Michel Barnier – 2017 Statement on Article 50 Negotiations

Below is the text of the speech made by Michel Barnier, the European Chief Negotiator on Brexit, in Strasbourg, France on 17 December 2017.

Thank you President,

Thanks to Frans, and to you too, for allowing me to speak at the beginning of your plenary session on the extraordinary negotiation with the United Kingdom and on the first result we reached last Friday.

This is an important step – and there will be many steps to take – but this agreement is important because, with the joint, detailed report – 96 paragraphs, 15 pages – we are first dealing with the difficult subjects of the separation that the United Kingdom wanted.

And if the European Council so wishes, taking into account your own resolution, this first step will allow us to move forward with the negotiations in a calmer manner.

We emphasise also the stability of our continent in a world which is, as we all know, uncertain. Our Union should be able to find rational solutions with the United Kingdom and should therefore, at the same time, be able to concentrate its energy on the initiatives and challenges which we face together, as Frans Timmermans has mentioned, on behalf of the European Commission.

And we also send a message of confidence to a lot of people, a lot of stakeholders, and a lot of citizens who are worried, even distressed, following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

In this negotiation, our state of mind has never been to make mutual concessions.

This is not about making concessions on citizens’ rights. This is not about making concessions on the peace process or stability on the island of Ireland. Nor is it about making concessions on the thousands of investment projects which are financed by EU policy and the EU budget.

I know that this point has always been shared by the Parliament and the Council. We owe a lot – I must admit – to the permanent cooperation we have with the Council, and the Member States for the agreement reached on Friday. We owe a lot, Members of Parliament, to your permanent and rigorous support.

And I would like to thank you, President Tajani, and to sincerely thank your coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, the members of the Brexit Steering Group, Elmar Brok, Roberto Gualtieri, Danuta Huebner, Gabriele Zimmer and Philippe Lamberts, the presidents of the political groups and also the committee chairs.

Members of Parliament,

Before turning to the main points of our agreement, I want to recall that the objective that you and the European Council gave me last April was to obtain sufficient progress, on an objective basis. That does not mean 100% progress, but real sufficient progress, precise sufficient progress, which commits and forms a solid basis for the next stage in the negotiations. And this was the positive assessment that the Commission and President Juncker gave to the Joint Report.

The political commitments made at the highest level on Friday – and which we translated precisely in the Joint Report – appear to me, in my full responsibility, to fulfil these conditions.

I want to be clear on this point: never, ever, would I have presented this Joint Report as Chief Negotiator if we did not take note of real progress with the UK:

o To secure citizens and their rights;

o To secure beneficiaries of investments financed by the EU budget;

o To secure the peace process on the island of Ireland and the conditions of North-South cooperation.

We will never accept any backtracking on this Joint Report. This progress has now been recorded. It will have to be quickly converted into a legally binding Withdrawal Agreement on each of our three subjects, as well as on other issues which remain to be negotiated or clarified.

This is one of the conditions for the continuation of the negotiations.

* *

At the beginning of this plenary debate, I want to focus principally on the subject that has been our common priority since day one: citizens’ rights.

4.5 million European citizens, whom you represent, decided to live on either side of the Channel, on the basis of EU law on the free movement of people.

Our Joint Report preserves their rights.

It guarantees that European citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU before the date of the UK’s withdrawal will be able to continue living as they do today, with the same guarantees of non-discrimination on the basis of nationality – for their entire life.

This means, for example, that an EU citizen or a UK citizen who decided to live on the other side of the Channel can continue residing there after Brexit. This right of residence will be even wider than it is today. If a citizen decides to leave his/her host country, he/she can be absent for a period of 5 years, rather than only 2 years, as is the rule today.

A British student in one of the EU Member States will not be affected by Brexit: she will be able to continue studying and paying the same tuition fees as the citizens in the host state. She can even work there after her studies. That goes the same for European students in the UK.

Nurses or doctors working before Brexit can continue to work in their host countries. Their professional qualifications will continue to be recognised, just like in other professions.

Family members will maintain their reunification rights in the future after Brexit, in the UK or in the EU. All children will be protected, even those who will be born after Brexit.

Citizens will maintain their rights to healthcare, pensions and other social security benefits, even if they leave their host country to live in another EU country. The same goes for the portability of family allowances, which was debated right up until the last moment.

I also want to be clear on the application of these rights:

o The Withdrawal Agrement will take precedence over national law – whether it is British, French, Slovak or Maltese;

o The guarantees in the Withdrawal Agreement will have direct effect, for the duration of the lifetime of the people concerned;

o There will be no ambiguity in the interpretation of the rights on either side of the Channel: current ECJ case law will be part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and future case law will apply. British courts will have to take “due regard” of case law for the lifetimes of the citizens concerned.

o And finally, the British authorities will create an independent authority to which European citizens can have recourse in the United Kingdom, in the same way as British citizens in the EU can have recourse to the European Commission. The details of this independent authority will be included in the Withdrawal Agreement.

For all the European citizens – 3.5 million people – living and working in the United Kingdom, there is another problem – the UK’s registration procedures. It seems to me – and I know how sensitive you are on this point – that the administrative procedure will be practical and necessary to allow citizens to effectively exercise their rights.

But we have ensured that, as outlined in the Joint Report, the conditions for the administrative procedures will be included in the Withdrawal Agreement with the necessary guarantees. These registration and administrative processes will be for those citizens living in a country that will become a third country on 29 March 2019 at midnight.

We have outlined in the Joint Report that the procedure that the United Kingdom will put in place must be simple to use, based on objective criteria and accompanied with the same procedural guarantees today, notably with regards to a right of appeal.

European citizens who are already permanently resident in the United Kingdom will obtain “special status” for free. For the rest, the cost should not exceed that imposed on British citizens for the issuing of similar documents – around £70.

But I want to repeat that the conditions for this administrative procedure that the UK authorities request will be detailed – you can verify the simplicity of this in the Withdrawal Agreement, which will be submitted to you for ratification,

* * *

Members of Parliament,

We are not there yet, neither on citizens’ rights, nor on the other subjects of the orderly withdrawal. We will therefore remain vigilant.

Theresa May made a commitment on behalf of the British government, the whole British government.

It is now for us to decide if this result is sufficient to open – based on certain conditions – the second phase of negotiations.

If your resolution is positive, and if the European Council on Friday also accepts that there has been sufficient progress, then I will begin – on your behalf – working on the formal drafting of the Withdrawal Agreement. And we can do this quite quickly, on the basis of the Joint Report in particular.

o We will continue the negotiations on the subjects that need more clarification, deepening and negotiation: the governance of the future agreement, other subjects such as geographical indications, the issue of data;

o Ireland will form part of its own specific strand in the negotiations. Each assuming their responsibility, we need to find specific solutions for the unique situation of the island of Ireland.

On the basis of the decision of the European Council, we will also move forward on defining a transition period, which will be short and supervised during which we will maintain the full regulatory and supervisory architecture – and obviously the role of the Court of Justice – as well as European policies.

Finally, we will pursue, if you so wish, our internal preparation at 27 – together with you – on the future relationship. We need to agree ourselves on the framework for the future relationship. I can already tell you – and I say so clearly and calmly – that there are non-negotiable points on the integrity of Single Market, the four indivisible freedoms which are the foundation of the Single Market, and the autonomy of the Union’s decision-making, which the UK has decided to leave.

The United Kingdom will become a third country on 29 March 2019. We think that a close, future partnership remains our common horizon.

We know where we are today; we know where we are going.

I propose today that this important step is recognised.

There are many more steps to make in order for the UK to leave in an orderly manner, which is much better than in a disorderly manner.

I would like to thank you, Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, for the future also, for your support and confidence, and also for your vigilance as the negotiations continue.

Jean-Claude Juncker – 2017 State of the Union Address

Below is the text of the speech made by Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, on 13 September 2017 in Brussels, Belgium.

INTRODUCTION – WIND IN OUR SAILS

Mr President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

When I stood before you this time last year, I had a somewhat easier speech to give.

It was plain for all to see that our Union was not in a good state.

Europe was battered and bruised by a year that shook our very foundation.

We only had two choices. Either come together around a positive European agenda or each retreat into our own corners.

Faced with this choice, I argued for unity.

I proposed a positive agenda to help create – as I said last year – a Europe that protects, a Europe that empowers, a Europe that defends.

Over the past twelve months, the European Parliament has helped bring this agenda to life. We continue to make progress with each passing day. Just last night you worked to find an agreement on trade defence instruments and on doubling our European investment capacity. And you succeeded. Thank you for that.

I also want to thank the 27 leaders of our Member States. Days after my speech last year, they welcomed my agenda at their summit in Bratislava. In doing so they chose unity. They chose to rally around our common ground.

Together, we showed that Europe can deliver for its citizens when and where it matters.

Ever since, we have been slowly but surely gathering momentum.

It helped that the economic outlook swung in our favour.

We are now in the fifth year of an economic recovery that really reaches every single Member State.

Growth in the European Union has outstripped that of the United States over the last two years. It now stands above 2% for the Union as a whole and at 2.2% for the monetary area.

Unemployment is at a nine year low. Almost 8 million jobs have been created during this mandate so far. With 235 million people at work, more people are in employment in the European Union than ever before.

The European Commission cannot take the credit for this alone. Though I am sure that had 8 million jobs been lost, we would have taken the blame.

But Europe’s institutions played their part in helping the wind change.

We can take credit for our European Investment Plan which has triggered €225 billion worth of investment so far. It has granted loans to 450,000 small firms and more than 270 infrastructure projects.

We can take credit for the fact that, thanks to determined action, European banks once again have the capital firepower to lend to companies so that they can grow and create jobs.

And we can take credit for having brought public deficits down from 6.6% to 1.6%. This is thanks to an intelligent application of the Stability and Growth Pact. We ask for fiscal discipline but are careful not to kill growth. This is in fact working very well across the Union – despite the criticism.

Ten years since crisis struck, Europe’s economy is finally bouncing back.

And with it, our confidence.

Our 27 leaders, the Parliament and the Commission are putting the Europe back in our Union. And together we are putting the Union back in our Union.

In the last year, we saw all 27 leaders walk up the Capitoline Hill in Rome, one by one, to renew their vows to each other and to our Union.

All of this leads me to believe: the wind is back in Europe’s sails.

We now have a window of opportunity but it will not stay open forever.

Let us make the most of the momentum, catch the wind in our sails.

For this we must do two things:

First, we should stay the course set out last year. We still have 16 months in which real progress can be made by Parliament, Council and Commission. We must use this time to finish what we started in Bratislava and deliver on our own positive agenda.

Secondly, we should chart the direction for the future. As Mark Twain wrote – I am quoting – years from now we will be more disappointed by the things we did not do, than by those we did. Now is the time to build a more united, a stronger, a more democratic Europe for 2025.

STAYING COURSE

Mr President, Honourable Members,

As we look to the future, we cannot let ourselves be blown off course.

We set out to complete an Energy Union, a Security Union, a Capital Markets Union, a Banking Union and a Digital Single Market. Together, we have already come a long way.

As the Parliament testified, 80% of the proposals promised at the start of the mandate have already been put forward by the Commission. We must now work together to turn proposals into law, and law into practice.

As ever, there will be a degree of give and take. The Commission’s proposals to reform our Common Asylum System and strengthen rules on the Posting of Workers have caused controversy, I know. Achieving a good result will need all sides to do their part so they can move towards each other. I want to say today: as long as the outcome is the right one for our Union and is fair to all its Member States, the Commission will be open to compromise

We are now ready to put the remaining 20% of initiatives on the table by May 2018.

This morning, I sent a Letter of Intent to the President of the European Parliament and to the Prime Minister of Estonia – whose strong work for Europe I would like to praise – outlining the priorities for the year ahead.

I will not and I cannot list all these proposals here, but let me mention five which are particularly important.

Firstly, I want us to strengthen our European trade agenda.

Yes, Europe is open for business. But there must be reciprocity. We have to get what we give.

Trade is not something abstract. Trade is about jobs, creating new opportunities for Europe’s businesses big and small. Every additional €1 billion in exports supports 14,000 extra jobs in Europe.

Trade is about exporting our standards, be they social or environmental standards, data protection or food safety requirements.

Europe has always been an attractive place to do business.

But over the last year, partners across the globe are lining up at our door to conclude trade agreements with us.

With the help of this Parliament, we have just secured a trade agreement with Canada that will provisionally apply as of next week. We have a political agreement with Japan on a future economic partnership. And by the end of the year, we have a good chance of doing the same with Mexico and South American countries.

