David Blunkett – 2003 Speech to the Police Federation


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, to the Police Federation in May 2003.

Thank you very much indeed for an invitation to sunny Blackpool, the home of the tower – the Operation Tower, which is all about dealing with drug addicts and repeat offenders and is doing an extremely good job, and I commend the police here in Blackpool for what they have been doing.

So here I am again – a repeat offender. It’s only my second offence, so no doubt the Lord Chief Justice would give me a sentence in the community rather than in custody. But this year, I don’t have another cousin to pull out of the hat to give me protection. This year there is only one David Blunkett. So, you’ve got me.

I have, however, got some very special Harry Potter cufflinks – it says on them “No guts, no glory”. So I have got the guts and I want you to get the glory!

I want you to get the glory because we have come an enormous way over the past 12 months. We have reached agreement on a whole range of areas. We have seen – despite ugly rumours to the contrary – that crime is down by 7% over the last year, and 27% over the last half decade.

People disparage that – they pour cold water on it, they confuse it in terms of the national recording standards and the changes that have been brought about, and we need to do something to clarify the messages and the robust nature and credibility of the statistics that are used.

We need to do so not just because it is good for the survival of Home Secretaries, which is always a dodgy business, but actually because your morale and that of your force, of the people you work with, the ability to sell the job, to get across the effectiveness of the force, is materially affected by whether people really do believe that the police force in our country is doing the job that you know it is doing and I know it is doing.

I thank you for it because, day in day out, on the streets, in the neighbourhood, investigating major offences, and yes in bringing about social cohesion, you have been doing that job over the last 12 months. Remarkable work, throughout the Iraq conflict, including policing demonstrations.

And, Jan [Berry] – I am quite prepared to update the National Policing Plan in terms of the recognition of counter-terror, of the resilience function that the police are doing and will in the future be asked to do. I am prepared to listen and respond to the Police Federation, who are themselves prepared to look at reform and improvement.

The police force of the future is about all of us working together and listening together, and building pride from within the force, and pride within the community.

Look – as the Prime Minister would say – over the past 12 months we have had an enormous change in terms of continuing recruitment. We have had the target that I set – yes I did set a target because I thought it was crucial in terms of what Chief Constables would do if we didn’t – to get 132,500 police officers in place by next March (March 2004). By last September we had actually made 131,500. We will announce the figures through to the end of March shortly, but it is clear that there has been the most enormous change both in the attitude towards joining the police force and the ability to recruit really good new probationers into the service.

I say this with some temerity because I viewed the video of what happened to my predecessor when he talked about police numbers and recruits just two years ago. There has been a massive change. 4,300 officers recruited in the 12 month period to September. The largest ever recruitment since 1976. And again, for the second year, a massive change in the numbers actually applying and therefore the quality to be drawn on.

I think we can all take pride in that in terms of the message that you have put out, the work that you have done, and the ability to get a year on year improvement in police numbers, which is what I promised last year, and which the Government will fulfill.

There has been a rumour as well that I am not all that pleased with the judges. Now, as you can gather, this is completely untrue. I just like judges that live in the same real world as the rest of us. I just want judges that help us and help you to do the job.

I heard an ex judge on Radio 4 this morning. You could tell that we weren’t going to have too big a row today because Radio 4 weren’t interested in interviewing me. You can always tell when there is something sensible to be said and there is a dialogue to be had, because they are not interested – only in rows, only in controversy.

So they had the retiring judge, Sir Oliver Popplewell, on this morning. He told all about his new book where he learnt how football supporters shouted swear words at matches. How he had discovered that the community that he had been judging for all those years was actually quite different to the one he thought about, the one he had presumably met at school and at university and in chambers.

I am not intending to attack him. I know that when he said that he understood there was real concern about multiple child murderers, that he meant it. But what I want are judges who, when they mean it, ensure that the sentences are such that the perpetrators know that we mean it and the victims know that we are going to protect them. That is why I announced that life will at last mean life – no remission, no supervision, no having to join the register because they will remain in jail for the rest of their lives.

Do you know what Judge Popplewell said about that this morning? He said that it was popularism. Well I am going to say this, this morning – I have been prepared over the last two years to take head on tabloid newspapers when I have disagreed with them in a way that previous high profile politicians in this job have not necessarily been able to do. I have been prepared on a number of occasions to receive leader columns that have attacked me for taking them on. But I don’t think that responding to the needs of the public, I don’t think listening to the people that you serve and I represent, is popularism. I think it is decent common-sense in a democracy that works.

People are sick and tired of politicians that talk a good story and don’t do it. They are sick and tired of politics and Parliament excusing itself for not being able to do things rather than doing them. They are sick and tired of constant prevarication and delay within the political system. That is why fewer and fewer people vote. It is why people turn to extreme parties. It is why they are fed up with a system that doesn’t respond to their needs.

I give you a pledge this morning. It is not worth me being in the job – and I want the job, I want it through to the general election (that’s just a message to the Prime Minister for the reshuffle!) – and I have said to him the sooner the better because I am worn out doing the Police Minister’s job as well as my own. All of us want to be in our jobs to make a difference. We don’t just want to be there for the sake of holding the job. You don’t – you want to respond in terms of the community. I will speak in a moment about the things we have been trying to do to make that easier. I want to be in the job to change the world around me.

If every time I do that it is described as a gimmick, or if every time I do that I am described as an anti civil libertarian, we are going to get nowhere. I believe in civil liberties – I believe in the liberty of the individual to walk freely on the streets, and to be safe in their homes. So do you and we will do it together because that is what you are in it for.

But yes, Jan, we do have to sort out those things on which there is disquiet and on which we disagree. I didn’t come here today to be a populist, I came to try and address some of the issues.

And of course, the issue of special priority payments is one which is exercising you at the conference, and should exercise us because a disquieted police force is not one which will engage readily with other reforms and changes. And change will always be around us and I want the Federation, as you have offered today, to be part of that process, to be a driving force for change, not a resistor to it.

Not a single word of criticism has passed my lips, or those of my Ministers, of the police service over the last 12 months. I wonder, Jan, whether that is a record in terms of Home Secretaries and Ministers in the Home Office in history? I want to keep it up.

So let me talk about special priority payments just for 30 seconds and I will happily answer questions on it. Yes we did have a package. It did include the £400 uplift, the speeding up of the incremental scales, and the extra point at the top. It did include the competency payments that are going through. And yes it did include special priority payments and they are controversial.

So two things. Firstly, there isn’t a service or industry in the world that actually plays everybody exactly the same. We don’t in terms of our increments for experience as you go up the scale. We don’t in other walks of life in terms of what people are paid differentially for the type of job. But if we are going to get it right then I have got to be prepared to listen.

I am asking the PNB to take another look at the way in which special priority payments are operating. I will engage the Federation in discussions about how it can work better, including the management training needed, as all managers have to do as they actually manage the service rather than simply oversee it.

If we can do that, I think we can make the adjustments that will take anomalies out of the system, we can take some of the difficulty out of the process that you have experienced over recent months, but we will not – and I make this clear – we will not go backwards to where we pretend that everybody is paid exactly the same for doing very different jobs in very different circumstances.

That, in my view, is a balanced approach to the future, where you get the change that you believe is necessary and we get the continuing reform in putting alongside what is happening in the rest of the world, for the police service as a whole.

It may not be exactly what you want this morning, but I think we do need to listen and we do need to respond.

If we can move forward together, if we can actually take some of the difficulties that you are facing day in day out, and we can build into them the way in which we listen and learn – for instance, on ring-fenced funding coming into the service from outside and the issue of overtime – then we will get somewhere.

I don’t want the efforts on overtime reduction to have counted in them very specific ring-fenced money, including from other agencies, for a particular job to be done at a particular time.

So let’s look at a whole range of things that can make sense of good intentions and pick up what Jan Berry said this morning, which is to be prepared to sit down and listen to and respond to the Police Federation. In partnership we can do so much more than we can separately.

Today I want to address very briefly what I call the “3 Ps”. The reduction in paperwork and bureaucracy, the power to do the job, and a prosecution and court system that actually works in practice.

You know and I know that the O’Dowd report has not yet been properly implemented in terms of the objectives set and the way in which we can ensure that we reduce paperwork. Everybody in this country, including you, wants to ensure that the increased numbers in policing and the police family, increased visibility, availability, and accessibility, the ability of you to do your job – that isn’t in dispute.

I was the one who was writing about what had happened in New York before anyone else appeared to have discovered it. I was talking about ensuring that we linked intelligence based community policing with intelligence based investigation – the two aren’t contrary, they are hand in hand.

I want the reduction in bureaucracy to be the fuel for freeing people to do the job sensibly. In six forces, 2,000 local forms have been eliminated. If we can get that across the country we are in business.

The video ID parades have massively cut the amount of time spent on setting up and organising ID parades in those forces that have implemented it.

We have seen the change in live-scan, in terms of the way in which finger-printing is done – 45 minutes per accused – actually transforming the way in which people can do the job.
We have seen a whole range of technology used to allow people to contact the station without having to return.

And of course we have seen the street bail, which is both a power and a reducer of bureaucracy in terms of working where it has.

It can be done, but there is so much more to be done in driving it through. And Jan, you don’t want gimmicks, you want us to actually work with the Federation taking up the O’Dowd report and much more, and driving it forward. I will do what I am doing in the Home Office – I am asking staff in the Home Office to come forward with ideas on how we can transform the way we do business inside the Department. I would like that to be true of rank and file officers in the force as well.

So if we set up a system with the Fed, for you to come forward with ideas on driving out bureaucracy and paperwork, and we provide some reward for you to designate a local victims charity, to which we could contribute cash for the most successful ideas that come forward, I don’t think that is a gimmick. I think that would be an incentive and a way in which we could engage people at local level. It would also have the advantage of ensuring that my Department had to do it and engage with it, because from this morning I am asking Jan and her colleagues, on your behalf, to set up such a programme with us.

Of course these things are only small contributors. Of course they are not the be all and end all. There is a much broader programme.

The second “P” is about powers for you to be able to do the job more quickly. The Anti-Social Behaviour Bill is bringing in a whole range of new powers. The Criminal Justice Bill that I shall be leading on the debate next Monday and Tuesday, as it returns from Committee to the House of Commons. The way in which we need to drive forward powers that already exist, but people are not aware of. The Fixed Penalty Notices piloted in four areas – over 3,000 notices issued. And yes they need to be followed up. And yes when we fine people we need to make sure that the Lord Chancellor’s Department and the court system make sure that those fines stick.

As I mentioned a moment ago with street bail, we need to make sure that it works effectively.

The dispersal powers in the new Anti-Social Behaviour Bill need to be used effectively. These are powers where you know that there is continuing nuisance, that there are groups of youths and adults who are causing mayhem, but you don’t even have the old power that used to exist to disperse them.

You don’t have the power to declare within that immediate zone a curfew for anyone of any age.

These are powers that are now in the new Bill to close crack houses overnight, to have them boarded up within 24 hours, to take new DNA and fingerprinting tests without the kind of nonsense that we have had, to be able to hold those who are threatening us by terrorism for 14 days rather than 7 – the whole range of powers that we intend and will give you to do the job.

And as we have seen highlighted by local press this week, the power to confiscate vehicles off the road – a power that I find very little has been disseminated to officers to use. The power has not been spoken about or communicated.

We need to allow you to respond effectively to what you need,

I hope the coughing means that you agree with what I am saying, otherwise there has been a terrible outburst of SARS, which would be unfortunate.

And what about prosecution? I think we are all sick and tired of a situation where you do your job and you find yourself fighting the system rather than fighting the criminals. We need to take that bureaucracy out of the system to get the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts working with you. We need to do so in simple things, like improved disclosure, like changing the rules of evidence. Like ensuring that people who wait until the very last minute to plead guilty don’t actually get remission of their sentence, but also those who have enabled them to continue through the system to the point where they plead guilty, having wasted your time and that of the system as a whole, actually face a penalty themselves.

I spoke at a Law Society dinner in February. The solicitors were very nice to me. There was a table of barristers and when I announced that we were all sick and tired of the cost of late guilty pleas, they booed me. That is an indication of where we are at in terms of just some parts of the criminal justice system.

And I have a message this morning for Mathias Kelly who runs the Bar Council. If you think your job is to take me on, to take on the police service, to take on the victims, to take on the community, you’ve lost the plot. Your job is to protect the innocent and convict the guilty.

So the message this morning is very clear. You are on the side of the victim and the community and we are on your side in doing it. We are going to tackle violent crime and gun crime. 40,000 weapons were handed in in April – that is almost twice as many as the number handed in post the Dunblane tragedy 7 years ago. Almost a million rounds of ammunition. Not all the guns were going to be used by criminals, but some of them would have been, and they are no longer available.

And we are going to change the gun law so that there is a minimum five year sentence which I shall be moving in Parliament next week.

New powers, new determination, new partnership with you to do the job from the anti-social behaviour legislation through to tackling the most heinous crimes.

And yes we will listen about targets. But no-one would thank me if we hadn’t had the drive against robbery and street crime. No-one would thank you if we weren’t driving down burglary. No-one would believe us if we didn’t say that we had a joint job to do together, where reform and partnership go hand in hand to enable you to do the job you want, to overcome cynicism that abounds around us and to provide those safer homes and those safer streets that each and every one of us want our children to walk on in safety.

That is the task. We have started over the last year to build a new foundation together, between you and between us. I want to build on it in the next two years and I would like to go out not by being remembered as the man who nearly did it, but the person who worked with you, alongside you, to really make it happen.

David Blunkett – 2003 Speech on Multi-Faith Britain


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, on 30 October 2003.

I am pleased to be part of reinventing this lecture series after a break of several years – and pleased to be talking in my home county of Yorkshire about the opportunities and challenges of multi-faith Britain.

York itself may not be the most diverse community in the UK, but it has an interesting mix of thriving faith communities, especially here in the university – and of course the city has a long and famous religious history. But as well as the positives in that history there is also a reminder of the negative aspects which are part of the background to my contribution today – the anti-Jewish pogroms of the 12th Century.

The question I want to raise today is how much does faith matter in the 21st century – and I want to go beyond the obvious contribution to the identity and spirit of the individual. The further question is how, and to what extent, the interface between faith and politics, between faith and social interaction, is still important to us now.

Self-evidently faith is still important: locally, nationally and internationally. In Britain, 35 million in the 2001 census whilst not necessarily regular attenders declared themselves Christians; there are 1.5m Muslims, half a million Hindus, and hundreds of thousands of Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, and people of other faiths.

Understanding the role faith plays in people’s lives is vital to community cohesion and race relations – and I know Charles Clarke is working with the faith communities on the future of religious education in schools. Faith plays a role at crucial points in people’s lives – times of great triumph but also sorrow – birth, marriage, death. It affects the foundation, the framework of our lives. This was true for me, as a Methodist – indeed, it still is. But all of us, even those who are not overtly religious, our basic values, our sense of right and wrong, our consciences, are shaped by our community and its religious heritage.

And of course from this foundation in the individual and the family springs the framework and structure of community – faith provides the building blocks, but also the glue, for many communities.

