Ben Bradshaw – 2019 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP for Exeter, in the House of Commons on 1 April 2019.

While the headlines that greeted last week’s indicative votes, saying that they were a shambles and chaos, were patently ridiculous, given that it was the first time that we were given the opportunity to discuss these options after two and a half years of the Government failing to get a consensus, it would be helpful if we made progress today. As other Members have said, that will involve all of us not just sticking to our first preference but voting for our second preference and, indeed, any preference that we can live with. That is certainly something that I shall be doing. I will support Labour’s unanimously agreed conference policy in favour of a public vote, and I am minded to support the motion in the name of the Father of the House. However, I and other hon. Members have concern about that and about the length of the extension, because I do not want the Prime Minister to pocket it, add it to her political declaration and take us out of the European Union on 22 May. I do not think that would be acceptable.

I have similar concerns about the motion in the name of the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles). It is better—it takes away all the stuff about the free movement of labour—but it still has only a temporary customs union and could still be bagged by the Prime Minister and added to the political declaration, and we would be out within in a few weeks.

Sir Oliver Letwin

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that the only way in which the Government can carry this forward, if there is a cross-party consensus, ​is by bringing in something like the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill, which would give his party the opportunity to seek to amend it, no doubt with much support around the House, to prevent the eventualities that he is talking about.

Mr Bradshaw

I very much hope the right hon. Gentleman is right, and I take his point on that. I also want absolutely to agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett). If we get progress today and a majority on one or more of these options, my view is that basing the future of our country on a majority that has been agreed in Parliament among Members of Parliament, for whom it might have been not their first preference but their second or third, will lack not only long-term legitimacy but sustainability. It will be impossible for us as a House or for any Government to take this forward without it being ratified in a confirmatory vote by the British public. That is why, whatever happens tonight, I think we are going to have to accept the principle that the Brexit that is now on offer is so different from the Brexit that was offered in 2016 that it would be undemocratic and illegitimate not to give the people a final say on it.

I want to say one last thing about the motion in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry). I will support that motion and, as I said earlier, I cannot see any reason for anybody—unless they actively want a no-deal Brexit—not to support it tonight. I hope that Labour Front Benchers might support it tonight and that they will support it on Wednesday, if it comes to that, because we have to have an insurance policy against a no-deal, crash-out Brexit. More than 6 million members of our community are demanding it, and I urge all hon. Members, on both sides of the House—it is only a recommendation for Opposition Members—to vote for the motion and to do so with enthusiasm.

Ben Bradshaw – 2016 Speech on Cycles on Great Western Railways


Below is the text of the speech made by Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP for Exeter, in the House of Commons on 11 July 2016.

I am going to tell the House a story about myself—although it is not just about me but about the thousands of people who use the Great Western Railway service every year, and the many thousands who have signed a petition protesting about its so-called new policy.

I have not owned a car for more than 20 years. Before being elected to the House and every week since then, I have cycled from this place to Paddington railway station, put my bicycle on a train, travelled back to Exeter, taken my bicycle off the train, and gone about my constituency business. At the end of the weekend, I have done the same in reverse. First Great Western—or Great Western Railway, as it has now rebranded itself—has had a perfectly good and workable cycling policy, which has encouraged people to book a space in advance but has allowed people such as me to turn up and, if there is space in the cycling carriage, to put their bicycles on board. There is a designated space at the front of the train, with room for six bicycles.

In the nearly 20 years for which I have represented Exeter in the House, I have generally not reserved a space. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of occasions on which I have arrived at Paddington or Exeter and not been able to get my bike on to a train because it has been full. There are nearly always spaces in the cycle carriages. So the House will understand why, when I was told by a Great Western Railway employee at Exeter station in April that the company was about to introduce a compulsory booking system for people with bicycles, I was somewhat concerned. I immediately asked to speak to a senior manager, who reassured me that this was not the case, and that discretion would be allowed. However, I took the precaution of writing to the managing director of Great Western Railway asking him to repeat that assurance. I explained to him the scenario that I have just outlined: it seemed to me to be ridiculous—Orwellian, even—that if people turned up at a station with a bicycle and there were spaces in the carriage designed for carrying bicycles, they should not be allowed to take their bicycle with them.

