Justine Greening – 2019 Comments on Brexit

Below is the text of the comments made by Justine Greening, the Conservative MP for Putney, in the House of Commons on 21 January 2019.

I wonder whether the Prime Minister and, indeed, the Leader of the Opposition recognise that with just two months to go, the past week has shown that party politics and Westminster will not deliver a resolution on Brexit, because party politics is not the same as Brexit—it is separate from party politics—so the situation will not change and the House will not find a route forward. The Prime Minister talks about social cohesion, but surely the most divisive thing to do would be for Members to vote through her deal knowing that our communities simply do not want it. Is it not time for us all to be honest about the fact that Parliament has run out of road? We have been debating for two and a half years; we could debate for another two and a half years and we still would not reach a resolution on Brexit. The only people who can do that now, surely, are the British people.

Ian Blackford – 2019 Comments on Brexit

Below is the text of the comments made by Ian Blackford, the SNP MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, in the House of Commons on 21 January 2019.

I thank the Prime Minister for the advance copy of her statement.

All of us share the Prime Minister’s abhorrence and disgust at the bombing in Derry over the weekend. We are delighted that the efforts of the emergency services ​ensured that there was no loss of life. In the light of that incident, however, it was disturbing to see media reports this morning of at least the potential reopening of the Good Friday agreement. I welcome the Prime Minister’s comments this afternoon, but will she confirm that she will seek neither to amend or to add to the Good Friday agreement in any way? Many of us remember the dark days that Northern Ireland went through. This weekend’s attack was a frightening reminder of the fragility of the peace in Northern Ireland.

On the subject of talks, the Scottish National party entered willingly into talks with the Prime Minister last week, and we remain ready to engage in those talks on the basis that we can discuss pausing article 50, taking no deal of the table, and a people’s vote. The Prime Minister talks about “no preconditions”, but in the letters that have gone back and forth between the two of us, she insists that the United Kingdom must leave the European Union on 29 March. That is not consistent with a desire to discuss a people’s vote. All preconditions must be taken off the table if we are to engage in meaningful dialogue. We know that the Prime Minister’s strategy is now to run down the clock. There is no sign that she is interested in meaningful talks or meaningful change.

Prime Minister, take no deal off the table. She tells me that she has no desire for no deal. The Foreign Secretary has no desire for no deal. The Chancellor has no desire for no deal. The Leader of the Opposition has no desire for no deal. The SNP has no desire for no deal, and nor do the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru or the Greens. Let us stop this charade. To have a people’s vote, we would have to extend article 50. It is not true that the only option is to revoke it—although we would welcome that. After last week’s result—a defeat by 230 votes—the Prime Minister has not come here with fundamental change. This Government are a farce and an embarrassment, and their leadership is shambolic.

The Prime Minister must now step up. We must extend article 50 and end this impasse by bringing forward a second EU referendum. Do it for all sorts of reasons, but do it for the EU citizens living in the UK and now facing a registration scheme. I am grateful—I congratulate the Prime Minister—for the fact that fees have been waived for EU nationals, after a campaign led by the Scottish National party and our Government in Edinburgh, but it is shameful that people here, many of whom have been living here for decades, are being forced to register to stay in their own home. That is the fundamental fact. Not in our name. Where is the humanity of this?

We in Scotland have another choice. We did not vote for Brexit. We will not be dragged out of Europe by a Tory Government we did not vote for. We might not be able to save the UK, but we can save Scotland. We have an escape route from the chaos of Brexit: an independent Scotland. Scottish independence will result in our country being a destination in Europe—a country at the heart of Europe, while the rest of the UK turns inward, isolated from its European neighbours. We want no part of it.

Kenneth Clarke – 2019 Comments on Brexit

Below are the comments made by Kenneth Clarke, the Father of the House and the Conservative MP for Rushcliffe, in the House of Commons on 21 January 2019.

As a supporter of the withdrawal agreement last week, I welcome the Prime Minister’s acceptance of the need for change in the light of the result and her reassurance that she will not compromise on a permanently open border in Northern Ireland, and that therefore any discussions that she has with the hard right wing on the Irish backstop will not compromise the commitment to a permanently open border.

Will the Prime Minister also consider reaching out to those remainers who are not yet convinced of her agreement by at least relaxing—if she cannot do a U-turn—her normal rejection of a customs union? I do not see outside powers lining up to do trade agreements to compensate us for leaving Europe. Will she also consider relaxing her resistance to regulatory alignment with Europe? Regulatory alignment is not inconsistent with some tightening up, at least, of free movement of labour. I urge her to be flexible on every front, because there was a large majority against the proposal last week. There are probably more remainers who voted against her than there are Brexiteers, and she needs to reach out to those remainers.

Jeremy Corbyn – 2019 Comments on Brexit

Below is the text of the comments made by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Commons on 21 January 2019.

I thank the Prime Minister for giving me an advance copy of her statement. I join her in condemning the car bomb attack we have seen in Londonderry at the weekend, and I commend the emergency services and local community for their response. The huge achievement of the Good Friday agreement in reducing violence in Northern Ireland must never be taken for granted. It was an historic step forward, and we cannot take it for granted.

The Government still appear not to have come to terms with the scale of the defeat in this House last week. The Prime Minister seems to be going through ​the motions of accepting the result, but in reality she is in deep denial. The logic of that decisive defeat is that the Prime Minister must change her red lines, because her current deal is undeliverable, so can she be clear and explicit with the House—which of her red lines is she prepared to move on?

The Prime Minister’s invitation to talks has been exposed as a PR sham. Every Opposition party politician came out of those meetings with the same response. Contrary to what the Prime Minister has just said, there was no flexibility and there were no negotiations—nothing has changed. [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister was heard and, when there was noise, I called for it stop. The same must apply to the Leader of the Opposition. No one in this Chamber will shout the right hon. Gentleman down. They need not bother trying, because they are wasting their breath.