I have seen this in practice as Home Secretary. Take the visit I made to the Hindu ‘Mandir’ in Southall. Reaching out to the community, providing facilities like health screening, doing practical things which benefit everyone like cleaning up the local canal, as well as being the focal point of their own faith community. In nearby Edmonton, the Bible Study Network – a black-led Christian organisation – provides job-seeking assistance, which is especially important for young people finding their way in an area of high unemployment. Also in London, in Stamford Hill, the Jewish community is playing a big role in driving forward the local Sure Start programme – again open to the whole community. Up here in Yorkshire there are mosques in Bradford which offer creches and other facilities to the whole community, including Jewish residents. In Highfields in Leicester the Pakistani community runs a youth and community association, again open to, and used by, all local residents. And right across the country I know that Sikh Gurdwaras provide food to all who need it regardless of faith.

There is of course a rigorous debate between those who see the purpose of religion as saving souls and individual spirituality and those who see this as indivisible from the contribution we make through our lives and actions to the wellbeing of others. Ironically in the far south of the US the evangelical right, even though in their own lives they practice giving, in public life embrace the individualist route, rejecting the political process – unless that is to get their own man in the key post! Perversely they end up frustrating attempts to change the very circumstances that in their own giving they would want to change.

I think this is wrong: faith communities should not turn away from the political process. They have an important role not just in building strong communities, but in building active communities – communities which are actively engaged in solving their own problems. Any government which is interested in connecting with, mobilising, and empowering communities – and we are – is going to be interested in engaging with faith communities. That is why I have set up the Faith Communities Unit in the Home Office.

Faith communities provide people, commitment, drive, and sustainability – springing from inner conviction and strength. But they also have the very thing which makes activity and mutuality practical – namely, buildings in the community, leaders in the community, teachers and other support mechanisms. They have vicars, Ministers, Imams, Brahmins, Rabbis out there in the communities – the Catholic church, for example, had eyes and ears and an internet back in Medieval times, the kind of network which any political party today would give their eye for.

But here is the rub – we want people to gain strength and we want them to contribute, but is there not a danger in channeling this soley through their faith? When we want people both to participate through their faith community, but also to be part of and active beyond it – and sometimes despite it – this is the real challenge. The challenge for faith communities is to develop the skills and confidence of their members to play an active role in civil society – speaking and acting not just on behalf of their faith, but also on behalf of the local community as a whole. For example I have been hugely impressed by the contribution that the Harringey Peace Alliance are making with the police tackling gun crime and creating a safer community for people of all faiths and those of none.

Government has a role to play here, which is to facilitate interaction between the different faith communities, and between them and the wider community. We need to build on the spontaneous efforts faith groups are making themselves in this direction – for example the Institute for Social Cohesion, a Baha’i initiative bringing faith, community, business and government groups together to discuss how to improve community cohesion. We need to remember that in the UK we are lucky to be able to have this debate in a political context where faith and politics remain distinct spheres. In the international arena faith and politics are often directly mixed, and then they become not a liberator, channeling strength through faith into wider goals, but actually constrain political engagement and restrict freedom. The will of God or Allah becomes the will of the political state – and as such unchallenged and unchallengeable, and therefore non-pluralistic.

11 September placed the debate in the wrong context – but it focused all of us on disentangling religious commitment from the kind of religious ‘fundamentalism’ which can lead to extremism. Across the world people are addressing this issue. Where they don’t, they are forced to do so. We have to understand what is happening in a world where young men and women can be enjoined by their religious leaders to take their own lives and the lives of others as suicide bombers.

Let me accord absolute credit to those standing up to this within world religions. But it is important for all of us to join them in resisting and isolating the challenge of extremism, because it is not about to go away. There is a lot of talk these days about us living in a post-ideological world. The great twentieth century ideologies – communism and extreme nationalism – have been seen to fail. But the hunger for simple answers remains, and there is the danger that another form of extremism, religious extremism, will fill the gap.

Of course, it is crude to suggest that religion is essentially about simple answers. Signing up to Islam or Judaism or Christianity should mark the beginning of a lifelong journey of moral reflection and self-examination, rather than instant moral certainty. But there will always be those ready to distort religious teachings to satisfy the hunger for simple answers – encouraging their followers to define their faith and their identity in terms of their opposition to outsiders, rather than in positive terms, in terms of self-improvement and contribution to the community.

It is a worrying trend that young, second-generation British Muslims are more likely than their parents to feel they have to choose between feeling part of the UK and feeling part of their faith – when in fact as citizens of the United Kingdom and adherents of a major faith they should feel part of wider, overlapping communities. There may be a number of reasons for this including islamaphobia and religiously motivated attacks. It is religious extremism which forces them to choose, separating them from their citizenship and demanding the impossible. Again, the issue here is identity: whether people are able to identify with the actual world in which they live, or with another world they are taught about, which offers the absolute certainties which day-to-day interaction can never offer. We need to work together to resist this – by ‘we’ I mean government and faith leaders working together. Otherwise there is a real risk that instead of religion helping to build civic society and a sense of belonging among those who might otherwise become alienated, religion could actually increase that alienation. This risk is not confined to Islam: we see it also in some forms of Hindu nationalism, and as already mentioned it is writ large in some extremes of Christian evangelicalism.

The clash of cultures, within individual lives as well as within communities, the uncertainty of the second and third generation, these are all political issues – but they are also issues in which teaching and community attitudes can make or break the direction in which young people in particular choose to go. Teaching in religious communities whether evangelical, Christian, or Islam, is rarely spoken about, but it is vital.

This is not just a problem for Britain; our European partners are wrestling with the same questions. In France, which has 5 million Muslims, a real debate is under way. At the moment in France, 60% of Muslim preachers do not speak French. We should be working together with the Muslim community in Britain to ensure we are not going down the same road. It is crucial that those who have this key role in shaping the world view of our young people should be in a position to help them relate to the world in which they live, rather than turning them away from it. This is absolutely central for the development of the Muslim community itself and for the life chances of young Muslims, but also has a wider impact on social cohesion and race relations.

It is important that we work together and pool ideas – across countries and governments, across faith communities, and across the academic community as well. This weekend Fiona MacTaggart, the Home Office minister responsible for race and community cohesion, is participating in a European conference in Rome, with other government ministers and faith leaders, looking at precisely these questions – how governments should be engaging with moderate elements across faith communities to isolate extremism and promote social cohesion.

A large part of the answer has to be to teach and practise tolerance and respect. Britain can be proud of its tradition of tolerance and pluralism. Up until recently this has been about tolerating different versions of the Christian faith. We shouldn’t play down how difficult this was: the bitterest feuds are often between people who are close. But now we face a new challenge – living together with people of radically different faiths who often do not understand one another.

So we need to work harder at this. But we should never pretend that understanding will bring full agreement – that dialogue between faiths is a kind of search for ‘the lowest common denominator’. Tolerance is about accepting and respecting difference – the true test of tolerance and respect only comes when you disagree with someone. It is about agreeing to work out your disagreements within a legal and democratic framework.

At the same time, there are limits to where we can agree to disagree. We cannot tolerate the intolerable. Female genital mutilation is one example. Like September 11, this is not about East versus West, or Islam versus Christianity – it is about extremism versus modernity. It is an affront to modern values of equality, equal respect and respect for human life and suffering.

In fact, we think of these as modern values, but they lie at the heart of all the major religions. Secular thinkers mock believers for being more interested in saving the soul than the body. But religion has never just been about making promises for the afterlife. It is about making a difference now, to the actual reality of people’s lives. All the major religions teach us that in the end our lives will be judged on how much we have helped others.

Of course, in all the major religions there have also been, and will continue to be, times and places where these central values are obscured by upsurges in religious extremism. That is the challenge of a world where different peoples are at different stages of development. Oppression on the basis of religious difference – which in Europe was probably at its most vivid in the work of the Inquisition, but continues through to the Taleban in much more recent times – is a strand in human affairs which has to be faced up to. It places a duty on all of us not to turn away, but to redouble our efforts to connect with those who continue to fight for openness, tolerance, and respect. And it imposes on Government a duty to address the concerns of faith leaders. If we don’t do this – if we don’t show how moderate faith leaders are listened to, can really have an input into policy discussion – then we play into the hands of the extremists and rabble-rousers.

That’s why we committed ourselves in the manifesto for the last election to look at the government’s interface with the faith communities; that’s why we have followed through on that by establishing a steering group to look at ways of giving faith groups an input into policymaking and delivery. The steering group reports in December, and we hope its recommendations will enable us to make real progress in harnessing the energy and depth of commitment of faith communities. At the same time of course we will continue to support more immediate, practical projects on the ground, especially those projects which aim to build not just strong, tightly-knit communities but active outreach communities – communities in which deeply held faith is a springboard for individuals and groups to play an active role in civic society.

Let me finish by making it clear that while I believe faith communities are crucial to the working of civil society, I am not seeking to impose a duty on them to engage with the formal political arena. I simply want us all to recognise that in an increasingly complex, connected world we all share the challenge to finding solutions to our common problems. In that task we should do all we can to engage people of goodwill – both those of faith and those of no faith. Together we need to be clear that in the world we hold in common we need to work together to preserve and enhance what we value most – that is, our common humanity.

Alan Milburn – 2003 Speech to the Social Market Foundation

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Milburn, the then Secretary of State for Health, on 30 April 2003.

Domestic politics is back. This week there will be important elections in Scotland, Wales and England. Over these last few months, Iraq put bread and butter issues on hold. The Government’s decision on the Euro could have a similar effect. But whilst Iraq and the Euro are hugely important for the future of our country and the wider international community, it is not the five tests on the Euro that will determine this government’s fate. It is the three big domestic tests: delivering on jobs and the economy, crime and asylum, health and education.

Here there is a stark choice for the Government. To pursue the cautious incrementalism that sometimes characterised our first term, or to embark on a more fundamental transformation of our country. It is the latter course of action I believe we must choose if we are to successfully meet each of these three key domestic tests.

Reassurance was right for our first term. Radical reform is what is needed now. Not reform for reform’s sake but reform to open up new opportunities for people to deliver on our commitment to social justice.

So for public services that means using the considerable extra resources now going in to health and education to reinvent collective provision for today’s world.

Some find that an uneasy proposition. Reform in health or in education is often caricatured as being in conflict with the values of the Centre Left – as though reform can only ever come from the Right.

That is to confuse ends with means. The ends remain – of strong public services capable of providing opportunity and security in a globalised and increasingly uncertain world. It is the means of securing them must now change as society itself has changed.

We are in a century where deference is lower but expectations are higher than they were in the century that saw the creation of these great public services.

So, today I want to set out the case for public service reform. And I want to do so with particular reference to the changes we seek to make in the National Health Service including NHS Foundation Trusts.

My starting point is this: strong public services are the best provider of opportunity any society can have. A good education helps lift people up. A good police and criminal justice system keeps communities safe from harm. And a good health service secures the health of the nation.

All my adult life I have argued for policies and for values that are about widening opportunity in our society. That is why I believe the NHS is such a source of strength for our country. It expresses the values that I believe in. Solidarity, community, opportunity. With the NHS we all share in the security – Nye Bevan called it the serenity- of knowing that we all pay in when we can do so that we all can take out when we need to. The health of each of us depending on the contribution of all of us.

These were the ideals that inspired the generation of Bevan and Beveridge. They remain our inspiration today.

Indeed, I believe profoundly that the case for the NHS system of funding and values is stronger today than it has ever been. Now more than ever, we live in a world where health care can do more but costs more. Since none of us knows when we will fall ill, how long it will last or what it will cost, having an NHS that pools risk because it is funded through general taxation and is free at the point of use, based on need not ability to pay, is the right way forward for our country.

Conversely, the market-based approach favoured by others would be both inefficient and unjust. As the costs of treatment and drugs grow, the risks to family finances of pay-as-you-go and health vouchers would grow too.

I reject the vision of some privatised future where the health care you are guaranteed for your family is the health care you insure for privately or pay for, in part or in whole. Where poverty bars the entrance to the best treatments. I reject the dogma of those whose dislike of public services is such that they would prefer a private sector working inefficiently to a public sector working well.

It is because we recognise the unpredictability of health needs, the rising costs of heath technology and the equity and efficiency of the NHS tax funded system that for us the NHS will remain a National Health Service – a public service free at the point of use with decisions on health care always made by doctors and nurses on the basis of clinical need.

The Government’s decision to double health spending in real terms by 2008 from the position we inherited in 1997 is a declaration of that faith in the NHS. With the right level of funding we believe it can be the best health insurance policy in the world.

I believe we are right to raise tax to increase spending in the NHS and the increased spending we have been putting in is beginning to repay that declaration of faith. More doctors and nurses. More drugs being prescribed. More patients being seen. Shorter waits for treatment. As the Modernisation Board put it recently there is a long way to go but the NHS is now turning the corner.

But money alone, however, cannot deliver the modern responsive health services our nation needs. To get the best from the money the NHS needs to be properly organised. I have heard it said that since the extra investment is now paying dividends in the NHS further reforms are not needed. It is true that the resources are tackling the historic capacity problems the NHS has faced for decades. What is equally true however, is that the NHS has cultural barriers that must also be overcome if it is to reach its full potential. That cannot be achieved through investment. It can only be achieved through reform.

The NHS has great strengths in how it has been organised. For over fifty years it has provided good care and treatment for millions according to the right values. Its ethos and its staff express the values of the nation. Its unitary structure gives it great advantages both in overall levels of efficiency and its focus on public health. Its primary care services, led by Britain’s family doctors, are the envy of many other countries.

But the NHS has structural weaknesses too, not least its top down, centralised system that tends to inhibit local innovation and its monolithic structure that denies patient choice. NHS Foundation Trusts are a means of overcoming that faultline.

And for those of us on the Left the most depressing thing of all is that despite having the fairest health care system in the world, for fifty years the gap between the health of the wealthiest and the health of the poorest has widened not narrowed. A boy born today in Manchester will live on average a decade less than a boy born in Dorset.

For half a century, uniformity of provision has not guaranteed equality of outcome. Too often, even today, the poorest services are in the poorest communities. The hard fact is that for over fifty years it is poorer people and poorer communities who have lost out from poorly provided public services.

That is an affront to all that I believe in. For me, the only purpose of being in politics is to build a society where, regardless of race or gender or social class, there is opportunity for all not just for some.

Take choice, which the Left has mistakenly conceded to the Right. For too long choice in health care has only ever been available to those with the means to pay for it. Those with more money have been able to exercise more choice. That is the real two-tier health care in our country.

The trap we must avoid is that identified by Richard Titmuss four decades ago of so many people opting out of publicly provided health and education that public services become only for the poor and then end up themselves being poor services.

Then there’s the pensioner with modest savings. Worked hard, paid in all his life, finds he needs a heart operation and then is forced to choose between waiting for treatment or paying for treatment.

That is a dilemma I want to solve. The way to do it is to reduce the waiting times and make choice available on the NHS; choice for all not just for some so that for the first time NHS patients can choose hospitals rather than hospitals choosing patients.

The route to patient choice lies not through more healthcare charges but through big cultural changes. The cultural changes which redesign services around the needs of patients so that they are able to make choices about where and when and by whom they are treated. And so that NHS patients can make that choice free of charge, within the NHS.

So it is right to be bold on reform. But boldness is not an end. It is a means to an end. It should be about making health services more responsive so they can provide more opportunities for the communities they serve. That is the purpose of our reform programme in general and NHS Foundation Trusts in particular.

We must not allow our reform programme to be caricatured as a values-free zone. It is actually quite the reverse. It is about strengthening our public services as a means of securing the values that guide us – of social justice and stronger communities. It is boldness for a purpose.

