Theresa May – 2008 Conservative Party Conference Speech

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Thank you Michael for that kind introduction and also for your excellent session earlier today. It’s good to know that our education policy is in such good hands.

And thank you to Hillary and to Elizabeth Burton Phillips for your presentations. I think you’ll all agree that they really made us think about families today, the pressures they are under and the problems parents have to deal with.

I would just like to say this about Elizabeth. She is a constituent of mine so I have known her now for some years. I am a patron of her charity Drug Fam. I have heard Elizabeth speak on a number of occasions. Her speeches always get to the heart of the matter because what she says is not theoretical. It’s not some academic work; it’s not the product of bureaucrats in Whitehall. What she says is real life. That’s what happened to her and her family and it is happening to too many families up and down this country.

Elizabeth has set down her story in her book, ‘Mum Can You Lend Me Twenty Quid?’ She went through a personal tragedy. What has come out of it is a charity helping many thousands of other families to deal with drugs and we hope avert the tragedy that befell Elizabeth’s family.

Her visit to the Four Dwellings High School and the work to set up family support on the Welsh House Farm Estate will I hope leave a lasting legacy that will help countless families.

And we must help them, as Elizabeth is doing, to deal with addiction when they meet it face to face, but we must also do more to take people off drugs and to make sure they don’t get sucked into the downward spiral of drug addiction in the first place. It is ruining too many lives.

Supporting families has been a long standing principle for us as Conservatives. Families today come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, the problems they face have changed and we must adapt our policies to make that principle work in today’s world.

Maria spoke about how we would support relationships and families in the home. But that’s not all we need to do. Our aim is to make Britain the most family friendly place to do business. People want to have more scope to manage the balance between their work and home life better. They want to be more in control. To make Britain truly family friendly the workplace has to change. For young people today – Generation Y as they are known – there are no longer the same boundaries between work and home. They expect to be able to vary their hours at work, but they might also do work from home late into the evening. Technology makes this easy. Today’s generation demand more flexibility in how they work and in the workplace.

But it’s more than that. Flexible working isn’t some woolly liberal politically correct policy thought up by a focus group. For many, flexibility is an economic necessity. Many families need that extra second income to pay the mortgage and Brown’s stealth taxes. And how many older people find that their pension won’t support them in the way they expected so they have to carry on working long beyond when they had planned to retire. They look for flexible working too. And if we are serious, as Chris Grayling said, about getting more people off benefits and into work then we must accept that for some, say with certain long term health conditions, that’s only possible with flexible working.

So it’s time to explode the myths about flexible working.

First the myth that flexible working means part time work and part time work means part time commitment. Flexible working covers a wide range of work. It includes part time but it also covers job sharing, using flexible hours, working from home and all sorts of other arrangements. And by the way, people who work part time aren’t giving part time commitment. You often find that part time workers with flexible working arrangements or job sharers put far more into the job than someone working so called normal hours.

The second myth is that flexible working is only for mothers. Yes, flexible working can benefit women with children but it also benefits those caring for older relatives. It helps the father separated from his children who needs some flexibility so he can have regular access to them. It enables people with disabilities to access a wider range of jobs.

And the final myth we must explode is that flexible working is only ever costly and bad for business. That flies in the face of the facts. Studies have shown that those employers who use flexible working benefit from better retention, better productivity and a happier workforce.

In these difficult times, businesses need the best people for the job and across the country companies who recognise this are rolling out better working practices improving choice, promoting fairness and increasing profitability.

There doesn’t have to be a conflict between helping business and helping people.

We need a revolution in the workplace, accepting that its not just mothers who want to spend more time with their children but fathers too. That’s why at the Party’s Spring Forum George Osborne and I announced our policy of flexible parental leave. Under these plans, parents will have 52 weeks of leave on the birth of a child which they will be able to divide between them as they see fit. So if fathers want to take more of a role they can, if mothers feel the need to return to work earlier they can. If both parents want sometime at home together at the birth of their child, helping each other out in those first few weeks then they can. What matters is that they have the choice.

Likewise with our proposal to extend the right to request flexible working to all parents with children under the age of 18. Having children is one of the most important and challenging roles in an adult’s life and we want to support parents in that role. And that means both parents, not just mothers. More and more fathers want to take an active part in bringing up their children and so our flexible working policy is a step to help them achieve that.

If the culture of the modern workplace could adapt to accommodate the culture of the modern life then I believe we could all benefit. And choice would be at the heart of those changes. A choice to be a stay at home mum – or dad. The choice to look after your elderly parents or volunteer for a few hours a week. The choice to manage your business in the best way that suits you, your clients and your staff.

But there is more to be done to improve the workplace particularly for women. We’ve still got to address the shameful pay divide between men and women in this country. That’s why earlier this month I launched a campaign to tackle the pay gap. It’s on facebook – Theresa May for Equal Pay. If you agree then sign up to my group. We aim to introduce a bill in December that would strengthen the law against discrimination on pay and we’re calling for cross party support. Because this issue isn’t about party political point scoring. It should cross party lines. This is about treating women fairly.,.

How we can hope to raise the low levels of aspiration amongst young women in this country if they think they won’t get treated fairly when they get to the work place? We need to encourage young women to go down the path of work and career rather than the path of benefits and dependency. And that means being positive about the role women play in business, in politics, in the public sector. Let’s stop talking about the problems women face and start talking about the enormous benefits women bring to business and politics.

The demands of modern life are changing and the challenges we face are changing too.

As Conservatives, we want to remove the barriers to achievement for everyone. We want to give people the choice to live their lives the way that suits them best.

Labour talk about being family friendly.

They boast about their achievements. They claim they are the only party that understands women today.

But we know better.

We know it is the Conservative Party that has led the debate on flexible working.

It is the Conservative Party that is leading the campaign on equal pay; and it is the Conservative Party that has taken up the challenge and will bring in flexible parental leave.

Because only the Conservatives know the importance of personal choice and only the Conservatives are willing to propose the new policies that take us forward in the 21st century, confident in the decisions made by women and families and willing to trust the people.

Peter Mandelson – 2008 Statement on the Future of the Royal Mail

Below is the text of the statement made by Peter Mandelson in the House of Lords on December 16th 2008.

My Lords, I wish to make a statement about the Royal Mail.

This Government is firmly committed to a universal postal service: that is, the ability of the 28 million homes and businesses across the country to receive mail six days a week, with the promise that one price goes anywhere.

The universal service helps to bind us together as a country. And, as well as its social importance, it is the means by which many companies build and operate their businesses, but it doesn’t come free.

Last December, John Hutton invited Richard Hooper to lead a full, independent review of the postal services market. Its purpose was to look ahead to the future and to recommend the steps needed to sustain the universal service, in a world where technology, consumer behaviour and the communications market are all rapidly changing. The review did not cover the Post Office network.

I have now received Richard Hooper’s final report. It is a serious, wide-ranging study, and makes sober reading. We are publishing it this afternoon. I am very grateful to Richard Hooper, and to Dame Deirdre Hutton and Ian Smith, for their work on it.

Hooper’s conclusions

Let me set out Hooper’s analysis of the challenges facing the Royal Mail.

First, there has been a revolution in communications technology over the past decade as consumers turn to emails, the internet and text messages. In this country 60 billion text messages were sent last year. And we now send five million fewer letters per day than two years ago.

Hooper is absolutely clear that the main challenge to the Royal Mail is from the impact of changes in technology and consumer choices. His estimate is that, last year, the shift of mail to these new technologies cost the company £500 million in lost profits. That is five times the impact of business lost to other postal companies in our liberalised market. The message is therefore clear. Making these other companies go away is not the answer to the Royal Mail succeeding.

Royal Mail’s success matters because it is the only company capable of delivering mail to every address in the UK, six days a week. And as Hooper makes clear that will be the case for the foreseeable future.

So a healthy Royal Mail is vital to sustaining the universal service.

The second challenge is efficiency. Hooper reports that Royal Mail is less automated and less efficient than its Western European counterparts. In modern European postal companies, 85% of mail is put in walk-order by machine for delivery to the individual home or business. By contrast, in Britain, in local delivery offices it is still done entirely by hand. The Royal Mail urgently needs to catch up and modernise.

The third challenge is the Pension Fund. Hooper warns that Royal Mail has a large, growing and volatile pension fund deficit. This is near impossible for the business to manage and is a huge demand on its revenues. Each year on top of its regular £500 million contribution to the pension fund, the company is having to find an extra “top up” of £280 million to plug the deficit. These payments look set to rise substantially when the fund is re-valued next year.

Fourth, Hooper says labour relations in the company need to improve. Levels of trust and co-operation are low. Industrial action takes place too often. A fresh start in industrial relations is badly needed.

Fifth, regulation. Hooper also reports a lack of trust in the relationship between the company and the regulator. There are disagreements about basic information and these tensions divert energy from the chief challenge of modernising the business.

So overall, Hooper’s conclusions are crystal clear. The status quo is untenable. The universal service is under threat. The choice we face is either downgrading the universal service as we manage decline or acting now to turn things round and secure the Royal Mail’s future.

Hooper’s Recommendations

At the heart of the Hooper report are three linked recommendations.

Pension deficit

First, the pension fund deficit. Hooper recognises that this represents a significant challenge for the company.

The Report recommends that as part of a package of changes, the government should take over responsibility for reducing substantially the pension deficit. I would stress that Hooper says this would only be justified as part of a coherent package to secure the Royal Mail’s long term viability.

Partnership

Secondly and closely related, to improve the Royal Mail’s performance it should forge a strategic minority partnership with a postal operator with a proven record in transforming its business, working closely with the workforce. This, Hooper believes, would give Royal Mail the confidence, the experience and the capital to make the changes needed to improve performance and face the future. In other words, save the Royal Mail by investing in its future.

Regulation

Finally, regulation. Hooper proposes Ofcom should take over responsibility from Postcomm for regulating the postal market. Its primary responsibility would be to maintain the universal service in the wider context of the other changes taking place in communication markets.

Government response

My Department will want to study the report in detail. I intend to respond with a full statement of our policy in the early part of next year.

With backing from the Government, the Royal Mail has been improving performance in recent years. But progress has been too slow and Hooper is clear that, in the face of the challenges confronting the company, transformation must be faster and more far reaching.

