Chloe Smith – 2019 Speech at SOLACE

Below is the text of the speech made by Chloe Smith, the Minister for the Constitution, at SOLACE (the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives) on 24 January 2019.

Thank you very much indeed for asking me to be here today, it’s an absolute pleasure to come back and see many of you and Louise thank you for the invitation.

It’s very good to see a number of familiar faces in the room, but also I understand some new members, so I hope you all had a very good conference morning.

There is a lot that we do together, and first of all I would like to thank Dave Smith all of his work in the last year, and to welcome Louise to the role for Elections and Democratic Renewal. It’s a role where I really hope we will be able to achieve together.

As the past few years have clearly demonstrated, facilitating and sustaining a flourishing democracy is a very important thing – it is essential that we all understand the weight behind all of our democratic decisions and that everyone has their say.

We all recognise our shared responsibility to inspire participation and tackle democratic exclusion among under-registered groups.

When I was here twelve months ago, I set out the approach the government is taking to these issues following the publication of our ‘Every Voice Matters’ Democratic Engagement Plan.

It was the first time government had announced a comprehensive strategy for addressing exclusion in our democratic system.

Today, we are publishing a ‘One Year On’ update, so I want to tell you what we have achieved, but also what we hope to do, to respect, protect and promote our democracy.

Because there is still so much more to do.

As I look at what’s possible in the coming years, I know that we cannot achieve our aims alone.

Meeting the challenges that our democracy faces, and reaching the many different groups that we all must serve, requires us to work collaboratively with a range of experts across the public, private and third sector.

So today I have come here to ask you all for your continued commitment to helping citizens have confidence in our historic, strong and successful electoral system.

It is you who hold local knowledge and relationships. I really thank you for the tremendous work of your elections teams supporting their Electoral Registration Officers and Returning Officers.

You do that hard work and I would love for that gratitude to be passed on to the teams behind you.

Local authorities – you and your teams – are the frontline of our democracy.

Our approach to democracy has to be one based on respect – underpinned by the principle of fairness, of course.

We believe everyone in this country should have confidence that their vote matters, that they are making a difference, and that their voice is being heard.

Votes of course should not carry any more weight for one than for another.

That is why the government is committed to making our democratic system fairer by supporting the independent and impartial reviews from the Boundary Commissions, which will deliver equal representation for voters across the UK at the next scheduled general election.

Channeling a culture of respect and inclusion should be a priority for anyone involved in the democratic sphere at this critical time.

For if we, at the forefront of the democratic agenda, do not promote a culture of respect – how can we expect those we serve to follow it?

As a Member of Parliament, I have been lucky enough to travel to places like Myanmar and countries in East Africa where they are only just beginning their journeys to full democracy.

As last year’s Suffrage Centenary reminded us, the UK’s democracy has come a long way.

But 100 years on since some women won the right to vote and 90 years since women received equal voting rights in this country, there is a lot more still to achieve.

I am playing my part in this journey by working to ensure that everyone understands and respects the need for debate that is robust and healthy.

At a time of rising levels of intimidation in public life, it’s important we work to prevent this worrying trend from stopping talented people going into public service.

I think our politics will be the poorer if talented people do not get involved, whether as candidates or campaigners, or indeed in local authorities, because they see the unacceptable abuse hurled at those who do volunteer for public life.

That is why last year we launched a consultation on Protecting the Political Debate which sought views on new measures to tackle this growing trend. We are analysing the evidence that we received back from that consultation and I look forward to publishing our response and next steps early this year.

Respect for our democracy is also rooted in the public having confidence that our processes and systems are secure – that elections will always take place on a level playing field. And so I take my responsibility to protect our democracy very seriously indeed.

We have taken action across a range of areas.

Part of the consultation I just touched on also looked at the requirement for digital campaigning material to include the details of who has produced it and paid for it.

We believe voters should be able to see which organisation or individual is targeting them, and thus be informed and empowered.

Protecting our democratic processes also means recognising the importance of cyber security – a point the newly appointed Government Chief Security Officer has made in a letter to the President of SOLACE this week.

My colleagues in the Government Security Group will also be providing much advice through the Local Government Association’s weekly bulletin – which I hope you’ll be able to see in the coming weeks.

All of us have an important role to play then, in protecting the operation of our elections from from those who seek to undermine them.

For example, electoral fraud is not a victimless crime.

We must work together to stamp this problem out.

We can do so through a solution so simple it is already used by people everyday – and I’m referring to showing ID at the polling station. We do of course already use ID in many, many walks of life and showing ID to prove who you say you are before you vote is a common sense approach to tackling voter fraud.

Indeed, voters in Northern Ireland have been required to show a form of ID since 1985 without adverse effect on turnout or participation.

So, last May local authorities held Voter ID pilots in five local elections. Both our own evaluation and that of the independent Electoral Commission showed that the trials were a success. The overwhelming majority of people were able to cast their vote without any problems.

It is a real credit to the local authorities involved that their awareness-raising campaigns were effective in making voters aware of the change. So it’s a big thank you to those Chief Executives and Returning Officers who helped deliver those five pilots last year. And thank you to those who have agreed to hold pilots again or for the first time.

I am delighted by the collaborative, supportive work between each pilot authority and my staff to ensure the success of the 2019 pilots. Doing so will no doubt benefit you by improving your preparedness for national roll-out. It will also help us prepare for that moment because the more pilots and subsequent data we have to analyse and learn from, the better the final proposal for Voter ID will be. So I would urge everyone here to think about following in their footsteps by volunteering to pilot in future.

I do think this work is absolutely essential to be able to look those arriving at polling stations in the eye and tell them: ‘your vote is yours and yours alone’. But we have to get it right, which is why I am also currently holding meetings with representative groups from a broad range of charities and civil society organisations.

My conversations with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Stonewall, Shelter, Operation Black Vote and Age UK – to give some examples – will ensure that we fully understand the impact of voter ID and the needs of all voters in our country.

That positive engagement with groups which reflect our diverse society reflects our broader approach towards driving up participation. As well as respecting our democracy and protecting it, we must also promote it. We have made excellent progress in this area.