Jeremy Corbyn

Thank you, Mr Speaker. However, I do welcome the commitment that the fee for EU citizens to apply for settled status will be waived.

The Prime Minister was fond of saying that this is the best possible deal on the table and that it is the only possible deal. However, our EU negotiating partners have been clear, saying that

“unanimously, the European Council have always said that if the United Kingdom chooses to shift its red lines in the future… to go beyond a simple free trade agreement… then the European Union will be immediately ready… to give a favourable response.”

The House voted to hold the referendum and to trigger article 50. There is a clear majority in this House to support a deal in principle and to respect the referendum result, but that requires the Prime Minister to face reality and accept that her deal has been comprehensively defeated. Instead, we now understand that the Prime Minister is going back to Europe to seek concessions on the backstop. What is the difference between legal assurances and concessions? What makes her think that what she tried to renegotiate in December will succeed in January? This really does feel like groundhog day.

The first thing the Prime Minister must do is recognise the clear majority in this House against leaving without a deal. She must rule out no deal and stop the colossal waste of public money planning for that outcome. Questions must also be asked of the Chancellor. He reassured businesses that no deal would be ruled out by the Commons, yet he sanctioned £4.2 billion to be spent on an option that he believes will be ruled out. Last week, the Foreign Secretary said that it was “very unrealistic” to believe that the House of Commons would not find a way to block no deal. Will the Prime Minister meet with her Chancellor and Foreign Secretary to see whether they can convince her to do what is in her power and rule out no deal? If she will not do that now, will she confirm to the House that, if an amendment passes that rules out no deal, she will implement that instruction? The Prime Minister agreed the backstop because of her pledge to the people of Northern Ireland to avoid a hard border, but no deal would mean a hard border in Ireland and would break the Prime Minister’s commitment. Is she seriously willing to accept a hard border?

Today heralds the start of a democratic process whereby this House will debate the amendments that will determine how we navigate Brexit. Of course, the Government ​tried to block us ever getting to this stage. They wanted no democratic scrutiny whatsoever. Labour has set out a proposal—I believe there may be a majority in this House for this—for a new comprehensive customs union with the EU that would include a say and a strong single market deal that would deliver frictionless trade and ensure no race to the bottom on workers’ rights or any other of the important regulations and protections that we currently have. As we have said consistently from the beginning, we will back amendments that seek to rule out the disaster of no deal and, as we have said, we will not rule out the option of a public vote. No more phoney talks. Parliament will debate and decide, and this time I hope and expect the Government to listen to this House.

Michael Ellis – 2019 Speech at Theatres Trust

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Ellis, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, at the Theatres Trust on 22 January 2019.

I am delighted to be here with you all today.

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this important launch. Let me first take the opportunity to thank the Theatres Trust for your contribution to arts and culture. You have continuously campaigned to ensure that theatre buildings, many of them with historical and cultural significance, are protected for generations to come.

It is vital that we continue to invest in arts and culture. This investment can help develop lifelong passions and create new opportunities for work.

Creativity, arts and heritage make our communities better places to live and theatres are an incredibly important part of that.

We know that British theatre is respected for its high-quality output and the skilled professionals, both on and off the stage, who keep the industry running. Theatre in England is vibrant and thriving, with a diverse range of artists and companies producing exciting and varied work.

A theatre can be a challenging but exciting place to work and I believe there are some great opportunities in the industry.

Not just for the highly-skilled and the longstanding practitioners of their craft, but for young people just starting out who can bring a fresh perspectives and hone their expertise.

Like you, this Government and I, are fully committed to ensuring that arts and culture are accessible to everyone.

To that end, theatres as physical buildings and the institutions that support them, take a central role when it comes to accessibility.

I am sure everyone here today is in agreement that anyone should be able to experience the magic of theatre. That audience members feel part of the work.

This is why the work of the Theatres Trust and their annual Theatres at Risk register plays such a significant role in ensuring we are all aware of some of these important cultural institutions which are at threat.

It is of great credit to the hard work of the Trust and the sector that two theatres that were on last years’ list have returned to live performance use – including the one where we are today – and two others are no longer at risk.

This is great news, thank you for work and your commitment to the industry.

It is also very pleasing to see that a number of other theatres, such as the Burnley Empire and the Bradford Odeon, amongst others have been making progress in securing their futures. I very much hope that this progress continues.

We know many of the Theatres on the list are experiencing financial problems.

We also know that the cultural and creative industries make a vast contribution to our economy, accounting for over 5% of UK GVA, and the Government is committed to supporting their growth.

Culture also has a significant role to play in place-shaping, as it has important social benefits in terms of health, education, community cohesion and wellbeing. Opportunities to engage in culture – be it arts, heritage, museums or film – can have a significant impact on our lives and create places where people want to live, work and do business.

This is where the theatre, as a physical building, can play a central role in making places better areas to live, and instill a sense of community. And it may be that placemaking that can help to protect some of these cultural assets.

Evidence from the UK and other countries shows a link between cultural investment in towns and cities and economic growth. Culture, sport and heritage assets create thriving, interesting areas where people want to live, work and set-up businesses.

Creative businesses particularly benefit from clustering around cultural assets.

The impact of place-based investment in arts and culture on the attractiveness of a city or town as a place to live in and invest can also be seen in the transformative effect of Hull’s highly successful year as UK City of Culture 2017.

Since 2013, investment in Hull has amounted to £3.3 billion and the city’s employment rate and number of businesses are at the highest ever recorded rate, including over 550 new cultural jobs.