I can say now that the Government agrees with Hooper’s analysis and the recommendations. As he does, we reject cutting back the universal service. Indeed, we share his ambition for a strong universal service and strong Royal Mail. And we intend to take forward the recommendations as a coherent package of measures.

We will fulfil our manifesto commitment to “a publicly owned Royal Mail fully restored to good health, providing customers with an excellent service and its employees with rewarding employment”. Bringing in a partner through a minority stake in the Royal Mail’s postal business will help us deliver that goal. It will bring the Royal Mail fresh investment, new opportunities to grow in Europe and internationally, and to offer new services. It will provide a fresh new impetus to modernising the Royal Mail and securing the universal service.

We and the Royal Mail have already received one expression of interest from the Dutch postal company, TNT, to build such a partnership. I very much welcome this approach from an experienced postal company, just as I will welcome other expressions of interest from credible partners should they come forward. My Department will pursue this in the coming weeks.

Post Office

Finally, I should comment on the Post Office, which was not part of the review’s terms of reference.

The network of local Post Offices combines a unique set of commercial, public and social roles. In recognition of this a partnership would not include the Post Office network.

But a healthier Royal Mail letters business will be good for the Post Office. Today’s announcement will help underpin our existing commitment to the Post Office network. We are providing £1.7 billion to 2011 to support a network of around 11,500 branches. We will continue to support the non-commercial network beyond that time. Noble Lords will recall the recent announcement that the Post Office Card Account will stay with the Post Office. We will now build on that decision to ensure a stable and sustainable network for the future.

We are determined to have a Post Office network offering a broad range of services throughout the country, supporting both social and financial inclusion. I am delighted that the House of Commons Business and Enterprise Select Committee has agreed to undertake an inquiry into what further services the Post Office could offer.

Conclusion

My Lords, I believe that Royal Mail and the postal market can thrive in the future – provided that decisive action is taken now. Without far-reaching change, the opportunities brought by technology will become overwhelming threats. This need not be the case. I believe that there are benefits for everybody in the package of measures that we intend to take forward.

  • It will protect the universal service for consumers.
  • It will give Royal Mail new opportunities to modernise and develop.
  • It offers the Royal Mail’s staff a future in a modern, efficient postal operator with more secure pension arrangements.
  • It offers the whole country a Royal Mail we can be proud of.

I commend this statement to the House.

Peter Mandelson – 2008 Foresight Public Debate Speech

Below is the text of the speech given on November 6th 2008 by Peter Mandelson.

Barack Obama’s victory is one of the most exciting moments of my political and public life. It is a once in a generation opportunity for progressive ideals and my kind of social democratic and internationalist politics.

When he comes to office, Mr Obama will face the challenges of war and climate change, as well as economic turmoil. He has been forthright on his policies in the first two and we look forward to working closely with him on the last.

In Britain I’m well known to be a strong pro European. But I’ve always been a strong pro American as well. I believe America at its best shares my – and European – values of democracy, personal freedom and opportunity for all. These values do not always equate to the right policies. But America has an extraordinary capacity to renew itself, to address its weaknesses, come to terms with its past and make change happen.

Most comment has focussed on the historic significance of the election of a black President for a society once so scarred by racial discrimination and prejudice – and the extraordinary signal this sends to people across the world about what America stands for. In recent years, there has been an evolution in American policy on a number of the important issues facing the world, so Mr Obama has a strong platform for launching a new drive for progressive world leadership. In my lifetime, I have not known a time when this leadership is more needed.

Because of this, there is also a great opportunity for Europe. We don’t compete. We need a partner, to work together to solve the global economic crisis, tackle climate change and meet the other pressing global challenges of poverty and development. The US and EU cannot, by themselves, make these happen. But we are indispensable to them being achieved. Only by the EU and US collaborating is there any chance of creating a stable and secure multilateral order.

However I want to underline three caveats:

First, in the global age Europe – and that includes Britain – cannot claim an exclusive relationship with an Obama Washington. The world has turned. To solve the global economic crisis, we have to bring in the new powerhouses of the world as equal partners. To tackle climate change we have to strike a deal with China and India. To sustain free trade and the beneficial forces of globalisation, we have to develop a new, progressive economics that embraces both the developed and emerging nations of the world.

Second, to be a credible partner, Europe has to step up to the table. We have shown leadership on climate change: we now have to deliver on our national commitments. In peace keeping and peace enforcement, we have to make the bigger contribution as European nations that I believe Barack Obama will expect. On trade and economics, we have to sustain an open Single Market at home and openness abroad. Half measures or half hearted ambivalence will not do. Because of the seriousness of the challenges we face, the demands on us are great.

Third, we need to work with Barack Obama to defeat those forces inside America that will try to hold him back. These include isolationists and protectionists and on Capitol Hill these forces are strongly featured in the Democratic Party itself – stronger still after some of Tuesday’s victories.

The only way forward for the United States and for the world is if America thinks globally. Yet more trade barriers, for example, are not the answer. Instead, the new Administration will have to defeat isolationists by developing a new progressive social model for the United States. This needs to emulate the best of Europe’s Social Model, helping working people more effectively through difficult economic adjustments, providing universal cost-effective healthcare and enabling youngsters to go to college whatever their family’s economic circumstance. These are policies that offer a mix of social opportunity and protection not to be confused with protectionism, the kind of progressive policies that Gordon Brown and I stand for, and we should explain and urge our Democrat friends and allies to adopt them.

This is the modern way – and the only way – to embrace the changes the world is undergoing, to sustain a progressive globalisation with social justice. Indeed politically, you cannot have the one without the other. For thirty years, globalisation was funded by western capital and structured to meet western demand. This is already changing. Last year, one in every six dollars of Foreign Direct Investment came from outside the developed world. China now ranks third in world goods trade with 12% of global exports and is fourth in world services trade with 5% of global exports. According to projections by Goldman Sachs, it is set to become the world’s largest economy, followed by the US and India, by 2050.

This shift, the biggest restructuring of the global economy since the industrial revolution, is increasing competition – and, therefore, generating huge economic and social pressures – at home and abroad. It’s intensifying demand for the world’s nature resources, a potentially huge competition which new trade rules need to govern.

As old economic certainties are eroded, countries and individuals are being challenged to find new ways to succeed. These new ways are not a race to the bottom as so many fear – on wages, regulations or anything else. They are about how most effectively to foster growth, not by reliance on financial engineering, but by genuine innovation and increases in productivity and through continued engagement with a global economy set to double in size during the next twenty five years. A global economy that since the early 1990s has helped over 400 million people from the developing world escape extreme poverty, and which through rising aspiration and a greater demand for high-value goods and services is a major source of prosperity in both the American and European economies.

That’s why it is self-interest for the US and EU to champion open markets and a multilateral system of trade and why this means supporting the Doha Round of trade negotiations. And I hope that when they meet next weekend, the G20 leaders will provide a strong signal of their commitment to intensifying negotiations and reaching agreement on the framework for a deal this year.

The early appointment of a US Trade Representative by the new administration, and engagement in the Doha negotiations would send a powerful message that, despite the changing world order – indeed because of it – countries can work together for their own, national and shared global interests. That’s what should bind Europe and the US, and what Britain should champion.

We want America to seize the opportunity of the Obama victory to reclaim its leadership role in the world. But Mr Obama will never succeed if Congress forces the new President into isolationism and protectionism, which forces America to turn in on itself.

Jack Straw – 2008 Speech to Labour Party Conference

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Below is the text of the speech made by the then Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, at Labour Party conference on 21st September 2008.

Conference, at the 1997 election, we promised that a Labour government would convict more criminals, fast-track the punishment of persistent young offenders; crackdown on neighbourhood disorder.

We’ve not just met these promises but done much more besides.

We never promised in 1997 to be the first government since the war to cut crime, and to do so by a third, to increase police numbers by 14,000, to reduce household burglary by 50% and car crime by almost 60%.

But we’ve done them all – and more.

And this record of delivery has been no accident, no lucky fluke.

We’ve delivered because our values are the ones most likely to create safer communities.

Fair rules, firm punishments. Rights, but also responsibilities. Deterrent, and reform.

Tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime.

Our approach works.

Crime denies the most fundamental of  rights. The right to feel safe; the very right to life.

When there are high levels of crime it’s those with the least who suffer the most.

And never forget that when someone is the victim of a crime, they are 100% victim – and no blizzard of statistics from people like me will take that away.

Yesterday we saw the determination of those affected by knife crime as they marched through London. We stand firm with all those who know too well the devastating impact these crimes have and as Jacqui will be spelling out  later, all of us pledge that we will relentlessly keep up our efforts to tackle it.

Labour will always put victims and their families first.

That’s why we are transforming criminal justice from a bureaucratic system to the public’s service.

It’s about a change of culture, of attitude, about lifting the veil which sometimes keeps justice from view: explaining more, hiding less.

So I’ve abolished the fees which newspapers had to pay for court lists.

And I’m going to open up the justice system through the power of the internet, with online court records so anyone can see for themselves what happened when someone appears in the dock.

In the very sensitive area of the family courts, I think we can shed more light whilst preserving the imperative of the welfare of the child.

And when people receive community punishments, the public must literally be able to see them working – so we are introducing high visibility jackets for all those on such sentences.

Prisons are obviously part of this service. Since 1997, we have increased prison places by 23,000 – a third, twice the rate of the Tories, and there’ll be another 13,000 places by 2014.

Conference, I am passionate about getting the correct balance between the rights of the accused and the rights of the victim.

That’s why I said last year that we would change the law so that those who are brave enough to have-a-go against burglars or street robbers do not find themselves unfairly in the dock.

Some were sceptical that it would happen, but we’ve done it.

In 1997 we began a quiet revolution to transform services for victims and witnesses. In the autumn we’ll continue that with a new bill before parliament.

Legal aid is one of Labour’s many great post war social reforms and it’s grown dramatically.

Legal aid spending per head in England and Wales is the highest in the world. It’s as much as we spend on prisons.

There are now three times as many lawyers in private practice but paid for by the taxpayer as there were three decades ago; the budget has grown faster than the health and education services.

The challenge now is how better to spend these huge sums in the interests of the public and justice; something I want to do with the legal profession and local government.

