Margaret Thatcher – 1999 Statement on General Pinochet


Below is the text of the statement made in the House of Lords by Baroness Margaret Thatcher on 6 July 1999.

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Lamont has done the House a service by initiating this short debate on a matter of great importance to Britain’s reputation, to Chile’s stability and to the orderly conduct of international relations. I shall try to deal with each of those matters while seeking to avoid remarks about the case itself.

Britain’s reputation should be of vital importance to the government of the day. Our reputation sustains our interests. The Pinochet case has sullied that reputation. Senator Pinochet came here last September as a long-standing friend of Britain. Though I shall not go into the details, I can say that without President Pinochet’s considerable practical help in 1982, many more of our servicemen would have lost their lives in the South Atlantic. The country thus owes him a great debt.

After leaving power he was accordingly received here as an honoured guest on a number of occasions. Similarly, on 22nd September last year, when he entered Britain on a diplomatic passport charged with a special mission by the current Chilean President, he was accorded all the privileges of an ambassador, including the protection of the Metropolitan Police Diplomatic Protection Squad.

However, some weeks later the general was arrested in hospital at dead of night, when under heavy sedation following a serious back operation. There is a widespread suspicion that there had been collusion between the British and Spanish authorities prior to the arrest, when the Chileans were not given the warning they might have expected about the imminent risk. That inhumane arrest was in any case made on the basis of an unlawful warrant. Senator Pinochet was then held for six days illegally under that warrant. Those circumstances left Britain’s reputation for loyalty and fair dealing in tatters.

Secondly, I want to speak about the situation in Chile—this country’s oldest and truest friend in Latin America. The great majority of Chileans, even the political opponents of Senator Pinochet, feel wounded at the way we and the Spanish have treated them. They are right to do so. Until the Senator’s arrest last October, Chile had achieved three remarkable successes, all of them in large measure due to former President Pinochet.

First, it had seen the total defeat of communism at a time when that ideology was advancing throughout the hemisphere. As Eduardo Frei, the former Christian Democrat president of Chile put it: “The military saved Chile”. Secondly, Chile has seen the establishment of a thriving, free-enterprise economy which has transformed living standards and made Chile into a model for Latin America. Thirdly, Chile is also remarkable because President Pinochet established a constitution for a return to democracy, held a plebiscite to decide whether or not he should remain in power, lost the vote (though gaining 44 per cent support), respected the result and handed over power to a democratically-elected successor.

Chile thus enjoyed prosperity, democracy and reconciliation—until we and the Spanish arrogantly chose to interfere in her affairs. So far, the Chileans have behaved with great restraint. But we should not assume that this will continue, particularly if Senator Pinochet, who is not now in the best of health, were to die in Britain or is taken to Spain. Anything that happens then will be the direct responsibility of this Government and, in particular, of the Home Secretary.

My final point concerns the implications of the Pinochet case for the conduct of international relations, which are essentially based on trust between nation states. This trust has now been shattered by the prospect of the courts in one country seeking the extradition of former heads of government from a second country for offences allegedly committed in a third country.

Senator Pinochet is, of course, being victimised because the organised international Left are bent on revenge. But on his fate depends much else besides. Henceforth, all former heads of government are potentially at risk; those still in government will be inhibited from taking the right action in a crisis, because they may later appear before a foreign court to answer for it—

Lord Carter My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness would be kind enough to give way.

Baroness Thatcher My Lords, I am nearly at the end of my speech.

Lord Carter My Lords, I should just like to remind the noble Baroness that this is a timed debate and the limit for each speaker is four minutes. The noble Baroness is now in her seventh minute. I wonder whether she could now bring her remarks to a close.

Baroness Thatcher My Lords, I am very close to the end and I very rarely take up the time of this House. It will now take me longer because the noble Lord interrupted me in the middle of a sentence.
Henceforth, all former heads of government are potentially at risk; those still in government will be inhibited from taking the right action in a crisis, because they may later appear before a foreign court to answer for it and—this is where I was when I was interrupted—in a final ironic twist, those who do wield absolute power in their countries are highly unlikely now to relinquish it for fear of ending their days in a Spanish prison. This is a Pandora’s box which has been opened—and unless Senator Pinochet returns safely to Chile, there will be no hope of closing it.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech at NSPCC Full Stop Campaign Launch


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, made at the NSPCC Full Stop Campaign Launch on 23 March 1999.

NB – the original numbers have been lost from the transcript.

Your Royal Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am delighted and honoured to be here this morning to launch a campaign that I believe will be something very special. Something that is going to make a difference.

Something that Jim Harding has just said sticks in my mind. Cruelty to children is not inevitable. It can be prevented. We can act effectively to tackle it. There is hope. We cannot and will not be deflected from ending it.

Child poverty is one issue. I have no doubt the circumstances in which a child is brought up, play a huge part in their development. It is the reason for the focus of policy on social exclusion. Kids brought up in a culture of family instability, drugs, crime, poor housing and education, long-term unemployment. All these problems need to be confronted head-on. In other words, we must have both hope and ambition.

By the end of this Parliament, we aim to lift 700,000 children out of poverty.

All this will help. But it needs more. This campaign has one Big Idea. It is a long-term idea. It is that children are everybody’s responsibility.

It is about personal, professional and public responsibility for children. That is, our responsibility. Everyone’s responsibility.

Because ending cruelty is not just in the interests of children themselves.

It is in everyone’s interest.

The Full Stop Campaign’s goal is to end child cruelty. But it is much more than that. It is about ending cruelty and replacing it – where it exists – with positive support for parents. I therefore wholehearted endorse a strategy based on:

– better access to help and advice for everyone – children and parents alike

– through schools, helplines, the internet and local community organisations and networks

– and through particular initiatives like making parks and open spaces safer for children

– and providing a birthpack which gives guidance to new parents, for every baby born in the new millennium.

The Government is complementing what you are doing now. We have already put in place tough legislation on sex offenders. We will support the Private Member’s Bill sponsored by Deborah Shipley, which will for the first time put the Department of Health’s Consultancy Index on a statutory footing and help to unsuitable prevent adults from working with children.

A �0 million programme Sure Start will be available to local partnerships to deliver support services, including family support, childcare, primary healthcare, early learning and play. Some of these services may be provided in the home. The Sure Start programme will help children be ready to thrive when they reach school. Each programme will service the local community within ‘pram pushing’ distance.

We are also undertaking a far reaching programme to improve the quality of services for vulnerable children at risk or in care. The ‘Quality Protects’ Programme to transform the quality of children’s care will be backed by a special grant of �5million.

Through this, we will take steps to strengthen the regulatory system to ensure that all children’s homes and fostering agencies are subject to welfare inspections. We will establish a new Regional Commission for Care Standards to make sure that children’s services are properly licensed and inspected.

