Tim Farron – 2015 Speech on the Future of the Liberal Democrats

Below is the text of the speech made by Tim Farron, then standing in the leadership of the Liberal Democrats, at the IPPR on 25 June 2015.

Thank you, David, and thanks also to IPPR for inviting me to deliver this talk. IPPR has always been one of the leading think tanks on the progressive wing of British politics. I welcome the interest you’ve shown in Liberalism, and I hope that in the next few years you will further develop the arguments in your 2007 book on Liberalism, Beyond Liberty.

Now let me be frank. The election on May 7th was an utter disaster for the Liberal Democrats. In terms of our vote and number of MPs we are back to the level of the 1970 general election, when the Liberal Party won six seats on 7.5 per cent of the vote, compared to this year’s eight seats and 7.9 per cent.

Compared to the last election, in 2010, we lost almost two-thirds of our vote and over 85 per cent of our MPs. There is no other occasion in the entire history of the Liberal Democrats or the Liberal Party, stretching back to the early nineteenth century, on which we have lost such a high proportion of our vote or our seats.

It’s therefore entirely reasonable to ask the question: what is the point of the Liberal Democrats? Do we have a role to play in a country which appears to have rejected us so comprehensively?

It won’t come as a surprise to you that I think we do! And I’m not alone. Since the election Party membership has surged by more than 30 percent, we are the fastest growing political party in the UK – that 18,000 people have, without being prompted, had the same thought, at the same time, and then done something about it… well that’s a phenomenon, indeed it is a movement. That’s more than just encouraging – it’s a signal that there are so many people out there who are Liberals at heart, who understand the threat that Liberalism faces, who think Liberalism’s worth fighting for and who see the Liberal Democrats as their vehicle and their voice.

Even The Guardian has now reached that conclusion. Having compared us during the campaign to ‘rinse aid in a dishwasher … probably useful, surely not essential’ – they decided after the election just three weeks later that, ‘in the absence of a liberal party, one would have to be invented – and indeed … one will now have to be reinvented and rebuilt’.

The result on May 7th might have been a rejection of the Liberal Democrats, but it was not a rejection of Liberalism. Rather, it was a consequence of our decision in 2010 to enter into coalition with our historic political enemies. We did the right thing by our country, and I am proud of Nick and all that we achieved, but our party was hugely damaged by the perceived submerging of our identity and by the tuition fees issue which undermined the electorate’s trust in us. Our election campaign did not help too much either: a campaign which seemed to say that we were desperate to get back into government and didn’t much mind with whom, while wholly failing to communicate what we stood for and what we believed. We said something about what we would do, but we did not tell people who we are.

I want to be very clear, though: I am not repudiating the coalition. We were right to enter into coalition in 2010 and can be proud of what we achieved. Indeed, we proved that coalition government can be stable and successful and that people should not fear coalition in the future. But I spoke about all this at length to the Gladstone Club a couple of weeks back, so you’ll forgive me for not repeating myself here.

In fact we achieved a lot for Liberalism in the coalition. The Agreement included: a rise in the income tax threshold to £10,000; the pupil premium to give extra resources for children from disadvantaged backgrounds; restoration of the earnings links for the state pension; a banking levy and reform of the banking system; investment in renewable energy; the immediate cancellation of plans for a third runway at Heathrow; an end to the detention of children for immigration purposes; the dropping of plans for identity cards; agreement to reach the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for overseas aid by 2013; the introduction of a fixed-term parliament of five years; and reform of the House of Lords.

With the exception of Lords reform, every single one of those objectives was achieved. And we managed more in the five years that followed: same-sex marriage, the world’s first Green Investment Bank, the triple lock for pensions, two million apprenticeships, free schools meals for the youngest pupils, and much more. I don’t believe any of that would have happened without Liberal Democrats.

And that’s just the positive things we achieved; I don’t have time to list all the Tory commitments we blocked. Over the next five years people will see exactly what a difference we made. In fact, the last six weeks have shown pretty clearly what an outstanding job Nick Clegg and his team did.

So why did we do so badly in the election? Ask random members of the public what they remember about the coalition, and will they list any of those achievements? While we were sweating over our best policies, people weren’t listening. Tuition fees created a barrier – like those force fields in Science Fiction films. We fired our best policies and achievements – and they were brilliant policies and achievements – and they just glanced off the electorate because the tuition fees barrier – that lack of trust – was too strong.

So we need a fresh start. We have to prove, from first principles, why Liberalism in Britain still matters. So I’ll start by defining what I mean by Liberalism – what are the underlying beliefs and values that underpin our approach.

All political philosophies rest on a view of human nature. The Liberal view is an optimistic one. We are not naïve about human beings, but we are not cynical and negative either. We believe that people do not need an overbearing state to help them do right. When afforded the freedom, dignity and respect that is due to all individuals, people generally show an enormous capacity to use their talents for good.

We believe that, as rational beings, individuals are capable of judging their own self-interest. Indeed, they are the only ones able so to judge; no one else, whether politicians, priests or officials, can do that so well. The enabling society is therefore one in which each individual has the freedom to pursue their own ends as they judge best.

My first core value, therefore, is liberty – the right of people to make the most of their lives: free to develop their talents, to say what they think and to protest against what they dislike according to their own values, free of a controlling, intrusive state and of a stifling conformity, and free to choose their own occupation or to set up their own business. A diverse society is a stronger society.

This liberty must be protected with a framework of law. We have a steadfast commitment to human rights, because there are some things no government should ever be allowed to do to anyone, because the rule of law is the bedrock of freedom and prosperity, and because people are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect whatever their nationality or background.

Since Liberals believe that every individual is of equal value, we are internationalists from principle. We believe that the free movement of people and the free exchange of ideas, goods and services across national boundaries enrich people’s lives, broaden their horizons and help to bring nations together in shared understanding. We believe that immigration is a blessing and not a curse.

My second core value is democracy – but by democracy, I mean much more than just a mechanism for counting votes. I mean a spirit of equality, openness and debate, a coming together to decide our future fairly and freely, without being dominated by entrenched interests or financial power. A state that supports freedom has to be a democratic state, with power dispersed as widely as possible and built up from below, in which politics is not an activity confined to a tiny elite but something everyone can take their part in, as and when they choose. And we believe in the decentralisation of power – both political and economic – to the lowest level consistent with effective government, because the more locally an institution operates, the more responsive and transparent it can become.

My third core value is fairness. Every individual is entitled to respect, whatever their income,

way of life, beliefs or sexuality. That means that the state must treat citizens fairly – whether in the way police officers deal with young people on the streets, the way Jobcentres treat benefits claimants, or the way the tax authorities treat small businesses. It means fairness in other aspects of life, too, such as employees having a say over their conditions of work.

But liberty and democracy and fairness alone are not enough, because people’s ability to realise their own goals is critically affected by their circumstances. Nothing robs you of your liberty more than poverty, ill-health, poor housing, or a lack of education.

This isn’t just about high-quality public services and an effective welfare safety net, vital though they are. An unequal society – and Britain has one of the most unequal in the Western world – is weaker not just for those at the bottom of the pile but for everyone. The citizens of a less equal society suffer from poorer health, lower educational attainments, higher crime rates, and lower levels of trust and co-operation than their more equal counterparts. Government therefore needs to act to reduce inequalities in income and wealth. Inequality is not just immoral, it is impractical – it wastes the talent of the diverse people and places of our country.

My fourth core value is environmentalism. Climate change, pollution and the degradation of the natural world pose one of the biggest threats to our welfare, to our economy and to our freedom that we have ever seen. We have to act both at home and internationally to promote green technologies, producing clean energy and transport, stopping the waste of natural resources, and protecting nature. The market by itself cannot achieve this; government action is needed across the board to set standards, provide new infrastructure and promote innovation – and in the process build a competitive economy and improve everyone’s quality of life. If we are going to defeat climate change, we need bold action. What the Green Party don’t get is that we won’t create and sustain the positive action we need on climate change with a message of doom and gloom. We need to communicate hope – because going green can bring a better quality of life for everybody, whether they’re climate wonks or not.

This leads on to my fifth core value: quality of life- because some things, like the beauty of the natural world, or music and poetry and art, or spending time with friends and family, should never be sacrificed on the altar of profit or growth. A society in which people feel happier and more satisfied in life is one which is answering the needs of its citizens.

Where else in the political spectrum are these core values represented? Is there another party that fights for liberty, democracy, fairness, internationalism, environmentalism and quality of life?