Conference, I am concerned about another element of legal services – “No win, no fee” arrangements.

It’s claimed they have provided greater access to justice, but the behaviour of some lawyers in ramping up their fees in these cases is nothing short of scandalous.

So I am going to address this and consider whether to cap more tightly the level of success fees that lawyers can charge.

Conference, this autumn, building on the Human Rights Act, we will be publishing proposals for a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

This is a further step in our programme of constitutional reform which includes giving Parliament control over war powers and treaties. And it is also achieving something that few thought possible – broad agreement across the political divide on turning the House of Lords into an elected second chamber: at long last.

These changes are not as important as a family’s shopping bill or a community ravaged by crime.

But they are needed. Globalisation can greatly diminish an individual’s sense of their own power to affect their and their family’s own future.

So ensuring that citizens are better able to exercise their rights is critical to the creation of more fairness and equality.

Fairness: it is at the heart of the Labour approach.

I can understand why the Tories try to appropriate our language, to sugar- coat their wafer-thin agenda with the fallacy that they care about social justice.

But we must not let them get away with it.

What happened – or didn’t happen – between 1979 and 1997 exposes the hollowness of the protestations of today’s Tories to be the party of fairness.

When these same people had the chance to act, to show their commitment to those things they profess today to care about, they allowed crime to double.

They could have acted on racial hatred, they could have set up an inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence.

They didn’t. We did.

They could have introduced new laws to deal with anti-social behaviour.

They didn’t. We did.

Now, contrary to all the evidence, the Tories accuse us of creating a “broken Britain”. It shows how little they’ve changed.

Running the country down when they were in power.

And still trying to run it down now just to gain power.

That’s the last thing we need at a time of global uncertainty.

Conference, since ’97 Labour’s approach, Gordon’s approach, helped the country stride forward when conditions across the world were more placid.

But what about now, when we face more turmoil internationally than for decades, more worry domestically than for many years?

Does Britain need these values, our values now?

Solidarity and support. Opportunity for all. Protection for those who are weakest.

Conference, Britain needs these values, our values, more than ever before.

And we will deliver.

Jack Straw – 2008 Speech at George Washington University

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Below is the text of the speech made by Jack Straw, the then Secretary of State for Justice, at George Washington University on 15th February 2008.

Good morning, I am honoured to be here at the magnificent George Washington University.

This morning I want to set out some observations about the enduring and unique relationship between our two countries, and in particular to look at how our very conceptions of government and the constitution, whilst on the face of it very different, are borne out of the same root, and have to face up to the same challenge of remaining relevant in a twenty-first century democracy.

This challenge of remaining relevant has beset every government of every age.

It calls to mind the old adage of the man who walked into a bookshop in the French Third Republic asking for a copy of the Constitution. ‘We don’t deal in periodical literature’, the bookseller replied.

So, in this speech, I discuss three things:

First, our common constitutional heritage – how the US and the UK both have modernised the Magna Carta, and constantly adapted our constitutional arrangements to meet changing circumstances.

Second, to look at some of the steps we have taken in the United Kingdom to bring our constitution into line with modern expectations: the ‘quiet revolution’ over the last decade of the Labour administrations of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

And third, the lessons we can learn from the United States as to how we in the UK can shape the next chapter in the story of British liberty: towards a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

Part 1: Magna Carta

I would like to begin, where so much of our legal, governmental and social systems begin – with the Magna Carta.

In December of last year Sotheby’s in New York sold a 1297 copy of the Magna Carta for more than million – the world’s first million bill. It is both symbolic and fitting that it has been placed on display beside the Declaration of Independence just down the road at Washington’s National Archives. These two represent perhaps the most defining constitutional documents in the Western world. Their influence on the development of democracy in the United Kingdom, the United States as around the world cannot be overstated. Along with the Bill of Rights and the Constitution they are what James Madison called the ‘political scriptures’.

In the late eighteenth century, the Founding Fathers searched for an historical precedent for asserting their rightful liberties from King George III and the English Parliament. They found it in a parley which took place more than 500 years before that, between a collection of barons, and the then impoverished and despotic King John, at Runneymede in 1215. On that unremarkable field they did a remarkable thing. They demanded of the king that their traditional rights be recognised, written down, confirmed with the royal seal and sent to every county to be read aloud to all freemen.

Let us, however, prick the illusion, that the Magna Carta was precipitated by the equivalent of thirteenth century civil rights campaigners. The Magna Carta was a feudal document – designed to protect the interests, rights and properties of powerful landowners with the temerity to stand up to the monarch. Given its provenance, it is a paradox that a document which was founded on the basis of class and self interest has over centuries become one of the basic documents for our two constitutions, and one of the icons of the universal protection of liberty.

This is a measure of how constitutions evolve, grow, develop with changing circumstances; in this sense they can be very much like scripture. This is the process by which a document just shy of its eight-hundredth birthday still has a resonance and a relevance today. In more than 100 decisions, the United States Supreme Court has traced dependence on the Magna Carta for understanding of due process of law, trial by one’s peers, the importance of a fair trial, and protection against excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishment. These are principles which similarly have long formed the bedrock of our system of common law in the United Kingdom – as admired as it is emulated in democracies around the world.

I dwell on this historical point to demonstrate that in spite of the very different systems of governance in the UK and the US, there is an enduring bond between our two democracies, a shared legal culture, a common thread which can be followed back to the Magna Carta.

At the heart of each, of both, is a powerful and everlasting idea of liberty and of rights. I often think that the commonality between us and our ideas is best reflected in the person of one man, that great Anglo-American, Thomas Paine. Paine was born and raised in a small town in the east of England called Thetford in Norfolk, but was to go on profoundly to influence the revolutions in America and France. Indeed, the name ‘the United States of America’ itself is attributed to his creation. That Paine is commonly considered among the Founding Fathers, and later was elected to the French National Convention are measures of his remarkable contribution to the dialectics of liberty.

But though Thomas Paine’s seeds were the same wherever he sowed them, they grew. And their progeny then evolved in ground that was different, differences today reflected in very different systems of governance.

From independence, the United States self-consciously chose to develop a system of constitutional sovereignty, to prevent the new-born nation from ever being subject to the yoke of a despotic ruler.

As Washington himself implored: ‘that it is provided with more checks and barriers against the introduction of tyranny, and those of a nature less liable to be surmounted, than any government hitherto instituted among mortals hath possessed’.

As with many nations which later have had to define themselves as a product of great social trauma – civil war, revolution, independence, or more recently breaking free of the shackles of apartheid – you put your belief in and structured your system of government around a set of overarching principles around which their nation could unite – a constitutional form of government.

In the United Kingdom we have remained faithful to principle of Parliamentary sovereignty – whereby no power is pre-eminent to Parliament, where any law can be made and unmade. The Swiss constitutionalist, and contemporary of Tom Paine, Jean-Louis de Lolme described this in practice: ‘Parliament can do anything but change men into women and women into men’ he quipped.

In an aphorism I remember from when I was studying for the equivalent of my high school exams, Ivor Jennings, a later British constitutional historian, went on to correct him: ‘like many of the remarks de Lolme made, it is wrong. For if Parliament enacted that all men should be women then they would be women so far as the law was concerned’. Such are the vagaries of the English constitution!

Of course we have significant constitutional documents, of which the Magna Carta is only one. These include the 1689 Bill of Rights, the great Reform Acts of the 19th Century, the Parliament Acts, the Human Rights Act 1998. But in no one document can be found what is called the ‘British Constitution’. The constitution of the United Kingdom exists in hearts and minds and habits as much as it does in law.

This divergence between the American notion of constitutional supremacy and the British doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, has, according to a predecessor of mine as Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg:

‘long been viewed as symbolising a fundamental difference of outlook between the United States and Britain on constitutional matters generally, and more specifically on the status of civil rights in our respective legal systems’.

The lesson of history is that declarations of rights – what Madison described as ‘paper barriers’ – are not in themselves enough. Look at Weimar Germany or Soviet Russia. For rights to be afforded their true significance they need to have legal expression and enforcement as well as symbolic value. Judges, lawyers, politicians and philosophers from both sides of the Atlantic have been grappling with how best to provide a practical legal mechanism to access rights and an ethical framework for decision-making.

The American constitutional system puts the individual rights of man very obviously and explicitly at its heart. The continuing challenge is therefore how to interpret the aspirational features of your constitution in such a way as to continue to provide legal protections to its citizens while remaining true to the historic purpose of its framers. The jurisprudence of the United States Supreme Court (primarily) helps to constantly refresh and renew the interpretation of the Constitution. Through constant consideration and iteration, the Supreme Court has had the effect of continually breathing life into the constitution. It is not neglected but actively considered and – where necessary – renewed.

Part 2: The ‘quiet revolution’

The same cannot be said in the UK. The nature of our system of governance in Britain is such that constitutional amendment requires an Act of Parliament (but by no special procedure or majority). Our courts cannot change our constitution. The 1998 Human Rights Act was very careful on that point. So while the mechanism is different to the US, it remains underpinned by the same principle: constitutions must modernise to reflect the world in which they are operating.

The gradual development of our constitution was described by the Victorian lecturer AV Dicey as ‘historic’. Bagehot, another of the British greats, described it as ‘organic’, and the ‘product of evolution rather than design’. But that does not mean it is always easily understood, nor that it is always capable of changing appropriately to meet the needs of society

To put the constitution on a modern footing and to ensure that it is in a position to cope with the pressures facing it today necessitates regular and active constitutional maintenance. Without it, a logjam of constitutional adjustment builds up. Since 1997, when Tony Blair became Prime Minister, we have been clearing away the logjam which had accumulated. Aside, perhaps, from the years immediately prior to the First World War which saw the Parliament Act of 1911, historians have already suggested that the period since 1997 in which Labour came to power is unparalleled in the past one hundred years of our constitutional arrangements. We have staged, in the words of constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor, a ‘quiet revolution’.

Change in role of Lord Chancellor

The great Victorian Prime Minister Gladstone suggested ‘that the British constitution presumes more boldly than any other the good faith of those who work it’. But good faith, for so long the ‘British way’, is no basis on which to construct a modern constitution. Changes had to be made if we were to have a system of governance in which the British public could have confidence.

