on health and crime.

Yet the Government has cut taxes in real terms on highly alcoholic beverages.

Many will wonder why a government which has raised income taxes on the low paid and Council Tax on pensioners is helping to promote cut price Bacardi Breezers and vodka shots.

Tax should be raised on drinks with high alcohol content – raising £225 million.

We would use the money to cut VAT on healthy, 100% fruit juice from 17.5% to 5%.

This will complete the transformation of the Lib Dems from being the party of beards and sandals to the party of Smoothies.

If I were to be self critical, I would say that we haven’t been radical enough.

I would like to see a much stronger commitment to cutting the taxes of low and middle income families.

And I would like to see a much tougher approach to the windfalls on property and land values enjoyed by the super rich.

Liberal Democrats represent the millions of families ignored by this Government.

Yes we believe in enterprise.

Yes we believe in an open economy.

But we don’t have to go down on our knees to the rich and powerful.

We will stand up for fair taxes.

We will stand up for green taxes.

And we will fight for a more equal Britain.

Vince Cable – 1997 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

vincecable

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Vince Cable in the House of Commons on June 11th 1997.

Thank you, Madam Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech. As this is a debate of substance, I shall try to keep the maiden speech formalities to a minimum. That should be easy, as I represent Twickenham, which I hope that most hon. Members will have heard of, so I need not make an extensive Cook’s tour of the constituency.

My predecessor, Mr. Jessel, served on the Back Benches for 27 years. It was never entirely clear to his constituents whether that was conscious career planning or merely the result of oversight by a succession of Conservative leaders. Whatever the reason, he applied himself assiduously to the duties of a constituency Member. He worked hard on his constituents’ behalf, and many people have spoken warmly of his contribution in solving their individual problems.

Mr. Jessel fought hard on particular constituency issues. Hon. Members of long standing will remember the case of the Kneller Hall Royal Military school of music, which he fought hard to save. It was said in the 1980s that Ministers and officials in the Ministry of Defence were spending more time worrying about the problem of military music than about the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, largely at his insistence. His campaign was successful, but if officials in the MOD are relieved at his passing, I must tell them that I intend to fight equally hard for that institution and others, if they are threatened by the Government.

I disagreed with almost everything that the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) said, but she deserves credit for having brought an important issue—probably the most important decision that the Government have yet made—to the attention of the House.

I shall briefly rehearse the central arguments why central bank independence is important and why so many Governments have followed that policy. The first is the need for an institution that is clearly and unambiguously committed to low and stable inflation. We take low inflation for granted, but we forget the corrosive effect of cumulatively high rates of inflation.

If I can revert briefly to the game with the round ball rather than the oval one, back in 1966, German football supporters visiting this country for the world cup required DM12 for every £l. Those who came back last year for the European cup required less than DM3, despite some appreciation of the pound in previous months. That is a measure of the experience of monetary incontinence under Governments of both major parties.

Inflation is a corrosive phenomenon that has continually undermined the competitiveness of British industry and has required endless and often humiliating devaluations to recoup the loss of competitiveness. I have never understood why people on the left feel that inflation is unimportant, because all the evidence suggests that the main victims of inflation are the poor. They do not have the resources or capacity to hedge against inflation, they do not have people to bargain on their behalf and they suffer more than anyone else.

That is not only a British experience: the countries of south America, such as Argentina and Brazil, that have reverted from high inflation to low inflation with the help of independent banks had previously suffered high levels of inequality produced by inflation. It is now universally accepted, in Europe and the Anglo-Saxon world, including New Zealand and the United States, and in south America and Russia, that Governments need a bulwark against inflation. Independent central banks provide that.

The reason why it is important for central banks not to suffer day-to-day political intervention is that it is difficult for such intervention to be successful, because of the long lags in economic policy. It is usually necessary to raise interest rates long before inflation appears. We know that politicians can be courageous in making difficult decisions about monetary austerity. Lord Jenkins and Lord Healey have, in the past, forced through many painful decisions to bring down inflation, but they always acted too late. They—or, rather, their predecessors—should have acted in advance of inflation appearing. That is what a technically based, independent central bank can do.

The second basic reason why independence is important relates to interest rates. We know from long experience that markets always discount inflation. Long-term interest rates in Britain are consistently higher than those in other European countries, notably in Germany, and people pay a price for that. Companies pay a higher price for long-term capital. Individuals suffer, and the national debt is inflated unnecessarily by high interest rates. An independent central bank should get those down, as we saw from the market reaction to the Chancellor’s announcement a few weeks ago.

We need to achieve a climate of long-termism in British industry. I am sure that that is an issue that is close to the heart of the Minister who will reply to the debate. It is important.

I have left British industry from a company that engaged in 25-year planning. Industry often has a long-term outlook, but I was fortunate to work for a company, Shell, that was in a strong financial position, with very little debt, and that was internationally diversified so that it did not have to worry about exchange rate fluctuations. However, British companies that are highly dependent on bank debt and the value of sterling can be destabilised by erratic monetary policy. British industry’s outlook has been so short-term because of the way that monetary policy has been conducted. It is not in the nature of capitalism to be short-term: it is the way that our policy has been conducted.

Independent central banks have a general problem with accountability, which was the core of the argument by the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington. How do Governments ensure democratic control over one of the core elements of economic policy? That is a genuine dilemma, and different countries have struggled with it in different ways. The analogy I choose is with the military. Clearly, the military have to be under political control, but no Government in their right mind would insist that battlefield commanders should be directed in their tactics in the field. We have to separate broad political control from day-to-day management.

The model that the Government have chosen, which is based on American experience rather than German, is correct, and the Liberal Democrats fully support it. Although we agree with the Government’s broad approach and the model that they have chosen, we are critical of some aspects of the Government’s approach.

The Government have not consulted much, and the decision was sprung on the country, industry and the City. The decision could have been taken with more consultation. My hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) has shown how that could be done. Some time ago, he prepared a statement of the possibilities for a UK reserve bank. He discussed his proposals with the City and the Governor of the Bank of England, and received feedback. That is the model that the Government should have followed. They will have time to do so when the legislation is considered, but the decision was taken very peremptorily.

Another of my criticisms relates to the way in which the members of what is now called the Interim Monetary Committee are chosen. The people who have been chosen are undoubtedly of high quality, and congratulations are due on that. I can vouch for at least one, who was a predecessor of mine at Shell as chief economist. That person is technically competent and, to the best of my knowledge, politically independent. She is able to draw on the experience of the United States and British industry.

My predecessor, Charles Goodhart and Willem Buiter have high technical standards, but the way they were chosen could be improved. For example, members of the monetary committee could be interviewed by the Treasury Select Committee, as they would be in the United States, their views exposed, and their experiences examined and approved by the House. That would add to the democratic content of accountability.

Another measure that could, and probably should, be taken is to extend the members’ periods of office. They are presently vulnerable to political interference. Their contracts will expire before the life of this Government, but extending their contracts to five or six years would give them the necessary security and political independence.

I have another criticism, which is apparently trivial, but has important substance—the name of the Bank of England, which sends the wrong signals. I spent the early part of my political career in Scotland, and I have some sensitivity to the fact that we are a United Kingdom. 1063 We are a country of differing regions. Scotland has a different level of house ownership from England, and levels of unemployment differ greatly from one part of the country to another. Those regional experiences should be reflected by the people who make decisions on monetary policy. We would like a regional system of directors, as well as those with outside academic expertise.

The Liberal Democrats strongly support the Government’s decision, both its principle and the model that they have chosen. However, it is important to stress that it is a necessary rather than a sufficient condition for good economic policy. If the Government were to allow the Bank of England to operate independently and to pursue an austere approach to the management of money while not disciplining their fiscal policy, we would quickly experience high interest rates, appreciating sterling and considerable damaging side effects. A necessary corollary of the Government’s actions on the monetary front is a similar discipline on fiscal policy. We shall see in the Budget whether that commitment is there.

Paul Burstow – 2012 King’s Fund Speech

Below is the text of the 2012 King’s Fund speech made by Paul Burstow.

Thank you for the invitation to take part in your conference today.

Just seven days have passed since the publication of the Care and Support White Paper and draft Bill.  And of course the progress report on reform of how care is paid for.

I think social care can be described as Beveridge’s or perhaps Bevan’s orphan.  What was left after the birth of the NHS in 1946.

Social care has suffered ever since.  Hidden behind its favoured sibling: the NHS.

For most people social care is out of sight until life takes a turn that tips us into a crisis.

I call it an orphan because social care is not the product of Beveridge’s universalist vision or Bevan’s determination to deliver an NHS.

Social care looks back.  It looks back to older less egalitarian principles.  The mark of the Poor Law rests on the 1948 National Assistance Act.

Not universal.

A safety net for the needy.

Last week that began to change.

Although if you followed the media reporting you could be forgiven for thinking that it was all about who pays for care.

Drawing the line between personal responsibility for meeting our care costs and the State. Deciding where the boundary should fall.

