Caroline Spelman – 2019 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Caroline Spelman, the Conservative MP for Meriden, in the House of Commons on 1 April 2019.

It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), who was a very good Minister in the coalition Government.

I am very keen that the voice of the world of work should be heard in this debate today. Last week, with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), I co-chaired an industrial coalition. A huge range of industries and trade organisations evaluated ​the options before us, and they are going to inform how I will vote this evening. The British brand has been badly damaged, they said. Brexit has changed international perceptions of our country.

The CBI and the TUC were very clear that they want Parliament to compromise to find a way forward. No deal or a Canada-style relationship with Europe would not, in their view, be workable. They warned us that the trade we do with our near neighbours is very different from how we trade with more distant partners. Trading with Canada, for example, could necessitate the completion of up to 12 pages of customs forms. They estimate that that could cost British business an extra £2.5 billion annually, and that would of course hit small and medium-sized enterprises hardest of all.

There are big problems, businesses said, with mini extensions of article 50, because they cannot properly function on such a short-term planning cycle. Car factories in our constituencies are shut down this month in anticipation of the disruption of Brexit, and the workers have been urged to take their annual leave this month. They cannot suddenly open the factories and shunt the annual leave three weeks later. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders would prefer an 18-month to two-year delay to article 50 just to give business a chance to adjust. It said that we cannot keep marching up to the top of the cliff.

The TUC and the CBI again made clear the threats of a no-deal brisket that would—[Laughter.] I had a go at cooking that yesterday, Mr Speaker. A no-deal Brexit would put thousands of jobs at risk. This is not just about jobs; I remind the House that it is about the thousands of Brits abroad who will not be able to fund their own healthcare in the event of a no deal and are receiving notice of that now. I appeal to the Government for contingency funding to help those vulnerable individuals, but again mini extensions do not help them much either.

I have consistently supported the Prime Minister’s deal. Business says that it is workable and would give clarity. I will continue to support that deal if it comes back for another vote, but without enough support in Parliament we have to consider the other options. I will vote in favour of two options. I will support the proposal for “a” customs union. There is a big difference between “a” and “the”. The withdrawal agreement already provides elements of a customs union and that is something that both main parties supported in different forms at the last election. While the Conservative manifesto stated we would

“no longer be members of the single market or customs union”

we did commit to seeking a

“deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement”.

I will also vote for the proposals setting out common market 2.0, which builds on the EFTA model put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice). We helped to set up EFTA: it offers preferential trade with the EU, recourse to an EFTA court for trade disputes and the right to pull the handbrake on migration.

All the options have their critics. However, an agreement on customs with the EU would work for business and help to safeguard jobs—​

Mr Fysh

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Dame Caroline Spelman

I am afraid I do not have time to do so.

We must weigh up the pros and cons of all options before us. However, given the large manufacturing footprint in many of our constituencies, the impact on jobs must be a key factor. If jobs are lost—

Mr Fysh

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Dame Caroline Spelman

No, I will not give way.

If jobs were lost so that we could have a more flexible trade policy in the future, I would find that way forward very difficult to support. The critical issue for business is the need for frictionless trade with our principal market.

Mr Fysh

Will my right hon. Friend give way on that point?

Dame Caroline Spelman

No, I have now said three times that I will not give way.

For the automotive industry, just-in-time manufacturing is critical. Some 1,100 lorries a day pass through Dover. Many firms do not have warehouses to store parts. The lorries are their warehouses. Any logistic disruption at the border is damaging. While I was out canvassing in my constituency, a small business owner explained how 15% of his trade is with the EU, and that is at risk. If he loses that trade, he has to make two of his people redundant.

I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) that a customs union alone provides 90% of a solution for a frictionless border. People have been understanding on the doorstep, but they expect Parliament to come together now across parties and find a compromise. Our children’s future will depend on the quality of the compromise we achieve, and we must not let them down.

The votes tonight will help to shape phase 2 of the Brexit process when we negotiate that future trading relationship. However, we cannot get to phase 2 without phase 1. That means accepting the treaty, which allows us to leave in an orderly fashion, and I urge more colleagues to do so.

Caroline Spelman – 2019 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Caroline Spelman, the Conservative MP for Meriden, in the House of Commons on 29 January 2019.

It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), who spoke with great wisdom and clarity, as always.

A no-deal Brexit would have not just a huge economic cost, but a huge human cost, and that is what drove me to table amendment (i). The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) and I are co-authors of this amendment, and we are neighbours. We have seen the lives of our constituents transformed by the renaissance of manufacturing in our region. It now exports more than any other region to the EU, which is its principal market. But Brexit is putting this at risk. As a group of cross-party MPs, we began meeting six months ago to discuss how to help, as we are already losing jobs—not just because of Brexit, but it has made it worse. We co-authored a letter to the Prime Minister calling for a no-deal Brexit to be ruled out, and I thank those who signed it. It attracted 225 signatures from MPs of six parties from all over Britain. The signatories are remainers and leavers, but we agree on one thing—we are against a no-deal Brexit.​

Hardly a day goes by without another business calling for no deal to be prevented. Yesterday, it was the supermarkets which fear their shelves will be empty. Before that, it was the security analysts advising us of increased risks and before that, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Siemens, Ford, and the National Farmers Union and other farming organisations. The list is simply endless. The CBI has described this as a monumental act of self-harm to be avoided at all costs. Crashing out without a deal simply makes our exports instantly less competitive.

The Government say that it is not their policy to leave with no deal, so let us rule it out. The threat of no deal has been used as a stick to get more concessions, but in my view that card has played out. It has not secured the needed changes, as on the backstop, for example. So as a former negotiator, I would flip that card round the other way as a carrot, offering to take no deal off the table in return for concessions that will get the deal over the line.