So it is right to press ahead with fundamental reform in how the NHS works. For some – particularly on the Left – this is not an easy process because the NHS is in our blood. For many it is the touchstone of all that we stand for. And yet in our hearts we know that the NHS needs to be better – not because it has failed but because the world has changed.

Sixty years ago when the NHS was formed it was the era of the ration book. People expected little say and experienced precious little choice.

Today we live in a quite different world; a consumer age; the computer age; the informed and inquiring society. People demand services tailored to their individual needs. People want choice and expect quality.

We all do it and we all know it. These changes cannot be wished away. They are here to stay. And these changes challenge every one of our great public services.

To meet that challenge we’ve got to move on from the one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it, top down health service of the 1940s towards an NHS which embraces devolution, diversity and choice – precisely so that its services can be more responsive to the way the world is today.

Unless we do so, more and more of the public will simply walk away from public services eroding the national consensus that supports them. Reform is not about undermining tax-funded public services. It is about strengthening that consensus by making the NHS more responsive to those who use it.

In our first term we rightly sought to do that by putting in place a new national framework of standards. It is easy to forget how far we have come. There are new national standards for cancer, heart disease, mental health, elderly care and now for children’s services. There is greater transparency over local service performance so that we and more importantly, patients and staff, can spot if things are going wrong and put them right. There is a new legal duty of quality and a new system of clinical governance to enshrine improvements throughout the NHS.

There is the National Institute for Clinical Excellence to tackle postcode prescribing. For the first time the NHS has an independent inspectorate. With the NHS Modernisation Agency there are now new systems for when things go wrong and more help to learn from what goes right. There are clear targets to focus effort across the whole NHS not least to address the biggest public concern about the health service – how long patients wait for treatment. And for all the comment about targets no one should kid themselves that we would be making the progress we are now – with waiting times falling on virtually every indicator – without the targets we have set.

These measures have all served to strengthen equity in the NHS. And I believe they were all necessary to kickstart the process of improvement that was overdue. But the NHS cannot be run forever like a 1940s-style nationalised industry.

National targets and standards are important but ultimately improvement is delivered locally not nationally by frontline staff in frontline services. And that is where power needs to be located if those services are genuinely to be responsive to local communities.

Sustaining improvements in NHS performance can only happen when staff have more control and local communities have a greater say in how services are run. Disempowering frontline staff – whether it is doctors or nurses, social workers or police officers, teachers or managers – is never going to be the best way to run a public service. That’s why we have devolved power to Primary Care Trusts and why we want to establish NHS Foundation Trusts. It is right to set standards nationally but it is wrong to try to run the NHS nationally.

Just as there are limits to the role of free markets in health care, there have to be limits to the role of the centralised state.

Ours is a small country with big differences. It is not uniform. It is multi-faceted and multi-cultural. Different communities have different needs. We have local councils to run local services because we recognise that needs do differ between communities. What is true for social services is also true for health services. With the best will in the world, those needs cannot be met from a distant Whitehall. They can only be properly met locally not nationally.

That is why, with a national framework of standards and inspection now in place, the centre of gravity is shifting decisively to the NHS frontline. More devolution to primary care trusts, more diversity in provision, more choice for patients to open up the system so that it is more responsive to those who use it. NHS Foundation Trusts are part of that process.

We are now in transition from the old order to the new. As we set out in the NHS Plan the more performance improves the more control local health services will assume.

Rather than trying to drive improvements simply through top-down performance management, the transition is towards improvements driven through greater local autonomy in which PCT commissioning, new financial incentives and the choices patients make become the driving force for change, backed by national standards and independent inspection. That transition will take time but the direction of travel is now set – and it must not be reversed.

NHS Foundation Trusts are the next stage in that journey. In some quarters it is a controversial policy; for many in the NHS it is a welcome one.

Since I first outlined the policy more than a year ago, there have been a number of myths and misconceptions about what we intend to do and how we intend to do it. So let us nail some myths today.

NHS Foundation Trusts will be NHS hospitals. They will be fully part of the NHS but with greater freedom to run their own affairs.

Freeing NHS Foundation Trusts from day-to-day Whitehall control will improve care for patients by encouraging greater local innovation in service delivery. It will help unleash that spirit of public service enterprise that exists in so many parts of the NHS but for too long has been held back.

NHS Foundation Trusts will be owned and controlled by the public locally not nationally so as to strengthen the relationship between local hospital services and local communities.

In place of the centralised system of government appointments to hospital boards, for the first time there will be direct elections by local people and local staff of hospital governors.

Strengthening public ownership by making NHS Foundation Trusts more locally accountable will particularly help improve services in poorer areas. Indeed I very much welcome the fact that hospitals in some of the most deprived areas of the country, including Hackney, Liverpool, Bradford, Doncaster and Sunderland have all expressed an interest in being amongst the first NHS Foundation Trusts.

We are starting with existing three star NHS hospitals. In time the Foundation principle will be extended to mental health trusts and other parts of the NHS. To date 32 NHS Trusts have applied. I will be making decisions about those applications shortly. I hope to be able to approve the vast majority of them. But that is just the start. I will also be bringing forward plans – including extra financial support – to help each and every NHS hospital to become an NHS Foundation Trust over the course of the next four to five years. A policy, in other words, that is for all and not just for some.

This is part of an ‘equity guarantee’ that the Bill introducing NHS Foundation Trusts enshrines. That equity guarantee means that NHS Foundation Trusts will remain part of the NHS providing services to NHS patients according to NHS principles – care for free, based on need not ability to pay. It means they will be subject to NHS standards and systems of inspection. And it means they will be bound by a legal duty to work in co-operation with others to improve the quality of health care throughout the NHS in keeping with our values where the strong support the weak for the benefit of all.

So NHS Foundation Trusts will be built on the values and principles of community empowerment, of staff involvement, and of democratisation. Indeed the way they will work draws on some of this country’s best traditions of mutualism and co-operation. They draw too on international experience of greater independence improving performance in hospitals across Europe.

This is not the reinvention of an internal market. Far from it. NHS Foundation Trusts will get their income through local Primary Care Trusts, just like every other NHS hospital. They will all work within the flexibilities of the Agenda for Change pay system we have negotiated with the NHS trades unions.

There will be no competition based on hospitals offering the lowest price. In future all hospitals will be paid a nationally set price for the same procedure. Those who treat more NHS patients should of course get more NHS money. So there will be a payment by results system but NHS Foundation Trusts can not make a profit or pay a dividend. There will be a legal lock on their NHS assets ensuring their continued use for NHS patients and the proportion of their income from private patients will be capped at current levels.

So those who claim this is privatisation or a step in that direction – through the front door, through the back door or through the side door – are simply wrong.

By all means let us debate NHS Foundation Trusts but let us do so on the basis of what the policy is rather than what it is not. Greater local freedom, real local ownership, genuine staff involvement to give more responsive services and ensure community needs are better met.

NHS Foundation Trusts are part of a wider reform programme aimed at getting the right combination of national standards and local control. Both are needed if services are to improve and if the case for collective provision is to be won.

The Government has made public services the key political battleground in our country. We have staked our reputation on being able to deliver the improvements in public services that have escaped governments for decades. And we have embarked on a high risk but necessary strategy of raising taxes in order to raise resources for the health service and other key public services.

We have been right to do so. But we need to recognise that in so doing we have raised the stakes. Collective provision of public services – whether in health, education or local government – is challenged as never before.

The Right – in the media and in politics – believe the game is up for services that are collectively funded and provided. In today’s consumer world they argue that the only way to get services that are responsive to individual needs is through the market mechanism of patients paying for their treatment.

It is easy to dismiss the Right’s policies as the last twitch of the Thatcherite corpse. But if we fail to match high and sustained investment with real and radical reform it will be the Centre-Left’s argument that public services can both be modern and fair, consumer-orientated and collectively provided that will face extinction.

We will win the argument for public service investment and reform if we accept that the era of one-size-fits-all public services is over and that the Centre-Left’s approach today should be based on decentralisation, diversity and choice.

Our objectives – social justice and opportunity for all – remain. It is our means of delivery that must now change. Our job in carrying through these reforms is to preserve values and yet still change structures.

Reform is difficult. It is often controversial. The pioneers who created the NHS found that. The job of re-creation and renewal will be no less difficult. But we will be failing the public if we did anything other than press ahead with reform. The Government’s foot needs to be firmly on the accelerator not on the brake. We have just entered the period of unprecedented expansion when it comes to investment. We must keep up the pace of reform.

Alan Milburn – 2003 Speech to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Milburn, the then Secretary of State for Health, on 3 April 2003.

Mr President, my Lords, ladies and gentlemen,

It’s a great pleasure to be here with you this evening and particularly to follow both John and Cliff.

It’s three years since I last had the pleasure of addressing you. I announced then the creation of the PICTF- an important symbol of the co-operation that I believe exists between industry and Government in our country. And I join with John in praising the leading role that colleagues from the ABPI and especially Phil Hunt played in taking that co-operation forward.

Tonight I want to suggest how we can build on that strengthened relationship.

The starting point is this simple insight: the health of the country and the health of your industry are intimately linked. The stronger our partnership the better it is for Britain.

Your industry as John rightly said is a major contributor to the wealth of our nation – and therefore ultimately to the funding of the great public services on which people in our nation rely. Indeed the Pharmaceutical Industry is a competitive and innovative, knowledge-based and high value-added industry. You are genuine world leaders – second only to the US in the discovery and development of the world’s leading medicines. Our job in government is to create the environment in which you can thrive.

A stable economy; a flexible and skilled labour market, a world-class university sector and science base – these are the keys to unlocking success in what is, as you know, a highly competitive global market place. On each of these fronts there is reasonable progress to report.

For example, we believe in investing in science. By 2005 the science budget will stand at nearly £3 billion – more than double what it was just a few years ago. Investment that will help grow your future workforce and sow the seeds for future scientific advance. The new R&D tax credits we introduced last year I hope will help that process. The green light that Parliament has given to stem cell research not only provides a further basis for new scientific endeavour but holds out the hope of new breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of serious illness.

And for research to thrive it needs proportionate regulation and it also needs a safe environment – which is why John was right to highlight the threats posed by a small minority of animal rights extremists. I know that some of you here tonight will have been targeted by these people. Many more will have felt intimidated by them. All I want to say to you is that the Government unreservedly condemns their campaign of violence and intimidation. We are determined they will not succeed. That is why we have taken action to improve co-ordination between the police and other agencies. It is why we have strengthened the law. And I can say tonight we do not rule out further changes to the law to remove the threat that these extremists pose.

I believe that we must deal with those threats in order that we can realise the very real potential that now exists. Over these next few years a growing National Health Service and the prospect of further pharmaceutical advance provide new opportunities for both industrial prosperity and better health.

The NHS is in a period of unprecedented growth. By 2008 its budget will be double that of just a decade before. We have the fastest growing health care system of any major country in Europe. There is of course a huge amount of catching up to do. Nonetheless there aren’t many organisations in this country – perhaps not in the world – that know what their budgets will be in five years time. The NHS is in that enviable position.

The fruits of increased investment are already plain to see. Not just in the growth in nurses and doctors, more beds and new hospitals but in shorter waiting times for treatment and improved standards of care. In the last year alone there were around 30 million extra prescriptions for patients. The NHS drugs bill rose by £850 million. That represents a year-on-year increase of nearly 14 per cent, with a similar rate of growth likely this year.

I said three years ago that more spending on medicines is, in my view, a good thing, not a bad thing. Provided of course that the extra money is spent effectively and gets good value. Some feared, three years ago, that the advent of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence – and I pay tribute tonight to its work under the leadership of Sir Michael Rawlins – would act as a brake on drug spending in the NHS. Those who thought that obviously got the wrong pedal. NICE has not slowed down expenditure on new drugs. It has accelerated it. NICE decisions since it was set up three years ago have cost the NHS over £700 million. Amongst those benefiting have been an additional 31,000 cancer patients, 160,000 diabetes patients, 100,000 people suffering from alzheimers disease and 170,000 more who can benefit from atypical antipsychotic drugs. In the last year alone, as John said, prescribing of statins has risen by 30% benefiting over one million people and helping to save an estimated 6,000 lives.

Now as John commented – and I got the message – there is more that needs to be done. And just for the avoidance of doubt: I did not set up NICE so that its recommendations could sit gathering dust on the shelves of Primary Care Trusts. You want the guidance implemented, I want the guidance implemented and I will ensure that this is precisely what happens.

And over time I would expect to see the importance of medicines to the NHS continuing to grow. And in all likelihood drugs spending as a proportion of NHS spending will also continue to grow. Too much of the debate on health care today in my view is still focussed on the narrow terrain of hospital-based activity. Now what happens in hospitals is, of course, incredibly important. But it is not the be-all-and-end-all of what the health service does. Indeed changes in demography and the pattern of illness alongside scientific advance and technological breakthroughs are driving the NHS towards more health care being delivered in a non-hospital setting. As today’s World Cancer Report from the WHO argues, the focus increasingly needs to be on prevention, not just treatment. The work we have done together in government and the industry has given the NHS a world-leading smoking cessation service sets a course which we must now follow in the years to come.

Already in the last few years the number of premature deaths from major killers such as cancer and coronary heart disease have begun to fall dramatically in our country. New drugs and more effective prescribing have played their part in that. But there are new challenges too. The latest census for example showed that nearly 9 million people in England have a limiting long term illness. With the population of over-60s set to grow by one third in the next twenty years, that number will inevitably rise substantially.

At the other end of the age spectrum, rising levels of obesity, most worryingly amongst children, create future risks of diabetes, heart disease and of course renal failure. If current trends continue – and we need to see that they do not – up to a quarter of all adults in our country could be obese by the year 2010. And, of course, there are the threats posed to public health as a consequence of open borders, increased mobility and global travel.

New challenges then, demand new approaches. And here there are good reasons to be optimistic. Indeed, some commentators say we are likely to see in the next twenty years as much advance in healthcare as we have seen in the last two hundred. The pharmaceutical industry will undoubtedly be at the leading edge of these advances. Day by day the industry is helping us understand disease mechanisms better. And many believe this generation, our generation, stands on the threshold, fifty years after DNA was first decoded at Cambridge, of a genetics revolution that could transform health care across the world. Pharmocogenetics that tailor drug treatments to individual patient metabolisms. New drugs and therapies targeted at the cause of the disease rather than controlling its symptoms. Diagnostic methods that can help prevent disease before it develops. And gene therapies that hold out the prospect for entirely new treatments – and even cures – for cancer and other common diseases. I am delighted that Trevor Jones has agreed to chair the new Advisory Group for Genetics Research to provide the advice that we need to determine research priorities.

Because only if we make the decision to invest now will we harness this potential for the future. In a few weeks’ time I will publish a White Paper on genetics which will set out how we intend to work in partnership with the industry to put Britain at the forefront of this genetic revolution so that its advances can be made available to the people of our country.

And the benefits of scientific breakthrough and the great good that your industry brings need to be made available to poor nations just as well as to richer ones. No challenge can be greater than dealing with the threat to health posed by poverty and disease in the world’s poorest countries. John rightly mentioned the steps that pharmaceutical companies have already taken on this issue and I pay tribute to the work that you have done. It is true that governments and international organisations need to do much more too. But none of us can feel comfortable with a position where the industry develops medicines that can save lives, only for a minority of the people in the world who need them actually being able to benefit from them. It is precisely because of your achievement in creating new life-saving medicines that the world looks to you to do all in your power to make them available to the people who need them most. In Government we not only urge you to do that but we pledge to work in partnership with you to help make that happen.

