Rosie Winterton – 1997 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Rosie Winterton in the House of Commons on 17th June 1997.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Regent’s Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) on her evocative and passionate speech. Her experience as a Westminster councillor has made her an expert on housing and local government. I am sure that her constituents will appreciate that. I am grateful for the opportunity to make my maiden speech on this important Bill, which will benefit directly the lives of many of my constituents in Doncaster, Central by improving housing provision and generating much-needed jobs.

In making a maiden speech, it is customary to refer to one’s immediate predecessor. I would like to go much further by paying a heartfelt tribute to Sir Harold Walker. He turned a Conservative seat into a Labour one in 1964, and served the people of Doncaster, Central loyally for 33 years. The people of Doncaster returned that loyalty with not only deep respect but true affection. Those feelings did not stem only from the fact that Sir Harold was an excellent constituency Member. Doncaster people are proud of Harold’s national work. He was the longest-serving Employment Minister and piloted through Parliament the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, the Employment Protection Act 1975, and the Equal Pay Act 1970. He reformed the Merchant Shipping Acts and introduced many other pieces of legislation that bettered the employment conditions of millions of working people. Sir Harold went on to occupy with great distinction the position of Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means for nine years.

Sir Harold’s one shortcoming is his time-keeping, which is due only to the fact that he so enjoys talking to people that he is often delayed in getting to meetings. He takes jokes about it in good heart, and during the general election campaign he apologised to an assembled company for his delayed arrival by saying, rather proudly, “I am of course known throughout Doncaster as the late Sir Harold Walker.”

During the general election campaign, I was reminded time after time by constituents of what a hard act to follow Harold would be. That was an unnerving experience, but Harold and his wife Mary did everything possible to help me during the campaign. They both worked tirelessly on my behalf; I could not have asked for more. Harold is not the tallest of men, and perhaps derives some pleasure from the thought that whilst he cannot tower over many people, he can at least tower over his successor.

Doncaster is renowned for its coal mining, its railways and its thoroughbred horse racing, which takes place on the Town Moor course. The Grand St. Leger, as I am sure hon. Members know, is one of the highlights of the racing calendar. There is one other fact about Doncaster that I hope will cause Ministers to look favourably on my constituency. In 1899, the Doncaster branch of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants sent a motion to the Trades Union Congress meeting in Plymouth. The motion called on the TUC to organise a joint conference with socialist and co-operative bodies to discuss Labour representation. Thus it was really in Doncaster that the Labour party was conceived. I am sure that hon. Members will be delighted to learn that the foundation meeting of the society was held at the Good Woman inn at St. Sepulchre Gate in Doncaster.

For me, being the area’s Member of Parliament is a special honour, as I was brought up in Doncaster. My mother Valerie was a nursery school teacher, and my father Gordon a local head teacher—and, later, an elected representative on Doncaster council. Let me take this opportunity to thank not only the electors of Doncaster, Central for giving me the privilege of serving them, but the members of the constituency Labour party for campaigning for me in the recent historic general election, with its Labour landslide.

Yorkshire people are famous for the warmth of their welcome, and the people of Doncaster are no exception. Since the election, I have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity and kindness, and I intend to repay that by doing my best to represent their interests in the House.

The Bill that we are discussing is about achieving two of the Government’s important objectives, jobs and social justice. When it is passed, councils such as mine in Doncaster will at last be able to use some of the money that they have in the bank from the sale of council houses to modernise existing homes and to build desperately needed new ones. The consequent building and refurbishment programme can be used to provide much-needed jobs and training in Doncaster. I believe that the Bill will end 18 years of unremitting underinvestment in housing in Doncaster.

More than 5,000 people in my constituency alone are victims of Tory neglect, waiting for homes and worried about accommodation for themselves and their families. They deserve better, and the Bill will help them in their aspirations for a better life. Too many people in the Doncaster area are out of work, alienated and disaffected because they see little hope or future. The knock-on effects on society, in terms of crime and the growing drug culture, are frightening to witness.

Much of the drive for change that will be brought about by the Bill is due to our two Ministers’ lifetime commitment to decent housing for all, and to local government. I understand that the Government will be looking to the construction industry to provide a significant number of new jobs and apprenticeships, but let me take that further, and ask whether the Ministers will visit my constituency to hear at first hand from a cross-section of representatives of my local authority and the voluntary and private sectors what Doncaster can do to assist in achieving the Government’s stated aims—securing jobs and social justice.

Britain’s housing problems cannot be eliminated overnight, and unemployment cannot be made to disappear immediately, but both difficulties can be alleviated through the regional development planning to which my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and his Ministers are dedicated. The Yorkshire and Humberside region could become the most exciting growth area in the country. From Sheffield to Humberside stretches a conurbation of great economic potential, where considerable growth could take place. Through the policies of my right hon. Friend and his Ministers, that growth will be encouraged, cultivated and fashioned to bring about a regeneration of Yorkshire and Humberside.

The Bill makes a start by tackling the basic issue of people’s right to decent homes. I believe that, if we can sort that out, many of society’s other problems can be tackled effectively. That is why I welcome the Bill, on behalf of my constituents in Doncaster, Central.

Vince Cable – 1997 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

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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.