Of course reform of how care is paid for in this country is important. It is something I care deeply about.

It is social care’s nasty little secret: it’s not free.

A secret that is beginning to be more widely understood.

But redrawing the boundary between personal responsibility and State support is not enough.  Not by a long way.

It scratches the surface of a broken system.

So let me say something about that broken system and what we plan to put in its place.

Let me start with a proposition.

I believe morbidity not mortality is the biggest challenge facing our health and care system. Failure to prevent or at least postpone the onset of morbidity, especially co-morbidity, is a huge driver of cost to the individual and to the taxpayer.

And failure to manage morbidity well can tip people into more costly crisis interventions.

So last week the White Paper and the Bill signalled a radical shift in policy and practice. Away from a system that stutters into life only once the crisis has arrived. To one focused on wellbeing, prevention and early intervention.

So the challenge is not just how we support people with co-morbidity.  It’s how we tackle the causes themselves.  Those wider determinants of health and wellbeing.

It is that convergence between public health, social work and health that is the really exciting opportunity.

A new paradigm that looks to the assets people and communities have – not just their deficits and gaps.

The talents, the networks of mutual support.

This asset based approach is at the heart of the White Paper and the Bill.

It is also part of the draft JSNA guidance that we are consulting on.

Let me illustrate what I mean.

I have talked a lot recently about loneliness.

I’ve called it a hidden killer.

There is mounting evidence of the impact on a person’s wellbeing and health of loneliness. The absence of connectedness.

Put simply, relationships matter. They are critical to personal resilience. They confer a health benefit.

Tackling those wider determinants of health and wellbeing are exactly why I successfully made the case for public health coming home to local government and for the establishment of Health and Wellbeing Boards.

And this central idea of wellbeing is at the heart of the Care and Support Bill.

The idea that the system is the servant of the individual. That decision-making should be centred on the person with needs: whether service user or carer.

And that idea of ‘no decision about me without me’ is crucial. The response should be co-produced and about meeting the personal goals of the individual.

And for the first time the draft Bill creates the framework for a universal social care offer from local authorities.

Information and advice so that people can plan and prepare.

Prevention

Sufficiency and quality of service to support choice

Integration and co-operation – going beyond the NHS and social care to include housing too.

And the Bill goes even further than that.

It clarifies the point at which the state will start to offer support by setting a national minimum eligibility threshold for the first time.

It does something no Government Bill has ever done before.  It recognises the role of family carers.  Establishing for the first time an entitlement to support for eligible needs.

A major milestone.

30 years ago the Carers National Association, now Carers UK, was denied charitable status because it was thought there was no such group of people.

The Bill also provides protection from disrupted care, either when moving from one part of the country to another or for young people as they transition to adult services.

And as I have already said the Bill enshrines the idea of person centeredness.  That idea is given further substance with the provisions for personal budgets.

Indeed since I first set the ambition of everyone eligible for a personal budget receiving one in 2010 I can report that the number of people receiving a personal budget has increased from 168,000 to 432,000.  Over half over people eligible for a budget.

So a Bill full of reform.

Let me return to reform of who pays for care.

Let me be clear.  The Government has made significant progress on funding reform. We have accepted the principles of the Dilnot Commission’s model and a number of the Commission’s other recommendations. Many of those recommendations are translated into the draft Bill.

That was an important milestone on this long road of funding reform.

Something else important happened in the past week.

Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Labour all endorsed the Dilnot model of a cap on life time care costs and an increase in the means test threshold to £100,000.

There is now a consensus about the principles of the reform.  We now must move from consensus to settlement.

There are design questions still to be considered.  Trade-offs to be weighed.

Would a higher cap offer similar benefits at lower cost?

Could a voluntary or opt-in scheme ensure that those who benefit most pay?

But with all public spending hemmed in by the economic situation it is right that final decisions will be made in the next Spending Review.

In the meantime we are pressing ahead with the introduction of a universal deferred payment scheme.  A scheme we will consult on.  A scheme we will fund.  A scheme that will come into operation in 2015.

That leads me to the question of funding.

Before the 2010 spending review the Dilnot Commission urged the Government to protect baseline funding for social care.

We did just that.

In October 2010 we confirmed an extra £7.2 billion of support for adult social care which together with a programme of efficiency was sufficient to protect access to support.

This included an unprecedented £3.8 billion of NHS resources to support social care to promote integration and service transformation.

So how are Councils coping?

It’s easy to simplify – to oversimplify.  To caricature even.

The truth is the picture is complex.

Are Councils struggling with a tough budget settlement.  Yes.

Are some Councils coping better than others.  Yes.

I want to acknowledge the difficulties.  I also want to applaud the ways some Councils have risen to the challenge and are protecting vulnerable people.

I won’t tar every Council with the same brush, as crude cutters of social care.

Different Councils are responding to the pressures in different ways.  Some are being smart, others are resorting to easy, short-sighted cuts.

The smart ones are working with service users, carers and providers to innovate and redesign services.  Using the investment in reablement.  Looking to integrate.  Sharing back office functions.

Such as in Greenwich where they have redesigned their care management system, creating integrated teams with the local NHS Community Health partners, care managers, occupational therapists, district nurses and others. They manage the care pathways around hospital admissions, reducing emergency admissions, and delivering better discharge planning into intermediate care and reablement. The service has not only created £800,000 of efficiency savings but has also won the HSJ Award for Staff Engagement for 2012.

Another is Wiltshire, who have transformed their provision of domiciliary care. They have managed to reduce delivery costs by 20-25% through tighter geographic organisation of provision, the integration of housing support, reablement and low level preventive services, and the introduction of automated billing. As part of the new contracts the council has introduced a payment by results system. The results must improve independence and quality of life, delay deterioration or prevent harm.

The examples of Greenwich and Wiltshire, and there are many more, show what is possible, and show how services can improve despite tough economic times.

The latest budget survey from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services reveals Councils protecting frontline care.  In 2011 for every £1 saved 69 pence came through greater efficiency.  This year that rose to 77 pence.

Overall, the latest budget data from the Communities and Local Government Department point to a planned reduction in spending on adult social care of around 1 per cent this year.

At no point have we publicly or privately suggested that the Government would reopen the 2010 Spending Review or bring forward the next Spending Review.

So it should have come as no surprise to anyone, that a little over a year into the Spending Period the Government has not embarked on a mini spending review for social care.

Nonetheless, we have been able to secure £300 million more NHS support for integration and innovation in 2013/15.

This sum of money is more than sufficient to meet the costs of our reforms in their early years.

Before I draw my remarks to a close, I want to say a few words about integration.

The Health and Social Care Act creates a legal framework that promotes and enables integration.  Every part of the system has it hardwired into itsDNA.

The draft Bill gives Councils a matching duty.

The White Paper sets out our intention to measure people’s experience of integrated health and care; align incentives to support integration and focus on delivering person centred co-ordinated care for older people.

But just as our genes don’t determine everything we do.  We know leadership counts too.  Which is why the White Paper signals a major drive to support collaborative leadership.

There is still a huge amount that I have not covered today.

Action on quality:

Greater provider transparency.

Tackling care billed by the minute.

A new vision for care homes.

Doubling the number of care apprenticeships to 100,000.

The first ever national minimum training standards for care workers.

Action on safeguarding.

Action on end of life care.

Action on housing:

£200 million to support the growth of specialist housing.

New opportunities for home improvement agencies.

The White Paper contains a rich agenda of action and reform.

Taken together with the draft Bill, with or without funding reform it amounts to the most comprehensive overhaul of social care for 60 years.

Paul Burstow – 2012 Speech at Community Care Live

Below is the text of the speech made by Paul Burstow on 17th May 2013 at Community Care Live.

Thank you Penny [Thompson, GSCC CEO].

And thank you for the work you have done over these past two years.

For your leadership and determination to move the profession forward.

And it is the future of social work – particularly of adult social work – that I want to talk about today.

Social work at its best is extraordinary.

You enrich people’s lives, you solve problems and you make change happen.

But.

Let’s be honest, social work and social care are often in the news for all the wrong reasons.

When things go wrong.

The talk is of crisis management.

Of abuse and neglect.

While failures are splashed across the media your successes go uncelebrated and certainly unreported.

Shortly the Government will publish a White Paper setting out how we plan to reform care and support in England.

While I can’t talk in detail about the White Paper today I can tell you that social work will be critical to its success.

Why?

Because at its best social work can have such a huge and positive impact on people’s lives…

That is why we need to do everything we can to encourage and support the best people to become social workers and social care workers.

Everything we can to help them to be the best they can possibly be, every single day, and above all make sure that the person receiving care and support is at the centre of your practice.

That is what we will do and it is what, together, we are doing now.

Strengthening and supporting the workforce, driving up the quality of care and personalising care formed three key elements that were discussed during the course of the Autumn last year during our Caring for our future engagement and fed into our thinking around the White Paper.

And these principles will be echoed in the Bill that will follow shortly too.