We are doing this because children are central to our overall agenda for social policy. We need to break the cycle of disadvantage so that children born into poverty, or let down by the education system, or abused, are not condemned to social exclusion and deprivation in adulthood. So throughout their childhood, children must get a better deal.

As Prince Andrew said, as a father he supports this campaign. It is as a father I support this campaign. The government supports this campaign.

The private passion we feel for our children should become the public passion we feel for our children.

I believe ending cruelty to children is the right idea at the right time. It is the best way to invest in the future. We all have a part to play. Let it be our ambition for Britain for the new Millennium.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech at Maths 2000 Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, at the Maths 2000 Conference held on 16 March 1999.

This conference is to announce that next year will be Maths Year 2000 – following this year’s National Year of Reading.

But let me start with the bigger picture.

Education is this government’s top priority. That is why we are investing an extra £19 billion in education over the next three years, an unprecedented commitment to our children’s future.

It is investment for modernisation and higher standards at every level. Because without change, we will never achieve our goals.

Our programme of modernisation extends right across the education system:

  • A huge expansion of nursery and under-fives provision, to give our children the best possible start in life.
  • A transformation in the teaching of the basics in primary schools, so that all 11-year-olds are up to standard in literacy and numeracy.
  • A modernisation of the comprehensive system – including a significant increase in the number of specialist and beacon schools – so that secondary schools develop the skills of young people of all abilities.
  • A reform of the teaching profession, to reward performance properly and to improve the status, training and reputation of a profession which has been undervalued for too long.
  • A reform of further and higher education, raising standards, extending opportunities, and modernising the system of student finance to make it sustainable for the next generation.

This is the big picture – a government committed to the serious investment and reform needed to create a world-class education system for this country. At every level it requires step-change – step-change in aspirations, step-change in attainment, and step-change in confidence that we can meet our goals if we resolve to do so.

Maths Year 2000 is part of that big picture, and a key part. As a country, we have devalued mathematics for too long.

It is frankly scandalous that four in ten of our eleven-year-olds are not up to the basic numeracy standard expected of their age. And we need to do far more to ensure that adults who lack basic numeracy skills have the opportunity to acquire them.
This means destroying the myth that’s it’s clever to be hopeless at maths.

The urgent priority is to improve the teaching of maths in our schools, particularly primary schools, which lay the foundations for success or failure. The national numeracy strategy, to be launched this September, is designed to achieve this.

But we must also forge a new status for maths within society as a whole – to make numeracy more accessible, even fun. That’s what Maths Year 2000 is all about.

We want to see projects to popularise maths in every community nationwide – involving schools, colleges, businesses, shops, the media, and voluntary organisations.

One of the successes of the Year of Reading has been Mersey TV’s Brookside adult literacy initiative – “Brookie Basics”. I look forward to something similar for numeracy – if not on Brookside, then perhaps a venue equally popular.

I am therefore delighted that Carol Vorderman spoke to you earlier. I’m told that her theme was ‘Why is maths so scary?’ – We need to eliminate the fear and replace it with confidence in dealing with numbers in every age group nationwide.

It is especially important that we instil that confidence in children during their first years at school.

A child who cannot read cannot learn. And a child who lacks confidence in arithmetic and basic maths is equally disadvantaged in modern life.

Yet we inherited a situation where a third of our eleven-year-olds were not up to standard in English, with an even higher proportion not up to standard in maths.

There is no more important task for us all – government, teachers, parents, business and the wider community – than putting this right.

That’s why we launched the national literacy strategy last September, with the literacy hour and high quality training and support. This has been widely welcomed by teachers, and is already making an impact.

Now we are doing the same with numeracy. Many primary schools already have a daily maths lesson, with structured learning programmes to support it. We are taking a big step forward, and this week will be sending comprehensive training and support materials to all schools for the new national numeracy strategy, which will lead to the numeracy hour in primary schools from this September.

The numeracy strategy has been extensively piloted already, and has received an extremely positive response.

Far from being regarded as an imposition, it is seen for what it is – first class support for teachers in planning and delivering maths classes, on a daily basis, to meet the expectations of parents that all children should be up to standard by the time they leave primary school.

The training materials are only the first step. With the extra investment for education more than 300 numeracy consultants have been appointed to train and support teachers. Primary head teachers and other teachers will receive training in the next school term, and there will be additional training for schools that need it.

We are also continuing to expand our numeracy summer school programme, which has been highly successful in raising standards. There will be more than 300 numeracy summer schools during this year’s summer holidays.

This is an important day for head teachers, teachers, and all those involved in maths education. Maths Year 2000, and the national numeracy strategy, give us the chance to make a step-change in maths competence across society, starting in our schools.

Our numeracy target is for 75% of all 11-year-olds to be up to standard by 2002. We are now at 59%.

We need to commit ourselves – together – to doing everything necessary to meet the 75% target. I am convinced we can do it. The numeracy strategy is in place. We have allocated the necessary resources to back it up. The will is there. Now we need to deliver.

There is no more important challenge facing us as a country. I wish you well in everything you are doing to make a success of Maths Year 2000 and our numeracy strategy.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech at NATO’s 50th Anniversary


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, on 8 March 1999.

A 50th anniversary is a time to celebrate the achievements of the past and to plan ahead for the future. This conference, which I am delighted to have a chance to address, is an opportunity for open debate among friends and partners on the way ahead for the NATO Alliance, a debate which I warmly welcome. The 50th Anniversary Summit next month in Washington will be the time for decisions as well as celebration. It will shape the way we provide for our defence and security for the early part of the 21st century.

The Alliance is fortunate to have at its helm a Secretary General of the quality and fine touch of Javier Solana. I am delighted that he will be speaking here tomorrow, and would like to thank him for all the work he has done. I am glad that Jose Cutileiro, who has steered the work of the Western European Union so ably, is also attending.
The range of representation here today, including from countries beyond NATO’s borders – Russia, Ukraine, Central Europe, including the Baltic States, and elsewhere – shows how NATO’s horizons have widened. East and West, divided for too long, are now intertwined. NATO guaranteed the stability and defence of Western Europe since its foundation 50 years ago. It is now adapting and developing.

But there are unique qualities which we must hold on to.
NATO binds the United States and Canada with Europe. NATO members guarantee each others defence. We have an integrated military structure in which our forces plan for operations under a single command structure. NATO has prevented the nationalisation of defence for the first time in modern Europe. It is these qualities which have made the Alliance so strong and which we must preserve and cherish into the next century.