Today, we are proposing to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand.

I want all of these agreements to be finalised by the end of this mandate. And I want them negotiated in the greatest transparency.

Open trade must go hand in hand with open policy making.

The European Parliament will have the final say on all trade agreements. So its Members, like members of national and regional parliaments, must be kept fully informed from day one of the negotiations. The Commission will make sure of this.

From now on, the Commission will publish in full all draft negotiating mandates we propose to the Council.

Citizens have the right to know what the Commission is proposing. Gone are the days of no transparency. Gone are the days of rumours, of incessantly questioning the Commission’s motives.

I call on the Council to do the same when it adopts the final negotiating mandates.

Let me say once and for all: we are not naïve free traders.

Europe must always defend its strategic interests.

This is why today we are proposing a new EU framework for investment screening. If a foreign, state-owned, company wants to purchase a European harbour, part of our energy infrastructure or a defence technology firm, this should only happen in transparency, with scrutiny and debate. It is a political responsibility to know what is going on in our own backyard so that we can protect our collective security if needed.

Secondly, the Commission wants to make our industry stronger and more competitive.

This is particularly true for our manufacturing base and the 32 million workers that form its backbone. They make the world-class products that give us our edge, like our cars.

I am proud of our car industry. But I am shocked when consumers are knowingly and deliberately misled. I call on the car industry to come clean and make it right. Instead of looking for loopholes, they should be investing in the clean cars of tomorrow

Honourable Members, the new Industrial Policy Strategy we are presenting today will help our industries stay, or become, the number one in innovation, digitisation and decarbonisation.

Third: I want Europe to be the leader when it comes to the fight against climate change.

Last year, we set the global rules of the game with the Paris Agreement ratified here, in this very House. Set against the collapse of ambition in the United States, Europe must ensure we make our planet great again. It is the shared heritage of all of humanity.

The Commission will shortly present proposals to reduce the carbon emissions of our transport sector.

Fourth priority for the year ahead: I want us to better protect Europeans in the digital age.

Over the past years, we have made marked progress in keeping Europeans safe online. New rules, put forward by the Commission, will protect our intellectual property, our cultural diversity and our personal data. We have stepped up the fight against terrorist propaganda and radicalisation online. But Europe is still not well equipped when it comes to cyber-attacks.

Cyber-attacks can be more dangerous to the stability of democracies and economies than guns and tanks. Last year alone there were more than 4,000 ransomware attacks per day and 80% of European companies experienced at least one cyber-security incident.

Cyber-attacks know no borders and no one is immune. This is why, today, the Commission is proposing new tools, including a European Cybersecurity Agency, to help defend us against such attacks.

Fifth: migration must stay on our radar.

In spite of the debate and controversy around this topic, we have managed to make solid progress – though admittedly insufficient in many areas.

We are now protecting Europe’s external borders more effectively. Over 1,700 officers from the new European Border and Coast Guard are now helping Member States’ 100,000 national border guards patrol in places like Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Spain. We have common borders but Member States that by geography are the first in line cannot be left alone to protect them. Common borders and common protection must go hand in hand.

We have managed to stem irregular flows of migrants, which were a cause of great anxiety for many. We have reduced irregular arrivals in the Eastern Mediterranean by 97% thanks our agreement with Turkey. And this summer, we managed to get more control over the Central Mediterranean route with arrivals in August down by 81% compared to the same month last year.

In doing so, we have drastically reduced the loss of life in the Mediterranean.

I cannot talk about migration without paying strong tribute to Italy for their tireless and noble work. Over the summer months, the Commission worked in perfect harmony with the Prime Minister of Italy, my friend Paolo Gentiloni, and his government to improve the situation. We did so – and we will continue to do so – because Italy is saving Europe’s honour in the Mediterranean.

We must also urgently improve migrants’ living conditions in Libya. I am appalled by the inhumane conditions in detention or reception centres. Europe has a responsibility – a collective responsibility – and the Commission will work in concert with the United Nations to put an end to this scandalous situation that cannot be made to last.

Even if it saddens me to see that solidarity is not yet equally shared across all our Member States, Europe as a whole has continued to show solidarity. Last year alone, our Member States resettled or granted asylum to over 720,000 refugees – three times as much as the United States, Canada and Australia combined. Europe, contrary to what some say, is not a fortress and must never become one. Europe is and must remain the continent of solidarity where those fleeing persecution can find refuge.

I am particularly proud of the young Europeans volunteering to give language courses to Syrian refugees or the thousands more young people who are serving in our new European Solidarity Corps. These young people are bringing life and colour to European solidarity.

But we now need to redouble our efforts. At the end of the month, the Commission will present a new set of proposals with an emphasis on returns, solidarity with Africa and opening legal pathways.

When it comes to returns, I would like to repeat that people who have no right to stay in Europe must be returned to their countries of origin. When only 36% of irregular migrants are returned, it is clear we need to significantly step up our work. This is the only way Europe will be able to show solidarity with refugees in real need of protection.

Solidarity cannot be an exclusively intra-European affair. We must also show solidarity with Africa. Africa is a noble continent, a young continent, the cradle of humanity. Our €2.7 billion EU-Africa Trust Fund is creating employment opportunities across the continent. The EU budget fronted the bulk of the money, but all our Member States combined have still only contributed €150 million. The Fund is currently reaching its limits. We know – or we should know – the dangers of a lack of funding – in 2015 many migrants headed towards Europe when the UN’s World Food Programme ran out of funds. I call on all Member States to now match their actions with their words and ensure the Africa Trust Fund does not meet the same fate. The risk is high.

We will also work on opening up legal pathways. Irregular migration will only stop if there is a real alternative to perilous journeys. We are close to having resettled 22,000 refugees from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and I support UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ call to resettle a further 40,000 refugees from Libya and the surrounding countries.

At the same time, legal migration is an absolute necessity for Europe as an ageing continent. This is why the Commission made proposals to make it easier for skilled migrants to reach Europe with a Blue Card. I would like to thank the Parliament for its support on this.

SETTING SAIL

Dear Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Honourable Members,

I have mentioned just a few of the initiatives we want and must deliver over the next 16 months. But this alone will not be enough to regain the hearts and minds of Europeans.

Now is the time to chart the direction for the future.

In March, the Commission presented our White Paper on the future of Europe, with five scenarios for what Europe could look like by 2025. These scenarios have been discussed, sometimes superficially, sometimes violently. They have been scrutinised and partly ripped apart. That is good – they were conceived for exactly this purpose. I wanted to launch a process in which Europeans determined their own path and their own future.

The future of Europe cannot be decided by decree. It has to be the result of democratic debate and, ultimately, broad consensus. This House contributed actively, through the three ambitious resolutions on Europe’s future which I would like to particularly thank the rapporteurs for. And I want to thank all the colleagues that participated in the more than 2,000 public events across Europe that the Commission organised since March.

Now is the time to draw first conclusions from this debate. Time to move from reflection to action. From debate to decision.

Today I would like to present you my view: my own ‘sixth scenario’, if you will.

This scenario is rooted in decades of first-hand experience. I have lived, fought and worked for the European project my entire life. I have seen and lived through good times and bad.

I have sat on many different sides of the table: as a Minister, as Prime Minister, as President of the Eurogroup, and now as President of the Commission. I was there in Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon as our Union evolved and enlarged.

I have always fought for Europe. At times I have suffered because of Europe. And even despaired for Europe.

Through thick and thin, I have never lost my love of Europe.

But there is, as we know, rarely love without pain.

Love for Europe because Europe and the European Union have achieved something unique in this fraying world: peace within and peace outside of Europe. Prosperity for many if not yet for all.

This is something we have to remember during the European Year of Cultural Heritage. 2018 must be a celebration of cultural diversity.

A UNION OF VALUES

Our values are our compass.

For me, Europe is more than just a single market. More than money, more than a currency, more than the euro. It was always about values.

That is why, in my sixth scenario, there are three fundamentals, three unshakeable principles: freedom, equality and the rule of law.

Europe is first of all a Union of freedom. Freedom from the kind of oppression and dictatorship our continent knows all too well – sadly none more than central and Eastern European countries. Freedom to voice your opinion, as a citizen and as a journalist – a freedom we too often take for granted. It was on these freedoms that our Union was built. But freedom does not fall from the sky. It must be fought for. In Europe and throughout the world.

Second, Europe must be a Union of equality and a Union of equals.

Equality between its Members, big or small, East or West, North or South.

Make no mistake, Europe extends from Vigo to Varna. From Spain to Bulgaria.

East to West: Europe must breathe with both lungs. Otherwise our continent will struggle for air.

In a Union of equals, there can be no second class citizens. It is unacceptable that in 2017 there are still children dying of diseases that should long have been eradicated in Europe. Children in Romania or Italy must have the same access to measles vaccines as children in other European countries. No ifs, no buts. This is why we are working with all Member States to support national vaccination efforts. Avoidable deaths must not occur in Europe.

In a Union of equals, there can be no second class workers. Workers should earn the same pay for the same work in the same place. This is why the Commission proposed new rules on posting of workers. We should make sure that all EU rules on labour mobility are enforced in a fair, simple and effective way by a new European inspection and enforcement body. It is absurd to have a Banking Authority to police banking standards, but no common Labour Authority for ensuring fairness in our single market. We will create such an Authority.

In a Union of equals, there can be no second class consumers either. I cannot accept that in some parts of Europe, in Central and Eastern Europe,people are sold food of lower quality than in other countries, despite the packaging and branding being identical. Slovaks do not deserve less fish in their fish fingers. Hungarians less meat in their meals. Czechs less cacao in their chocolate. EU law outlaws such practices already. And we must now equip national authorities with stronger powers to cut out these illegal practices wherever they exist.

Third, in Europe the strength of the law replaced the law of the strong.

The rule of law means that law and justice are upheld by an independent judiciary.

Accepting and respecting a final judgement is what it means to be part of a Union based on the rule of law. Our Member States gave final jurisdiction to the European Court of Justice. The judgements of the Court have to be respected by all. To undermine them, or to undermine the independence of national courts, is to strip citizens of their fundamental rights.

The rule of law is not optional in the European Union. It is a must.

Our Union is not a State but it must be a community of law.

A MORE UNITED UNION

These three principles – freedom, equality and the rule of law – must remain the foundations on which we build a more united, stronger and more democratic Union.

When we talk about the future, experience tells me new Treaties and new institutions are not the answer people are looking for. They are merely a means to an end, nothing more, nothing less. They might mean something to us here in Strasbourg or in Brussels. They do not mean a lot to anyone else.

I am only interested in institutional reforms if they lead to more efficiency in our European Union.

Instead of hiding behind calls for Treaty change – which is in any case inevitable – we must first change the mind-set that for some to win others must lose.

Democracy is about compromise. And the right compromise makes winners out of everyone in the long run. A more united Union should see compromise, not as something negative, but as the art of bridging differences. Democracy cannot function without compromise. Europe cannot function without compromise.

A more united Union also needs to become more inclusive.

If we want to protect our external borders and rightly so strengthen them even more, then we need to open the Schengen area of free movement to Bulgaria and Romania immediately. We should also allow Croatia to become a full Schengen member once all the criteria are met.

If we want the euro to unite rather than divide our continent, then it should be more than the currency of a select group of countries. The euro is meant to be the single currency of the European Union as a whole. All but two of our Member States are required and entitled to join the euro once they fulfil the conditions.

Member States that want to join the euro must be able to do so. This is why I am proposing to create a Euro-accession Instrument, offering technical and even financial assistance.

If we want banks to operate under the same rules and under the same supervision across our continent, then we should encourage all Member States to join the Banking Union. We need to reduce the remaining risks in the banking systems of some of our Member States. Banking Union can only function if risk-reduction and risk-sharing go hand in hand. As everyone well knows, this can only be achieved if the conditions, as proposed by the Commission in November 2015, are met. There can only be a common deposit insurance scheme once everyone will have done their national homework.

And if we want to avoid social fragmentation and social dumping in Europe, then Member States should agree on the European Pillar of Social Rights as soon as possible and at the latest at the Gothenburg summit in November. National social systems will still remain diverse and separate for a long time. But at the very least, we should agree on a European Social Standards Union in which we have a common understanding of what is socially fair in our single market.

I remain convinced: Europe cannot work if it shuns workers.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if we want more stability in our neighbourhood, then we must also maintain a credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans.

It is clear that there will be no further enlargement during the mandate of this Commission and this Parliament. No candidate is ready. But thereafter the European Union will be greater than 27 in number. Accession candidates must give the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights utmost priority in the negotiations.