It shouldn’t take too long to dismiss the Conservatives. David Cameron’s attempts to present himself as a liberal Tory, hugging huskies, hugging hoodies, building the big society, are long gone. Whether he really believes in any of that I strongly doubt – but if he does, he shows no signs of reining in Theresa May’s introduction of the so-called snoopers’ charter that we blocked.

He stands behind George Osborne’s assault on the welfare state, with £12 billion of cuts to who-knows-what benefits to come – a Chancellor who could with a straight face claim that ‘we’re all in it together’ while cutting the top rate of income tax. Cameron fought the election on a manifesto that simultaneously promised to cut ‘carbon emissions as cheaply as possible, to save you money’ and to end all public subsidy to onshore wind, the cheapest form of renewable electricity – therefore ensuring that the average cost of renewables will go up, while losing jobs and investment.

He has no interest in reforming the electoral system that gave his party a majority on 37 per cent of the vote. He will block any attempt at reform of party finances or election spending limits, to make sure that the bankers and hedge fund managers who fund his party can buy future elections too.

He won the election not on a story of optimism, of a plan for ensuring better times for families and communities, but on a narrative of fear, of a Labour government propped up by Scottish Nationalists – in the process claiming that a vote for the SNP was illegitimate and thereby fanning the flames of Scottish separatism. When it comes to a choice between the good of their party and the good of the country Conservatives always put their party first.

What about Labour? Liberal Democrats have tended to see the Labour Party as closer to our own progressive aims, partly because we have more of a history of cooperation with Labour governments – in Scotland from 1999 to 2007, in Wales from 2001 to 2003, or in the Lib-Lab Pact in the 1970s.

And I think they score a little better than the Tories on some of my tests: the last years of the last Labour government saw positive developments in environmental policy, they fought the last election on a redistributive package that nicked one of its main planks – the mansion tax – from us, and they’re generally supportive of UK membership of the EU.

But just remember what they were like in government. Even ignoring taking Britain into an illegal war, their record in other respects was unimpressive. Income inequality actually rose during New Labour’s term in office, while the seeds of the banking crisis were sown in their failure to regulate effectively the financial services sector.

Their record on civil liberties was shameful; they were just as eager as the Tories to encroach ever more on freedom in the name of the war on terror. Even their cheerleader in the quality press, the Guardian, recognised, in an editorial on 15th May, that the Labour Party ‘is just as authoritarian as it is libertarian, and – with the impressive exception of the early Blair years – has been constitutionally conservative through much of its history’. The Guardian obviously forgot, incidentally, that Blair’s constitutional programme was set for him by the Cook-Maclennan Agreement, drawn up with the Liberal Democrats. In the last Parliament Labour joined with the Tories to block reform of the House of Lords and were at best lukewarm, and often hostile, over the AV referendum.

What about UKIP? I’m not aware we share any value with them; they are the polar opposite of everything we stand for. And while the SNP is unlike UKIP in many ways, in one way they are the same: they exalt the race over the individual, they value people in terms of their nationality, not their character, they foster intolerance of others just because they are different.

Finally, the Greens. I admire their dedication and their commitment to environmental aims, but at base they value the planet over its human inhabitants, which leads them into authoritarian and illiberal territory. It’s attractive to some because it promises a short cut to solve the huge problems of climate change, or inequality. But it isn’t rooted in a reality that understands how people behave – emotionally or politically. Policy by wishful thinking or authoritarian dictat ultimately doesn’t work – and I fear that many of their policies haven’t been rigorously thought through . Ultimately though, my concerns with the Greens are that they simply aren’t liberal. Free choice isn’t an inconvenience – it’s a fundamental part of what it means to be human, yet for the Greens it’s treated almost as an add on.

So my conclusion is clear: while there may well be other parties with whom we can agree on particular policies, with whom we could cooperate in campaigns – for example for a yes vote in the EU referendum – there is no other party that is remotely Liberal in its basic philosophy, that shares our beliefs and values. So if Liberalism is worth fighting for, then logically the only course open to us is to rebuild the Liberal Democrats into a force than can fight for it effectively.

And in turn that means building a campaigning movement, not just a political machine. It means ensuring that all of our campaigns – to stay in the EU, to retain the Human Rights Act, to defend the pupil premium because it attacks inequality, to oppose the Tories undermining the welfare states and selling off housing association homes, to promote green energy instead of shale gas – must be underpinned with a positive message of belief in this country, in its citizens and their communities. Our policy must be not just about what we will do but whom we are.

This has always been the great cause of Liberalism, a creed which is now needed more than ever – an optimistic confidence in the capacity of ordinary people to make the most of their lives, fulfil their talents and realise their dreams, and the belief that it is the duty of government – active, ambitious, liberal government – to make this possible, to create the conditions in which people and their communities can flourish.

I want to lead a party that motivates people to care about great causes, not dull managerialism. To inspire the movement that has come about since May 8th.

I want to argue that inequality is wrong because every individual is equally precious, because inequality crushes the spirits of those at the bottom of the pile, because it creates a poorer society where the bonds between people count for less, because it is a stupid waste of talent, effort and resource. It is a brake on prosperity and work.

I want to campaign for a bold environmental policy, not just because I believe that climate change must be tackled, though I do, but because green energy and transport means cleaner air and water, because green products and green exports will be the ones that succeed in global markets, because, as David Attenborough put it, ‘the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.’

I want to persuade people to vote for the EU, not just because of jobs and trade, important though they are, but because the European Union is the most successful peace process in human history, because we do not resent our neighbours, we love them; because open societies allow the human experience to widen and the human spirit to flourish, because it is better to treat foreigners as sisters and brothers, not as people to be feared or scapegoated when things go wrong.

None of this will be easy, it will be a long hard slog, but I am confident that it’s possible. Remember, there was only seven years between David Steel taking over the Liberal leadership in 1976 after the devastation of the Thorpe scandal and the Alliance’s record-breaking vote in 1983. I don’t see why our recovery shouldn’t be much more swift than we fear, but it is not a given, we will have to earn it.

We’ve done it before, in the 1950s and ’60s, when the Liberals under Jo Grimond recovered from near oblivion to challenge the Tory-Labour stranglehold on power; in the 1970s, when we adopted the approach of community politics, building on our local roots, fighting alongside local campaigners to make life better in a myriad of little ways for individuals and their communities; and in the 1980s, when I was a proud foot soldier as Paddy Ashdown and colleagues rebuilt the Liberal Democrats from the ashes of merger to argue the case for a fairer, freer, greener Britain.

In each case we recovered because we knew that there was a cause worth fighting for: Liberalism. Liberalism is unique, it belongs to no other party. I am not about to allow the movement of Gladstone, Lloyd George and Grimond to die on my watch. Britain needs Liberals, it needs Liberal Democrats. Our cause must be fought for. I hope to lead that fightback.

Matt Wrack – 2015 Speech to LGA Fire Conference

mattwrack

Below is the text of the speech made by Matt Wrack, the General Secretary of the FBU, to the Local Government Fire Conference held on 12 March 2015.

Thank you for the invitation to address your conference.

You will not be surprised to hear that the Fire Brigades Union is critical of this review. We see it as a party political initiative.

It has been prompted by the government’s anger at the long running pension dispute and it is timed to attack firefighters and their union in the run up to the general election.

The FBU is critical of the nature, rationale, methods and timing of the Thomas review.

1. First, the review is not independent.

The terms of reference were set by DCLG alone. It was staffed DCLG.

The chair was selected by DCLG.

2. Second, the rationale for the review is incoherent.

It hinges on vague comments in Ken Knight’s Facing the Future report which we also believe was not an evidence based report.

Our fear is that the review is an attack on national bargaining arrangements and a prelude to further attacks on pay and other conditions of service.

It is a response to the FBU’s campaign to defend pensions, as is clear from the terms of reference.

3. Third, the methods of the review are also highly questionable.

The surveys were drawn up without any discussion with anyone within the fire and rescue service – either employers or employees.

The surveys were not conducted by an independent survey body.

A review conducted in this amount of time, with so few resources and without significant input from stakeholders, risks degenerating into a hatchet job.

FBU participation

The FBU does not endorse the process.

However our national officials have met Adrian Thomas and offered our wisest counsel on how he might make some use of the opportunity presented by the review.

We made a submission in good faith – so that the review at least avoids denigrating firefighters in the name of ‘efficiency’ and ‘reform’.

We also carried out our own investigation of conditions of service, including from a recent YouGovsurvey commissioned by the FBU, undertaken in December 2014.