In the Cold War NATO’s main role was the defence of its own members in the face of a persistent and very real threat. Now, NATO exports security to others. We are now creating a framework of stability and security across the whole Euro-Atlantic area, with NATO at the core. The main tool is NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme. Partnership with 43 countries, including many who were once our adversaries.

Our partnerships with Russia and Ukraine are the most important. Negotiated so skilfully by Secretary-General Solana, backed by the vision and good sense of US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who is speaking here later today, the NATO-Russia Founding Act ushered in a new era for Russian co-operation with the West. We now consult with Russia more intensively than ever before on issues ranging from proliferation and arms control to the Balkans and the Millennium Bug. The NATO-Ukraine Commission, too, is building up a track record, increasing understanding and laying the framework for working together.


Three of our Partners – Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – have gone beyond partnership and later this week, at a ceremony at Independence, Missouri, will become members of the Alliance itself. These three countries which were fought over for too long, and this century rarely enjoyed real independence, will take the ultimate step to guarantee their defence by becoming members of the Alliance. They will also share responsibility for the defence of their fellow Allies.

I hope they and other European countries will also become members of the European Union in a few years time. NATO and the European Union, perhaps the World’s two most successful organisations, extending their reach and the benefits they bring.

NATO enlargement not only underpins the defence of its new members. It will also strengthen European security as a whole. Although Russia and others have their concerns, I believe these are now receding as the defensive nature of the Alliance and our wish for genuine partnership becomes clearer.

I want the process of NATO enlargement to continue, at the right pace. At the Washington Summit, we will commit ourselves to helping other applicants to prepare themselves to come through NATO’s open door. I look forward to more countries joining once they and NATO itself are ready, and as their inclusion in the Alliance strengthens European security as a whole.


Sadly, the countries of the former Yugoslavia have not all shared in the progress made by NATO’s partners. NATO was slow to become engaged in the Balkan wars of the 1990s. We tried to bring peace to Bosnia through the UN and with political good offices but without the willingness to use force which we now know was necessary. Our troops, under the auspices of the UN, did a good job at great risk, to deliver humanitarian relief. But they could only deal with the symptoms of the problem. It was NATO that brought serious force to bear and gave the desperately needed muscle to end the war. Since Dayton, NATO has underpinned the peace and created the conditions in which Bosnia can rebuild.

In Kosovo, we will not repeat those early mistakes in Bosnia. We will not allow war to devastate a part of our continent, bringing untold death, suffering and homelessness. Robin Cook and Hubert Vedrine, with their partners in the Contact Group, made good progress at Rambouillet towards an interim political settlement based on substantial autonomy.

But political agreement is not enough: the Balkans are littered with agreements that are signed but not implemented. To make an agreement work, to bring stability to Kosovo, an international force is an indispensable element. Only NATO is equipped to lead it. Either side in the negotiations can wreck the chances of full agreement. But both must understand their interest in success.

The Kosovars should see that the time has come for the Kosovo Liberation Army to cease its operations and accept demilitarisation.
The Serbs must reduce their forces to agreed levels and allow a NATO-led force to underpin the new autonomy arrangements.
We will not accept prevarication in the negotiations. No side can be allowed to obstruct the process. In this crucial period President Milosevic and his commanders must also understand that NATO will not stand by in the face of renewed repression in Kosovo or atrocities like the one we witnessed recently at Racak. Nor can the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

True peace and security will not come to the Former Yugoslavia until authoritarian, nationalist governments give way to democracy based on ideas rather than ethnicity. Free press, a market economy, responsible and accountable government and an end to repression are all essential for the long term. NATO can help by providing a stable base. But it is for the people of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia to build their own civil societies and free institutions.

The countries of the Former Yugoslavia will integrate into the European mainstream eventually. Their leaders and societies have to become more like their counterparts in West and Central Europe before that can happen. I expect to see further political change in the Balkans. But political change should be achieved by political means. More war will only set back those dreams of security and prosperity to which the ordinary people of the Balkans aspire.


In dealing with the Balkan wars of the 1990s the full strength of the Alliance, Europeans and Americans working together, has been needed. Alliance cohesion with a strong US role, have given clout to our political efforts, and forced the warring factions to stop fighting and start negotiating. US engagement in European security was essential to our success. It will remain essential in dealing with future wars and other profound challenges to security and stability on our continent.

The initiative I launched last autumn on European defence is aimed at giving greater credibility to Europe’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. Far from weakening NATO this is an essential complement to the Transatlantic Alliance. We Europeans should not expect the United States to have to play a part in every disorder in our own back yard. The European Union should be able to take on some security tasks on our own, and we will do better through a common European effort than we can by individual countries acting on their own.

Europe’s military capabilities at this stage are modest. Too modest. Too few allies are transforming their armed forces to cope with the security problems of the 1990s and the 21st century. To strengthen NATO and to make European defence a reality, we Europeans need to restructure our defence capabilities so that we can project force, can deploy our troops, ships and planes beyond their home bases and sustain them there, equipped to deal with whatever level of conflict they may face. George Robertson will address this issue in more detail when he speaks to you on Wednesday. But let me assure you of this: European defence is not about new institutional fixes. It is about new capabilities, both military and diplomatic.

The declaration which President Jacques Chirac and I issued at St Malo was the first step to defining the new approach. We decided that we should go beyond the Berlin arrangements agreed by NATO in 1996 to give Europe a genuine capacity to act, and act quickly, in cases where the Alliance as a whole is not militarily engaged. In any particular crisis, the European Union will develop a comprehensive policy. But within that, deployment of forces is a decision for Governments. I see no role for the European Parliament or the Court of Justice. Nor will the European Commission have a decision-making role on military matters.

Anglo-French collaboration has continued and fleshed out the practical requirements for Europeans to decide and act soundly on military matters.

I want our Alliance as a whole to give support to these European developments. I look to our Summit in Washington to endorse some important next steps. It would be foolish and wasteful for Europe to duplicate the tried and tested military structures in which we already play a full part in the Alliance.

We should use what we have in the Alliance. But those structures and assets need to be more readily available for European led operations and we need to be able to rely on them being available. At the same time, we European Allies need to commit ourselves at the Washington Summit to develop the full range of capabilities needed for the sort of crisis management tasks and humanitarian operations where Europe might take the lead. Only then can we make European Defence a reality.

To retain US engagement in Europe, it is important that Europe does more for itself. A Europe with a greater capacity to act will strengthen both the European Union and the Alliance as a whole. And I want our Allies in NATO who are not members of the European Union to be able to play a full role in European operations, without reserve.

With the Alliance’s endorsement and agreement on these points, the next step will be the WEU Ministerial in May where we shall take stock of the first part of the audit of European capabilities, which I suspect will start to reveal how much more we Europeans need. The June European Council in Cologne will be an opportunity to draw these threads together. I hope we will reach agreement there on the principles for new arrangements for security and defence in Europe, giving the European Union a direct role and a close working relationship with NATO.