I want to be clear: I am not blocking Brexit. I am committed to honouring the referendum result. I voted for the withdrawal agreement; I have read all 585 pages. I urge colleagues perhaps to have a fresh look at it. It may not be perfect, but local businesses tell me that it is good enough and works for them.

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)

In addition to the businesses themselves, does my right hon. Friend welcome the communications from the workers in those businesses, particularly Jaguar Land Rover, who have communicated with Members of Parliament such as myself to tell me their concerns about a no-deal Brexit?

Dame Caroline Spelman

My hon. Friend is quite right. As a fellow west midlander, he will know that many of us had a personal handwritten letter, or an original email, about the impact—the human cost—on our constituents’ lives, which we simply cannot ignore.

I know that others need persuading about the withdrawal agreement. I encourage colleagues to read the document produced by the House of Commons Library, “What if there’s no Brexit deal?” This document could usefully inform six days of debate, because we ought to debate what the House of Commons Library tells us are the really important issues that we need to consider.

Heidi Allen

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Dame Caroline Spelman

I am short of time now, so I ask my hon. Friend to allow me to continue.

As no deal looms, just think of the human cost. Hundreds of young people like the single mums on my council estates got apprenticeships, then well-paid work in manufacturing, and now their jobs are at risk. Voting no to no deal means that we must agree a deal. The longer the uncertainty continues, the harder it gets for business. Stockpiling is costly and inefficient—the cost comes off the bottom line, and in the end that costs jobs. Just-in-time supply chains will be “not-in-time” with any hold-up at the border, and some factories are already stopping production to limit the disruption.

If we agree that no deal is not an option, then it is incumbent on all party leaders to get round the table—and I think I heard the Leader of the Opposition say today that he would. The Malthouse initiative is an example of a new contribution to break the deadlock. But to ​negotiate any new deal with the EU will take time and cause an inevitable delay, and I am with the Leader of the House in trying to keep delay to a minimum. The Leader of the Opposition does not seem to have read my amendment because he thinks that it calls for a delay. It does not, because time costs money for business.

We know that there is a majority for “no to no deal” in this Parliament because it was voted on as part of the Finance Bill, but the sheer complexity of that put some people off, including me. So this is a simple vote on whether colleagues support no deal or not. As the commentators say, it is not “processy”. I am surprised that, having been defeated on this issue once, the Government might still want to whip against this amendment —but then, these are not normal times in politics.

The public are weary with the Brexit debate. It is not quick and painless, as promised. They want us to come together in the national interest, and we can do that by agreeing that no to no deal means that there has to be a deal. I am not a natural rebel. Indeed, I do not accept that label as someone supporting something that commands a majority in this House. I see that the Speaker’s chaplain is here to remind us all that we need to be respectful. I am a peacemaker, and I urge all parties in the House to come together in an outbreak of pragmatism and to agree a deal. To vote for my amendment commits us all to that quest.

Caroline Spelman – 2016 Speech on the Loyal Address


Below is the text of the speech made by Caroline Spelman, the Conservative MP for Meriden, in the House of Commons on 18 May 2016.

I beg to move,

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

Most Gracious Sovereign,

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

It is an honour to be asked to propose the Loyal Address, especially in Her Majesty’s 90th year. When I was asked to see the Chief Whip, my first thought was: what have I done? The relief in discovering that it was for a good reason was followed almost immediately by the angst of how to do it well. I looked carefully at how my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Sir Simon Burns) tackled it last year. Unfortunately, he cannot be with us today as he has to attend a funeral. We all now know of his unswerving admiration for Hillary Clinton. We have shared with him the anxieties of the primaries, so I put all colleagues on alert that if they are standing next to him when the news of the presidential election comes through, be prepared to provide moral support whichever way it goes, but especially should Hillary be trumped.

First, may I say to my constituents in Meriden how grateful I am to them for electing me to Parliament? I am always proud to represent them. A lot has changed since my first day here 19 years ago. I was often the only woman in meetings. I was one of very few women around the Cabinet table with school-age children. This could prove awkward, such as at the shadow Cabinet meeting interrupted by the news that one of my sons had fallen off a drainpipe at school.

In 1997, only 18% of MPs were women. This has now risen to a total of almost 30%—not yet parity, but we are heading in the right direction. It has also been a great privilege to help mentor newcomers, and in return I have been especially grateful to Baroness Shephard for her mentoring down the years.

The Chamber now looks more like the electorate at large. [Interruption.] On all sides! Better decisions are made when those who make them are more diverse. For example, when assessing the priorities for public transport, men rate reliability and cost as the most important factors, but women put something else first—their personal safety. Put the two perspectives together and a better outcome is achieved.

I hope that by now the nearly new Members are beginning to make friends in all parties and discover that they can have allies across the Floor. In fact, the work of Parliament is often enhanced by the friendships that transcend party lines. When I was party chairman, the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field) asked me to organise a debate with him on the subject of dying well, as we each had a parent with a poor experience of that in hospital. The Whips did not bat an eyelid at that. The only objection was to the title: dying was considered far too controversial, and we had to call it end-of-life care.

I also worked with the right hon. Gentleman on the Modern Slavery Bill, as we both served on the Joint Committee of both Houses. If ever there was an outstanding example of a cross-party approach to tackling a terrible injustice, this is it. The Home Secretary deserves the credit for securing a piece of landmark legislation, which is a world first in this area. The legal expertise of Baroness Butler-Sloss forced us all to think very hard how to get this absolutely right, and I felt that it was my red letter day when the noble Lady uttered these magic words to me: “I think the right hon. Lady has a point.”

I have been in a cross-party prayer fellowship all the time I have been here. It consists of two Conservative MPs, two Labour MPs, one Liberal MP and one Democratic Unionist MP. We could not have done that better by using proportional representation if we had tried. We and our families met up in each other’s constituencies, and my children were initially perplexed by the fraternisation until I explained that it was like when your friend supports Aston Villa and you support Coventry: you think he is misguided, but you are still friends.