Reforms to our electoral registration system now completed have resulted in record levels of people registering to vote. Nevertheless, this year’s Hansard Society Audit of Political Engagement showed that just a third of people believe they can affect political change by getting involved. So we must always be reminding ourselves that our democracy is only ever as strong as the people who are part of it. That’s why I’ve made it my ambition to make the next general election more accessible.

As things stand, for example, there are just over one million people with a learning disability who are of voting age in the UK. I’m very concerned that less than a third of those are exercising their democratic right to vote – and I’ve been determined to do what I can to change this.

Last year we launched a call for evidence on access to elections and have since worked out a number of steps to improve the voting experience of disabled people.

We are making polling stations more accessible – physically speaking.

We are improving the accessibility of the Register to Vote website – including by introducing an ‘Easy Read’ guide on the homepage of the service to enable people with learning difficulties to apply online without so much trouble.

And we have updated the Certificate of Visual Impairment so that local authorities are better able to help those with sight loss register to vote and then vote at elections.

I would also say that disabled people are also not sufficiently represented in public office.

To help address this, in December 2018, government also launched the interim EnAble Fund for Elected Office. This is a £250,000 commitment to support disabled candidates – primarily for the forthcoming local elections in May. It will help cover disability-related expenses people might face when seeking elected office.

I really hope this money will encourage more disabled people to become candidates and enrich our public life as a result.

As a further example of opening up elections, we have changed the law, allowing anonymous voter registration to help protect survivors of domestic violence and others.

As you will know, we want to help make legislation match more closely to the way people need to make those requests.

Another group facing unnecessary obstacles to participating in our democracy are those UK nationals who live overseas – our expats.

We think that no matter how far you have travelled, participation in our democracy is still a fundamental part of being British.

This is why in Parliament we are supporting the Overseas Electors Bill, which will end the current 15-year time limit on British expats voting in UK Parliamentary elections, delivering on votes for life, and why we are pursuing bilateral arrangements with EU Member States – to secure the voting rights for UK nationals living in the EU and vice versa.

It is right that both sides of this are considered together – that is both UK citizens living abroad and EU citizens living in the UK.

It is right in this time of change that we provide certainty to EU citizens living here where we can – many of course who are citizens who play an active role in our society and our democracy.

So I can therefore confirm that EU citizens currently living in the UK will retain their voting and candidacy rights in the next local elections in May.

I have been working closely with my colleagues in other departments, and earlier this week we announced an agreement with Spain that will allow UK nationals living in Spain, and Spanish nationals in the UK, to continue to vote and stand in local elections.

This agreement is the first of its kind and it secures the democratic rights of over 300,000 UK nationals living in Spain – the country with the biggest population of British expats living in the EU.

One final area of progress I want to highlight is our proposed reform of the annual canvass, which will make the process easier for citizens, and for your teams.

It will deliver the most accurate electoral register to date, while saving £27 million a year.

I know that the current canvass process is seen by EROs and others as too paper-based, too prescriptive, and too complex.

I am aiming to modernise it, allowing for a data-led approach and giving EROs more flexibility over their use of communications channels – and to target your precious resources where it is most needed to the properties where household change has occurred.

My team will shortly be communicating plans for Local Authorities to start preparing to use their own data and to test the data match step in early 2020.

I encourage you to support your electoral services teams in accessing and using local data, whether it is local authority owned or third party, where they are keen to do so. Including local data in the data match test will provide important information on the accuracy and usefulness of those data sets. This will be highly beneficial when it comes to the full roll-out of canvass reform.

I hope to legislate to allow for the reformed canvass to be implemented in 2020.

We make these changes as part of our broader commitment towards promoting a more inclusive democracy.

The Democratic Engagement Plan that I was able to speech about last year, charted a course towards that goal by identifying and tackling barriers that prevent some people – particularly those in under-registered groups – from participating in our democracy.

The update we will be publishing later today sets out the government’s future approach to democratic engagement – it outlines the role the government plays as a legislator, funder, convenor for registration activity and in promoting good practice.

I ask you – as leaders – to consider the significant role you can continue to play in sustaining a flourishing democracy, by encouraging improvement and building capability within your own organisations.

Good practice is at the heart of building capability.

I was pleased to begin to discuss this with Louise yesterday, and I am looking forward to continuing to work together to identify and promote good practice so that it becomes embedded in all of our teams.

Today’s publication makes clear how government intends to convene the various parts of the electoral community to make best use of our evidence, skills, knowledge, and our resources.

I see that the Cabinet Office role includes supporting others’ capability to lead and ultimately to act independently, to encourage people to register, to participate and to vote.

For instance, the Cabinet Office published details of what works on student registration; a brokering role that the government undertook as part of implementing the Higher Education and Research Act 2017.

The government will share more examples this year where we are best placed – for example we are leading on research on how to remove registration barriers for people who are homeless or move frequently. I really look forward to sharing the results of this.

But there is much to learn and benefit from at a local level. So let’s do this together.

As part of this, I am pleased to launch the Atlas of Democratic Variation – a collection of maps which, for the first time in this format, displays the geographical data variations on electoral registration – and data relevant to that.

The project was a collaboration between government and the Office for National Statistics.

I hope that it allows EROs , you and your colleagues, the wider electoral community, democracy organisations and others to:

examine the variations in the data, and seek to identify any trends or relationships between registration activity and population demographics, and use it to inform and support the development of your democratic engagement strategies

In other words, to get more people involved.

I don’t see it as being used to evaluate EROs performance nor the quality of the registers, we encourage stakeholders and interested parties to examine the maps included in the Atlas, to reflect on how they can support their democratic efforts.

This publication also highlights our commitment to ensuring everyone can make their voice heard free from abuse, making voting easier and more accessible for vulnerable and under-registered groups, and introducing measures to protect electors’ votes.

Government has a unique role to play in respecting, protecting and promoting our democracy.

I understand that in order for you to accommodate the very diverse needs of voters in your communities, there are certain things that only government can progress on your behalf.

Government naturally has a large impact in facilitating funding and promoting good practice.