Gordon Brown – 1997 Mansion House Speech

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Below is the text of the speech made by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, on 12th June 1997 at the Mansion House in London.

  1. I am pleased to attend the Lord Mayor’s dinner here at the Mansion House. 
  2. An annual dinner that has been going since mid-Victorian times, celebrating an institution, the Corporation of London, that has lasted since the 11th century. 
  3. Tonight a third of our guests are from overseas, including from Frankfurt, New York, Japan and Hong Kong. 
  4. A clear example of the internationalism, the openness and global reach of the City today and an illustration of how the City has changed in response to changes in the economy around it. 
  5. And I am pleased to speak alongside, not only the Lord Mayor, whom I thank for his invitation, but also the Governor of the Bank of England. 
  6. The City of London has established itself as one of the world’s greatest financial centres for over three hundred years. 
  7. At each stage the City has continued to respond imaginatively to the need for change: from the days in the 17th century when Edward Lloyd discovered the post office had become a better source of shipping information than the waterfront and moved his coffee house from the docks to Lombard Street; to today, when face to face contact, telephones, and ledgers have been replaced by computer screens and electronic information. 
  8. Because it has demonstrated the best qualities of our country, what can be described as the British genius:
    • always outward-looking and open to the world;
    • invariably innovative;
    • aware of the need for hard work
    • and perhaps most relevant of all, to the bewildering changes we see around us, continuously willing to respond and adapt to changing conditions and emerging technologies.

     

  9. And these qualities – evident in the City from its earliest years – the qualities that make for the British genius – are exactly the qualities required to succeed in today’s global marketplace. 
  10. We can take pride that London is home to more us banks than New York, and more Japanese banks than any City except Tokyo:
    • that there is more international equity trading on the London Stock Exchange than any other exchange;
    • that Britain’s overseas earnings from financial services amount to 12 billion Pounds a year.

     

  11. And it is because of its adaptability, its innovation, its dedicated workforce – managers and employees alike – and its willingness to embrace change that the City is well-placed for the 21st century. 
  12. If the City is to succeed today and tomorrow in an ever more competitive international marketplace it must be prepared to continuously adapt to ever greater change. And so too must the rest of the British economy be prepared to change if it is to prosper . 
  13. In a global marketplace characterised by ever more fierce competition, and unparalleled waves of technological change, we need – more than ever before – to be able to respond to change. 
  14. How we as a country prepare ourselves for these challenges of the future is the subject that I want to address this evening. 
  15. In this new economy our task is to ensure that, as individuals and companies and indeed as a country, we are fully equipped to contribute to and compete within this global marketplace. 
  16. While our national objectives of high and stable levels of growth and employment are unchanging, they can only be achieved in a new world by new methods and new policies. 
  17. I want to suggest tonight that we need as a country to take a long view of what needs to be done, set in place a foundation of monetary and fiscal stability that will last, and make long term decisions too about how we remove the obstacles to dynamism in our economy and make supply side improvements that are are needed to deliver higher levels of investment, growth and employment. 
  18. And let me say that this global economy, characterised by rapid and all-pervasive change, stability is more important than ever. 
  19. The stability of the post-war period was achieved within a relatively closed economy, with national financial markets, fixed exchange rates and frequent recourse to capital controls. 
  20. Today stability has to be won in an environment of global capital markets where investors have more choice and more freedom than ever before, and where day to day flows of capital are greater and faster than ever before. 
  21. It used to be said that a week is a long time in politics. Now an hour can be a very long time for a government that loses credibility in international capital markets. 
  22. Today the judgement of the markets – whether to punish or to reward government policies – is as swift as it is powerful. 
  23. The evidence shows that, over the long-term, investors will choose to invest for the future in a stable environment rather than an unstable one. Many of our competitors have enjoyed higher levels of investment than us, for the very reason that they have delivered more economic stability. 
  24. For in the new global marketplace there are no short cuts to long-term prosperity. To succeed, countries must convince the markets that they have the policies in place for long-term stability. 
  25. After a century of relative economic decline, we have to move Britain up the world economic league . I believe therefore that now is the time to lock into place long term policies for stability and for growth which will encourage investment, overcome the obstacles to dynamism, and make for better employment opportunities for our citizens. 
  26. If we are to achieve these objectives, there are five barriers to success that this country has to tackle. We must overcome instability and imprudence in public finances. We must address under-investment and unemployment, and avoid the risk of isolationism. 
  27. So I believe we must overcome these challenges by making, as a country, five long term commitments.
    • first, a commitment to monetary stability that allows businesses, as well as families, to plan for the future with confidence;
    • second, a commitment to long-term fiscal stability, to meeting our priorities within sustainable public finances;
    • third, a long term commitment to higher levels of investment both in people and in business to provide the capacity for strong and stable growth for the long term;
    • Fourth, a long-term and far-reaching modernisation of the welfare state so that it complements the needs and realities of modern employment by extending the opportunity to work, and allowing the workforce to adapt within a dynamic economy;
    • and let me add one further long-term commitment; a long term commitment to free trade and to Europe with policies I want to outline for constructive engagement in the developed world’s largest open market.