We will shortly face a big decision about our membership of the EU. Whichever way the vote goes, we will need to ensure good relations with our neighbours. I commend to the House the recent concert by the Parliament Choir in Paris to show our solidarity with the people of France after the terrorist attacks last year. There are often opportunities for soft diplomacy, and we should take them. My hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) and I may not see eye to eye on Europe, but his rich baritone and my alto voice have produced delightful harmony.

I welcome the clear references in the Gracious Speech to the life chances agenda, and I am pleased that this is to be a key theme in the year ahead. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) pioneered this approach, and the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has the life experience and the ability to drive it forward. My constituency has a council estate of nearly 40,000 people, and I have seen how the life chances of my constituents have improved through the regeneration of housing and schools by Solihull Council. When I took a Minister on a visit there recently, two tenants emerged from one of our 37 refurbished tower blocks to express their delight that their energy bills had halved as a result of the new energy-saving features. The Minister turned to me and asked, “How much did you pay them to say that, Caroline?”

Buildings can be regenerated but it is the life chances of the human beings within them that really make the difference, so I am delighted that so many of our young people are getting apprenticeships as engineers, including many young women, in the great tradition of those women who built the Spitfires in the last world war. All of this is made possible by the renaissance of manufacturing and the economic recovery that we have seen.

Parts of my constituency are rural, and despite being at the very centre of England, we have mobile and broadband not spots, so I am glad to hear that a renewed effort is being made to address the digital divide. With my Church Estates Commissioner’s hat on, may I remind the Government of the offer of church spires and towers to help to crack this problem? They may bring us closer to God, but a proper signal can feel like heaven on earth to those who have had none.

Prison reform is well overdue. We know that reoffending can be dramatically cut with the right kind of help. The Justice Secretary and the Education Secretary know how important it is to improve the life chances of school children, as far too many prison inmates are unable to read and write. I am glad that the Justice Secretary is now using his reforming zeal to give prisoners a better chance to turn their lives around. I have witnessed at first hand how this can be achieved. I helped to set up a charity called Welcome to tackle drug and alcohol abuse and to get people free of addiction and into work. We started with just one employee in a community hall; now we employ more than 20 and we do the triage for the NHS in our borough of 200,000 people. Some of the best advocates are our volunteers who have achieved this themselves and are role models for others.

No party has a monopoly on compassion, and Members on both sides of the House have sought to help the vulnerable. On entering politics, it was my personal resolution to speak for those who were unable to speak for themselves. Few people in our country are more vulnerable than a child leaving care. The state has not often proved to be a great parent, and knowing how hard it is to be a parent, we should not be surprised. But I take my hat off in particular to the parents who adopt. We need more parents to come forward to foster and adopt, so I welcome the Government’s intention to speed up adoption—indeed, this was the objective of my private Member’s Bill on the subject—but children can still be left too long in care and the damage can be irreparable. so let us improve the follow-up care and keep it going until a young adult is fully fledged. Eighteen may be the notional age of adulthood, but, in my experience, it takes a good few more years of parental support before young adults’ wings can take life’s turbulence.

New measures are clearly needed to prevent sections of society feeling alienated, but I appeal to the Government not to take a hammer to crack a nut. Good role models and moderate voices are what are needed, and I have high expectations of the new Mayor of London, who is not only an excellent cricketer, as the Lords and Commons cricket team will testify, but uniquely well placed to help. Good luck, Sadiq—no pressure!

Let me return to my opening theme of making friends across the House. Over the years, there have been a good few Members whom I have sought to encourage after they had suffered setbacks in their parliamentary careers. My key piece of advice has been, “Don’t give up! Get stuck back in and fight for the causes you know and care about, and this House will ultimately respect you for it.” May I therefore say a heartfelt thank you for the way the House has helped me rediscover the fulfilment of being an elected Member of this mother of all Parliaments. As long as you have the chance to make a difference, there is no such thing as having had your day. We are elected to change things for the better and to take up the issues that confront us, so seize the day! I commend the motion to the House.

Caroline Spelman – 2012 Speech at Climate Change Risk Assessment Launch


Below is the text of the speech made by Caroline Spelman, the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, at the Climate Change Risk Assessment Launch on 30 January 2012.

Yesterday the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum began in Davos.

The theme this year is transformation; and the need for new conceptual models to understand and respond to the great changes we are witnessing.

Reshaping our global economy is a vital task. Leaders from government, business and civil society must work together to create – and realise – a vision for a strong, green global economy for the 21st century.

Action on climate change is integral to a robust and resilient economy.

And the climate change challenge is two-fold.

We must decouple economic growth from carbon, reducing our own emissions, and lobbying for international cooperation on this most urgent of issues.

But, because carbon stays in the atmosphere for decades, we are already locked in to some climate change. So we must also prepare our economy for big changes to our weather patterns.

We are already experiencing an increase in extreme weather events: and the knock-on economic effects.

– The 2007 floods cost the UK economy billions.

– The 2010 drought led to the doubling of global wheat prices. Meanwhile floods in Australia sent the price of coal and steel soaring.

– Last winter’s freeze-up cost London alone £600 million a day.

– This year, floods in Thailand led to a worldwide shortage of IT and car components.

The UK leads the world in climate science, and Government will ensure it continues to do so. Defra is protecting its funding of the Met Office Hadley Centre, because we know exactly how vital this work is.

No amount of science can predict the future. But what it does allow us to do is map the possibilities, assess the risks and take the actions needed, to ensure our future resilience and well-being.

Thanks to science, we know about rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, rising sea levels rise and so on – but so far we haven’t worked out what these changes mean for the economy, for society and for nature.

The Climate Change Risk Assessment takes this next step.

This analysis is the first of its kind. Its methods are groundbreaking. Again the UK is leading the way with this risk-based approach. I want to congratulate the consortium led by HR Wallingford on this monumental achievement. I also want to thank Lord Krebs and the Adaptation Sub-Committee, Professor Martin Parry and his international review panel, and Professor Sir John Beddington and his Chief Scientific Advisers across Government, and the many peer reviewers who gave their expert advice along the way.

