Brandon Lewis – 2017 Speech to CBI Wales

Below is the text of the speech made by Brandon Lewis, the Minister of State for Immigration, at the CBI Wales dinner in Cardiff on 7 December 2017.

Noswaith dda, a diolch am y croeso cynnes heno.

I would like to begin by thanking you for inviting me to speak here this evening, and for your warm welcome.

It is great to be here again be in Wales – the country of Saint David, T. E. Lawrence, Tom Jones, David Lloyd George – and hard as it is for me to admit – better than average rugby.

And it is a pleasure to be addressing you in such a beautiful building, in the heart of this wonderful city.

The design of Cardiff City Hall was inspired by English and French Renaissance architecture, but opened during the Edwardian period, when Cardiff’s prosperity from the coal industry was at its height.

The Renaissance was a period of history that is widely regarded as the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages and modern Europe; a period that inspired centuries of creativity and intellectual thought across Europe, and one that many believe defined what it is to be European.

And so what an appropriate building in which to be talking to you this evening, as we look to build a positive and special future relationship with the European Union, focussing on the businesses and industries that make the United Kingdom – including Wales – a thriving place to live.

It is in this spirit of new beginnings that we should look to our future relationship with the EU – a spirit of promise, ambition and opportunity.

The people of the UK, including a majority here in Wales, have voted to leave the EU, and for many, this is an exciting time full of potential and prosperity.

We have been clear that, as the UK Government, it is our responsibility, ambition and belief that we will get the best possible deal for the whole country, as we build our new and special partnership with the EU.

Our challenge is to navigate our exit from the EU with cool heads, and with a sense of innovation and ambition.

We want to get the best outcome for every individual who lives in the UK, every sector of our economy, and for every nation of our United Kingdom – none more so than here in Wales.

Importance of CBI Wales

The CBI in Wales plays a crucial role in representing the business voice across Wales, ensuring that it is heard around the United Kingdom and beyond.

Your membership plays a vital role in feeding into the work that both my department and the UK Government as a whole is doing – and we hugely value your views and input as we navigate this period of opportunity and challenge.

We understand that the UK’s decision to leave the EU brings challenges for businesses, and we want to be clear that we are considering how this change will impact the whole of the UK economy.

My colleague David Davis stood here last year and addressed you all – and I want to build on the message he gave then.

He made clear the crucial role that Wales will play as we make a success of our departure from the EU. And since he spoke, the UK Government has gone on to scrap the Severn Tolls, secured a new daily flight to Qatar and is working to add more companies like Aston Martin to the growing cluster of companies looking to invest in Wales.

We are demonstrating an open, cross border commitment to the future of Wales outside the European Union. I pay credit to my close colleague Alun Cairns, Secretary of State for Wales, in making sure the voice of Wales – guided by you – is heard around the cabinet table.

As leaders of industry here in Wales, I would like to ask for your help:

– help us to write this new and exciting chapter in our country’s history

– help us to understand how to get the best deal for businesses in Wales and the UK

– help us by projecting confidence and ambition about what lies ahead
EU nationals in the Welsh economy

For the UK economy is fundamentally strong, and there are more people in work across the UK than ever before.

In Wales alone, there are more than 1.4 million people in work; in the past few months unemployment in Wales has fallen to a record low; and has more than halved since 2010.

Exports are worth almost £16 billion a year, and Wales has been the fastest growing part of the economy per head outside London since 2010.

There are currently more than 79,000 EU citizens living in Wales, the majority of whom are working in key economic sectors, public services or higher education institutions – and contributing greatly to Welsh culture and society.

I understand that a number of business sectors across Wales are ones where there is a significant representation of migrant workers: for example tourism in North Wales, as well as manufacturing and construction.

EU migrants in Wales have a higher employment rate than the working age population as a whole – 79 per cent of working age EU migrants in Wales are in employment, compared to 71 per cent of the total working age population.

This is similar to the pattern across the rest of the UK, and we understand the need for these key sectors of the economy to have access to the necessary workforce once the UK leaves the EU.

That is why the UK Government is committed to creating opportunities across the whole of the UK, with businesses in Wales – quite rightly – at the forefront of this ambition.

We are committed to ensuring we remain an attractive option for those with the skills and expertise across all sectors of our economy, and who play an invaluable role in making the United Kingdom and Wales better still.

We have been clear that after we leave the EU, we want to strike a balance between attracting the brightest and best to work and study in Britain, and controlling immigration from the EU in the national interest, thereby delivering on the will of the British people in June last year.