The ‘good faith’ described by Gladstone is the absence in our constitutional arrangements of a (formal) doctrine of separation of powers, one of the key areas identified by Paine and others as being a vital bulwark against tyranny. Ironically, nowhere was this constitutional anomaly more clearly seen than in the role of the office I now hold, Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor traditionally sat as part of the legislative, of the executive, and of the judiciary. He was Speaker of the House of Lords, a senior member of the Cabinet, and could, and did, sit as an appeal judge: a holy trinity of roles which contained a constitutional anachronism which had persisted for centuries, and which could not continue in any form of modern democracy.

Montesquieu argued that ‘there is no liberty if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and the executive’. Quite what he made of the role of the Lord Chancellor, history does not record.

But from my own perspective as the first commoner – that is an elected Member of Parliament – since Sir Christopher Hatton in the reign of Elizabeth I to be appointed Lord Chancellor I would like to add this. The separation of powers should not mean that the each ‘limb’ of state becomes dislocated. But as we move as a democracy to a model in which we enjoy a clearer separation of powers it is important that where there are connections these areas must be transparent.

First sentencing. It is an important principle that in any fair and just society, where the rule of law is predominant, that an impartial and independent judiciary is allowed to go about its business without impediment. Judges must be given the room to make their individual decisions based on the individual merits of the cases before them – without political interference. And this interference can also take the passive form in which sentencers and politicians each try to second-guess the other. To avoid this, I believe that we need to look very closely at a system such as, with different features, successfully operates in several states here, of a sentencing commission. Officials from my department have visited Minnesota and I myself look forward to heading to Virginia tomorrow to see how their commission works. In the UK we are looking very closely at whether a longer term mechanism better to control the supply of and demand for prison places is needed. In particular, we are looking from your experience at a model in which Parliament sets the overall framework for sentences, leaving judges free to concentrate on their individual decisions, within a clear set of parameters, and with capacity of the prison system taken into account in setting the framework, but not so that it interferes, in individual cases, with the sentence handed down.

The second specific area I would like to touch upon is the importance of maintaining accountability to Parliament via the Lord Chancellor. In a modern liberal democracy the judiciary are expected to act as a check and balance against the power of the legislature or the executive. But so too in a liberal democracy is that judiciary expected to be accountable to the public in ways which do not impinge on the fundamental principle of their independence. Accordingly such accountability is not expected to be direct – we have no interest in pursuing a route which would lead to the election of our judges – nor in a way which challenges their independence, but via the person of the Lord Chancellor, to Parliament.

The reforms enacted through the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 combine the best of the historical role of the Lord Chancellor, a strong figure within the executive who can defend the rule of law and the independence of the judges, with changes to our constitution which reflect modern conceptions of democracy: a final court of appeal – a Supreme Court -visible to the public as a court, and not as a committee of the upper house of our legislature; a judiciary with its head – the Lord Chief Justice – appointed from within the ranks of the professional judiciary and not a politician; a transparent, non-political means of appointing judges; and a Speaker in the legislature chosen by the legislative body and not by the head of the executive.

These reforms have provided the active maintenance that had been so needed if our constitution was to move with the times. The relationship they establish between the judges and the Lord Chancellor reflects our age. Judges should not be led by a politician. They need their own voice, and independent leadership. And it is clear that as part of this, judicial appointments must be made, and be seen to be made transparently, impartially and solely on the principle of merit.

The Supreme Court

Those familiar with our legal system will know that currently the final court of appeal for the UK court system is a committee of the upper legislative house, the House of Lords – the ‘Law Lords’. To be appointed a member of that court is to be appointed a member of the legislature. In an age where accessibility is paramount, the court is virtually invisible, save that it can hand its judgement down before the television cameras of the Chamber of the Lords. It works. No-one challenges its integrity or expertise. Yet it’s an odd set-up – in principle as odd as having your Supreme Court sit in the Chamber of your Senate. The Law Lords have no separate identity apart from the House of Lords. Whilst the public are entitled to attend the hearings, they are very difficult to find, and there is little thought given to the public’s attendance. The highest court in the land for far too long has been beyond the reach or understanding of a great number of the British public. As Bagehot argued as long ago as 1867 that a supreme court ‘ought not to be hidden beneath the robes of a legislative assembly’.

As befits the constitutional trend towards the greater separation of powers, a United Kingdom Supreme Court has taken over a century before finally becoming a reality.

There is much that we admire about the US Supreme Court and that we hope to see replicated in our own. It is a highly visible symbol of judicial authority and it is accessible to the public, appealing to the public, and important to the public. When you visit the US Supreme Court you are struck, not only by the quality of its proceedings and the authority it clearly has in the eyes of the American people, but by the huge interest in it and its deliberations from the public: lines of people outside waiting to get in to hear its deliberations, the body of the court filled to the brim with members of the public, as well as lawyers, who had managed to get in.

The place where the court sits is important – a symbolic institution which is not visible or accessible would be pointless. Our new Supreme Court will stand proudly in one corner of Parliament Square, surrounded by, and in sight of, the other distinctive pillars of our constitution – the Houses of Parliament opposite, the Treasury on one side, and Westminster Abbey, where every King and Queen of England has been crowned since 1066, on the other side. It is a setting that is befitting a court of such significance and importance. I believe that the UK Supreme Court, at the apex of our justice system will establish itself as a court of similar world renown to that here in Washington.

 

But there will remain differences in how the how the two courts will operate. Our constitutional arrangements will remain distinct. I make no comment here about your system, but the strength of our legal system in the UK, in part, depends on our judges being beyond politics. In seeking new constitutional arrangements we do not ignore our heritage. We have I think been able to find a solution by which the judiciary can play a visible and effective role in holding the executive to account – but to do so in a way which does not embroil them in partisan politics nor undermine the sovereignty of Parliament.

 

Part 3: British Bill of Rights

 

It is a few years ago now, but I remember being struck in 2002 by the results in the US of a Public Agenda national opinion poll, in which 67% interviewed said that it is was ‘absolutely essential’ for ordinary Americans to have a detailed knowledge of their constitutional rights and freedoms. And 90% of respondents agreed that since the 9/11 attacks ‘it is more important than ever to know what our constitution stands for’. The report concluded that whilst the actual text of the constitution might be very imperfectly captured in people’s heads, ‘its principles and values are alive and well in their hearts’.

 

I would be fascinated to see what the equivalent scores would be back in Britain. I would suggest that there is a wide understanding that English constitutional documents such as the Magna Carta are profoundly important to the way we have developed as a society. And I have said before that I think that the British people have developed an innate understanding of rights which has come from a centuries-old tradition – it is in our cultural DNA. But I think that most people might struggle to put their finger on what those rights are or in which texts they are located. .

 

The next stage in the United Kingdom’s constitutional development is to look at whether we need better to articulate those rights which are scattered across a whole host of different places, and indeed the responsibilities that go with being British.

We can learn a great deal from the United States example, and particularly with regard to the enviable notion of civic duty that seems to flow so strongly through American veins. It is made much easier to fulfil your civic duty when you have a clear sense of to what you belong, and what it is expected from you.

In the United Kingdom many duties and responsibilities already exist in statute, common practice or are woven into our social and moral fabric. But elevating them to a new status in a constitutional document would reflect their importance in the healthy functioning of our democracy.

But why now? It is not because we are a society in turmoil but because we are a society in flux. We live in a modern, individualistic, consumerist age, in which old social classes have eroded. Much of this is welcome. But the consumer society has shifted attitudes in ways that also present us with some challenges. As the political scientist Meg Russell has said:

‘It is difficult to find anything more antithetical to the culture of politics than the contemporary culture of consumerism. While politics is about balancing diverse needs to benefit the public interest, consumerism is about meeting the immediate desires of the individual. While politics requires us to compromise and collaborate as citizens, consumerism emphasises unrestrained individual freedom of choice.’

In the civic sphere, it has arguably given rise to the commoditisation of rights, which have become perceived as yet more goods to be ‘claimed’. This is demonstrated in how some people seek to exercise their rights in a selfish way without regard to others – which injures the philosophical basis of inalienable, fundamental human rights. Alongside that, some people resent the rights that are afforded to fellow humankind – we see this is in the media uproar around human rights being a ‘terrorist’s charter’ or there for the benefit of unpopular minorities alone.

In this individualistic age, we would do well to remind ourselves of first principles: that rights come with duties.

This is hardly a new concept. Thomas Paine declared that:

‘A Declaration of Rights is, by reciprocity, a Declaration of Duties also. Whatever is my right as a man, is also the right of another, and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.’

I fully understand that there is not, and cannot be an exact symmetry between rights and responsibilities. In a democracy, rights tend to be ‘vertical’ – guaranteed to the individual by the state to constrain the otherwise overweening power of the state. Responsibilities, on the other hand, are more ‘horizontal’ – they are the duties we owe to each other, to our ‘neighbour’ in the New Testament sense. But they have a degree of verticality about them too, because we owe duties to the community as a whole.

In seeking to bringing greater clarity and status to the relationship between the citizen, the state and the community, we in the UK have to be constantly mindful of the scope and extent of their justiciability. I entirely agree with the words of former Lord Chief Justice Lord Bingham (now the Senior Law Lord) when he said that the importance of predicatability in law must preclude ‘excessive innovation and adventurism by the judges’. That was echoed by Justice Heydon of the High Court of Australia who suggested that judicial activism, taken to extremes, could spell the death of the rule of law.

If, for instance, economic and social rights were part of our new Bill, but did not become further justiciable, this would not in any way make the exercise worthless. This city is a living testament to the power of symbols. As the jurist Philip Alston described, Bills of Rights are ‘a combination of law, symbolism and aspiration’. What he makes clear is that the formulation of such a Bill is not a simple binary choice between a fully justiciable text on the one hand, or a purely symbolic text on the other. There is a continuum. And it is entirely consistent that some broad declarative principles can be underpinned by statute. Where we end up on this continuum needs to be the subject of the widest debate.

A Bill of Rights and Responsibilities could give people a clearer idea of what we can expect from the state and from each other, and provide an ethical framework for giving practical effect to our common values.