These tasks are substantial. Our responsibility is huge. 50 years ago a British Labour government helped found the NATO Alliance which locked Europe and North America safely together through all the dangerous years of the Cold War.

We are now creating new arrangements for the 21st century. We do not know exactly what dangers lie before us, what threats we will face. We must be prepared for some difficult challenges, for decades to come. Let us lay the foundations for dealing with them now in a spirit of partnership, cooperation, interdependence and commitment.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech at the Rail Summit


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, at the Rail Summit on 25 February 1999.

Today is an important day for railways in Britain.

In 10 years’ time, I want today to be seen as the day of rail’s new beginning in Britain.

This government rightly focuses much of its intention on raising standards in our schools and hospitals. Education is key to our success as a nation. A thriving NHS gives all of us peace of mind.

But it is transport – our trains, and buses and roads – that often determine the quality of our life.

Most people use them almost every day. Most people face the anger, irritation and frustration when their journey takes twice as long as they would like.

When people talk about the rotten day they have had, they are often talking about the rail journey they have just taken. The train was cancelled. It took twice as long. It was so crowded they did not get a seat.

This has got to stop. A modern Britain needs a modern transport system. That means fast, punctual trains; a modernised efficient London Underground; cities not gummed up by congestion. Passengers given proper information, timetables that are easy to use, fares that don’t break the bank.

That is the agenda of passengers. And John Prescott and I are at this summit to champion the frustrated passenger.

Today’s summit is about how we end the misery and deliver for passengers.

It will take time. Just like rebuilding the NHS. Or creating a first class education system. Or reforming welfare.

These things take time. But today must be a day of commitment.

I know many of you share that commitment. I offer you a partnership to help realise it. But it must be a partnership based on success, results, real, genuine, sustained improvement in our transport system.

We have moved beyond the sterile debate between wholesale privatization and old-style state control. There is a different way. A third way. That’s what we’re doing on the London Underground. That’s what we’re doing with the Channel Tunnel rail link. That’s what we’re doing with the new Strategic Rail Authority.

Now I know that many of you here are working hard for a better rail system. I know that many of you are trying hard to make Britain’s railways better. I pay tribute to those in the industry who are getting results.

But I know as well that many of you here take the view that trying hard isn’t enough. I have to say to you plainly today that overall, the rail industry is not getting good enough results. It is not doing well enough. Its service standards are not high enough.

It needs to start doing better. And it needs to start doing better now.

I know it. Your customers know it. And you know it.

There has to be improvement. Above all in two key areas: in investment, and in service.

For too long Britain’s railways were systematically starved of investment. As a result, the fabric of the railway network we inherited when we came into Government was tattered, and torn. It was patently inadequate for its task. Our railways were, quite frankly, worn out.

I know investment is now increasing. 1800 vehicles, trains and carriages, have now been ordered and will be operative in the next two years. But there must be more. Not just replacing existing capacity but expanding. As a result of decisions taken in the last two years, there will be more drivers and better infrastructure and stock. But with passenger numbers rising we must do more. Because as it stands today, the railway system simply lacks the capacity to sustain our policies to expand both passenger travel and freight transport by rail, and to relieve road and air congestion.

To deliver those policies, we must invest – with the lion’s share of that investment coming from the private sector, in the public-private partnerships trailblazed by John Prescott.

Our watchwords apply to rail as to anywhere else: investment for reform, and money for modernisation. When investment goes up, service standards will go up too.

But at the same time, we need action now to improve services now.

Passenger complaints are rising. And passengers are right to complain because it is unacceptable to see punctuality falling back to the level it used to be under British Rail – and worse.

I know that it’s in part been driven by the growth of the number of passengers, 13 per cent up in the last two years, and in the increased number of services, but it is also the result of mistakes and poor management. Mistakes like getting rid of too many drivers and other staff. Like not having enough reliable rolling stock. Like defects in the track and signaling systems.

I welcome the move by the railway industry to try to combat the curse of a fragmented and incoherent industry. The new Strategic Rail Authority we shall be establishing will be a big help in putting that right. The Industry’s own action plans are steps in the right direction.

But you need to do more. And my central challenge to you today is this: you must improve your performance, improve punctuality and reliability, and combat overcrowding.

You must listen to your customers. You must give the passengers what they want – and what they’re paying for.

If you’re going to be true private sector companies operating in the market, then you must accept that in the railways as in other businesses, the customer really has got to be king.

I’m confident you have the resolve and the responsibility to accept the challenge I’m putting to you today. I believe you will put in place the improvements which are necessary. We will be monitoring your progress closely, and calling you back to another summit next year to hold you to account.

But though I do believe that you will be able to make progress and to secure improvement, I want today to make it perfectly clear to you that you are on trial.

You are failing your customers, and those who continue to fail them have no place in the rail industry of the future.

Companies in breach of their franchise agreements have seen action taken against them by the franchise director. Some of his actions have attracted criticism from people who’ve said they’ve not been tough enough.

You know we intend taking more and better powers to promptly punish poor performance.

But today I want to go further and say this to you: don’t think either that the length of the franchises held by train operating companies means that everything between us is set in stone.

Don’t think that because the franchises are contractually in place, there is nothing we can do to drive forward improvements. That we will have to wait until the franchises come to an end.

We are of course bound by the contractual arrangements reached by our predecessor in government.

But we are willing to go beyond those arrangements by opening negotiations now – negotiations which will lead to an extension of the franchise for the best-performing companies, the real improvers, regardless of when their current franchises are supposed to come to an end.

We know that there are companies who will steer clear of this offer. The poor performers. Those who are unwilling or unable to improve.

For them, the end of their franchise will mean exactly that.

The end.

But we know too that there are companies keen to start negotiating. Companies who are willing to offer improved performance and new investment in exchange for an extension to their franchise. Extra time over which they can earn a return on extra investment.

I welcome that. I look forward to these companies and the new rail authority sitting down in the very near future to start work together to improve standards and improve services.

Delivering on our promises on transport is as important to the Government as delivering on its promises in all our key areas, like education and health.

On transport, as with education and with health, we said we would deliver. And we will.

That’s the challenge for today. That’s the outcome I want to see from this summit.

I’m confident we can do it. I believe we can work together to achieve a step change improvement in rail transport. To take rail into a new era.

Today should be a new beginning for rail in Britain.

A new move towards the railway system of the future our country needs and deserves.

As a key part of a new, dynamic and confident Britain for the 21st century.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech on Modernising Public Services


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, on 26 January 1999.