The Government understands that this is a time of great change, and we want to provide clarity going forward – both on those who are here now, and those who we want to come here to Wales in the future.

Status of EU Citizens’ rights

As you know, we are in the process of negotiating our withdrawal agreement with the EU, and the Prime Minister has been clear that it is her first priority to ensure that the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK – as well as those UK citizens living in the EU – can carry on their lives as before.

We will continue to recognise the valuable contribution migrants make to our society and will remain an open and tolerant country, welcoming those with the skills and expertise to support our businesses and industries.

As the Prime Minister emphasised in her speech in Florence, and again in her recent open letter to EU citizens, we greatly value the contribution that EU citizens make to our national life – and we want them and their families to stay.

I have personally spoken to many European citizens who are understandably concerned about their future in the UK.

These are people who have made a hugely positive impact on the social, economic and cultural fabric of our country, including Wales. We know that they bring with them ideas, innovation and skills which are relied upon by our employers and businesses; from aviation to hospitality, from tech to tourism.

The Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and I have repeatedly been clear that those EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.

Of course, these initiatives are taking place in the context of negotiating our exit from the EU. As Immigration Minister, I recognise both the challenges and opportunities this presents.

You will have seen the widespread media coverage of the talks in Brussels over the past few days.

The UK and the Commission have held positive talks, and we have made good progress but there are some final issues to resolve.

As the Prime Minister and President Juncker have said, both sides are confident we will conclude this positively ahead of the December European Council.

We know that our relationship with our European partners is set to change, and our exit from the EU marks a critical period in the history of this relationship.

But we want to retain the deep and special partnership that we enjoy today, and I am confident that together we can forge a brighter, better future for Wales, the UK and the EU.

Future ‘settled status’ scheme

But I also recognise concerns some individuals have about how the agreement will be implemented: that the process will be over-complicated and bureaucratic; that it will throw up hurdles that are difficult to overcome.

I want to provide some much-needed reassurance here:

– we have committed to provide an application system that is as simple and user-friendly as possible, and we are developing it with the individual user in mind

– we have committed to minimise the burden of documentary evidence required to prove eligibility

– we have committed to a 2-year period after our exit for people to apply, and the Home Office will work with applicants to help them avoid any errors or omissions

– we have committed to keep the cost as low as possible, with the fee not exceeding the cost of a British passport

– for those who already hold an EU permanent residence document, there will be a simple process to exchange this for a settled status document – charged at a reduced or no fee

– we have committed to engage with users every step of the way – which is why we have set up a new user group for this scheme;

– and we are also engaging with representatives of EU citizens to ensure the process meets their needs

I am confident that our approach to the design and development of the scheme, as well as the eventual outcome, will be well received by you in business and industry.

But most importantly – it will be straightforward for those who use it.

Since the result of the referendum, we as a Government have been clear that our top priority is securing the status of those EU citizens living in the UK and Wales, and UK nationals living in the EU.

And this extends to businesses and communities too, as we understand the need for certainty around access to the workforce you need.

We hope that our offer will provide this reassurance to both individuals and you as their employers – that this part of your workforce will be able to stay permanently and carry on exactly as before.

Future immigration system

But we also understand your concern that businesses in Wales and across the UK will still be able to access the skills and labour they need in the future to deliver growth.

We will be setting out our proposals for the UK’s future immigration system shortly.

And we will introduce an Immigration Bill in the new year.

But I want to use this opportunity this evening to emphasise some core principles of the new scheme.

There will be a smooth transition. I recognise the importance of providing certainty, and clearly business and public services should only have to plan for a single set of changes.

That is why the Prime Minister has made clear that there will be an implementation period of around two years, providing this certainty for business and individuals, and ensuring no cliff edge.

During this period, access to one another’s markets should continue on current terms and Britain should continue to take part in existing security measures.

People will continue to be able to come and live and work in Wales; but there will be a registration system – which is an essential preparation for the future system.

Going forward, we will make decisions about the future arrangements following discussions with stakeholders, including with the EU, and based on evidence.

That is why we have commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee to report on the impact of the UK’s exit for the EU, and how the UK’s immigration system should be aligned with our modern industrial strategy.

The Migration Advisory Committee will provide a clear opportunity for businesses and employers – such as yourselves and others in Wales –to express views that will play a vital role in the decisions we make about our future immigration system.

Although the committee’s initial call for evidence has now closed, they will continue to engage with organisations.