This is why it is so encouraging to see more and more theatres working outside their own walls and using their programmes to engage the communities that surround them.

It is my hope that by continuing with such innovative, entertaining and relevant programming, public interest in our theatres can only increase.

As announced by the Chancellor in the 2018 Budget Statement, DCMS will be providing £55 million as part of the Future High Streets fund, dedicated to supporting the regeneration of high street heritage assets. Those much loved historic buildings that provide a sense of place, community identity and connectedness.

£40 million of this fund will be delivered through my Department’s Arms Length Body and statutory advisor Historic England to support a high street focused version of their successful Heritage Action Zones scheme, and £15 million will be delivered through the Architectural Heritage Fund to support community groups to take ownership of heritage assets.

This programme will aim to support the economic growth and regeneration of towns and high streets across England by improving their physical and economic condition as well as increasing community and investor confidence, social cohesion and pride in our places.

The programme will help to bring about the regeneration of high streets and town centres by identifying, targeting and de-risking heritage assets as well as diversifying and optimising their uses to meet a range of community needs.

As I have set out, Government believes that place-based cultural investments should be a key part of the local growth strategy for all towns and cities in England.

This is why we have recently introduced the Cultural Development Fund, a fund for towns and cities that want to transform their urban areas through culture-led strategies. We received many strong bids from towns across England, and as some of you will know, the Secretary of State announced the winning bids on Friday last week.

Going forward, there are great opportunities for theatres to play a central role in our vision, and I am sure that with the support of Government, organisations like the Theatres Trust and Local Authorities, we can all work together to ensure that our much loved theatres can continue to thrive across the country.

I would like to thank Theatres Trust again for inviting me along today to speak to you all, and thank you all for the outstanding contributions you continue to make to our nation’s theatre.

Karen Bradley – 2019 Statement on Terrorism in Northern Ireland

Below is the text of the statement made by Karen Bradley, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in the House of Commons on 21 January 2019.

With permission Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement to the House following the terrorist attack in Londonderry on Saturday evening.

As the people of the City and those visiting were making the most of the renowned hospitality on offer, a crude, unsophisticated – but dangerous – explosive device detonated as brave PSNI officers were clearing the area. CCTV released by the PSNI shows teenagers and others passing by only minutes before the device detonated. It is sobering to think that a truly sickening outcome by those responsible was only narrowly averted.

Firstly, I would like to pay tribute to the police and other emergency services who responded so magnificently in the immediate aftermath of this attack. It was through their urgent actions that we are not facing circumstances where there could have been casualties or even fatalities.

A nearby hotel was busy; a fundraising event was taking place in a hall adjacent to where the device exploded; and elderly residents in sheltered accommodation were all within yards of the explosion.

Those who planned this attack and who placed this crude device in a busy city centre had absolutely no regard for the people who live and work there.

Mr. Speaker, Hon and Rt. Hon members will be aware that there are a number of security alerts ongoing in Derry/Londonderry today and we are being kept informed of developments by PSNI who are working hard along with other agencies to ensure that this sort of mindless disruption is minimised.

Mr Speaker, those behind the attack will never succeed. Londonderry is a city that has thrived since the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement 20 years ago – everyone can see that – and one that will continue to grow and develop despite the actions of those who seek to sew discord and division.

And that’s why, Mr Speaker, the city has sent a clear message in the wake of this attack – these people and these actions have no place in their city. Political leaders, the business sector, those offering hospitality to a growing number of visitors to Northern Ireland, have all spoken out to challenge those who seek to continue with these violent and futile acts. The wider community in the city have also united their voices in condemnation. We should all listen carefully to what they say.

And to be clear, Mr Speaker, the City remains open for business – Londonderry’s Chamber of Commerce condemned the attack but were clear that it would not, “deter us from opening today and getting on with the job.”

The bottom line is that voices across the political, business and community spectrum are united. This is intolerable violence which has absolutely no place in our society. We all want to look forward and build a peaceful future for Northern Ireland. The small number of people responsible for this attack have absolutely nothing to offer Northern Ireland and will not prevail.

Violent dissident republican terrorists operate in relatively small, disparate groupings. Their campaign of hatred and violence is unfortunately nothing new. Law enforcement pressure has reduced the number of national security attacks in Northern Ireland. In 2018 there was only one national security attack, compared to five in 2017, four in 2016 and a total of 16 attacks in 2015. Although there has been a reduction in the overall number of national security attacks in recent years, vigilance in the face of this continuing threat remains essential. The current Northern Ireland Related Terrorism (NIRT) threat to NI is SEVERE (which means an attack is highly likely), this attack does not change this threat level.

While there have been many successes by the police and others, it is clear dissidents remain intent on killing. In attempting to impose their unwanted control on people across Northern Ireland, these groupings also choose to ignore democracy and consent, principles that have been, and will continue to be, central to the political process.

The Government have consistently made it clear that terrorism will not succeed and tackling it continues to be of the highest priority. We are determined to keep people safe and secure across the whole of our United Kingdom. Derry is a vibrant city with a bustling economy and an exciting arts and cultural scene, as demonstrated in 2013 when it was the UK’s City of Culture. Success breeds success. That is also why this Government has backed Londonderry, and will continue to do so. Building upon the £350m commitment we have made towards a Belfast City Deal, the UK government is equally committed to delivering a comprehensive package of economic support for Derry and Strabane. A city deal for Derry and Strabane will boost investment and productivity, generate jobs, and deliver growth and prosperity, and this activity has been supported by a number of visits by UK Government Ministers.

At the budget the Chancellor of the Exchequer opened formal negotiations for a Derry and Strabane City Region Deal. Those negotiations are underway, and it is crucial that this unique opportunity is grasped to unlock the economic transformation that the region needs and deserves.