Sir John and his Foresight team have been working on a parallel international project that is helping us understand how changing weather patterns across the world will affect us here in the UK. Published last July, their report identifies the key threats, from impacts on trade routes and infrastructure to global diseases and international migration. It provides a useful accompaniment to today’s Risk Assessment.

Annually we invest £30 to £50 billion on infrastructure: road, rail, energy, and water hardware, much of which will be here for many decades. To get the best return from this investment – to minimise the costs of maintenance, refurbishment, and replacement – we need to factor the need for long-term climate resilience into the decisions we’re making now. We’re particularly grateful to the Royal Academy of Engineering for helping us think through the infrastructure issues.

The CCRA shows us the range of challenges we face.

– Threats to infrastructure, and to supply chains.

– Threats to wildlife. Although some species could benefit, many more would struggle.

– The risk of flooding is likely to become greater.

– At the same time water could become scarce.

– The UK’s farmers could be tackling water scarcity while managing the higher risk of animal diseases, as well as new weeds and pests.

– Warmer winters may reduce cold-related deaths – but hotter summers would increase health risks.

– Hotter weather would also increase the risk of wildfires.The report also analyses the opportunities presented by climate change itself, and by the need to adapt. Taking up these opportunities is part of the challenge.

The Risk Assessment sets out the challenges – but not the solutions. It also doesn’t factor in changes in policy, plans, and behaviour – our ability to adapt.

This is important to remember. The analysis provides a baseline against which to assess the climate resilience of our plans and actions; so we can judge what more needs to be done.

Work to build climate change resilience is happening across government. My department’s activities include our Natural Environment White Paper and our National Ecosystems Assessment, both published last summer, which look at how climate change will affect species, habitats and eco-systems.

Our Water White Paper, published in December, sets out our vision for a climate-resilient water industry, for secure water supplies and healthy lakes and rivers throughout the century.

As the department for food and agriculture we are working to help farmers adapt to climate change. We have also published guidelines on forests and climate change. And we are lobbying internationally for climate change agriculture to be part of the climate change treaty.

This work is not for government alone. All sectors will be affected. All sectors need to act.

The Risk Assessment is the start of a conversation: a nationwide, sector-wide conversation about ensuring our climate resilience, our economic stability and our health and well-being, in the short and the long term.

This conversation is vital to the co-creation of the National Adaptation Programme for 2013. I want you be part of it. Please visit our National Adaptation Programme web pages to collaborate in this crucial work.

Because, with cross-sector engagement, with foresight, with planning, and with commitment, we can mitigate climate threats, as well as taking advantage of the opportunities – and ensure that our economy is resilient.

It’s inspiring to see what is already happening.

Climate resilient infrastructure is vital. We are keeping abreast of what infrastructure companies are doing, through the reports they are providing under the Adaptation Reporting Power.

But it’s not just about infrastructure. All businesses, from local retailers to big corporations, need to be climate resilient.

The Climate Resilience Toolkit we have developed with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants is an excellent tool for quickly and simply assessing how your business could be affected by climate change. We’re now working with the Environment Agency to create further ways of helping businesses, local authorities and other organisations adapt in practical ways.

Businesses should seize the opportunities: how to provide climate resilience to their customers, and how climate change might spark the need for new products and services.

Forward-thinking companies are already coming up with the solutions both innovative and simple, from Swiss Re’s weather hedge for drought-prone areas in India, to Hallmark Blinds’ design for a window cover that deflects heat while letting the light in.

Different areas in the UK face different risks. So most adaptation actions need to happen locally. Local government has a vital role to play.

Many local authorities are meeting this challenge, in partnership with public and private sector organisations.

Big cities are especially vulnerable to heat waves. The City of London has mapped places across the metropolis where residents and workers could escape the heat.

In east London, Barking and Dagenham council have reduced flood risk by creating a wetland – at the same time providing habitats for people to enjoy and wildlife to thrive.

Dorset County Council has worked with the Met Office to assess climate change impacts on the county’s roads and pathways over the next 40 years. The council will now use the assessment to make sure the county’s highways are resilient.

There are many other initiatives; and we need to spread best practice, helping more local adaptation action.

The most deprived and vulnerable individuals and communities face the highest risks of hardship from climate change.

We are currently working with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations to help charities and voluntary groups understand how climate change could affect the people they work with. We also have strong links with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which is researching the social justice implications of climate change.

Wildlife conservation organisations are working on how to help species adapt to climate change, through land management and conservation work. The National Trust’s work to manage rising sea levels and other climate impacts on its properties is another example of civil society’s role.

It was Benjamin Franklin who said nothing in this world is certain, but death and taxes. We are used to dealing with uncertainty: and we’re good at it. We are constantly making risk-based decisions, from how we invest money to whether to carry an umbrella.

The more information we have, the easier and the better our decisions are.

We are a Government that understands the vital role of science. Science that gives a clear picture of the evidence where it exists, and science that describes the extent of the uncertainty where it doesn’t. This is why we protected the science budget in the spending review, and why we made more science investments in the autumn statement.

Today’s document is part of that science, and part of that mission. Please use the science, and work with us, to ensure prosperity and well-being, for ourselves and for future generations.

Caroline Spelman – 2011 Speech at the Oxford Farming Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by the Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, to the 2011 Oxford Farming Conference.

I’ve been really looking forward to the Oxford Farming Conference. It’s my first as Secretary of State and allows me to set out my stall as we approach a new year in the agricultural calendar and the start of serious negotiations.

I’m a lucky lady because years ago as a commodity secretary of the NFU I would look to this event to set the framework for the industry to operate in. And now I’m here helping to set it.