In recent years we have built between us – industry and government – a strong partnership. It needs to be stronger still in the years to come if we are to meet the new challenges that confront us and realise the new opportunities that are open to us.

We are in an era of unparalleled growth in the NHS; a time of unequalled discovery in science and medicine; a period of profound potential in which both the UK’s health services and pharmaceutical industries can lay the foundations of better treatments for generations – in our own country and across the world.

To realise that potential however, we need to strengthen our partnership. We will then, I believe, truly unlock a rich seam of new science, new discoveries, new treatments and technologies which are genuinely capable of delivering better health and better lives in our own communities and communities across the globe.

This is the challenge for all of us. It is a challenge that I believe that by working together – Government, Industry and patients groups – we can meet that challenge.

Alan Milburn – 2003 Speech to the National Association of Primary Care

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Milburn, the then Secretary of State for Health, to the National Association of Primary Care on 5 March 2003.

I want to begin by thanking the National Association of Primary Care for inviting me to speak but more importantly for being at the forefront of improvements in primary care and for speaking up for its interests.

Primary care is the frontline service of the National Health Service. Certainly, you are the people who make the health service work for millions of our fellow citizens every year. And from next month primary care organisations – PCTs – will be in charge of £46 billion a year – three-quarters of the total NHS budget.

So, today I believe we have an historic opportunity to put primary care where it should be: centre stage in a reformed National Health Service. In this speech I want to set out why it is necessary to achieve that renaissance in primary care and how we intend to make it happen.

The NHS today is the fastest growing health service of any major country in Europe. Six years ago resources were falling in real terms. Now they are set to double. In England, health spending has risen by 6.1% in real terms this year and will rise on average by 7.5% per year for the next five years.

The investment is going in to put the NHS on a sustainable footing for the long term. Quite simply if we want world class health care it has got to be paid for – if not through Pay As You Earn then through pay as you go. We have chosen on grounds of both equity and efficiency not to make people pay more for their own care when they are ill but instead to raise a little more in tax to get a whole lot more for the health service. A contribution from each of us to the health care of all of us. I believe that is the right decision for the country.

Some say resources never really produce results. In my view that is a counsel of despair and sometimes it is frankly motivated only by a desire to undermine the NHS and the people working in it.

Of course the NHS has problems. Decades of neglect and under investment are still felt in health centres and hospitals across the country. But steady progress is underway. Double the number of drugs are being prescribed to prevent heart attacks. 11% more prescriptions were issued last year and 13% more this year. One million more patients are getting a hospital operation every year. One and three quarter million more are getting seen in outpatients or in A and E every year. The number of patients waiting more than twelve months for an operation is down two-thirds. The maximum wait for a heart operation is being halved in just one year. Deaths from heart disease over the last few years are down 14%. Deaths from cancer down 6%. According to Professor Roger Boyle, the country has seen the largest fall in Europe in lung cancer amongst men and the largest decline in breast cancer amongst women.

In primary care there are particular challenges. In many parts of the country recruitment and retention remains difficult for example. But even here the “GP Golden Hello” scheme has contributed to the recruitment of over 2,200 new or returning GPs since it began in April 2001. The numbers of GPs in training has risen for 5 years in a row after previously falling for 5 years. New programmes, like the Flexible Careers Scheme and childcare support are helping more staff to achieve a balance between work and family life. For the first time since 1948 there is now a concerted programme to improve the quality of the working environment in primary care. Around 1,000 GP premises have already been modernised – well on the way to achieving the NHS Plan commitment to refurbish or replace up to 3,000 GP premises by the end of next year. There are extra resources being invested in the most under doctored areas. And alongside the investment, important reforms are already improving primary care for patients. The average waiting time to see a nurse in those practices involved in the Primary Care Collaborative is down by over 50%. The average time to see is a GP is down by more than 60%.

There is of course a huge amount of catching up to do and a long way to go. Notwithstanding some of the progress that is being made our primary care services face big problems. There are still too few GPs working in the NHS. Too many GPs and primary health care professionals have to work in poorly equipped premises. Too few GPs are able to spend enough time with their patients.

But the only way to address these problems – and to maintain the progress now being made – is to sustain the investment now going in. If people in the health service want to see progress then that requires money. That is why in my view it is right that the Government has taken the decision to add 1p to the tax bill so get the right level of resources and the right programme of reform into the health service.

I know there is a feeling in primary care that it does not get its fair share or that it always loses out. Sometimes in government we may have given the impression that it is always hospitals that come first, primary care services that must inevitably be second. I think that impression is wrong and today I want to tell you why that is and what we intend to do about it.

I know that over the years every secretary of state for healthSecretary of State for Health has said they want to shift the emphasis of where health care is provided from hospitals to primary care. I know too that primary care audiences generally respond with a few seconds of hope, a few minutes of scepticism and then years of disappointment. I believe however that this generation has the best opportunity there has ever been to put primary care centre stage in a reformed NHS.

I say that for a number of reasons.

Firstly, because patients are on the side of primary care. Primary care – despite the very real problems it faces – is the jewel in the crown of Britain’s NHS. It is where we lead the world. Other nations with supposedly superior health care systems look on our family doctor system with envy: admiring it for its better outcomes, lower costs and higher satisfaction levels.

Primary care makes a difference to one million patients every single working day. Nine out of every ten NHS patients are seen in primary care. And three quarters of patients are quite or very satisfied with the work their GP does for them.

And primary care is set to become even more important. It will play an even more pivotal role as we expand the choices available to NHS patients. For years the role of GPs has been described as a gateway into the health care system but as patients begin to exercise greater choice within the NHS, the role of family doctors, community nurses and other primary care staff will become increasingly important to help patients make informed choices about their care.

Second, demographic change is on the side of primary care. The latest census showed that 18% of our population, nearly 9m people, have a limiting long-term illness such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes or arthritis. In some areas of the country this affects nearly one third of the population. The challenge of chronic disease is set to grow rather than diminish over the years to come.

Modern medicine is increasingly converting previously life threatening conditions into chronic conditions. Nearly three quarters of older people suffer from one or more long-standing illness. The number of people in the UK over 60 is projected to grow by one third by 2021; the number over 75 by more than one quarter.

At the other end of the age spectrum rising levels of obesity, most worryingly amongst children, create future risks of diabetes, heart disease and renal failure. According to research the Department of Health has undertaken into likely future trends in health care – and which I intend to publish before too long – if current trends continue up to one quarter of adults are likely to be obese by 2010.

Those with chronic conditions, especially the elderly and frail, need to receive care as close to home as possible. That calls for greater emphasis on expanding primary care services so that they can work more effectively in partnership with patients.

Third, medical advance and technological change are also on the side of primary care. Future technological change – near patient testing, digital imaging, telemedicine – together with new treatments and prevention strategies will all support an expanding role for primary care in taking a lead in the management of chronic disease.

For example, within the next decade it is likely that the miniaturisation of diagnostic and monitoring equipment will enable diagnostic kit to be available in primary care; intensive treatment will become available on standard hospital wards and even in the home; and there will be more widespread use of self-monitoring at home.

The trend in treatment is therefore towards it being delivered locally. Indeed in this era of globalisation that is what people increasingly want to see.

Public expectations. Changing patterns of health need. New treatments and technologies. The tide of history is flowing firmly on the side of primary care.

The government’s reform programme goes with this tide of change. As both the proposed new GP contract and the creation of Primary Care Trusts testify our reform programme too is on the side of primary care.

Let me take each in turn.

First the proposed new GMS contract. If it is accepted by the profession, I believe it could mark a turning point in the history of primary care.

I want to use this opportunity to say publicly what I have already said privately to the negotiators. Both the NHS Confederation and the BMA are to be congratulated on the agreement they have reached. The most ambitious quality based incentive scheme for primary care in the world. I hope very much that it is endorsed by the profession. Of course, I fully recognise that implementing this is going to be a major challenge for the NHS. But, difficult as it is, it is the right thing to do.

I say that because the contract will help GPs better manage workload, in particular the burden of out-of-hours care. It will support the desire I know many practices have to deliver a greater range of new and innovative services particularly at the primary to secondary care interface. And it recognises the independent practice unit as the cornerstone of primary care which should enjoy greater devolution of responsibility and greater freedom.

Where these developments help PMS doctors, we will look to incorporate them into the PMS arrangements. As I have said before, PMS is here to stay. We want to ensure that all patients have access to high quality services, whether their doctors are PMS doctors or GMS doctors, and we want to ensure that NHS resources are allocated equitably on the basis of the needs of patients and of practice populations.

The contract will bring an unprecedented 33% increase in new investment in primary care. That should allow those practices that want to, to achieve a step change in the range, quality and accessibility of primary care services.

Primary Care Trusts will help realise that objective too. From April, PCTs will be in charge of three-quarters of the NHS budget. PCTs exist for two main purposes: to hold the resources and the responsibilities to improve the health of the local population and to commission care which gives local patients the services that are right to meet their needs.

I have often heard it said this is all very well in theory but in practice the resources are already spoken for with hospitals that drain all the investment and primary care that inevitably loses out.

I want to take that argument on today – and to set out how, by working together, we can ensure that more not fewer services are provided in primary care and that PCTs are able to exercise real power.

To begin with, the resources we have allocated direct to local primary care trusts are for three years not one. The average increase is over 30%. This should allow PCTs to plan with certainty to increase capacity over the medium term. In the past short term funding hindered long term planning. Now PCTs are able to decide which local developments will take place when. And three year budgets should allow PCTs to decide longer term agreements with hospitals and with other providers.

We have also given PCTs the explicit freedom to purchase care from the most appropriate provider – whether public, private, voluntary or not for profit. Resources will follow the choices that patients and PCTs make so that hospitals which do more get more; those which do not, will not.

And we want to help PCTs develop this commissioning role. At present I know that when it comes to negotiating contracts it can feel like the hospitals hold all the cards. But remember this – PCTs hold all the money. And we want to create a more level playing field.

We are planning to build up PCTs’ capacity to commission first through the national PCT development programme, then through the new NHS University. I want the NAPC to be part of this process – so that every PCT in every part of the country has the information, the skills and the resources to get the best deal for patients. In some parts of the country PCTs are already drawing on the strengths of organisations such as Kaiser Permanente and United Healthcare from the USA to help them deliver improvements in commissioning of services. In the months to come we will want to find ways of more PCTs benefiting from such an approach. And I can tell this conference that we are already exploring how the concept of earned autonomy can be applied to PCTs so that those who are performing best get more freedoms and those that need more help get greater support. And the concept should not stop there. I will be looking at how Practices should benefit from earned autonomy as relationships with PCTs develop and the new GMS contract beds in.

Our ambition has to be put primary care centre stage across the whole health service. For example, as w0e move over a four or five year period towards all hospitals having the opportunity to become NHS Foundation hospitals, PCTs throughout the country for the first time will be represented on hospital governance structures. That will put primary care even more in the driving seat.

And when we start to introduce from next month a common tariff system for hospital operations it will take out of the local negotiations between PCTs and hospitals the very areas where PCTs are weakest – on price negotiation – and leave those where they are strongest – on quality of service and outcomes of care. PCTs need their local hospitals – but not at any price. Hospitals need to deliver – and PCTs need to demand the right standards of services.

So I will stand up for PCTs. And PCTs need to stand up for themselves. I know that many feel honour bound to the local hospital. But the job of PCTs is to get the right services for patients. They need to flex their financial muscles and use their commissioning powers.

The truth is that delivering shorter waiting times in hospitals – whether in A&E or for a hospital operation – cannot simply be delivered by more activity in hospitals. It requires more intermediate care services, more social care services, more primary care. It needs more help so that people can avoid hospital by being treated in the community. That calls for more diagnostic and outpatient clinics in health centres. Better facilities to enable GPs who want to, to carry out more diagnostic services and more day surgery. It needs more locally based services so that those people who do need hospital treatment can return home when they are ready to do so. It needs a greater emphasis on prevention and not just treatment. A bigger role for self care. Better use of pharmacist skills. More walk in centres and community hospital services to build a bridge between the big acute hospital and the patient’s home.

Some PCTs are already grasping these opportunities. Many more can now do so. I believe that taken together, the potential of the proposed GP contract and power in the hands of PCTs, provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebalance services in the NHS – between those provided in hospitals and those in the community. Of course hospitals will continue to be important – not least because long waits for treatment both corrode public confidence and frustrate GPs. But a better balance is required. Indeed the hospital won’t be able to do its work and we won’t be able to get hospital waiting times down unless the balance shifts towards primary and community services.

Take outpatients. Over these next few years we estimate that as many as one million outpatients could be treated in primary and community settings rather than in hospitals. That will ease the pressure on hospitals, provide care more conveniently for patients and enhance and expand the role of primary care.

That is dependent of course on expanding the capacity of primary care. The new GP contract and the new Agenda for Change pay system will be important means to that end.

It is also dependent on developing more GPs and nurses with a specialist interest capable of diagnosing and managing a range of conditions that currently require hospital referral. In Huntingdonshire GPs specialising in dermatology have helped reduce waits from 36 weeks to 4 weeks. In Bradford, GPs who are now running outreach clinics providing ENT services have reduced waiting times from 60 weeks to only a few weeks. Optometrists treating patients have reduced referrals to hospital ophthalmology services by almost two-thirds. If it can happen in some places we should try to extend to all.

And to help that process and to build on the Implementation Framework for GPs with a special interest we published last year, I can tell this conference that later this month we will publish ten further draft guidelines – we have developed with the Royal College of GPs and others – for accrediting GPs with a special interest in areas such as dermatology, diabetes, orthopaedics and neurology. At the same time we will also publish a similar Implementation Framework for Nurses in specialist roles to advise and encourage nurses and PCTs in establishing specialist roles.

We will also want to encourage more PCTs to follow the lead of those in places like Dudley, Milton Keynes, Salford and Southend-on-Sea which all employ consultants in specialities such as mental health and paediatrics. This is about securing greater integration in services. It is about overcoming the divide between primary and secondary based care. Most importantly of all it is about making services more locally accessible to patients. I hope that – consistent of course with appointments being properly regulated – PCTs will now consider how to extend these employment opportunities for consultants to surgical and other specialties.

In these next few years – with funding on a sustainable footing for the longer term – PCTs have a huge opportunity to reshape local services in the interests of local patients. If PCTs properly use the power and resources they now have, they will be central to bringing about a renaissance in primary care.

The future of the NHS lies in primary care. That is where patients want to be treated. It is where medical advance is moving treatment. And it is where both the profession and the government want to see prevention and treatment expand.

I believe we really do stand on the threshold of that renaissance in primary care. With the right level of investment, the right reforms, the good will of the profession and the support of the whole health community, we can secure a major change in the focus of health care in our country.

You are central to that.

For years primary care has dealt with most NHS patients.

From this year primary care will control most NHS resources.

From now on, primary care must drive investment and reform across the whole health service.

You have the power; you will have the resources; you now have the opportunity to change the system in the interests of the patients you serve.

Alan Milburn – 2003 Speech on Localism

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Milburn, the then Secretary of State for Health, on 5 February 2003.

I would like to thank the New Local Government Network and the New Health Network for hosting today’s event. They are at the forefront of new thinking around public service reform and debates about what should rightly be done centrally and what locally. It is an important indication of where that debate is going that they have jointly hosted today’s discussion.