With almost ten thousand (9,936) responses from across the UK, this is by far the most representative survey of firefighters’ conditions undertaken in recent memory.

At least one in five firefighters in every region of England responded to the survey.

We believe that its findings are robust – not least because they have been subjected to YouGov’s scrutiny.

I will therefore comment on the key issues and explain the FBU’s interpretation on behalf of firefighters.

National arrangements

I think the central threat in this review is to firefighters’ nationally agreed pay and conditions.

The FBU believe the NJC continues to play a valuable role as do others:

The NJC’s current independent chair, Professor Linda Dickens, wrote in her most recent annual report:

‘The Joint Secretariat has a very good record of assisting the parties to either reach agreement at the time of conciliation or to develop the basis of an agreement which leads to a resolution following further discussion shortly afterwards at local level’.

The record of the NJC in recent years in progressing vital industrial relations matters has been impressive.

Over the last year the NJC considered issues such as:

– the 2014 pay award process

– ongoing work on terms and conditions

– a fitness agreement

– implementing the part-time workers settlement agreement

– amending the Grey Book on maternity, childcare and dependency

– the Grey Book sections relevant to health, safety and welfare.

National bargaining provides stability, is cost-effective, strategic and efficient, providing both the necessary competence and capacity that cannot be reproduced locally, particularly with small services.

The YouGov survey also showed that firefighters value the national arrangements for negotiating their pay and conditions.

Five out of six (87%) said they were in favour of a national pay structure.

There is no appetite within the fire and rescue service for cumbersome, duplicative and bureaucratic local or regional systems of pay.

The NJC has also been working on five significant workstreams:

– Environmental challenges

– Emergency medical response

– Multi agency emergency response

– Youth and other social engagement work

– Inspections and enforcement

This is a positive, engaging schedule to transform and bring genuine improvement to the fire and rescue service.

This is a ‘win-win’ programme of change, underlining the virtues of a national system of employment relations.

The NJC’s record for dispute resolution is highly impressive.

Over the last year, nine fire and rescue services have referred a total of nineteen issues to the Joint Secretariat for formal conciliation. In addition, there are numerous and unrecorded informal interventions. These help to avoid or resolve local disagreement, conflict and help to prevent local disputes.

However in the last year, neither RAP nor TAP were required to meet.

The NJC meets on average three times a year.

Over that decade around 100 issues have been resolved by the NJC, with six cases sent to RAP and 9 to TAP.

The NJC has introduced a joint protocol for good industrial relations.

The contents of Grey Book have been reviewed and amended on a number of occasions since the publication of the sixth edition in 2004.

The FBU is committed to the progressive amendment of the Grey Book.

Staffing and workforce management practices

The other central issue in this review, which I suspect will be ignored, is the context of austerity cuts.

Overall trends show a decline in staff employed by the fire and rescue service over the last decade – down by around 5,000 people and representing around 1 in 10 of those previously employed.

The greatest reduction has been in wholetime firefighters – accounting for around 5,000 fewer jobs over the decade.

Control staff have also faced an absolute fall in numbers over the decade.

The number of retained firefighters has now fallen below 2005 levels, having risen for a number of years.

The only increase has been the ballooning of non-uniformed roles.

Most of the staffing reduction in the fire and rescue service has taken place in the last five years.

This has been devastating – and will continue unless everyone in the fire and rescue service stands up and opposes it.

It will worsen the conditions firefighters work in and ultimately increase the risk to the communities we serve.

Workforce management practices

The FBU is not opposed to improvements in workforce practices, providing they make the service better for the public and are not to the detriment of firefighters’ safety and welfare.

The central problem with many workforce management practices imported into the fire and rescue service is that they increase the risk to the public and worsen the conditions of firefighters.

They are often cost-cutting fads dressed up as ‘reforms’.

Firefighters are clear that getting the job done safely, effectively and professionally involves collective action, cooperation and solidarity.

In the YouGov survey, 96% of respondents said the watch system is crucial to teamwork, while 93% said the watch system is crucial to safety.

Working alongside colleagues, training together and going through the same experiences has built the fire and rescue service into a formidable emergency response organisation.

This is not something to be tampered with lightly.

Bullying and harassment

The FBU is aware that the fire minister has raised concerns about bullying and harassment in the service.

I have to say she has no idea about the real issues, but wants to use it to bash the FBU.

The YouGov survey has revealed some of the real issues:

Two-thirds (66%) of firefighters said that principal managers in their brigade were not committed to good industrial relations.

More worryingly, two-in-five (40%) said they had been bullied at work in recent years.

Of those who had been bullied, the majority (60%) attributed the bullying to senior managers, while a third blamed corporate management policy and similar numbers said it was their immediate line managers.

The vast amount of bullying recording by this survey is management bullying of employees lower down the hierarchy.

Another contrast was the view of various agencies for tackling bullying in the service.

Three-quarters (76%) of respondents said that the FBU had been helpful in tackling the bullying they had faced.

However, three-quarters (74%) also said that fire and rescue service managers had not been helpful.

Conclusions

This review appears to have been established for one reason alone: to worsen firefighters’ conditions, to make us work longer and harder – with lower levels of safety – and for less money.

The agenda is simply about short term cost cutting – at the expense of those who regularly place themselves in danger on behalf of society.

A genuine review of our service would survey the changing risks facing our communities at local and national level and assess how the fire and rescue service might plan and prepare for these risks.

Significantly, such a strategic debate has not commenced through DCLG. It has not come from the government at all. The minister has played no role in and shown no interest in these discussions.

Rather the discussion started on the National Joint Council – where those who employ firefighters on behalf of local communities meet and discuss with those representing firefighters.

National bargaining arrangements through the NJC provide a mechanism for addressing terms and conditions issues for sound organisational and operational reasons.

They reduce costs and by avoiding the unnecessary duplication and they ensure that firefighters facing the same risks at incidents enjoy broadly the same conditions of service.

The Fire Brigades Union has always been interested in genuine discussion about the future direction of our service and our profession, as even the slightest familiarity with our history demonstrates.

We seek such a genuine debate today, based on a serious assessment of changing risk and the need to properly plan for these changing circumstances.

Andrea Leadsom – 2015 Speech on the Role of Insurance Industry

Andrea Leadsom
Andrea Leadsom

Below is the text of the speech made by Andrea Leadsom, the Minister of State at the Department of Energy, at Lloyds of London on 7 January 2015.

Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here with you today in this historic room.

Lloyd’s of London emerged at the end of 17th century, as London’s prominence as a global trade centre grew, leading to an increasing demand for ship and cargo insurance.

Lloyd’s may now have its own dedicated building rather than a corner of a coffee house. The ships and cargo may have changed. And our office wear doesn’t involve bodices, breeches and a wig… But the underlying strengths of London are as true today as they were then.

London remains a leading global trade hub and is now a global centre of insurance skills and expertise. You only have to walk along the “market floor” to see the different types of insurance contracts being brokered and underwritten here in London for businesses in every corner of the world.

So speaking to you here today in the Old Library gives me the unique opportunity of celebrating one of Britain’s great and enduring business success stories: insurance.

As both a minister and a constituency MP, I have seen first-hand how insurers play a fundamental role in the economy of this country.

Whether it’s supporting individuals to plan and finance their retirement, helping households get back on their feet after a flood, or using your unique business model to fund long-term investment.

I realise that I am preaching to the converted here and that many of you will already be aware of the statistics, but insurance does not always get the attention that it merits and so they do bear repeating.

The UK boasts the largest insurance sector in Europe, providing 300,000 jobs in the UK, playing a huge role as an exporter, with over a quarter of our net premium income coming from overseas business.

As the recent London Market Group report highlights, the London insurance market’s direct contribution to GDP is estimated to be £12 billion as of 2013. This represents 10% of UK financial services and 21% of the City’s overall contribution to [UK] GDP.

And you only have to look at the London skyline to see how the growth in insurance is making its mark in the City of London. London’s two newest icons, the Cheesegrater and the Walkie Talkie – names which your 17th century counterparts would have been bemused by to say the least – are largely occupied by insurers.

And, importantly, the industry contributes to the wider UK economy, not just that of London, but also regional hubs in Edinburgh, Norwich and York. In fact I could easily be giving this speech about the significance of insurance to the UK economy in one of those cities.

The importance of insurance does, of course mean that we need to work especially hard to maintain our leading position in the world.

The reality is that London competes with other global financial centres – be those traditional hubs like New York, or the emerging centres of Singapore and Hong Kong. And many other cities worldwide have their own aspirations for a place at the top table.