This rules out EU membership for Turkey for the foreseeable future.

Turkey has been taking giant strides away from the European Union for some time.

Journalists belong in newsrooms not in prisons. They belong where freedom of expression reigns.

The call I make to those in power in Turkey is this: Let our journalists go. And not only ours. Stop insulting our Member States by comparing their leaders to fascists and Nazis. Europe is a continent of mature democracies. But deliberate insults create roadblocks. Sometimes I get the feeling Turkey is deliberately placing these roadblocks so that it can blame Europe for any breakdown in accession talks.

As for us, we will always keep our hands stretched out towards the great Turkish people and all those who are ready to work with us on the basis of our values.

A STRONGER UNION

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want our Union to be stronger and for this we need a stronger single market.

When it comes to important single market questions, I want decisions in the Council to be taken more often and more easily by qualified majority – with the equal involvement of the European Parliament. We do not need to change the Treaties for this. There are so-called “passerelle clauses” in the current Treaties which allow us to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting in certain cases – provided the European Council decides unanimously to do so.

I am also strongly in favour of moving to qualified majority voting for decisions on the common consolidated corporate tax base, on VAT, on fair taxes for the digital industry and on the financial transaction tax.

Europe has to be able to act quicker and more decisively, and this also applies to the Economic and Monetary Union.

The euro area is more resilient now than in years past. We now have the European Stabilisation Mechanism (ESM). I believe the ESM should now progressively graduate into a European Monetary Fund which, however, must be firmly anchored in the European Union’s rules and competences. The Commission will make concrete proposals for this in December.

We need a European Minister of Economy and Finance: a European Minister that promotes and supports structural reforms in our Member States. He or she can build on the work the Commission has been doing since 2015 with our Structural Reform Support Service. The new Minister should coordinate all EU financial instruments that can be deployed if a Member State is in a recession or hit by a fundamental crisis.

I am not calling for a new position just for the sake of it. I am calling for efficiency. The Commissioner for economic and financial affairs – ideally also a Vice-President – should assume the role of Economy and Finance Minister. He or she should also preside the Eurogroup.

The European Economy and Finance Minister must be accountable to the European Parliament.

We do not need parallel structures. We do not need a budget for the Euro area but a strong Euro area budget line within the EU budget.

I am also not fond of the idea of having a separate euro area parliament.

The Parliament of the euro area is this European Parliament.

The European Union must also be stronger in fighting terrorism. In the past three years, we have made real progress. But we still lack the means to act quickly in case of cross-border terrorist threats.

This is why I call for setting up a European intelligence unit that ensures data concerning terrorists and foreign fighters are automatically shared among intelligence services and with the police.

I also see a strong case for tasking the new European Public Prosecutor with prosecuting cross-border terrorist crimes.

I want our Union to become a stronger global actor. In order to have more weight in the world, we must be able to take foreign policy decisions quicker. This is why I want Member States to look at which foreign policy decisions could be moved from unanimity to qualified majority voting. The Treaty already provides for this, if all Member States agree to do it. We need qualified majority decisions in foreign policy if we are to work efficiently.

And I want us to dedicate further efforts to defence matters. A new European Defence Fund is in the offing. As is a Permanent Structured Cooperation in the area of defence. By 2025 we need a fully-fledged European Defence Union. We need it. And NATO wants it.

Last but not least, I want our Union to have a stronger focus on things that matter, building on the work this Commission has already undertaken. We should not meddle in the everyday lives of European citizens by regulating every aspect. We should be big on the big things. We should not march in with a stream of new initiatives or seek ever growing competences. We should give back competences to Member States where it makes sense.

This is why this Commission has sought to be big on big issues and small on the small ones and has done so, putting forward less than 25 new initiatives a year where previous Commissions proposed well over 100.

To finish the work we started, I am setting up a Subsidiarity and Proportionality Task Force as of this month to take a very critical look at all policy areas to make sure we are only acting where the EU adds value. The First Vice-President, my friend, Frans Timmermans, who has a proven track record on better regulation, will head this Task Force. The Timmermans Task Force should include Members of this Parliament as well as Members of national Parliaments. It should report back in a years’ time.

A MORE DEMOCRATIC UNION

Honourable Members,

Mr President,

Our Union needs to take a democratic leap forward.

I would like to see European political parties start campaigning for the next European elections much earlier than in the past. Too often Europe-wide elections have been reduced to nothing more than the sum of national campaigns. European democracy deserves better.

Today, the Commission is proposing new rules on the financing of political parties and foundations. We should not be filling the coffers of anti-European extremists. We should be giving European parties the means to better organise themselves.

I also have sympathy for the idea of having transnational lists in European elections – though I am aware this is an idea more than a few of you disagree with. I will seek to convince the President of my parliamentary Group to follow me in this ambition which will bring Europe democracy and clarity.

I also believe that, over the months to come, we should involve national Parliaments and civil society at national, regional and local level more in the work on the future of Europe. Over the last three years, as we promised, Members of the Commission have visited national Parliaments more than 650 times. They also debated in more than 300 interactive Citizens’ Dialogues in more than 80 cities and towns across 27 Member States. This is why I support President Macron’s idea of organising democratic conventions across Europe in 2018.

As the debate gathers pace, I will personally pay particular attention to Estonia, to Latvia, to Lithuania and to Romania in 2018. This is the year they will celebrate their 100th anniversary. Those who want to shape the future of our continent should well understand and honour our common history. This includes these four countries – the European Union would not be whole without them.

The need to strengthen democracy and transparency also has implications for the European Commission. Today, I am sending the European Parliament a new Code of Conduct for Commissioners. The new Code first of all makes clear that Commissioners can be candidates in European Parliament elections under the same conditions as everyone else. The new Code will of course strengthen the integrity requirements for Commissioners both during and after their mandate.

If you want to strengthen European democracy, then you cannot reverse the small democratic progress seen with the creation of lead candidates – ‘Spitzenkandidaten’. I would like the experience to be repeated.

More democracy means more efficiency. Europe would function better if we were to merge the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission.

This is nothing against my good friend Donald, with whom I have worked intimately and seamlessly together since the beginning of my mandate. This is nothing against Donald or against me.

Europe would be easier to understand if one captain was steering the ship.

Having a single President would simply better reflect the true nature of our European Union as both a Union of States and a Union of citizens.

OUR ROADMAP

My dear colleagues,

The vision of a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe I am outlining today combines elements from all of the scenarios I set out to you in March.

But our future cannot remain a simple scenario, a sketch, an idea amongst others.

We have to prepare the Union of tomorrow, today.

This morning I sent a Roadmap to President Tajani, President Tusk as well as to the holders of the rotating Presidencies of the Council between now and March 2019, outlining where we should go from here.

An important element will be the budgetary plans the Commission will present in May 2018. Here again we have a choice: either we pursue the European Union’s ambitions in the strict framework of the existing budget, or we increase the European Union’s budgetary capacity so that it might better reach its ambitions. I am for the second option.

On 29 March 2019, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. This will be both a sad and tragic moment. We will always regret it. But we have to respect the will of the British people. We will advance, we must advance because Brexit is not everything. Because Brexit is not the future of Europe.

On 30 March 2019, we will be a Union of 27. I suggest that we prepare for this moment well, amongst the 27 and within the EU institutions.

European Parliament elections will take place just a few weeks later, in May 2019. Europeans have a date with democracy. They need to go to the polls with a clear understanding of how the European Union will develop over the years to come.

This is why I call on President Tusk and Romania, the country holding the Presidency in the first half of 2019, to organise a Special Summit in Romania on 30 March 2019. My wish is that this summit be held in the beautiful city of Sibiu, also known as Hermannstadt. This should be the moment we come together to take the decisions needed for a more united, stronger and democratic Europe.

My hope is that on 30 March 2019, Europeans will wake up to a Union where we stand by all our values. Where all Member States respect the rule of law without exception. Where being a full member of the euro area, the Banking Union and the Schengen area has become the norm for all.

Where we have shored up the foundations of our Economic and Monetary Union so that we can defend our single currency in good times and bad, without having to call on external help. Where our single market will be fairer towards workers from the East and from the West.

I want Europeans to wake up to a Europe where we have managed to agree on a strong pillar of social standards. Where profits will be taxed where they were made. Where terrorists have no loopholes to exploit. Where we have agreed on a proper European Defence Union. Where eventually a single President leads the work of the Commission and the European Council, having been elected after a democratic Europe-wide election campaign.

Mr President, if our citizens wake up to this Union on 30 March 2019, then the European Union will be a Union able to meet their legitimate expectations.

CONCLUSION

Honourable Members,

Europe was not made to stand still. It must never do so.

Helmut Kohl and Jacques Delors, whom I had the honour to know, taught me that Europe only moves forward when it is bold. The single market, Schengen and the single currency: these were all ideas that were written off as pipe dreams before they happened. And yet these three ambitious projects are now a part of our daily reality.

Now that Europe is doing better, people tell me I should not rock the boat.

But now is not the time to err on the side of caution.

We started to fix the European roof. But today and tomorrow we must patiently, floor by floor, moment by moment, inspiration by inspiration, continue to add new floors to the European House.

We must complete the European House now that the sun is shining and whilst it still is.

Because when the next clouds appear on the horizon – and they will appear one day – it will be too late.

So let’s throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the harbour.

And catch the trade winds in our sails.

Theresa May – 2017 Statement on Infected Blood Inquiry

Below is the text of the statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 21 December 2017.

As the Government announced last month, a full statutory inquiry into the infected blood scandal will be established under the Inquiries Act 2005, and sponsored by the Cabinet Office. The inquiry will have full powers, including the power to compel the production of documents, and to summon witnesses to give evidence on oath.

We are today setting out the next steps.

The Cabinet Office has now completed its analysis of the responses to the consultation on the format of the statutory inquiry into infected blood announced in July. In addition a series of roundtable meetings were held earlier this month with individuals and groups representing those affected.

The Government committed to making an announcement regarding the chair of the inquiry before Christmas, taking into account the views we have received. We are therefore announcing today our intention to appoint a judge to chair the inquiry. We will make a further statement on who that judge will be in the new year and we will be discussing with them the composition of the inquiry panel.

We would like to thank each and every person who took the time to respond to the consultation, and to share their views and experiences. We understand how difficult these issues must have been to describe and we are grateful for the frankness and honesty with which people have shared their experiences. The responses to the consultation have been carefully considered by Cabinet Office officials. We can assure the House and everyone who contributed that the findings will be passed to the proposed chair to help inform the discussions regarding the draft terms of reference, on which we expect there will be further consultation.

In accordance with the Inquiries Act 2005, colleagues in the devolved Administrations will be consulted as the terms of reference are finalised.

A further statement will be made in the new year.

Fabian Hamilton – 2017 Speech on Cycling Fatalities

Below is the text of the speech made by Fabian Hamilton, the Labour MP for Leeds North East, in the House of Commons on 21 December 2017.

This debate is the last parliamentary business before the recess and, indeed, the last business of the year, but it nevertheless deals with an issue that is of great seriousness and grave concern to my constituents and to many others, given the number of people who have been injured or killed when cycling on our roads.

On 12 December last year, 58-year-old Ian Winterburn was cycling to work at 7.30 am, as he did every day. Ian was a keen and regular cyclist. As usual, he was wearing his cyclist’s high-visibility jacket, and all his bike lights were on. He always wore a cycling helmet. As he was passing the junction of Whitkirk Lane on the A6120 ring road in Halton, Leeds, a silver Skoda Fabia was signalling to turn right, but instead of waiting for Ian to cycle past, the driver went straight into him, knocking him off his bike and fatally injuring him. She claimed that she had not seen him. After 10 days in a coma, Ian died from his injuries on 22 December.

Cyclist Charlie Alliston was famously sentenced to 18 months in prison recently for fatally injuring pedestrian Mrs Briggs in one of two such fatal accidents last year, yet any more cyclists have been killed or badly injured by cars during the same period. Alliston’s case justifiably received plenty of media coverage, but shocking deaths such as that of Ian Winterburn scarcely receive any, and public anger towards cyclists is now at an all-time high.

The 51-year-old driver of the Skoda that killed Ian was sentenced on 20 October by Leeds magistrates court for causing death by careless driving.

Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on initiating the debate. I co-chair the all-party parliamentary group on cycling, and I commend to him one of the recommendations of our report on justice for cyclists. We asked the Government to address

“Confusion and overlap between ‘careless’ and ‘dangerous’ driving”

in such cases.