The managing director gave me a very reassuring response. On 26 April, he wrote:

“We understand that there will be times when booking is not possible and space is available on board.”

Booking, of course, is not possible for people like me, and many of the thousands of other people who do not know what train they will be able to catch. The business of the House is very unpredictable, as are my constituency commitments.

The managing director went on to say:

“Station staff have been briefed to allow bikes on board if this is the case, and we are checking that this message has reached colleagues, and you should not therefore have any issues travelling without booking a space for your cycle if there is space on board.”

That was back in April. I have to say that, in spite of that reassurance from Mark Hopwood, I was subsequently inundated with emails, letters, tweets and Facebook messages from other people in my position, who told me that they had encountered difficulty getting their bikes on to a train without a reservation, even when there were spaces on board.

I wrote my letter to Mr Hopwood from a train on which I had put my bicycle, without a reservation, and there were spaces on board. To this day, at many Great Western Railway stations, there are signs and Tannoy announcements saying “You cannot put your bike on this train unless you have a reservation”. That is a lie. It is not true. It is not the policy, as Mr Hopwood told me in his letter. But it is still being represented as the policy at stations, in Tannoy announcements and in messages. So it is not surprising that there is confusion among GWR staff.

I was then contacted by a constituent of the hon. Member for Bristol North West (Charlotte Leslie), who has also been lobbied on this. Sadly, she is unwell and cannot be here today. Her constituent had received a missive from another GWR management member that completely contradicted the assurance I had been given by Mr Hopwood. He said: “To be clear, we require you to reserve your bicycle on our high-speed trains, as our publicity states.” He went on to say, or to imply, that this was about preparing for the introduction of the new high-speed trains, which we are very much looking forward to serving our part of the world in the far south-west. I understand, however—the Minister may like to clarify this in her reply—that they are not due to come into service for another two years, so I was not quite sure why he was preparing for this event.

Simon Pritchard goes on to explain in his email that the reason they are doing this is that in the new high-speed trains the cycle spaces, instead of being in a designated carriage at the front of the train, will be in three separate areas along the train—two in each area, or more if the train is longer—so in order to try and avoid the chaos and confusion that would ensue from people trying to get their bikes on a train if they had not booked, they were trying to encourage people to book in advance. That is all very well, and I will come back to it in a moment.

Another problem that has exacerbated this whole issue is that it is incredibly difficult, complicated and clunky to book a bicycle on a train. People either have to telephone, although the telephone service operates only within certain working hours, or they can book online, but that can be done only when booking a ticket. So the only way people returning from a journey who already have a ticket can book is by phone, which, as I have said, does not operate for many hours of the week, or by going to a station. Of course, that is massively inconvenient for customers.

I went back to Mr Hopwood to seek clarification. I applied for this Adjournment debate, too, in the hope that this might make something happen. Indeed, as is so often the case when one secures an Adjournment debate, I received another letter from Mr Hopwood today, written last Friday, which is moderately reassuring. He has invited me to a meeting with cycling groups, which I am very happy to take up. He says that this discretion of people being allowed to take their bicycles on a train without a booking will continue, and implies it will do so until the new trains are introduced. He goes on to say they are working on a reservation system that will allow customers to take a bike on a train independently from their ticket purchase at short notice, even after the train has started its journey. Up until now, people have only been able to book a bike on a train up to two hours before that train has started its journey. On the long journey from Penzance to Paddington that is completely impractical because by the time the train has started its journey and someone has decided what time train they are going to get, the train has already left the station at Penzance so they cannot book their bike on. He also says that there will be an online service, a telephone service and service at stations and that they hope to have this facility available to customers by the start of the December timetable.