We are working with counterparts in Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure that funding for delivery of elections at both local and national level is effective.

Also, only government, with the Parliament and the Devolved Administrations, can change the law. And I do hope to make the most important changes to keep our body of electoral law up to date and effective – even if I can’t do all the change that some call for.

But such things form only part of the equation and together we are greater than the sum of our parts.

It is essential to me that government creates an environment in which democracy can thrive: one which enables our democratic partners – such as yourselves here today – to put your unique knowledge, skills and resource, to work for your voters.

My message to you today is that I am committed to working with all of you to respect, protect and promote our democracy.

I look forward to doing that and I thank you for having me today.

Chloe Smith – 2018 Speech on Democracy

Below is the text of the speech made by Chloe Smith, the Minister for the Constitution, in Brussels, Belgium on 15 October 2018.

Introduction

We agree democracy is essential for free, well-governed societies to prosper.

We in the UK, along with you, are part of a community, extolling the virtues of democracy.

But as the leaders of the G7 agreed earlier this year in the Charlevoix, “democracy and the rules-based international order are increasingly being challenged by authoritarianism and the defiance of international norms”.

It’s up to all of us to work together to defend our democracy and preserve it for future generations. In my view we must respect it, protect it and promote it – those are the themes I will be working on in the UK, Europe and around the world.

As the Minister for the Constitution in the UK Government, today, I will set out what we are doing to defend the UK’s democracy. We are committed to:

– maintaining transparency, fairness and equality for parties, campaigners and voters

– we want to protect the safety and security of the electoral process, free from fraud and interference

– and we want to build on our democratic traditions to remain world leaders in maintaining confidence in our democracy

Transparency for digital campaigning

Starting with one of the challenges we face – for the last three decades the internet has not only revolutionised the way we interact with each other, it has revolutionised the way we do politics, too.

Information is only a moment away, and on the whole those changes are positive.

Thirty years ago, voters also didn’t also have to worry about whether their choice was being influenced by misleading political ads on social media.

The digital landscape poses challenges which we can’t afford to shy away from addressing.

On international affairs – we know that certain states routinely use disinformation, bots and hacking as foreign policy tools. It’s not surprising that they should try to influence other countries democratic systems to further their own agendas.

Democracy is based on citizens being confident that the elections they vote in are fair and transparent.

Governments must act to meet the pressures of digital campaigning so this confidence is assured, in terms of foreign-originated content, but of course also domestic content and debate too.

We are working to protect the news environment so accurate content can prevail and has a sustainable future.

We have to be alive to the fact that traditional news outlets aren’t the main source of information anymore.

We must give everyone the skills they need to distinguish between fact and fabrication.

In the UK, we are publicly consulting on how to require digital campaigning material to include the details of who has produced it.

Because voters need to see which organisation or individual is targeting them.

Salisbury

People need to be informed about the threats facing our country. I am immensely proud of the work done by the National Security Communications Team and the government’s Russia unit in revealing the role of the GRU in the despicable Salisbury attack.

The actions of the GRU are genuinely a threat to all our allies in democracy.

We are working together by sharing information about their activity with our international partners so that others can learn more about the threat they pose.

Safety and security of elections

In the UK, we have seen no evidence of successful interference in our democratic processes. We are vigilant.

I am confident that our voting system is secure.

Whilst UK voting systems do not lend themselves to direct electronic manipulation because our ballots are conducted with paper and pen.

But we recognise that confidence in the electoral system, and participation in it, are very much linked.

In the UK – there’s a reform we’re doing – you only need to say your name and address to get your ballot paper – a test based on a 19th century assumption that people knew their neighbours at the polling station.

Clearly, this process can be open to abuse and needs to be updated for our more modern, populous society.

One approach is to bring the UK in line with other European countries such as the Netherlands, France and Germany and many others where people can confirm their identity when they vote.

Conclusion

We know it is vital that everyone has confidence that their vote is theirs, and theirs alone.

Not only that – they have to feel that their vote matters, and that their voice is being heard, too.

I want the reputation of the UK’s democracy to be absolutely solid:

– known for its transparency and fairness

– known for being a safe and secure electoral system, untainted by misinformation

– I want it known for being a democracy that genuinely does work for every voter

– and known for the willingness of its government to work hard to increase confidence in our democracy for the people it serves

As I said, we must respect, protect and promote our democracy for the next generation.

That work has a vital task for our times.

Chloe Smith – 2018 Speech at Democracy Week Launch Event

Below is the text of the speech made by Chloe Smith, the Minister for the Constitution, on 21 March 2018.

Welcome

Thank you Minister Atkins for those inspiring words. As you have said so clearly, this year is a tremendous opportunity to reflect on how far our democracy has come and the people who made that happen.

Lessons of the Equal Suffrage campaign

Looking back I am struck by the energy and determination of the women and their allies who fought for equal suffrage. They pressed on with their campaign, often in the face of fierce opposition and ridicule, because theirs was a struggle for justice. Their commitment re-shaped our democracy.

Democratic Progress

Since 1918 we have seen our democracy transformed. By 1928 women had finally achieved equal suffrage and the franchise was broadened, with property owning restrictions stripped away.

Fast forward a century and the General Election in 2017 saw the largest ever electoral register, standing at 46.9 million.

The modernisation of our electoral system, including the introduction of individual electoral registration and the launch of the online digital service, has made it easier than ever to make an application to register to vote. 75% of applications are now made online, but for young people this is closer to 100%.

Future Challenges

As Minister for the Constitution I am aware of how much has been achieved but also of the distance still to travel. I want to open up, protect and improve our democracy.

National Democracy Week

So, in this Suffrage Centenary year, our inaugural National Democracy Week will kick off on Monday 2 July through to 8 July 2018, the 90th anniversary of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act which gave women the same voting rights as men.

National Democracy Week is being delivered in collaboration with NDW Council members, Cabinet Office and our combined extended networks. National Democracy Week is an opportunity to use all of our experience, insight and passion to increase democratic participation. We believe that regardless of who we are or where we are from, we must work together to ensure that every member of society has an equal chance to participate in our democracy and to have their say.