I also appreciate that different sectors and regions of the UK will feel they have different needs – which is why our commission to the MAC will allow us to get a richer understanding and develop a future system that seeks to work for everyone, applying as much to Wales as every other part of our country.

In addition, the Government is speaking with businesses like those represented here tonight, industry, trades unions and many others to ensure we strike the right balance between keeping our future immigration arrangements in the national interest, and ensuring the UK remains open to the talent we need from Europe and the rest of the world.

Conclusion

So as we look to the future, I want to stress the importance of working together, under the shared ambition to secure the best possible outcome for Welsh businesses, industry and communities.

As we take back control of our immigration system by ending freedom of movement under EU law, I want to stress that we do not want to end immigration from the EU.

The UK Government greatly values the incredible contribution that EU citizens make to the UK economy, and we want to continue to attract the best and the brightest to make all four parts of our country better still.

It is only with your help and support that we will ensure the whole UK – with Wales at its heart – remains a hub for industrial excellence and a great place to open and run a business.

Together, we can make this ambition a reality and build a whole United Kingdom fit for the future – with Wales leading the way.

Thank you.

Diolch yn fawr. Mwynhewch y noson.

Brandon Lewis – 2017 Speech to the Police Education Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Brandon Lewis, the Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service, to the Police Education Qualification Framework conference on 29 March 2017.

Many thanks for inviting me to speak today. It is always a really good opportunity to talk about something that is for us an absolutely key priority, which is police professionalisation.

But, just before I do talk about the course and professionalisation, I am just going to comment on the events that took place in Westminster last week.

Much has already been said in tribute to PC Keith Palmer, who you will know from what you have seen or heard and read, he gave so much which is beyond words in terms of bravery and heroism in order to keep others safe. But I also not only want to add my tribute to Keith here today but actually to all police and, indeed, your partners across the emergency services, for the phenomenal work you did to help those who were so tragically affected. It is almost impossible to describe the great debt we owe to Keith for what he did and what he gave up in order to protect our democracy.

In what is perhaps the most painful of circumstances, the police’s reactions – along with those of your colleagues across the emergency services – were remarkable.

It is just another phenomenal demonstration of what you know happens in one way or another every single day across this country to keep others safe as they go about their daily lives in their communities. It is something we rely on and something that for our country and our communities actually reminds people just how important that work is.

It is the good work that prevents those problems in the first place that people don’t talk about and remember, so I think it is important that we take this opportunity to think about the importance of this for our communities.

It also reinforces something that I would hope all of us in this room this morning are aware of, who are passionate about it – and something I was talking to colleagues from across Europe about over the last couple of days – we have got the best police in the world.

Part of what this is about and what we are talking about today and in the months and years going forward is not only about how we retain that position but actually about how we develop it even further.

Today’s event does promotes a major element of the reform programme as we strive to recognise the fantastic professionalism that is already in evidence across policing. And it is perhaps one of the most significant aspects of reform, in both scale and scope for the police, going forward.

So, turning to the core of what I want to say today, it is really quite satisfying that radical reform of this type and the ambition that this has got is not being led by ministers – or anyone in Whitehall – but by policing itself under the leadership of your professional body, the College of Policing.

We established the college as the first professional body for policing in 2012 – charged with setting high standards and with making sure we do what we can to help everyone in policing to meet them through the course of their career. And now, in 2017, it is heartening to note that policing has some of the hallmarks of a genuine profession in place:

– a code of ethics has been delivered

– a culture of continual professional development is beginning to be, at the very least, embraced

– the body of professional knowledge is continually growing

and the final pillar – standards of education – are now being put in place, through the Policing Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF)

Now, I hope you don’t mind if I refer to this as the PEQF for the next few minutes.

I have to say that it is clear to me as I have been looking at this – and I hope it is increasingly clear to everyone working across the country – and most importantly to those police professionals working at the sharp end – that there is a big role for the college. A role in leading for policing on some of the most critical issues. Providing leadership essentially for the sector: on standards; and on professionalism particularly, which is obviously the subject of today’s conference.

Why this is important

Our workforce reform goals are clear. We want to ensure the police force is flexible, capable and professional: agile enough to adapt as crime and society changes. As we know it is changing with the digital world and moving very fast. And this change can only accelerate with increases in interpersonal crimes and those perpetrated at distance across virtual and physical borders. Borders that for criminals are pretty much translucent and yet for us in policing too often become rigid.