Fabian Hamilton

I shall deal with the issue of careless versus dangerous driving and the different penalties involved. Indeed, I shall refer to the all-party parliamentary group that my hon. Friend so ably chairs, and of which I am currently the treasurer.

The driver of the Skoda was given a four-month prison sentence suspended for two years, a £200 fine, 200 hours of community service and a two-year driving ban. Her licence had been suspended previously for 14 months for drink-driving.

One of the most shocking aspects of this tragic case—apart from the loss of a much-loved husband, father and teacher—is the way that the family have been treated by the various authorities involved in dealing with the terrible and totally avoidable loss of such a valuable life. Ian Winterburn was hit at 7.30 am that day, but the West Yorkshire police crash investigation team did not arrive at the scene for more than an hour.

The police and the Crown Prosecution Service believed that the driver did not adequately defrost her car windscreen before setting off from her home nearby. There was ​circumstantial evidence to support that, as her windscreen wipers and car heating were on full power although it was a dry day. However, because the crash investigation team took so long to arrive, they could not confirm the state of the windscreen at the time of the accident. Of course, had they arrived sooner, there could have been proof that the windscreen was not properly de-iced. The driver would then have faced a charge of causing death by dangerous driving, which carries a considerably higher sentence on conviction than the lesser charge of death by careless driving.

There is only one crash team for the whole of West Yorkshire, an area with a population of 2.3 million. The family have asked a number of pertinent questions about that issue alone. They asked, for example, why there was only one crash team for such a large area, how many people were in that team, how many crash investigations they investigated each week and where the team was based.

It took more than three hours for the police to contact Mrs Winterburn that day to inform her about the collision. When she asked why it had taken so long, the answer was that the crash team was too busy securing the crash site and collecting evidence, which was its main priority, and that there were not enough staff to contact Mrs Winterburn earlier. As Members may imagine, this was extremely traumatic for Mrs Winterburn and her family and greatly added to the trauma they experienced upon hearing such terrible news.

But it gets worse. When the family arrived at the hospital, they spent a number of hours in the resuscitation unit, where no staff were available to keep them updated. Ian Winterburn was still wearing his cycling clothes, and it was to be another 16 hours before any member of staff gave the family information about the extent of Ian’s injuries, the prognosis or, indeed, the next steps in his treatment.

Let me move on now to the role of the coroner service. Although Ian died on 22 December, just one year ago tomorrow, it took until 10 January to obtain a death certificate. That was apparently because of a backlog over the Christmas and new year holidays, but it meant that Ian’s body had to be kept at the Leeds General Infirmary mortuary for two weeks before a funeral could take place. As Members may imagine, this added considerably to the stress and trauma suffered by the family. Presumably, people still die from unknown causes or accidents over holiday periods, and although everyone deserves holidays and time off, especially public servants, surely it is important that the coroner service does not close, except perhaps on Christmas day itself.

The Crown Prosecution Service told the family that the case against the driver who killed Ian was so serious that it would be heard in the Crown court and that they should not even attend the magistrates court hearing, which would be merely a formality and would only last for a few minutes. However, in the event, the driver was convicted, after two one-hour sessions, by the magistrates court, and no support whatsoever was given to the family.

No help was even offered to the family in the preparation of their victim statements, which of course they had little knowledge of how to prepare and no previous experience of writing. This further added to the anxiety felt by Ian’s close family, and made them lose faith in the whole criminal justice system. One of the pertinent ​questions asked by Ian’s daughter, my constituent Alex Wilks, who is here today, when she came to see me about her father’s death and her family’s treatment by the various authorities was, “Why is the most senior CPS lawyer in West Yorkshire only employed for two days a week?”

After the shock of the brief court case and what the family feels is the inadequate sentence for a driver who had previously been given a 14-month driving ban after a conviction for drink-driving, the family was told by the police that the coroner would now close the inquest because there had been a criminal conviction. A short while later, the coroner phoned Georgina, Ian’s widow, to tell her that there would still be an inquest and that a number of witnesses would attend it.

As we can imagine, this came as a huge shock to the family, and Alex, Ian’s daughter, rang West Yorkshire Victim Support to ask what the family should expect from the hearing, only to be told that it knew nothing about the hearing. The next day the coroner’s office rang Georgina to tell her that there had been a “mix-up” and that there would not be an inquest after all. No apology has ever been offered for the further upset caused to the family by this so-called “mix-up”.

Many Members will know that I am a keen cyclist, because I pester them every summer to donate to my annual charity bike ride, and I can often be seen arriving at the Palace of Westminster in my hideous, brightly coloured lycra on my carbon racing bike; indeed you, Mr Speaker, have generously seen me off on some of my cycling jaunts.

I am also an officer of the all-party group on cycling, which last July published a report into cycling and the justice system. We took a huge amount of evidence from cycling groups, lawyers, the police, the CPS, Transport for London, local authorities and many others. Among our conclusions were the following recommendations. The police must ensure that a higher standard of investigation is maintained in all cases where serious injury has resulted. That includes eyesight testing, mobile phone records and assessments of speed, drink and drug driving. We received many examples of the police failing to investigate properly, or even to interview witnesses or victims. Too often, weak investigations have undermined subsequent cases. I hope that the Minister will want to comment on this.

We also recommended that all police forces should ensure that evidence of common offences submitted by cyclists or other witnesses using bike-mounted or person-mounted cameras or smart phones should be put to use and not ignored. Too often, these bits of evidence are ignored. The confidence of cyclists that their safety is a priority for the police will be undermined if such evidence is dismissed and no action is taken. In some cases, just a written warning could be enough to change bad behaviour.

The length of time required by the police to serve a notice of intended prosecution for a road traffic offence is currently just 14 days, and that must be extended. That was one of our strong recommendations. We believe that that period is too short to enable cases to be adequately processed. In some cases, it could enable offenders to escape justice altogether.

We also said that there was confusion and overlap between careless and dangerous driving, a point echoed by my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and ​Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury), so bad driving often does not receive the level of punishment that the public feel it should. New offences introduced over the past few years have started to plug some of the gaps in the legislation, but many problems remain, particularly when cyclists are the victims. We believe that the Ministry of Justice should examine in more detail how these offences are being used, including the penalties available for offences of careless and dangerous driving.

The police and the CPS should ensure that victims and bereaved families are always kept adequately informed throughout the process of deciding charges. This is done in many cases, but we have heard of victims being ignored and informed only at a much later date that cases have been dropped or that guilty pleas for lesser offences have been accepted.

Ruth Cadbury

I am a member of the Justice Committee, and one of the issues that we have heard about—which applies not only to cases such as this one—is that the cutbacks in the Courts Service and the Ministry of Justice mean that there are fewer people to carry out these important administrative tasks. In too many cases, administrative failures mean that justice is not being served, either for the victims or for their families, because there are not enough people to make the kind of contact that is, as my hon. Friend says, so important at times like these.

Fabian Hamilton

Again, I thank my hon. Friend for her helpful intervention. I think that the first part of my speech clearly showed that the family of Ian Winterburn are just such a family. They had appallingly bad service from the CPS; they were not kept informed at all. They were given no assistance; there was no family support whatever. I do not know whether that was the result of cutbacks or of bad organisation and training. I think my hon. Friend probably knows more than I do about that, because she is a member of the Justice Committee, but I will leave it to the Minister to respond to that point.

The final recommendation in our report involves the fact that the number and length of driving bans appears to have declined, with a 62% fall in driver disqualifications over the past 10 years. That is double the fall in convictions for driving offences. Furthermore, very large numbers of drivers are escaping disqualification on reaching 12 points or more on their licence. The Ministry of Justice should examine the reasons behind the decline in the use of the penalty of disqualification and in particular the effect of the so-called exceptional hardship scheme.

I know that our report, which was published seven months after Ian Winterburn was killed, will ring many bells in the minds of his family, who still grieve for him every day. The family would like answers to a number of more specific questions, notwithstanding the recommendations I have just read out, so will the Minister answer the following questions? What is the current status of the review of guidelines for causing death by careless driving? Is a review even being carried out? Why do drivers who have caused death not face mandatory custodial sentences? How many complaints does the Ministry of Justice receive about the coroner service ​every year? What training is given to the coroner service staff? Who holds the coroner service to account? Is it the Ministry of Justice or is there any form of local accountability? When was the last review of the coroner service, and what were its findings? Finally, when will the coroner service website be improved to offer more and better information to grieving and unsupported families, which seems a simple, straightforward reform?

In conclusion, if we truly care about our environment and about the growing public health crisis, surely we must do far more to encourage cycling, both as a healthy activity and as a way to reduce carbon emissions and congestion, but tragedies such as the death of cyclist Ian Winterburn do nothing but discourage the public from cycling. We need to make cycling far easier and much, much safer, and part of that task is about ensuring that when terrible fatal accidents do occur, the appropriate administration of justice can be relied upon. We all need the assurance that cycling is a safe activity and a good way to move around our towns and cities for everyone who is capable of using a bike. Meaningful answers to and action from the Winterburn family’s pertinent questions, born out of tragedy and grief, would be a good start.

Theresa May – 2017 Address to Troops at RAF Akrotiri

Below is the text of the address to troops made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus on 22 December 2017.

I am delighted to be here in Cyprus with all of you today – and to have this opportunity to say a big thank you on behalf of our whole nation for everything that you are doing to keep our country safe by working to bring peace and stability to this region.

And I am especially pleased to be here with you just before Christmas. For at this special time of year it is even more important that you know just how vital your work is – and just how much I appreciate the sacrifices that you and your families make in the service of our country.

Here in Cyprus, you are at the epicentre of so much of our military activity in the region.

It is from here that you have conducted more than 1600 air strikes against Daesh targets and supported more than 1450 personnel working with our allies and partners in Jordan and Iraq to fight Daesh and prevent its re-emergence.

And let’s be clear just what a difference that has made. Just three years ago, Daesh declared a Caliphate in Iraq and Syria: a safe haven in which to carry out the most barbaric acts and from which to plot murder on our streets at home.

But today, thanks in very large part to your efforts, that so-called Caliphate has been crushed and no longer holds significant territory in Iraq or Syria. You should be incredibly proud of that achievement.

While we need to continue to deal directly with the threat they still pose in the region, we also need to focus on training the Iraqi Security Forces so they can keep Daesh out – which is why the work we are doing, and you are supporting, to train over 60,000 Iraqi security personnel is so vital, as I saw first-hand on my visit to Baghdad last month.

It is also from here in Cyprus that you are sustaining our efforts to support the wider stability of our allies in the Middle East.

This includes the expansion of the Quick Reaction Force in Jordan which I visited with King Abdullah in April and discussed with him again when I was in Amman late last month.

Let’s be clear why this matters too. As conflicts and tensions fuel instability across the Middle East, it is not just the security of that region which is threatened, but the whole international order on which global security and prosperity depends.

And as Daesh seeks new ungoverned spaces from which to plot and carry out attacks, it is not just in those spaces that security is at stake but in the UK too.

So it is vital that we support the stability of our partners across the Middle East.

It is also here in Cyprus that our armed forces are working for the United Nations on Operation TOSCA to help keep the peace at the buffer zone through Nicosia.

This is an important part of the work that we are doing in fulfilling our international responsibilities as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

And I am clear that as a global Britain we will honour those responsibilities and continue to play a leading role in upholding the values and rules of the international order on which we depend.

As part of this, I have committed to ensuring that we continue to meet our NATO commitment to invest 2 per cent of our GDP on defence and to spend 0.7 percent of GNI on development.

But it is you – your professionalism, your courage and your sacrifices that give meaning to the pledges we make as a nation. It is you who take down our enemies and stand by our allies when the going gets tough.

I also want to thank our hosts in Cyprus for all they do to enable you to operate from here. And I think I speak for everyone here when I say that this is a special place – something of a home from home – for the British armed forces.

Finally, as we enter a year that marks the centenary of the end of the First World War – and of course the centenary of the Royal Air Force – I hope you can take great pride not just in what you do, but also in what you are part of.

From its origins as the first entirely separate and independent national air force, fighting over the Western Front from 1st April 1918 – to the leading edge fighter, strike and transport aircraft of today, those of you in the RAF are the present day pioneers of the world’s most iconic air force.

While every one of you here today is part of one of the greatest military forces in the world.

And I hope that as a nation in this special year ahead, we can collectively raise the national consciousness of the work that you do and the sacrifices that you make in the service of others.

As Prime Minister, I will do everything I can to lead the nation in this endeavour.