     

  28. So it is because we intend to play our full part in equipping the country for the future that this government will give short shrift to short-termism. 
  29. Step by step, I want our government to overcome each of the barriers to our long-term prosperity as a nation. 
  30. My first Budget on July 2nd will not be a budget for the short term but will take the long-term view:
    • so it will start from economic realities and challenges we face in a global market place where no one owes us a living;
    • and, with its concentration of welfare to work measures it will take the first in a number of steps we are determined to take to modernise the welfare state, and equip our country for the future.

    Monetary Stability

     

  31. We must start from the foundation of monetary stability. 
  32. The challenge for this government, has been to establish a credible long-term approach to monetary policy, that tackles the root causes of inflation, including the capacity constraints that have so often derailed recovery and convinces investors that they can expect stable non-inflationary growth that lasts. 
  33. Consistently low and stable inflation is essential to encourage the long-term investment on which high levels of growth and employment depend. 
  34. Since I became Chancellor, a lot of attention has been focused on the specific details of our institutional reforms giving the Bank new monetary policy responsibilities. But these highly-publicised changes are the means by which we will deliver a more fundamental and long-prized objective that has eluded Britain for years – to create a lasting framework for monetary stability. 
  35. During the last two decades governments have adopted and then abandoned a succession of monetary targets – sterling M3, M0, the ERM. And, far from delivering monetary stability, Britain has suffered the most volatile inflation record of any G7 country in the last 10 years. And we have had the lowest investment as a share of GDP. 
  36. Our new monetary framework is established on the basis of clear principles: it is for the long-term; it sets clear rules, and clear divisions of responsibility; and it is open, transparent and accountable. 
  37. The government’s role is clear – to set the economic objectives and, in particular, the inflation target. The Bank of England’s role is clear – to take the operational decisions to meet the inflation target. 
  38. Interest rate decisions will be free from any political influence. They will be recognised as being based on good long-term economics: beyond any accusation of bad short-term politics. 
  39. My appointments to the Monetary Policy Committee, made with the Governor’s agreement, were based on economic expertise, not party political persuasion. 
  40. The new Monetary Policy Committee has already shown it is prepared to take the action necessary to keep a lid on inflation. 
  41. Demand in the British economy is growing faster, but because the economy we inherited suffers from a long-term lack of investment in capacity and in skills, the recovery needs to proceed steadily to avoid a rebound in inflation. And it was because of this I decided to raise interest rates in May. 
  42. We must break out of the stop go cycle under which, every time we expand, capacity constraints and under-investment trigger inflationary pressures. 
  43. Progress has already been made in building our anti-inflation credibility. Long-term interest rates and inflation expectations have fallen. 
  44. But to create the lasting stability I want, we need to go further. 
  45. We need to lock into our economic policy a commitment to consistently low inflation over the long term. 
  46. Real stability is achieved not when we meet a target one or two months in a row, but when we can confidently expect inflation to be consistently low for a long period of time. 
  47. We need a long-term monetary policy framework. 
  48. This afternoon in the House of Commons I affirmed the inflation target. Tonight I will explain how I am completing my reform of monetary policy, by introducing more rigorous, precise and open procedures. That will help the Bank of England to deliver the inflation target consistently over the long-term. 
  49. If inflation is 1 per cent higher or, for that matter, lower than the target of 2.5 per cent, then the Governor, on behalf of the Monetary Policy Committee, should write an open letter to the Chancellor. 
  50. That letter should explain:
    • the reasons why inflation has moved away from the target by more than 1 percentage point;
    • the policy action which they are taking to deal with it;
    • the period within which they expect inflation to return to the target;
    • how this approach meets the Bank’s objectives as set by the government.

     

  51. Of course, any economy at some point can suffer from external events or temporary difficulties, often beyond its control. Attempts to keep inflation at the target in these circumstances may cause undesirable volatility in output. 
  52. But, if inflation is still more than 1 per cent away from the target after three months, I will expect the Governor to write to me again. 
  53. Instead of the old procedures that were ad hoc, personalised, and could not last credibly for the long term, this government has set in place clear rules, divisions of responsibility and a target supported by tight procedures for monitoring whether it is delivered. It is because there are clear rules and rigour that our approach will command greater confidence. 
  54. Over the coming years I want the British economy to enjoy the far greater underlying strength that comes from a base of low and stable inflation. 
  55. If we succeed in strengthening the ability of the British economy to sustain growth with low inflation. And if international conditions permit, I would hope to lower the inflation target. But the long-term inflation target of 2.5 per cent I have reaffirmed for the Bank of England today, reinforced by the open letter system, provides the final building block for our new framework of British monetary policy. 
  56. The open letter is yet another example of the government’s commitment to a more transparent and accountable system of monetary decision-making. 
  57. The committee’s performance and procedures will also be reviewed by the reformed court. The Bank will be accountable to the House of Commons through regular reports and evidence given to the Treasury Select Committee. Finally, through the publication of the minutes of the Monetary Policy Committee meetings and the inflation report, the Bank will be accountable to the public at large. I believe, in time, our new framework may become a model for other countries to follow.Fiscal Stability

     