Police leaders need to understand what is required to effectively investigate high-harm crimes. They need to ensure that specialist teams have the resource and capability to deal with the complex nature of these investigations and to ensure that front line officers have the ability to look past sometimes what can be the immediate issue, identify potential vulnerability and know the appropriate action to take. So to fully complement the PEQF the college is also consulting on the development of a licence to practise and universal registration in which officers would need a licence to practise in certain crucial areas, including working with the most vulnerable.

Forces need to think actually quite ambitiously about the types of interventions and capabilities needed to transform their response to and for victims. And given that protecting the vulnerable is not the sole responsibility of the police, we also need to make sure we are considering how they can work more effectively with partners to achieve this end.

Tackling cyber-crime and crimes against the vulnerable requires people who can challenge perceptions and support the victims of crime. Without these sorts of skills we would never have discovered the depth and extent of child sexual abuse or, indeed, modern slavery.

A more flexible, capable and professional police service

So, policing needs to be prepared to meet the challenges of the future and the PEQF aims to give officers access to the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in doing just that.

Graduate level skills and attributes are already demonstrated on a daily basis by members of the service and will become increasingly important in policing.

I am really pleased to see that, through the PEQF, the college is seeking to accredit those skills where they are already held in the policing, as well as to ensure that future joiners to the police will have them at the start of their career and then just develop them further as they go through.

But I also want to be very clear that this doesn’t mean that we only want to see one kind of person working in policing. Far from it. We all benefit from diversity of thought as well as individual. That is why it is great to see a variety of entry routes to a policing career, whether through a pre-join policing degree, as a graduate recruit, or upon the completion of a degree apprenticeship.

I am just going to focus on the degree apprenticeship for moment.

The government is committed to delivering some 3 million new apprenticeship starts by the end of this parliament; to increase productivity in the economy and raise the standards of workplace training more generally. Let’s not forget that until very recently there was no such thing as a degree apprenticeship in policing at all. But building on the work of early pioneers the college’s work to develop a degree apprenticeship at pace, and to ensure its accreditation, shows what a ‘can-do’ attitude can deliver and it is one that policing is famous and which is to be applauded.

This new apprenticeship route is a really attractive option for people who want to take the first step in a really rich and varied profession. And because you can earn while you learn with an apprenticeship, I am hopeful that using the positive action tools which the college has pioneered, forces will be able to encourage and maintain access to policing from people from all communities and backgrounds.

Professionalism

As I said a few moments ago, this focus on recognising and developing professionalism across policing is one which I care passionately about and we should all want to see develop in policing.

Because policing in the 21st century, by its very unique nature, should be one of the most exciting and attractive careers available. It should attract the most talented and skilled recruits from all backgrounds and all areas.

Workforce reform is improving the attractiveness of policing as a profession and new recruitment initiatives like Direct Entry and Police Now are widening the talent pool and the range of prior experience available to policing.

Both these schemes are expanding. Police Now, having started in the Met, will be recruiting in 19 forces this year. And Direct Entry, which closed for applications earlier this month, has seen a massive 68% boost in applications. Again, this shows what can be achieved when we are focused on delivering and challenging what we have done before.

But while policing is becoming a more open profession, attracting applicants from different walks of life I think we all need to be very clear that there is already excellent police work going on up and down the country. And one of the most important things that the PEQF can be used for is to recognise the fantastic, professional work of those already working in policing.

To not just ensure that people realise how valued they are as part of their teams, but to give them recognition that other organisations also value, outside policing.

So that the drive for professionalisation is not just about new recruits, as important as that is, but must also be about raising standards across all ranks and roles.

Focus on the individual

So we must make sure that those working in policing can access the best skills, support, and qualifications available. In essence, we want policing to recognise its status as a profession and its people as the professionals – holding them to clear ethical and performance standards, as you would see in the other professional disciplines.

We need to see frontline professionals truly empowered to make their own decisions, knowing that they will be supported by excellent management at all levels.

This means I want officers and staff to feel confident about challenging their superiors. And those leaders, receiving that challenge, need to be open to it and confident about working with it because that is when we get real change and the best decisions be made.

But no organisation can achieve this kind of change without professional support. So I think the College of Policing have a pivotal place in driving reform. They will ensure the right framework is in place on which to build a modern, flexible and effective policing profession.

And the college cannot do this alone. Higher education institutions are bringing expertise to the table and it is great to see so many of you in the room today, all with an interest in professionalising policing for the future and how we make that better and take that further.