For you are quite simply the pride of our nation. And that is how you should be treated.

So let me start that mission by thanking you once again for everything that you are doing and by wishing you and your families the best possible Christmas and a happy, safe and successful 2018.

Jo Johnson – 2017 Speech on Free Speech in Universities

Below is the text of the speech made by Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, at the Limmud Conference held in Birmingham on 26 December 2017.

It is a pleasure to join you at the Limmud Festival. This is my first Limmud Festival, and it is a revelation for me: I did not fully realise what a remarkable gathering the conference is.

It is a banquet of ideas and discussion, a national institution for the community, and an international success story: since the first conference in Britain in 1980, it has been replicated by Jewish communities all over the world, from South Africa to New Zealand, and from Finland to Chile.

There is one thing in particular I find admirable about the Festival, and it sits at the heart of what I want to say today.

That is its focus on the free exchange of diverse, even conflicting views. There are few places where you can hear from a government minister and from Jon Lansman of Momentum, and from speakers on subjects ranging from Kafka to stand-up comedy to tech startups, all on the same platform.

This spirit of open, frank and rigorous discussion is refreshing and invigorating.

The liberal tradition

And, of course, this love of open debate represents just one of many contributions that Britain’s Jewish community has made to our country’s tradition of liberalism and openness.

As the historian Abigail Green has pointed out, the British liberal tradition owes a profound debt to so many members of the Jewish community.

To Isaiah Berlin, who helped to reinvent Western liberalism in the post-war era.

To Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International.

To Herscht Lauterpacht, one of the fathers of modern international law.

To Rosalind Franklin, the chemist whose work informs our current understanding of DNA.

To Herbert Samuel, the liberal politician and instigator of the Balfour Declaration, the 100th anniversary of which we celebrated in November.

And to countless others.

This is a tradition that is particularly important to me in my role as universities minister.

A university is the quintessential liberal institution. Not liberal in a narrow party political sense, but in the true liberal of free and rigorous inquiry, of liberty and of tolerance.

The liberal tradition is a noble and important one; but today it finds itself under threat. Liberal politics are under threat from national and populist parties around the world. Economic liberalism is under threat from those who turn to protectionism for quick-fix solutions to complex problems.

And the liberal tradition in universities faces challenges too.

Threats to freedom of speech

A particularly worrying challenge to universities as bastions of liberalism comes from the threat to legal free speech and to open debate on our campuses.

Our universities, rather like the Festival we are today, should be places that open minds not close them, where ideas can be freely challenged and prejudices exposed.

But in universities in America and increasingly in the United Kingdom, there are countervailing forces of censorship, where groups have sought to stifle those who do not agree with them in every way under the banner of “safe spaces” or “no-platforming”.

However well-intentioned, the proliferation of such safe spaces, the rise of no-platforming, the removal of ‘offensive’ books from libraries and the drawing up of ever more extensive lists of banned “trigger” words are undermining the principle of free speech in our universities.

Without that basic liberal principle, our universities will be compromised.

Spinoza, that forerunner of modern liberalism, said that intellectual freedom was “absolutely necessary for progress in science and the liberal arts”.

Indeed, in 1673 Spinoza refused a prestigious appointment as professor of philosophy at the University of Heidelberg, because the job offer came with a restriction on what he could say – a stipulation that he must “not insult the principles of the established religion”.

Shield young people from controversial opinions, views that challenge their most profoundly held beliefs or simply make them uncomfortable, and you are on the slippery slope that ends up with a society less able to make scientific breakthroughs, to be innovative and to resist injustice.

I am glad to say that, for the time being at least, censorship in our universities is the exception, not the rule.

A 2016 survey showed that 83% of students felt free to express views on campus. And I have been hearted by cases of students themselves standing in the way of attempts to restrict freedom of speech.

But this is no time for complacency.

Like me, you have no doubt read reports of examples of censorship, where groups have sought to stifle those who do not agree with them in every way under the banners of “safe spaces” or “no-platforming” in US, signs that it might be spreading to UK.

Campaigns and protests against events featuring prominent gay rights and feminist campaigners such as Peter Tatchell and Julie Bindel, and more recently the proposal by some students at Oxford’s Balliol College to deny the Christian Union a space at Fresher’s Fair are examples of the threat to legal free speech from those who would rather shut down debate altogether than to confront dissenting ideas or uncomfortable arguments.

That’s why the government is taking action now.

As part of our reforms to higher education, we have set up a new regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), which, as its name suggests, will regulate the university sector in a way that puts the interests of students first.

Created by the Higher Education & Research Act 2017, the OfS will come into being next week.

Promoting freedom of speech within the law will be at the heart of its approach to the regulation of our higher education system.

The OfS will go further than its predecessor in promoting freedom of speech.

In the Act, we extended the existing statutory duty on universities to secure free speech in the Education (No.2) Act 1986 so that it will apply to all providers of higher education registered with the OfS.

Furthermore, as a condition of registration with the new regulator, we are proposing that all universities benefitting from public money must demonstrate a clear commitment to free speech in their governance documents.

And the OfS will in turn use its regulatory powers to hold them to account for ensuring that lawful freedom of speech is upheld by their staff and students.

This is no authoritarian step.

Nor is it somehow the “opposite” of free speech, as has been suggested by Harriet Harman, whose Joint Committee on Human Rights is gathering evidence on freedom of speech in UK higher education.

On the contrary, it is simply Government playing its part in actively creating the conditions necessary for our universities to serve as the vibrant free-trading marketplaces for ideas that we need them to be.

What do we mean by universities as ‘marketplaces of ideas’? It means our universities enabling truth to emerge and the frontiers of knowledge to expand as a result of the competition of ideas in free, transparent public discourse.

Whether it’s Gallileo’s heretical rejection of geocentrism, Darwin’s godless theory of creation or the bravery of dissidents resisting oppression all over the world, history shows the right to disagree is the cornerstone of intellectual and political freedom.

I am pleased to say that this freedom is as important to the OfS’s new chairman, Sir Michael Barber, as it is to me.

In a recent article entitled “In Defence of Uncomfortable”, arguing that universities need to foster a climate of open inquiry in order to provide a truly valuable education, Michael pointed out that “Diversity of view and disagreement, is a vital ingredient of places of higher learning”.

While he hoped the OfS never has to intervene in a university in relation to freedom of speech, he undertook that, if it does, it will be to widen it rather than restrict it.

I’m confident freedom of speech in our universities has a bright future under the OfS.

But we will continue to watch the system carefully.

And I want to be clear about this: attempts to silence opinions that one disagrees with have no place in the English university system. Academics and students alike must not allow a culture to take hold where silence is preferable to a dissenting voice.

If we want our universities to thrive, we must defend the liberal values of freedom of speech and diversity of opinion on which they depend.

Freedom of speech within the law must prevail in our society, with only the narrowest necessary exceptions justified by specific countervailing public policies.

Standing firm against antisemitism on campus

One threat that you will be all too aware of comes from anti-semitism on campus. There is no doubt that for many Jewish students their experience at university is overwhelmingly positive.

However, the number of anti-semitic incidents in the UK, including in our universities, remains a cause for concern. Anti-semitic incidents, whether from the far right, or from a virulent far left strain, have included Holocaust denial leaflets distributed at Cambridge University and swastikas at Exeter University.

Last October, it was reported that police were called to University College London to quell a violent anti-Israel protest which left Jewish students barricaded in a room, after being told their safety could not be guaranteed if they left alone.

I am concerned that there has been a climate on campus in which fewer than half (49 per cent) of Jewish students surveyed said they would feel comfortable attending NUS events.

This is unacceptable.

I’m encouraged that the NUS’s new leadership, under Shakira Martin, has taken a more positive direction, including a partnership with the Union of Jewish Students and Holocaust Education Trust for a Holocaust education campaign. I hope this continues.

There is no place in our society – including within higher education – for hatred or any form of discrimination or racism such as anti-Semitism.

A racist and anti-semitic environment is by definition an illiberal one that is totally antithetical to the idea of a university in a free society.

Working together with universities, with bodies like Universities UK, and with campaigners such as Baroness Deech and Sir Eric Pickles, we are working to combat antisemitism on campus, and I believe we are making progress.

I have been working hard to tackle this.

In February I wrote to Universities UK, the representative body of the UK higher education sector, as well as to alternative providers, to ensure they had noted the Government’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.

At my request, this has been shared throughout the higher education sector.

It is essential that institutions must have robust procedures in place. I expect them to demonstrate how they will act quickly to investigate and address all allegations of hate crime, including allegations of anti-Semitism.

This is an integral part of ensuring they provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students and that students do not face discrimination, harassment or victimisation.

In June last year, at my request, Universities UK agreed to consider the issue of hate crime on campus on the basis of religion and belief as part of their Harassment Taskforce.

Its key recommendations to universities included the adoption of a zero tolerance approach to anti-semitism, training for staff on antisemitism and development of close ties between universities and local Jewish community leaders.

UUK has also published the first of their case studies looking at good practice at the sector on harassment and hate crime and I hope that institutions are aware, and making good use, of these.

To support this work, I asked the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) to prioritise working with Universities UK in 2017-2018 on these important issues.

And as a result, they have provided over £4m funding for projects to tackle harassment and hate crime. This includes £1.8m of funding for over 40 universities and colleges for projects which aim to tackle online harassment and hate.

But there is much more to do.

Universities cannot afford to be complacent about complying either with their duties to protect freedom of speech, or anything less than vigilant against hate speech (or other unlawful activity) masquerading as the exercise of the right to freedom of speech.

Both duties are vitally important to a civilised democratic society.

Kenneth Clarke – 2017 Speech on EU Withdrawal Bill

Below is the text of the speech made by Ken Clarke, the Conservative MP for Rushcliffe, in the House of Commons on 13 December 2017.

I rise to support new clause 3 and amendment 7. As mine is the second name attached to amendment 7, which was tabled by ​my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), who is mainly responsible for it, I also incline to the view that it is slightly the better drafted, but I will support either proposal if one or both are put to the vote.

I might well succeed in being reasonably brief, because I agreed with every word of the speech made by the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) and I will not repeat what she said. A welcome note of cross-party consensus exists across a large part of the House, and it represents the cross-party consensus that is in favour of what is lazily called a soft Brexit and of having the best possible close relationship with the European Union after we leave.

The main issue in this debate seems to turn on what we mean by a “meaningful vote”, which relates to our discussion on the role of parliamentary sovereignty in a situation of this kind. I accept that today the Prime Minister—not for the first time—promised us a meaningful vote, but she later went on to qualify that slightly by talking about the need for statutory instruments to be brought forward during the period of the Bill, within the extraordinary powers that the Bill gives Ministers to enact, by regulation, even changes to British statute law. We have to be clear what a meaningful vote is, and the key is the timing. It is quite obvious that if the British Government are to be responsible to the British Parliament, the vote must take place before the Government have committed themselves to the terms of the treaty-like agreement that is entered into with the other member states. Any other vote will not be meaningful.

I will give way in just a second, but let me finish this point.

That means that a meaningful vote cannot take place until a detailed agreement has been arrived at about certainly the precise nature of our trading and economic relationships with the single market of the European Union, and actually quite a lot else besides, because we still have to embark on the security discussions, the policing discussions and the discussions about which agencies we are going to remain in and which agency rules we are going to comply with. This is, we all agree, a huge and complex agreement, and it is going to determine this country’s relationships with the rest of the continent of Europe and the wider world for generations to come. Can that happen before March 2019?

We face the genuine difficulty that it is quite obvious that we will not be remotely near to reaching that agreement by March 2019, and we have to think through what that actually means. The negotiators have been very optimistic in saying that they will have first a transition deal and then a deal by 2019. I am sure that they will try, but they have not a chance. I think that what they are actually saying—certainly the continental negotiators—is that they might be able to have some heads of agreement on the eventual destination by March 2019, which we can all carefully consider. They will ​certainly have to agree a transition deal of at least two years within which the rest of the process will have to be completed.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford that everybody wants things to be speedy, because one of things that this country is suffering from most at the moment is the appalling uncertainty caused by the fact that we have taken a ridiculous length of time to reach three obvious conclusions on the three preliminary points that had to be determined as the basis of our withdrawal. At the moment, however, we do not quite know what the British Government are going to be seeking as their end goal in the negotiations that are about to start, because the British Government, within the Cabinet, have not yet been able to agree exactly what they are seeking.