  58. Building a platform of long-term stability means not only a stable monetary framework for the long-term, but government must play its own role by achieving sustainable public finances for the long-term. 
  59. That is why yesterday the Chief Secretary announced our plans for a comprehensive review of all government spending. 
  60. This will be a root and branch appraisal of how we can improve the efficiency of government in meeting our objectives for improving investment, opportunity, fairness and employment; how we can make better use of government assets; and, finally, how we can best make use of public/private partnerships to harness new sources of financial and management expertise. 
  61. The review will ensure that our public spending decisions reflect our long-term priorities, and meet the country’s long-term needs. 
  62. Our determination to have long-term stability in the public finances lies behind our commitment to draw up a national register of government assets. One of our departments alone has 90,000 buildings. 
  63. We are committed to ensuring that government assets are used efficiently to deliver our priorities and we will not hold assets that have no further use. 
  64. I can announce tonight that we have asked departments to complete this register by November, so that it can inform the conclusions of our Comprehensive Spending Review. 
  65. And just as we will resist any other irresponsible demand on public spending, we will resist irresponsible public sector pay demands. 
  66. Alongside the Comprehensive Spending Review, we will introduce tough rules for government borrowing. 
  67. Two central principles will guide our approach. First, meeting the golden rule for borrowing. Over the economic cycle, the government will only borrow to finance public investment and not to fund public consumption. 
  68. Second, alongside this golden rule commitment, we will keep the ratio of government debt to GDP stable on average over the economic cycle and at a prudent and sensible level. 
  69. This platform of fiscal stability will deliver, more investment, more growth and more jobs.Investment

     

  70. But we will only achieve and sustain monetary and fiscal stability if we can strengthen the underlying capacity of the British economy. 
  71. For too long investors have recognised the importance of stability and taking a long-term view, while governments have not. 
  72. Long-term investment holds the key to our future prosperity in Britain. That is why I am determined to put in place the conditions that will encourage the high levels of investment we need. 
  73. Of course economic stability – with investors confident of low inflation over the long term – is central 
  74. But it is also crucial to improve the supply-side of the economy – to remove the obstacles to dynamism, and make it possible for us to sustain high and stable levels of growth with low inflation. 
  75. Geoffrey Robinson, the Paymaster General, will head an Enterprise and Growth Unit in the Treasury which will work with business to nurture innovation and entrepreneurship. And he has asked Malcolm Bates formerly deputy managing director of GEC, to undertake a thorough-going review of the Treasury arrangements for PFI projects to ensure quicker and better decision-making. 
  76. We need to seek public/private partnerships to deliver better public services and investment. And I am determined that the private finance initiative has a new start. 
  77. And I am also determined that we improve the competitiveness of our marketplace so that investment levels can rise. 
  78. Our measures on the electricity industry yesterday show that we are prepared to open up markets to competition and contribute to investment and dynamism.Welfare reform

     

  79. Stability provides the platform. But we cannot build a dynamic economy unless we can unleash the potential in everyone. A welfare state that thwarts the opportunities that we need, will hold the economy back. A welfare state that encourages work is not only fair but makes for greater dynamism in the economy. 
  80. This new approach to welfare aims to strengthen the supply side of the economy and so contribute to the maintenance of long-term stability. 
  81. The three modernisations we propose – of employment policy, of tax and benefits, and of lifelong learning – reflect our determination not merely to compensate people for their poverty, but actually to tackle the causes of poverty by means that provide opportunity and so strengthen our economic performance. 
  82. Britain cannot succeed unless we develop our greatest asset: our people. The new realities of fast changing labour markets mean there is a constant need for retraining and upskilling by the British workforce in the new global economy . 
  83. So the starting point of our reforms is our welfare to work programme. It will be aimed at helping 250,000 young and long-term unemployed people into work by giving them opportunities to learn, train and gain employment. 
  84. But we will also modernise the tax and benefits system to ensure that people have jobs, are able to keep the jobs they have, and are able to move into better jobs. 
  85. Finally our new approach to welfare will establish a new platform of educational opportunity – a skills ladder – through initiatives such as the university for industry – in order that British people can acquire the new skills they need to earn a living and contribute to our economy’s long-term strength.Long-term stability in Europe

     

  86. We cannot build a stronger British economy in isolation. Europe is where we are, where we trade, and where we make our living. 60 per cent of our trade and 3.5 million jobs depend upon it. 
  87. It is vital that investors have confidence in our relationship with Europe. I can put that beyond any doubt tonight: Europe is where we are and where we will stay. 
  88. Our long-term commitment to Europe means that it is essential that we must play a leading role in shaping Europe’s future. 
  89. We will pursue a British agenda to equip Europe for long-term success. That is what the British initiative that I launched last week to get Europe to work was all about. 
  90. We will push ahead with the completion of the single market. 
  91. David Simon is taking forward the government’s competitiveness agenda in Europe. He will promote flexible labour markets across the EU and work to break down the barriers to competition in the single market. 
  92. Tonight’s audience will recognise that there remain major barriers to free trade in financial services in the EU. We are working hard to overcome those barriers. 
  93. It is in every country’s long-term interest to have internationally competitive industries, trading freely in an open market. 
  94. We in Europe must also share our experience and expertise in reforming our welfare systems and promoting long-term flexibility in our markets, especially our labour markets. And we must tackle obstacles to dynamism.Conclusion

     

  95. A lot has been written and said about the first days and weeks of the new government. Popularity in politics will ebb and flow, but the true test of the announcements and reforms we are making is not the response we have received or will receive in the short term but the results these reforms achieve in the long term. 
  96. In our monetary and fiscal policy we are determined to chart a consistent course, not for a few months or even a year or two, but for the long term. By being better equipped for the future, Britain and the British people can and will be better off.