As the Coalition we now have a credible negotiating mandate and the right to be a positive participant in Europe – a participant that will be looking to get the best deal for farmers, taxpayers, consumers and the environment alike.

It helps to speak other’s languages of course. But more than the words it’s the fact the UK is a real player at the negotiating table that we are more likely to achieve our aims.

Aims which include the reform of the Common Agriculture Policy.

We need to address the tendency to protectionism in other Member States which undercuts producers in developing countries, because this is morally wrong. Favouring protectionism over liberalisation will actually hold back European farmers in the long run.

To continue as we are threatens to prevent the transition we need towards a market that can sustain EU agriculture in the future. And there has to be change, because the new member states will demand a fairer allocation – with which I have considerable sympathy. There won’t be a deal, frankly, without this.

We now need to make the new CAP fundamentally different. Its strategic approach must change; as well as its detail.  It must be re-positioned so that we can tackle the new challenges of achieving global food security and tackling and adapting to a changing climate.

The Commission recently published its plans for CAP reform.  Although they set out the challenges for the sector they did little to create a dynamic strategy that would usefully contribute to President Barroso’s 2020 vision. So, while I welcome their proposals for further moves towards market orientation and international competitiveness I believe we can be more ambitious.

We can be more positive. More confident. Now is the time to make very significant progress towards reducing our reliance on direct payments – it’s certainly something the farmers I know want to see happen. Rising global demand for food and rising food prices make it possible to reduce subsidies and plan for their abolition.

Furthermore we should encourage innovation in the industry. Provide help with environmental measures and combating climate change. Our taxpayers have every right to expect other public goods for the subsidies they pay. I’m wary of the proposal to ‘green’ Pillar 1. What is proposed is nothing like as ambitious as British farmers have shown themselves to be. That’s why we want to see Pillar 2 taking a greater share of limited resources.

We are prepared to work hard to achieve this vision. As a coalition we have a positive relationship with the EU, with fellow Members States and with all EU institutions.  We are forming alliances with those who share our vision of a competitive industry, who share our desire to see it deliver on public goods and who want to see a level playing field in the CAP.  This is the only way we can achieve our goals.

We can do it. We’ve already seen it work. It may not be what you expected me as a Secretary of State to say, but it’s true. Recent negotiations on whaling, on forestry and at the December Fisheries Council all succeeded because we built partnerships.

The relationships we build will pay off. At the end of last year – in Nagoya – we saw an international agreement on a new global framework for protecting biodiversity.

In the year of its Presidency of the G20, France has boldly and wisely proposed a meeting of Agriculture Ministers to improve the functioning of world markets.

A timely decision as the global demand for food rises.  As international food markets open up and the risk increases of a wrong-headed, protectionism. In some cases this has already happened – we just have to cast our minds back to late summer and the ban on Russian and Ukrainian grain exports.

I would therefore like to work with France to seek an end to export bans – one of the most restrictive practices found in the world market.

This challenge is the clear focus of the Foresight Report which will be published at the end of this month.

Of course our vision for the future and the goals we set ourselves must be tempered by the current fiscal climate.

There’s a need for a reality check. It’s astonishing that the Commission’s initial views on the CAP barely acknowledge the hard times currently facing Europe.

It’s hard for us here too.

We’ve been in office for just over 6 months.  It’s been a challenging time. But, as the PM said, Britain can become one of the international success stories of the new decade. But first we must deal with the economic problems we inherited. Our overriding goal has been to set in motion measures to tackle those problems. This began with an emergency budget swiftly followed by the comprehensive spending review.

But this hasn’t stopped us spending in excess of £2 billion of taxpayers money in pursuit of our objectives.  Of greening the economy.  Of enhancing the environment and biodiversity.

Of supporting the British food and farming industry and helping it develop.

That is a theme that runs right through our business plan. Particularly the role the food sector plays in our economy. And the contribution made by farmers in managing the land.

Over the coming years we need to increase the competitiveness of the whole UK food chain, to help secure an environmentally sustainable and healthy supply of food.

Underlying all of this is the power shift from the centre towards local organisations – putting local people back in charge – a classic example of what we mean by Big Society.

This shift will change the way the department works. We want to see a greater degree of trust and collaboration when developing and delivering policy. This will allow you as an industry to shape your own destiny.

I think this last point is of paramount importance.  I see my job as helping you to become more profitable, innovative and competitive.  By creating the right conditions for the industry to raise productivity, to be entrepreneurial, to continue to develop strong connections with your markets and customers and establish robust links throughout the food chain. I’m really keen to do my bit but it will require you as an industry to step up and seize these opportunities. Sustainable intensification is an example, where fewer agricultural inputs results in less cost to you and the environment. A win-win situation all round.

The whole industry must strive to be as good as its best operators and in turn the best need to keep raising the bar.

This is crucial – as a nation we’ve never been so interested in where food comes from, how it’s produced and animal welfare.  As a result corporate values can easily be damaged by food scare stories.  Public opinion and the media can bring great pressure to bear. Those in the industry who are good at their business understand this and are more responsive to the market’s changing demands as a result.

We want farming to enjoy a better image. We want more young people to enter the industry. We need to convince them that it offers good prospects.  That’s why the work of the Agri-Skills Forum is so important, putting in place the infrastructure for lifelong learning through continuous professional development.

We want everyone to see the potential in UK farming. It’s an industry that – with the food sector – enjoys an £85 billion income. It has succeeded in growing even through recession. People are always going to need food. It has the potential to become a dynamic and progressive industry with an image to match. Where professionalism and high skills are ably demonstrated. Where farmers are enterprising business people looking to make the most of their experience, always looking for new business opportunities.

I was impressed by Lincolnshire farmers innovation during the recent freeze and their efforts to slow the thawing of cauliflowers to avoid the waste of last year.

For the industry to innovate like this we need to allow it to operate in an environment where there is a greater degree of trust.