Conclusion

In an enabling state, in a democratic society, it is far more than the law which binds us together. But the law has a powerful role to play. In Britain, we are alone with Israel and New Zealand, among all of the developed countries in the world, in not having a codified constitution – by this I mean a single overarching source of law. And much of what we regard as our unwritten constitution is contained in ordinary laws which can be changed by ordinary legislative process and in conventions (Gladstone’s ‘good-faith’). The introduction of the Human Rights Act was a landmark in the development of rights in the UK, setting the liberties we enjoy on a constitutional footing. But the question which we are now putting to the British people is – whether this goes far this enough? The ‘quiet revolution’ has brought about greater clarity in our constitutional arrangements, but we need now to think very carefully about whether a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities should be a step towards a fully written constitution, which would bring us in line with most progressive democracies around the world. But that is a debate for another time.

In Britain, we have not had to struggle for self-determination or nationhood; nor for three and half centuries have we been torn apart by social strife. We do not wear our freedom on our sleeves in the same way as here in the United States, or Canada, or South Africa.

But, do we in Britain value these rights less as a result? I don’t think so.

I think an innate understanding of rights is a part of our national psyche, it is the amniotic fluid in which we have grown, so too is an inchoate appreciation, at least, of the obligations we have to each other. But we could make them better understood.

If a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities which clarifies this relationship is to be more than a legal document and become a ‘mechanism for unifying the population’, it is vital that it is owned by the British people and not just the lawyers. For it to have real traction with the British people they must have an emotional stake in, and connection with it. We have to make a reality of constitutional expert Professor Francesca Klug’s assertion that the true meaning of human rights is about providing ‘a framework of ethical values driven not just by the ideals of liberty, autonomy and justice, but also by normative values like dignity, equality and community’.

There is a careful balance to maintain; between preserving the UK’s constitutional heritage on the one hand, and running the risk of our public institutions becoming antiquated on the other. And in this there is much we can learn from you.

That here in the United States a single framework of government can and has endured the changes necessary in taking the United States from an isolationist, agrarian nation of 3.5 million people in 1789 to an industrialised, international hyper-power with a population nearly 70 times larger today testifies to its adaptability and durability. In this sense, longevity means success. What better judge than Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

‘[The US] Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why [the US] constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has produced.’

Thank you.

Jacqui Smith – 2008 Speech to the Conference of European Organised Crime

I am very glad to be able to speak at the conference today. I very much welcome the themes of the conference, to examine policy and practice in tackling organised crime, by bringing together UK and EU experience.

Whilst organised crime may operate at national and international level, its effects are felt in every community. I say that because organised crime does not exist in some sort of vacuum. It fuels all manner of criminal and anti-social behaviour in our communities. We all know the blight and dangers which drug dealing and using brings to our streets. But it is important to remember that organised criminals also deal in cheap alcohol, tobacco and, shockingly, in people as well. The violence of the organised crime groups themselves, the misery inflicted on individual victims and the damage to our communities make this a phenomenon that we must tackle.

Reduced to financial terms we estimate that the economic and social costs in the UK are in excess of £20bn. They manifest themselves in various ways but most notably in the form of drug related crime. That is a huge sum but in itself does not illustrate what is happening in our communities as a result. It is protecting those communities in which I am interested. An effective response to organised crime is part of that.

In the UK in recent years we have gone to great lengths to make the country a more difficult place for organised criminals to operate. Government has carried through legislative change and reformed the organisations we task to tackle organised crime. But success can only be achieved through a strong partnership.

In particular, a partnership approach between Government and law enforcement. We set overall strategic priorities, while law enforcement drive the effort at the front end. But there are other partners as well. We see our role as supporting law enforcement by providing necessary powers and assisting in dealing with third parties whose contribution can be important (for example the private sector). And, as today’s conference makes clear whilst impact is local, influence needs to be international if we’re to achieve real results. Legislation

Firstly, I’d like to outline some of the changes in legislation that we’ve introduced. Like many other countries, we have introduced legislation on proceeds of crime and money laundering. Organised criminals are out to make money and do not like losing it. We need to do all we can to identify dirty money which gets into the legitimate financial system; and to confiscate criminally derived assets. Asset recovery prevents and deters future crime, raises the cost of crime, and allows some payback to victims and society. We regard it as a necessary and powerful instrument for tackling organised criminals.

In addition the law enforcement authorities in the UK now benefit from a wider range of tools to do their job.

Over the last couple of years we have,

-Put the giving of Queen’s Evidence on a statutory footing so that offenders assisting investigations and prosecutions can benefit from lesser sentences if they testify against their criminal associates

-Made provision in certain circumstances for persons to be required to answer questions, provide information or produce documents for the investigation

-Introduced Financial Reporting Orders where a convicted person can be required to report on his financial affairs for a number of years, up to a maximum of twenty.

-And created Serious Crime Prevention Orders which will allow prohibitions or restrictions to be put on the activities of a person involved in serious crime. The aim will be to prevent them committing further crime, for example by limiting communication or association with other people.

These last two measures are very much aimed at life-time offender management. For the most serious career organised criminals we believe that it is necessary to fetter and disrupt their activities over a period of time. It is insufficient, for example, when they have completed a prison sentence simply to let them carry on as they have before, and as they wish. Organisations

I would like to turn now to the organisational changes we have made for tackling organised crime.

First and foremost we have created the Serious Organised Crime Agency [Bill Hughes the Director General has spoken earlier about its work].

It started business in April 2006 and was set up to tackle organised crime in a rather different way from its predecessors. Instead of asking the agency to work exclusively on preventing and detecting serious organised crime we have also asked it to consider how it can contribute to the reduction of such crime in other ways and to reduce the harms it causes.

We have also asked the organisation to pay more attention to understanding organised crime. That is, improving the intelligence picture so that organised crime is tackled through an approach which prioritises networks and markets doing the most harm.

Underpinning that approach is the UK Threat Assessment which describes the threat and the National Intelligence Requirement which aims in a systematic way to fill intelligence gaps.

I welcome the way that SOCA has gone about its tasks so far. The Government and they recognise that tackling organised crime is not a job for them alone. They have developed a control strategy comprising a number of programmes of activity which are truly collaborative.

Those programmes comprise representatives from all the relevant agencies – for example, police forces, HM Revenue and Customs and the Prison Service. It is only by bringing together all those with an interest into coherent programmes that real progress can be made. I very much support that approach.

SOCA, working with partners, can already point to significant successes. Last year it was involved in seizures of 74 tonnes of Class A drugs and 1,700 arrests made in the UK and around the world. Those are good results in an organisation in its early days. I am looking forward to more.

This year, we will merge the Asset Recovery Agency into SOCA. Bringing together the financial investigative skills, expertise and experience of both organisations will ensure the most effective investigative tools and techniques can be used against criminals. It fits with the priority of disrupting organised crime finance and SOCA’s responsibility for reducing harm.

This year also sees the creation of the UK Border Agency through an amalgamation of the Border and Immigration Agency and part of HM Revenue and Customs. An agency with a strong remit to control the movement of people and freight will strengthen our ability to tackle the international aspects of organised crime.

I would not, though, want to imply that the law enforcement authorities should provide the sole response to organised crime. They have to be helped in their tasks.

Private bodies can, and do, provide support and co-operation in the prevention, detection and prosecution of organised crime. For example, financial service providers report suspicions transactions and communication service providers retain and disclose data which help investigations. These are all very important. They need to be encouraged and the doors kept open for sharing data and information in appropriate circumstances.

I know this is an area of work in which SOCA is investing a good deal of time and effort. Gun Crime

We need to be able to respond to particular challenges with new ways of working and new partnerships. In recent years, for example, we have seen firearms being used by younger people, in a sometimes chaotic environment. Not, in itself organised crime, but clearly supported and facilitated by trade in guns and often linked to gang membership.

Sadly, Liverpool has been among the cities to be affected and you will all be aware of the recent tragic murder of Rhys Jones.

In September, I set up the Tackling Gangs Action Programme to develop multi-agency work in neighbourhoods in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool where the majority of firearms offences occur. One strand of the work focuses on the supply of firearms. We know that firearms come into the UK from other EU member states, some of which may be through organised criminal gangs. The Serious Organised Crime Agency and HM Revenue and Customs have raised the priority of this issue and are working with police and colleagues across the EU to gather intelligence and choke off this supply. Last year SOCA were involved in recovering more than 150 firearms; and a co-ordinated day of action on 28 November last year in Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London resulted in the seizure of 10 firearms and over 1,000 realistic imitations.

We are also focusing on enforcement – ensuring that those committing these offences are brought to justice – enhancing support and protection for witnesses, as well as a range of prevention activity to make sure young people are able to achieve their potential and do not become involved in criminal and gang activity. In the EU context

So far I have spoken very much about what we have been doing in the UK. But when dealing with organised crime it is essential to think internationally too. And in doing that we need, and wish, to work closely with the EU and other Member States.

It is an irony that I need to hurry back to London from here to vote – yet again – for the European Union (Amendment) Bill to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. The key argument about that, however, is not the minutiae of European institutions, but the way in which we can use European cooperation to really impact on our crime fighting efforts. I would like to mention some areas where we believe that the EU has added real value.

The European Arrest Warrant has proved itself to be an efficient and effective mechanism for returning those seeking to evade justice by going abroad. Extradition times have been reduced by months, if not years, and the UK can point to examples of the successful execution of European Arrest Warrants bringing fugitives back to the UK or returning them to the country in which they are wanted. We regard it as a real success.

We are hopeful that when the European Evidence Warrant is adopted comparable benefits will accrue in speeding up the provision of evidence.

Europol [and we have just heard from its Director, Max-Peter Ratzel] is a key EU organisation in the fight against serious and organised crime. Its importance to us derives from its ability to facilitate information exchange, its analytical support capability and its role in supporting Member State law enforcement authorities in their fight against cross border crime. The United Kingdom is strongly committed to Europol, whose assistance has been invaluable in a number of successful police investigations in the UK involving gangs operating across the European Union. It also produces the EU Organised Crime Threat Assessment which we regard as an essential underpinning document – you need to have a knowledge of what your problems are before you can make sensible decisions about tackling them.