David Blunkett – 1997 Speech to TUC Conference

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Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Secretary of State for Education and Employment, to the 1997 TUC Conference.

It gives me very great pleasure to congratulate the TUC and all those staff who have made it possible to gain the Investors in People award. After hearing the Archbishop and Prime Minister, I think I had better keep my speech very short. It is not so much the organ grinder and the monkey but something that I would rather not say at an open TUC meeting! I am delighted to be here. I am very pleased indeed that after New Labour, the TUC now have Investors in People, and it is my job to make sure that the Department for Education and Employment receive it as well because they have not yet achieved this.

In offering congratulations and presenting the award of the Investors in People plaque to be displayed in the foyer at Congress House, we have a very clear message which is that the trades union Movement is taking a lead in achieving one of the most prestigious awards in terms of quality for development of staff, for training and ensuring the skills of the future. If the TUC can give this lead, then every employer in the country has a beholden duty to make sure that they are also taking steps to get Investors in People status and to treat their employees in a civilised and acceptable way. This should not be dealt with merely in terms of basic rights, which are the foundation that you have been debating at Congress this week and on which Tony Blair spoke this afternoon, but it should be taken much further, not looking backwards over our shoulders but looking to the future and taking the example of Bargaining for Skills and the Return to Learn programmes and other similar measures that unions within the TUC have been implementing.

They should join in partnership with the new Government in making it possible to bring alive adult and continuing education in the way that the early Labour and trades union Movement began so many years ago with the Mechanics Institutes. That is why we have appointed Bob Fryer, the principal of the Northern College, to head the Advisory Group to reinvent adult and continuing education in the community and the workplace so that we can draw on the experience that members of the TUC, and the TUC itself, have had.

Earlier this afternoon, a delegate spoke about her experience on the Health and Safety courses, Levels I and II. I used to teach those courses back in the 1970s. I was proud of that and, as a Secretary of State, it is my job to make sure that trades union education and skills for life are at the top of the agenda. As we invest in nursery provision ‑‑ we have removed the nursery voucher scheme which people said it would take us a year to do; we did it in three months ‑‑ as we remove the assisted places’ scheme and divert the money in the coming years to lower class sizes, and as we take up the cudgel of stopping the cut‑backs, redundancies and retrenchment from next April as we invest the , 1 billion that Tony Blair talked about, we do so only as a foundation. Many of your members, just like myself when I was a youngster in the community in which I was born and grew up, did not have a first chance, never mind a second or third chance.

The idea is to bring about lifelong learning in and out of the workplace, making the issue of employability and skills come alive for people who have been denied those opportunities. It is bringing alive partnership in practice for everyone in our communities and taking up the cudgel that the TUC have so gallantly laid down in terms of setting an example. That is why I am so proud to be able to be here and to offer the award this afternoon. I have been on a learning curve over the last few weeks as well. In fact, I am thinking of inventing an NVQ Level IV for Cabinet Ministers so that we can make ourselves qualified for the job. We just have to hang on to it long enough to be able to ensure that we make it in practice. Just as we get to the point where we think we are experts, we are either sacked or reshuffled!

The skills’ revolution is about job security in the cabinet and job security at work. I commend everyone this afternoon in taking the agenda forward in the way that the Prime Minister indicated, a modern trades union Movement in a modern Britain, moving to a new century, preparing and equipping people to take on that challenge. You will be looking at the global economy anew but ensuring that in your hearts you know what you are doing to ensure that the people who rely on you have the grasp, equipment and tools to be able to do the job and to fend for themselves.

It is a tremendous challenge. Together with Margaret Beckett and Ian McCartney from my department who have been here, I hope to be able to work on that new agenda. I congratulate the TUC and all of you for the Investors in People Award. I present the award this afternoon, not to Morecambe, not to Wise, but to John Monks, General Secretary of the TUC.

Tony Blair – 1997 Speech on the Environment

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The speech below was made by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in his constituency of Sedgefield on Friday 14th November 1997.

I am delighted to be back in my constituency at such an exciting and important event. Sedgefield is one of the pioneers of the sustainable communities’ project.

Britain will never be a modern, forward-looking country if it is a place whose beauty, character, air, rivers, are polluted, defaced, and contaminated.

To be modern is to be green. It is about seeking new solutions to new environmental challenges. Not just so that future generations have a planet that is still inhabitable but so that all of us going about our lives today can improve our quality of life. And it is about working with business to ensure that our companies and industry are able to take advantage of the huge opportunities that markets for new technologies offer. Many businesses already recognise that this agenda is an opportunity not a threat.

It is also about recognising that we will only succeed if we work together. Individuals, business, communities and government must all act if we are to meet these new challenges. Communities such as Sedgefield are taking the lead.

Today we have all seen examples of people and communities who have decided to take effective and practical action to change their lifestyles so that they benefit and the environment benefits. I am particularly pleased that so many different businesses and organisations have been involved, from Northumbrian Water, to the library, from Fujitsu to local schools, working together in partnership. I hope that many more local communities will take up the challenge.