But it is not just the UK Government who are backing Derry/Londonderry – from all across the world businesses recognise Londonderry for the great place that it is to do business. Whether it is financial services firms such as FinTru, or IT company Alchemy Technology Services, new jobs are being created every day in the city.

Finally – and in direct opposition to the kind of ideas and barbarism advocated by those responsible for Saturday’s attack – Londonderry continues to shine as a beacon of culture and progress on the Island of Ireland… as a major tourist destination and as a host for world renowned events like the Clipper round the world race.

As Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said yesterday, it’s not dissident republicans who hold the ground in Londonderry, it’s the community.

Anyone who has any information should pass it to the Police or anonymously to Crimestoppers.

Mr Speaker, I commend this statement to the House.

Greg Clark – 2019 Statement on Wylfa Newydd Nuclear Project

Below is the text of the statement made by Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in the House of Commons on 17 January 2019.

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement following Hitachi’s announcement that they intend to suspend development of the proposed Wylfa Newydd new nuclear project, as well as work related to Oldbury.

Mr. Speaker, the economics of the energy market have changed significantly in recent years. The cost of renewable technologies such as offshore wind has fallen dramatically, to the point where they now require very little public subsidy and will soon require none. We have also seen a strengthening in the pipeline of projects coming forward, meaning that renewable energy may now not just be cheap, but also readily available.

As a result of these developments over the last eight years we have a well-supplied electricity market. Our electricity margin forecast is currently over 11% for this winter – having grown for each of the last five years.

Whilst this is good news for consumers as we strive to reduce carbon emissions at the lowest cost, this positive trend has not been true when it comes to new nuclear. Across the world, a combination of factors including tighter safety regulations, have seen the cost of most new nuclear projects increase, as the cost of alternatives has fallen and the cost of construction has risen. This has made the challenge of attracting private finance into projects more difficult than ever, with investors favouring other technologies that are less capital-intensive upfront, quicker to build, and less exposed to cost overruns.

But as I made clear to the House in June, this government continues to believe that a diversity of energy sources is a good way and the best way of delivering secure supply at the lowest cost, and nuclear has an important role to play in our future energy mix. In my June Statement I therefore reaffirmed the government’s commitment to nuclear. I also announced that we would be entering into negotiations with Hitachi over their project at Wylfa. Given the financing challenges facing new nuclear projects, I made clear to the House in June that we would be considering a new approach to supporting Wylfa that included the potential for significant direct investment from the government.

Mr. Speaker, while negotiations were ongoing, I am sure the House will understand that the details were commercially sensitive, but following Hitachi’s announcement I can set out in more candid terms the support that the government was willing to offer in support of the project. Firstly, the government was willing to consider taking a one third equity stake in the project, alongside investment from Hitachi and Government of Japan agencies and other strategic partners. Secondly, the government was willing to consider providing all of the required debt financing to complete construction. Thirdly, the government agreed to consider providing a Contract for Difference to the project with a strike price expected to be no more £75 per megawatt hour.

I hope the House would agree that this is a significant and generous package of potential support that goes beyond what any government has been willing to consider in the past. Despite this potential investment, and strong support from the government of Japan, Hitachi have reached the view that the project still posed too great a commercial challenge, particularly given their desire to deconsolidate the project from their balance sheet and the likely level of return on their investment.

Mr, Speaker, the government continues to believe that nuclear has an important role to play, but critically it must represent good value for the taxpayer and the consumer. I believe the package of support that we were prepared to consider was the limit of what could be justified in this instance. I was not prepared to ask the taxpayer to take on a larger share of the equity, as that would have meant taxpayers taking on the majority of construction risk and the government becoming the largest shareholder with responsibility for the delivery of a nuclear project. I also could not justify a strike price above £75 per megawatt hour for this financing structure, given the declining costs of alternative technologies and the financial support and risk sharing already on offer from the government which was not available for Hinkley Point C.

I would like to reassure the House that Hitachi’s decision to suspend the current negotiations on the project was reached amicably between all parties once it became clear that it was not possible to agree a way forward. Hitachi have made clear themselves that while they are suspending project development at this stage, they wish to continue discussions with the government on bringing forward new nuclear projects at both Wylfa and Oldbury and we intend to work closely with them in the weeks and months ahead. We will also continue to strengthen our long-standing partnership with the Government of Japan on a range of civil nuclear matters. And importantly, we will continue to champion the nuclear sector in North Wales, which is home to world-leading expertise in areas such as nuclear innovation and decommissioning, and offers ideal sites for deploying small modular reactors.

Mr Speaker, if new nuclear is to be successful in a more competitive energy market – which I very much believe it can be – it is clear that we need to consider a new approach to financing future projects, including those at Sizewell and Bradwell. As I initially set out in June, we are therefore reviewing the viability of a Regulated Asset Base model and assessing whether it can offer value for money for consumers and taxpayers. I can confirm to the House that we intend to publish our assessment of this method by the summer at the latest.

Through our nuclear sector deal, we are also exploring working with the sector to put the UK at the forefront of various forms of nuclear innovation. We are therefore exploring whether advanced nuclear technologies, such as small modular reactors, could be an important source of low carbon energy in the future and are considering a proposal from a UK Consortium led by Rolls Royce that would result in a significant joint investment.

Finally, I started this statement by outlining the challenges that the nuclear industry faces as the energy market changes. I will set out a new approach to financing new nuclear as part of the planned Energy White Paper this summer. I know the future of the nuclear sector is of great interest to many Members of this House and I will ensure that Members across this House, and its Select Committee, have the opportunity to consider the proposals.