If I may say this to my desperately paranoid Eurosceptic friends, it is not as if I am somehow trying in some surreptitious remainer way to put a spoke in the wheels of the fast progress of the United Kingdom towards our destination. The Government do not know what leave means. Nobody discussed what leave meant when we were having the referendum. Our overriding duty is not just to our political allegiances and so on; it is to provide this country with a good, responsible Government who face up to the problems of the real world and, accountable to Parliament, can produce the best new order that they can for the benefit of future generations.

Mr Lammy

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is demonstrating why he is Father of the House, so I hesitate to interrupt him, but on his point about having a meaningful vote prior to the Prime Minister of the day making the deal, does he agree, with his wealth of experience, that if we are to keep the country together, it is important that that Prime Minister has in the back of her head when trying to pull off that agreement, “I have to get this through my Parliament”?

Mr Clarke

The right hon. Gentleman makes one of the points that I was going to make. The most important effect of passing either new clause 3 or amendment 7 —there is actually more to this than a meaningful vote, if we consider the various stages—and achieving proper parliamentary accountability is that that would affect the tenor of the negotiations. Like every other Head of Government in the European Union, our Prime Minister would need to have at the back of her mind, “Can I deliver to the House of Commons what I am thinking of conceding?” Every other political leader in Europe will do that, because they will have to sell what they sign up to to their own Parliaments. If we do not have a meaningful vote, we will be the only member state whose negotiators are not under a legally or constitutionally binding commitment to sell the deal, because they will be able to make the deal and then come back to the House of Commons and the House of Lords and say, “This is it. What do you think of it?”

Chuka Umunna

The Father of the House is absolutely right that the Bill essentially gives the Government a blank cheque. On timing, the only commitment I can see in today’s written ministerial statement from the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union about what will happen before we leave the EU is that the proposed withdrawal agreement and implementation ​Bill will be introduced before we leave. That is clearly unacceptable. Any piece of legislation seeking to do what that Bill has in mind must be passed before we leave the European Union, even if that means extending the process to maintain parliamentary sovereignty.

Mr Clarke

I agree entirely, and my next point is linked to that. The nature of the parliamentary approval cannot just be a motion; it must have statutory basis, which is the route that the Prime Minister has followed. There are various reasons for that, but the obvious one is the extremely uncertain status of resolutions of this House under current parliamentary practice. The Brexit Secretary is only the latest example of someone saying that anything that is not statutory is not legally enforceable, but just a “statement of intent”. The House of Commons keeps passing all kinds of motions with which I ferociously disagree, but they get carried by this House and make all kinds of criticisms of what the Government are doing. We have moved into a new era in which the Government are allowed to keep saying, “Parliament may pass motions, but they are worthless expressions of opinion. They are not part of our being accountable to the elected body of the House.”

Sir Oliver Heald

Of course the original plan was not to have a Bill, but to rely on statutory instruments under clause 9 to effect changes of constitutional significance. It was then made clear recently—I think on 17 November—that we will in fact have a Bill. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that to try to make such changes by secondary legislation just is not on? It is very unlikely that the courts would say that such constitutionally significant changes could be made under secondary legislation.

Mr Clarke

Again, I agree entirely, and that takes me back to something that has occurred all the way through this process. I am obviously standing here in disagreement with the Government, of whom I am critical in many respects, due to both the policy and how it has been conducted, but I have had some sympathy with them since the election, because they are trying to carry through this enormous, controversial and historic measure when they do not have a parliamentary majority, except when they can persuade the Democratic Unionist party to turn up and support them.

The process started with the extraordinary suggestion that the royal prerogative would be invoked, that treaty making was not going to involve Parliament at all, and that leaving did not require parliamentary consent. Rather astonishingly, that matter had to be taken to court, and it came to a fairly predictable conclusion. The next idea—I will not repeat what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire (Sir Oliver Heald) said—was that everything would be done by statutory instruments under broad powers. However, we are slowly getting to what I would have thought is the fundamental minimum that a real parliamentary democracy should be demanding: the country will not be able to enter into a binding treaty commitment until the details have received full parliamentary approval. How we get there is no doubt a matter of some difficulty, but it must be addressed.

I will give way in a second.

The debates on this Bill have typified this Government’s approach to parliamentary scrutiny. I understand their difficulties when they have no majority and their Members include people like me and those who are trying to interrupt me—we are allegedly on the same side of the House—who fundamentally disagree with each other.

I have attended every day of our debates on this Bill. We spent yesterday discussing parliamentary scrutiny, but our proceedings have not been a great advertisement for such scrutiny. The Government’s reaction to each and every proposal is to say how carefully they have listened, how important it is and how they will go away and think about it, but then to explain why the drafting of the Bill will not currently be amended. I am sure that I have done that myself when taking legislation through the House, and it is always a joy to find out that one can get away with it for quite a long time. After a bit, one gets used to the fact that one can get away with it as long as one is suitably polite and flattering to those who are proposing amendments. The actual reasons that have been given for rejecting proposals have been all about administrative convenience—that they are obscure drafting amendments. I congratulate the parliamentary draftsmen on creating arguments of such extraordinary minutiae to support the amazing aspirations of civil servants who see a mountain of work before them and hope that most of it can proceed with the minimum of political scrutiny.

What we have not heard, and I will have to hear it today, is the political argument against Parliament having a meaningful say. What is the constitutional argument that says Parliament should be denied a statute before the Government enter into all these commitments? I have not so far heard a word expressed to try to explain that to me. That should be the key, dominant thought in the Government’s mind as they negotiate. Of course they will have to think about what will satisfy the Foreign Secretary and the Environment Secretary, and of course they will have to get something for which the Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph and The Sun will criticise them least, and so on, but I do not think Parliament is an afterthought to those vital considerations; I think it is the parliamentary process that matters. The rest is a problem for some press officer.

Mr Marcus Fysh (Yeovil) (Con)

My right hon. and learned Friend said earlier that other Parliaments across Europe will have a say and we will not, but I posit that that is not true. This is about the withdrawal agreement, which will be agreed under qualified majority voting by the European Council, so it is not true that every Parliament across Europe will get a say on this subject.

Mr Clarke

Qualified majority voting is an excellent innovation achieved by the Thatcher Government when we were explaining to the other Europeans how they could have an effective free trade agreement. The number of times that British Governments have ever been outvoted under qualified majority voting is tiny. Qualified majority voting could be extremely important in these negotiations, because otherwise a Government of some small state—I will not name any, because they are all friendly—could suddenly decide they have some great lobby group at home that does not want to concede to the British something that the British Government have set out to achieve. The whole thing could then be held up.​

The agreement will have to go to all the Parliaments. The Parliament of Wallonia will no doubt be allowed to have a say, which, if this Government have their way, this Parliament will not. The Parliament of Wallonia will be allowed to have a say, and I am not sure whether the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments will—that remains to be seen. European Governments will all have to take a view and defend that view to their own Parliament in each and every case.

Mr Fysh

On a point of order, Dame Rosie. I seek your guidance on whether this is misleading the Committee. It is simply untrue to say that each Parliament will have a vote.

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Rosie Winterton)

It is disorderly to say that an hon. Member is misleading the Committee. I suggest that the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr Fysh) settles down and allows the Father of the House to continue.

Mr Kenneth Clarke

Qualified majority voting means that each Government cast a vote and, if we get a qualified majority, that is the effective decision. Each Minister who takes part in that vote is, of course, accountable to their own Parliament, to which they go home and defend their vote. If it is on a difficult, controversial subject, any sensible Minister—all those Ministers—will take the view of their Parliament before going to cast their vote on behalf of their country. It is utterly ludicrous to say that this Parliament should be denied a vote and not allowed a role because qualified majority voting somehow replaces it. My hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr Fysh) says that what I say is untrue and, with great respect, I would say that his argument is an absurdity.

Mr Baron

I respect my right hon. and learned Friend’s consistency on this issue. He is on public record as having once said that he looks forward to the day when the Westminster Parliament will be nothing more than a council chamber of the European Parliament.

When my right hon. and learned Friend says that leavers did not know what they were voting for, he risks sounding very condescending, because we knew exactly what we were voting for: to reclaim our laws and to reclaim our finances. Although one accepts his point that one cannot predict the future in any detail, that is as much true for the EU as it is for this country.

Mr Clarke

My hon. Friend is not the sort who usually repeats the more scurrilous right-wing rubbish that fanatical Eurosceptics come up with about what I have and have not said in the past. I am not, and never have been, a federalist. I would not pursue a united states of Europe. It is social media stuff to start throwing in that kind of thing when we are in the middle of a serious parliamentary debate.

When the public were invited to vote in a referendum, they were invited to take back control, which was not defined. It was mainly about the borders and about the 70 million Turks and all the rest of it. They were told in the campaign that our trade with the European Union would not be affected in any way. Indeed, that is still ​being held out as a prospect by the Brexit Secretary and others, who seem to believe that they will get unfettered trade without any of the obligations.

The discussions we have had in Committee on previous days about the details of what “single market” and “customs union” mean, and so on, would have been a mystery to anybody whose knowledge of the subject is confined to the arguments reported in the national media on both sides. Those arguments are largely rubbish, and it is now for this House to turn to the real world and decide in detail what we will do.

Anna Soubry

The Father of the House is right that there will be a qualified majority vote on the withdrawal agreement. That agreement will not go to each individual Parliament in the same way that the actual trade agreement will. Does he share the concerns of many people, as that now dawns upon them? They had thought that this place would have some sort of say on the trade deal—the actual final relationship that we will have with the European Union—but, actually, we will have no such say because the deal will not be finalised until after we have left the European Union. Does he agree that that is now concerning many citizens across the length and breadth of this land who did indeed apparently vote to take back control?

Mr Clarke

I agree entirely. My right hon. Friend eloquently underlines the point that the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford raised and that I am trying to make. We must have a meaningful vote before the final trade deal—indeed, the whole deal—is agreed by the Government.

Let me try to lower the temperature by going back, as I rarely do, to reminisce for a moment.

Sir William Cash

My right hon. and learned Friend and, I believe, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), both concede that amendment 7, at this crucial moment, is defective and would not work for a variety of reasons. I have indulged what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) has said about scrutiny and responsibility and the rest, but does he agree that it is not appropriate to press such an amendment to a vote when, in fact, it would make a nonsense of itself? It would be a meaningless vote about a meaningful vote.

Mr Clarke

No doubt my hon. Friend will catch your eye, Dame Rosie, when he will be able to explain why he thinks the amendment is technically defective, but this is the kind of argument we have had against every proposition that has been put forward throughout the passage of the Bill. I heard the Prime Minister personally promise us a meaningful vote and then go on to explain how the Bill would have to be used to make statutory instruments; so we are talking about the very wide powers in the Bill being used probably even before the end of the article 50 period—I think that is what she said. This amendment would prevent that; it would prevent those powers from being used until a statute has been passed by this House confirming its approval and also giving legal effect to whatever final agreement has been arrived at. I bow to my hon. Friend’s legal skill—he was indeed in parliamentary law when he practised—but I cannot for the life of me see why this is defective.​

I was about to end with a little reminiscing. I do not normally do that, because it is the last thing a veteran should do, but I keep being reminded of the European Communities Act 1972, the mirror image of which we are now producing. I hope the Committee will forgive me for looking back a little to think about what the reaction of that House of Commons, a much more powerful House of Commons than the present one, would have been if the Government of the day had come along with the kind of propositions we keep facing about the role of Parliament. The reaction across the House to being told there was going to be no parliamentary vote and it was all a matter of the royal prerogative would have been unrepeatable, from Enoch Powell to Michael Foot.

The key vote at that time was a vote in principle on the agreement that had been reached—it was different then, because we were applying for membership. The first thing was to get parliamentary approval. No one said that it was going to be non-binding or just a resolution, but there was a key resolution that determined whether we could go ahead at all. Some Conservatives voted against it, but a much bigger number of Labour Members voted in favour, giving it a very satisfactory majority. Then the whole process was subjected to debate on a Bill, at much greater length and in much greater detail than anything this House of Commons will ever be allowed, before there was the slightest prospect of the British Government thinking they would be able to ratify the agreement and commit us to European membership.

The current situation is a sad contrast with all that in many ways. It comes at a time when there is the utmost confusion about what our policy is, as we seek whatever destination we are eventually going to take when we reach agreement. Either new clause 3 or amendment 7 is the absolute minimum the Committee should be passing at this stage, in order to make it clear that binding commitments that affect future generations, changing our law in substantial ways, can be made only with the proper approval of both Houses of Parliament, following the full procedures that are necessary for statutory law.