We all know that London has a range of innate and historical strengths, such as location, time zone, a respected legal system, crucial business and support services and a multinational and multilingual workforce.

But we cannot rest on these strengths alone. The City needs to continually evolve to maintain and build upon its competitive position as the number one global financial centre.

As a government we have been proactive in maintaining London’s number 1 status by developing a regulatory framework which ensures greater financial stability, while at the same time developing new strings to the City’s bow.

So this year we became the first country outside the Islamic world to issue sovereign Sukuk. And last month the International Finance Corporation issued an Indian Rupee 10 billion bond – the largest ever Rupee bond to be issued on the London Stock Exchange.

And at Autumn Statement we also announced a number of new measures building on the government’s wide reaching programme of reforms to improve competition in banking, support challenger banks and make the UK the leading global hub for FinTech.

We’ve worked closely with industry in the development of these new services and products.

Forums such as the Financial Services Trade and Investment Board – chaired by the Treasury, but bringing together other Whitehall departments and industry – play a strategic role in attracting inward investment, promoting external trade and removing barriers for the UK’s financial services industry.

For the insurance sector, we have the Insurance Growth Action Plan (IGAP). This was developed in consultation with industry and was launched in December 2013 right in this building. It is a clear demonstration of the strong partnership between government and industry to increase the sectors contribution to economic growth.

IGAP identifies actions that government, industry, and other partners can take forward in 5 key areas:

– grasping opportunities in emerging markets

– targeting inward investment

– promoting the role of insurers as long-term investors

– ensuring that the industry best serves the consumer
building a talented, skilled and diverse insurance sector

As the formal implementation of IGAP has come to an end, I would like to take this moment to celebrate what we have achieved together in a number of key areas.

First, UK infrastructure investment.

We all know that long term investment is vital for sustainable economic growth.

Institutional investors have unique advantages as investors, in that they are large holders of long term liabilities, which can be matched with long duration assets.

And insurers have long been significant investors in the UK economy – not least in public and private infrastructure.

So our focus as a government has been creating the right regulatory conditions for this.

We made negotiations on Solvency II a priority and negotiated a good outcome, with a matching-adjustment that actively promotes long term investment growth.

On the back of this positive outcome, insurers are now in a better position to take long term investment decisions – creating benefits to policyholders and, ultimately, the growth we all want.

As part of the IGAP, the following insurers – Aviva, Friends Life, Legal & General, Prudential, Scottish Widows and Standard Life – have committed to work with government, with the aim of delivering at least £25 billion of investment in UK infrastructure in the next 5 years.

And today, I’m delighted to report positive progress.

Since publication of the IGAP in December 2013, these insurers have invested a total of over £5billion in new direct infrastructure investment. Investments have included housing, energy, social and transport infrastructure projects. Examples include Prudential’s investment of up to £100 million in the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon Project and Aviva funding 178 residential properties in Oxfordshire for GreenSquare Community Homes. Legal and General have invested £252 million with Places for People, which will contribute towards the building of affordable housing across the UK. While Standard Life have invested £80 million with Town & Country Housing Group, in providing social housing in the heart of Kent and East Sussex. This will include the development of 600 new affordable homes over the next 2-3 years.

And this strong commitment from the insurance sector in UK Infrastructure is further illustrated by this month’s Autumn Statement measure on Private Placements.

The Investment Management Association announced that over the next 5 years, Allianz Global Investors, Aviva, Friends Life, Legal & General, Prudential and Standard Life intend to make investments of around £9 billion in private placements and other direct lending to UK companies.

Next, apprenticeships.

Our position as a leading global centre for insurance is built on a talented, highly skilled and diverse workforce. If the industry is to succeed in contributing to domestic growth, the sector must sustain and advance the UK’s competitive advantage in this area – by attracting new talent.

Recognising this, the industry made a commitment in the IGAP to double the number of technical apprentices over the next 5 years, and developed an industry-wide apprenticeships programme.

I’m pleased to report that all elements of the insurance sector have come together, and more than risen to this challenge.

Since the programme was launched at an industry event in March, more than 50 apprentices enrolled onto the programme. The launch was followed up with another industry event hosted by Aon, where apprentices met and made connections with senior industry figures – so thank you, Aon.

And the recently announced Trailblazer Insurance Apprenticeship is setting rigorous standards geared to industry’s needs, so our apprenticeships really are the best.

The third area where we have made real progress is in setting up a more coordinated, targeted approach to trade promotion.

Emerging markets is an area where we have a really significant comparative advantage. The expertise the UK insurance industry has to offer is widely respected.

In implementing IGAP, UK Trade & Investment have worked up action plans for 5 emerging target markets for insurance – these being China, India, Brazil, Turkey & Indonesia.

These are detailed action plans, which identify opportunities in each individual market, the barriers which prevent UK firms from taking advantage of those opportunities, and the levers we can pull to overcome those barriers.

They set out action points for government and for industry, and will be reviewed twice a year to ensure we are on track.

And they are already delivering commercial success.

Through close co-operation between the Treasury, the Foreign Office and Lloyd’s of London, we were able to utilise our respective networks to secure a licence for the Lloyd’s Beijing branch.

They have enabled us to ensure that, in the Indian Insurance Bill which increases the foreign direct investment limit from 26% to 49%, the unique legal structure of Lloyd’s of London is properly reflected in the bill, so as to ensure that Lloyd’s are able to fully operate in the Indian insurance market.

My role in all of this has been to showcase British industry abroad. I recently did this during my visit to South East Asia in October.

For example in Mumbai, I followed up on the Chancellor’s July announcement to establish a Financial Services Partnership with India, and I announced the initial themes of the partnership would include cross-border provision of financial and insurance services.

All of which gives great opportunities for you as you expand your businesses and the range of services you provide.

The pinnacle event of 2014 was the Insurance Regulators and Policymakers Summit, at the start of September.

The summit – coordinated by The City UK – brought together 13 senior insurance officials from markets including China, Brazil and Nigeria. The summit aimed to showcase the UK insurance sector, to deepen their understanding of the UK market and to identify opportunities for industry to take advantage of these emerging markets. In particular, how could we share our skills and best practice to meet gaps in those emerging markets?

I am pleased that the summit has opened further opportunities for UK firms. For instance, recognising the low penetration rate in Brazil, a delegation is coming over early this year, its aim being to attract UK firms to invest in the Brazilian market.

This positive step follows the Chancellor’s visit to Brazil in April last year, where he announced that Hiscox have joined Lloyd’s Brazil reinsurance platform – boosting the amount of business they do in Brazil.

So my message today is: if you want to expand, we will help you do so.

And though the formal implementation of IGAP has been completed, our commitment to the insurance industry remains.

At last year’s Autumn Statement – which I know, after Christmas and the New Year, seems like a very long time ago – the Chancellor announced the following:

Building on the UK’s position as a world leader in the global insurance market, the government will explore options to ensure that the UK’s regulatory and tax regime is as competitive as possible to attract more reinsurance business to the UK.

Of course, we need to do so in a way that preserves the revenue base. As the Chancellor made clear at the Autumn Statement, we are committed to “low taxes, but taxes that will be paid”, which is why the UK has introduced the new diverted profits tax. Your comments on the current consultation – particularly how reinsurance should be treated – are welcome as we finalise the rules to ensure they are clear and targeted.

But we also want to make sure that businesses are here in the first place.

Here in London we have huge depth and knowledge of the international insurance markets and, of course, the reinsurance markets to. By definition, then, both underwriting groups and brokers with London offices are also trading on the world stage. We think of the key Lloyd’s firms such as Amlin, Brit, Hiscox, Beazley & Novae – each with London plc listings. And then the huge ‘distributors’ such as AON, Marsh and Willis.

However, the issue for the UK is not just these organisations utilise the ‘London Hub’ – but that they trade, transact and place their insurance contracts here in London whenever possible – and not, for example, in Bermuda, Zurich or elsewhere.

Increasingly, the proportion of business actually traded in London by these groups is diminishing – so we need to understand why this happens and work out what can be done to ensure ‘London’ is the preferred trading domicile.

So behind the Chancellor’s statement is the question – how can the UK be a more attractive place to transact this business? What are the barriers? How do we create these more favourable conditions in London?

And this is where each of you can help the UK government – by making your views known in detail so that they can be examined and assessed.

I would encourage you to do so through the London Market Group as a really good conduit. In turn, both HM Treasury and Michael Wade are in close touch with the London Market Group to try and bring these issues into urgent consideration in time for the Budget Statement in March.