A good example of an operation which we undertook with Europol involved an armed and violent gang committing twenty armed robberies against jewellers in the UK. They had also committed 200 similar crimes across the EU. As a result of that co-operation prosecutions have been brought in eleven cases.

Eurojust too provides an important mechanism for facilitating information exchange and co-ordinating investigations and prosecutions between EU Member States. In 2007 the UK sought assistance through Eurojust in more cases than any other Member State and received the second most number of requests for assistance.

In one operation Eurojust co-ordinated actions across five countries, including the UK, leading to the arrest of 82 people for human trafficking offences. The benefits are clear.

The EU is also taking forward a number of initiatives to improve data sharing including, for example, speeding up the process for law enforcement authorities to check unidentified fingerprint or DNA data against records held in other Member States. The ability to share information between Member States and with Third Countries for the purpose of tackling organised crime is essential. We need to be sure we do not unwittingly limit our ability to do so.

As well as these formal EU mechanisms there are other means by which Member States can pull together to tackle problems of joint interest. An example which the UK is glad to be involved in, and whose first Director is from the UK, is the Maritime Analysis and Operation Centre (Narcotics).

The Centre, based in Lisbon combines the efforts of seven Member States. Intelligence is shared between the participating countries and each state makes available interdiction assets for co-ordinated operational action. The results of the collaboration have been very successful with many tonnes of cocaine which was being shipped to Europe being stopped. It is a good example of how well planned and executed cooperative exercises can bring real added value. Beyond the EU

Collaborative working within the EU is obviously important but the fact of the matter is that many of our organised crime problems have their origins beyond the EU’s borders.

There is a need to work closely with those countries which affect us at governmental and law enforcement agency levels.

The UK has a number of countries which it regards as priorities and works closely with. That work ranges across a wide number of fronts – securing the commitment of the politicians, providing training and other assistance to law enforcement authorities, and mounting joint operations with them.

SOCA for its part has 140 liaison officers in some 40 priority countries around the world forging close and effective relationships with the authorities of the host nations. This is an approach which the Government very much supports. It is not enough to counter problems as they reach our shores – they need to be tackled close to source as well.

I welcome the partnership brought together by this conference and the ambition it represents. And I wish you luck – not just in your discussions over the coming days, but in building stronger alliances, better understanding and more effective action. Whether it is the scourge of modern day slavery through trafficking, the lives wasted and ruined through illegal drug use or the tragedies caused by guns in the wrong hands, the thread of serious and organised crime runs throughout. It is only through ensuring that our law provides the best tools, our law enforcement organisations are at their most effective and our partnerships are strong that we can meet the threat and tackle the impact on our communities.

Good luck with that task.

Chris Huhne – 2008 Speech to Liberal Democrat Conference

chrishuhne

Below is the text of the speech made by Chris Huhne on 16th September 2008 to the Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth.

Conference, there is a Tory and Labour conspiracy on crime.

Both are guilty of putting forward measures to tackle crime that are ineffective or even counter-productive.

These parties are not tough on crime. They are soft on hard thinking and tough choices. Just as our party has changed the public debate on climate change, we need to change the debate on crime and punishment.

We need a new consensus on what works, not what titillates the tabloids.

We need common sense not sensationalism. That’s why we proposed on Sunday a National Crime Reduction Agency to report on the evidence of what works in justice and policing as thoroughly as we assess medicines in the health service.

Instead, we now have a crime debate totally removed from reality.

Take an example in July. A Labour Home Secretary announced she would march young offenders into hospital to see the consequences of violence. She ignored the evidence from the United States that such programmes do not cut crime, but put it up. Four days later, she ditched the idea.

Or take David Cameron. He knows that you can get four years in jail for just carrying a knife, but he thinks that judges tiptoe around knife crime. So he wants to send every knife carrier to prison automatically.

Just a small problem. If he did, the prison population would nearly quadruple. The basic rate of income tax would go up by a penny in the pound.

Oh, and another problem. The evidence shows it wouldn’t work.

What works is visible policing to reassure people they do not need to carry a knife. Intelligence led stop and search of hot spots to catch knife carriers. Working with the local community to gather leads and encourage witnesses. Telling it how it is in schools and colleges. Taking back control of the streets.

But Labour and the Tories are addicted to punishment posturing, and that means legislative diarrhoea as a substitute for enforcing the law that we have. In their first decade in government, Labour’s new legislation takes the same amount of shelf space as 200 copies of War and Peace.

And it is twice as heavy as John Prescott. Labour has introduced 3,600 new criminal offences since 1997 even though nearly every offence that people care about has been illegal for years.

My favourite is a new offence which shows ministers getting really tough. You will be relieved to hear that it is now against the law to set off nuclear explosions.

Labour and the Tories have pretended that prison is the most effective way of deterring crime. They say that if someone is locked up, they cannot offend. But that ignores the fact that prisoners leave when they serve their time.

The whole point of prison ought to be to stop people reoffending. But if you put a young man into prison for the first time, there is a 92 per cent chance he will offend again. Our prisons are colleges of crime.

If prison works so well, why has crime gone down in Denmark while the number of prisoners has gone down? Why has crime fallen in Canada when the prison population is the same? The Government’s own top-notch research found no evidence that tougher penalties deterred crime.

Let’s be clear. We need prison for serious offenders and for serial offences. But we need reformed prisons that educate, occupy and prepare prisoners for life outside.

There’s another reason why prison does not work well. It is because so few people are caught. For every hundred crimes committed in Britain today, just one criminal will end up with a conviction in a court of law. That’s a 99 per cent chance of getting away with it. And if you don’t catch offenders, no amount of threatening punishments will work.

So if we want to cut crime, we should stop posturing about penalties because they are tough enough. The answer’s simple. Catch criminals to cut crime.

Yet Labour, like the Tories, has done the opposite of what works. The average prison sentence has gone up – that the ineffective bit that does not work. Meanwhile, the key factor that does work – the detection rate for crime – has fallen by nearly a fifth since the end of the eighties.

If the prison population was still the same as when crime peaked in 1996, there would be enough cash for 25,000 extra police officers. If the ID card scheme were scrapped, we could hire a further 10,000 police. That’s 35,000 extra police officers – a quarter extra – on the streets catching criminals and cutting crime.

Of course, more does not always mean better. Year after year, Labour and the Tories have ducked the tough choices on police reform. Sheehy, Flanagan, HM Inspectors’ reports. All have come and gone.

We need more police, but better policing too. Detection rates even for serious offences vary widely. For violent crime, just a third of recorded offences are detected in London compared with two thirds in North Yorkshire.

Spreading best practice would mean more detection. And more detection would mean less crime. Detection works.

That is why police performance matters. Poor performance is not tackled strongly enough. A senior police officer who has lost motivation is usually left alone. That’s not good for morale. It is not good for ambitious young officers to see deadwood prosper. The force needs to be able properly to reward not just time served, but effort, talent and skills.

Worst of all, police pay has become a political football. Police officers cannot by law strike. They suffer the same squeeze on pay and costs as the rest of us, but they cannot get a second job without their Chief Constable’s permission. In exchange for those restrictions, ministers must accept the recommendations of the independent police pay tribunal. Police need a pay system which is fair, independent and respected.

And we need local policing. The Tories and Labour have set central targets that meddle, but do not deliver. They have distorted local priorities. By awarding the same points for minor and serious crimes, they have sucked thousands unnecessarily into the criminal justice system.

Central targets mean wasted effort and resources chasing the wrong priorities, which is why they must go. We need local accountability to local people with the powers to set local priorities. If local people do not like the results, they can get rid of the decision-makers.

If the Liberal Democrats did not exist, all there would be on crime and justice from the Tories and Labour would be show-boating and grand-standing.

And if the Liberal Democrats did not exist, who would stand up for civil liberties? Not the so-called liberal Conservatives, who just this summer have called for tougher bail conditions, automatic sentences for knife-carrying, more prisons, and the removal of checks on police surveillance. I just hope the Conservatives can still be relied upon to vote against more detention without trial or ID cards. Goodbye David Davis, it was nice knowing you.

And if the Liberal Democrats did not exist, who would rebuild our fading democracy? Not David Cameron, who has gone strangely quiet on constitutional change. I’ve got a challenge for you David, Do you even stand by your commitment in your leadership campaign to fixed term parliaments?

And if the Liberal Democrats did not exist, who would stand up for our children’s future in a time of climate change? Not the green Tories. The first thing Boris Johnson did when he became London’s mayor was ditch green taxes on the biggest cars. As for George Osborne, he has already ditched green taxes in favour of cutting petrol taxes. Not the planet’s champion, but the gas guzzler’s friend.

And if the Liberal Democrats did not exist, who would stand up for fairness? Not Labour, who thought it was a good idea to increase income tax on the worst off to give better-off taxpayers a cut. And not the Conservatives either, whatever they now pretend. David Cameron and George Osborne both abstained on Labour’s budget. Remember their first tax cut promise? Abolishing stamp duty on share dealing for their friends in the City. And their second was a cut in inheritance tax for households with £2 million.

We are now told that David Cameron and George Osborne were idealistic young people who cared about fairness. Perhaps they agonised over their options as they adjusted their fancy tailcoats – mirror, mirror on the wall, which party is the fairest of them all? Tory, Lib Dem or Labour?

Well, when young David and young George were wondering which party to join, we had a Conservative government. For eighteen years. And during that period the poor got poorer and the rich got richer, and the gap got wider. And the reason was not some force of nature, but Tory policy decisions that were hard-nosed, sharp-eyed and mean-minded.

A Tory decision to scrap the link between pensions and earnings. Result? More pensioner poverty.

A Tory decision to scrap the uprating of out of work and in work benefits. Result? More working poverty.

A Tory decision to scrap the uprating of child benefit. Result? More child poverty.

These chaps are not stupid, so why do they think we were born yesterday?

George Osborne will go fair when George Bush goes green. Fairness will be a Tory value when hell freezes over, Notting Hill becomes a workers’ republic, and the Bullingdon club affiliates to the Socialist International.

I’ve got news for David Cameron. You don’t make society fairer by hoping for it, or by talking about it. You can only make society fairer by helping the poor and the powerless, and that means giving them more money and more power over their own lives.

And I’ve got a challenge for David Cameron. Name a single period of Conservative government when Britain has become more equal. Name a single Conservative measure which even helped.