And I welcome Going for Green’s “Eco-Cal” initiative – a computer based tool to help people measure how green their lifestyle is. It encourages people to recycle, to walk more, to turn their thermostats down, to wash their car with a bucket not a hose.

It will help all of us save money on our energy bills, improve the quality of our local environment-in short how to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Small changes can collectively make a big difference to energy use. There are so many simple things that can be done when you realise the waste that occurs in our daily lives;

Every nine months households generate enough waste to fill Lake Windermere.

A third of household waste is packaging.

Hosing a car for ten minutes uses almost 100 litres of water.

Leaving a computer screen on all night uses enough power to print 800 pages of A4 paper.

Lighting an empty office overnight is equivalent to making 1,000 cups of coffee.

What these facts show is that working towards a greener country doesn’t require a PhD in bio-chemistry merely a degree of common sense and thought.

Well over half of all journeys are less than 5 miles and if we did more of them on foot or by bike rather than by car we would save ourselves money, avoid causing pollution and make ourselves a bit healthier – in short improve our quality of life.

Our job as a government is to encourage local action of this sort but also to take a lead ourselves.

Since May 1 we have done just that.

In a few short months we have:

Set tough targets on leakage for water companies to meet.

Given £3m to the Iwokrama rainforest in Guyana.

Published a White paper on international development committing Britain to sustainable development.

But I want to do more. I want to tackle head on the serious and growing pressures on the country’s transport systems.

We cannot carry on as we are. We know the problem. Congestion in our cities is increasing. At times there is complete log-gam. Pollution, noise, personal frustration, road rage, as well as extra costs and inconvenience is the result.

That is why we are undertaking a fundamental review of transport policy so that we have an integrated transport policy that makes public transport a real and attractive alternative.

Of course many people will always want to use their car. Often their livelihood depends on it. That is why we must take advantage of new technological advances to ensure that we minimise the adverse environmental impact of car use.

Firstly we will provide £5m of grant funding to be matched by industry funds to help industry and academia work together to develop vehicles that are more environmental friendly through the foresight Vehicle Link programme.

I want us to find new ways of making car use greener.

So I have asked Ian McAllister of Fords, president of the society of Motor Manufacturers, to join with Gavin Strang in setting up a partnership between government and the private sector to find ways of making it easier for the public to switch to greener vehicles, more fuel efficient vehicles.

I want people to be able to make real choices, and choosing an environmentally friendly car should be a real cost-effective alternative. We need new attitudes, so that more drivers think green.

We are also taking action on air quality.

Our first step will be to put in place a National Air Quality Strategy. We will give local authorities the tools they need to assess air quality and devise strategies to deal with problem areas. Local authorities in seven areas are going to be given the powers to carry out roadside checks on vehicles to make sure that all vehicles are up to standard. If this is successful it will be extended throughout the country.

Second, we are going to make information about air quality easier to understand, so that people will be able to judge us on the progress we make.

And we will also use the opportunity of our Presidency in the EU next year to make progress on reaching agreements to ensure that cars, vans and lorries sold throughout the EU minimise their emissions.

This government’s lead is not just about what we can do in Britain but how we can influence the international community.

The government is convinced of the need to tackle the factors which contribute to climate change. Many of you will be aware that Sir Robert May, the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser published a report in October which showed the evidence is now clear.

At current trends carbon dioxide will be present in the atmosphere at twice pre-industrial levels by the middle of the next century and still rising. The IPPC predict this would mean an average global temperature rise of about 2.5° by the end of the next century. This could lead to a rise in sea levels of up to 50cm on average causing widespread flooding of low lying coastal areas.

It is a global problem and needs a global solution. The Kyoto conference in December is an opportunity to show that we and other developed countries are serious about taking this challenge on. We are in the forefront of efforts to secure a successful outcome at Kyoto. John Prescott has done sterling work in the negotiations so far and will continue to play a key role in the next few weeks to press for progress. We are urging all developed countries to agree to take on serious targets to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

I do not underestimate the challenges that we face in securing a meaningful agreement. But I also say that we should not underestimate the potential threat that climate change poses and it is vital that developed countries take the lead in reducing emissions.

The message of today is that local action by individuals and national action by government can work together to make sure that progress today does not mean a degraded environment tomorrow.

Britain is the country of Constable and Turner; of rural dreams and seaside holidays; of the Lake District and spectacular coastlines; the prettiest villages and the most vibrant cities.

To be modern is to make our historic love of the countryside and of nature a modern day commitment to protect and sustain our environment. In Sedgefield today and Kyoto in December we see two ways in which we, the British people, can made an important start.

Tony Blair – 1997 Speech to the CBI

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The below speech was made to the CBI Conference at Birmingham on Tuesday 11th November 1997 by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

Two years ago when I last addressed the CBI’s National conference, I promised a new partnership between New Labour and business. Six months into office, we have laid the foundations of that partnership.

There are business people bringing their experience and expertise by serving in Government, on Advisory Groups, leading task forces, all contributing to the success of Government policy. But there is also great commitment and enthusiasm, right across the Government, for gorging links with the business community. That this is the approach of a Labour government is of historic importance. It demonstrates we are entering a new era in British politics.