That is a welcome improvement and concession by GWR, which I am convinced has happened only as a result of the pressure put on it by customers who have used its service over the years. Mr Hopwood then argues that this will provide the flexibility cyclists have asked for and allow bookings to be made much closer to departure. If that is the case, it is an improvement. However, he also goes on to claim that the requirement to book space on long-distance services is not unusual and he says that other railway companies—he quotes more than three, but the three I am concentrating on are the three I know: CrossCountry, Greater Anglia and South West Trains—also have mandated bicycle reservations.

Well, I can tell Mr Hopwood that I took my bicycle on a CrossCountry service on Saturday without a reservation. I have taken it up to Norwich on Greater Anglia in the past six months without a reservation, and I have also taken it on South West Trains without a reservation in the past six months, so what he says is simply not the case. At a time when we should be encouraging people to use sustainable transport and to travel sustainably, rail companies should be bending over backwards to encourage people to use their bicycles.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con)

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for securing the debate and absolutely agree with everything he has said so far. Does he agree that it was clear from the Get Britain Cycling inquiry that he and I served on in the previous Parliament that active travel to work is a key aspect of encouraging people to get cycling, and that the health benefits that that brings are not in dispute?

Mr Bradshaw

Yes, I completely agree. I have described the system as Orwellian partly because of the confusion and the contradictory messages that are being given to the public, but the hon. Lady is exactly right that this is a moment in our history when we should be encouraging people to use sustainable transport and to take their bikes on trains. If there is space on trains, people should be allowed to put their bikes on to them.

This is a classic example of a big organisation announcing a policy without consulting any of the people who use the service and without thinking through its implications and repercussions. It then has to backtrack and try to clarify the situation, but does not really clarify it properly. It ends up thinking, “Oh dear, we’ve got ourselves into a bit of a mess here. How are we going to get out of this?” If only it had consulted the people who actually use the service, it could have avoided this situation. I can think of many examples of this happening in public life. I am sure that the Minister, who has a lot on her plate at the moment, can think of some as well.
The company has introduced this mandatory reservation system, which turns out not to be mandatory, in advance of the introduction of the new trains, but why on earth did it not wait until the trains were actually introduced? Instead, it has introduced the policy now, which has been confusing and might put people off taking their bikes on trains. It is okay for me because I have this letter from Mr Hopwood saying that I can take my bike on a train without a reservation if there is space for it. I have put a copy of it on my iPhone so that if I ever have any problems, I can flash it at the guard and say, “Look, I have an assurance from your boss that this is okay.” I have also put a photograph of the letter on Twitter and elsewhere. For the ordinary tourist or non-regular traveller, however, the policy will be a real deterrent to their doing exactly what the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) has said is the right thing to do.

I ask Great Western Railway to issue a clear, comprehensive clarification of its policy, and to make it absolutely clear publicly in the notices that it puts in railway stations and in the announcements on the tannoy, which are still inaccurate, that people can still put a bicycle on its trains without a reservation until the new trains are introduced. Also, as I mentioned a moment ago, Mr Hopwood is wrong about the practice on CrossCountry, Greater Anglia and South West Trains. Those trains already have a system whereby bicycles can be accommodated, with two at the front, two in the middle and two at the back. That is the system that Great Western is about to introduce. It is not difficult for someone to put their bicycle on a train if there is a space for it; they just need to move up and down the platform and put it into the space. This idea that people should be required to book in advance because of the new configuration of the trains, even if no one else has booked and spaces are available, is Orwellian and against the whole thrust of Government policy.

I hope that the Minister, given all the other problems on the railways that she is facing, will be able to have a quiet word with Great Western Railway and sort this issue out to reassure people who, like me, have been using the system perfectly happily for many years. This unnecessary change that has created an almighty mess and confusion, and I hope that she will be able to get Great Western to see sense.

Ben Bradshaw – 2010 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Ben Bradshaw, the then Shadow Culture Secretary, to the 2010 Labour Party conference.

Conference, we’ve just heard some inspiring examples of how the Labour Government left Britain a better place.

And we’ve just heard some stark warnings about the damage the new Government is already inflicting on our communities.