David Cameron, like Tony Blair, wants to be all things to all people. Tories would have us believe they are the party of the environment, and of owners of big cars. Of  traditional values, and of change. Of equality, and of lower taxes on the best off. Of liberty, and of removing checks on police surveillance. Of European membership for Georgia, and of pulling out of Europe’s social chapter for us. If politics is about making tough choices, the Tory party is about ducking hard decisions. A party which has every priority is a party that has none. A party with no heart, no core values and no direction.

There’s only one party committed to the environment, and always has been. Only one party committed to civil liberties, and always was. Only one party committed to fairness. Only one party committed to handing power back to the people. And only one party for building a world based on the rule of law not the law of the jungle.

Conference, Labour can’t deliver the change that our nation needs. The Conservatives won’t. Only the Liberal Democrats will.

John Hutton : 2008 Climate Change Speech

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Below is the text of the speech made by John Hutton in Brazil on September 2nd 2008.

Good morning.

I’d like to start by thanking the British Embassy for organising this event with the CBI and the CNI. For me, it seems only natural that Brazil and the UK work together on the issue of climate change. Brazil continues to play a leading role in pushing forward the climate change agenda internationally. And we in the UK are keen to build on this and to work with others to make the transition to a low carbon economy a reality across the globe.

Tackling climate change and ensuring energy security are, I believe to be, two of the greatest challenges that every country today now faces. Both are interrelated and both requiring global solutions. The work of CBI and others here today in Sao Paulo, convinces me even further that we need to work together to tackle these enormous challenges.

Because we cannot afford to wait.

The science is clear and beyond doubt. Human activity is causing changes to our climate. Do nothing and we threaten lives, economic growth and the standard of living of all of our citizens.

Nicholas Stern argued this point persuasively in his report for the UK government. Inaction will cost the equivalent of between 5-20% of global GDP. Taking early action to stabilise global emissions at an acceptable level will cost the equivalent of maybe 1-2% of global GDP. That’s the equivalent of being as rich in 2051 as otherwise would have been in 2050. Is that an unreasonable price to pay?

We can already see some of the economic and human costs associated with more extreme weather events. The occurrence of climate-related disasters in this region increased by 2.4 times during the periods 1970-1999 and 2000-2005, continuing the trend observed during the 1990s. Only 19% of these events have been economically quantified between 2000 and 2005, representing losses of almost $20 billion. In Brazil in 2001, I understand that a combination of increased energy demand and droughts affected hydroelectric supply, which amounted to a GDP reduction of 1.5%.

Brazil, as a leading economy, is right to take into account the potential costs to its economy and people. For this reason, I understand that a consortium of leading Brazilian institutions has embarked on Stern type study, looking at the economic costs as well as the opportunities of climate change here in Brazil. The UK government, as a friend and partner with Brazil, is happy to be supporting this initiative because we know how informative it was to our own thinking. Because we must all understand the economics as well as the science of climate change if we are to make the most cost effective interventions that can help achieve what I think should be our twin goals – firstly reducing green house gases to reduce the threat of climate change and secondly securing economic growth and prosperity in the future.

But climate change is not just a threat – there are countless opportunities as well. Opportunities for those countries in particular, those businesses and entrepreneurs who see that a high growth and low carbon economy are not incompatible. And there are opportunities too for those who move first, to deliver new technologies, create new jobs and drive economic growth.

Now of course some companies are looking to exploit new markets and technologies. Others are looking to become more energy efficient. Others are acting to enhance their corporate image and reputation, something which is increasingly central to the value of any brand or product.

But whatever drives these companies, the benefits of this work are huge.

Globally it is estimated that environmental industries will be worth $700bn by 2010 – equal to the size of the global aerospace industry.

While by 2050, the overall added value of the low carbon energy sector alone could be as high as $3 trillion per year worldwide.

Globally, a record $73 billion has been invested in green technologies this year. And of course green jobs also mean more jobs. This could employ more than 25 million people, creating a new generation of green collar jobs, spreading wealth and opportunity in countries across the world. A country with an energy mix containing 20% renewables can create twice as many jobs as a purely fossil fuel based economy. And we in this room all know the advantage that Brazil has in the renewables market.

Given the scale and urgency of our climate change challenge, the leadership of the global business community in this area can only increase in importance.

So how do we enable more businesses to seize these opportunities and help build our low carbon economies in the most cost-effective way possible?

Firstly, I believe Governments can help by creating the right incentives and frameworks to stimulate the deployment of new technologies. And at the heart of this work, there must be a commitment to competitive energy markets.

It is often very tempting in the face of high energy prices and the speed with which we need to decarbonise our economies, for governments to steer towards over-regulation, protectionism and away from market-based solutions.

But the transformation of global energy systems will require an enormous amount of investment in the decades ahead that in the end, in my view, only open, robust markets can deliver.

And as more and more countries compete for the people, finance and technology to make their own, low-carbon revolution a reality, we also know that the actions of government can make the critical difference between investors choosing to invest in one country over another.

So it is essential governments create the most stable, predictable and attractive regulatory environment to encourage companies to invest. And give investors the confidence and certainty to choose our markets as the right place to do green business. We can use the power of markets to provide the impetus for change and innovation – both of which will be needed to deal with the challenges that confront us all.

So this market-based approach applies not just to energy supplies but also to tackling climate change by cutting carbon emissions.

The UK is part of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which caps emissions from the electricity generating industry among others. We are making our 60% emissions reduction target for 2050 legally binding, and as the EU-ETS establishes a meaningful price for carbon, it will ensure the reductions are made in a cost-effective way. I believe the EU ETS is already starting to emerge as a model for carbon trading worldwide. UK/Brazil low carbon links

Secondly, we must build strong bilateral and multilateral relationships to share our expertise and help diversify energy sources, suppliers and transit routes.

Trade between our two countries began two centuries ago, when the UK Royal Navy helped to open up Brazilian ports.

In recent years, it has increased by more than 20% – totalling over £3 billion in 2007 – and matched by significant growth in bilateral investment.

The future development of low-carbon industries and solutions offers us even greater chances to build on this success.

An excellent recent example of business co-operation between our two countries has been the development of Clean Development Mechanism projects under the Kyoto Protocol.

Brazil has been a leading host country with over 290 CDM projects – a significant number involving UK companies.

Brazil is also a world leader in the generation of renewable energies such as hydro power and biofuels. And the UK is keen to learn from your knowledge and experience.

We have recently set measures aimed at delivering a ten-fold increase in our use of renewable energy by 2020.

And although we’re making substantial progress to grow our renewable energy sector, especially in the area of offshore wind generation, I think in the UK we need to go much further, much faster, and develop a range of renewable sources in the future.

By 2020 we’re aiming to source up to 10% of our road transport energy consumption from renewables – in line with the EU target.

We expect biofuels to play a big part in this. I believe there are huge opportunities in UK and EU markets for Brazilian biofuel.

Studies already show that Brazilian bioethanol can save up to 89% in greenhouse gas emissions when compared to fossil fuels. And your long-standing expertise in biofuel technology and as an ethanol exporter is invaluable.

There is also huge potential for co-operation between UK and Brazilian automotive companies in the design and delivery of flexfuel cars.

But first we need to gain agreement on sustainability issues to give business, government and individuals the certainty and confidence they need to act. Events such as the forthcoming international biofuels conference here in Sao Paulo will be critical to encourage international discussion and agreement in this area.

Facing up to the scale of the challenge presents the international community with immense opportunities. We are negotiating a new climate change agreement that will govern global emissions in the future to ensure we avoid the worst case scenarios of climate change. This is not an easy process – and alongside the DDA is an area of foreign policy today where a truly global effort is required to succeed.

This framework will not only have long-term environmental implications but, perhaps more importantly for those here today, it will form the basis of a long-term economic framework setting the planet on a low carbon path.

If we can achieve an ambitious global climate change deal next year in Copenhagen, we can move swiftly to a low carbon economy. An economy in which businesses like yours and ours can manage the risks and maximise the opportunities presented by a low carbon future.

We cannot be complacent. And we must recognise that there is no easy, cheap or risk free option before us. It will take a global mobilisation of leadership and resources. If we fail, the economic and social cots will be great.

As governments, businesses and individuals, we must act now to tackle climate change by reducing our carbon emissions, enhancing energy efficiency and adapting to some of the inevitable consequences of climate change. Consequences which will change our businesses, our livelihoods and lives.

But I would like to leave you with this final thought. We must see this as an opportunity – an opportunity for closer working, sharing of knowledge, expertise and technology. Making the investment now that will help secure our future prosperity, with economic security and, perhaps most importantly of all, continued progress in the fight against poverty and disadvantage across the globe.

Thank you very much indeed.

Simon Hughes – 2008 Liberal Democrat Conference Speech

Conference, it is a pleasure and a privilege for our conference to meet in this great northern seaport city of Liverpool, the city where focus began. Our party is committed to build on the progress of liberal democracy in the north of England – in this city, in Leeds and Manchester, in Newcastle and Sheffield and in many other places besides. Mike Storey was a hugely effective leader for our party in this city and this party owes him a huge political debt. Warren Bradley has proved a tough and worthy successor, and he and his team deserve all our continuing support – above all in this European Capital of Culture year – as they seek a new mandate for our party from the people in May. Offers to help will be gladly received all weekend at the ALDC stall. (With, I am told, a tickling stick for reward!)

No sooner had I finished my last speech to Conference than I had to leave very quickly for Birmingham, where my dear mother Paddy was critically ill. My brothers and I were really touched at the very warm and generous wishes sent to us from Brighton that week. Paddy miraculously pulled through that crisis but very sadly died last November. Our party, as well as her family and friends, owe her a great debt of gratitude, as we do to people like Claire Brooks, Cyril Carr and so many others up and down the length of Britain who have given so much of their energy, skill and time to deliver liberal democracy locally and nationally. As we work ambitiously for the future we should always be encouraged by the work and witness of so many great campaigners who have brought us to our present position – stronger than for over 80 years.

Since Brighton, the party has been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride.

But four people in particular deserve our very special thanks.