I have described my approach to the development of government economic and industrial policy as the pursuit of a third Way between the laissez-faire of the last 20 years, and the model of statist and corporatist policies that used to be fashionable on the left. Neither of these approaches, new Right or old Left, fits the modern world.

The third way recognises a new and different role for Government. Not as director but as enabling of wealth generation. Not trying to run industry or protect it from proper competition; but stepping in, where the market fails, to equip business and industry to compete better in that market. And the market today is global. Technology, travel, communication, financial services are shrinking the world.

It will require us, as a nation, constantly to adapt and change. The third way is to try to construct a partnership between Government and business to help us cope with change and success in the face of its challenge.

Margaret Beckett set out this morning the progress she’s made on building a partnership between the DTI and business to promote competitiveness. Yesterday Gordon spoke of the measures we have taken to secure long-term stability. Later this month in the pre-budget report he will make it clear that removing barriers to growth is central to the task he has set himself at the Treasury.

And beyond those departments throughout the new Government there is the understanding that creating the conditions for growth, enterprise and competitiveness is a job for all of us in Government.

Britain has world-class industries and world-class firms. We have real strengths and outstanding successes. Inward investors from around the world have found Britain a good place to do business.

All this is to be praised and admired. But we should also acknowledge that often the performance of our firms and industries does not match the standards of the best at home and abroad.

Today the DTI has published a report benchmarking the |UK economy – comparing our performance with our competitors. It shows that, while there are British firms competing effectively with the world’s best, many are not. The message is clear: we need to redouble our efforts to match the standards set by the best companies in the world. And ‘benchmarking’ – seeking out and implementing best practice – can be a powerful tool for improving performance. It’s a message everyone in the country and industry needs to heed. Raising performance to match the best in the world is the challenge for modern business in Britain. This is why I warmly welcome the launch of the CBI’s ‘Fit for the Future’ initiative to promote best practice. I wish it success.

But important though these initiatives are, they have little prospect of success unless firmly set within a framework of economic policy to build strength for the long-term. I am an unrepentant long-termist. There aren’t quick fixes to get economic success. Politicians who promise them are not telling the truth.

What we can do, though, is to be clear about our direction and purpose as a nation.

Yesterday at the Mansion House in London, I set out the five priorities of a modern foreign policy for Britain. Today let me set out the basic principles of a modern economic policy for Britain.

It rests on one key belief: to succeed, today, Britain must be the world’s No 1 creative economy. We will win by brains or not at all. We will compete on enterprise and talent or fail.

The partnership I advocate is not some cosy old consensus. It is a hard-headed look at what Government and business need to do together to reach that goal.

These are the principles.

First, we must end Britain’s affliction of boom and bust economies and run a well-managed, tight economic ship. Interest rate decisions taken on the basis of politics are bad decisions which is why we gave the Bank of England independence to make these decisions. I know it’s hard to have interest rate rises and consequent pressure on the pound as we choke off inflation that was back in the system. It was hard, too, to ensure that the July Budget got our public finances on a more stable footing so that we eliminated the structural budget deficit. But I believe passionately that we were right in both cases. Better to have interest rate rises now – still at 7 per cent – than to go back to the early ’90s when they were at 15 per cent for a year. Better to have cut the deficit now than to carry on paying out now just in debt interest payments more than we spend on schools.

Our aim is to rid this country of the vicious cycle of boom and bust that has plagued us for so long. Families, entrepreneurs, all of us feel recession and fear economic instability. It threatens our business, it threatens our job, it makes our mortgage harder to pay, it means we work harder for less reward. That is why the Chancellor and I are determined to take the tough decisions now to ensure long term stability. I want every business to have the security to plan its expansion, every family the stability to pay the mortgage and afford a holiday, every entrepreneur the security to take the risks that are needed to set up new enterprises.

I have promised sound public finances and monetary policy and I will deliver them.

Second, the absolute number one priority for our domestic policy is education. I won’t rehearse the argument. You know it and agree. This Government is making the most concerted effort to tackle poor standards in schools since the war. We have set ourselves some pretty rigorous targets of achievement. I am determined to get there. If we reform student finance – another hard decision, but right – we can also end the cap on student numbers and get resources back into the science and research base of our universities. There can be no first class education system without first rank universities.

Third, we are beginning the process of welfare reform, to encourage work, education and savings. I congratulate business on what it is doing to help us with the programme to tackle long-term youth unemployment. I don’t believe any youngster should leave school and go on the dole. There should be work and skills available and a responsibility to take the opportunities offered. The Green Paper will say more on how we make the tax and benefits system more work-friendly. We are working now on how we reform pension provision for the long-term.

You may say: what’s this got to do with business? I say: everything. Because we cannot carry on spending more and more on social failure. We need to use the talents of the unemployed, not waste them; and encourage work and savings precisely to enforce long-term stability. That is why welfare reform is an essential part of our business strategy.

Fourth, we must keep on looking at how we stimulate enterprise and initiative. The world of work is different today. Many more will work in different ways, in their own business or at home. We will keep a flexible labour market. Even where you may have doubts about certain parts of policy – a minimum wage or trade union representation – remember: that we are consulting business every step of the way; and that taken altogether, the entire changes proposed would still leave us with a labour market considerably less regulated than that of the USA. But flexibility is about more than a light tough on regulation. It is also about helping small businesses, as we are doing. Lifting their burden as with the reduction in corporation tax and especially small businesses corporation tax to its lowest ever level. It is about technology and how we train people to use it.