Together we will deliver a range of democratic engagement activities in the lead up to and during the week.

Our aim will be to get results. To increase understanding of how to take part in decision making, and also to grow those who say they are more likely to participate. I want to do this across the whole UK.

I would like to thank the National Democracy Week Council for their time and commitment so far. They have been working with Cabinet Office to produce our new branding, which you can see around the room today and features real people our Council works with every day.

Parliamentarian Pack Launch

Parliamentarians are at the forefront of our democracy, the embodiment of the principle of representation and a vital connection between people and parliament. In recognition of this unique role, I am delighted to launch this new toolkit to support the crucial work that you do to promote our democracy amongst young people.

Many of you will have been inspired at an early age to explore how you make your voice heard on issues that are important to you. For many, their first awareness of politics and how decisions are made comes from contact with their local representative, in schools, youth clubs and other extracurricular activities.

It is a prime opportunity for engagement which can have a lasting effect on our young citizens’ understanding of our electoral system and how it works for them. I ask you to join me in making use of this new resource throughout the year designed to make your interactions with young people effective and powerful.

Awards – Nominations Open

The National Democracy Week Council have also helped determine the categories for the National Democracy Week awards, which I am very excited to announce today.

We know that individuals and organisations across the UK are working tirelessly to engage people in our democracy. Their work, particularly with under represented groups, has the potential to help people understand their democratic rights and make their voices heard. This service is not always recognised, but as part of this summer’s festival of democracy, I want to acknowledge the great contributions that so many have made.

The categories, as determined by the National Democracy Week Council, are:

Young Advocate of the Year Award

Diversity Champion of the Year Award

Changemaker of the Year Award and

Collaboration of the Year Award

So please, if you know of a young person who champions democracy, someone who is committed to ensuring diversity, if you have been blown away by the change that an individual, project or organisation has driven, or there is a partnership you feel breaks new ground, make sure you nominate them through our new National Democracy Week website www.gov.uk/nationaldemocracyweek. Nominations will close 5pm Sunday 27 May and we will hold an Award ceremony during National Democracy Week.

Our democracy should be as inclusive as possible – let’s celebrate those who are rising to this challenge. Let us also each commit to do our bit to engage others, during National Democracy Week and beyond. I am delighted to introduce my colleague, Andrea Leadsom MP, Leader of the House of Commons, who will talk further about the Parliamentarian Pack and how it can help with that task.

Chloe Smith – 2018 Speech on Votes for Life for British Ex-Pats

Below is the text of the speech made by Chloe Smith, the Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office, on 23 February 2018.

Today (Friday 23 February) we’ll be debating the Overseas Electors Bill, introduced by Conservative Glyn Davies MP. I hope it will command cross-party support, alongside the firm support of the government.

The Bill sets out to end the current 15-year time limit on British expats voting back at home in the UK. At the moment, British citizens who live overseas find themselves abruptly disenfranchised after they have lived abroad for 15 years, even where they still feel closely connected to our country and want to take part in elections that can affect them like any other citizen. To many, this has been a terrible injustice.

As well as removing the time limit on the right to vote for UK citizens living abroad, we intend to enfranchise any British expats who were previously resident or registered to vote in the UK. Currently, only British citizens who were registered to vote before leaving the UK may apply to become overseas electors. The bill is seeking to change this. These changes are part of the Government’s wider ambition to strengthen the foundation of democracy and continually increase voter registration by ensuring every voter’s voice is heard.

British expats – under existing laws – are estimated to have among the lowest level of voter registration of any group, with only around 20% of eligible expats registered to vote for the June 2017 general election.

We think it’s right to encourage everyone to register to vote, and that’s why, last December, the government launched the first ever Democratic Engagement Plan to tackle democratic exclusion and outline how it will increase participation among under-registered groups. The Plan set out how we are launching National Democracy Week to promote democratic engagement and identifying the barriers faced by specific groups that are currently under-represented on the electoral register.

In 2014, we introduced online electoral registration which has already made it much easier for overseas electors to register to vote – and they have done so in ever increasing numbers. The latest figures from June 2017 showed that the highest ever total of overseas citizens registered to vote but potentially around one million have not registered. So I am proud this government is doing more to enfranchise our fellow citizens overseas and make it easier for them to take part in our elections.

Participation in our democracy is a fundamental part of being British, no matter how far you have travelled from the UK. Expats retain strong links with the United Kingdom: they may have family here, and indeed they may plan to return here in the future. Modern technology and cheaper air travel has transformed the ability of expats to keep in touch with their home country. Crucially, decisions taken by the UK government still affect them, such as pensions policy or foreign affairs choices. These are our fellow citizens and they have every right to be involved in our country and its choice of government.

Of course, following the British people’s decision to leave the EU, we need to strengthen ties with countries around the world and show the UK is an outward-facing nation. Our expat community has an important role to play in helping Britain expand international trade, especially given two-thirds of expats live outside the EU.

I am grateful to the many campaigners over the years who have asked for this rule to be changed, with dignity and passion. The Government pledged in our manifesto to make this change and I’m proud to deliver it. But it should be an aim we all share across parties. I will work closely with Mr Davies and everyone in Parliament, of any party, who wants to help every citizen of this country to register to vote and use their voice.

Chloe Smith – 2018 Speech at SOLACE

Below is the text of the speech made by Chloe Smith, the Minister for the Constitution, on 25 January 2018.

I’m extremely pleased to be here before you today and it’s an important part of my role to speak to the people charged with the responsibility for the effective running of the electoral processes that underpin our overall democratic system.

As some of you might be aware, I was the Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform five years ago and being able to look back at the work I was leading then gives me an opportunity to acknowledge just how much has been achieved by you all.

We have much new work in train, such as changing the provisions relating to overseas electors, responding to the recommendations in the report on electoral fraud by Sir Eric Pickles – including the piloting of ID in polling stations and changes to postal voting that will be tested at the elections in May – and plans to reform the position on the annual canvass.

Change has not stopped whilst I have been away from the elections brief and I hope to take forward further change for the better in the coming years also. That is a journey we will want to make together, taking account of our various needs and views and involving other major partners such as the AEA and Electoral Commission.