As many of you may be aware, the London Market Group produced a recent report emphasising the contribution the London insurance market makes to the UK economy. I have already stated the hugely impressive figures.

In total the London market transacts £58 billion in premium per annum, which is equivalent to over a fifth of the City’s contribution to UK GDP. Of the £58 billion, £6.8 billion is from the reinsurance of non-UK domiciled insurance & reinsurance companies, and £23.2 billion relates to the insurance of overseas commercial enterprises. A significant international component, in other words.

I know that we must continue to work together to promote the strengths of the UK financial services sector and to ensure that we continue to remain the global financial centre.

Insurance has a significant role to play in ensuring that the UK and London remains one step ahead of the competition. IGAP has developed the foundations upon which the insurance sector can continue to contribute to the UK’s economic growth – whether in UK infrastructure investment or through developing a skilled workforce.

And I can assure you that we will continue supporting the insurance sector to take advantage of the exciting opportunities the 21st century will present.

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today – and I look forward to working with you all in the future.

Jo Cox – 2015 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

jocox

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Jo Cox in the House of Commons on 3 June 2016.

Thank you, Mr Speaker; it is a great privilege to be called to make my maiden speech in this most important of debates, and I congratulate many others who have made outstanding maiden speeches today.

I am sure that many right hon. and hon. Members will claim that their constituencies consist of two halves or numerous parochial parts; I am another in that respect, and Batley and Spen is very much that kind of constituency. It is a joy to represent such a diverse community.

Batley and Spen is a gathering of typically independent, no-nonsense and proud Yorkshire towns and villages. Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir. While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

My constituency is also home to Fox’s Biscuits and Lion Confectionery, so I am sure you will not think it an indulgence, Mr Speaker, if I describe Batley and Spen as a constituency with an industrial heart wrapped in a very rich and pleasant Yorkshire landscape—geographical, historical and cultural.

The spirit of non-conformity is as prevalent now in my part of west Yorkshire as it was in the time of my two immediate predecessors, Mike Wood and Elizabeth Peacock. They were both known for offering their own brand of independent, non-conformist service, albeit in very different ways. I intend to maintain that established tradition in my own unique style.

Of course, Batley is a town that has sent Labour MPs to this place for the best part of a hundred years. One of them, Dr Broughton, is of course famously credited with bringing down a Government, so I respectfully put the right hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite on notice. The Spen valley has a far more chequered political history, alternately sending Labour and Conservative MPs here to Westminster for much of the 20th century. Nothing made me prouder on 8 May than to be sent to this place with an increased Labour majority, proving again that in my neck of the woods non-conformity is what we do best.

As I have already alluded to, we make things in Batley and Spen; we do so now, just as we did historically. Batley and Spen has a high proportion of people working in manufacturing, and we can boast the full range of industries, including high-skilled, precision engineering. We manufacture all sorts, from beds to biscuits, and from carpets to lathes. We also have some of the best fish and chips in the country, and some of the best curries in the world.

However, what many of our businesses are lacking is confidence: confidence to expand; confidence to borrow; confidence to grow; and the confidence to fuel a real economic recovery that benefits everybody, offering decent jobs, paying decent wages and bridging the skills gap. Key to changing that situation is a fundamental shift in attitude towards regional economic regeneration. It is time to give city and county regions the powers and resources they need to promote growth, and I will happily work with all of those who are genuinely committed to building an economic powerhouse in the north. This agenda has to have at its centre a commitment to connect towns and villages in constituencies like mine to thriving city hubs, and to deliver a financial offer in the forthcoming July Budget that gives this worthy goal a real chance of success. Yorkshire folk are not fools: talk about devolving power to cities and regions, while simultaneously stripping them of the resources to deliver and subjecting northern councils such as Kirklees to the harshest of cuts, is not compatible with a worthy commitment to building a northern powerhouse to drive growth and prosperity.

Businesses in my constituency want help to address the skills mismatch at local level which leaves employers with staff shortages and young people without jobs. They want access to reliable sources of finance, including a network of local banks. They want to connect to a regional infrastructure that works for them, not rail price hikes of more than 126% and endless delays to key transport projects such as the electrification of the line from Manchester to Leeds. Many businesses in Yorkshire want the security and stability of Britain’s continued membership of the European Union, a cause I look forward to championing passionately in this place and elsewhere.

The key question is: will the Government’s actions match their northern powerhouse rhetoric? HS2 is not the only acid test. There are two bigger challenges. First, will the Government really devolve all the powers and decisions that could and should be taken locally and regionally? My test will be this: if there is a compelling reason for this to be a national decision then so be it; if not, it should be devolved. Secondly, will the Government really take the whole range of their decisions—on transport, research and development, planning, education and skills—in the interests of rebalancing the economy and growing the north?

I am Batley and Spen born and bred, and I could not be prouder of that. I am proud that I was made in Yorkshire and I am proud of the things we make in Yorkshire. Britain should be proud of that, too. I look forward to representing the great people of Batley and Spen here over the next five years.

Queen Elizabeth II – 2015 Queen’s Speech

queenelizabethii

Below is the text of the speech made by HM Queen Elizabeth II in the House of Lords on 27 May 2015.

My Lords and members of the House of Commons.

My government will legislate in the interests of everyone in our country. It will adopt a one nation approach, helping working people get on, supporting aspiration, giving new opportunities to the most disadvantaged and bringing different parts of our country together.

My government will continue with its long-term plan to provide economic stability and security at every stage of life. They will continue the work of bringing the public finances under control and reducing the deficit, so Britain lives within its means. Measures will be introduced to raise the productive potential of the economy and increase living standards.

Legislation will be brought forward to help achieve full employment and provide more people with the security of a job. New duties will require my ministers to report annually on job creation and apprenticeships. Measures will also be introduced to reduce regulation on small businesses so they can create jobs.

Legislation will be brought forward to ensure people working 30 hours a week on the National Minimum Wage do not pay income tax, and to ensure there are no rises in Income Tax rates, Value Added Tax or National Insurance for the next 5 years.

Measures will be brought forward to help working people by greatly increasing the provision of free childcare.

Legislation will be introduced to support home ownership and give housing association tenants the chance to own their own home.

Measures will be introduced to increase energy security and to control immigration. My government will bring forward legislation to reform trade unions and to protect essential public services against strikes.

To give new opportunities to the most disadvantaged, my government will expand the Troubled Families programme and continue to reform welfare, with legislation encouraging employment by capping benefits and requiring young people to earn or learn.

Legislation will be brought forward to improve schools and give every child the best start in life, with new powers to take over failing and coasting schools and create more academies.

In England, my government will secure the future of the National Health Service by implementing the National Health Service’s own 5 year plan, by increasing the health budget, integrating healthcare and social care, and ensuring the National Health Service works on a 7 day basis. Measures will be introduced to improve access to general practitioners and to mental healthcare.

Measures will also be brought forward to secure the real value of the basic State Pension, so that more people live in dignity and security in retirement. Measures will be brought forward to increase the rights of victims of crime.

To bring different parts of our country together, my government will work to bring about a balanced economic recovery. Legislation will be introduced to provide for the devolution of powers to cities with elected metro mayors, helping to build a northern powerhouse.

My government will continue to legislate for high-speed rail links between the different parts of the country.

My government will also bring forward legislation to secure a strong and lasting constitutional settlement, devolving wide-ranging powers to Scotland and Wales. Legislation will be taken forward giving effect to the Stormont House Agreement in Northern Ireland.

My government will continue to work in cooperation with the devolved administrations on the basis of mutual respect.

My government will bring forward changes to the standing orders of the House of Commons. These changes will create fairer procedures to ensure that decisions affecting England, or England and Wales, can be taken only with the consent of the majority of Members of Parliament representing constituencies in those parts of our United Kingdom.

My government will renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union and pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all member states.

Alongside this, early legislation will be introduced to provide for an in-out referendum on membership of the European Union before the end of 2017.

Measures will also be brought forward to promote social cohesion and protect people by tackling extremism. New legislation will modernise the law on communications data, improve the law on policing and criminal justice, and ban the new generation of psychoactive drugs.

My government will bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights.

Members of the House of Commons.

Estimates for the public services will be laid before you.

My Lords and members of the House of Commons

My government will continue to play a leading role in global affairs, using its presence all over the world to re-engage with and tackle the major international security, economic and humanitarian challenges.

My ministers will remain at the forefront of the NATO alliance and of international efforts to degrade and ultimately defeat terrorism in the Middle East.