A big challenge for policing

Let me be very straight about this – I recognise this is a really big challenge. It is a bold reform programme. But I know the college is going into this with its eyes open. If national standards are being set, then they need to be transferable across all police forces in England and Wales, and it is vital that all officers have access to training that equips them to deliver the high standard of service that the public expects.

And, to those who say that policing isn’t and shouldn’t be a graduate job, I would ask you to just pause for a moment and encourage you to challenge that thought. Because policing needs to be prepared to meet the challenges of the future and the PEQF aims to give officers access to the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a fast changing environment.

The anomaly is often pointed out that, at any given partnership table, the police officer is likely to be the only person whose profession does not expect degree level qualification. And yet, the police officer is – more often than not – chairing that partnership meeting and at the very least the authority figure that people will look to for guidance.

And as Alex Marshall himself has said on several occasions, an educational qualification should not, cannot and will not replace the empathy, compassion and common sense already in policing. But what it will do is to allow police professionals to get the recognition they deserve for the complexity of the job they do everyday.

And yes, the college recognises that the PEQF and associated graduate entry routes would mean the financial burden of initial training would be passed onto some individuals. But this mirrors the approach that is also taken in other professions. Meanwhile the degree apprenticeship offers new entrants to policing the opportunity to earn a wage while becoming a police constable, with successful candidates acquiring a degree qualification at the end of the learning programme.

Introducing a degree apprenticeship tackles concerns that the costs of obtaining qualifications might affect policing’s ability to secure the representative workforce it needs and that is important.

So let’s be very clear. Changes of this magnitude can only really succeed and become embedded if everyone is on board. The PEQF will help accelerate the pace of change across all forces but there are significant cultural barriers to change here and forces need practical advice and support to see them through.

That’s why the college has been very clear that these proposals will only be implemented fully at a pace with which forces themselves are comfortable.

Now I do welcome your attendance today and applying your collective knowledge and experience to this crucial reform. I urge everyone to take the discussions that you have today back with you to prompt debate where you work and develop this further.

Conclusion

It is clear to me that the scale of reform underway – reform that is being driven by policing in fact – is a result of us reaching a situation where the system genuinely recognises the fact that we at the Home Office do not run policing. We want to make sure that the framework is there for the sector to run and develop and reform itself. The college has an important part of play in that as in fact does every single person sitting here today.

I won’t deny there are high expectations and this is a challenging agenda. And I am delighted that the college has been able to step and meet this challenge, fulfilling its role as the professional body you need. One that can support everyone working in policing to raise standards and deliver a better service for the public.

The benefits of succeeding on this programme are actually very clear. It will make sure we are able to deliver the very best services to local communities provided by a skilled, professional and representative workforce.

I think professionalism needs to be absolutely at the heart of modern policing. This means recognising the high level skills already in policing, as well as raising the bar for new recruits to ensure that we continue to have the very best police forces in the world.

We need to have forces that are fit for the future and the college’s new Policing Education Qualifications Framework is an important step in meeting this challenge.

Thank you.

Brandon Lewis – 2016 Speech at Home Builders Federation Policy Forum

brandonlewis

Below is the text of the speech made by Brandon Lewis, the Housing Minister, at the Home Builders Federation Policy Forum in London on 22 March 2016.

Introduction

Thank you for inviting me here today.

Last week we set out our plans:

– for an economy set to grow faster than any other major advanced country in the world;

– for a labour market delivering the highest employment in our history;

– and for businesses that are creating jobs, and building the infrastructure this country needs.

I don’t need to tell you that the British economy has grown much stronger over the past 6 years.

The extra homes you are building reflect that progress.

And your companies’ reports confirm it.

Economies don’t thrive by accident.

This government confronted our country’s problems.

We made the right judgements and took the difficult decisions.

We had a long term vision, and pursued a long term plan.

Today the deficit is down by two thirds, and is continuing to fall.

And our economy is stronger and more resilient.

Progress on housing

We used the strong economic foundation we established after 2010 to improve the housing market. My job and yours is to make sure that work continues.

Challenge for the future

We all know much more needs to be done to create a housing market that meets peoples’ needs.

That supports aspiration, increases mobility, boosts productivity and helps local economies grow.

Spending Review

In the Spending Review we doubled investment in housing, and set out the largest house building programme for 40 years.

We aim to build a million homes [by 2021] and double the number of first time buyers in this Parliament, continuing work started in 2010.

Some have a questioned our emphasis on affordable home ownership.

But we make no apology for this innovation.

It’s what working people want.

86% of people say they would choose to buy their own property.