I am sure you will all have noticed that last week, despite what many were predicting, the government confirmed its commitment to a Care and Support Bill in the Queen’s Speech last week and we’ll be publishing a draft Bill shortly.

But what does this mean in terms of the coalition’s vision for social care?

And how do you fit in?

Radical Social Work

The idea of social workers playing a greater role in ‘joining up the dots’ for people in acting to prevent and postpone the need for formal care and support is nothing new.

What is new, is a Government that truly embraces this idea, one that displays a desire to see this vision become a reality in more than just a few areas across the country.

Some people call it local area co-ordination, some call it connected care and others call it asset-based community development.

Simply put, it is a vision for social work that is no longer based on one that only reacts in a crisis.

Instead, we want social workers to look to people’s assets – whether that be a talent for gardening or a supportive friend – to build resilience through relationships, to foster those informal networks of family and community that give meaning and purpose to people’s lives.

This is not about buying and selling a service.

I am talking about starting with a different question.

Asking what a person’s goals are, what their gifts and talents are. What they can achieve and want to achieve themselves.

This is a system serious about prevention.

– which prevents people from becoming socially isolated,

– protects them from declining health,

– and helps them to be active members of society for as long as possible.

This is not about prescribing practice, it is about scaling up best practice.

There is great work being done, so in a very real sense the future of social work and social care already exists. Putting it all together is where the transformation comes.

From Darlington to Suffolk and Basildon, councils are tailoring this vision to local needs and demands.

These councils and many others are challenging the age-old concept of seeing care and support as merely a service to make people better.

And we won’t just build social capital by making a reality of this kind of vision.

There is emerging evidence that shows these approaches make economic sense too. Studies into Turning Point’s ‘Connected Care’ project, for example, have shown that savings of £2.50 can be made for every £1 invested in these sort of approaches.

In short, in preparing the White Paper and draft Bill we are strongly considering the crucial role that support networks and asset-based approaches can play in allowing people to lead the life they want to lead.

Workforce

Now, changing systems is one thing, but all the system change in the world won’t matter if we don’t get the culture right and that means supporting the people working within the system – supporting you.

You may by now have discerned that I think relationships matter.

And when it comes to formal care and support, the single most important relationship is the one between the social worker or the social care worker and the person who needs care, their carers and family.

If the relationship is strong and built on mutual respect then it can make the world of difference.

As professionals with great responsibilities, you need to have the right training and support throughout your careers. And there is a lot going on here.

The Social Work Reform Board has been hard at work looking at how we can improve the quality of the curriculum for social work – we’re currently consulting on the best way to use the Social Work Bursary to attract new top talent. If you haven’t already contributed to the consultation about the bursary, please do get involved.

And while we’re talking about the Reform Board, I’d very much like to thank Moira Gibb and the other members of the Board for the incredible work they have done, leading and transforming the profession.

And also to Maurice Bates and Corrine May-Chalal for leading the development of the new College of Social Work.

The College, working with ADASS, Skills for Care and others, is currently establishing an Adults Faculty, shining a new spotlight on social work with adults.

And, in the coming year there will be more done to strengthen the social work. This includes:

– implementing the assessed and supported year in employment in September to give students stronger practical grounding in their chosen career,

– putting in place a Professional Capabilities Framework that sets out the skills and knowledge you need at different points in your career,

– and strengthening the entry requirements for social work degrees from September 2013, thus emphasising the value of good quality social work.

And we haven’t forgotten social care workers. Skills for Care and Skills for Health are working together to develop a code of conduct and suggested training requirements for health support workers and care workers, which will not only help to improve the skills and competence of staff, but also improve the reputation of the profession, which is crucial for both its stability and sustainability.

Funding of care services

Of course, I know that one of the main concerns when it comes to social care is money.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to make the money that is in the system go further and deliver better results as well.

Last year when I spoke at this conference there was a healthy dose of scepticism about what I called an unprecedented transfer of money from the NHS to local authorities – £648m last year.

Some said it would never happen, the money would never arrive.

But it did.

Of course there are real pressures on local authority budgets, I won’t deny that.

But acting as a high dependency crisis service is unsustainable.

Quite simply the choice is this, it’s on a retrench or reform.

Radically changing the way we think about and deliver social care in a way that chimes with the asset rich approach I’ve just outlined.

I do not think this is pie in the sky. Last year, a report by Demos, ‘Coping with the Cuts’, showed how councils who take a radical and creative approach to social care can protect the frontline while delivering better quality care.

Leadership

The places that are daring to do things differently have one thing in common.

Effective leadership.

Leadership will be central to the future of social work and social care. It’s what we heard time and again during the Caring for our future engagement, and it’s what we believe will really make the difference.

And here I’m not only talking about leadership at the very top, but at all levels. While high-level leadership is vital – and Government is committed to the recruitment of a Chief Social Worker which will help to bring coherence and drive to the profession – the real job is to be done on the ground, at practice level.

When it comes to pushing the boundaries and exploring what’s possible with local leadership, the Social Work Practice Pilots are also leading the way. These social enterprises, led by social workers who are actively engaged in social work practice, will seek to improve the lives of and adults by empowering the front line and cutting bureaucracy.

So whether it’s working with hard to reach groups in Lambeth or people with disabilities in Birmingham, change and innovation is coming.

Conclusion

I have no doubt – certainly not from this government or in my mind – of the vital importance of social work.

Government can do many things.

It can legislate for a simpler system and we will.

It can provide national leadership on the issues that count and we will.

It can create an environment where quality is expected and demanded and where those who are entrusted with delivering it are held to account and we will.

But you are the ones who will make this work. You will be the ones to make the difference, and we want to support you to make this happen.

And I have faith that you will.

Thank you.

David Burrowes – 2008 Speech on Youth Justice

Below is the text of the speech made by David Burrowes, then then Shadow Justice Minister, at the NACRO crime conference on 4th April 2008.

I want to begin by applauding the work of NACRO and the many different organisations represented here today. It is a privilege to address so many individuals who are working tirelessly in our youth justice system.

As an MP with a professional background as a criminal defence solicitor, I know only too well the challenges you face. In fact I still do occasional stints on duty to keep my own first hand experience up to date.

As a Shadow Justice Minister I am pleased to be able to apply the knowledge I gained outside of Parliament to the development of the Conservative Party’s justice policy.

The knowledge and experience which you, the professionals and practitioners hold, is something we would be glad to tap into. Do feel free to feed into our work and submit your opinions and ideas about the system…you can do so as anonymously as you like! We would be very pleased to hear from you. We want to formulate policy by listening to those at the coal face, not by ourselves in the Westminster world.

Well, where do we start when tackling the issue of diversity? Ethnicity statistics is one place. As I am sure you know, in the latest figures, 85.7% of offences committed by young people aged 10 and 17 were categorised as committed by White youths. This compares to five point eight per cent (5.8%) by Black youths, 3.1% by Asians and 2.8% by those with mixed ethnicity.

However, when compared to the proportion of young people in each ethnic group, figures take on a different perspective.

As the Home Affairs Select Committee, in which I know Marian (Fitzgerald) played a key role, found in their 2007 report on Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System, young black young people are:

– More likely to be stopped and searched

– Less likely to be granted unconditional bail

– More likely to be remanded in custody

– More likely to receive a punitive sentence

It is of course worth pointing out that not only are black and minority ethnic people are more likely to be the victims of violent crime than their white counterparts, over 90% have no dealings with the system what so ever. However, over-representation of black and minority ethnic young people in particular cannot be denied and must be addressed.

As Trevor Phillips, Chair of the then Commission for Racial Equality, said in 2005, there are twice as many black boys in prison as there are in university.

Black and minority ethnic young people are overrepresented in the youth justice system.

EARLY INTERVENTIONS

Between 1997 and 2003, the numbers of young male prisoners rose by 9%. Over the same period, the number of young, black, male prisoners rose by 21.5%. Why is this?

We must not become fixated on targets or statistics which treat young people as figures and often mask discrimination. Rather, we need to recognise the importance of relationships upon the lives of individual young people.

Social exclusion is a key, underlying cause of young offending. Early intervention is seen as crucial in tackling social deprivation and exclusion. Black young people are two and a half times more likely to live in the most socially deprived areas of the country. I agree with the Home Affairs Select Committee who said that, “in addition to addressing the underlying causes of over-representation, any response to over-representation needs to tackle those causes which are specific to the Black community”. The vicious circle must be broken to give vulnerable young people a chance at life outside the youth justice system.

Increasing numbers of young people are getting caught up in crime from an early age, becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. Educational underachievement, inadequate housing, often to the point of homelessness, the absence of a father, all fuel the cycle of social disadvantage. Britain has one of the highest rates of family breakdown in Europe. Seventy percent of young offenders come from lone parent families. We must acknowledge the impact the relational aspects of life play.

Like it or not, relationships have a vital role to play in tackling issues of youth offending and specifically, the over-representation of minority groups.