It is about competition. Who would have thought eighteen years ago a Competition Bill would have been in the first Queen’s Speech of a new Labour Government?

Fifth, we must work with you to renew the country’s infrastructure, especially its transport system.

Sixth, we must get the best out of our membership of the EU for Britain.

On a single currency, I would simply say this. It is important for Britain that the single currency succeeds. Whether we are in or out. If the economic benefits are clear and unambiguous in favour of going in, we want Britain to be part of a successful single currency. And we want business to prepare for that eventuality and make a practical reality of it, as only business can.

To join too early would imply a massive monetary relaxation in the UK at a time when our economy is near the peak of the cycle. There would be a risk of setting off a short-lived inflationary boom that it would then require a long period of recession to overcome. That is precisely the economics of boom and bust which this government was elected to bring to an end. That is why joining this Parliament is unrealistic.

But we must now prepare so that as the point of decision comes, it will be taken on the basis of a clear and unambiguous assessment of Britain’s economic interests. We will put the national economic interest first, and there will be a referendum of the people on the decision.

We have made a pledge to our partners that we will do all we can to ensure a successful start to the single currency in our EU presidency. Our role will be constructive and engaged.

But we will also work hard to ensure that the single currency is set up on a sound footing. We must become Europe’s reformers. Monetary union is a unique and ambitious project. To make it work Europe will need to demonstrate a new adaptability and flexibility. We shall work for that. We will fight hard for a modern and flexible labour market in Europe; and I believe the forthcoming Jobs Summit in Luxembourg will show we are starting to make progress.

Making a reality of the single market is a key priority. Legislation that has been agreed in Brussels needs to be properly applied in Member States. The single market is far from complete and too many distortions in the form of state aids and the rest remain.

David Simon has taken the lead in Government on this issue, he has been working closely with the Commission on the Single Market Action Plan and he will make sure we pursue this vigorously during our EU Presidency next year.

We will fight strenuously for reform of the EU Budget.

I don’t want Britain to become constructive in Europe just by giving in to whatever is proposed by any other European country or the Commission. I want us to be able to persuade for the case for change. But we cannot persuade unless people believe our objectives are rooted in commonsense and reason, not narrow chauvinism.

These objectives – the six principles – are clear and right. With your support they are achievable.

It means setting aside many of the dogmas of the past from left and right. But that is no bad thing. For countries to succeed today, their political leaders must liberate themselves from the old ideologies that plunged the 20th Century into such strife and folly.

Britain is uniquely placed. There is fresh confidence and optimism: fresh understanding of the joys of our history but also the great prospects of our future. There is a new sense of national purpose. Our direction is clear. Help us to get there. For the first time in a generation, I am confident it can be done. So, together, let us do it.

Tony Blair – 1997 Speech in Paris

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Below is the text of a speech made by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in Paris on the 27th May 1997.

Fellow Heads of Government, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am grateful to President Chirac for hosting this historic event, and for once the word historic is indeed meritous. A new European landscape is being reclaimed from the battlegrounds of the 20th century and this agreement is part of it.

My father fought in the last great European war. I was born in 1953, a child of the Cold War eara, raised amid the constant fear of a conflict with the potential to destroy all of humanity. Whatever other dangers may exist, no such fear exists today. Mine is the first generation able to contemplate the possibility that we may live our entire lives without going to war or sending our children to war. That is a prize beyond value and this agreement is a great contribution to it.

The drawing of this new European landscape has not been easy, as many in this room know better than I. Stability and prosperity are never assured, they can never be taken for granted, but throughout central and eastern Europe political and economic miracles are being wrought. People raised on suffering and pain sense stability and prosperity can now lie ahead. We must encourage that, all of us, in every way that we can. NATO has served my country well, it has served Europe well, it remains the cornerstone of Europes defence.

And now we can build on this agreement between NATO and Russia we have signed today. And I say that we must not stop here but must go on. I see three priorities. First, using the consultation mechanisms in the founding act fully and effectively. Success will be measured not by the number of meetings, but by the emergence of real mutual confidence and cooperation. Secondly, we must work together wherever we can on the military side. The political links between the countries of NATO and Russia are much stronger than those on the military net. Let us use this act to correct this. Generals who know each other and trust each other are more likely to understand each other and avoid mistakes. Thirdly, we must ensure we are not bound by the confines of this founding act. Its use can grow as that partnership deepens. Let us not be afraid of bold thinking about the new world in which we find ourselves today.

Fifty years ago Europe was recovering from the devastation of war. Thirty years ago, east and west faced each other with mistrust across the Iron Curtain and a massive arms race was the result. Even ten years ago the tensions and divisions were palpable. In these last ten years so much as changed. The east has broken free from the yoke of totalitarian communist dictatorship in no small measure due to the bravery of men like President Yeltsin.

For its part, NATO is still coming to terms with what this seismic change implies. Of course there are problems to overcome, that is inevitable, but now our common aim, east and west, is to make this new political world work. Today we have the opportunity in this agreement to do so. This agreement, born out of the vision and courage of nations determined not to repeat the past, is historys gift to our future. Let us guard it jealously and use it wisely.