Mr. Speaker, I understand the disappointment the dedicated and expert staff at Wylfa and Oldbury will feel as a result of today’s announcement by Hitachi. New commercial nuclear investments around the world over are experiencing the same challenges as new sources of power become cheaper and more abundant.

Nuclear has an important role to play as part of a diverse energy mix, but must be at a price that is fair to electricity bill payers and to taxpayers. We will work closely with Hitachi and the industry to ensure that we find the best means of financing these and other new nuclear projects. And our commitment to Anglesey – with nuclear, renewables, and the deep expertise that it has, a real island of energy – will not be changed by this decision. I will work with the member for Ynys Môn, the Welsh Government and the local community to ensure its renown is supported and strengthened, and I will do the same with my Honourable Friend the Member for Thornbury and Yate.

I would like to pay tribute to the staff of Horizon, Hitachi and to my own officials and those of in the Department of International Trade and the Government of Japan, who have spent many months doing their utmost to support a financing package. I know that they left no stone unturned in seeking a viable commercial model for this investment and I very much hope that their work and professionalism will lead to a successful partnership following this period of review.

I commend this statement to the House.

Theresa May – 2019 Speech at Burns Supper

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, at a Burns Supper gathering at 10, Downing Street on 21 January 2019.

It is great to be able to welcome you here to Downing Street this evening for Burns Supper, this is the second one I have had the pleasure of hosting.

This house of course, has been the home of Prime Ministers of Great Britain and then of the United Kingdom since 1732, 25 years after the Acts of Union that created that single kingdom of Great Britain. So from the start, this house has been symbolic of that union.

It is important to me in everything we do here, and indeed in everything we do as a government, that we reflect the fact that the United Kingdom is a union of four nations. Our country has great diversity within it and we rightly celebrate that diversity. What we actually do in coming together is combine to make something greater than the sum of its parts and it is something that is unique and inspiring.

Of course, Scotland is an absolutely integral part of our United Kingdom – economically, socially and culturally.

Tonight of course in Robert Burns, we are celebrating a Scottish and British cultural icon, one of the finest poets in any language. It is a chance to celebrate a great poet, a great nation and an enduring union. Have a really good evening.

Damian Hinds – 2019 Speech Opening Education World Forum

Below is the text of the speech made by Damian Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education, on 21 January 2019.

Dear Ministers, colleagues, your Royal Highness and ladies and gentlemen. It’s a great pleasure to welcome you all here to London and to this 16th Education World Forum.

I know a huge amount of work has gone on behind the scenes to prepare for a day like this – and I’d like to start by thanking the very dedicated team who, year after year, make these forums such a success.

As I look around the room today, of course, we hail from all corners of the world, we have different cultures, different languages, different weather. Our experiences, our perspectives will be very different.

But some things are the same the world over – the fundamental importance of education, investing in training and shaping the next generation – this is something that every country represented in this room shares.

This is partly plain economics. As Benjamin Franklin once said: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

But it’s also about business economics and about national economics. If you want to build a more productive, effective economy – then you will need a highly skilled workforce.

And today of course, new technologies and industries are reshaping our world at lightning speed. But even in a world of thinking machines, of artificial intelligence, of robots and autonomous vehicles, it’s people that are imagining and building this high-tech future.

Any country that wants to prosper in tomorrow’s world will need to invest in their future workforce.

Because countries need, the global economy needs, more technicians, more managers, more innovators and more creators. We need engineers, coders, welders.

For the sake of our nations’ health we need more doctors, more nurses, more radiologists. And, of course, all of us need teachers.

And is it good enough to train up a few, or even a third or half the population? No – the most successful countries are drawing on all their talent, all their human resources.

But of course people aren’t just resources. They are individuals, individuals with a moral right to realise that spark of potential that exists in us all. And we realise that potential, in large part, through what we are here to talk about today, our education.

It’s not only that a good education helps you find skilled, rewarding work. It’s that everyone should have a chance to discover the joy that comes through learning. When we grow up with a thirst for knowledge, a curiosity about the world, an understanding of our and other cultures – we are happier, more fulfilled. We learn to be ourselves as we should and can be.

And of course we know that access to education is empowering. It empowers girls and women, it empowers the poorest, it empowers the downtrodden.

An education gives people the skills and the knowledge to pull themselves up. It can mean leaving a narrow existence behind to discover a whole world of opportunities.

And your education stays with you. It defines your future path, whatever start you may have got in life. Wherever you go in the world – this is a universal truth.

You can visit a refugee camp or a disaster zone, somewhere people are battling for survival – needing food, water, a roof over their head.

And yet, if you talk to the parents – one of their first priorities is getting their kids back to school, reading textbooks, learning. Because education is always key to a better future.

That’s why as a global community, as a world, we made it our shared mission to bring education to all, as set out in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.

But this is not just the right thing to do. It’s crucial for global stability, prosperity and peace.

When we co-hosted the Syria conference here in London three years ago, alongside humanitarian relief, we committed to educating Syria’s children, preventing a lost generation. A generation that could grow up alienated, despairing, in some cases vulnerable to toxic messages from extremists.

Great education can promote cultural and religious understanding, by teaching tolerance, by encouraging empathy and understanding for different points of view. Education means asking questions, coming out of our own narrow parameters…

Remember what Malala told the UN after being shot in the head for going to school: “The terrorists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them.”

The power of education. All of us here share in that immense privilege, the awesome responsibility, of sharing in the shaping of the next generation by providing them with a good education.

And we come here to this Education World Forum not so much as competing nations, but in the spirit of cooperation…

Civilisation arguably began when we found ways to record knowledge and pass on to next generation. When I spoke here a year ago, I said most of what is good in the world – great inventions, everyday conveniences – most of it exists only because we share knowledge or the fruits of knowledge.