The criminal justice system does not have all the answers and I must say I’m relieved. Equally we must not expect the system to have all the answers. We should be looking to society as a whole to impact the culture which so easily leads certain groups of young people into offending. Justice is the domain of the system; care, help and love are the responsibility of society and the local community.

Where social depravation and exclusion are rife, we need to be encouraging the role of local and non-governmental organisations which recognise the importance of relationships. I am sure there are representatives from organisations who do just this here today. But we do need to more. As a society we need to take responsibility for our young people. Families play a crucial role in this. But the lack of a secure family unit is often the norm amongst those at risk of offending. Not only this, but there is a direct link between unstable families and fatherlessness and a young person getting involved in crime. We will promote strong families.

Research has shown that stability and continuity is vital to vulnerable young people. Proximity in relationships is also crucial. It has been said that one problem with the secure youth estate is the distance between the young offender in custody and their family. Those relationships which do exist are so much harder to maintain, yet they are so important to the well being of young offenders and have an impact on the likelihood of re-offending. This is something we will be exploring as a party.

So much youth violence stems from the need for young people to protect themselves and gain the respect of their peers as well as those they look up to. Organisations working with young people involved in the gang culture say that the desire for relationship with people often drives gang membership. Where good family relationships are lacking, young people achieve a sense of belonging within a gang. This in turn triggers involvement in crime.

Relationships are key. Where good relationships exist, well-being exists. Where well-being exists, by definition disengagement is minimised. By promoting families and relationships we encourage the stability that is needed by the vulnerable. We plug the gap that might otherwise be filled with diversions which lead to the slippery slope of crime.

By tackling these things, we implicitly address issues of diversity.

HOW DOES OUR PRISON POLICY PROMOTE DIVERSITY

In February this year, David Cameron announced the Conservative prison policy. Our green paper, Prisons with a Purpose. We believe we need a revolution in sentencing and rehabilitation to break the cycle of crime.

Having reviewed the adult criminal justice system, we have now set up a working group to tackle the youth justice system. The policy proposals in Prisons with a Purpose will guide the direction of the working group’s investigations. In fact, this Conference itself could not be timelier. It has served to raise a great many questions in which will shape the direction of the review.

Issues of discrimination, equality and diversity in the youth justice system need to be addressed. We need to effectively engage with different communities. We must reach credible conclusions which offer realistic opportunity for change. As the man tasked with leading the working group, I intend to do just that.

An in-depth consideration of how we tackle discrimination, respect diversity and reverse the over-representation of young black people, as well as Asians and those of mixed-ethnicity in the Youth Justice System is needed. All this should take place within a framework of reducing the overall numbers of young offenders full stop. Over 75% of young offenders are re-convicted after leaving YOIs. It is national disgrace that closer to 100% re-offend. We want to see young offenders leaving the criminal justice system. Not becoming lifelong members.

Our prisons policy does not focus upon diversity as a goal in itself but focus upon fairness which is a key component of justice and impacts upon the issue of diversity. We want to have a criminal justice system which punishes those that need to be punished but goes further than that and sees reparations being made to victims, rehabilitates offenders and promotes work and reintegration into society.

We want a justice system where all offenders are treated fairly irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or disability. We recognise that measures to promote equality and diversity do exist and with your help we will assess their effectiveness, maintain those that are making a difference and replace those which are not working as they should.

Equal treatment action plans are already required of Youth Offending Teams and secure facilities. This expectation plays an important role in promoting diversity and equality. The funding of projects specifically to target this is commendable.

However, a diverse youth justice system where discrimination and the and the over-representation of minorities is tackled needs more than just target setting.

Race Equality Teams have their place. But when many of those already in the system are not even aware of their existence, it is clear that still more needs to be done.

We will be investigating what this might look like. Our aim is to bring forward policies which will make a real and significant difference and ensure real diversity and fairness exists within the youth justice system.

I believe that when we achieve prisons with a purpose and seriously tackle re-offending, an effect will be a reduction in the over-representation of certain groups in the criminal justice system, and that the same would be true for the youth justice system.

We want to restore confidence in the criminal justice system.

REPARATION AND RESTORATION

Victim awareness is crucial to all criminal justice. Black and minority ethnic groups, particularly young black males are tragically overrepresented as victims. I know this only too well from the recent victims of violent crime in my local Borough of Enfield. Since January, 5 young men have been killed in Edmonton, Henry Bolombi, Louis Boduka, Ofiyke Nmezu and Michael Jones. The fifth young man was killed on Monday.

We believe that reparation and restoration are key to the criminal justice system. We believe the same is true for the youth system. Too often we place the offender at the centre of the process. Offender reparation and restorative justice aims to reflect the impact of offending on the victim.

By placing the victim at the heart of the youth justice process, we make young offenders more accountable for their actions. The referral panels provide an opportunity to provide restorative justice but all too often the victim is not involved in the process. We will consider how we can apply our proposals for mandatory payments to a new, Victims Fund to the youth justice system. All offenders should be compelled to compensate their victims.

The Government’s current method for doing this is not working. At present, compensation is often, at best a token and at worst meaningless to both the victim and the offender.

Reparation and the restoration of victims applies to all offenders and victims regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality or disability. Victims are as diverse as offenders and acknowledging this is crucial.

REHABILITATION

85% of young offenders use cannabis, alcohol and tobacco. Just under 20% use crack cocaine and heroin. Youth custody should be drug-free. Rehabilitation in prison is essential. Its availability will be significantly increased under our Prisons with Purpose proposals.

How we apply our rehabilitation proposals to the youth justice system will be considered under our review. Research has shown that black adult males have different substance dependency patterns to white adult males. We must recognise the differing treatment needs of young men from different ethnic backgrounds.

As we consider policy ideas for the treatment of substance misuse and dependency in the youth justice system, we will ensure that we acknowledge the diversity of needs that exist.

THIRD SECTOR

We want to unlock the role of the private and charitable sectors. It will be policies along these lines which I believe have the potential for the greatest impact on the over-representation of black and other minority groups of young people.

Organisations such as the Eastside Young Leaders Academy do fantastic work with young people and those from communities where they would be statistically more at risk of offending. They provide stability to vulnerable young people. They offer positive role models to those who are likely to lack the input of appropriate adults. All this is provided from within the community in which the young people live. It is the work of organisations such as these which has the potential to seriously impact the social exclusion which is at the root of so much youth offending.

We will enable voluntary and faith based organisations to play a much greater and freer role in the criminal justice system. We recognise the way in which they can deliver services to both the adult and youth system in a way that statutory bodies are often unable to do. So much of their work is carried out on the fringes as they quietly get on with the task at hand. By encouraging and empowering these organisations to play a bigger part in the youth justice system, I believe we can unlock valuable ways to reduce the over-representation of black and other minority ethnic groups.

The role that Black and Asian groups play within their own communities is particularly important. Acknowledging their unique position and supporting their endeavours we will see them better able to help with the resettlement of young offenders in their community.

We will decentralise much of the work of the criminal justice system. By doing so it allows the third sector and local community groups to work much more freely. The input of the voluntary sector will be more straightforward.

Governors will have full responsibility for the incarceration of prisoners, their point of release and their rehabilitation. The ultimate aim to change the culture of the criminal justice system applies across the board. Seeking to reduce re-offending counts for young people as well as adults. Our youth justice review will consider how this will specifically apply to the secure youth estate. However, if the Governors of the secure youth estate are responsible for the re-offending of the young people they are charged with and rewarded accordingly, the incentives to deal with young people as individuals and not statistics increases. By encouraging Governors to achieve the best possible outcomes for young offenders, I believe we will affect the over-representation of young black and other minority offenders in the youth justice system.

Finally, we are aware of the impact Government proposals for legal aid reform will have on black and other minority ethnic groups. There is a significant threat to diversity in the justice system. Small legal firms working in black and minority ethnic communities in urban areas like London are being squeezed out of the legal aid market.

I welcome the opportunity to speak and consider the issue of diversity today. It is not just a matter of the youth justice system but for us all throughout society. We in this room may have different approaches to tackling the over-representation of black and minority ethnic groups, but I hope we can all agree that there needs to be change on a number of different levels. We cannot be satisfied simply by seeking to change the system of youth justice as if a national strategy is the solution. We need local solutions. We need policies that promote responsibility and emphasis the centrality of good relationships so that we can drive out discrimination and deliver fairness and diversity for all young people.

Simon Burns – 2012 Speech at Peterborough Station

Below is the text of the speech made by Simon Burns at Peterborough Station on 14th November 2012.

Thank you for that introduction.

And thank you also for asking me along. It’s a genuine pleasure to be here today.

When my officials first asked me if I was interested in a makeover, I thought they meant for me.

Fortunately for my self-esteem the officials in my private office eventually put me straight.

The makeover is right here at Peterborough Station.

And, looking around, I can see that every penny of that £3 million was well spent.

A makeover that really delivers

There’s a new station front, a bigger main concourse and a much brighter interior.

There’s a new information point, as well as a new customer waiting area.