And yet the aspiration and reality of home ownership has drifted apart.

Why should we not help make aspiration more affordable?

It’s simply old-fashioned political dogma to insist governments only intervene in the market to support renters, when most people would rather buy.

To persist with this outdated mindset risks creating a generation of young people exiled from homeownership.

Budget measures

Starter Homes / Shared Ownership

We’re committed to building Starter Homes, and in the Budget we set out some of ways we will achieve this.

Councils will shortly be invited to apply for a share of £1.2 billion Starter Homes Land Fund.

To remediate brownfield land so it’s ready for construction, and bring more land into the system

We’ll also publish a new prospectus for the Help to Buy: Shared Ownership scheme for first time buyers, and you’ll soon be to bid for a share of £4 billion to get the work started.

Releasing more land for house building

In the Budget we extended that same support to areas wanting to establish Garden Villages.

Public land

For the first time ever local authorities have committed to an ambition to release public sector land for house building.

Land with capacity for at least 160,000 new homes will be released – matching the central government target.

At the same time the HCA will work with Network Rail and councils to bring forward land around stations for housing, commercial development and regeneration.

And we expect the first sites to be brought forward shortly.

In London we have approved the business case for a new Thameslink station at Brent Cross, paving the way for 7,500 new, and desperately needed, homes in the capital.

We want to release more public land, but we also want to increase transparency across the whole the land market, so we’ll be making it easier to access information on land ownership

Planning

Planning permission was granted for more than a quarter of a million homes last year.

It’s a huge turnaround for the planning system we inherited in 2010, which was in a state of disarray, and a byword for conflict.

Permissions are starting to outstrip construction by some by an ever increasing margin.

And that is an issue that must be addressed.

But we’re always looking for any improvements that can be made.

We’ll be setting statutory deadlines for the Secretary of State’s decisions, and streamlining local plans.

We’ll also explore the scope for more ‘zonal’ plans that send clear signals about development potential and offer permission in principle on identified sites that have the support of local people.

At the same time we want to improve the use of planning conditions to prevent delays getting on site.

For example, ensuring pre-commencement conditions can only be used with the agreement of the developer.

Role of the house building industry

We’ll always look for to make improvements – but the government can’t be the only players in the housing market questioning the way we do things.

Everyone needs to respond to the extraordinary demand for new homes.

And our ambitions for house building will only be achieved if we’re all working towards the same goal.

Government or industry – we will all be judged on our actions, not words.

There is a desperate need for new homes in this country, and a millions of young people who want a home of their own.

We all bear responsibility for supporting their aspirations.

History will not remember us kindly if we allow a generation to face exile from homeownership.

Do we really want our children to be worse off than their parents?

Or feel compelled to leave the communities they love and grew up in?

Forced to decline good job opportunities, and all because local housing is too expensive?

That is bad for our economy, and it’s bad for society.

We have been working with the HBF and will continue to do so in the coming weeks. Industry is equally committed to our goal and I would like to thank everyone at the HBF for their work.

So I would like to finish with a challenge.

To use the long term commitment of the government to boost capacity in your industry:

– to build out faster;

– use new technology better;

– and invest in apprenticeships so you have young people with the right skills to build homes.

Other countries are doing this – there’s no reason why we can’t too.

We need to play our part in the global economy. I fully support the work the Prime Minister has done and is doing in Europe. We need the stability of the EU.

Imports and exports have an effect on house building. Certainty and confidence affect the market.

Help to Buy demonstrates this. It is no co-incidence that our economy grew as house building grew.

Help to Buy gave confidence to buyers and developers. We know that Help to Buy doesn’t affect house prices, but it does impact on supply.

Conclusion

There is still a profound need to build more homes in this country, across all tenures, and support the aspirations of people who want to buy a home.

This will be a defining challenge of our generation, and it’s a prize worth fighting for.

The economic and social legacy will last far beyond any of our lifetimes.

Young people have the same hopes and dreams of past generations, and the same ambitions for the future.

Let’s ensure their hard work can be rewarded with a home of their own.

Brandon Lewis – 2014 Speech to LGA Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Brandon Lewis, the Fire Minister, to the LGA Conference on 12th March 2014.

I am delighted to be here with you today on the second day of the Local Government Association’s annual fire conference. I understand that yesterday’s sessions and workshops were informative, engaging and that the day overall was a huge success. I hope to live up to your standards for day 2 of the conference!

Over the last 6 months you will have heard me say that the publication of the government’s response to the Knight review is imminent, and I can tell you today that it is still imminent.