The United Kingdom will continue to seek a political settlement in Syria, and will offer further support to the Iraqi government’s programme for political reform and national reconciliation.

My government will maintain pressure on Russia to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, and will insist on the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.

My government looks forward to an enhanced partnership with India and China.

Prince Philip and I look forward to our state visit to Germany next month and to our state visit to Malta in November, alongside the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. We also look forward to welcoming His Excellency the President of The People’s Republic of China and Madame Peng on a state visit in October.

My government will seek effective global collaboration to sustain economic recovery and to combat climate change, including at the climate change conference in Paris later this year.

My government will undertake a full strategic defence and security review, and do whatever is necessary to ensure that our courageous armed forces can keep Britain safe.

My government will work to reduce the threat from nuclear weapons, cyber attacks and terrorism.

Other measures will be laid before you.

My Lords and members of the House of Commons

I pray that the blessing of almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

Patrick McLoughlin – 2015 Speech on Manchester Victoria Re-opening

Patrick McLoughlin

Below is the text of the speech made by Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport, at Manchester Victoria Station on 6 October 2015.

Introduction

It is a privilege to be here today.

To declare open a renewed Manchester Victoria station.

Manchester Victoria has been serving passengers for over 170 years.

Designed as a grand station for the greatest manufacturing city in the world.

It is a great station with a great history.

Yet over recent decades, it had been allowed to decline, as successive governments failed to invest in northern transport.

By 2009, Manchester Victoria was rated the worst station in Britain; a casualty of the north-south investment divide.

A station fit for Manchester

So 6 years later, and 3 years after work here began, it’s thrilling to see Manchester Victoria.

Once again a station fit for the city of Manchester.

No longer a symbol of northern neglect.

But proof we are building a Northern Powerhouse.

The north is receiving a wave of investment in its transport infrastructure on a scale not seen for generations.

£4.5 billion in the north west alone.

This region’s roads and railways, so important for prosperity, are being transformed.

Everyone who uses Manchester Victoria is getting not just a stunning, upgraded station, but improvements to their journey.

When we have finished, every line serving this station will have been enhanced with new infrastructure or better services.

The line to Liverpool has already been electrified, so the journey takes less than 35 minutes.

We are re-signalling the Calder Valley line to improve journey times and provide for more frequent trains.

As I speak, a tunnelling machine built in Oldham, and bigger than those used to dig the Channel Tunnel and Crossrail, is boring a new tunnel at Farnworth so we can electrify the line between Manchester, Bolton and Preston.

On the Metrolink, Transport for Greater Manchester is building a 2nd City Crossing from this station, which will increase the capacity and reliability of the Metrolink network.

And last week I was pleased to announce that work to electrify the TransPennine route to Huddersfield, Leeds and York is to resume.

This picture of change is repeated across the north.

Over the year to December, over 85 additional carriages will have been added to Northern Rail fleet for services in the north west.

From 2018, new InterCity Express trains will replace the existing trains on the East Coast Mainline.

Overall, by the end of 2019, there will be an increase in peak capacity into the big cities of the north of over one third.

Providing an extra 200 services every day.

And Pacers will have been removed from the Northern franchise.

Then looking further ahead, there’s HS2.

The tendering process for construction has begun.

And work will start in just 2 years.

Conclusion

So this magnificent station is the evidence.

The Northern Powerhouse is being built.

And the benefits are already being delivered.

There are 71,000 more businesses in the north west than in 2010: a clear sign our long-term plan to secure a stronger, healthier economy is working.

So, thank you to Network Rail.

Transport for Greater Manchester.

The Railway Heritage Trust.

The main contractor, Morgan Sindall.

And the staff of Northern Rail who have kept trains running throughout.

You have done a brilliant job.

You have made Manchester Victoria a station for the future.

I have no doubt that it will continue to serve the people of Manchester for another 170 years.

Thank you.

Sheryll Murray – 2015 Speech on the Loyal Address

Below is the text of the speech made by Sheryll Murray in the House of Commons on 27 May 2015.

It is an honour to be invited to second this Humble Address, which was proposed so eloquently by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns). He has the pleasure of representing an area that differs considerably from my own, although I am sure many of his constituents have had fantastic holidays in the beautiful Duchy of Cornwall.

This honour really belongs to the people who live in South East Cornwall, and I am proud that they have chosen me to represent them in this place for a further term. South East Cornwall is where I have always called home: it is where I was born, where I was schooled, where I have worked and where I am proud to call home. Anyone who has visited my beautiful constituency, who has walked the rugged coastline or explored the wonderful countryside and met the warm, genuine folk of Cornwall will understand why it is where my heart lies.

I think I am right in saying that I am the first Cornish maid to second the Loyal Address, although back in 1971 the proposer was the Member of Parliament for St Ives. I am pleased to welcome the new Conservative representative, my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas), although he did keep us waiting: his constituency was the last to declare.

During the election campaign, the Prime Minister visited Cornwall on a number of occasions. On one occasion, a group of enthusiastic party supporters were summoned to a large cowshed to meet him: that is the way we do things in Cornwall. In his rallying speech, he mentioned how glad he was to be in the county of Poldark. Like Poldark, the Prime Minister rode into Cornwall—not on a horse, but on a bus—where he was introduced to all those who were waiting by my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann), who himself has been likened to Aidan Turner, the actor who played Ross Poldark.

On the morning of 8 May, as votes were counted in that same cowshed, it became evident that true-blue representation throughout Cornwall was on course to double when my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) was elected. The Prime Minister can now tell his wife that, like Ross Poldark, he has his own six-pack—six blue constituencies in Poldark’s county—and that three new Conservative Members are joining me and my hon. Friends the Members for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton) and for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice).

The result of the general election was a surprise to many people. Cornwall is surrounded by blue water, and the blue tide rose, sweeping across the duchy, but it did not stop at the Tamar. It crossed into Plymouth, where a new Member, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer), joined my hon. Friends the Members for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) and for South West Devon (Mr Streeter). The tide swept across Devon, and halted only when it reached the constituency of the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw), where his defences could not quite be penetrated. I know from experience in my own constituency that water does have a way, so he should be warned.

I look forward to working with colleagues from Devon, and with other west country Members, but I want to set a clear ground rule for my right hon. and hon. Friends. Given that I am Cornish born and bred, it will comes as no surprise to hear me mention clotted cream. I say to my colleagues, “Please note: the jam must come first on the scone, before the cream.” If they agree, I am sure that we shall get along fine. I pay tribute to the Prime Minister for putting his jam and cream on a scone in the proper way. It has been said that the only reason those in Devon prepare their cream teas incorrectly is their wish to hide their use of clotted cream with the jam.

A number of dairy farmers in my constituency and elsewhere have diversified, producing not only cream but cheese. The Gracious Speech supports aspiration and small businesses like those producers, and I am sure that they will welcome it.

Many of my constituents told me that they had been waiting for an EU referendum Bill for a very long time, and were fed up with hearing that it would be provided directly by Opposition Members. I am delighted that the Bill is at last going to happen, and I welcome the fact that the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) has changed her mind and decided to support it. I shall not dwell on the fact that she has changed her mind; women do.

I cannot end without passing on special thanks to the Prime Minister from the residents of my home villages, Kingsand and Cawsand. Last Saturday, I attended the reopening of the newly repaired clock tower, and the Prime Minister’s help in making this historic building survive was acknowledged. The building was reopened by 102-year-old Doll Jago, who is the oldest resident in the village. It was extremely special for me because Doll’s late son, Tony, first introduced my late husband Neil to commercial fishing.

It gives me great pleasure, on behalf of Cornwall, to commend the Gracious Speech to the House.

Simon Burns – 2015 Speech on the Loyal Address

simonburns

Below is the text of the speech made by Simon Burns in the House of Commons on 27 May 2015.

I beg to move,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:

Most Gracious Sovereign,

We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg to leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.

It is a great honour for me, and for my constituents, to propose the Humble Address, not least as this is the first majority Conservative Government elected since 1992—and one should not lose sight of the historical context of this achievement. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is the first Prime Minister who served a full term to win his second general election with more seats and a higher share of the vote since Lord Palmerston in 1857.

It is a pleasure to be called first in a debate by you, Mr Speaker, though I suspect this will be the last time.