Our record

Last year I described how, under Labour, Britain had become number one in the world in the creative industries.

How, thanks to a decade of sustained investment and active support of the arts, culture and sport, Britain was enjoying more success around the world than any country relative to our size.

In spite of the global downturn, that success continued right up to the election, creating wealth and the jobs our young people need.

I also warned what would happen if the Tories got back into power.

I was accused of scaremongering by our political opponents. But, Conference, in these first few months, the Government has not only been worse than I predicted.

They’ve been worse than I thought they’d be if the Tories had won on their own.

Far from being a moderating force, the Liberal Democrats are complicit in the biggest assault on the arts, culture and sport this country will have ever seen.

– Labour’s free swimming for the under 16s and the over 60s – scrapped.

– The UK Film Council – whose support for British films helps generate millions for our country – abolished.

– Labour’s promise to use the Olympics to get 2 million more people physically active, to tackle obesity and save health costs – abandoned.

This is not sensible deficit reduction, Conference. These decisions will cost money. They are typical of this Government, unthinking, short-sighted and damaging to Britain.

Now, we expect this from the Conservatives.

They love cutting and have always undervalued the arts and sport in Government.

But the Liberal Democrats?

This is what their manifesto said : “The Liberal Democrats will maintain current levels of investment in the arts and creative industries”.

Well, there’s another one to add to a very long list of Liberal Democrat promises that has proved completely worthless.

A week ago, the Liberal Democrat MP, Simon Hughes, said David and Ed Miliband needed to grow up.

Well, up the road from me in Taunton, the constituency of Lib Dem Foreign Office Minister, Jeremy Browne, the Liberal Democrats are running a campaign to “save free swimming”.

They describe the Government’s decision to scrap free swimming as a “total disgrace”.

And they are urging local residents to sign a Liberal Democrat petition to stop the Tory cuts.

And Simon Hughes says Labour needs to grow up?!

We take no lessons in mature politics from people who are still trying to face it both ways, even in Government.

But we know why the Lib Dems are turning their fire on us.

Because we are trouncing them in the polls and in real elections all over the country.

We had local elections in Exeter this month.

You’ve already heard what happened but it merits repeating.

The Tories did badly, but the Lib Dems collapsed and Labour took control of the council.

Let’s go out and repeat this success in next May’s elections all around the country.

Public Service Broadcasting

Conference, when we met last year I warned of the dangers to Britain’s world renowned public service broadcasting from a Tory Government.

Here, too, it’s worse than I feared.

They have relentlessly attacked and undermined the BBC.

They have condemned ITV news in the regions of England and in Wales and Scotland to a slow death.

They have abandoned Labour’s plans to ensure the public can see our major sporting events – including test cricket free on TV.

And they have weakened Britain’s vital media regulator Ofcom.

And we all know why the Coalition Government is doing this don’t we? We know to whose tune they are dancing when it comes to media policy, don’t we?

Vince Cable made a lot last week of the dangers of monopoly capitalism and the importance of competition policy.

If Vince wants to be taken seriously, why hasn’t he referred the proposed 100% take-over of Sky by Murdoch’s News Corp to the competition authorities.

That takeover, if it goes ahead, will result in a concentration of media power in a single company – greater even than in Berlusconi’s Italy.

So come on Vince, what are you waiting for? Show us your halo, or have you undergone in a few short weeks a remarkable transformation from saint to stooge.


Conference it’s been a good week with a stunning debut from Ed yesterday.

We are united, disciplined and determined.

We are back level in the polls and have ensured this Government has had the shortest political honeymoon in history.

But we must not underestimate the challenge, Conference.

The next election will not fall into our lap.

I am one of only 10 Labour MPs left in southern England outside London – we were 45 before the election.

We can’t form a Government without winning back those seats.

We can do it, but to do so, we’ll need not only to be a strong Opposition, but also a credible alternative Government.

That means a responsible approach to tackling the deficit and some of the other tough choices Ed outlined yesterday.