This approach marks a departure from the old way of doing business. The paternal approach of Government telling industry what to do and industry complying.

We want a system which recognises most people try to do the right thing.

So what we now need is a greater degree of collaboration. We’ve already seen this at work through the new voluntary food labelling code. The Task Force for Farming Regulation is another example.

A clear priority for this Government, and one that must underpin the Commission’s approach will be to reduce the unnecessary red tape for farmers. We want to be in the vanguard in Europe in pursuing this further. Our aim is to develop an industry fit for an exciting future. A future which is innovative, competitive and profitable. We will not achieve that by burdening farmers with more regulations.

Through the Task Force we want to see how and where, we can reduce the cost of compliance. We hope the group will be able to offer advice on how to reduce the regulatory burden and identify examples of gold-plating and overly complex implementation.

We know they’ve asked for your input and that they are looking at a number of areas of concern. Particularly around arrangements for livestock movement and identification, for cross compliance and nitrate vulnerable zones, as well as inspections – an issue that affects a lot of you. Currently, you might be visited by an official agency inspector, by the local authority and by a private sector assurance auditor, all looking at the same thing for different reasons.  We look forward to the Task Force’s recommendations for a simpler, risk-based way of doing things.

We’re looking to the Task Force to make clear strategic recommendations on how we use regulations. They’ll report back in April.

Elsewhere we’re looking at how responsibility for dealing with animal disease can be shared with animal keepers which will demand trust on both sides. We know sharing responsibility makes for better decisions, Bluetongue being a case in point.

Our overriding goal here is to reduce the universal risk and costs of disease to industry, government and the wider economy, while at the same time increasing the effectiveness of investment in disease prevention and management.

The recommendations from the independent Advisory Group were released just before Christmas. We’re busy looking at what was said and will respond in due course.

The issue of trust plays out in initiatives set up by the department. Particularly the Campaign for the Farmed Environment. Here we believe it gives the industry the opportunity to show everyone that the farming community is best placed to deliver the required environmental outcomes from their land.  We know farmers are the stewards of the countryside this is your opportunity to show that. We have put our money where our mouth is by backing both environmental schemes. Increasing the higher level by 80%.

The key tool we use to enable farmers to deliver on our strategic priorities for natural resource protection.

While walking the fields on John Plumb’s Warwickshire farm I saw for myself how he sows a mixture of seeds on the headlands to attract pollinators and farmland birds.

Currently we’re working with Natural England and others to make all strands of Environmental Stewardship more effective and better targeted.  The aim here is to ensure that the scheme is more focused on results.

All of this will ensure that agri-environment outcomes delivered to date are protected and maintain our commitment to making Environmental Stewardship available to all farmers.

This work dovetails neatly with the ideals and goals behind the publication of our White Paper on the Natural Environment.

A document that looks to make the natural environment’s real value count. The first of its kind for twenty years.

The white paper gives us an unmissable opportunity to make a real difference and ensure the health of our natural environment and our economy go hand in hand.

The farming community has a role to play here.  You are the custodians of the countryside. You conserve and promote a vibrant natural environment.  We’re now looking to build on this and get the balance right between the public’s demands for affordable and plentiful food while meeting their demands for a healthy natural environment.

This generation should be the one that reverses the loss of species.  A generation which secures a healthy natural world for the future and one which properly values and protects the benefits that nature gives us.

I enjoyed a preview of the research on the value and viability of UK Farming prepared for this conference. I hope that what I have said today has demonstrated the collaborative approach it calls for. The importance of farming to the UK economy is recognised by the priority we have given it in Defra’s business plan, providing the kind of leadership you call for.

This should help to address the concern in the research community that the UK government understands agriculture less well than our competitors. With all four ministers at Defra having agricultural credentials we defended Government research in the spending review.

The priority we give to farming and the food industry will also help to improve the image and profile of the sector.

Today I’ve tried to lay out my ambitions, goals and vision for the food and farming community of this country. I believe the whole industry has a lot to contribute to a healthy economy, environment and society. As Secretary of State I fully intend to maintain this dialogue and help create a competitive and sustainable industry that is successful because it gives customers what they want.

An industry that embraces risk and manages risk. An industry that wants to deliver public environmental goods. That takes greater responsibility for animal health and welfare standards. And an industry that underpins the quality of rural life.

All of which further develops the levels of trust needed for us to move forward. What I can do is provide the framework for you to succeed. You are the entrepreneurs. You make it happen.

Thank you.

Caroline Spelman – 2004 Speech to Welsh Conservative Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Caroline Spelman to the 2004 Welsh Conservative Party Conference on 3rd April 2004.

Firstly let me take this opportunity to thank you all for coming along to take part in what I am sure you will agree has been an invaluable policy session.

As I am sure you are aware, this is one of the first functions I have undertaken since becoming Shadow Secretary of State for Local and Devolved Government, and I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor David Curry, who worked tirelessly in this brief and with my colleague Bill Wiggin in respect of Wales particularly.

Bill is proving to be a tremendous ambassador not only for the Conservative Party in Wales but vitally for Wales within the Conservative Party and Parliament as a whole, and I would like to thank him for the terrific work he is doing.

I believe passionately in local politics.

For me, in many ways, local government and local councillors are the very embodiment of Conservative values. Strong local representation goes hand in glove with empowering individuals and limiting state interference in people’s lives. Dynamic and effective local councils are integral to the decentralisation in which Conservatives believe.

Just as big Government and ‘command and control’ by the state are the hallmarks of Labour, small Government and trusting local people to deliver solutions to local problems must be the hallmark of the Conservatives.

Councillors voluntarily give up their time, motivated by a sense of civic duty to work to improve their local surroundings.

These are qualities which are integral to Conservative thinking.

Local Government is under the spotlight like never before. As Council Taxes have risen so have people’s determination to scrutinise the way in which their local authority uses that money and to what effect.