NB – the original numbers have been lost from the transcript.

I am very pleased to be to speaking to you today. To 500 Charter Mark winners – a record. Many of you are previous winners. 18 of you are here for the third time.

So my first reason for speaking to you today is simple. To say thank you. To say thank you to Dyfed-Powys Police, for investigating every reported crime and solving two thirds of them; to the Compensation Agency in Northern Ireland for cutting costs by a tenth while increasing applicants’ satisfaction by a quarter; to the Newcastle Benefits Agency for working with the local authority to improve their service to pensioners. To say thank you to you all for the work you do.

But there’s another reason. I want others to notice how good government can be. Because we should value our best public servants – people like you – as much as our captains of industry.

Valuing public service

I said last week that we needed to change society’s prejudices about volunteering. That do-gooding shouldn’t be a term of derision. Well it’s the same for public service.

We inherited an under-valued public sector. It is absurd that we ever got into the position under the previous administration where government seemed to devalue the very people it relied upon to deliver its programme. Where private was always best. Where the public sector was always demonised as inefficient.

In the last 21 months, I’ve met many people across the public sector who are as efficient and entrepreneurial as anyone in the private sector, but also have a sense of public duty that is awe-inspiring. Most of them could be earning far more money in business. But they don’t and you don’t.

Why not? Because of a commitment to public service. Because helping a five year old to read, coaxing a patient out of a coma, convicting a burglar is fulfilling in a way that money can’t buy. This country needs its wealth creators, but it needs its social entrepreneurs as well.

So let me say today, loud and clear – this government values public service; this government is proud of its public servants. What made you choose this career is what made me go into politics – a chance to serve, to make a difference. It is not just a job. It is a vocation. Britain relies on that ethos of public service, and we need to rekindle it if we are to deliver improved public services.

After 18 years of public service being talked down, this is a difficult task. There was a time when we could assume that the brightest and best of each generation would want to join the public sector. But that is an assumption we can no longer make, particularly when the financial rewards at the top of the private sector are so great, and too often public sector workers are weighed down by bureaucracy and silly rules.

So this year I want to launch a major new initiative on this. Not delivering a solution from on high, but starting from what public servants think, from your day-to-day experience, your successes and frustrations. Through this speech today I want to start a conversation with public servants and others, about recruitment, retention and motivation. Write to me or take part in the debate on the Number 10 web site. We will respond through the Modernising Government White Paper later this year. And we will not duck the difficult questions you raise.

So, first, we will tackle pay. For example, in teaching, we are proposing the most radical changes to the profession in living memory. In health, we will see that nurses are properly rewarded and improve recruitment and retention. In both, we are revising pay scales and introducing new grades – advanced skills teachers and nurse consultants – so that more can afford to stay at the front-line.
But increased pay must be tied to improved results. And that may mean taking on some sacred cows to make better use of the pay bill. Do we need greater differentials within the public sector? Should we decentralise pay more? What are the lessons of performance pay and where else should we be using it?

Of course, there will always be constraints on public resources. We will never match the salaries at the top end of the private sector. So we need to look at non-financial rewards too.

This is about esteem – from ceremonies like today’s to nominations to the House of Lords, from careers advice to portrayal in the media. But what more should we do?

It’s about career prospects. So in both teaching and health we are looking to fast-track careers. But what more do we need to do to retain the enthusiasm of young people? Should we be devolving responsibility earlier and further down our organisations? How can we spot those with exceptional potential and bring them on quicker?

It is about making sure we get the best people into public service drawn from all sections of the community and all ethnic and religious backgrounds. So for example new patterns of family life mean working habits must change. But progress is often frustratingly slow. What more could we do to make a difference?

It’s about developing skills. So, we’re creating the Centre for Management and Policy Studies in Whitehall – a virtual business school for the public sector. There are similar initiatives in health, education, local government. But again we may need to do more.
It’s about greater career flexibility. So we are examining how we can make it easier for people to move between departments and around the public sector. And we need to get more interchange with the private sector – so it becomes routine rather than exceptional for there to be private sector appointments to the civil service for a few years and civil servants gaining experience in the private sector before rejoining the civil service.

And of course it means not tolerating mediocrity in the public sector. I make no apology for saying that we cannot afford incompetent teachers, nurses, police officers, local government workers. Because all that will do is undermine the good work done by people like you. So, what more could we do to have fast but fair disciplinary and incompetence procedures?

Modernising public services

So we need to value and reward public servants. But the main reason people will come into the public sector and their most important reward will still be the chance to make a difference, to be part of a public service they are proud of. So I now want to turn to our strategy for modernising public services.

This must start with a diagnosis of the problems faced by the public sector. First, they needed proper investment, especially schools and hospitals. So, over the next three years, we are investing in our public services – � billion in health and education alone.

But the problem was not just how much government spent. It was how it was spent. Ministers traditionally spent most of their time fighting yearly spending rounds. Departments pursued policies that were contradictory. Efficiencies were covered up for fear the Treasury would take the money back. Front line workers were hampered by silly rules.

We’ve already started to address these problems and will elaborate our strategy in the White Paper. I believe it is nothing short of a quiet revolution in the way government works in Britain, an approach focused on outcomes, rather than inputs.

That’s why we started with a Comprehensive Spending Review – so that we could adapt the spending patterns we inherited to the priorities on which we were elected.

We have made big changes in what the money is spent on, but only in return for clear targets. For the first time, these have been published, in Public Service Agreements. They set out long term objectives in each area, backed by 500 clear, demanding targets such as: cutting deaths from heart disease and strokes by a third amongst people under 65; or getting half of 16 year olds achieving 5 or more A-C’s at GCSE.

In turn, departments are setting standards for local public services to deliver – whether on exam results, rough sleepers, truancy or waiting lists. And local agencies are setting their own targets for local people to judge their success.

Focusing on outcomes will allow us to address the second traditional weakness of Whitehall I mentioned – contradictory policy making. Government is organised vertically, with departments based on the function they perform – such as paying benefits or running the National Health Service. But people’s problems are rarely so neat: the socially excluded will need help not only with housing, but education, health and so on; starting up a new business will involve interaction with a whole range of Government agencies.

We are determined to overcome these divisions. New approaches to joined up government are being tried all over Whitehall – the Social Exclusion Unit in the Cabinet Office, Sure-start for the very young or the new Active Community Unit that we announced last week. All examples of policies being developed and implemented jointly across departments, with joint targets and often joint budgets.
Focusing on outcomes also helps us free up the public sector. Because we have agreed what departments are trying to achieve, we spend less time double guessing how they do it. The centre can devote more time to developing strategy and less to trying to micro-manage front line services.