Hilary Benn – 2017 Speech on EU Withdrawal Bill

Below is the text of the speech made by Hilary Benn, the Labour MP for Leeds Central, in the House of Commons on 13 December 2017.

I rise to speak to amendment 47, which stands in my name. It is a great privilege to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), who has shown great resolution, fortitude and reason in the face of unreasonable criticism. We admire him for it.

We are debating the single most important question in the Bill: how the House can exercise its view on the withdrawal agreement in a way that gives us control. ​“Control”—there is a word we have heard before. It resonated throughout the referendum campaign, but when Members start to argue that Parliament should have some control over this process, it seems to send shivers down Ministers’ spines.

Amendment 47 arises from an exchange that I had with the Secretary of State on Second Reading. When I asked him to give us a very simple assurance that clause 9 will not be used to implement the withdrawal agreement until Parliament has had the opportunity to vote on it, he replied:

“It seems to me to be logical”.—[Official Report, 7 September 2017; Vol. 628, c. 354.]

What has been set out in today’s written ministerial statement appears to give that undertaking, but if that is what Ministers are prepared to do, why not put that into the Bill? I similarly welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement that there will be separate legislation to implement the withdrawal agreement, but if Ministers are prepared to give that commitment, we want to see that in the Bill, too, which is why I shall vote for amendment 7.

The question has been asked—I want to ask it, too, because it has exercised the Select Committee—“What is clause 9 now for?” It is a very simple question indeed. Timing and the order in which these things are done are absolutely crucial in this debate, and that point was made forensically and forcefully by the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield. May I suggest a new principle? We often heard it said during reports back from the negotiations that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, so I suggest that we agree that nothing should be implemented until everything is agreed.

The written ministerial statement says something interesting, and rather puzzling:

“The Bill will implement the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement in UK law…Similarly, we expect any steps taken through secondary legislation to implement any part of the Withdrawal Agreement will only be operational from the moment of exit, though preparatory provisions may be necessary in certain cases.”

My simple question for Ministers is this: secondary legislation where, and arising from what? Does this refer to clause 9, which a lot of Members think should no longer be in the Bill, or is it advance notification that there will be provision for secondary legislation under the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill that we have been promised? We need some clarification.

My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook), who spoke so ably from the Front Bench, drew attention to the statement by the Secretary of State on 13 November in which he said, in announcing that Bill:

“This confirms that the major policies set out in the withdrawal agreement will be directly implemented into UK law by primary legislation”.—[Official Report, 13 November 2017; Vol. 631, c. 37.]

That is very interesting. I must confess that I did not understand the full significance at the time, so will Ministers also enlighten us on this? What are the major policies and what are the minor policies, and in which Bill, and by what means, will those minor policies be implemented?

The next issue of timing is the idea that exit day should be set as 11 o’clock in the evening of 29 March 2019. The Government amendment to implement that proposal would cause all sorts of trouble, not least ​because of the way that this Bill was originally drafted, as the Select Committee heard in evidence from Ministers, who confirmed that they would be able to set different exit days for different purposes. The Committee thought that that seemed to provide a great deal of flexibility, but the amendment would bring that possibility to an end, and in the process bind the Government’s hands to an hour of the clock on a day at the very moment when they may well need maximum flexibility so that they can bring the negotiations successfully to an end. The amendment really makes no sense.

As the Committee said in its report, the proposal would cause “significant difficulties” if the negotiations went down to the wire. Of course, we had the famous evidence from the Secretary of State in which he suggested that the negotiations might go to the 59th minute of the 11th hour, although since then there has been a certain amount of rowing back, because that would not be consistent with the pledge that we have been given. That was why the Committee said that it would not be acceptable for Parliament to be asked to vote after we had actually left the European Union. The timing of all this is absolutely fundamental to making the vote meaningful. A vote may be meaningless unless at some point in the procedure the timing ensures that it is meaningful. We have to get the order right.

Michel Barnier said at the start of the process that he wanted to bring the negotiations to an end next October. We have 11 months to go to deal with a very long list of issues that we have not even started to broach. The agreement that was reached last week, which we welcome, is the easy bit of this negotiation—the really difficult bit is about to begin. Those who had thought that leaving the European Union would be about keeping all the things they liked and getting rid of all the things they did not like are now in for a rude awakening as they come to realise that choices have consequences and trade-offs will need to be made.

Hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), have referred to the question of no deal. Without doubt, there is no majority in the House of Commons for no deal. Of course we hope that there will be a deal, because we want the best outcome for our country, but in the event that it all went wrong and Ministers came back to say, “I’m sorry, but no deal is on the horizon,” and all Parliament could do was to say, “We are going to reject this,” and be left with no other recourse, that would not constitute a meaningful vote, would it, not least because the clock would be running down?

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP)

The right hon. Gentleman is getting to the nub of the issue. If a meaningful vote, by his definition, means that Parliament should be able to say to the Government, “We don’t like the deal that you have got, and we’re not accepting no deal, so go back to the EU and negotiate another deal,” what chance does he think there is that those who do not want us to leave in the first place will ever offer a deal that this House could buy into?

Hilary Benn

The hon. Gentleman anticipates precisely the point that I was going to make—[Interruption.] I was. As we have already heard, all the Ministers and ​Prime Ministers who negotiate in this process will say at some point, either in the main forum or in other discussions, “I’ll never get this through my Parliament.” That is the accountability we are talking about. It is called democracy, and it is really important that Ministers, Prime Ministers and negotiators have that thought in their minds when they are negotiating on behalf of the country and the House. In such circumstances, I think the House would first want to ask why we were facing no deal, and it might well wish to give the Government fresh negotiating instructions. The House might want to tell the Government to go back in and say, “On reflection, we would like to suggest that we do the following.” There must be sufficient time for that to take place if we are going to get a reasonable deal.

Another point I want to make—I am conscious, Sir David, of what you said about the time—is that Ministers need to understand why they are having such difficulty with this fundamental debate on the Bill. It has to do with the history of the Government’s handling of the whole process. At every single stage, this House has had to demand our role and our voice. I remember the answer when people first asked what the Government’s negotiating objectives were: “Brexit means Brexit.” When a follow-up question was asked, we were told—

Paul Farrelly

A red, white and blue Brexit.

Hilary Benn

I am still wrestling with the concept of a red, white and blue Brexit, and I did not find it very enlightening.

The second answer was, “No running commentary,” but that eventually had to give way to the Lancaster House speech and a White Paper. Then we asked, “Will Parliament get a vote?” Almost exactly a year ago, when the Prime Minister last appeared before the Liaison Committee, I asked her that question. She was unwilling to give me a commitment on that occasion, but we all pressed, and in the end the Government conceded that there would be a vote.

We argued that there would need to be separate primary legislation to implement the withdrawal agreement, but what did the Government do? They produced this Bill, which says, “No, no. We’ll just do it all by statutory instrument.” That was until amendment 7 appeared on the horizon, at which point the Government changed their mind. If the Committee insists, as I hope it will, on amendment 7 later today, that will be because of our experience of the Government’s handling of the Bill so far. They have not acted in the spirit of seeking consensus, even though the Prime Minister said earlier that that was what she wanted to achieve.

The final point I want to make is simply this. Parliament has no intention of being a bystander in this process. We intend to be a participant, as I have said on a number of occasions, because this decision affects every part of the country, every business and every family. Today’s debate and vote are all about control, which must ultimately rest not in Ministers’ hands but in our hands. It is up to us to make sure that that happens.

Justine Greening – 2017 Speech on Social Mobility

Below is the text of the speech made by Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Education, at the Reform social mobility conference on 14 December 2017.

Thank you for that introduction and thank you to Reform, KPMG and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for bringing us all together today. I’m so pleased to have this chance to speak to all of you.

I’m going to talk about three things:

Firstly, the problem: why Britain has never cracked social mobility;

Secondly, solutions: my ambitions for helping everyone to become the best version of themselves through their education; and

Thirdly, everyone’s problem needs everyone’s solution – if we’re going to achieve anything then social mobility, equality of opportunity needs to be a common ambition – with schools, colleges, universities, but also businesses, civil society, local communities all playing their part.

The problem

So, firstly, setting out the problem. And I think of all the speeches I’ve made, this might be the most personal.

Because social mobility has been such an important part of my own life, I didn’t think I’d get to where I am now. Looking ahead as a child, I’m not sure I could ever have guessed I’d be doing what I’m doing.

I went back to my old school last month, Oakwood Comprehensive in Rotherham. We all start somewhere and that school was my start.

I spoke to some of the children who are there now, and met some of the teachers who taught me. It was a fantastic visit. And as I looked at the children there now, you can’t help ask a simple question: who could they be.

And that questions matters because too often in this country the answer to that question – for any child – is too much about where they happen to start.

The reality is that in modern Britain where you start still too often decides where you finish.

This is a defining challenge for us as a nation. We have talent spread evenly across this great country – the problem is that opportunity isn’t.

And for many people it’s a whole lifespan of missed opportunities. If you start school behind on your vocabulary and language skills, often you don’t catch up.

By the time you’re 11 you’re on a different path to your better off classmates, by the time you’re 16 and leaving school – you’re in a totally different place.

And once you enter the workforce, you may well have fallen too far behind to even think about competing for the most rewarding jobs. And, worst of all it’s always been like that for some people and some places in Britain.

But it doesn’t have to be.

And if we want to move things on from purely discussing the problem to articulating a real solution then we have to start by asking why haven’t we cracked it already? Why has social mobility been static for so long?

And I think it comes down to a number of things:

A simplistic search for the silver bullet policy, a magic wand that grants equality of opportunity at a stroke.

The fact that so many worthy social mobility initiatives have been driven by government alone. And that has meant chopping and changing on policy – with no longevity to any approach.

There’s been insufficient involvement from businesses, employers – who are, in any country, the opportunity makers.

Too often improving social mobility has been done to local communities rather than with them. We’ve had one size fits all policies, when what works in Derby is often, generally, going to be different to what works in Scarborough.
And for an individual, government’s attempts to improve their prospects have tended to come at sporadic moments in their life – sometimes when it’s already too late.

A new approach

So how do we move towards a solution?

I’m an optimist – I was optimistic about what I could achieve in my life and I’m optimistic about us changing the status quo in Britain today, and making sure that every child can go as far as their talent and hard work takes them.

To achieve this, I believe we need a new approach that’s:

Comprehensive – not just one silver bullet, but a portfolio, a strategy.

An approach that works across someone’s whole life.

A national strategy – but tailored for different local areas.

And a common mission that is shared not just by government but also by business, civil society and communities.

And today, I’m launching a plan which puts improving social mobility at the heart of all our education policy, for the first time. Schools and teachers are at the centre of this but they can’t tackle this on their own.

This will be driven by a Department for Education that finally now has all the right pieces under the same roof: from early years, to schools, to universities, to technical education, to apprenticeships, to adult learning.

And our plan doesn’t shy away from the complexities of tackling social mobility but it does put a structure, an architecture to it, to enable us to work in a more coordinated way.

So how does it fit together?

This plan is about education but it sits alongside wider Government efforts to create jobs, invest in housing and our new Industrial Strategy.

Crucially, the overarching ambition of this plan is to leave no community behind. We will relentlessly target effort and resources at the parts of our country where people have the toughest challenges and fewest opportunities.

I’m talking about those places where disadvantage builds and then accumulates. Where the schools and colleges struggle. Teachers aren’t attracted to work there, businesses don’t grow and invest there because there isn’t a ready-made skilled workforce on their doorstep.

And so talented young people, and these communities produce every bit as much talent as many others, have to leave to find opportunity elsewhere and the place stays as it was and local businesses still don’t do any better.

We need to reverse these negative cycles and that starts with education.

Right now we are now investing £41 billion in schools and that’s due to go up. Resourcing does matter. If we could buy our way out of this problem we’d have done it by now – but I’m determined to be more strategic about that investment and make sure our resources are targeted at those communities and schools that need them most.

So we’ll be targeting over £800 million of our current investment towards the more disadvantaged people and places.

I’m clear that this is the right thing to do – because everyone deserves a fair shot in life.

But unlocking Britain’s hidden talent is also the smart thing if we want to build a Britain that’s fit for the future. It’s an economic imperative as well as a social one.

Because if we could even just improve the attainment of disadvantaged children across the whole country to the same level as disadvantaged children in London, this alone would provide a boost of more than £20 billion to our economy.

And, ultimately, there is no question that if we’re going to make the most of ourselves as a country, and make Brexit a success then we need to make sure every person and every place is fulfilling its potential.