We are dealing with an increasingly consumer-orientated electorate who want to know exactly what they are getting for their money and it is our job to show them, rightly, that time and time again they get better value under the Conservatives than they would under Labour or Liberal Democrats.

The cynicism which has beset people’s attitude to national politics is in danger of spreading to local politics, and this brings me onto another reason why I feel so strongly about the importance of local Government.

To people who are interested in politics, which I feel I am confident in claiming we all are, the rise of political apathy is extremely worrying and potentially very destructive.

Local councillors are uniquely placed to combat this apathy head-on. They are better able to stand on the door step, talking face to face with voters about the immediate issues that concern them – taking on board their concerns and developing local solutions.

In fulfilling that role, our candidates and existing councillors are doing a great service not only to the Conservative Party, but to all of those who recognise the importance of a thriving, responsive democracy.

One party that clearly fails to recognise the importance of a thriving, responsive democracy is the Liberal Democrats – a definite misnomer if ever there was.

The Liberal Democrats are political chameleons, changing their policies, attitudes and positions with every doorstep they call at.

We must expose their inconsistencies and hold them to account – particularly here in Wales where they have bedded down with Labour.

Let me quote you a very telling excerpt from a leaked memo circulated within the Liberal Democrat party advising association how to select candidates for local elections:

‘Be shameless in asking. Paperless candidates need not be members of the party and should not be vetted in any way’.

It called for ‘friends and flatmates’ of party members to ‘be persuaded to stand “for a laugh” and for the price of a round of drinks’

‘Make it clear that they will not win, will not be expected to do anything and can choose a ward on the other side of the council area where no one knows them’

‘Get all your paperless candidates together and draw the wards out of a hat in front of them to decide who stands where. Or organise a competition to see who gets the least votes (with a prize)’.

What more needs to be said?

The Liberal Democrats do not take standing for local government seriously and their candidates frequently have little in common the neighbourhoods in which they are running.

This from a party that takes the name ‘Democrats’.

The forthcoming local elections present a great opportunity for the Conservative Party.

We should be quite clear that every council seat we win in Wales will not only be hugely significant in itself, it will be one step closer to reinstating the Conservative Party as the Party of Government.

Winning local elections will not, and should not, come easily though.

As a party we have to go out and work hard for people’s trust and people’s vote. It is not enough to simply expose the failings of the opposition – we know these failings are plentiful and we know they are undermining the quality of life people have a right to enjoy – but we need to show that we have the resolve and solutions to reverse them.

I don’t want to stand before you today and offer you a prescription for winning local elections, because it would run entirely counter to what I have just been saying about trusting local people.

What I can do, is explain the context and narrative of our campaign.

As you are probably aware, the Party has spent a great deal of time finding out what people think of the Government, what they think of the Conservatives, and what they are looking for when they put their cross on the ballot paper.

The overriding feeling is one of disillusionment.

People feel let down by Labour – a party which promised so much and has delivered so little.

Not only are they feeling let down, they are wary of Labour and wary of the tax rises Labour will inevitably bring. This is magnified by the feeling that Labour is failing to address so many of people’s fundamental concerns.

They feel Labour has triggered the pensions crisis; they feel Labour has failed to deliver the reform in health they want to see; they feel the education their children need has been neglected by Labour; and interestingly they feel Labour are not doing enough to protect us from the ever-present danger of terrorism.

These are just a few examples of issues where our research tells us the perception of Labour in office is bad.

Our strategy must be to highlight and reinforce these perceptions.

However, we must also convey with clarity and conviction where Conservatives are good:

Where Tony Blair has let people down, Michael Howard will stand up for them.

Where Labour have driven up taxes and wasted public money on bureaucracy and red tape, the Conservatives will deliver leaner, more efficient and more responsive government at every level.

I and the entire local and devolved government team are there as a resource to help you, to provide you with campaigning ideas, and to create a favourable position for the Party.

However we understand that that nobody knows your local issues and your local voters like you do.

Conservatives can make a real difference locally and the forthcoming local elections are an ideal opportunity to showcase that.

Council Tax is an area where here in Wales Conservatives can successfully steal a march on the opposition at a local level.

Council tax bills have risen by 80% since 1997 – the equivalent to eight times the rate of inflation, with no delivery of real reform in public services.

Council tax has become the ultimate stealth tax and nowhere is this more acute than here in Wales, the actual rate of increase is even higher in Wales than it is anywhere in England.

I think it is very telling that the £27 million earmarked by Gordon Brown to help lower council taxes was taken by the National Assembly to tackle bed blocking.

Not only that – the Welsh assembly has even introduced a new top band of council tax – Band I- as a mechanism for forcing taxes up further.

The local elections are not only crucial for those people actually putting themselves forward for election, they are crucial for everyone that has an interest in the future of the Conservative Party, and in my view crucial for the future wellbeing of Wales, and the country as a whole.

As we approach the forthcoming local and European elections we have a lot of work to do.

Jonathan Evans is a great example of the effectiveness of Welsh Conservatives, and the strength of our European candidates for Wales is a tribute to the calibre of the Conservative Party in Wales.

I know many of you go way above and beyond the call of duty, please don’t think for a second I and my colleagues in Westminster take that for granted.

But there are only so many hours in the day, only so much manpower we can put in, particularly when juggling jobs, family and social commitments.

The Conservative Party in Wales is in a strong position and when the Party in Wales is in a strong position the Party nationally is in a strong position.

I and the local and devolved government team certainly look forward to working with you so that we can build on that as the countdown to June 10 begins.

Caroline Spelman – 2003 Speech to Conservative Spring Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Caroline Spelman to the 2003 Conservative Spring Conference on 15th March 2003.