In particular, we have given departments three year spending plans. Departments can now shift money between programmes and keep any savings they make from one year to the next – another revolution in Whitehall, which should eradicate the traditional March rush to spend unused budgets before the end of the financial year.

Again, departments are passing those freedoms on to their front line. We have abolished crude and universal capping of council tax, while at the same time protecting local tax payers. We have put doctors and nurses in the driving seat in shaping and funding local health services.

And the more successful you are, the more autonomy we will give you. So, for example, OFSTED is introducing a light touch inspection regime for good schools. The best councils – beacon councils – will in due course have more freedom to vary local taxes.

But that doesn’t mean we will tolerate failure. Because the people who suffer from a bad service are the users – the pupils, the ill, the elderly, often the most vulnerable in society.

So we need rigorous and fair inspection systems to know whether public services are achieving their targets. We need league tables to allow individuals to choose which services to use. And we need competition within the public sector and where appropriate with the private sector – because what matters is not who delivers the service but the outcome it secures.

Now freeing up the public sector doesn’t mean we will cut you adrift. We will help you by spreading best practice. This needs to be rigorous, based on evidence of what does and doesn’t work. In the health service, we are setting up the National Institute for Clinical Effectiveness – to assess what treatments works best and at what cost and issue guidance to front-line doctors. In local government, we welcome the fact that the LGA has set up a new Improvement and Development Agency. In education, we are implementing a numeracy and literacy strategy to tackle decades of under-performance.

But guidance from the centre can only go so far. The problems you face are all different. You often know how to solve them, but are held back by silly rules or set ways of doing things. That’s the rationale behind action zones for health, education and employment. They are laboratories to test new ways of working. They suspend rules that stifle innovation and ensure that those innovations can be spread around the system.

But it’s also about culture. We shouldn’t be afraid to take risks, even if that means risking failure. When we fail, we should learn from our mistakes. Because if we never make mistakes we’ll never change anything. My idea of the ideal public servant is not someone who never fails, but someone who always tries to make a difference.

Finally, we need to organise our services around the individual. That means listening to their views. That is why we have set up a People’s Panel of 5000 to ask taxpayers about the services they get. And it means organising services around the needs of users, not the convenience of producers. We live in a 24 hour economy – we can no longer deliver services 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. We are in the middle of an information revolution – we need to explore how the telephone and the Internet can improve convenience. For example, NHS Direct will enable people to contact a nurse over the phone when they need help, rather than going to hard-pressed A&E departments.

So we need public services that feel tailor-made – not uniform,’one size fits all’. We need to find better ways of delivering services, particularly enabled by new technology. And there’s a �5 billion Capital Modernisation Fund to turn those new ideas into reality.


I’ve argued today that we need to turn back the tide. Stop denigrating public service, start valuing public servants again. Match the private sector at its best, be proud of the public sector at our best. Provide proper rewards and funding, not services starved of cash and with low morale.

I’ve tried to start a debate about attracting people into the public sector. I’ve said that will involve financial and non-financial rewards. And that it will involve giving you the resources to do your jobs.
I have outlined our strategy. Invest in public services. Focus on outcomes. Devolve power to the front-line. Value the public servants who succeed. Encourage innovation. Work across government boundaries. Organise around the individual.

We will set this vision out at more length in the White paper. I look forward to your views. Because together we can make a real difference, to the prosperity of our country and to the lives of our citizens, in particular the vulnerable and excluded. I know you will rise to the challenge.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech on the Millennium Bug


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, on 25 January 1999.

A year ago this month, four out of five Britons were aware of the Millennium Bug. Today, virtually all are.

A year ago, only a quarter of smaller companies had started to fix it. Today, half have.

Only some two thirds of local authorities had started. Today, all of you have.

So first of all I want to thank you for the work you do, whether as officers or councillors, day in day out, tackling the Bug. As in so many other areas, you are the ones who turn speeches like this into reality.

Thank you also to four people from central government. Margaret Beckett – who has mastered the issue with her usual calm effectiveness. John Prescott – who was telling local authorities about the importance of the Bug before it became fashionable. But most of all Don Cruickshank and Iain Anderson who have been advising government on our work with the private and public sectors respectively. Not many people would leap to take a job where if you help solve the problem, you will be criticised for crying wolf, and if you don’t, you will be held responsible for accidents beyond your control. But it is typical of both of them that they did and have set about their task with determination.

So we have come a long way in 1998. But we cannot be complacent. My purpose today is to spur you on to finish the job. Think of it as a half time pep talk – we’re definitely ahead of the game, but could still throw it all away.

This time last year, many companies weren’t even aware of the problem. Awareness is now 100% – thanks to the work of Action 2000. But the job isn’t finished. Action 2000’s judgement now is that as a rule larger companies will be ready. But half of smaller companies have not yet started work. The good news is that they still have time to fix the problem if they act now. The bad news is that if they don’t, they risk severe problems, including bankruptcy.

Of course, Action 2000 hasn’t been the only organisation raising awareness. Many private companies, like BT and NatWest, have decided the best way to help themselves is to help the smaller companies who are their suppliers and clients. And many local authorities have done the same – for example the Isle of Wight and Lewisham who have organised seminars for local businesses.
This time last year, the skills shortage in small companies looked insuperable. That’s why I announced the Bug Buster programme -to train 20,000 small company employees.

The latest figures show that 18,000 people have either been trained, are being trained or have booked their course. We will not only meet the targets I set last year. We will do more. I can today announce that we will expand the programme by 10,000 places to 30,000 in all. And these figures are only for England. If you add in figures for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland we will have trained 36,000. Local authorities can also benefit from the expertise which the TECs have developed – you can buy Bug Buster courses from your local team.

This time last year, there was no way of knowing what effect the Bug would have on the national infrastructure. Companies that had been focused on sorting out their own problems were starting to worry that those efforts would be in vain if, for example, their electricity or phones didn’t work.

Since then, Action 2000 has created the National Infrastructure Forum, which brings together the utilities and major public services to work together to prepare for the Bug.

They are undergoing one of the most rigorous and objective assessments anywhere in the world. Last Thursday the regulators reported on progress in the key power, telecoms and finance sectors. Their assessment was that these sectors are well on the way to beating the bug.

But the job is not finished. Don Cruickshank will be explaining later this morning what he hopes the Forum will achieve this year. And there is also a crucial role for local authorities to play here. We need an Infrastructure Forum in each region. Nick Raynsford has already set up a team in London because the eyes of the world will be on London as we go into the new Millennium.

So let me turn now to the meat of today’s conference – action at the local level.

This time last year, John Prescott and Jeremy Beecham wrote to you asking every leader and chief executive to make dealing with the Bug one of the council’s top priorities.