I must confess that I am finding this a nerve-racking experience, because I am not used to addressing such a packed Chamber. In fact, I feel a bit like a very young British diplomat serving in our mission in Beijing in the mid-1960s who at a diplomatic reception found to his horror that he was standing next to Chairman Mao. He was terrified that whatever he said would be inadequate and he desperately racked his brains to try to find something intelligent to say. Finally, he found what he thought was intelligent and asked Mao, “What do you think would have happened if Khrushchev rather than President Kennedy had been killed in Dallas.” There was total silence and he felt that he had committed the diplomatic faux pas that he was trying to avoid. What he did not know, as all too often I do not know, but certainly my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister knows, is that wise men always think before they speak. After what seemed like an eternity, Mao turned to the young man and very quietly said, “I don’t think that Mr Onassis would have married Mrs Khrushchev.”

Talking of diplomats, I would like to pay tribute to our former colleague William Hague. He was a great parliamentarian and an outstanding Foreign Secretary who will be sorely missed. I am personally indebted to him for arranging for me to meet Hillary Clinton at the Foreign Office four years ago. Towards the end of the meeting, William grabbed my arm, pulled up my jacket sleeve and thrust my wrist in front of our distinguished American guest. At first, I was worried that William was wanting to demonstrate his judo skills, but it soon became clear that he was attempting to show Hillary my watch, which features a picture of her on the face of it. Hillary looked at it and literally screamed with laughter—I knew it was laughter, but her secret service protection officers were not so sure; they immediately stepped forward, and one of them was heard to mutter, “What the hell’s he done to her?” Fortunately, calm was restored before what could easily have been an untimely by-election in Chelmsford.

Despite the security scare, I thought the meeting had gone pretty well. I was therefore taken aback when William called me a few months ago with some unsettling news. Hillary had got wind of my desire to help her 2016 presidential campaign, and it was not good news he had to convey to me. She told William she had heard about my record: “He worked for McGovern’s campaign in ’72, and he lost; he worked for Ted Kennedy’s campaign in 1980, and he lost; he worked for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s campaign in 2002, and she lost; and he worked for my campaign in 2008, and I lost. For goodness’ sake”, Hillary pleaded with him, “please find Simon something—anything—else to do, away from the United States in 2016.”

Proposing the Humble Address is a great honour for me. In many ways, this is a kaleidoscope Queen’s Speech—people can twist it as much as they want, but all the patterns are blue, without a hint of yellow, red or purple. I was brought down to earth, however, when I reread the excellent seconding speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) in 1992, when he defined the role of the proposer and seconder. He said a seconder had the opportunity to shine and further advance their career, so I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) has a glittering future ahead of her, but as he explained, the proposer is

“some genial old codger on the way out”.—[Official Report, 6 May 1992; Vol. 207, c. 56.]

I now know my role in life. Never again, when the word “reshuffle” permeates Westminster, will I sit anxiously by my telephone, because I now know that old codgers only have a past to look forward to.

In recent years there have been dastardly rumours that you, Mr Speaker, and I do not get on, or even—heaven forbid—that we do not like each other. Just before Dissolution, I read an article by your biographer, who bizarrely suggested that I might be ugly, but, as you know, it is said that politics is show business for ugly people, so, Mr Speaker, I would say that we are all in this together.

It is time, Mr Speaker, that we buried the hatchet—preferably not in my back—so I would like to offer an olive branch by clearing up a rumour about your car. As you will know, in recent years my relationship with cars has not been an altogether happy one, but it has been said that a few years ago my car reversed into yours in Speaker’s Court. You apparently saw the incident through the window of your apartment and hurried out shouting at me, “I’m not happy”, to which I am reputed to have replied, “Then which one are you?” If it is helpful to you, Mr Speaker, I want categorically to confirm that this incident never happened.

It is also said that anyone wanting to keep a secret should mention it in the Chamber of the House of Commons. As I trust all right hon. and hon. Members here today, I would like to make a confession—[Interruption.] When I first came to this House, two MPs a week had to queue overnight in armchairs in a room upstairs for ten-minute rule Bill slots because of the high demand for them. Believe it or not—this is true—the night I chose was with Ann Widdecombe. If Jack Kennedy was the man who accompanied Jackie Kennedy to Paris in 1961, I am the man who spent the night with Ann Widdecombe in 1991!

I am very proud of my constituency, which is set in the heart of Essex. It is the home of “Essex man” and “Essex girls”, who like to work hard and play even harder. It might have caught on only over the last few years, but I have been saying it since 1987—“The only way is Essex!” My constituents fully embrace the work ethic: they are aspirational for themselves and their families, believing that the harder they work, the more they should benefit, without losing sight of helping those who are genuinely in trouble or need assistance.

My constituents understood the scale of the economic mess that we inherited and they accepted the measures my right hon. Friend the Chancellor took to establish the firm foundations of our long-term economic plan. That has meant for my constituents: unemployment down; inflation down; the deficit down; income taxes down—and growth up. They welcomed the income tax cuts through the significant raising of personal allowances each year of the last Parliament. For these reasons, they will warmly welcome the tax lock Bill, which will ensure no tax rise on income, VAT or national insurance contributions throughout the lifetime of this Parliament. They will also welcome the childcare Bill, which will double free childcare for three and four-year-olds to 30 hours a week, as this will help a tremendous number of young mothers in my constituency who would like to get back into work but find it difficult because of the cost of childcare.

My constituents are forthright in their views, and what will impress them about this Queen’s Speech is that we have kept the faith by honouring our election commitments. During the election, the media and the pundits said we would not be able to deliver. This Gracious Speech disproves that fallacy, and I commend it to the House.

Justine Greening – 2015 Speech on International Activism for Girls and Women

justinegreening

Below is the text of the speech made by Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for International Development, at the Southbank Centre in London on 6 March 2015.

Introduction

I’m absolutely delighted to be here with you today and speaking at this festival.

As the UK’s International Development Secretary for the last two and a half years I’ve put empowering girls and women very much at the heart of everything my department does in developing countries.

We are supporting more girls to go to school. We’re helping more women to vote, to own their own land, to start their own business and to plan their family for the first time.

And I’ve been determined to take on important issues that in the past I think the development community has backed away from as being too sensitive and too difficult to deal with. In particular child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation.

Last summer, the UK government and UNICEF hosted the first ever Girl Summit at a school, a fantastic school – Walworth Academy – to rally a global movement to end FGM and child marriage, bringing together governments, activists, NGOs, businesses, young people.

And bit by bit, alongside the efforts of so many others – many of you in this room – all of this work is giving girls and women a voice, choice and control over their lives and their futures.

Activists leading the way

A lot of this couldn’t ever have got going without the amazing activists and campaigners – many of you are here today – and people we’re going to hear from on this panel, who were talking about issues like FGM and child marriage long before anyone else wanted to go near them.

It’s thanks to the work that you started that gender equality is no longer a niche interest in international development.

And together we’re now pushing these issues right up the global agenda. Our Charter for Change at the Girl Summit was agreed by more than 490 signatories, including 43 national governments – with more still signing.

So we’ve come a long way. But if we’re really going to succeed in achieving gender equality, we need our work to lead to fundamental changes in attitudes towards women around the world; and I believe we need everyone to be advocating for this change; girls and women, boys and men.

Tackling social norms

Too many millions of girls around the world are still having their potential snuffed out at a very early age; their lives end up being limited and defined from the moment they’re born, just because they’re a girl.

I think we have to ask the question, why is it this way in the first place? And it’s because in these communities, women normally stay at home, they normally get married very early, they normally wouldn’t vote, they normally don’t run a business.

And we have to ask the question how these norms, which tip the balance away from women and girls’ rights, get set in the first place and who and what dictates what is normal?

And I believe that to advance the cause of women’s rights further, and faster, we really need to tackle these social norms, the deeply held beliefs, attitudes and often the traditions that mean girls and women are too often seen as lesser then men.

Supporting grassroots activism

So how do we challenge and rewire these social norms?

At the Girl Summit, Malala talked about people themselves changing and having their own traditions. Traditions don’t have to be set in stone and she was right.

Very often local activists and community groups are best placed to build the trust and credibility within local communities, and particularly with boys and men, that we need to challenge discrimination and social norms.

However, it is difficult for local, grassroots organisations to obtain funding. Often small amounts can go an incredibly long way and be transformative.

And that’s why I’m pleased to be announcing today that my department is investing £8 million in a new initiative, AmplifyChange – a fund, not just supported by the UK but others too, that will primarily support smaller community groups, activists and individuals that work on sexual and reproductive health and rights and related issues, including the causes and consequences of child marriage, FGM and gender-based violence.