We have had, on a UK-wide basis, two General Elections, a European Parliamentary election and a referendum, plus the whole range of more local level polls that happen on a regular basis – and that these have been successfully delivered. That is an impressive track record and I thank you for your role in delivering those polls alongside substantive system changes.

Modernising registration to build on IER

First I’d like to deal with IER, familiar to us all. IER represents the biggest change to electoral registration in over 100 years and has brought some aspects of registering to vote into the 21st century. The introduction of IER was managed in such a way that register completeness remained stable – thanks to a major effort by government and EROs during the transition – while register accuracy improved considerably. IER has also significantly reduced the risk of registration fraud.

Making registration more digital was also transformative. More than 30 million people have used our digital service, most of them directly through the website which continues to receive very high user satisfaction. Use of the website peaks around an election and whilst this has an impact on your administration teams which we are keen to address, we need to recognise that our registers are more complete because of this. The availability of the website until midnight on the deadline day far surpasses the use of Household Notification Letters or other means of trying to get people to register ahead of an election.

But our public service reform agenda does not end with the introduction of IER and the digital service. There are further changes we can make to improve service effectiveness and efficiency. As with IER, our reform programme will work best if it is a collaboration, involving all key delivery partners with a focus on the practical changes we can make now.

We need EROs and their teams to be open to change if our reform programme is to have the benefits we all want. We have already made changes to allow more of the registration process to take place digitally – for example, allowing the e-mailing of Invitations to Register.

Take up of these new flexibilities has been much slower than expected. When so many other elements of local services are online or digital, why should so many teams continue to use so many paper forms? Especially when citizens’ expectations around communication have shifted so radically.

I am keen to work with you to understand delivery barriers and to promote good practice – but there will also be a need for leadership within your organisations to build capability in your electoral teams in the same way you have met the challenge of modernisation in other services.

Reforming the canvass

So of course, there is a clear role for government to make changes that only we can make to allow you to deliver more modern services. That is why we have put reforming the annual canvass, through legislation to support innovation, at the heart of our modernising registration agenda.

We recognise that by law the current process is very paper-based, with EROs under a duty to issue sometimes several copies of the same forms to the same households, with inevitably diminishing returns.

We also know there is a huge opportunity cost here, with much statutory activity involving the pursuit of information from households where there has been no change.

Of course, we must make changes to the annual canvass only with care. It matters that we give people an opportunity to register to vote as circumstances change and it matters that we keep our registers updated. That’s why we have been piloting changes to the canvass through which we can properly understand the effect of doing things differently and be confident that any changes we make will be not just more economically sustainable but also support high quality registration.

Our latest pilots ended in December and we are currently evaluating them. The Electoral Commission is also conducting an evaluation. We are confident the pilots will help us make the case for canvass reform to benefit all EROs and their teams. It is too early to say exactly which changes we will make as a result of this process, but we believe there will be ways of harnessing the power of government data, supplemented by your local data, to focus the canvass on areas of change, significantly reducing overall activity without affecting the quality of the register. I very much look forward to working with SOLACE colleagues, the Electoral Commission and the AEA and others as we seek to roll out ideas developed following the pilots.

Democratic Engagement Plan

One of the opportunities we want to explore linked to canvass change is refocusing current activity away from form processing to engagement with those people who have been persistently under-represented on the register.

As I said in Parliament recently, my predecessor, Chris Skidmore, did excellent work in the Every Voice Matters project where he visited every region and nation across Great Britain.

During this tour he met more than 100 organisations, including representatives of the electoral community to understand some of the barriers to registration for certain groups and how they might be overcome. There was a lot of great activity underway, but also evidence that innovation and engagement could be more widespread.

In December, the government published its first democratic engagement plan which sets out how we plan to tackle democratic exclusion and increase participation among under registered groups, over coming years. The plan sets out the evidence on registration levels. But it also shows that there is more we can do to understand the picture of registration across the country.

As part of this, we are going to launch an Atlas of Democratic Variation. Made up of interactive maps, this will bring together a lot of different sources of information on registration, the use of the online service and population data.

The Atlas will help complete our understanding of what the registration picture is like across the country. And we expect it to inspire activity across the country to plug gaps or build on positive action already under way. I have no doubt that EROs should be among the first users of the Atlas so that you can understand the impact of your activity and judge your success in maintaining a complete and accurate register.

National Democracy Week

One other aspect of our democratic engagement work I want to touch on is National Democracy Week. Our inaugural week at the beginning of July 2018 is timed to link in with the Suffrage Centenary celebrations. The overarching aim for the week is to bring together organisations from across the public, private and charity sectors for a week of unified national action.

A National Democracy Week council has been formed in order to shape and deliver the main focus and format of the event in July and I really welcome the involvement of a SOLACE representative on the Council.

The government will work with this council and other partners to develop a full programme of events and activity, which will include stakeholder owned activity to promote and encourage engagement in democracy.

And we are encouraging all local authorities to plan early so that they are able to deliver activity during National Democracy week.

The aim of that is to inspire people about UK democracy and its importance. Much suffrage-linked activity is aimed at inspiring young people in particular, as well as encouraging more women to get into political and public life. These are both priorities I hugely endorse and I very much hope you will all start putting in place plans to mark National Democracy Week and the Suffrage Centenary in your local area if you do not already have things arranged.

Elections and other areas

I will move on now from the package of registration measures now to look at other areas of our work where we want to drive forward positive changes

Integrity of elections

Given that you have already heard from Mark Hughes this morning, I will just touch on the area of electoral integrity and tackling fraud, the potential for fraud and, importantly, the perception of fraud.

We have a clear path for building a democracy that is clear and secure. Over the coming months and years we will be working closely with key partner organisations to deliver a comprehensive programme of work for reforming our electoral system and strengthening electoral integrity.

This work is guided by Sir Eric Pickles’ comprehensive review, which made a number of recommendations for strengthening the integrity of the electoral process. Mark has already updated you on the progress of these recommendations which will include our plans to trial forms of identification at polling stations in five local authority regions across the country at this years local elections.