So while our countries may seek to race ahead when it comes to creating more prosperous economies, exploiting new technologies, training more skilled workers – the pursuit of knowledge can, and does, transcend this competition.

Here at this Forum, we share our experiences, we share our expertise, we look at our innovations. We’ll be hearing from Education Ministers from Vietnam, Kenya, Albania to name a few, as well as organisations like the World Bank and Microsoft.

I know that Andreas Schleicher of the OECD spoke earlier, discussing their latest report which poses questions about the role education can play in lifting individuals out of poverty, promoting economic growth and creating responsible citizens.

The work of the OECD is also hugely valuable, precisely because it helps countries to work together, to learn from each other, to help each other.

There is also, of course, a commercial marketplace for education innovation. Indeed, there are few better examples of that marketplace than the BETT fair starting immediately after this forum.

As ever, this will be an amazing showcase of educational technology. Edtech that has been created to solve some of our most critical challenges – be it better training for teachers or helping children with disabilities to communicate in the classroom.

And for some countries, we offer direct aid to children who would otherwise miss out on an education.

I mentioned the UN’s global goal of education for all. Of course that is an enormous challenge. In the next decade, a billion more young people around the world will enter the jobs market, yet more than half of the world’s primary children are on track to leave primary school unable to read or write.

I’m proud of the work the UK is doing here. In the last three years alone supporting more than 11 million children in some of the poorest and most fragile places in the world, to access quality education, starting with the basics of literacy and numeracy.

I believe this is one of the best uses of international development spending. Because of the way education can put individuals on a different path, and, ultimately, put their countries on the path to development and independence. And yes we need more countries, in fact all countries, to honour their commitments to maximise this opportunity.

But beyond development – my country is committed to sharing and learning from you all.

As Education Secretary – and I’ve been in the job for exactly a year now – I believe our education system has enormous strengths – but that we also have much more work to do.

During my time in this job, one thing I’ve noticed is how frequently the same things up in conversations. I speak to my counterparts around the world and certain things come up time and again:

Teacher recruitment and retention;

Reaching the most marginalised families and communities; and

Creating parity of esteem between academic learning and technical and vocational training.

Different countries, different systems – but strikingly similar challenges. That’s why we have been determined to learn from the world.

For example, to improve maths teaching, we turned to China. Some 12,000 of our teachers have the opportunity to watch demonstration lessons by top Shanghai teachers. Or when we set about creating a more rigorous curriculum for our schools, we drew on Singapore’s curriculum and textbooks.

And our efforts to put teachers and school leaders in the driving seat, have – in part – been inspired by our visits to US Charter schools, where they have the freedom to innovate.

It doesn’t stop there. One of my top priorities is putting our technical and vocational education on par with the world’s best.

And, to this end, I’ve been on fact-finding missions to Germany and the Netherlands. Visiting top-performing technical colleges, meeting leading employers.

You learn a lot on these visits. But one thing that particularly struck me was the level of business involvement in training up the future workforce, not just co-designing courses, providing placements but sharing the responsibility, the ownership, for human capital formation, alongside the other equivalent investments.

Now as we transform technical and vocational education in this country, we too are seeking to put businesses at the heart of training up the next generation.

Our employers are designing our new, higher quality apprenticeships, which are longer and include more off-the-job training.

They are also designing course content for our new T Level qualifications, a technical equivalent to academic A-levels that will focus on teaching students the practical skills needed to do a specific job.

And at the core of this course is an intensive, three month, industry placement – where students put into practice what they’ve learnt.

Of course, I’m pleased to say, there are also things we do extremely well here and people come to learn from us.

Every year, my Department receives in the region of 100 visits from overseas governments and organisations. Last year this included teachers from Hungary and Japan interested in our policy reforms to improve initial teacher training and continuing professional development.

Politicians and officials from Ghana, Belgium, Croatia and Singapore interested in how we are scaling up apprenticeships.

Ministers and senior officials from the USA, Denmark, Malaysia and more have come to see what we’re doing on school autonomy, how we are putting more power in to the hands of head teachers and school leaders through our academies and free schools.

One area I’m particularly proud to showcase to the world, is our work narrowing the attainment gap between rich and poor students.

This is a global issue: the average gap in performance between disadvantaged and advantaged students internationally is worth three years of schooling.

Here, we’ve made narrowing that gap and targeting the most disadvantaged a top priority.

We are investing in more and better pre-school education, so more children can start school really ready to learn. We are currently piloting reforms to the Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework which aim to free up teachers to spend more time on helping children develop the vocabulary, skills and behaviours they need to thrive at school and in later life.

As part of this we introduced 15 hours of free early education a week for the most disadvantaged two-year-olds in the country.

On top of the existing 15 hours free childcare offer for all three-and-four-year-olds, which we doubled to 30 hours for working families.

We’ve given schools the autonomy to work together and make their own improvements.

And we reformed our funding system for schools so that we now direct more funding the poorer, disadvantaged children than richer ones.

In particular, we introduced the Pupil Premium – an additional grant for schools that they can use to help those children who have more barriers to overcome, including children who are looked after by the state and children with disabilities. Two million pupils benefit from this grant every year.

And schools up and down the country have used the Pupil Premium to get better outcomes for pupils from the toughest backgrounds, pupils facing the biggest barriers.

We’re also spreading the best ideas on how to prioritise the most disadvantaged. We founded our Education Endowment Foundation to run trials in hundreds of schools to find and promote the most effective ways of working with disadvantaged children.

And last week I announced a new £2.5million fund to give disadvantaged children the chance to go on international exchanges and study trips abroad, to give them the chance to experience different cultures and improve their language skills.