People using the station will feel safer and more secure thanks to improved CCTV coverage.

Automated ticket machines mean less hassle and more convenience for passengers.

And, talking of convenience, even the toilets have been refurbished. Looked at from any angle, this is a makeover that really delivers.

And I’m pleased to say it doesn’t stop there. Because I understand there’s more to come.

There will be new lifts and footbridges, as well extra and longer platforms.

And all the work is due to be completed by the end of next year.

Bigger picture

But of course, the passenger friendly changes we see here are part of a much bigger picture.

Because we’re actually engaged in a massive rail modernisation effort:

– new services and extra carriages

– more seats and faster journeys

– transforming conventional rail and backing rail high speed rail

From massive, multi-billion pound projects like Crossrail, to smaller multi-million pound projects like Peterborough, we’re renewing and rebuilding Britain’s railways and making them truly fit for the 21st century.

Team effort

Now, I know that it takes a real team effort to pull off something like this – from back office to building site, from accountants to architects.

So, as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter if you were sat in front of a computer or you wore a hard hat, or whether you’re from Network Rail or part of East Coast.

If you were involved in modernising this station then you should feel very proud of yourselves.

And that’s why I’d like to take this opportunity to applaud you for an absolutely fantastic job.

Common interests and a common purpose….coming together and working together to achieve this station improving, passenger friendly end result.

So a big thank-you for all of your hard graft.

Concluding remarks – cutting ribbon/plaque unveiling

Okay. In my experience “I wish they’d gone on longer” is rarely a tribute paid to a public speaker, especially a politician.

So, without any further ado, it’s an honour and a privilege to declare this station open.

Alistair Burt – 2012 Speech on the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

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The below speech was made by the Foreign Office Minister, Alistair Burt, on the 1st November 2012 in London.

Thank you Professor Clary for your kind introduction. And my thanks to the co-chairs of the Global Initiative and our partners in this event, notably Atomic Weapons Establishment, the Ministry of Defence and our colleagues from the Defence Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in the United States.

I would first like to extend my appreciation to everyone here for taking the time from your busy schedules join us at Lancaster House to discuss one of the most important issues of our time: nuclear terrorism.

My portfolio as Minister in the Foreign Office covers 32 countries, ranging from the Middle East and North Africa to parts of South Asia. I have responsibility for our Counter-Proliferation, Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Piracy efforts. In the past year I have seen the continuous evolution of security challenges facing the UK; both conventional and non-conventional, domestic and international.

Regional conflict and instability have potential implications for wider peace and stability, which is why the UK’s National Security Strategy identified nuclear terrorism as a primary danger to Britain.

Nuclear terrorism is a real and global threat. A successful attack, no matter where in the world it came, would be catastrophic. Catastrophic for the immediate devastation and terrible loss of life, and for the far-reaching consequences – psychological, economic, political, and environmental.

Such an attack was unthinkable just a generation ago. But it is now a possibility we need to confront with the utmost vigilance.

Nuclear material is becoming more available – partly because more countries are deciding to adopt the benefits of nuclear energy. That is a sovereign right and a positive choice, and one which the UK will continue to support. We also recognise that some countries have chosen not to go down the path of nuclear energy. But this all means that we need together to ensure that, as nuclear materials and technology spread, we keep our people safe and secure.

And in today’s world of modern communication, information is spreading faster. Like nuclear energy, this brings huge benefits, but it also brings significant risks. There is more information about nuclear weapons on the internet than there ever has been.

As is the case in cyberspace, the danger is stateless in geographical space. It is impossible for any national government or police force, no matter how advanced, to contain on its own. Global smuggling networks are thriving. Criminal cells operate across borders and across continents.

So we are here today to renew our drive for the global response we need. We must prevent access to nuclear devices, materials and expertise by those who would seek to do us harm, while not impeding legitimate peaceful uses. Together we can agree and enforce the rules, secure the cooperation, and develop the capabilities and practices, to ensure that a nuclear terror attack never happens.

Our determination to tackle this issue head on is the reason why, at the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism Plenary in South Korea last year, we announced that we would host this symposium. It is a clear demonstration of the UK’s commitment to this most important of issues, and our commitment to implementing the founding principles of the Global Initiative.

Six years ago the UK joined the Global Initiative, along with 12 other countries.  We were brought together through the strong leadership of the United States and Russia. Today the Global Initiative membership counts more than 85 nations and four official observers – all committed to strengthening the global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism.  Gathered at this symposium are some of the world’s leading experts on non-proliferation, counter proliferation and counterterrorism.
The more I have read about the fight against nuclear material trafficking, the more I have appreciated the real difficulties you are working to address. Detecting the radioactive signature of heavy elements in nuclear contraband is challenging, to say the least.

Your fight against nuclear terrorism has introduced me to a fascinating – and, I must admit, mysterious – world filled with Muons, Cosmic-rays, and Large Hadron Colliders.

The technology has come a long way. From its beginning in 1960s, when the Nobel prize winning physicist, Luis Alvarez, set up Muon detectors in a chamber beneath the second pyramid of Chephron in Egypt to look for hidden chambers.  To the development of Drift Tubes at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and on to the creation of the gas electron multipliers.  Now nuclear detection systems are being developed that only take up a cubic meter of space and can produce three-dimensional images. I do not pretend to understand fully the physics behind these technologies. And indeed, when a Muon was explained to me as a “heavy electron” I recall thinking that I did not find that description particularly illuminating!

But the serious point is that you here turn what sounds to the layperson like science fiction into tangible technologies that will help to prevent nuclear terrorism. Since the issue of illicit trafficking of nuclear material was first recognised the UK has been at the forefront of trying to combat this threat.  And, of course, it was an issue very much at the forefront of our security preparations for our hosting of a successful London Olympics this summer. You will hear more about this, and about the UK’s border monitoring system, Cyclamen, later in this symposium.

Only six months ago I would not have been able to openly discuss Britain’s work on detection as I am doing with you now. But building on the UK’s commitment to openness in this area and the work that we first revealed at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit in March, I am especially pleased that I can publicly commend and promote the UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment, or AWE as they are known, for their work in this area. This is a rare opportunity to publically acknowledge that their work has been central to the defence of the United Kingdom for over 50 years.

For example, the creation of a broad programme that covers passive detection, active detection and Muon-based detectors is being led by AWE in partnership with the UK’s world-leading academics.

The programme is delivering a range of prototypes in each area that will allow us to advance our research on this challenging problem. A particular success is the production of a Muon-based detector using novel technologies, providing both a test bed for advanced detection methods and also arms control verification tools. Again, I know you will hear more on this later in the symposium.

In the nuclear forensics domain we have built on AWE’s excellent resources and created a dedicated world-class nuclear forensics analytical capability that will allow the UK to investigate criminal acts involving nuclear materials.

This includes the recently-opened Conventional Forensic Analysis Capability, which allows us, for the first time in Britain, to examine traditional forensic evidence, DNA, Fingerprints, and more, that is contaminated with Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive material.

Let me repeat again that it is a pleasure to be here today. I have learnt a lot in the short time I have had to discuss these fascinating issues.

Ultimately, we are here to help strengthen, widen and deepen the co-operation between our countries to stop nuclear material trafficking.

This symposium is an important contribution to this ambition. It is important not only for the security of our nations, but for the partnership that we are forging across the board to make the world a more prosperous, stable and secure place.

Alistair Burt – 2012 Speech on the Arab Partnership

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The below speech was made by the Foreign Office Minister, Alistair Burt, on the 6th November 2012 at the Foreign Office in London.

Ladies and gentlemen, how nice to see everybody here to celebrate where we are to date with the Arab Partnership and to see so many friends from around the region; Excellencies, colleagues and friends to celebrate with us and I’m delighted to be joined by Alan [Duncan] as  part of it and of course you’ve got the very special speaker [Nesryn Bouziane] in between who speaks with even greater authority than, than Ministers.

I want to say that we feel as Ministers we have the privilege of calling many people in this room partners, those from international and local civil society organisations, think tanks, the media, the private sector as well as colleagues from an array of British Government departments. We’re here because the work we’re doing through the Arab Partnership and Conflict Pool is of vital importance.

The Arab Spring is the beginning of unprecedented change in the Middle East and North African region towards the more open and accountable societies its people so emphatically demand. It’s also of great importance to the United Kingdom. Our security and prosperity on this island are closely linked to the region’s long-term stability but we have never thought that this long-term stability would appear overnight. I don’t agree with those who say the Arab Spring has become a winter. There are challenges: the economic troubles facing some countries in the region, the terrible ongoing violence in Syria – these must be overcome but they’re not the destination of the Arab Spring.

In Egypt under the former President Mubarak could any of us have conceived of a President elected democratically by popular consent? Could we have imagined, just a short time ago the political debate now common in Tunisia under the former President? And without the Arab Spring would Morocco be in the position of having a Prime Minister selected by Parliament? The answer to each of these questions is of course no.