But introducing Voter ID is just one strand of the government’s commitment to improve the security and resilience of the electoral system that underpins our democracy and will ensure that people have confidence in our democratic processes.

Intimidation in Public Life

Related to integrity, the Committee on Standards in Public Life has recently published its report on intimidation in public life. If we are to have a strong and effective democracy we need to attract capable people to stand for public office at all levels and we need to ensure that they are supported to be able to get on with their jobs when in office. That report makes a number of recommendations in relation to elections and which we will want to look at carefully.

Accessibility of Elections

And just as we need to support those willing to take office, we need to support eligible electors who face challenges in choosing whom they want to represent them. As the Minister responsible for elections it is important to me that everyone in society can participate in our democratic process, and the government is committed to improving the accessibility of future elections, including for disabled people.

As a government we have taken action to address the challenges disabled people face by ensuring that the register to vote website is compatible with assistive technology, in supporting the production of Easy Read guidance in partnership with the Royal Mencap Society and in working with the Department of Health to bring elections within the remit of the Certificate of Vision Impairment so that people with visual impairment can be more readily informed of support available to them.

But I do recognise that more needs to be done, as reflected in the 256 responses to the recent Call for Evidence on accessibility of elections. We will use the information and evidence they provide to enhance the government’s understanding of the experiences of disabled people in registering to vote and in casting their votes. In partnership with the Accessibility of Elections Working Group, the government will be publishing a report in Spring of key findings and recommendations to be taken forward.

The group which includes representatives from SOLACE, the Association of Electoral Administrators, the Electoral Commission and leading charities, is also providing valuable input to the ID pilots, as it is important to the success of those pilots that anyone with a right to vote is able to so.

Citizen focus

The citizen focus is something I am keen to promote. I want us to think of the citizen in all aspects of the changes we bring about going forward. The Register to Vote website is a recent product of that kind of thinking, and whilst it may bring some issues in terms of processes, I think it is undeniable that it provides a better and more accessible service for the citizen.

Law Commission work

That said, I do appreciate that you and your teams face hurdles in delivering elections also, not least in the actual legislation itself.

I mentioned the work of the Law Commissions earlier and their review of the legislation and I am pleased to say that this work continues with the support of Cabinet Office as well as the Electoral Commission, the AEA and SOLACE.

We are hopeful that in the absence of any primary legislative slot, we can find a way to make changes through secondary legislation which brings a reduction in the volume of legislative instruments and consistency to the processes applicable to all polls.

I recognise that this is also part of removing risk from the delivery aspect of elections. That simplification and consistency can help to avoid errors and helps to reduce demands on resources that are ever more pressured in the context of savings within local authorities and a continuing loss of experienced staff.

Resilience of electoral services and future planning

Those demands are something we want to continue to look at, despite the change of the scheduled General Election from 2020 to 2022. 2020, of course, still poses a challenge with the range of elections planned including the new Combined authority mayors alongside PCC and the GLA polls as well as local elections.

I’m keen to see you, as Returning Officers with personal responsible for delivery, play a role in discussions on this area, whether through SOLACE or individually, in order to get the strategic perspective from within local authorities on how we can best tackle resource and planning issues.

Overseas electors

Many British citizens who have moved overseas wish to continue to vote in parliamentary elections in the UK. The government is committed to scrapping the rule that bars British citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years from voting. We will shortly publish further details about what we intend to do before the next scheduled General Election in 2022.

I look forward to continuing to work closely with the electoral community in order to introduce votes for life for British citizens overseas.

European Parliamentary elections and EU citizens
The Prime Minister has made clear her intention that the UK leaves the European Union in March 2019.

Subject to Parliamentary confirmation, we intend to remove the requirement to hold by-elections for the European Parliament where existing party lists are exhausted in the near future, which should remove a previously ever-present risk of resource demands and cost.

Given that intention to leave, the government is exploring the voting and candidacy rights of EU citizens resident in the UK once we leave the European Union.

There are many other ongoing initiatives and challenges that face us that I have not included in this speech.

I repeat my thanks to you for your work.

I am keen that we most definitely – and collectively – look forward.

We still have much to do that can improve the electoral process for the public both in terms of registration and the conduct of polls.

There will be challenges in doing this work as there always are and I look to you, both as SOLACE the organisation and each of you as Electoral Registration and Returning Officers, to play a significant role in helping us to achieve change for the better.

Chloe Smith – 2017 Speech in Newry

Below is the text of the speech made by Chloe Smith, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, at the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People’s ‘Our Brexit Too’ event in Newry on 10 November 2017.

Thank you very much for inviting me to attend this excellent event today.

You’ve made it clear to me that there are worries about Brexit, about what it will mean for your families and for your future, and I want you to just take a moment to hear a different perspective.

I want to tell you about the opportunity of Brexit, about what it can mean for the economy, for jobs, for your university experience and for your future as the next leaders and involved citizens of Northern Ireland.

Before turning to the subject of Brexit I want to provide a short update on the politics because as those attending will be all too aware it is essential that we see the return of an NI Executive as soon as possible to allow Northern Ireland’s issues to be fully represented at all levels in the negotiation process.

Despite intensive efforts it has not yet been possible for the parties to reach agreement and as a result the Secretary of State has not been able to bring forward legislation to enable an Executive to form. Crucially, a budget for the current financial year has yet to be set. The consequence of this is that the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Civil Service have assessed that Northern Ireland will begin to run out of resources soon.

The Government therefore intends for a Budget Bill to be introduced into Parliament on Monday in order to protect the delivery of public services in Northern Ireland.

The UK Government’s strong preference would be for a restored Executive here in Northern Ireland to take forward its own Budget. So this step is one that the UK Government is taking with the utmost reluctance.

The UK Government’s priority will continue to be the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State will continue to work with political parties to encourage them towards an agreement to form an Executive.

The issue you have spent the day analysing – the decision by the people of the UK to leave the European Union – presents a range of challenges and opportunities.

I want to stress that in discussions about the future of the relationship between Northern Ireland and Ireland, we have agreed that the Belfast Agreement should be protected in full. That means that if the people here want Northern Ireland want to remain within the United Kingdom, that will continue to be the case.