This speech is the first of two speeches I will be making over the next week on the theme of public service reform. My speech next week will focus on choice in public services. Today I want to cover the importance of local accountability and local control in public services.

The context is this. Any government succeeds or fails according to two simple tests. One whether it has a coherent vision for the country. Two, whether it can make progress towards realising that vision: whether the country is moving forwards or backwards.

We are now at a critical juncture for this Labour government. We have been in power for almost six years. Labour dominates the political landscape in a way quite unimaginable even a decade ago. The Conservatives are weak, divided, uncertain. And yet the decisions we take on reform now will determine the course of politics not just for the remainder of this Parliament but I believe for the remainder of this decade.

Of course the decisions we make in relation to Iraq and the Euro are hugely important. They will leave their mark for years to come. But it will be the bread and butter issues on the economy and public services that will shape public views.

Here we need to chart a clear course, both in setting our vision and in making progress towards it. On both counts we face a choice. In essence it comes down to this: to consolidate around what we have done to date, to pursue the cautious incrementalism that sometimes characterised our first term in office. Or to discover new momentum towards a more fundamental and radical transformation of our country. It is the latter course I believe we must choose.

Today I want to set out how we can transform public services in our country. And in so doing I want to make the case for what I will call ‘Real Localism’.

The Government has made public services the key political battleground in our country. We have staked our reputation on being able to deliver the improvements in public services that have escaped governments for decades. And we have embarked on a high risk but necessary strategy of putting up taxes in order to raise resources for the health service and other key public services.

We have been right to do so. But we need to recognise that we have massively raised the stakes. Collective provision of public services – whether in health, education or local government – is under threat as never before.

The Right – in the media and in politics – believe the game’s up for services that are collectively funded and provided. In today’s consumer world they argue that the only way to get services that are responsive to individual needs is through the market mechanism of patients paying for their treatment.

It is easy to dismiss the Right’s policies as the last twitch of the Thatcherite corpse. But if we fail to match high and sustained investment with real and radical reform it will be the Centre-Left’s argument that public services can both be modern and fair, consumer-orientated and collectively provided that will face extinction.

I believe that we can win the argument for public service investment and reform but to do so we have to accept that the era of one-size-fits-all public services is over and that the Centre-Left’s approach today should be based on decentralisation, diversity and choice.

We can win this argument for three reasons.

Firstly, in this era of globalisation public services are necessary to provide security, foster inclusion and promote prosperity. People today feel more insecure than ever. This can be a reflection of their own economic circumstances or a recognition that there are new and powerful forces at play – economic, social, cultural – which affect every developed country and impact on all our lives.

Greater economic uncertainty is inherent in globalisation. Crime, terrorism and international tensions have heightened this sense of personal and national insecurity.

Global insecurity makes the case for social and economic institutions which strengthen aspects of personal security. In this climate, strong values-based institutions which reinforce people’s sense of community become more rather than less important. The NHS is just such an institution.

And in any case, medical advance and technological change is making the NHS more, not less, relevant. When health care can do more but costs more, where no-one knows when or whether they may become ill, a National Health Service providing services for free, based on need not ability to pay, can provide a rock of stability in an otherwise uncertain world.

Secondly, we can win the argument because the NHS is now making progress. It has 40,000 more nurses and 10,000 more doctors. For the first time in four decades over two consecutive years the number of general and acute beds has risen. The number of patients waiting over 12 months for NHS treatment is down 59%. A year ago the maximum wait for a heart operation was 18 months. Today it is 12 months. By April it will be 9 months. Over 95% of patients with suspected cancer are now seen within two weeks by a specialist when many used to have to wait months.

In the last few years death rates for cancer have fallen by 6% and for heart disease by 14%. The latest reports show the survival rate for the most common forms of childhood cancer now rank amongst the best in the world.

There is still a long way to go. But the momentum is forwards not backwards. Of course, the Right’s strategy – having starved the NHS of resources for decades – is to deny that the NHS can ever translate extra resources into results for patients.

But the fact is the money is working. Since 1997, one million more patients are being admitted to hospital for an operation. A further one and three quarter million patients are being seen as outpatients or in A and E. The number of prescriptions by GPs rose by 11% last year and is up 13% this year. Prescribing of cholesterol-lowering drugs – which prevent heart attack- has doubled in the last few years. And for the record, whilst hospital bed numbers are rising management costs are falling.

The third reason for my optimism is that the investment is committed for the long term. The NHS is assured of high and sustained levels of resources up to 2008. And, after decades of stop-go and short-termism, we have a ten year NHS Plan of reform to match the high levels of resources.

The NHS will not make progress unless the two go together. Reform is too often characterised by its enemies as an attempt to undermine NHS values. But this confuses ends with means. Labour’s reform programme is all about preserving NHS values by changing NHS structures. The ends – care for free based on need not ability to pay – remain. The means – a one-size-fits-all nationalised industry monopoly approach – must change.

There are four principal reasons for that.

First, the uncertainty engendered by globalisation is driving people to take refuge in what they know – in their families, their communities, their regions. People find shelter in the very local because the local can be influenced even if the global can not.

The way politics is structured needs to reflect that yearning for local control. In this country the advent of locally elected mayors, renewal of local government and, I hope and believe, the birth of regional government will give life to localism. Public services too, in the way they are structured need to reflect the growing public desire to control what they know.

Second, for all its great strengths – its staff, its public service ethos, the great advances it has brought in public health – the NHS has a profound weakness too. It took power away from local communities and vested it in the central State. Of course, this brought huge benefits but at a real cost. A gulf grew up between local communities and the running of local services. Today we must find a way to bridge that gulf.

Ours is a small country with big differences. It is not uniform. It is multi-faceted and multi-cultural. Different communities have different needs. With the best will in the world, those needs cannot be met from a distant Whitehall. They can only be properly met locally not nationally.

Third, health services are delivered locally not nationally by over one million expert staff whose principled motivation and ethos of service private sector organisations can only gaze at with envy. The NHS is a high trust organisation. It needs to be organised in such a way that trust can be enshrined at every level; trusting people to innovate and take initiative for themselves. In the end I don’t treat patients. Whitehall doesn’t provide care. That is what hospitals, health centres and surgeries do. And that is where power needs to be located. On the frontline. The simple truth is the NHS works best when it harnesses the commitment and know-how of staff to improve care for patients.

Fourth, ours is the informed and inquiring world. Universal education and now the internet are redistributing knowledge. In a consumer society more people are demanding public services that are responsive to their own needs and offer greater personal choice. This is a long way from the one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it public services that were the product of the 1940s. Then expectations were lower, deference was greater. Now it is the other way round. Sustaining public confidence in public services means they need to dance to the tune of the consumer.

Together, the push to the local and the pull of the consumer call for a new model of public services. One where patients and parents have greater choices over the services they use and where communities have greater control over how they are provided.

The new political battleground then, is around the politics of localism. The Right desperately want to claim this ground. In the process they will want to paint Labour as the Party of the centralised, out-of-touch State; the Party of Government-knows-best rather than consumer choice; the Party of old style, monolithic, unresponsive public services.

We pick up this mantle at our peril. And yet for reasons of history – both ancient and modern – Labour could easily have it laid upon us. At the end of the Second World War it was Labour that created big national institutions to tackle the country’s big national problems. Whilst across Europe other Socialist and Social Democratic Parties were championing community involvement and ownership – and indeed Left thinkers such as GDH Cole, RH Tawney and others from the mutualist tradition were advocating a similar approach here – in Britain we ended up with too a close an affinity between State ownership and public ownership.

Whilst the British post-War welfare settlement assured all our citizens of universal provision – particularly in health – it defined equality as uniformity in provision. It was easy to be convinced that by securing one we had inevitably secured the other. But just as communities are different, health needs are different too.

Uniformity of provision has not guaranteed equality of outcomes. Indeed health inequalities in the five decades since the NHS was founded have widened not narrowed. Too often even today the poorest services are still in the poorest communities.

The case for localism over uniformity is about shaping services more effectively to tackle health inequalities in our society every bit as much as it is about shaping them to be responsive to the concerns of the individual.

In our first term Labour’s approach was to try to do that from the top down through a plethora of service targets, inspection regimes and national standards. There is little doubt that many of these were needed to counter the effects of two decades where the Tories had fragmented services and, in the NHS, delivered a lottery in care.

And for all the concern about targets no-one should kid themselves that we would be making the progress we now are without the targets that we set then. Waiting times for treatment – which had been rising for decades – are now falling on virtually every indicator because targets focussed the health service on what is the principal cause of public concern about the NHS. Standards of reading and maths in primary schools are rising because teachers and parents now support the literacy and numeracy hours timetabled every day in every school.

Arguably it should not have needed Whitehall to focus our health and education services on these key objectives. But a monopoly public service can all too easily become ossified and immune, if not resistant, to public concerns. External pressure from above therefore, can be an important means of focussing efforts to address public concerns. So can the pressure brought by individual patients exercising choice and by enhanced forms of local accountability. In the next period the emphasis needs to move from top down pressure to these more direct forms of engagement between those providing public services and those using them.

Targets work best when they are properly focussed. Which is the reason, incidentally, why the Priorities and Planning Framework we issued late last year to local health and social services contained not 400 targets as some claim but just 60 or so for the next three years.

National standards are necessary to ensure equity. No-one who is serious about securing fairness wants to go back to the days when cancer treatments, for example, were available in one part of the country but not in another. So targets can work but targets can go too far as well.

Targets fail when there are too many of them and when they inhibit the ability of local staff to shape local services to meet local needs. Disempowering frontline staff – whether it is doctors or nurses, social workers or police officers, teachers or managers- is not the best way to run a public service. It is right to set standards nationally but it is wrong to try to run the NHS nationally.

Those of us who have had responsibility for frontline public services over the last six years realise that whatever we thought possible on the 1st May 1997 – however much we believed that taking control of the commanding heights of the central state was enough – we now know that finger-wagging from Whitehall can not deliver public service improvement any more than could the old laissez-faire mentality of the Tories’ NHS internal market.

A better balance is needed. Whereas, some suggest there is a choice to be made between national standards and local autonomy I believe that is a false dichotomy. The experience from elsewhere in Europe in the health sector and from across the developed world in other economic sectors is that securing improvements in performance requires both.

As the Prime Minister’s four principles of public service reform rightly acknowledge, in any large organisation – public or private – there are some functions only the centre can perform: fair allocation of resources; setting of standards; monitoring of performance.

And it is precisely because we have a framework of national standards and inspection in place that the pendulum can now swing decisively towards local control and greater individual patient choice. I believe these must become the principal drivers of public service improvement in the next period.

We are now in transition from the old order to the new. As we set out in the NHS Plan the more performance improves the more control local health services will assume. Rather than trying to drive improvements simply through top-down performance management, the transition will be towards improvements being driven through greater local autonomy in which PCT commissioning, new financial incentives and the choices patients make become the driving force for change, backed by scrutiny through independent inspection. That transition will take time. It will require careful management and a new, more mature understanding about the relationship between government and the health service, where the government does less and the NHS does more.

That transition has now begun across the public services. In local government the White Paper produced by Stephen Byers represented a turning point in the relationship between central government and local councils with the prospect of more freedoms, flexibilities and powers. The Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is now taking this further. Similarly, in the health service from this April, three-quarters of the total NHS budget will be controlled by locally run PCTs with three year budgets. In turn PCTs will be able to devolve resources to their constituent practices. None of the 30% growth PCTS are on average receiving has been earmarked. They will be free to commission services from the public, private or voluntary sectors.

So we have been moving from a centralised command and control model to what has been called new localism. The issue is now whether we can make this localism real and permanent. Whether we can go beyond a relationship where localities receive a few crumbs of decentralisation from the top table of central government and are expected to be grateful. Or whether we can make localism irreversible through a shift in accountabilities, ownership and control out of the hands of the central state and into the hands of local communities. This is what I mean by real localism.

I believe we have the opportunity to transform governance in our country. To do so requires grasping some thorny nettles of reform.

It means placing limits on the role of Whitehall. We could do that through exhortations to good behaviour on the part of Ministers and civil servants. We could be much clearer about what the role of the centre of government is about; what the role of the individual government department is about; and what, together, is the best role for Whitehall to play. All of these, in my view, are needed. Some have already begun. But I do not believe they will be enough.

Central bureaucracies make work. They make demands. Politicians – for good reasons, not bad – want to get their hands dirty. We want to pull levers to make changes happen. And that places further pressure on local services. It is naive to believe that a self-denying ordinance in Whitehall will be sufficient.

If we want to place limits on the role of Whitehall we will need limits on the size of Whitehall. The time is right in my view for a fundamental re-assessment of what functions Whitehall needs to perform in an era where the premium is now not just on making policy but on securing delivery. Where there is an acceptance that securing improvements in public services requires a re-balancing between the power held by central government and the power held by local communities.

The nature of Britain’s unwritten constitution means all governments have experienced tensions between competing centres of power. It is not a new phenomenon. Throughout time, there has been a struggle for power within the British constitution: between barons and Monarchs; between the Church and the State; between the rights of Parliament and the Divine Right of Kings.

It can be seen in the continuing struggles over powers between the House of Commons and the House of Lords – where history seems determined to repeat itself, as Marx once said, “first as tragedy and then as farce”. And in the context of last night that is Karl Marx not Groucho.

And on the issue of Lords reform let me just say: surely the priority should be to address the imbalance between the centre, the region and the local rather than just concentrating on the balance between the Commons and Lords. Getting that balance right – through greater devolution – could then, in my view, be reflected in a reformed second chamber constituted from the different nations and regions of our country.

Today competing tensions exist in a more modern context but they exist nonetheless. Those tensions exist between Europe and the Nation State; between government from Westminster and Whitehall and devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; between the decisions of Parliament and the interpretations of judges; between power best exercised from the centre and that best exercised by local communities themselves.

For all the reasons I have set out the days of Whitehall – or any one part of Whitehall – knowing best are over.

My argument is not that Government itself is bad – that is not true. Government has an important role determining policies and priorities, setting and monitoring standards, raising finance, ensuring value for money, assuring equality of access and opportunity. The alternative to government – or its proxy – doing these things is to leave them to the invisible hand of the free market, which as Gordon Brown was rightly saying only on Monday, is often an insufficiently effective mechanism for so doing.

My argument is that government at the centre has to be big enough to perform its function but limited enough to curtail its ambitions. All bureaucracies have a natural tendency to grow, to replicate themselves. With the Crown prerogative and an unwritten constitution, we have no basic law setting out the roles and responsibilities of governments at local, regional and national levels, no constitutional court, no real fetters on the power of central government to accrue powers to itself save those exercised through Parliament and Judicial Review.

In these circumstances, it is for those who believe in progressive reform of public services to ensure real power shifts from Whitehall to local communities. And power moves when ownership transfers.

This involves a fundamental change in governance. The centre will always be strengthened and the locality weakened so long as the one has the mandate of democratic accountability and the other does not. That is why I believe NHS Foundation Trusts are so important. They are not about relinquishing a little central control. They are about relocating ownership out of the hands of a State bureaucracy and into the hands of the local community.

In the process they relocate accountability – so that hospitals can look outwards to the communities they serve not upwards to Whitehall. That will help get local health services better focussed on meeting local needs and addressing local inequalities.