And these reforms are working. We have narrowed the attainment gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their better off peers at every level of education – at pre-school, at primary school, at secondary school and on entry to university.

Perhaps the biggest change we’ve seen in the last two decades is schools right here in London. Twenty years ago London schools were some of the worst in the country – now they’re are among our very best.

But there’s always more to do.

Now we must replicate the London effect elsewhere and spread opportunity across the country. Through initiatives like Opportunity North East, which I launched last year. My department will be working with the North East’s schools, colleges, universities and critically employers to help more young people in this region reach their potential.

While rightly entire regions have needs, we are also more sharply focused now on the particular issues in smaller geographies – communities that have seen significant industrial change for example, sparse rural areas, or coastal towns.

We are rethinking, what I call, the ‘face of disadvantage’.

While ethnic minorities still have labour market outcomes that are not good enough, one of our lowest-performing groups is in fact white working class boys.

Of course, there are areas where no country has all the full answers yet.

Take the Home Learning Environment – the home can feel like the last taboo in public policy. But we can’t afford to ignore it, what happens at home is crucial to what happens at school and a child’s development. So we have struck a partnership with public and private sector groups to see how best we can support parents in a child’s early development in the digital age.

Then there’s adult retraining – so relevant in our fast changing world, with AI, robotics and other technology likely to replace, create and change jobs. We are designing a new National Retraining Scheme.

And, finally, a big one for me is character. When it comes to forging a successful path through life, clearly it’s not just about the qualifications you pick up – it’s also your strength of character and what’s inside, your resilience, your confidence and your ability to bounce back from the knocks that life inevitably brings.

Fundamental issues – these are things I hope we’ll be sharing our experiences and insights on this week, on the conference floor, in bilateral meetings, and in coffee breaks, again and again in the years ahead. Because there is non practical limit to what we can achieve here.

We all share this unique responsibility – the responsibility of shaping the next generation.

What happens in your nurseries, your schools, your colleges, your universities has an enormous and far-reaching impact on all our societies, on our world.

Ultimately, the EWF Forum is not actually an event. It is a group of people. It’s about us, it is about you and me and the person sitting next to you. It is about us coming together to share and learn, to work together to deliver a world-class education for all our children.

Theresa May – 2019 Statement on Brexit

Below is the text of the statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, to the House of Commons on 21 January 2019.

Mr Speaker, I am sure the whole House will join me in condemning Saturday’s car bomb attack in Londonderry – and paying tribute to the bravery of the Northern Ireland Police and the local community who helped to ensure that everyone got to safety.

This House stands together with the people of Northern Ireland in ensuring that we never go back to the violence and terror of the past.

Mr Speaker, turning to Brexit, following last week’s vote it is clear that the Government’s approach had to change.

And it has.

Having established the confidence of Parliament in this government I have listened to colleagues across parliament from different parties and with different views.

Last week I met the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the Westminster leaders of the DUP, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, and backbench members from both sides of this House.

My Right Honourable Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster also had a number of such meetings.

The Government has approached these meetings in a constructive spirit, without preconditions, and I am pleased that everyone we met with took the same approach.

I regret that the Right Honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has not chosen to take part so far. I hope he will reflect on that decision.

Given the importance of this issue we should all be prepared to work together to find a way forward. And my Ministerial colleagues and I will continue with further meetings this week.

Let me set out the six key issues which have been at the centre of the talks to date.

The first two relate to the process for moving forwards.

First, there is widespread concern about the possibility of the UK leaving without a deal.

And there are those on both sides of the House who want the Government to rule this out.

But we need to be honest with the British people about what that means.

The right way to rule out No Deal is for this House to approve a deal with the European Union.

That is what this Government is seeking to achieve.

The only other guaranteed way to avoid a No Deal Brexit is to revoke Article 50 – which would mean staying in the EU.

Mr Speaker, there are others who think that what we need is more time, so they say we should extend Article 50 to give longer for Parliament to debate how we should leave and what a deal should look like.

This is not ruling out no deal, but simply deferring the point of decision.

And the EU are very unlikely simply to agree to extend Article 50 without a plan for how we are going approve a deal.

So when people say “rule out No Deal” the consequences of what they are actually saying are that if we in Parliament can’t approve a deal we should revoke Article 50.

Mr Speaker, I believe this would go against the referendum result and I do not believe that is a course of action that we should take, or which this House should support.

Second, all the Opposition parties that have engaged so far – and some backbenchers – have expressed their support for a Second Referendum.

I have set out many times my deep concerns about returning to the British people for a Second Referendum. Our duty is to implement the decision of the first one.

I fear a Second Referendum would set a difficult precedent that could have significant implications for how we handle referendums in this country – not least, strengthening the hand of those campaigning to break up our United Kingdom.

It would require an extension of Article 50. We would very likely have to return a new set of MEPs to the European Parliament in May.

And I also believe that there has not yet been enough recognition of the way that a Second Referendum could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.

Mr Speaker, we do not know what the Rt Hon Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, thinks about this, because he has not engaged.

But I know there are Members who have already indicated that they wish to test the support of the House for this path.

I do not believe there is a majority for a Second Referendum.

And if I am right, then just as the Government is having to think again about its approach going forwards, then so too do those Members who believe this is the answer.

The remaining issues raised in the discussions relate to the substance of the deal – and on these points I believe we can make progress.

Members of this House, predominantly but not only on the Government benches and the DUP, continue to express their concern on the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop.

All of us agree that as we leave the European Union, we must fully respect the Belfast Agreement and not allow the creation of a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland – nor indeed a border down the Irish Sea.

And I want to be absolutely clear, in the light of media stories this morning, this Government will not reopen the Belfast Agreement. I have never even considered doing so – and neither would I.