We must take heart in these achievements, not minimise them, but remember that strong institutions like an independent judiciary, a vibrant civil society are the building blocks of democracy. They take generations to build and require constant vigilance to maintain. We must have the strategic patience to partner with the region over the long term to build the institutions needed for the long term stability that will benefit us all.

In the United Kingdom, we’ve stood by reformers in the region from the outset. Two years ago this week, before the Arab Spring began, we established the Arab Human Development Team, now the Arab Partnership Department, to analyse the drivers of discontent in the region. With this analysis in hand in Kuwait in January 2011 our Prime Minister, David Cameron, stepped out ahead of the international community. He pledged to support reformers as they led the momentous changes in their countries.

We can be rightly proud that his blueprint for engagement with the region based on our values and our interests, coupled with the sensitivity to the unique context of each country in the region, has been adopted by leaders worldwide. A clear sign of United Kingdom influencing is in multilateral fora such as the G8 and EU and Alan [Duncan] will speak a little further about that.

In 2011 we committed to add to the United Kingdom Government funds already being spent on conflict prevention in the region, a further one hundred and ten million pounds of Arab Partnership funding over four years to support political and economic reform. I don’t need to make claims about the success of our interventions so far, our partners in the region are already telling us this.

A leading Tunisian newspaper described an Arab Partnership funded project encouraging political debate on Tunisian TV as, I quote, “a possible solution to save a media that was worn out by dictatorship”. An officer in the Lebanese Army paid tribute to training provided through the Conflict Pool for helping save civilian lives and reducing casualties in recent flash points. And, the Moroccan Minister for Youth and Sports described, unprompted, the Arab Partnership as a wonderful opportunity for Arab youth to voice their opinions.

So let’s celebrate success but let’s also prepare for the work there is still to do. Our support cannot and will not stand still. In July, I visited an ongoing Arab Partnership funded project training producers and journalists of Algerian TV, and as we speak BBC veteran, Tim Sebastian, is hosting a televised debate in Cairo on the progress of democracy in Egypt as part of the new Arab debates’ series.

These are just a few examples. Around the room there are those who can speak of many more. We have colleagues from Parliament who are engaged in this work. I see many Ambassadors from the countries with whom we have a close relationship who have been keen partners in this project, who emphasise the way in which this is tailor made to the needs of their own states because that is what we are trying to do.

I am confident that those in the Department and those we partner with have that sensitivity in mind. We hope this will be a further opportunity for continuing progress in the time to come. We’re confident about the building blocks we’ve laid but most of all I’m confident about all the people we work with, their commitment to a region we all love so much, and to a future in which I’m sure so many of us have a perfect stake.

Alistair Burt – 2012 Speech on the Economy of the Maghreb

alistairburt

Below is the text of the speech made by the Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, on 11th July 2012 at Wilton Park.

Thank you Richard for your kind introduction. I am delighted to be back at Wilton Park in support of an initiative in which I hold a strong personal interest. So let me extend my gratitude to the sponsors of this event, Unilever and Shell, whose support and participation are greatly appreciated. Both are major investors in the region and therefore also have a strong interest in its economic development.

At previous conferences, I have been whisked away immediately after having spoken to return to business in London. For this one, I insisted that my diary was kept clear and I am delighted to join you for the whole afternoon and dinner this evening.

I have had the pleasure of visiting the Maghreb on several occasions – most recently a week ago. Before going on trips –usually on the plane journey – I swot up both on the current issues and the historical issues. Reading about the lack of trade within the region today alongside the history of North African cities which acted as a trading hub between Africa and Europe was perplexing.

Every modern day state in the region has an illustrious history of trade and openness, and great cities that act as reminders of this time: Carthage, Casablanca, Misrata, Nouadhibou, and Tlemcen.

From these thriving organs of trade came the tolerant civilisation of Muslim Spain and the great centres of learning in Fez, Tunis and elsewhere. In the 14th century whilst Europe was still in the Dark Ages, the historian Ibn Khaldun and the great traveller Ibn Battuta personify the intermingling of knowledge and commerce where people freely traded and travelled.

We live in very different times. But I am convinced that the region, which we now call the Maghreb, can be one of openness, tolerance, trade and prosperity. And that is why we are here today.

The Big Picture

This conference takes place in the context of momentous economic change. The world is still reeling from the aftershocks of the 2007 Financial Crisis – the ‘Credit Crunch’.

In the Eurozone, anxiety about the scale of national debts is plaguing the markets and shaking the very foundations of the European Monetary Union. This is having a chilling affect well beyond Europe, as previously booming economies are slowing down.

However, there is a much deeper and more profound trend at large: the shift of economic power from established – predominantly Western – economies, to rapidly-developing economies outside the G8.

These emerging markets are extremely diverse but all have in common one ingredient of success: free trade and investment. They have managed to harness the opportunities of globalisation to catch up with the developed economies. They have imported knowledge, expertise and ideas and have exported manufactured goods, services, and natural resources.

People talk of the ‘BRICS’, but the phenomenon is far wider than this small grouping. Ethiopia grew at 7.5% last year despite the global economic troubles. Turkey grew at 8.5%. Mongolia at 11.5%. Ghana: 13.5%.

As wealth becomes more evenly spread across the world, the global balance of power shifts. In my lifetime, I have witnessed the transition from the bipolarity of the Cold War to the unipolarity of the turn of the millennium. And now, we are all witnessing a new transition taking place to a more multipolar world order.

Different regions are taking these responsibilities on themselves, and are doing so with increasing success. The EU is taking increasing responsibility for stabilisation in the Balkans. The African Union is taking increasing responsibility for stabilisation in Sudan and Somalia. The Arab League has taken the lead in trying to bring stability to Libya and Syria and the GCC has brokered a deal in Yemen. ASEAN has built a prosperous and peaceful community of states in a historically troubled region.

But regional cooperation has not been limited to security. Having stable environments has presented neighbouring countries with opportunities to exploit their geographic proximity for economic gain through trade and investment.

There are the obvious examples of the European Single Market, the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the ASEAN Free Trade Area – to name only a few.

But all over the world, there are examples of countries lowering tariffs between one another, and encouraging flows of goods and capital; from South Korea and Singapore, through India and Sri Lanka, to Mexico and Colombia.

And economic links, in turn, reinforce stability among trading partners. This virtuous circle is a means of transcending the first trend that I mentioned – of current global economic stagnation – and amplifying the second trend – of high growth in emerging markets.

Curiously, there is one conspicuous exception – one region that has not yet opened up to the opportunities of regional trade, investment, and coordination. That is why we are all here today.

Government’s approach to the wider region

When this government came to power over two years ago now, our central foreign policy commitment was that we would engage more with the emerging powers and high-potential regions of the world. We wanted to take advantage of the shifts in economic and political power to build new, productive trading partnerships and more diverse political alliances.

It is in this context that our attention turned to our southern neighbourhood. We assessed that the Middle East and North Africa had huge economic and political potential.

So in the autumn of 2010 – before the death of Mohammed Bouazizi – we set up a new team in the Foreign Office to plan and implement strategy of re-engagement with the region. Its objective was to work with governments in the region to develop the building blocks of more open, free societies, underpinned by vibrant economies.

I won’t claim that we predicted the Arab Spring. But in many ways, the movements for political change that erupted at the beginning of 2011 vindicated our approach and caused us to accelerate our engagement.

Soon after, the British government committed £110 million over four years through our Arab Partnership initiative to support reform in the wider region. This has already underwritten projects to increase political participation, and to equip young people with the skills that they need to get good jobs and contribute to their countries’ development.

We pushed last year for a more ambitious EU offer to the region. The EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy Review now offers unprecedented access to the Single Market for the best performers across the Middle East and North Africa through Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas. This could provide a powerful economic boost. I know that groundwork is already being done with Tunisia and Morocco. And we sincerely hope that their neighbours will not be far behind.

We also inherit the G8 presidency next year. We are already developing ideas to ensure that the Deauville Partnership, and the separate G8-BMENA process, to work together to encouraging more open and inclusive societies in the region, with greater prosperity and economic growth.

Rationale for our support

Let me be very clear; our political and financial support is not philanthropy. Our own interests are intertwined with those of the region, especially the Maghreb. It is on the doorstep of Europe, with which it shares intimate ties.

European security depends on the security and stability of its neighbourhood. The security and stability of its neighbourhood depends on that neighbourhood’s economic prospects.

But we also have an economic interest ourselves. As I have explained, trade is not a zero sum game. Globalisation means that growth in one region can be shared in other regions. The trend of interconnectedness which I described earlier will only intensify over time.

Europe’s own growth depends on trading with other fast-growing markets. It is in our interests to have dynamic and developing economies on our doorstep – especially if we already have close cultural and social links to them.

We see huge potential for success in your region. And we want to support and share that success.

It is already a region of diverse strengths: some of its countries have an abundance of natural resources, others have an abundance of skilled labour; some have rapidly developing financial and services sectors, others have strong manufacturing bases; some have significant tracts of arable land, and others have significant tracts of land ripe for solar energy generation. All have ambitious and capable youth.