Lifestage ambitions

So all that means that no community left behind is our first overarching ambition. We will also take a whole life approach with four core life stage ambitions for overcoming disadvantage at every stage of someone’s life.

These ambitions are logical, they may seem obvious – but in the past we haven’t structured our work together like this. And if we achieve them, we can change this country for the better.

So, Ambition One starts at the beginning with the early years, improving early language and literacy so all children have the best start to their education, and can get on the right path, literally from day one.

And the research is clear – falling behind early on has a profound impact. Some children simply have less vocabulary, less reading ability, poorer language skills, so they can’t understand as much when they get to school and they can’t communicate as well as they need to.

And, actually, it is incredibly difficult for them to ever to catch up. If you’re not at the expected standard in language aged 5 then you’re eleven times less likely to achieve the expected level in maths at age 11.

That is why I am putting early language and literacy, closing the word gap, right at the top of my to do list.

We’re introducing new English hubs that will train specialist teachers in literacy and closing the word gap – these specialists will focus on the schools that need this most, in the most disadvantaged areas of the country.

Today I’m also announcing £50 million investment for nurseries in schools, which will be targeted at disadvantaged children so that the children who can benefit the most from high quality provision have more high quality places available.

We are also investing £20 million in the development of early years professionals.

And we will mobilise others who are in a position to help. We will train Health Visitors who routinely check on a child’s health at the age of two, on how to identify children who are already getting left behind on language skills – and how to support the parents who, overwhelmingly, want to do their best for their children but need to know better how.

Ambition Two and we move into school years, a more established part of the strategy. Closing the attainment gap, and making sure every child is at a good school where they can achieve their true potential.

We start here from a strong base – the reforms we’ve made over the last seven years have transformed much of the education system.

And standards are rising:

There are an 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools since 2010.

And thanks to our increased emphasis on phonics pupils in English schools are rising up the international league table in reading and literacy.
But it’s not everywhere and it’s not for every child.

In eleven London boroughs all children attend a good or outstanding secondary school; but only one in five pupils in Blackpool and Knowsley do.

This is a systemic problem and to change things we need to shift our focus. By investing in the teaching, the professionals on the frontline – developing the home grown teaching talent that’s already there and is the key to school improvement. And tomorrow I’ll be launching a consultation on strengthening Qualified Teacher Status.

And we will make schools in the more challenged areas real career hotspots by investing in the development of the teachers who go to build a career there.

And we’ll do more to make sure our strongest tools for school improvement are targeted towards the areas that need the most.

At the same time, we’re working on a new targeted approach for the most vulnerable children – Looked After Children, Children in Need, Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. It’s not acceptable that these children’s life chances are so much worse than their peers – they deserve a fair chance, like everyone else.

And for those bright children from less well off backgrounds who need a bit of extra help to fulfil their potential, I’m announcing a £23 million Future Talent programme, something I know the Sutton Trust has called for, for some time.

The attainment gap is closing but with our Ambition Two we need to work out how to close it once and for all.

Ambition Three is improving post 16 choices so all young people have the world class skills and qualifications to get on.

A key area here is technical education. We know that for too long, too many students going to Further Education colleges to gain a vocational or technical qualification have had to settle for second best.

They’ve had to navigate between thousands and thousands of possible qualifications – many of which hold little value to employers and don’t actually lead to the job they were hoping for.

And this, disproportionately, affects the most left behind places and people. Just under 75% of young people in Barnsley do Further Education – whereas in Kensington it’s 20%.

So in the greatest shake-up of Technical Education in 70 years we are introducing new T-Levels for 16 to 19 year olds, a proper, high quality alternative to A-Levels focused on routes to skilled employment. These will be backed by £500 million investment per year, and goes alongside our wider investment in apprenticeships and new Institutes of Technology.

And this is fundamental: unless we can strengthen post 16 education routes and make them gold standard for all our young people we won’t crack social mobility and we won’t make the most of our investment in those young people whilst they’re in schools and early years.

In summary – no more compromising on quality in Technical Education.

Ambition Four is making sure everyone can make smart career choices and progress in their careers so when young people do make the leap from education to the job market, it’s about more than just going into ‘work’. It’s about a career, not just a job.

In the past, this has been an area where we’ve essentially let people walk down a career of blind alleys – and not just at age 16 or 18. We haven’t offered enough guidance or support to people in work either.

And so too many people don’t get on the career path they’d like or that would suit or stretch them, because they lack the networks, the smart advice, the life skills and the confidence that employers look for.

So instead of careers with progression, these people end up trapped in low paying jobs.

We all lose from this.

Because Britain needs more skilled workers. We need more trained engineers, more modern construction workers, more coders.

But you can’t aim for an opportunity if you don’t know it exists – and that’s why we need businesses to show people the path forward into careers that they never thought were for people like them.

Alongside our Ambition 3, work on technical education, it’s why for the first time my department is building an unprecedented partnership with businesses up and down the country,

It’s why we held our first ever Skills Summit with major employers at the DfE two weeks ago.

And I believe business is up for this. In fact, we’ve got leading businesses and employers who are Skills Partners – committed to work with us.

And we will work together to create millions of career encounters for students, thousands of technical work placements, 3 million apprenticeships, many more in work retraining opportunities.

To achieve all this we must inspire, incentivise and also insist businesses of all sizes to reach out to the places that need the most support, following the example of businesses like KPMG who are second in the Social Mobility Employers Index.

All of this is a journey – but we have already made a start.

A common ambition

This leads me into my final point. This needs to be for everyone, everywhere, delivered by everybody.

This plan I’m launching today is a call to arms to join our national mission: to make a better offer to everyone growing up in this country,

To make life about what you can be – not where or how you start. For everyone to have the chance to become the best version of themselves.

I’ve said that social mobility initiatives in the past have had no longevity – that’s why this time we want to focus on building lasting success through partnership.

And so I’m asking employers, education professionals, communities, voluntary groups and many more to come together and join a united effort to put social mobility at the heart of your work.

This partnership is particularly vital at local level, and I believe we can already point to places where working in Partnership works.

I’ve established local Opportunity Areas in 12 of the places where poor social mobility is most entrenched, bringing together local schools, colleges, local businesses and local authorities to work with us and identify some of the key problems in their areas; be that the lack of good careers advice or too many children starting school behind on their vocabulary.

And they’re coming up with practical, concrete solutions and priorities. This is what we need – last mile politics, with national policy, but tailored at a local level and making sure it works in practice.

And it’s great to have some of the chairs and board members from Opportunity Areas here today. Thank you for everything you are already doing.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we all know what the prize is here. It’s every young person with opportunity on their doorstep – so they don’t have to move away from their roots to find it.

It’s communities feeling they have an actual stake in this country, an equal shot – no longer having to watch their best talent get up and go.

It’s businesses having the skilled workers they need to create prosperity and compete. It’s our economy finally operating to its true potential – a post-Brexit Britain that leads the world in skills, productivity and prosperity.

This is about lifting all of us up, smoothing the path for everyone – it’s all of us doing better. I believe, together, we can do something transformative.

I’ve said social mobility has been an important part of my own life. And one of the key things I’ve learnt is that optimism matters. A belief you can get to where you want to be.

I have optimism now that as a country we can crack this and get to where we need to be. It will take collective determination, persistence, single-mindedness, sheer bloody-mindedness. And an unbreakable conviction that things can change.

That’s how I think about this, that’s how I feel about this. If you care too, if you want equality of opportunity, now is the moment and you need to get involved.

I want everyone to get on board. But for those who want to stay focused on talking about the problem rather than helping with solutions, I ask just one thing – don’t complain change isn’t happening fast enough.

I want the widest coalition possible, one that goes way beyond government. It’s decision time if you want to play your part.

No country has got this right yet – but Britain can lead the way.

This should be what we stand for in the 21st century. A country like no other that has unlocked the talents of everyone for the benefit of all. It is possible, and it is now time to make it a reality.

Thank you.

Sajid Javid – 2017 Speech to Federation of Master Builders

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government in the Houses of Parliament in London, on 11 December 2017.

Good evening everyone, it’s great to see so many familiar faces and it’s a real pleasure to have you all here in Parliament.

As you know, the Palace of Westminster is beginning to show it’s age, we really do need to get the builders in.

I’m pretty sure I saw some of you pricing the job up on the way here!

And if you want to send your quotes to the Speaker, tell him Sajid sent you!

You are all, literally, master builders.

The FMB does great work in recognising that, certifying it.

Raising and maintaining standards.

And of course providing clients with the reassurance they need.

It’s a vital task.

After all, none of us are immune from the kind of shoddy workmanship the FMB protects against.

Even Winston Churchill.

When he was Prime Minister he complained that 10 Downing Street was, and I quote, “shaky and lightly built by the profiteering contractor whose name the street bears”.

Today, of course, the centre of government is strong and stable!

Although I’m sure John will take issue with that!

I want to start this evening by saying thank you to everyone in this room who helped us do something amazing last year.

217,000 net additions to the housing supply. The highest level in a decade, and an increase of 70% on what was achieved in 2009/10.

There’s still a long, long way to go but thanks to your hard work we’re certainly heading in the right direction.

Almost 40,000 of those net additions came about from change of use, including taking spaces above shops and turning them into homes.

This government has, quite rightly, put a lot of time and effort into regenerating high streets and strengthening local economies.

That has generally focussed on the retail side of things, but as the report you’re publishing today shows there is no reason why commercial and residential cannot coexist happily together.

I grew up in the flat above the family shop, so I’ve seen for myself how it can work not just in theory but in practice too.

That’s why last month’s Budget set out plans to make it easier to create quality homes in empty spaces above high street shops. And tonight is the first time I’ve heard John back the Budget, so well done to FMB for their lobbying!

So, Homes on our High Streets isn’t just a fascinating report, it’s also very timely contribution to the debate.

It puts forward some very interesting ideas and proposals; I was going through a draft this weekend.

And we’ll be looking at it very closely to see how it can help us to fix this country’s broken housing market.

Let me also take the time to thank Mark Prisk for all the work he has done, and for being the genesis of this report.

To do that, to fix the market, we’re going to have to create at least 300,000 homes each year.

And small and medium-sized builders are going to have big role to play in making that happen.

Our housing white paper was very clear on this.

Ever since the recession, the market has been dominated by a handful of very large developers.

It used to be the case that more than 60% of new homes were delivered by small firms.

Today the figure is half that, and that’s a tragedy.

I want to turn that around, to see more of you building more homes.

And we’re backing that with more funding – an additional £1.5 billion of short-term loan finance for SMEs, custom builders and innovators announced in the Budget.

We’re doing this because smaller firms are skilled at developing small sites, great at building out quickly, and have a strong track record of innovation.

And you also put a great premium on standards.

On quality.

When my dad was running his shop he had to make sure the clothes he was selling were of the highest quality…

…because he was selling them to the local community, to people he’d see every day.

And it’s the same for SME builders.

When you operate locally, your reputation is just as important as the work that you do.

That’s why membership of the FMB is such a badge of honour, it shows that you’re only happy with the best.

And it’s not just the quality of work that matters.

Quality of design is crucial too.

That’s not just my opinion – it’s something the great British public agrees with.

You know as well as I do that getting local communities onside is crucial to getting planning permission.

Well, almost three-quarters of people say they would support the building of more homes in their area if they were well-designed and in keeping with the local style.

People don’t like looking at identikt red-roofed boxes that could be basically anywhere in the country.

And nor should they.

Just because we need to build more homes it doesn’t mean we need to build ugly homes. Last month I was looking at RIBA’s House of the Year.

Make no mistake, the winner was undoubtedly a stunning piece of architecture.

But I’m not sure your average new-build 3-bed home has space for an art gallery, performance area and 27,000 fruit trees!

Good design doesn’t have to mean Grand Designs.

To be beautiful, to win that local support, new homes don’t have to make bold statements.

They just need to be an appropriate addition, something that local people want to live in and live next door to.

Last week we invited bids for our new fund that will help local authorities plan for growth and improve design.

But I want to go further.

So, in the spring, we will be working with the sector and with local government to host a national housing design conference.

It will be a showcase for ideas, insights and best practice from across the country and across the world, kicking off a real debate about how we can raise the design bar for everyone.

But I want you to be building houses that are worthy of your skills as master builders.

And this conference will go a long way to help making that happen.

As I said, there is still much to be done.

Still a long way to go to fix our broken housing market.

But with the FMB’s support, with your commitment to quality and innovation, I know that we can get there.

And I’m looking forward to making that journey with you.

Thank you.