Those people who have lost or are about to lose their jobs, or who are struggling on low incomes, or whose services are about to be destroyed by this Government’s policies – they need a Labour Government and it’s our – duty, all of us, to help make sure, they get one.

Thank you.

Ben Bradshaw – 2009 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Ben Bradshaw, the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to the 2009 Labour Party conference on 29th September 2009.

Friends, that film was about our hopes to secure the football world cup in 2018.

If our bid is successful it would cap what is already one of the most remarkable periods in British sporting history.

The 20/20 cricket world cup earlier this year.

The Ryder cups in golf – next year in Wales, and then in Scotland.

The rugby league world Cup in 2013

The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.

The rugby Union world cup in 2015,

And, of course we are approaching the thousand day countdown to the start of the first British Olympics and Paralympics for over 60 years.

A golden decade of sport built on a golden decade of Labour investment in sport at every level.

A sporting record to be proud of.

Labour values driving change.

Labour delivering on its promises.

Remember what the Tories did to to Britain’s sports, culture and the arts.

They considered them luxuries to be paid for by those who can afford them. For us, they are a common good for all. Central to our sense of community and health and well being as a nation.

Ten years ago only one child in four did two hours of sport a week in school. Today, 90 per cent of children do. But we will go further and ensure, by the time of the Olympics, that every child can do five hours of high quality sport a week.

In just three months after we launched free swimming this spring people over 60 and youngsters 16 and under had enjoyed four and a half million extra swimming sessions. Rubbished  – like everything we do – by the Tories.

They believe something can only have value if you make people pay for it.

Free swimming has been championed by Labour councils and is already one of our great successes.

Just as Labour has delivered Britain a sporting renaissance, we’ve delivered a cultural and artistic renaissance too.

More than twice as many people have enjoyed our great museums and galleries since Labour made them free.

Since April this year young people under 26 have been able to get free tickets in many of our theatres. Tens of thousands of young people who would never have thought it possible to see the best of what British theatre has to offer, have taken up the chance. And as well as ensuring young people can enjoy 5 hours of quality sport every week,we will guarantee the same for cultural, music and artistic activity too.

British theatre, film, music and other creative industries are the best in the world. They are a major and growing part of our economy. And Labour is supporting them to grow even more in the future.

Anyone who has watched the news in America or continental Europe can only be extremely grateful for the BBC. Labour will always be committed to the BBC and the values of public service broadcasting. No, Mr Murdoch, we do not believe that profit is the only guarantee of independence. We will never sacrifice the BBC on the altar of free market dogma. But like all successful organisations the BBC must change to survive. It must be more sensitive to the views of the public who pay for it and to the impact its power and size on the rest of the media.

Good quality local news is vital for the health of our democracy. We face losing it completely from ITV unless something is done and many of our local newspapers are also struggling to survive.

Labour is the only party that will guarantee high quality news on ITV in the English regions, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and say how it’ll be paid for. Our solution and other measures we are taking will help local newspapers too.

Let Britain be in no doubt what the Tories would do to our culture, media and sport. Boris Johnson let one cat out of the bag last week when he advocated charging for museums.

And George Osborne says he wants to copy Tory councils.

Like Barnet in North London perhaps? They want to provide a quality service for those who can afford to pay but what they call a “ryanair” service for everyone else. This is also a council that has slashed support for the arts, culture and sport boasting:

“We don’t do culture in Barnet.”

Well, I guess that figures, from the local Conservative Party that selected Margaret  Thatcher.

Friends, we need to wake up and wake the British people up to what the Tories would do to our country if they won in a few months time.

Sport and culture decimated. The BBC fighting for its life.

The death of local and regional news.

Millions of people, particularly young people, whose lives are being transformed by culture and sport under Labour losing that chance.

One of my predecessors in this job, the great Jenny Lee – said our mission, Labour’s mission is to ensure the best for all.

That’s what Labour’s done.

That’s what we’re doing and that’s what we’ll continue to do.

The Tories never have; they never would.

We must ensure they never will.

Thank you.