NHS Foundation Trusts will usher in a new era of public ownership. They will be owned and controlled locally not nationally. Modelled on co-operative societies and mutual organisations, these NHS Foundation Trusts will have as their members local people, local members of staff and those representing key organisations such as the PCTs. These members will be its legal owners and they will elect the hospital governors. In place of central state ownership there will be for the first time in the NHS genuine local public ownership.

It is not and it has never been my intention to retain these benefits solely for an elite few. The freedoms they offer provide a new incentive for all to improve. We do not advocate that any NHS hospital should be left to sink or swim. That is why we have put in place help and support for struggling services to get better. In time, all NHS hospitals could gain Foundation status.

I believe NHS Foundation hospitals will help bridge the gap between public services and the public who use them. With a clear public benefit purpose NHS Foundation Trusts can provide a model of local control and ownership that others could follow. They are localism made real. I believe they provide a model that could apply to other aspects of public services.

Community-owned NHS Foundation hospitals will allow us to tap the great reservoir of enterprise and knowledge which exists in local communities. Some say that allowing local people to be elected to hospital governing boards will always favour the sharp-elbowed middle classes. Yet in my constituency – just like any other – the people who make the biggest difference on local council estates are people from those council estates. What we need to do is open up public services in such a way that they can be properly representative of the communities they serve.

For example, where New Deal for Community boards have been set up to oversee regeneration in some of the poorest parts of our country turnout in the board elections has been much higher – in some cases double – the turnout for the local council elections.

Democracy is by no means perfect in practice but it is not a bad principle. Transferring ownership from the central state to local communities – giving local people a stake and a vote in the public services they use – is the best way of moving localism beyond a gift conferred by Whitehall – which can be taken away by Whitehall – into a permanent feature of our democratic landscape.

The implications of this approach are potentially far-reaching. In other countries with a stronger democratic input into local services, for example, local communities are able, through referenda or through local elections to agree to raise local funds to invest in the public service infrastructure. In the USA local bond issues are common. Some are issued by a local government authority which then lends the proceeds to the local hospital. Others are sanctioned by voters and issued by the hospital district direct. In this way, these health care systems can overcome the constraints either of central government capital rationing or the straitjacket of particular forms of procurement.

And in the context of our new approach to localism in this country there is already discussion of these issues here.

Alongside self-government in Scotland and Wales and the plans for regional government that John Prescott is leading in England, I believe that such devolution and democratisation of public services can point the way to a more pluralist and decentralised Britain.

The ramifications are profound. Where there is greater local control – as the Prime Minister, Chancellor and myself have all argued – there will inevitably be greater diversity. The one flows from the other. I think that is right. The NHS cannot survive as a monolithic top down centralised system. Without greater diversity the NHS cannot be more responsive. Without responsiveness there cannot be public confidence. Without public confidence the NHS will not be sustainable.

Despite fifty years of hard evidence that uniformity has not produced equality, the traditional fear on the Left has been that diversity must bring inequality. But it is worth recalling what R.H.Tawney wrote in his 1931 book Equality:

“equality of provision is not identity of provision. It is to be achieved not by treating different needs in the same way, but by devoting equal care to ensuring that they are met in the different ways most appropriate to them, as is done by a doctor who prescribes different regimens to different constitutions, or a teacher who develops different types of intelligence by different curricula. The more anxiously, indeed, a society endeavours to secure equality of consideration for all its members, the greater will be the differentiation of treatment which, once their common needs have been met, it accords to the special needs of different groups and individuals amongst them.”

Diversity, in other words, can bolster the pursuit of equality rather than undermine it.

The evidence from the specialist school programme shows that diversity and choice of provision delivers a real return not least in poorer communities. Specialist schools recruit on a broadly comparable basis to non-specialist schools in terms of deprivation and test results at age 11. Yet GCSE performance in specialist schools was six percentage points higher than in non-specialist schools – 55 per cent to 49 per cent, in terms of those gaining five or more good passes. Research also shows that the longer schools remain in the programme, the higher the rate of improvement. And on recent measures of value added performance – which allow comparisons to be made between schools with different intakes – specialist schools outperform non-specialist schools.

Diversity is not a stranger to other left-leaning countries. Whereas in the UK’s health care system there is uniformity of ownership, in many other European countries there are many not-for profit, voluntary, church or charity-run hospitals all providing care within the public health care system. There are private sector organisations doing the same. As other European nations testify there is no automatic correlation that tax-funded health care has to mean health care supply run purely by central government. That is why I believe tax funded health care in our own country can sit side by side with decentralisation, diversity and choice.

Labour’s objectives – social justice and opportunity for all – remain our mission. Our means of delivery however, must now change. We can preserve values and yet still change structures. We recognised this when we got rid of the old Clause 4 from our Party’s constitution. We did not change the values in which we believed but we renewed our Party’s appeal as a result. We now need to end the old Clause 4 approach to public service delivery. We must not abandon the values and ethos of public service but – through local control and ownership, diversity and choice – we must now reconnect public services directly to the public that they serve.

The relationship between citizens and public services in this 21st Century should be based on principles of decentralisation and empowerment. In health, in education, in housing, in local government and elsewhere we need to decentralise and empower staff and citizens alike. We must decentralise from the nation to the region. From Whitehall to the town hall. We must decentralise from local councils to local schools and to local housing estates. And in the NHS we must give communities more voice as well as giving patients more choice.

These are the building blocks of real localism. The challenge to government is not whether Ministers can use the rhetoric of locality but whether we are now all prepared to live – and govern – with the reality of localism. I believe we should.

Alan Milburn – 2003 Speech to the World Health Assembly

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Milburn, the then Secretary of State for Health, in Geneva, Switzerland on 19 May 2003.

The UK Government endorses the statement made by the Presidency of the European Union.

I want in particular to record our thanks to Dr Brundtland for the successful role she has played over the last 5 years as Director-General. She has successfully led the World Health Organisation through a time of change and challenge for all health systems – in the developed world every bit as much as the developing world. I believe the World Health Organisation has been immensely strengthened by her period as Director-General.

As events of recent weeks show, the world needs a strengthened World Health Organisation. The emergence of SARS in developing and developed countries, in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, has confronted all nations with a new public health challenge.

Sadly, this is not the first time nor will it be the last that the global community has had to respond to new and emerging diseases. In the last 30 years we have been faced with the emergence of an average of one new infectious disease a year. As the new threat of bioterrorism signifies, infectious diseases are now a challenge to stability and security as much as to health and prosperity to this generation of children as well as future generations..

If the WHO did not exist we would now surely have to invent it.

The WHO has been at the forefront of combating the spread of SARS, using its global surveillance networks. The United Kingdom believes we not only need to maintain a strong WHO, but we need to strengthen those surveillance systems, to cope with old threats and new.

Global trade and travel, environmental, land use and other changes, make inevitable the emergence of new infectious disease. Infectious disease recognises no international boundaries.

Our best response is no more a fortress world, than it is a fortress Europe or a fortress United Kingdom. If the international community is to successfully resist calls for a world of closed borders and isolationist economies – with all the loss that would mean for developing and developed nations alike – then a new global resolve is now needed.

First, the emergence of SARS demonstrates, were there any doubt, of the need to maintain and strengthen international vigilance. Our watchword must be to “expect the unexpected”. Where infectious disease in one part of the world can become within days, if not hours, a problem for another; each and every nation owes an obligation, one to another. To put in place the surveillance, the capacity and the planning to combat these new threats. And I hope the WHO will lead this new global resolve by preparing a nation by nation audit of our state of international preparedness. Nor, if necessary, should we shrink from strengthening obligations under international law.

This is the agenda we wish to support the WHO in developing. Not only to defeat the major diseases that effect child and adult alike – TB, malaria, HIV/AIDS. Not only to successfully prevent disease like cancer and heart disease through measures such as the Framework on Tobacco Control which the UK supports and looks forward to seeing successfully concluded. But a renewed focus on strengthening our ability to combat new diseases as they emerge. We strongly welcome Secretary Thompson’s announcement of new resources to allow us to do just that. Just as in the UK we are continuously reviewing and strengthening our surveillance systems and contingency plans, I hope the WHO will help every country to do the same.

For second, if we are to successfully combat infectious disease, we can only do so with public support. Resilient public health systems are the bedrock of public confidence. Without them public concern can all too easily overwhelm scientific sense. SARS shows the importance of developing such resilience. It also demonstrates the need to maintain a sense of perspective and proportion about risk. We need to examine better ways of informing and educating our publics about the nature of risk and relative risk in health. Not just to change behaviour in order to reduce risk but to be clear that panic and over-reaction can be as harmful to public confidence as complacency and inadequate preparedness. All the actions we take and the advice we give must be firmly rooted in the best scientific and clinical evidence.

While we should never pretend that medicine is anything other than a human science – not an exact one – we cannot allow fear to dictate our response to the new threats we all face. I welcome the accent the WHO has put on patient safety. I hope together we can now consider how better to communicate risk to the people we all serve.

The WHO is in a stronger position to pursue such an agenda because of the leadership of Dr Brundtland. There is much for which we have to thank her. We shall remember her many achievements with gratitude. We wish her well for the future.

And we look forward to working closely with her successor as together, we work for a more healthy and more secure world.

Iain Duncan Smith – 2003 Statement on Iraq


Below is the text of the statement made by Iain Duncan Smith, the then Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Commons on 18 March 2003.

The House and the whole country rightly recognise that we are soon likely to be at war. It is a solemn moment in the life of our nation, and our first thoughts and prayers today must be with our troops and their families as they prepare for action. The Opposition recognise the heavy responsibility that the Prime Minister and the Government have to bear. I remind the House that the Prime Minister’s decision comes at the end of 12 years of what was too often indecision by the international community.

I make it clear from the outset that the official Opposition will vote tonight in the same Lobby as the Government. In saying that, I recognise that there are honestly felt and genuinely carried differences of view on both sides of the House about further military action in Iraq. I respect those unreservedly, wherever they are held, and I recognise that they reflect strong differences of view that are felt throughout the country. However, given the differences and the difficulties that they have posed for the Government in general and for the Prime Minister in particular, I say frankly to the House that the official Opposition could somehow have sought to manoeuvre themselves into the No Lobby tonight. After all, we have argued consistently that Ministers have failed to convince the public of their case, and we have sought to hold the Government to account in the House for their mistakes. In particular, we have also pointed out the failures with regard to the humanitarian consequences of war. However, I believe that when the Government do the right thing by the British people, they deserve the support of the House, and particularly of the main Opposition.

Certain issues need to be taken head-on today. The idea that this action would become a recruiting sergeant for others to come to the colours of those who are “anti” any nation in the west is, I am afraid, nonsense. The biggest recruiting sergeant of all has been indecision, and the failure to take action to show that such resolve matters.

There are well-held views that I have respect for, but as I said, we could have sought a way to do something that would have damaged the Government. I understand that the Liberal Democrats will do just that tonight. They are, of course, entitled to their view, but I simply say this to them. One can argue that further military action by our armed forces would be illegal, or that it should be supported. But a political party surely cannot simultaneously argue that military action is illegal but should none the less be supported somehow. Yet that, we gather, is what the Liberal Democrats plan to put as their main case tonight. What is clear is that one cannot have it both ways; one has to make a decision and lead.

We are voting tonight in support of the motion not because we endorse every detail of the Prime Minister’s handling of the matter, certainly not because we are eager for conflict—as the House knows, I served in the armed forces, and I have some knowledge of the horror of the aftermath of conflict—and not just because we want to show our support for our troops. That said, I believe firmly that, as the Prime Minister says, they are entitled to our full support today.

Saddam Hussein is a tyrant who tortures and murders his own people. He poses a threat to the safety and stability of the middle east, and he is in complete breach of his obligations to the United Nations and to the international community. However, the main reason why we will be voting for the motion is that it is in the British national interest. Saddam Hussein has the means, the mentality and the motive to pose a direct threat to our national security. That is why we will be voting tonight to do the right thing by our troops and the British people.

Tony Blair – 2003 Statement on Iraq


Below is the text of the statement made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 18 March 2003.

I beg to move,

That this House notes its decisions of 25th November 2002 and 26th February 2003 to endorse UN Security Council Resolution 1441; recognises that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and long range missiles, and its continuing non-compliance with Security Council Resolutions, pose a threat to international peace and security; notes that in the 130 days since Resolution 1441 was adopted Iraq has not co-operated actively, unconditionally and immediately with the weapons inspectors, and has rejected the final opportunity to comply and is in further material breach of its obligations under successive mandatory UN Security Council Resolutions; regrets that despite sustained diplomatic effort by Her Majesty’s Government it has not proved possible to secure a second Resolution in the UN because one Permanent Member of the Security Council made plain in public its intention to use its veto whatever the circumstances; notes the opinion of the Attorney General that, Iraq having failed to comply and Iraq being at the time of Resolution 1441 and continuing to be in material breach, the authority to use force under Resolution 678 has revived and so continues today; believes that the United Kingdom must uphold the authority of the United Nations as set out in Resolution 1441 and many Resolutions preceding it, and therefore supports the decision of Her Majesty’s Government that the United Kingdom should use all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction; offers wholehearted support to the men and women of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces now on duty in the Middle East; in the event of military operations requires that, on an urgent basis, the United Kingdom should seek a new Security Council Resolution that would affirm Iraq’s territorial integrity, ensure rapid delivery of humanitarian relief, allow for the earliest possible lifting of UN sanctions, an international reconstruction programme, and the use of all oil revenues for the benefit of the Iraqi people and endorse an appropriate post-conflict administration for Iraq, leading to a representative government which upholds human rights and the rule of law for all Iraqis; and also welcomes the imminent publication of the Quartet’s roadmap as a significant step to bringing a just and lasting peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians and for the wider Middle East region, and endorses the role of Her Majesty’s Government in actively working for peace between Israel and Palestine.

At the outset, I say that it is right that the House debate this issue and pass judgment. That is the democracy that is our right, but that others struggle for in vain. Again, I say that I do not disrespect the views in opposition to mine. This is a tough choice indeed, but it is also a stark one: to stand British troops down now and turn back, or to hold firm to the course that we have set. I believe passionately that we must hold firm to that course. The question most often posed is not “Why does it matter?” but “Why does it matter so much?” Here we are, the Government, with their most serious test, their majority at risk, the first Cabinet resignation over an issue of policy, the main parties internally divided, people who agree on everything else—[Hon. Members: “The main parties?”] Ah, yes, of course. The Liberal Democrats—unified, as ever, in opportunism and error. [Interruption.]

The country and the Parliament reflect each other. This is a debate that, as time has gone on, has become less bitter but no less grave. So why does it matter so much? Because the outcome of this issue will now determine more than the fate of the Iraqi regime and more than the future of the Iraqi people who have been brutalised by Saddam for so long, important though those issues are. It will determine the way in which Britain and the world confront the central security threat of the 21st century, the development of the United Nations, the relationship between Europe and the United States, the relations within the European Union and the way in which the United States engages with the rest of the world. So it could hardly be more important. It will determine the pattern of international politics for the next generation.

First, let us recap the history of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. In April 1991, after the Gulf war, Iraq was given 15 days to provide a full and final declaration of all its weapons of mass destruction. Saddam had used the weapons against Iran and against his own people, causing thousands of deaths. He had had plans to use them against allied forces. It became clear, after the Gulf war, that Iraq’s WMD ambitions were far more extensive than had hitherto been thought. So the issue was identified by the United Nations at that time as one for urgent remedy. UNSCOM, the weapons inspection team, was set up. It was expected to complete its task, following the declaration, at the end of April 1991. The declaration, when it came, was false: a blanket denial of the programme, other than in a very tentative form. And so the 12-year game began.