But it is not just the endowments of the region that are impressive; it is the abundance of opportunities to exploit those endowments further. Some bemoan the fact that that the Maghreb is the least economically integrated region in the world. It is true that trade within the region accounts for less than 4% of the region’s total trade, which is amazingly low.

But this low base shows just how much potential there is for development. Increased integration would help each country to concentrate on its own areas of strength while benefitting from the strengths of its neighbours in other areas.

Consumers, producers and providers of services could all benefit. Greater integration would enlarge companies’ markets, allow them to take advantage of economies of scale, and encourage them to become more competitive.

And I have spoken to companies here in Britain who would be extremely keen to invest in the region if those investments gave them access to a wider market.

Political reforms have provided the impetus and opportunity for deep and meaningful economic change. And political engagement over the last few months between leaders in the region is encouraging. In particular, the discussions in February between Foreign Ministers at the first Arab Maghreb Union meeting in sixteen years were an important step. As, I am sure, has the meeting held on Monday. The Heads of State summit in October will be a momentous occasion and a real signal of intent.

The UK and the Maghreb Economy

I hope that this conference will convince the leaders taking part in the summit that they have the full support of the UK, Europe and the wider international community. I hope too that you all will be able to develop a common understanding of which measures are possible, which are desirable, and how those measures can be implemented.

This will also be an opportunity for our friends of the Maghreb to explain their region to a wider and more global audience than is often the case. And this is to my knowledge the first time that the British government has held an event on this subject and your region.

We are here to provide an open-minded and creative environment to discuss the challenges that you wish to discuss. Our hope is that this setting will encourage you to think big; to put issues on the table; to fly kites and see where the wind takes them.

In keeping with this, I have temporarily given my blog page on the Foreign Office website to Professor Boutheina Cheriet (SHER-I-YE) from the National Graduate School for Political Science, in Algiers, who has written very thought provokingly about some of the themes of this conference.

I encourage you to read his piece and offer your thoughts and impressions both on the issues being discussed and on the conference more widely – there are copies here as well on the website. I will also be contributing a blog after the event, and am keen to continue our conversation online.

Your stability and economic success directly affects our security and prosperity. We want to see your young men and women in our universities, we want to see your goods in our shops and we want your entrepreneurs to set up the European headquarters of their companies in our cities.

And I feel we have a lot to offer. London is the prime world meeting place for global investors. And given our position on the governing bodies of almost all relevant international institutions, we have the power to convene.

We want to learn: learn about your aspirations; learn about your problems; learn about how we can most effectively support you.

The Wilton Park Conference

So, I feel that this conference has some immensely important questions to answer:

Is everyone agreed that a more integrated approach to the economy of the Maghreb is urgent?

What steps need to be taken in order to capitalise on current momentum and increase the flow of goods, people and ideas between countries in the region?

Where might the international community best be able to provide assistance?

Conclusion

Integration and cooperation can only be achieved through consultation and dialogue. I am delighted that significant leaders in businesses and politics are here today to stimulate the debate.

We share a stake in your future. It is a real honour for us to support you as you tell us your hopes and plans.

I hope that this conference will help to develop shared understandings of the opportunities and challenges of the region. We need a shared vision for the Maghreb.

Stephen Byers – 2001 Speech to the Social Market Foundation

stephenbyers

Below is the text of the speech made by the then Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, Stephen Byers, to the Social Market Foundation on 2nd August 2001.

Why housing matters

When you ask people about what is important to them, their answer is nearly always the same:

– good schools

– good hospitals

– low crime

– good transport.

What follows next is a secure job and a decent home.

Our home is more than just a shelter.

For most people it is associated with family, comfort and warmth.

It is where our roots are.

Our local community is defined by where we live.

There are few more desolate words than “homeless”.

Good housing is critical to our well being. If homes are cold and damp, the health of the occupants suffer. If houses are overcrowded, there is no room for children to do their homework.

Good housing cannot guarantee good health or high educational attainment, but it does make a big difference. Decent housing provides an important rung on the ladder of opportunity.

Changing trends:

As our society has undergone major changes over the years, so has the nature of housing-

Before the Second World War:

– nearly 60 per cent of houses were privately rented,

– about 10 per cent were provided by the local authority.

– and only 30 per cent were owner-occupied.

Today:

– about 12 per cent of houses are privately rented

– about 20 per cent are social homes, owned by a local authority or Housing Association;

– and about 68 per cent are owner-occupied.

Over the years, we have as a nation made huge strides in the quality of our housing. The vast clearance schemes in the late sixties and seventies may now have a bad name because of the impact they had on communities. But they, and rising prosperity, made their contribution to the quality of the stock.

As recently as 1967, 20 per cent of our dwellings lacked an inside toilet. Now less than 1 per cent are in that position. We have as a nation achieved a great deal, but there is still a lot to do.

What I want to do today is to touch on some of the problems we have, and share with you a number of the more interesting ideas that we are developing.

The problems:

In London and the South-East we face growing housing pressure. The very success of London’s economy has made it a magnet for the ambitious and aspiring, not just from the UK but from Europe and around the world.

But the pace of development is failing to meet demand. Provision of social stock has fallen dramatically over the past 20 years. As a result, house prices are rising and homelessness is growing.

In contrast, in other parts of the country, we are witnessing a declining demand for homes and even abandonment in certain areas. This is not restricted to the social sector- but owner-occupiers who can afford to leave are deserting certain parts of inner cities.

Even where demand is still in balance, we find some of the poorest members of our community living in poor quality housing. Often they own their house but cannot afford either to improve it or to move. Some of these are black and minority ethnic communities as we have seen in Oldham, Bradford or Burnley who value their local community and may not want to move out.

And some poor quality stock remains. Over two million children live in homes which do not meet my department’s definition of ‘decent’. These are not confined to those in social housing- in fact the majority live in the private sector.

Housing problems are a complex mix of problems that vary from town to town, neighbourhood, to neighbourhood. Some can be dealt with through housing policies alone: others require a range of different programmes, to be brought together to deal with these issues in a coherent and comprehensive way.

Governments strategy for housing:

This Government’s ambition is that everyone should have the opportunity of a decent home. And to have that opportunity

– regardless of their social class

– regardless of where they live

– and regardless of their race.

Labour’s past role in providing decent homes for millions of people through the massive programme of building Council homes after the war is one I am proud of. ‘Homes fit for Heroes’ was a promise made and a promise delivered.

Society has moved on. We are more prosperous as a nation and as individuals. For many people today the aspiration is to buy their own home. It is an aspiration I support and this Government supports.

Home ownership, however, will never be the solution for everyone. It is for that reason that that we are determined to bring quality and choice across the whole range of housing.

Equity shares

One of the more innovative ways to make this objective a reality was featured in our election manifesto. We promised to consider ways in which social tenants might gain equity shares in their homes.

We are still at an early stage in developing our thoughts, but I would like to explain the thinking behind the idea.

If we are serious about social cohesion, we need to extend the benefits of the property owning democracy to the four million social tenants. We can do so by giving social tenants a direct financial stake in their homes, which will both provide them with financial assets to enable them to play a full part in society, and encourage them to take a greater interest in their homes and communities.

It may be the case that equity shares provide the mechanism for achieving this objective.

Helping a tenant gain a direct stake in their home has the potential to radically change the outlook of the occupiers of social housing.

They would cease to be tenants with little control over their housing, and instead become part owners with a direct interest in working with their landlord to maintain their homes and their communities.

Equity shares also has the potential to provide tenants with the assets they need to open up new opportunities. On average, people in the UK hold around £750 of liquid financial wealth, with home owners having an average of an additional £50,000 tied up in their homes.

By definition, no social tenant owns any share of their house, and nearly 60 per cent of them have no liquid financial savings either. Helping tenants to acquire equity shares could help them obtain access to the financial services that most of society takes for granted.

And in some cases, the equity share may provide the additional asset that permits tenants to take the final step into full owner-occupation.

These are our preliminary thoughts on the issue of equity shares. No decisions have yet been taken, and of course we will need to consider their cost effectiveness and affordability.

But we are clear that this is an issue which merits detailed consideration.

Quality in social housing

Equity shares is an exciting idea- and one that we intend to work on over the coming months. But we must also look at more immediate concerns.

When we came to power in 1997, we inherited a huge backlog of repairs and maintenance work in Council housing. The bill runs to some £19 billion. Some 800,000 children are living in social housing that not regarded as decent.

There is a simple reason for this.

Local authorities have been starved of funds. There has been a massive decline in housing investment – resources provided to local authorities halved between 1992 to 93 and 1997 to 98. We have more than reversed this decline.

If we had continued with the spending plans we inherited, local authorities would be receiving around £700 million annually for capital expenditure on housing. Following the last two spending reviews and capital receipts initiative, local authorities funding will instead rise to over £2.5 billion in 2003 to 2004.