My job is to focus on the humanitarian consequences of a possible conflict in Iraq. For months now I have been badgering my opposite number Clare Short to produce a detailed humanitarian contingency plan. There has been stark contrast in the way we prepared for the war in Afghanistan where the Prime Minister said humanitarian and military contingency were of equal importance. For Afghanistan we had several statements on humanitarian relief. We debated how to do it better; should there be a pause in the bombing to deliver food aid and so on. This time nothing. I think this is a disgrace. However much Clare Short is respected for her strong views and her deep concern for the plight of the world’s poor, which of course I share, she should not allow her personal views to get in the way of doing her job.

In November, I got all the aid agencies together who work in Iraq and its neighbouring countries to brainstorm what needed to be done. We sent Clare Short two full sheets of suggestions which were barely acknowledged. In December I asked her what extra funding her Department had earmarked for contingency in Iraq. I got a one word answer, ‘none’. In January, I asked which of the neighbouring countries she had spoken to about the possible flight of refugees. I got the same answer: ‘none’. This is no way to carry on.

Out of sheer frustration, we devoted one of our precious opposition days to the subject of humanitarian contingency in Iraq. We got her to come to Parliament. But did we get any answers? You guessed: None.

This is so wrong when so much could be done even now to mitigate the consequences of war for innocent Iraqis. We could preposition food, water, medicines and dare I say it gas masks on Iraq’s borders. We could prepare for the flight of refugees estimated by the UN to put up a million people. Indeed this is beginning to happen. Oxfam has enough supplies for 10,000 refugees in each of Iraq’s neighbouring states. But this is woefully inadequate.

In a written statement to Parliament on Thursday, Clare Short said her ‘assessment of the overall level of preparedness of the international community to cope with the humanitarian challenges which may lie ahead in Iraq is limited and this involves serious risk’. So, you have to do something about it. She should therefore either put up or shut up, or if she cannot stomach the position of her government she should resign.

No one can afford to ignore the humanitarian dimension of the crisis in Iraq. We are talking about a country where one in ten children die before their fifth birthday. A country where a third of the children are chronically malnourished. A country where the Government uses chemical and biological weapons against its own people. A country where torture and execution are common place. Because of these awful facts I believe that we are right to support the Prime Minister in liberating the people of Iraq.

It would have been quite wrong to make party political capital out of the plight of the Iraqi people, but it just is a fact that the Liberal Democrats have tried to face both ways on this issue. Never mind about being serially reckless, they have been serially opportunist. Pro-war and anti-war; pro-UN and anti-UN; pro-second resolution and anti-second resolution. They must make up their minds.

I feel passionately that just like in the war in Afghanistan we have to demonstrate to ordinary Iraqis that our war is not with them. This means we need a proper strategy for delivering aid to the people of Iraq. If we are to persuade the Iraqi people that this is a war against a cruel repressive dictator, and not a war against them, or a war against Islam, we must genuinely liberate the people of Iraq. Unless we provide aid and assistance to the Iraqi people we may win the war and lose the peace. A successful outcome, one that provides genuine freedom to the Iraqi people, will be another victory for the war on terrorism.

Caroline Spelman – 2015 Speech on Syrian Air Strikes

Below is the text of the speech made by Caroline Spelman in the House of Commons on 2 December 2015.

There is an important religious dimension to this debate and faith leaders shape public opinion, so I thought it might be helpful if I shared with the House the views expressed by the Church of England on the subject.

At a meeting of the General Synod last week, a motion on the migrant crisis called unanimously upon the Government

“to work with international partners in Europe and elsewhere to help establish safe and legal routes to places of safety, including this country, for refugees who are vulnerable and at severe risk.”

That motion passed with 333 votes and none opposing. The Archbishop of Canterbury made it clear that, in his view, force might be necessary to keep the refugees safe. He also said that the Church would not be forgiven if it turned inwards at this time of crisis. Rather, it must face the fact that extremism is now a feature of every major faith, including Christianity.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has backed proportionate military intervention to tackle Daesh, and he cites Pope Francis saying that where aggression is unjust, aggression is licit against the aggressor. These are views which I share, which is why I will support the motion.

As the Prime Minister has said, this is not a war against Islam. Religious extremism is global and the key to solving this is the determination of people of faith to overcome it, not just in Syria, but right around the world. The Church is well placed to help, as the conflict is both theological and ideological. By reaching out to other people of faith and showing common cause in tackling extremism, we can demonstrate to a fearful secular world that faith leaders hold one of the keys to finding a solution. Where religion is being hijacked for political ends, we should say so.

The Anglican Communion offers a worldwide network of churches to deploy in the joint global endeavour to stamp out extremism. Together, the integration of hard and soft power is likely to produce a better outcome. I urge my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who will be replying to the debate, to consider this question: to combat Daesh, it is important that prominent theological and ideological strategy is alongside any potential military humanitarian intervention. Unless we understand our enemy and those we choose as our allies in the region, we are unlikely to properly understand the conflict. I hope he will be able to inform the House what thought the Government have given to this advice as they develop their strategy.

The Church can also play an important practical role in offering hospitality, accommodation, support and friendship to refugees, whatever their religious tradition, and advocacy for those who are being persecuted because of their faith. Hospitality is seen as a spiritual gift by the Church and explains why this country, with its Judeo-Christian roots, has a long tradition of providing safe haven to successive waves of migrants. We need to recognise that the conflict may affect the number of migrants and displaced people, and the Prime Minister is therefore right to convene a donors conference early in 2016.

We should also recognise that international development aid agencies, many of which are Christian in origin, would emphasise that it is better to help refugees in their own region, so that once it is safe they can more easily return and rebuild their country. My local imam, who is from Syria and has family still there, is very anxious about the safety of civilians and the need to avoid a power vacuum.

The public will need continuous assurance and transparency about why action is being taken and what outcomes are being achieved, so I welcome the commitment to quarterly updates for the House.

It is all important how we give our international aid, during and post-conflict, and how we ensure that the voice of the displaced is heard in the post-conflict planning. As we know, it is the most vulnerable, and often the women, who have no voice at all in war. We have a duty to ensure that they are heard.