The money in your and your family’s pocket will be at the heart of our discussions on Brexit. We are leaving the EU but that does not mean we are turning our backs on our friends and partners in Europe.

What is also clear is that we are committed to securing a deal with the EU that works for the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. That was clear from the Prime Minister’s speech in Florence recently, and we have made our intentions clear specifically about what we Northern Ireland to the EU in a paper we gave them over the summer.

At the moment, you can travel from the UK to Ireland without a visa and without a passport. For many decades we’ve had a system called the Common Travel Area. We want this to continue after Brexit, and the EU agrees with us on this.

We want to uphold the Belfast Agreement in all its parts; avoiding what some people call a ‘hard border’ when goods cross from one country to another. We want to work north-south with Ireland and we want Ireland to work with the UK east-west too. It’s a great relationship at the moment and we want that to continue.

We have also made excellent progress discussing the citizenship and identity rights provided for in the Belfast Agreement and scoping the North-South cooperation that currently takes place under the Agreement.

We want there to be free movement of goods, and we want to ensure local businesses that your families may work in here in Newry and across Northern Ireland can continue to trade freely across the border.

The Government also recognises investors, businesses and citizens in the UK, Ireland, the rest of the EU, and beyond, need to be able to plan ahead. What would be most helpful to people and businesses on both sides, is for us to agree detailed arrangements for what’s called an implementation period, so that people can get used to the changes and things only change once.

The Prime Minister said in Florence, and again recently in Parliament in Westminster that we want this period of implementation to give businesses and people certainty and time to prepare for the change; and a guarantee that this implementation period will only be for a certain time – two years.

No-one pretends that leaving the EU is easy, it is not. It will require a period of adjustment for both the UK and the EU, for our businesses and our citizens.

But the Government respects what people across the UK told them in the referendum on 23rd June last year. We will leave the political institutions of the European Union on 29 March 2019.

This momentous decision presents challenges, as you will all have seen from the media reports and briefings around issues like citizens’ rights, financial obligations and the land border here in Ireland. But it presents the UK, including Northern Ireland, with opportunities too.

We have always been an open trading nation, forging alliances across the globe to trade with other people. Since we joined the then-EEC in 1973, we have been part of the trade agreements negotiated on our behalf by the Commission.

While these have benefited the UK and the EU, they have not always been in the best interests of each and every nation to which they apply. Some will gain more and some will lose more – that is the nature of world trade.

Leaving the EU provides the UK, for the first time in a generation, the freedom to negotiate trade deals across the globe with any nation we wish to do so.

Soon, the UK will decide what it is prepared to do to secure the deals it wants.

There are those who say the UK will lose the benefits it currently has, through the trade deals it is part of now, through the EU. But this overlooks the fact that the UK will have freedom to negotiate new terms with these nations which could be better than the ones we have at the moment within the EU.

Trade and immigration are two issues that are often seen to go hand in hand. The UK has benefited from immigration, bringing new cultures, skills and ideas to the UK economy. You only need to see here in Newry, which has a high level of immigration, the benefits this has brought to this area.

We will continue to welcome people to the UK. We need skilled migrants to work across our industries to ensure we have the right people in the right jobs to provide maximum benefit to our economy.

This is what EU exit allows us to do. To have our own immigration policy. One tailored to the different needs of the economy. One that is flexible and can react when we need more people, and equally when we need fewer.

Our trading relationship with the EU is also of crucial importance. We have said that we want to see an excellent free trade agreement with the EU. We believe the EU wants the same thing.

I’m an MP, and along with 649 others I have a vote on laws, one of which at the moment in front of us is called the EU Withdrawal Bill. When that law goes through it means we will have the same rules and regulations governing all of our trade now. Some EU laws will become UK laws.

This means that both our country and our neighbouring countries will be in the same regulatory position when we leave the EU, providing both the UK and the EU with an excellent opportunity to forge a great trading agreement.

Put simply, we buy more stuff from the EU than they do from us. So it’s within the EU’s interests to have a great agreement with us that doesn’t punish the UK.

Obviously, the border down the road from here in Newry is the only actual land border the UK has with an EU country, in this case Ireland.

This does present some challenges, but there’s also an opportunity, in that Northern Ireland can act as a bridge between the UK and the EU.

I was about your age when the Belfast Agreement was signed in Belfast between the UK Government and the Irish Government. So much has been done politically, in the economy and in relationships between people of all ages in the past 20 years. We don’t want to lose any of that progress.

Northern Ireland’s position will mean a slightly different set of rules will apply, to ensure the open border continues as it does now. Is anyone’s dad or mum a farmer? You will know that animal health is really important, and it’s important standards are kept right across the UK and Ireland to make sure our food is safe and our farms are safe. We’re working to make that happen.

So it’s clear we need specific solutions to the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland and Ireland and that is what we are working towards every day.

I’m really encouraged by what I’ve heard today. It’s clear everyone here really cares about Northern Ireland, about the EU and about the future. It’s clear many of you wouldn’t have voted for Brexit, but what I want to assure you is that there are hundreds of people in the UK government working really hard every day to make sure we get the best possible Brexit, so when we leave, when you’re a bit older and when you hopefully go to university or into training or a job you will know we have done our very best for you, for your families, and for everyone in this country.

And maybe one day someone in this room will be giving a speech like this. Maybe you’ll be reflecting on Brexit and what it has meant for Northern Ireland and Ireland. I want to assure you that you will have positive things to say, that there are opportunities ahead and if we all work together, we will make a success of Brexit.

Chloe Smith – 2013 Speech at Infosec

chloesmith

Below is the text of the speech made by Chloe Smith, the then Economic Secretary to the Treasury, at Earl’s Court in London on 23 April 2013.

Introduction

Many thanks to the organisers for inviting me to give the keynote address. I know that this is a well-respected event by the sheer numbers of exhibitors and the investment you’ve made to be here.