I have to say I was pleased to see that the sessions and workshops at this year’s conference have in the main been focused on the findings of Sir Ken’s independent review, Facing the future. I know you are eagerly awaiting the response, but the journey of travel will be very much outside of a document that will sit on a shelf. Transformation will be what you make it; it will be about more targeted prevention, it will be about better collaboration between and across services, with blue lights services and other public bodies, it will be about more flexible resourcing such as increasing on-call fire fighters, and it will be about better procurement – which I know you are already committed to.

It’s been an interesting year and we’ve all seen some fairly interesting events. The first national firefighter strike in over 10 years and major flooding incidents across the country have tested fire and rescue authorities, and while there will be important lessons learned from the preparation for events, I believe that fire and rescue authorities across the board have responded very well to both the industrial action and the recent severe weather.

I was pleased to see that there was almost a ‘business as usual’ service, during strike action and that many chief fire officers, if they spotted gaps, trained up resilience staff to fill them.

I commend those who used innovative measures to boost their resilience – I was really impressed by those fire and rescue authorities who ‘looked outside of the box’ in improving their resilience. I particularly wish to commend those firefighters and support workers who continued to work and protect their communities. I received letters from some who, despite pressure from union officials, felt protecting thier communities was the right thing to do. They deserve our profound gratitude, and thanks.

A further sustained challenge to the continuity of service was provided by the severe weather and major flooding incidents that began late last year and continued through the first couple of months of this year.

Fire and rescue authorities from Northumberland to Kent worked with their partners to protect people in their communities from the potential devastation of an east coast tidal surge, evacuating homes, and, sending in boats and rafts to rescue people from flooded properties.

More than 1,000 fully equipped fire fighters from across the country assisted with the flood response over December, January and February. They did an incredible job working in shifts to reduce water levels and help communities deal with the flooding. They gave support wherever and whenever it was needed and there were still plenty of fire engines in local areas to respond to non-flood emergencies.

I wholeheartedly praise the great work that fire and rescue authorities across the country have done in supporting not only their communities through the sustained flooding events but also supporting other fire and rescue authorities. Fire and rescue authority staff should be congratulated on their professionalism throughout this period and thanks given to those who worked tirelessly and continuously at this time.

While your response activity rightly grabs the headlines, it’s the work you do on prevention and protection that is the bread and butter, it is front line.

Fire calls, fire deaths and injuries have fallen significantly over the past 10 years. I believe that this trend can and will continue downwards.

You play an important part in achieving this and I know there will be more we can do to prevent fires and many other emergencies occurring in the first place. This means that fire prevention should not be a soft option when it comes to looking for savings. There are efficiencies to be made but the determination to address fire and accident risk, must remain at the forefront of each authority’s activity. While I know many of you are taking great steps to address this, there is still more headway in reducing the number of false alarms, which still account for over half of calls.

This is why the government, in partnership with fire and rescue authorities, continues to run the Fire Kills Campaign. Today is too good an opportunity to remind everyone that 30 March is clock change day. So Tick Tock Test your smoke alarms and persuade as many people as possible to follow your example. Our latest analysis suggests you are at least 4 times more likely to die in a fire in your home if there is no working smoke alarm.

Sadly more than half the people still dying are aged 65 or over. We are encouraging everyone to test for family, friends or neighbours who need help. As it’s Mother’s Day too, what better way to show you care. Please spread the Fire Kills messages via all the channels you have. In October, you supported the campaign through website reminders, tweets, press releases and in many other ways. One in 8 householders tested – let’s do even better this time.

In the coming year we want to explore how we can reduce the number of deaths among older people. What other campaigns could include our simple testing message? What local services could help test and make sure that older people have enough smoke alarms installed to give them the best chance of escaping a deadly fire? Why do some people never test? Together we need to make testing smoke alarms regularly and installing them at least on every level, the right thing to do, the social ‘norm’.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sir Ken for his thought provoking review – he is an expert in his field and I was delighted with the breadth and scope of his report. I am very grateful to him for starting a debate on the challenges and opportunities facing fire and rescue authorities. Sir Ken has set us all on a direction of travel, throwing out the challenge for radical and rapid transformation in line with public expectations.

So rather than waiting for the government to publish its response, you, as leaders need to and want to get on and deliver. We do not have the answers, you as leaders of your sector are in the driving seat. And given the theme chosen for today’s conference I am pleased that the responsibility to transform is a responsibility that you seem to relish.