With this extra funding, I am committed to ensuring that by 2010 all social housing meets set standards of decency. Over the next three years, more than 300,000 children will be able to live in homes which are decent, with most of the improvement taking place in the most deprived areas.

By giving them the sort of basic facilities that most of us take for granted, they will stand a better chance in life.

The significant resources and the range of options for the funding and management of stock that we are making available, will help deliver decent homes.

We must focus on bringing about the improvements for tenants and not be too traditional about the means.

Options such as

– stock transfer,

– the Private Finance Initiative for housing,

– and Arms Length Companies,

– offer local authorities a genuine range of options for improving the quality of their stock. Authorities must consider which is the best option for them, and their tenants.

But achieving the target requires more than money. It requires focus and commitment by all agencies. It requires a partnership between us in Government and social housing providers.

Local authorities need to take a business-like approach to managing their assets. Some already do, but all local authorities should assess the state of their own housing and construct plans to improve conditions.

But the task of raising standards is not just for local authorities. Housing associations too must rise to the challenge, and we need a similar commitment from them.

Because for some people we cannot act quickly enough.

Ensuring that all social housing is decent is a top priority. And whilst I look forward to celebrating the success of housing providers who raise standards, I am more than ready to turn the spotlight on any who do not.

“The Way Forward for Housing” provided the policies for social housing.

The Spending Review subsequently provided the money to enable us, with substantial help from others, to achieve our target of making all social housing decent. But looking to the future, many of the problems will lie not with the social housing, but with the private stock.

Poor conditions in the private sector

It is only right that the responsibility for maintaining a home should rest first and foremost with the owner. We expect owners to keep their homes in good order.

But there are circumstances, where public intervention may be needed. For example, where people’s health is at risk from homes they cannot afford to repair. Or where a concentration of worn out or abandoned housing threatens to destabilise an entire neighbourhood.

In these cases support from the Government can make sense. Timely investment can prevent problems from spreading, and can help reduce pressure on other services such as the NHS. It can help ensure that people have the same opportunity of a decent home, regardless of whether they live in public housing or own their own home.

We have been supporting local authority expenditure for these ends for a number of years. It is my intention that we should help the renovation of 200 thousand poor condition private sector properties between 2001 and 2004. And we have been looking at ways to ensure the money spent by local authorities goes further.

In most parts of the country, a successful economy means the demand for private housing is strong.

But in some areas, for a variety of reasons, the opposite may be the case. People leave for more modern homes. They are quitting run down areas where crime is high and the quality of life low. By leaving, they add to the problem.

Low demand for housing is eating away at the fabric of many towns in some parts of the country. There can be little more depressing a sight than row upon row of boarded up housing. We are committed to tackling this problem, and are giving authorities a range of tools for doing so.

The different market conditions across the country means there is no single approach that will work in all cases, or in all areas. What works well in London or the South East may not be best for towns such as Salford, Bradford and Burnley. Similarly, housing is only part of the problem and can only be part of the solution.

That is why we are looking to local authorities, working with their partners, to take a strategic view of their problems and the solutions.

It is why we are giving local authorities much more freedom over how they tackle poor quality private housing. We have already made it easier for authorities to declare renewal areas and carry out group repair. In March this year, we published proposals to reform the legislation governing grants and loans for private housing renewal.

We will be introducing measures to bring this into effect in the near future.

The reforms will allow authorities to develop strategies that meet local needs, and to offer people a real choice.

Elsewhere, and often relatively close by, problems of housing shortage abound.

Homelessness

We must not forget those who do not even have a home to call their own.

Losing a home, and the security that goes with it, is one of the most harrowing experiences that anyone can face. Add to that the fact that homelessness is often related to problems such as frail old age, a marriage breakdown, drug or alcohol misuse, and mental health issues, and someone’s anguish is simply compounded.

The principal aim of any decent society should be to give practical support to those in need, when they need it.

Some of those in need of our help are the individuals who sleep rough on our nation’s streets.

Rough sleeping is an area where the Government – thanks to the excellent work of the Rough Sleepers Unit, local authorities, charities and other organisations – is on its way to delivering its pledge. To reduce rough sleeping by at least two thirds by 2002.

We will be announcing the latest Rough Sleepers Unit census over the next few days.

But as well as helping individuals have an alternative to a doorway, we must prevent people ending up on the streets in the first place.

Which is why it is so important for us to press ahead with the Homelessness Bill.

The first Bill to be introduced after the election, it offers hope and protection to some of the most vulnerable groups in society.

By promoting a more strategic approach by local authorities to preventing and managing homelessness and encouraging them to offer more choice to those applying for social housing, our proposals will strengthen the homelessness safety net.

In London alone there are 42,000 households in temporary accommodation . More than 7,500 of these are in bed and breakfast. This is not suitable as a long-term solution for our families in this day and age.

That is why we are setting up the Bed and Breakfast Unit to work with authorities to see what more can be done and to identify any barriers to reducing its use. We need to ensure that we are looking to the longer term and putting preventative measures in place.

Affordable housing

Although the Bill will reinforce the homelessness safety net in crucial ways, it is no substitute for increasing the supply of affordable housing. I have spoken earlier about abandonment: this is the other end of the spectrum.

It is one of the most pressing issues we face. The past four years of sustainable growth has meant that more people have become home owners. Whilst this is a good thing, it has also contributed to market pressures. This came on top of the massive funding cuts in housing programmes during the mid-1990s.

My first priority is to change this tide. By 2004 the Housing Corporation’s budget for developing new affordable housing will be over £1.2 billion, almost double what it was last year.

Over the next three years, we will provide 100,000 new or improved homes for low-cost rent or ownership. That includes affordable housing funded by local authorities and some homes secured through planning gain.

I intend to ensure that the planning powers I have are used effectively to lever in more affordable housing. These planning agreements could provide a much needed solution in housing hotspots like London and the South East.

And there are other fronts where we will be keeping the pressure up. There are too many empty homes that are just wasted assets. The VAT changes recently announced will help here; and we will continue to support the efforts of the empty homes agency to bring redundant property back into fruitful use.

Private rented sector

Of course, we must not forget the role of the private rented sector in helping to meet housing needs.

Although this sector has seen a modest revival over the last decade, it only accommodates about 12 per cent of our households. So, does it really matter?

I believe it does. People are not buying their homes as early as they used to. The young don’t always want to commit themselves long-term to a particular home in a particular place. And homeowners may need a long-distance move. Renting a home in the new location gives them the chance to look around before they buy. Or they may want to rent out their old home while they are away.

So a healthy private rented sector can help enormously to oil the wheels of the housing market – and the labour market too.

And private renting is often the only realistic option for those who cannot yet buy, but do not qualify for priority access to social housing.

So private rented housing caters for a great variety of needs, and we want to see more of it.

But too much of what we have got is of a poor standard, badly maintained and badly managed. And it is these tenants with the least power in the market – the poor, the sick, black and ethnic minority people – who get the worst deal.

So, what do we need to do? In a nutshell, we have to:

– Persuade investors that private renting is a worthwhile business to be in

– Help well-intentioned landlords – and I believe most of them are – to raise their standards

– Ensure that all landlords provide decent accommodation.

Whilst there will always be a place for the small landlord, we need to see the financial institutions putting money into new developments for private renting. They do this on a large scale in the US and the Netherlands, for example, and, once upon a time, they used to do here.

Although they are rightly cautious about what they do with your and my money, they have nothing to fear. This Government is not about to reintroduce across-the-board rent controls or give private tenants lifelong security.

And whilst we will continue the dialogue with investors about tax issues, we are not interested in crude tax breaks like the old Business Expansion Scheme. We want long-term commitment from investors who recognise that building for rent can be an intrinsically sound business proposition and reasonably low risk.

In recent years, improvements in the economy have also contributed to decline in the proportion of private tenants on housing benefit from around a third a few years ago to around a quarter today. But this still means that over £4 thousand five hundred million a year is paid direct to landlords through housing benefit.

The payment of housing benefit to landlords is an important lever that we have to drive up standards in the privately rented sector.

Is it really right to pay out taxpayers money in the form of housing benefit to landlords who fail to provide decent accommodation?

I believe that it might be appropriate to attach conditions to the payment of housing benefit. One such condition could be a requirement to improve the state of the property so that it meets our definition of decency.

In addition, landlords receiving housing benefit have a clear responsibility to make sure their tenants behave in a civilised manner. No more neighbours from hell disrupting the local community- while their landlords do nothing apart from pocket housing benefit, courtesy of the tax payer.

We shall therefore look closely at developing measures in relation to housing benefit, linked to a selective licensing scheme for private landlords. We intend to say more about this in the autumn.

Conclusion

So it is clear we have a sound framework for housing in place. Our aims are clear; we have the money; and I have set out some of our ideas for taking the new agenda forward.

There are of course many areas in the field of housing that I’ve not been able to touch on in the time available.

What I do know is that housing is one of those areas in which fresh thinking and original ideas would be welcome. I look forward to the debate.