We all depend on your services – whether traffic lights and waste collection, benefits or housing. If you can’t do this because of the Bug, we will all be affected. And when things go wrong, people turn to their councils, particularly the vulnerable – such as the old and the disabled.

I know from my visits around the country and what colleagues tell me that you are acting:

Sorting out your systems

Leading local emergency planning

Raising awareness

That you are here today indicates that local government is treating the bug seriously. I want to thank the LGA for organising the conference – a great opportunity to pool knowledge and share best practice. For example, Hertfordshire and Suffolk Coastal District Council will be sharing with you later their approaches to emergency planning. Earlier this month, all the key organisations in Lincolnshire signed the Millennium Bug Pledge – pledging to co-operate and to share information.

If any of you have not yet signed the Pledge, you can do so here today.

But that is only a first step. We know that in local government, as elsewhere, the job is not finished. Indeed, in some councils there are particular problems which have been identified by the Audit Commission. The best amongst you have sorted out your problems, just as our best companies have. But others still have a good way to go. No one can afford to be complacent.

So we are today announcing a package of measures to help local government prepare for the Bug. They are not financial – our proposals for local authority spending already make provision for dealing with the Bug. Today’s measures are about sharing information and expertise. It is a package developed in close partnership with the LGA and the Audit Commission. John Prescott, Jeremy Beecham and Helena Shovelton, the new Chair of the Audit Commission, are writing to all council leaders today to tell them what we are doing, how it will help them, and what they need to do.
For our part, we are setting up in each of the Government Offices a dedicated team, including people from local authorities, to work with councils in their region.

These teams, drawing on the work of the LGA and Audit Commission, will form an overview of what has been achieved and what else needs to be done in their areas. They will work with councils, helping them to share experience and best practice. They will be able to play an important part in providing public reassurance.

Because, as in central government, we need to be straight with the public about the state of progress. No one can afford to miss the deadline and if anyone falls behind, the Audit Commission will have to name them.

So a huge amount of work has been done in local government, with the LGA acting as a key catalyst. You have made real progress, and we are counting on you to finish the job in 1999.

This time last year, the Bug was a potential national emergency. I think Britain has risen to this challenge and that the threat of serious disruption over the Millennium is now falling.

But ironically, now is the time we need to plan for such an emergency, even if its likelihood is falling. This is something the media find hard to understand – they assume that because we have plans we must be worried. The truth is that the government has well-established procedures for a wide range of emergencies – from floods to terrorism, from hurricanes to epidemics. Very few of these risks ever materialise, but we would be foolhardy and much criticised if we didn’t plan for them.

The same is true for the Millennium Bug. We are not inventing new procedures – we are adapting them to the particular circumstances of the Bug, such as New Year’s Eve. Indeed, this emergency is in some respects easier to plan for because we know the risk dates in advance.

Mike O’Brien, from the Home Office, will be saying more about this later today. For now, I would simply say that many councils are doing excellent work in this area. One example is the Sussex Millennium Management Group. It has asked everyone who is running a millennium event in Sussex to provide details of their plans. This means their plans can take account of the overall picture of the celebrations in the area.

Finally, let me say a few words about the international situation. The bug is the ultimate symptom of the global economy – we share much of the same technology and if one country’s infrastructure fails other countries will be affected.

So Britain has taken a lead internationally. The Foreign Office has undertaken an intensive global awareness raising programme. Our embassies have contacted governments to raise the profile of the issue. Our early contribution of £10 million to the World Bank’s Year 2000 programme has supported work in nearly 200 countries.

We have made sure that the Bug is addressed in all relevant international organisations – from the United Nations to the EU.
As a result of our efforts and those of other countries the level of global action has risen dramatically. We will now target our efforts on countries who remain less informed and on developing countries. And we will be working with international partners to achieve more effective co-ordination.

Time is the most precious commodity with the Millennium Bug, so I won’t take up any more of yours. I believe that 1998 was the year Britain really got to grips with the Bug. We have made real progress – in raising awareness, dealing with the Bug in private and public organisations and developing joint approaches at local, national and international levels.

My message today has been to thank you for your part in that and to ask you to finish the job in 1999. There is no room for complacency. Finish sorting out your systems. Think about how you can best ensure the continuity of essential services. Lead infrastructure work in your areas. Adapt your emergency plans. If we work in partnership, we can make sure the transition to the year 2000 is remembered not for major disruptions, but for its unique celebrations.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech at the Millennium Commission Awards Fellowship


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, on 21 January 1999.

We all know problems in our communities that we could solve given a few hundred or thousand pounds. Some goalposts to turn a disused piece of ground into a football pitch. Some training to help teenagers who drop in to a community centre. Some child care to help single mothers look for work or training.
Well today I want to celebrate a scheme that encourages both ideas like these and the local heroes behind them – the Millennium Awards Fellowships.

It’s a £200 million Lottery programme. It provides grants to turn ideas into action – to empower ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Today we are recognising the first 4,000 award winners. Award winners who have led neighbourhood clean up projects, got children interested in science, improved community transport. Who have worked with the elderly – on befriending schemes or learning to use the internet to keep in touch with grandchildren. Cybergrannies who put people like me to shame.

And most of the awards are to people who never before felt they had a role to play in their community.

By the year 2004, over 40,000 people will have won awards. So I want the message to go out today – get involved, apply for an award, nominate someone you know.

Because this is what I mean by community – that we are more than a set of individuals just looking after ourselves. We achieve far more by working together than we do alone. Because the truth is by giving a couple of hours of a week, we can make a real difference to the lives of others.

This scheme will help build those communities. Each award winner will become a Millennium Fellow. We want to forge a link between you, creating a network of 40,000 people, so you can keep on helping your communities and encourage ever more people to get involved.

This is how I want to celebrate the Millennium. Celebrating extraordinary events. Extraordinary global events like the Dome. But also extraordinary local people like today’s award winners.

So, thank you and good luck.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech on Teachers Green Paper


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, on the Teachers Green Paper on 19 January 1999.

NB – the original numbers have been lost from the transcript.