And we as government will support you, starting with a £75 million fund available to fire and rescue authorities – on a bid for basis – to drive transformation.

£30 million of the fund is resource funding, and £45 million is a capital fire efficiency fund. Both will be allocated on a bid for basis so that it can be put to use where it will make the most difference.

I encourage you to bid for this fund. In particular I am keen to see bids that encourage some of the key themes in the Knight review; greater collaboration; initiatives that support improving local delivery; initiatives that increase on call arrangements; innovations that prioritise prevention and protection and ones which promote asset transformation.

While I am not yet in a position to publish the government response to the Knight review, I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about my own personal thinking on the direction of travel. None of this will be a surprise I guess, it’s all of the things I have been talking about since Sir Ken published his review. My thinking picks up on some of the key challenges Ken mentioned.

One thing is for sure, fire in rescue in 10 years time will be totally different from 10 years ago. The fall in calls generally means that there is now a great opportunity to significantly review both the number of on-call firefighters and on-call stations with a view to putting in place more modern and flexible arrangements. On-call firefighters are a vital and important part of how authorities deliver services and in times where call outs are falling, you as leaders must recognise the enormous potential they offer.

Can you really afford not to review each station, and identify if that station or one of its pumps, can be devoted to on-call activity?

Will you just keep doing the same thing hoping for a different outcome or will you transform your services in this way both in urban as well as rural areas?

Sir Ken Knight highlighted the importance of collaboration with other local services in helping fire and rescue authorities to transform the way they run to meet the changing needs of communities.

I firmly agree.

Local collaboration between local services – including fire, police and ambulance – is the future of public service delivery, and I want to be in a position to award you transformation funding for innovative bids in this area.

I believe that the relationship with the other emergency services is the most untapped route and needs to be pursued at all levels. The best fire and rescue authorities are already beginning to collaborate with police and ambulance services and local authorities – through co-location of stations and services, through sharing back office functions, including sharing senior staff, and through co-responding and joining up on service delivery. They are achieving better outcomes for the public and getting more from their resources in the process.

For example:

In Hampshire, fire, police and the council are joining up back office services and expect to save up to £4 million a year.

In Merseyside fire and police are working together to create a new, combined command and control centre, saving them £3.5 million and allowing them to share information and expertise, and, ultimately, provide a more integrated emergency service.

In Lincolnshire, fire and ambulance services provide an integrated service, with on-call firefighters delivering emergency medical support and transport. This is an extension of their existing excellent work and they have been awarded £500,000 through the recent Transformational Challenge Award.

However, progress across the country is patchy and I want to make sure that every authority and community can benefit from collaboration. This good practice needs to become standard practice and the public need the emergency services to consider collaboration first in all they do.

Alongside the transformation fund is of course the new police innovation fund, and I know that some of you have already received funding from the Home Office. From 2014/15 the next police innovation fund will incentivise transformation, collaboration and other innovative delivery approaches, including greater collaboration across forces and other emergency services.

I want to see all of the emergency services working together to deliver world class services that match the needs of today and tomorrow’s communities – collaboration really is the future for local public services.

A further area the Knight Report highlighted as being in need of greater collaboration was procurement. Sir Ken found widespread duplication of effort in the design, commissioning and evaluation of fire specific products and suggested that fire and rescue authorities should focus their efforts on improving procurement under these areas.

Fire and rescue authorities should – without doubt – be exploring collaborative procurement with other fire and rescue authorities and emergency services to drive efficiencies – especially given that the requirements of individual fire and rescue authorities across England are not different enough to warrant going it alone.

We are publishing the fire and rescue procurement aggregation and collaboration report, a joint research project with the Chief Fire Officers’ Association. The report found that there is a compelling case for collaborative procurement. The sector spends £127 million very year on fire and rescue specific products such as clothing and vehicles; that collaboration alone could achieve huge savings of at least £18 million.

In addition if products were standardised more it is likely that even bigger savings could be realised and further potential efficiencies made not least if non-fire specific goods and services were bought together with other public bodies.

Twelve months on from my last speech here we have a lot to celebrate; our collective success in making our communities safer from fire; the key role that fire and rescue authorities played in responding to the worst floods since 2007 and successful business continuity arrangements during severe weather and industrial action.

We’ve also got a lot to look forward to, including the opportunities presented by transformation. I encourage you to use the success of the past year as motivation to tap into opportunities for reform and take steps that will make your fire and rescue authorities more efficient and more able to meet the demands of your communities in the future.