Men and boys

Importantly, this fund will be for working with boys and men as well as girls and women. I know a lot of our time, our work on gender equality has rightly been spent working with girls and women directly. Some of the most inspiring people I’ve met are the women campaigning for women’s rights in Afghanistan very bravely, or women steadily and tirelessly working to end child marriage in Zambia.

But I also think that a key area that has been too easily neglected in the past, and the first point I want to make, is engaging with men and boys more.

So often, it is boys and men setting those social norms; so we need to work with them to change their attitude.

And I think we need to recognise men and boys can be change makers in gender equality too. Many of them are already championing change themselves.

We’re seeing growing momentum on this, the HeForShe campaign by UN Women that aims to “bring together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all” has 200,000 plus signatures and high profile support from President Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

And at the Girl Summit last year some of the most eloquent contributions came from young men who were at that event talking about their hopes for their sisters, for their mothers, their friends who are female. They were an inspiration.

And you can meet male role models perhaps where you least expect them. Last year, the MP Bill Cash put a law through parliament that means my department is legally obliged to consider gender equality before we fund a programme or give assistance anywhere in the world. It’s something many other countries are looking at and taking a lead from. It is a unique Bill we should be proud of.

And in his time as Foreign Secretary, and since, William Hague has worked tirelessly to end sexual violence against women in conflict.

These are men who are really making a difference for women. But we need to see more men making more of a difference, more men demanding change for and with women if we’re going to be successful.

Human rights

My second point is about human rights and values. As Hilary Clinton said at the historic women’s conference in Beijing 20 years ago: “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.”

This should matter to all of us. Because when anyone is at a stage where they relegate another human being to some sort of secondary position to them, to less than them, they’ve crossed an important rubicon. Because once you’ve done that it’s so easy to add others to the list; after ‘being female’ can come having a different religion, having a different sexuality, having a different ethnicity. But the crossing of that rubicon so often starts with girls and women.

So this cause isn’t just about winning for girls and women, it’s about winning for everyone who faces discrimination around our world.

Momentum rising

The final point I want to make is that countries with poor human rights and women’s rights records should realise that in today and tomorrow’s world, the light of transparency and accountability is only going to get brighter and brighter.

Not just from governments but perhaps and I think more powerfully, from people, millions of people around our world.

You can go on the web right now and see terrible news stories of women who have been stoned. And we all know about the story of Meriam Ibrahim, forced to give birth in a South Sudanese prison just because she married a Christian.

Whereas once these stories may have gone under the radar, today we know all about them, we can see them for ourselves in an increasingly transparent, digital media age. It’s as easy as going outside our own front doors and seeing what is happening in our own communities.

That knowledge gives us the power to press for change. When I say ‘us’, I mean people, I mean voters. I believe that in democracies, as ever, people will vote for governments that reflect their priorities and those priorities will increasingly reflect people’s concerns on the unacceptable state of women’s rights in too many places around the world.

People will vote for governments that put a priority on progress.

Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are about values; about dignity, equality, freedom of expression, accountable power. Some people will call them Western values. But that’s wrong. I’ve met people with those same values all over the world, in countries that face the biggest challenges.

And for those people who’d like to turn back the clock on gender equality, perhaps claiming they are supporting ‘traditional family values’: your so-called values are not values, they are excuses for the status quo, a status quo that cannot be justified and cannot be sustained.

Those who stand against those values of dignity and equality will find themselves fighting against an increasingly unstoppable wave. Change never happens overnight. Here in the UK, the suffragette movement took 50, 60 years to get women the vote. But I believe the momentum is with the young people and campaigners around the world who are demanding progress.

They are saying that when it comes to violence against women and girls, on FGM, on child marriage, on forced marriage, on sexual violence in conflict: enough is enough. And they are right.

We need to lock in the achievements we’ve made. This year, 20 years after Beijing, the world agrees a new set of global development goals for tackling poverty, the UK is determined to put girls and women are at the heart of these goals with a standalone goal and comprehensive set of gender targets mainstreamed throughout the new development framework, including on violence against women and girls, child marriage and FGM.

It’s essential that everyone here makes their voice heard; men and boys being the force for change along with girls and women. I believe that together, by continuing to put women’s rights here and around the world under the spotlight we can break down the social norms that hold girls and women back, we can build a world where every girl can reach her potential and decide her own future.

Thank you.

Mike Nesbitt – 2015 Speech in Fivemiletown

milkenesbitt

Below is the text of the speech made by Mike Nesbitt, the Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, in Fivemiletown on 7 April 2015.

The first time I attended an Ulster Unionist event was in this very hotel, The Valley, Fivemiletown.

I had just been appointed as one of the four Victims Commissioners, and the first political call we took was from an MLA by the name of Tom Elliott. He wanted me to come to speak to his Association.

Being one of four co-equals in the Commission, it wasn’t a simple question of offering a “yes” or a “no”. Whatever the answer was would set a precedent that could have seen us locked away from political view – or out every night attending the smallest branch meeting and Cumainn in the country!

The reason I ended up attending was simple – Tom would not give up. He would not take “no” for an answer. He saw no good reason why his members should not have the opportunity to listen to a Commissioner for Victims and Survivors; to question a Commissioner for Victims and Survivors; and to send the Commissioner on his way back to Belfast in no doubt about what people in Fermanagh and South Tyrone thought about certain aspects of Dealing with the Past, such as the definition of a victim.

That determination is just one of the many qualities that leaves me in no doubt that Tom Elliott will make a fantastic Member of Parliament for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

One other story about Tom. In 2010, I found myself helping Tom in his Leadership bid after Lord Empey resigned. We were talking about his speech for the night of the vote at the Waterfront Hall. During a coffee break, Tom started reminiscing about a night a few years previously when he found himself 110 miles from home, parked up in four inches of snow, and delivering a speech to a hall packed to the rafters with …. six people.

That showed me another quality of Tom’s – dedication.

And his reaction when I said it should be in the speech demonstrated a third, because he didn’t see it as noteworthy at all, just part of the daily slog of being an elected representative.

So, Determination, Dedication, lack of Ego … three of the values that I admire in Tom, a man with service in his DNA, be it as a political activist and elected representative, or during the years when he donned an army uniform and put himself in harm’s way to protect his family, this community and the country at large.

Tom Elliott is a man with the character, the values and the life experience that position him as worthy of the electorate’s support next month.

And be in no doubt, there are more than enough unionist votes out there to once again make Fermanagh and South Tyrone a unionist seat at Westminster.

This was and will again be a seat represented by a unionist MP.

It’s tempting to dwell for a while on the history of this seat, who held it and how it was lost, but it’s well enough known and there’s nothing we can do about it now but put it right! On the 7th of May!

After last May’s Local Government results, my thoughts turned immediately to this General Election and one of my first priorities was to explore whether we could reach an understanding within Unionism that put country over party and set a target of unseating some abstentionist MPs.

My focus immediately fell upon Fermanagh and South Tyrone. What a message that would send out if unionism retook the most westerly constituency in the United Kingdom.

At Conference last October, I made the call – we would support the sitting MP in North Belfast in the face of a real challenge from Sinn Féin, if we were given a clear run here in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

The chance to retake a seat

The chance to reverse a trend.

The opportunity to put unionism back on the front foot, confident, positive, progressive, with a hardworking, determined, dedicated MP, rather than more of the same, with people having to endure a Member of Parliament who did not even turn up to vote against Welfare Reform at Westminster, even though her Party continues to threaten to bring down the devolved institutions over the issue.

Abstention is the ticket the incumbent is running on. If abstentionism was ever a valid political policy, it is well past its sell by date.

I have sat with Sinn Fein in discussions with the Prime Minister at Stormont House, arguing over issues that Parliament has already decided upon. The people of Fermanagh South Tyrone deserve an MP who makes their case in the right place at the right time – not long after the votes are counted.

I am delighted Tom Elliott has support right across the unionist community in this Election and acknowledge and welcome senior members of other parties who are here this evening.

I hope every unionist comes out to Vote Elliott in a month’s time.

I also appeal to nationalists to lend him their vote as well, because this is not about a sectarian head count. This is about who can best represent all the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone at Westminster.

This is about recognising that the Union is best for all our people – it makes sense politically, economically, socially and culturally. It makes common sense and nationalists know that as well as unionists.

So, I say to you: Vote Tom Elliott on the 7th of May.

I ask of the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone: Please Vote Tom Elliott on the 7th of May.

I encourage the electorate to hope for better.

So, on this, the 7th of April, let us focus our energies on the 7th of May.

It is the chance to transform the political landscape here in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.