I am delighted to be with you this morning. Education is the government’s top priority. But we can’t achieve our goals without a first-class teaching profession – a profession which is capable, well-led and properly supported.We already have very many excellent teachers and headteachers. But we need more. And we need to make a fundamental change to the status of teachers in our society – putting them where they belong, on a par with doctors and other top professionals.For too long teachers have wrongly been regarded as second class professionals. This must change if we are to succeed in creating a world-class education service for the 21st century.That’s why we are investing an extra �bn in education over the next three years. And why we are devoting part of the money to supporting and improving the teaching profession.Our proposals are set out in the Teaching Green Paper published before Christmas. There has been a huge response from schools and individual teachers. It’s because I want to hear your views first-hand that I am here today for the first in a series of consultation meetings hosted by education Ministers and officials.Before Estelle Morris makes a brief presentation and we take your questions, let me make three points.First, what I call the big picture.A lot of attention has focussed on our proposals for teachers’ pay. This is obviously a crucial issue.But our plans need to be seen in the context of far wider proposals:

  • A doubling of investment in school buildings over the next three years.
  • A revolution in the provision of IT equipment, and training to see that teachers are confident in using it.
  • A big increase in funding for training and back-up in schools, including more support staff and teaching assistants, freeing teachers to teach effectively.
  • A range of programmes, spearheaded by the literacy and numeracy strategies in primary schools, to give teachers better support in their jobs.

Our proposals need to be seen as a whole. Greater financial rewards for teachers are just one element. It is taken together – not in isolation- that we believe that they will transform the status and working conditions of teachers. David Blunkett and I have never claimed that there is a single quick fix.Secondly, even in the area of pay, we aren’t only talking about rewards for individual performance. We recognise the importance of team working – and of rewards for successful team working.That’s why, as David Blunkett said, our plans include a new national fund of � million a year to reward all staff at schools which demonstrate excellent performance or significant improvement. Let me stress that we aren’t just talking about the top schools by raw results – but also schools which show the highest level of sustained improvement, whatever their starting point.Third, the question of individual rewards for performance. I know there are concerns, particularly about crude judgements based on exam results, and about comparability between schools.We take these concerns seriously. The Government will want to see appraisal recognise success in improving performance, whatever the starting point. Headteachers and line managers must play an important role in making judgements, as they already do on a host of other matters besides pay. But we will want to ensure proper national standards, with external assessors to ensure credibility and consistency.Let’s be clear why we are doing this. I want a situation where our best teachers – not just a small number at the top, but a large proportion of the profession – are better paid and better motivated. Where more of our best graduates choose teaching and rise faster through the profession. And where successful leadership is better rewarded – particularly headteachers who take on the toughest schools and turn them round.These are urgent national imperatives. Better incentives for performance are one, though only one, way of meeting them.

Teachers have everything to gain from these proposals. So do the parents and pupils who our schools exist to serve.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech on Education Action Zones


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, on 15 January 1999.

NB – the original numbers have been lost from the transcript.

I am delighted to be with you this morning – to see at first hand the good progress you are making in your school and the wider community through your Education Action Zone. And to launch the second round of EAZs nationwide – which have a key role to play in equipping Britain with a world class education service for the 21st century.

I cannot repeat too often that education is this Government’s top priority.

It is central to everything we stand for – making our nation strong and competitive, enlarging opportunity, building successful families and responsible citizens, and eliminating social exclusion.

That’s why we have launched an unprecedented crusade to raise standards. Why we have set ambitious attainment targets for every level of education. Why we are modernising the teaching profession. Why we have launched the New Deal to improve school buildings – from which more than 2,000 schools have already benefited.

Above all, it’s why we took the tough choices needed to re-order government spending so that education could get an extra � billion over the next three years – the best deal education has ever got from the national budget.

This �bn is not a cost, but an investment in our country’s future. It is an investment tied to clear goals. To make good schools beacons of excellence. To turn poor and mediocre schools into good schools. To make children of all backgrounds enjoy learning and achieve their highest potential.

Education Action Zones are a key part of our new investment.

EAZs are local partnerships to raise standards. We don’t have a national blueprint – what matters is what works. We are keen to see EAZs pioneer new approaches to learning and achievement, for the benefit of their own communities and as an example to others.

I know you are taking that mission seriously here in Blackburn. And I congratulate everyone involved in the zone for their energy and commitment.

I have just seen how new ‘whiteboard’ technology – a giant interactive computer screen – can promote new links between teachers and pupils, schools and businesses, and between different schools. The pupils working with engineers from British Aerospace on designing new products are learning skills of real benefit to their future lives and careers.

This is only one of many projects in your EAZ. I was particularly interested to hear about your early intervention team to tackle barriers to learning on housing estates, working with a dedicated Youth Offending Team.

Breaking down barriers is one of our toughest challenges:

  • Cultural barriers that make too many children think that success at school isn’t for them.
  • Bureaucratic barriers between different state and local agencies which have a shared remit for the welfare of young people
  • The barriers between the public and private sectors – between schools and employers, in particular.

Progress will only come from working together. Companies need successful schools in their area, and EAZs are an historic opportunity to play a part in forging them.

When people say ‘keep business out of schools’ I say: ‘the more support and involvement of the wider community – including business – in our schools, the better.’Schools and colleges should be working closely with employers to ensure that young people leave with the right skills and aspirations. The voluntary sector also has a larger role to play.

So I wish you every success as you take forward your EAZ in Blackburn.

Today we are inviting bids for the second round of EAZs. Our expectations are high. Let me emphasise three points.

First, we stand ready to make another significant investment. But we are looking for committed partnerships between schools, businesses and parent and community groups. By committed partnerships, I mean partnerships offering strong local leadership and clear goals.

Second, EAZs are about raising standards dramatically. They are not about innovation for its own sake, or for topping up budgets, but about projects closely targeted on raising achievement within a defined period, particularly in schools which need support over and above that which they are already receiving.

We therefore expect bids to pay attention to achievement targets agreed nationally and locally – not least our targets for raising attainment in English and maths at 11, for improving success rates across the board at GCSE, for cutting truancy and non-attendance, and for promoting participation post-16.

This is not an exclusive list, of course. Plenty of other areas merit attention – for example, projects to encourage very able and talented children to achieve their full potential.

We also expect that many bidders will wish to take forward proposals in the Teaching Green Paper to ensure the highest quality of teaching and leadership in our schools. We are looking for concrete proposals to raise standards – and evidence that they are likely to work.

Third, the role of Local Education Authorities. One of our key principles is that intervention in schools should be in inverse proportion to success. That includes intervention by both central government and by LEAs.

Within this framework, as David Blunkett said last week, we are keen to see modern and effective LEAs help weaker schools raise standards. LEAs which rise to this challenge have an important role to play – including a partnership role in Education Action Zones, as in Blackburn.

But we want LEAs to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Where this isn’t the case, we think it right that schools and other interested parties should be able to forge their own EAZ partnerships.

Partnership is the key. But partnership to modernise – not partnership to drift.

David Blunkett and I have always been clear about our intentions. New investment in our schools. A new voice for education at the heart of government. Bold measures such as EAZs to energise local communities.

But all for a purpose. To raise standards. To eliminate failure. To give us a world class education service, transforming the prospects of our young people.

I know you share that goal. We must work together to achieve it.