The inspectors probed. Finally, in March 1992, Iraq admitted that it had previously undeclared weapons of mass destruction, but it said that it had destroyed them. It gave another full and final declaration. Again the inspectors probed. In October 1994, Iraq stopped co-operating with the weapons inspectors altogether. Military action was threatened. Inspections resumed. In March 1996, in an effort to rid Iraq of the inspectors, a further full and final declaration of WMD was made. By July 1996, however, Iraq was forced to admit that declaration, too, was false.

In August, it provided yet another full and final declaration. Then, a week later, Saddam’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, defected to Jordan. He disclosed a far more extensive biological weapons programme and, for the first time, said that Iraq had weaponised the programme—something that Saddam had always strenuously denied. All this had been happening while the inspectors were in Iraq.

Kamal also revealed Iraq’s crash programme to produce a nuclear weapon in the 1990s. Iraq was then forced to release documents that showed just how extensive those programmes were. In November 1996, Jordan intercepted prohibited components for missiles that could be used for weapons of mass destruction. Then a further “full and final declaration” was made. That, too, turned out to be false.

In June 1997, inspectors were barred from specific sites. In September 1997, lo and behold, yet another “full and final declaration” was made—also false. Meanwhile, the inspectors discovered VX nerve agent production equipment, the existence of which had always been denied by the Iraqis.

In October 1997, the United States and the United Kingdom threatened military action if Iraq refused to comply with the inspectors. Finally, under threat of action in February 1998, Kofi Annan went to Baghdad and negotiated a memorandum with Saddam to allow inspections to continue. They did continue, for a few months. In August, co-operation was suspended.

In December, the inspectors left. Their final report is a withering indictment of Saddam’s lies, deception and obstruction, with large quantities of weapons of mass destruction unaccounted for. Then, in December 1998, the US and the UK undertook Desert Fox, a targeted bombing campaign to degrade as much of the Iraqi WMD facility as we could.

In 1999, a new inspection team, UNMOVIC, was set up. Saddam refused to allow those inspectors even to enter Iraq. So there they stayed, in limbo, until, after resolution 1441 last November, they were allowed to return.

That is the history—and what is the claim of Saddam today? Why, exactly the same as before: that he has no weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, we are asked to believe that after seven years of obstruction and non-compliance, finally resulting in the inspectors’ leaving in 1998—seven years in which he hid his programme and built it up, even when the inspectors were there in Iraq—when they had left, he voluntarily decided to do what he had consistently refused to do under coercion.

When the inspectors left in 1998, they left unaccounted for 10,000 litres of anthrax; a far-reaching VX nerve agent programme; up to 6,500 chemical munitions; at least 80 tonnes of mustard gas, and possibly more than 10 times that amount; unquantifiable amounts of sarin, botulinum toxin and a host of other biological poisons; and an entire Scud missile programme. We are asked now seriously to accept that in the last few years—contrary to all history, contrary to all intelligence—Saddam decided unilaterally to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd.

Resolution 1441 is very clear. It lays down a final opportunity for Saddam to disarm. It rehearses the fact that he has for years been in material breach of 17 UN resolutions. It says that this time compliance must be full, unconditional and immediate, the first step being a full and final declaration of all weapons of mass destruction to be given on 8 December last year.

I will not go through all the events since then, as the House is familiar with them, but this much is accepted by all members of the UN Security Council: the 8 December declaration is false. That in itself, incidentally, is a material breach. Iraq has taken some steps in co-operation, but no one disputes that it is not fully co-operating. Iraq continues to deny that it has any weapons of mass destruction, although no serious intelligence service anywhere in the world believes it.

On 7 March, the inspectors published a remarkable document. It is 173 pages long, and details all the unanswered questions about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. It lists 29 different areas in which the inspectors have been unable to obtain information. On VX, for example, it says:

“Documentation available to UNMOVIC suggests that Iraq at least had had far reaching plans to weaponise VX”.

On mustard gas, it says:

“Mustard constituted an important part . . . of Iraq’s CW arsenal . . . 550 mustard filled shells and up to 450 mustard filled aerial bombs unaccounted for . . . additional uncertainty”

with respect to over 6,500 aerial bombs,

“corresponding to approximately 1,000 tonnes of agent, predominantly mustard.”

On biological weapons, the inspectors’ report states:

“Based on unaccounted for growth media, Iraq’s potential production of anthrax could have been in the range of about 15,000 to 25,000 litres . . . Based on all the available evidence, the strong presumption is that about 10,000 litres of anthrax was not destroyed and may still exist.”

On that basis, I simply say to the House that, had we meant what we said in resolution 1441, the Security Council should have convened and condemned Iraq as in material breach. What is perfectly clear is that Saddam is playing the same old games in the same old way. Yes, there are minor concessions, but there has been no fundamental change of heart or mind.

However, after 7 March, the inspectors said that there was at least some co-operation, and the world rightly hesitated over war. Let me now describe to the House what then took place.

We therefore approached a second resolution in this way. As I said, we could have asked for the second resolution then and there, because it was justified. Instead, we laid down an ultimatum calling upon Saddam to come into line with resolution 1441, or be in material breach. That is not an unreasonable proposition, given the history, but still countries hesitated. They asked, “How do we judge what is full co-operation?”

So we then worked on a further compromise. We consulted the inspectors and drew up five tests, based on the document that they published on 7 March. Those tests included allowing interviews with 30 scientists to be held outside Iraq, and releasing details of the production of the anthrax, or at least of the documentation showing what had happened to it. The inspectors added another test: that Saddam should publicly call on Iraqis to co-operate with them.

So we constructed this framework: that Saddam should be given a specified time to fulfil all six tests to show full co-operation; and that, if he did so, the inspectors could then set out a forward work programme that would extend over a period of time to make sure that disarmament happened. However, if Saddam failed to meet those tests to judge compliance, action would follow.

So there were clear benchmarks, plus a clear ultimatum. Again, I defy anyone to describe that as an unreasonable proposition.

Last Monday, we were getting very close with it. We very nearly had the majority agreement. If I might, I should particularly like to thank the President of Chile for the constructive way in which he approached this issue.

Yes, there were debates about the length of the ultimatum, but the basic construct was gathering support. Then, on Monday night, France said that it would veto a second resolution, whatever the circumstances. Then France denounced the six tests. Later that day, Iraq rejected them. Still, we continued to negotiate, even at that point.

Last Friday, France said that it could not accept any resolution with an ultimatum in it. On Monday, we made final efforts to secure agreement. However, the fact is that France remains utterly opposed to anything that lays down an ultimatum authorising action in the event of non-compliance by Saddam.

Hugh Bayley (City of York): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

The Prime Minister: Very well.

Hugh Bayley: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I took the view that Britain should not engage in military action without a second resolution, but the decision of some members of the Security Council to back away from the commitment that they gave in November to enforce resolution 1441 has made me change my mind. Does my right hon. Friend agree that France’s decision to use the veto against any further Security Council resolution has, in effect, disarmed the UN instead of disarming Iraq?

The Prime Minister: Of course I agree with my hon. Friend. The House should just consider the position that we were asked to adopt. Those on the Security Council opposed to us say that they want Saddam to disarm, but they will not countenance any new resolution that authorises force in the event of non-compliance. That is their position—no to any ultimatum and no to any resolution that stipulates that failure to comply will lead to military action. So we must demand that Saddam disarms, but relinquish any concept of a threat if he does not.

From December 1998 to December 2002, no UN inspector was allowed to inspect anything in Iraq. For four years, no inspection took place. What changed Saddam’s mind was the threat of force. From December to January, and then from January through to February, some concessions were made. What changed his mind? It was the threat of force. What makes him now issue invitations to the inspectors, discover documents that he said he never had, produce evidence of weapons supposed to be non-existent, and destroy missiles he said he would keep? It is the imminence of force. The only persuasive power to which he responds is 250,000 allied troops on his doorstep. However, when that fact is so obvious, we are told that any resolution that authorises force in the event of non-compliance will be vetoed—not just opposed, but vetoed and blocked.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central): If it is the case, as the Government continually say, that the French position was so uniquely influential, why did not the Government and the United States pursue the second resolution, which—if the Government have given us a true reflection of the Security Council’s position—would show that the French were isolated?

The Prime Minister: For the very reason that I have just given. If a member of the permanent five indicates to members of the Security Council who are not permanent members that whatever the circumstances it will veto, that is the way to block any progress on the Security Council. [Interruption.] With the greatest respect to whoever shouted out that the presence of the troops is working, I agree, but it is British and American troops who are there, not French troops.

The tragedy is that had such a resolution ensued and had the UN come together and united—and if other troops had gone there, not just British and American troops—Saddam Hussein might have complied. But the moment we proposed the benchmarks and canvassed support for an ultimatum, there was an immediate recourse to the language of the veto. The choice was not action now or postponement of action; the choice was action or no action at all.

Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent): What does the Prime Minister mean by an “unreasonable veto”? Were the 30 occasions on which the UK has used the veto and the 75 occasions on which the US has used the veto reasonable or unreasonable?

The Prime Minister: We can argue about each one of those vetoes in the past and whether they were reasonable, but I define an unreasonable veto as follows. In resolution 1441, we said that it was Saddam’s final opportunity and that he had to comply. That was agreed by all members of the Security Council. What is surely unreasonable is for a country to come forward now, at the very point when we might reach agreement and when we are—not unreasonably—saying that he must comply with the UN, after all these months without full compliance, on the basis of the six tests or action will follow. For that country to say that it will veto such a resolution in all circumstances is what I would call unreasonable.

The tragedy is that the world has to learn the lesson all over again that weakness in the face of a threat from a tyrant is the surest way not to peace, but—unfortunately—to conflict. Looking back over those 12 years, the truth is that we have been victims of our own desire to placate the implacable, to persuade towards reason the utterly unreasonable, and to hope that there was some genuine intent to do good in a regime whose mind is in fact evil.

Now the very length of time counts against us. People say, “You’ve waited 12 years, so why not wait a little longer?” Of course we have done so, because resolution 1441 gave a final opportunity. As I have just pointed out, the first test was on 8 December. But still we waited. We waited for the inspectors’ reports. We waited as each concession was tossed to us to whet our appetite for hope and further waiting. But still no one, not even today at the Security Council, says that Saddam is co-operating fully, unconditionally or immediately.

Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): The Prime Minister will carry the House with him in describing the evil of Saddam Hussein and the effectiveness of the threat of force. Can he therefore explain why the diplomacy that has not so far succeeded—not through lack of his effort—should not be continued for a little longer, so that agreement could be reached between all permanent members of the Security Council? Then if force had to be used, it could be backed with the authority of the UN, instead of undermining the UN.

The Prime Minister: We could have had more time if the compromise proposal that we put forward had been accepted. I take it from what the hon. Gentleman has just said that he would accept that the compromise proposal we put forward was indeed reasonable. We set out the tests. If Saddam meets those tests, we extend the work programme of the inspectors. If he does not meet those tests, we take action. I think that the hon. Gentleman would also agree that unless the threat of action was made, it was unlikely that Saddam would meet the tests.

Simon Hughes indicated assent.

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman nods his head, but the problem with the diplomacy was that it came to an end after the position of France was made public—and repeated in a private conversation—and it said that it would block, by veto, any resolution that contained an ultimatum. We could carry on discussing it for a long time, but the French were not prepared to change their position. I am not prepared to carry on waiting and delaying, with our troops in place in difficult circumstances, when that country has made it clear that it has a fixed position and will not change. I would have hoped that, rather than condemn us for not waiting even longer, the hon. Gentleman would condemn those who laid down the veto.

David Winnick (Walsall, North): Does my right hon. Friend agree that a criticism can be made of all the countries that make up the Security Council because it has taken 12 years to reach this point? Why was action not taken earlier? The delay and frustration has only encouraged the Iraqi dictator to act as he has, and there is no justification for further delay.

The Prime Minister: I truly believe that our fault has not been impatience. The truth is that our patience should have been exhausted weeks and months and even years ago.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): The Prime Minister says that the French have changed position, but surely the French, Russians and Chinese always made it clear that they would oppose a second resolution that led automatically to war. [Interruption.] Well they publicised that view at the time of resolution 1441. Is it not the Prime Minister who has changed his position? A month ago, he said that the only circumstances in which he would go to war without a second resolution was if the inspectors concluded that there had been no more progress, which they have not; if there were a majority on the Security Council, which there is not; and if there were an unreasonable veto from one country, but there are three permanent members opposed to the Prime Minister’s policy. When did he change his position, and why?

The Prime Minister: First, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely wrong about the position on resolution 1441. It is correct that resolution 1441 did not say that there would be another resolution authorising the use of force, but the implication of resolution 1441—it was stated in terms—was that if Iraq continued in material breach, defined as not co-operating fully, immediately and unconditionally, serious consequences should follow. All we are asking for in the second resolution is the clear ultimatum that if Saddam continues to fail to co-operate, force should be used. The French position is that France will vote no, whatever the circumstances. Those are not my words, but those of the French President. I find it sad that at this point in time he cannot support us in the position we have set out, which is the only sure way to disarm Saddam. And what, indeed, would any tyrannical regime possessing weapons of mass destruction think when viewing the history of the world’s diplomatic dance with Saddam over these 12 years? That our capacity to pass firm resolutions has only been matched by our feebleness in implementing them. That is why this indulgence has to stop—because it is dangerous: dangerous if such regimes disbelieve us; dangerous if they think they can use our weakness, our hesitation, and even the natural urges of our democracy towards peace against us; and dangerous because one day they will mistake our innate revulsion against war for permanent incapacity, when, in fact, if pushed to the limit, we will act. But when we act, after years of pretence, the action will have to be harder, bigger, more total in its impact. It is true that Iraq is not the only country with weapons of mass destruction, but I say this to the House: back away from this confrontation now, and future conflicts will be infinitely worse and more devastating in their effects.

Of course, in a sense, any fair observer does not really dispute that Iraq is in breach of resolution 1441 or that it implies action in such circumstances. The real problem is that, underneath, people dispute that Iraq is a threat, dispute the link between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and dispute, in other words, the whole basis of our assertion that the two together constitute a fundamental assault on our way of life.

There are glib and sometimes foolish comparisons with the 1930s. I am not suggesting for a moment that anyone here is an appeaser or does not share our revulsion at the regime of Saddam. However, there is one relevant point of analogy. It is that, with history, we know what happened. We can look back and say, “There’s the time; that was the moment; that’s when we should have acted.” However, the point is that it was not clear at the time—not at that moment. In fact, at that time, many people thought such a fear fanciful or, worse, that it was put forward in bad faith by warmongers. Let me read one thing from an editorial from a paper that I am pleased to say takes a different position today. It was written in late 1938 after Munich. One would have thought from the history books that people thought the world was tumultuous in its desire to act. This is what the editorial said:

“Be glad in your hearts. Give thanks to your God. People of Britain, your children are safe. Your husbands and your sons will not march to war. Peace is a victory for all mankind . . . And now let us go back to our own affairs. We have had enough of those menaces, conjured up . . . to confuse us.”