With regard to the backstop, despite the changes we have previously agreed, there remain two core issues: the fear that we could be trapped in it permanently; and concerns over its potential impact on our Union if Northern Ireland is treated differently from the rest of the UK.

So I will be talking further this week to colleagues – including in the DUP – to consider how we might meet our obligations to the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland in a way that can command the greatest possible support in the House.

And I will then take the conclusions of those discussion back to the EU.

From other parts of this house concerns have also been raised over the Political Declaration.

In particular, these have focused on a wish for further precision around the future relationship.

The Political Declaration will provide the basis for developing our detailed negotiating mandate for the future.

And this new phase of negotiations will be different in a number of ways. It will cover a far broader range of issues in greater depth, and so will require us to build a negotiating team that draws on the widest expertise available – from trade negotiators to security experts and specialists in data and financial services.

And as we develop our mandate across each of these areas I want to provide reassurance to the House.

Given the breadth of the negotiations we will seek input from a wide range of voices from outside Government.

That must include ensuring Parliament has a proper say, and fuller involvement, in these decisions.

It is Government’s responsibility to negotiate, but it is also my responsibility to listen to the legitimate concerns of colleagues, both those who voted Leave and who voted Remain, in shaping our negotiating mandate for our future partnership with the EU.

So the Government will consult this House on its negotiating mandate, to ensure that Members have the chance to make their views known, and that we harness the knowledge of all Select Committees, across the full range of expertise needed for this next phase negotiations – from security to trade.

This will also strengthen the Government’s hand in the negotiations, giving the EU confidence about our position and avoiding leaving the bulk of Parliamentary debate to a point when we are under huge time pressure to ratify.

I know that to date Parliament has not felt it has enough visibility of the Government’s position as it has been developed and negotiated. It has sought documents through Humble Addresses, but that mechanism cannot take into account the fact that some information when made public could weaken the UK’s negotiating hand.

So as the negotiations progress, we will also look to deliver confidential committee sessions that can ensure Parliament has the most up-to-date information, while not undermining the negotiations.

And we will regularly update the House – in particular before the six monthly review points with the EU foreseen in the agreement.

While it will always be for Her Majesty’s Government to negotiate for the whole of the UK, we are also committed to giving the Devolved Administrations an enhanced role in the next phase, respecting their competence and vital interests in these negotiations.

I hope to meet both first Ministers in the course of this week and will use the opportunity to discuss this further with them. We will also look for further ways to engage elected representatives from Northern Ireland and regional representatives in England.

Finally, we will reach out beyond this House and engage more deeply with businesses, civil society and trade unions.

Fifth, Hon Members from across the House have raised strong views that our exit from the EU should not lead to a reduction in our social and environmental standards – and in particular workers’ rights.

So I will ensure that we provide Parliament with a guarantee that not only will we not erode protections for workers’ rights and the environment but we will ensure this country leads the way.

To that end my Rt Hon Friend the Business Secretary indicated the Government’s support for the proposed amendment to the meaningful vote put down by the Hon Member for Bassetlaw – including that Parliament should be able to consider any changes made by the EU in these areas in future.

Mr Rt Hon Friend and others will work with members across the House, businesses and Trade Unions, to develop proposals that give effect to this amendment, including looking at legislation where necessary.

Sixth, and crucially, a number of Members have made powerful representations about the anxieties facing EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU who are waiting to have their status confirmed.

We have already committed to ensuring that EU citizens in the UK will be able to stay, and to continue to access in-country benefits and services on broadly the same terms as now, in both a deal and a no deal scenario.

Indeed, the next phase of testing of the scheme for EU nationals to confirm their status has launched today.

And having listened to concerns from Members – and organisations like the “The 3 Million” group – I can confirm today that when we roll out the scheme in full on 30th March, the government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay. And anyone who has or will apply during the pilot phase will have their fee reimbursed. More details about how this will work will be made available in due course.

Some EU Member States have similarly guaranteed the rights of British nationals in a No Deal scenario – and we will step up our efforts to ensure that they all do so.

Mr Speaker, let me briefly set out the process for the days ahead.

In addition to this statement, today I will lay a Written Ministerial Statement, as required under section 13(4 and 5) of the EU Withdrawal Act – and table a motion in neutral terms on this statement, as required by section 13(6).

This motion will be amendable and will be debated and voted on in this House on 29th January.

And I will provide a further update to the House during that debate.

To be clear, this is not a re-run of the vote to ratify the agreement we have reached with the European Union, but the fulfilment of the process following the House’s decision to reject that motion.

Mr Speaker, the process of engagement is ongoing.

In the next few days, my ministerial colleagues and I will continue to meet with Members on all sides of the House, and with representatives of the trades unions, business groups, civil society and others as we try to find the broadest possible consensus on a way forward.

Whilst I will disappoint those colleagues that hope to secure a second referendum, I do not believe that there is a majority in this house for such a path.

And whilst I want to deliver a deal with the EU, I cannot support the only other way in which to take No Deal off the table, which is to revoke article 50.

So my focus continues to be on what is needed to secure the support of this House in favour of a Brexit Deal with the EU.

My sense so far is that three key changes are needed.

First, we will be more flexible, open and inclusive in the future in how we engage Parliament in our approach to negotiating our future partnership with the European Union.

Second, we will embed the strongest possible protections on workers’ rights and the environment.

And third, we will work to identify how we can ensure that our commitment to no hard border in Northern Ireland and Ireland can be delivered in a way that commands the support of this House, and the European Union.

In doing so, we will honour the mandate of the British people and leave the European Union in a way which benefits every part of our United Kingdom and every citizen of our country.

And I commend this Statement to the House.