I want first to pay a very warm tribute to Ming – and to Elspeth – for all Ming did for our party as leader, to thank him most sincerely, and to express our warmest wishes for his continuing contribution to liberal democracy in parliament, in Scotland, across Britain, and beyond. Ming has added hugely to the respect and credibility of our party, both at home and abroad.

Next I pay tribute to Chris Huhne – on his very doughty leadership contest, and on his unqualified support for Nick since then. After winning huge credibility on environmental issues, Chris has got off to a flying start as our new Shadow Home Secretary – absolutely clear in our opposition to ID cards and further detention without charge, and standing up for the liberties of our people.

A third parliamentary colleague has become a complete star since our last conference – Vince Cable. Vince not only has now been touted as possibly the most popular politician in Britain, but in his opposition to the regime in Saudi Arabia and his proposals for dealing with Northern Rock, he has earned huge respect across the country.

And then Nick. Our new leader has done us proud, from the very day of his election. We all know that the last few days have been difficult – but a week is a long time in politics. I can tell you conference that no leader could have made the party’s position more clear or been more principled. Nick is determined that our party will make the positive case for maximum participation in the European Union, but never to the detriment of the rights of the British people. All Liberal Democrat MPs are united in our belief that we need to make the case for the European Union direct to the British people, so that, once and for all, Britain can shed its reputation for being so lukewarm on Europe. Britain will never be trusted in the leadership of our continent until we show that our commitment to Europe is for life, not just for one more Christmas. And we will take no lectures from Labour or the Conservatives over leadership and the EU.

Thank you, Nick, for your leadership, your principle and your vision. We share your ambition and look forward to great things ahead.

Since Nick’s election we have done best of the three major parties in local elections. That is a good sign. But as we all know, the next big test is May 1st – just 54 days time. In the north-west alone there are 33 councils up for election in the North West of England. Across England there are so many prizes to be won. Hull and North East Lincolnshire are just waiting for majority Liberal Democrat control. Cheltenham, Maidstone and many other places are champing at the bit to push back the Conservatives, Oldham and Sheffield to push back Labour.

In Wales, Cardiff, Bridgend, Swansea and Wrexham all deserve to have larger Liberal Democrat groups after May.

But good results will not just happen, as we all know. We will all need to work hard, focus our collective efforts and get our messages out to voters. To achieve the results we know Liberal Democrats are capable of, we need those of you who have no elections to cross local boundaries to help those who have. We need local efforts to be directed first to the ‘swing wards’. And we need maximum numbers of friends and supporters to be asked to help out with delivery of literature and knocking on doors.

And in London, the battle is well and truly on.

Brian Paddick is an exceptionally well qualified candidate to take on Ken Livingstone, who on reducing crime, building social housing and much else has promised much but quite simply failed to deliver.

And Brian Paddick is also a seriously well qualified candidate to take on the Boris-Johnson-come-lately of the London political scene.

All of Britain knows our capital would be better led by a senior copper than a serial clown.

It is our job to convert that belief into votes and reality.

And what fantastic campaigning opportunities the government has given us.

Following Labour policy, Post Office Ltd .have just announced proposals to close 169 post offices across Greater London. And we must not let the Tories get away with hiding the fact that they did just the same. Liberal Democrats – at conference – agreed not just that we should oppose the present closure programme, but also where new funding to support the post office network would come from. The public are behind us in fighting for these vital local services and we must not let Labour off the hook.

Nationally, we have a Gordon Brown government which has all the disadvantages of New Labour, but without the style.

In London, we have a Ken Livingstone government, which has all the disadvantages of old Labour, but without the style.

In London, as across the UK, we need a government which has none of the disadvantages of old or new Labour, but with lots of style. With Nick leading us nationally, and Brian leading us in London, that’s just what we’ll have.

In Bermondsey, we are this year celebrating 25 years since this party helped me win our momentous by-election and we went on to win our first council seat – and nineteen years later to run the council. With determination and the right approach, any and every seat is winnable, and there should be no ‘no-go’ areas.

We must field candidates in every possible election, and when we’re successful, make sure that our work and our record means that we don’t slip back. We must never forget that we win hearts and minds, not principally by votes and speeches in committee meetings or in debating chambers, but by campaigning with and for people when they need us, and where they have been ignored by complacent councils and supposedly safe MPs.

I am delighted to report that party membership is now growing strongly. I still believe thousands more people will join us if we ask. We all have a responsibility for recruiting and retaining members all of the time. With Nick at the helm, determined to lead a party that challenges the establishment at Westminster and campaigns vigorously around the country, there will be many ready and willing to join us. Just look at the motivating effect of Barack Obama’s campaign across the Atlantic – the excitement, and the opportunity.

If we are determined to make politics exciting as well as principled, to lead the movement for change in corrupt regimes abroad and outdated practices at home, then the widespread cynicism can be countered, and we can achieve our next goal of more than doubling our parliamentary seats within two elections.

Tonight in London, David Haye from Bermondsey can become the undisputed cruiserweight boxing champion of the world. Today Wales can beat Ireland, and next week Liverpool can beat Milan in the Champions League.

In this hall are many individual champions and local council champion teams. Liberal Democrats have the capacity and ideas to be the new champions in Wales, Scotland, England, and for Britain.

Go for it, friends. Nothing should be beyond our reach.

Harriet Harman – 2008 TUC Conference Speech

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Below is the text of the speech which was made by Harriet Harman at the 2008 TUC Conference, 10th September 2008.

 It is a great honour and a real privilege for me to be here with you this morning and to take part in your debate.

We all know that the background to this conference is very important indeed and that whilst we have made big steps forward on the things that we care about, we face difficult economic times. We know that whilst these economic problems are not homegrown, they are certainly hitting home and they have hit hardest at those who can least afford it. That is why the job of the Government and the determination of the Government is to see the economy in this country through the difficult times, make the right decisions to do that and also to protect those who are hardest hit and most vulnerable to the economic difficulties.

There are some people who step forward quickly and say, “Because the economy is seeing difficult times, you will have to put issues of tackling inequality on the back burner, that it is a luxury that we cannot afford when the economy is hard pressed, that we will just have to take a raincheck on that and revisit it later”.

However, we are not going to do that and I want to say why. If you are discriminated against, treated unfairly, subjected to prejudice because you are a woman or because you are black and Asian or because your face does not fit or they say you are too old, that is unacceptable at any time, but it is even more objectionable when you feel times are hard for you and you feel that your back is against the wall. So we are not going to step back in our quest for equality. Quite the opposite. Just as Gordon Brown led the economy to strengthen it with more jobs and our quest for fairness, investing more in public services and helping people better off, so Gordon Brown, as our Prime Minister, will lead the country as we take the economy through these difficult times and we step up our determination to have more fairness and social justice.

These are shared values between the trade union Movement and the Labour Party. It was the trade union Movement and the Labour Party that together worked to deliver the National Minimum Wage; it was the trade union Movement and the Labour Party which introduced new rights for working parents and protected older people against discrimination and it was the trade union Movement and the Labour Party which together have worked to set up the really powerful now Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Together we have worked to make a lot of progress and together we have worked to see that even more progress will be made. So, having already increased maternity pay and leave, we are going to see maternity leave increase to a full 12 months. Having extended rights to working mothers, we are now going to ensure that fathers can take more time off when their children are young. We are going to bring in a tough new Equality Bill and we are going to make all of our work more effective by strengthening the work of trade union equality reps in the workplace.

But we all know that inequality is not just a matter of unfairness between black and white or men and women or people with disabilities. It is also a question of the gap between rich and poor and the gap between the north and south. Although we do know we have made a lot of progress, let me just give you two examples of how inequality can be stubborn and can be persistent. It used to be the case that women could expect to live longer than men. Now a rich man can expect to live longer than a poor woman. We all expect children to be able to achieve their full potential in school, but it is the case that by the time they reach the age of six, a less able child from a wealthy family will have overtaken a more able child from a poor family. These are inequalities that we must tackle and we must root out.

That is why I am announcing to conference this morning that I am setting up the National Equality Panel which will chart where we have made progress during the past 10 years and where we need to make much more progress. We could not have anybody better to chair it than Professor John Hills. I know that he is already working with the TUC and will expect the trade unions to be playing an important part in his work. He will report to Government after 12 months and then that will be able to lay the basis for even stepping further forward on the important work to tackle inequality and to bring forward social justice.

Whilst I am talking about inequality and social justice, of course, I have to mention the Conservatives who are now posing as the new friends of equality. On all the causes of Labour and the trade union Movement that we have campaigned for and worked so hard on during the last decade and that they have attacked so viciously and persistently, they have now whipped round and said: “Oh, we are in favour of it all; we are the new friends of equality”. However, they are the false friends of equality and fairness because, although they are now sidling up to trade unionists, fawning over equality campaigns and lurking around women’s organisations, they are still false friends of fairness because the Tory Party which bought this country back to basics now says it recognises that families come in all shapes and sizes. But look at their policies, their tax policies, the so-called tax break for married couples which would penalise couples who have separated or lone mothers. It would actually make their life harder. The Tory Party, the party that decried our concern for more childcare as the ‘nanny state’, now say they too want to see more nurseries, oh, but they would cut back on Sure Start. The party that decried our quest for more women Members of Parliament as political correctness gone made now say that they want to increase the number of Tory women MPs they have. By the way, we have 96 Labour women MPs and they have only 17 Tory women MPs. They say they now want to increase the number, but they would never take the positive action and the steps that we actually did to make that a reality. I always say about David Cameron that he wants women for one thing and one thing only, and that is their votes.

It is no surprise, if you look at the pattern of equality legislation, with Labour Governments in the 1960s and 1970s pioneering new legislation to tackle race discrimination, unfairness in pay for women and sex discrimination, then the Labour Government again coming in 1997 extending our equality laws for people with disabilities, older people on grounds of sexual orientation. So Labour Governments have always championed equality. And what did the Tories do when they were in power for 18 years? Can anybody remember the equality laws they brought in? Not one. Not one during 18 years unless, of course, you count clause 28.

So the Tories have always been against tackling inequality and Labour has always been for tackling inequality and so it remains. We have made progress. We do face difficulties. We will get through those difficulties and we will make further progress. But, remember, Congress, that though we have made progress, we all know there is further work to be done. That is why we need to work together to win a fourth term for a Labour Government. Thank you.