Now, of course, should Hitler again appear in the same form, we would know what to do. But the point is that history does not declare the future to us plainly. Each time is different and the present must be judged without the benefit of hindsight. So let me explain to the House why I believe that the threat that we face today is so serious and why we must tackle it. The threat today is not that of the 1930s. It is not big powers going to war with each other. The ravages that fundamentalist ideology inflicted on the 20th century are memories. The cold war is over. Europe is at peace, if not always diplomatically. But the world is ever more interdependent. Stock markets and economies rise and fall together, confidence is the key to prosperity, and insecurity spreads like contagion. The key today is stability and order. The threat is chaos and disorder—and there are two begetters of chaos: tyrannical regimes with weapons of mass destruction and extreme terrorist groups who profess a perverted and false view of Islam.

Let me tell the House what I know. I know that there are some countries, or groups within countries, that are proliferating and trading in weapons of mass destruction—especially nuclear weapons technology. I know that there are companies, individuals, and some former scientists on nuclear weapons programmes, who are selling their equipment or expertise. I know that there are several countries—mostly dictatorships with highly repressive regimes—that are desperately trying to acquire chemical weapons, biological weapons or, in particular, nuclear weapons capability. Some of those countries are now a short time away from having a serviceable nuclear weapon. This activity is not diminishing. It is increasing.

We all know that there are terrorist groups now operating in most major countries. Just in the past two years, around 20 different nations have suffered serious terrorist outrages. Thousands of people—quite apart from 11 September—have died in them. The purpose of that terrorism is not just in the violent act; it is in producing terror. It sets out to inflame, to divide, and to produce consequences of a calamitous nature. Round the world, it now poisons the chances of political progress—in the middle east, in Kashmir, in Chechnya and in Africa. The removal of the Taliban—yes—dealt it a blow. But it has not gone away.

Those two threats have, of course, different motives and different origins, but they share one basic common view: they detest the freedom, democracy and tolerance that are the hallmarks of our way of life. At the moment, I accept fully that the association between the two is loose—but it is hardening. The possibility of the two coming together—of terrorist groups in possession of weapons of mass destruction or even of a so-called dirty radiological bomb—is now, in my judgment, a real and present danger to Britain and its national security.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that thousands of scientists and civil servants in this country—hundreds of them my constituents at Porton Down—have been warning of those threats for some years and are hugely relieved that he and his Government are taking this seriously? They will support him, as will I.

The Prime Minister: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): What could be more calculated to act as a recruiting sergeant for a young generation throughout the Islamic and Arab world than putting 600 cruise missiles—or whatever it is—on to Baghdad and Iraq?

The Prime Minister: Let me come to that very point.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: Let me deal with this point first. Let us recall: what was shocking about 11 September was not just the slaughter of innocent people but the knowledge that, had the terrorists been able, there would have been not 3,000 innocent dead, but 30,000 or 300,000—and the more the suffering, the greater their rejoicing. I say to my hon. Friend that America did not attack the al-Qaeda terrorist group; the al-Qaeda terrorist group attacked America. They did not need to be recruited; they were there already. Unless we take action against them, they will grow. That is why we should act.

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment.

Sir Teddy Taylor: Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: Just give me a moment and then I will give way.

Let me explain the dangers. Three kilograms of VX from a rocket launcher would contaminate 0.25 sq km of a city. Millions of lethal doses are contained in one litre of anthrax, and 10,000 litres are unaccounted for. What happened on 11 September has changed the psychology of America—that is clear—but it should have changed the psychology of the world.

Of course, Iraq is not the only part of this threat. I have never said that it was. But it is the test of whether we treat the threat seriously. Faced with it, the world should unite. The UN should be the focus both of diplomacy and of action. That is what 1441 said. That was the deal. And I simply say to the House that to break it now, and to will the ends but not the means, would do more damage in the long term to the UN than any other single course that we could pursue. To fall back into the lassitude of the past 12 years; to talk, to discuss, to debate but never to act; to declare our will but not to enforce it; and to continue with strong language but with weak intentions—that is the worst course imaginable. If we pursue that course, when the threat returns, from Iraq or elsewhere, who will then believe us? What price our credibility with the next tyrant? It was interesting today that some of the strongest statements of support for allied forces came from near to North Korea—from Japan and South Korea.

Sir Teddy Taylor: The Prime Minister is making a powerful and compelling speech. Will he tell the House whether there has been any identification of the countries that have supplied these terrible biological materials—such as anthrax and toxins—to Iraq? Should those countries not be identified—named by the Prime Minister and condemned?

The Prime Minister: Much of the production is in Iraq itself.

Lynne Jones: A moment ago my right hon. Friend said that the association between Iraq and terrorists is loose, yet last night President Bush told the American people that Iraq has aided, trained and harboured terrorists, including operatives of al-Qaeda. Was President Bush accurate in what he told the American people?

The Prime Minister: First, let me apologise to the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir Teddy Taylor). He was making a point in my favour and I failed to spot it.

Secondly, to my hon. Friend, yes, I do support what the President said. Do not be in any doubt at all—Iraq has been supporting terrorist groups. For example, Iraq is offering money to the families of suicide bombers whose purpose is to wreck any chance of progress in the middle east. Although I said that the associations were loose, they are hardening. I do believe that, and I believe that the two threats coming together are the dangers that we face in our world.

I also say this: there will be in any event no sound future for the United Nations—no guarantee against the repetition of these events—unless we recognise the urgent need for a political agenda that we can unite upon. What we have witnessed is indeed the consequence of Europe and the United States dividing from each other. Not all of Europe—Spain, Italy, Holland, Denmark and Portugal have strongly supported us—and not a majority of Europe if we include, as we should, Europe’s new members who will accede next year, all 10 of whom have been in strong support of the position of this Government. But the paralysis of the UN has been born out of the division that there is.

I want to deal with that in this way. At the heart of that division is the concept of a world in which there are rival poles of power, with the US and its allies in one corner and France, Germany, Russia and their allies in the other. I do not believe that all those nations intend such an outcome, but that is what now faces us. I believe such a vision to be misguided and profoundly dangerous for our world. I know why it arises. There is resentment of US predominance. There is fear of US unilateralism. People ask, “Do the US listen to us and our preoccupations?” And there is perhaps a lack of full understanding of US preoccupations after 11 September. I know all this. But the way to deal with it is not rivalry, but partnership. Partners are not servants, but neither are they rivals. What Europe should have said last September to the United States is this: with one voice it should have said, “We understand your strategic anxiety over terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and we will help you meet it. We will mean what we say in any UN resolution we pass and will back it with action if Saddam fails to disarm voluntarily. However, in return”—Europe should have said—”we ask two things of you: that the US should indeed choose the UN path and you should recognise the fundamental overriding importance of restarting the middle east peace process, which we will hold you to.”
That would have been the right and responsible way for Europe and America to treat each other as partners, and it is a tragedy that it has not happened. I do not believe that there is any other issue with the same power to reunite the world community than progress on the issues of Israel and Palestine. Of course, there is cynicism about recent announcements, but the United States is now committed—and, I believe genuinely—to the road map for peace designed in consultation with the UN. It will now be presented to the parties as Abu Mazen is confirmed in office, hopefully today, as Palestinian Prime Minister. All of us are now signed up to this vision: a state of Israel, recognised and accepted by all the world, and a viable Palestinian state. That is what this country should strive for, and we will.

And that should be part of a larger global agenda: on poverty and sustainable development; on democracy and human rights; and on the good governance of nations.

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment.

That is why what happens after any conflict in Iraq is of such critical significance. Here again there is a chance to unify around the United Nations. There should be a new United Nations resolution following any conflict providing not only for humanitarian help, but for the administration and governance of Iraq. That must be done under proper UN authorisation.

Mike Gapes: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way, and I endorse very strongly what he said about the need for the road map of progress in the middle east. However, the problem is that there is a perception that we are engaged in a bilateral action with just the United States. Could he respond to my constituents and others who believe that, and point out how strong is the support for action at this moment to rid the Iraqi people of the oppressive Saddam regime?

The Prime Minister: I shall certainly do so. The UN resolution that should provide for the proper governance of Iraq should also protect totally the territorial integrity of Iraq. And this point is also important: that the oil revenues, which people falsely claim that we want to seize, should be put in a trust fund for the Iraqi people administered through the UN.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment. Let the future Government of Iraq be given the chance to begin the process of uniting the nation’s disparate groups, on a democratic basis—

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: If my hon. Friend will allow me to continue for a moment, I shall come back to him.

The process must begin on a democratic basis, respecting human rights, as, indeed, the fledgling democracy in northern Iraq—protected from Saddam for 12 years by British and American pilots in the no-fly zone—has done remarkably. The moment that a new Government are in place, committed to disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, is the point in time when sanctions should be lifted, and can be lifted, in their entirety for the people of Iraq.

Jeremy Corbyn: I thank the Prime Minister for giving way. Can he tell the House what guarantees he has had from the Turkish Government and the Turkish military that they will not use the opportunity of a war in the south to invade the northern part of Iraq and destroy the Kurdish autonomous region and the demands of Kurdish people for their own self-determination? There is a very serious fear that the Turkish army has always wanted to destroy any vestige of Kurdish autonomy.

The Prime Minister: Turkey has given that commitment. I have spoken to the Turkish Government, as have the President of the United States and many others. I have to say to my hon. Friend that it is clear from the conversations that I have had with people in that Kurdish autonomous zone that what they really fear above all else is the prospect of Saddam remaining in power, emboldened because we have failed to remove him.

I have never put the justification for action as regime change. We have to act within the terms set out in resolution 1441—that is our legal base. But it is the reason why I say frankly that if we do act, we should do so with a clear conscience and a strong heart. I accept fully that those who are opposed to this course of action share my detestation of Saddam. Who could not? Iraq is a potentially wealthy country which in 1979, the year before Saddam came to power, was richer than Portugal or Malaysia. Today it is impoverished, with 60 per cent. of its population dependent on food aid. Thousands of children die needlessly every year from lack of food and medicine. Four million people out of a population of just over 20 million are living in exile.

The brutality of the repression—the death and torture camps, the barbaric prisons for political opponents, the routine beatings for anyone or their families suspected of disloyalty—is well documented. Just last week, someone slandering Saddam was tied to a lamp post in a street in Baghdad, their tongue was cut out, and they were mutilated and left to bleed to death as a warning to others. I recall a few weeks ago talking to an Iraqi exile and saying to her that I understood how grim it must be under the lash of Saddam. “But you don’t”, she replied. “You cannot. You do not know what it is like to live in perpetual fear.” And she is right. We take our freedom for granted. But imagine what it must be like not to be able to speak or discuss or debate or even question the society you live in. To see friends and family taken away and never daring to complain. To suffer the humility of failing courage in face of pitiless terror. That is how the Iraqi people live. Leave Saddam in place, and the blunt truth is that that is how they will continue to be forced to live.

We must face the consequences of the actions that we advocate. For those of us who support the course that I am advocating, that means all the dangers of war. But for others who are opposed to this course, it means—let us be clear—that for the Iraqi people, whose only true hope lies in the removal of Saddam, the darkness will simply close back over. They will be left under his rule, without any possibility of liberation—not from us, not from anyone.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment. This is the choice before us. If this House now demands that at this moment, faced with this threat from this regime, British troops are pulled back, that we turn away at the point of reckoning—this is what it means—what then? What will Saddam feel? He will feel strengthened beyond measure. What will the other states that tyrannise their people, the terrorists who threaten our existence, take from that? They will take it that the will confronting them is decaying and feeble. Who will celebrate and who will weep if we take our troops back from the Gulf now?

Glenda Jackson: Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: I am sorry. If our plea is for America to work with others, to be good as well as powerful allies, will our retreat make it multilateralist, or will it not rather be the biggest impulse to unilateralism that we could possibly imagine? What then of the United Nations, and of the future of Iraq and the middle east peace process, devoid of our influence and stripped of our insistence?

The House wanted this discussion before conflict. That was a legitimate demand. It has it, and these are the choices. In this dilemma, no choice is perfect, no choice is ideal, but on this decision hangs the fate of many things: of whether we summon the strength to recognise the global challenge of the 21st century, and meet it; of the Iraqi people, groaning under years of dictatorship; of our armed forces, brave men and women of whom we can feel proud, and whose morale is high and whose purpose is clear; of the institutions and alliances that will shape our world for years to come. To retreat now, I believe, would put at hazard all that we hold dearest. To turn the United Nations back into a talking shop; to stifle the first steps of progress in the middle east; to leave the Iraqi people to the mercy of events over which we would have relinquished all power to influence for the better; to tell our allies that at the very moment of action, at the very moment when they need our determination, Britain faltered: I will not be party to such a course.

This is not the time to falter. This is the time not just for this Government—or, indeed, for this Prime Minister—but for this House to give a lead: to show that we will stand up for what we know to be right; to show that we will confront the tyrannies and dictatorships and terrorists who put our way of life at risk; to show, at the moment of decision, that we have the courage to do the right thing.

Michael Ancram – 2003 Statement on Iraq


Below is the text of the statement made by Michael Ancram, the then Shadow Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons on 17 March 2003.

May I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement and for giving me early sight of it? His statement is indeed a sombre one. Put bluntly, the talking is over, diplomacy is at an end and tonight we face the grim prospect of war. We are where we are tonight because Saddam Hussein has contemptuously failed to take the final opportunity that resolution 1441 offered him. Hopes that he might accept the inevitable this time and disarm have been dashed. Instead, he has chosen to take the international community to the wire.

There was a chance that a clear, unequivocal and united voice from the international community might yet have persuaded him to disarm or to go. France put paid to that. I hope that in Paris they will reflect tonight on what they have achieved.

There will be many different and deeply held feelings in the House tonight and during the debate tomorrow. It would be very strange if there were not. But while we may not agree with each other, I hope and believe that none of us will do other than totally respect the sincerity with which these views are held.

Saddam Hussein, in possession of weapons of mass destruction, is a threat to international peace and security. No one, not even France, denies that. It is not just a threat within the middle east but to the international community at large, including ourselves. That is why we believe that action to disarm him can no longer be delayed. We will, of course, debate all this tomorrow, and we will vote on it. I do not intend to pre-empt that debate or that vote tonight, but there are questions that I must ask.

What discussions has the Foreign Secretary had with his Turkish counterpart to ensure that action in Iraq will not provoke unrest between northern Iraq and Turkey?

What preparations are in place to ensure a swift delivery of humanitarian aid and relief to the people of Iraq, who have suffered for so long under the heel of Saddam Hussein?

What discussions has the Foreign Secretary had with the Secretary-General of the United Nations in accordance with the motion proposed for tomorrow to ensure that a representative Administration can swiftly be set up in Iraq under United Nations auspices to ensure the speedy rehabilitation of that country?

Again, in accordance with the motion proposed for tomorrow, what steps is the right hon. Gentleman taking to follow up President Bush’s statements on Israel-Palestine and, in particular, to ensure that there is a genuine and sustained momentum towards the two-state solution? What talks has the Foreign Secretary had with other members of the Quartet, including Russia, to make real progress on that front? And what other steps will he take to reassure the Islamic community that military action in Iraq is not an attack on Islam but can bring long-term benefit and stability to the Muslim world?

Our thoughts tonight must be with our armed forces as they face the prospect of conflict. We ask much on their behalf, and our prayers must be with them and their families. They must know that from these Benches they have our unqualified support. We will offer the Government our support in the decisions that must now be made. We will do so because they have reached the same conclusions as us on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and the legality of taking action. We believe that they are acting in the national interest, and as long as that is the case we will continue to support them. Her Majesty’s Opposition will do what in our hearts we know for our country is right.