It is heartening to see that this sector is thriving and that there is so much innovation and vitality in this field. With so many global and UK companies represented it is clear that the UK has an important role in this growing sector. Today, I would like to share with you some of the steps we are taking to raise the profile of cyber threats and generate demand for more and better cyber security products and services.

Firstly though I would like to give you a brief overview of our UK Cyber Security Strategy and objectives.

The threat

In 2010, when this government first came into power, the Strategic Defence and Security Review determined that cyber attacks were one of the top four threats to our national security. This is still the case today.

Cyber threats come from a variety of sources but we broadly categorise them as emanating from state-sponsored actors, hacktivists or cyber criminals. The motivations for attacks vary from ideological, political or fanatical, to financial.

I don’t need to tell this audience that almost every day there is a news story about an organisation being ‘hacked’ or individuals being defrauded by online criminals in new and ever more sinister ways.

And government is faced with these threats on a daily basis. On average over 33,000 malicious emails are blocked at the Gateway to the Government Secure Intranet every month. These are likely to contain – or link to – sophisticated malware, often sent by highly capable cyber criminals and state sponsored groups. A far greater number of malicious emails and spam, but less sophisticated emails and spam are blocked each month.

Strategy and objectives

So what is government doing to help protect UK interests in cyberspace? In 2011, we produced our UK Cyber Security Strategy, setting out 4 clear objectives:

We must make the UK one of the most secure places in the world to do business in cyberspace

We must make the UK more resilient to cyber attack and better able to protect our interests in cyberspace

We must help shape an open, vibrant and stable cyberspace that supports open societies

We must build the UK’s cyber security knowledge, skills and capability.

£650 million of investment over 4 years has been put in place; in of course one of the tightest fiscal environments government has ever seen. This underlines the importance we place on cyber security.

In December last year we reported on progress against the strategy and the work being carried out under the National Cyber Security Programme as well as our forward plans. This covers all the objectives I’ve outlined in terms of enhancing skills, research and education, policing and tackling cyber crime, international engagement and capacity building, new measures to help protect the UK industry as well as the Critical National Infrastructure. Information on all these efforts can be found on GOV.UK and we will be reporting back again to parliament again at the end of this year.

Making the UK a safer place to do business

Objective 1 of the strategy relates to the need to protect and fuel UK business interests and is what I would like to focus attention on today.

Industry is by far the biggest victim of cyber threats. We have stated before that cyber crime, ranging from IP theft to cyber espionage to online fraud, is costing the UK economy billions of pounds a year. And as businesses and government move more of their operations online, the scope of potential targets will continue to grow.

Later today David Willetts, the BIS Minister, will be releasing the 2013 Cyber Security Breach survey results. The statistics are very revealing and provide us with the insight we need to determine how and where we direct resources to support UK industry.

In particular response to this, we are launching today new guidance for SMEs on how to protect themselves from cyber threats. In addition, we are announcing a new Innovation Voucher Scheme for small businesses through the Technology Strategy Board. An Innovation Voucher provides companies with a grant to work with a supplier for the first time and should be invested in an idea or problem that is a challenge for the business and for which specialist support is required. The cyber security element of this scheme will fund 100 companies with Innovation Vouchers of up to £5000 each.

Across government then we are working hard to raise awareness of cyber security throughout industry and ensuring that the right incentives are in place for industry to take responsibility for securing their own interests. But where government can help, we will.

For example, at the end of March, Francis Maude launched a ground-breaking partnership between government and industry – the CISP (Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership). The scheme currently involves 160 companies allied with government to share information and intelligence in ‘real-time’ on cyber threats to UK companies and how to mitigate them. As part of this we have set up a ‘Fusion cell’, funded by the National Cyber Security Programme, which brings together experts from the security services, law enforcement and industry to work together to address cyber threats in a trusted environment. The ultimate aim is to extend this scheme beyond CNI (Critical National Infrastructure) companies and eventually to include SMEs.

Raising awareness in industry

We are working to create better awareness of the threat throughout both the public and private sectors; this is to help drive informed demand at the very highest levels within organisations to ensure that their key information assets are well-protected.

To this end we have been giving advice and guidance to businesses. Last September, for the first time amalgamated advice from the Cabinet Office, the Security Services and BIS was delivered to an audience of 200 Board-level directors of FTSE companies. The “Ten Steps to Cyber Security” booklet has been well-received to such an extent that in January this year at Davos, the World Economic Forum cited it as an example of best practice. Copies of the booklet are available on the CESG stand here today andit is also available on .gov.uk

The Cyber Security Sector

As we are successful in raising cyber security standards across the private sector, growth in demand for products and services to support this should follow.

So we are putting in place the right environment for a vibrant and self-sustaining cyber security market-place of good UK based cyber security providers.

We are determined to help seize the business opportunities in cyber, promoting the UK cyber security industry both domestically and across the globe.

Cyber security represents an opportunity for the UK – both for companies where cyber is core to their business and for companies across all areas of the economy who need to develop a competitive edge through demonstrating that they handle information responsibly and protect the details of those they do business with. We have every reason to believe that UK firms are well placed to capitalise on this growing market.

The UK has history of being innovators in technology and in technical areas such as cryptography which is maintained to this day in our universities. We know how to implement this as our ongoing strengths here underpin our cutting edge position in areas such as online commerce and banking. Undeniably, there is a massive growth potential for UK businesses and innovators to do very well in the cyber security sector.

SMEs

Making a difference often relies on the forging of new partnerships – not necessarily between government and industry but business to business. A good example of this is an SME in Malvern, called IASME, a small business that has developed a cyber security standard specifically for SMEs. IASME has partnered with a local insurance provider (Sutcliffe and Co) underwritten by AIG to offer reduced premiums to those companies that are assured against the IASME standard. This approach is helping to grow these two small businesses, offering an innovative approach to cyber risk management, as well as growing the cyber security market in the local area. Linked to this is a series of awareness-raising events that IASME are holding around the UK for SMEs to introduce them to cyber risk and promote this insurance offering: quite impressive stuff for a micro-business. We applaud this approach and BIS is also contributing to these ‘roadshows’ to offer the government view and present on HMG is doing to stimulate supply and demand for cyber security.

Standards

And to help more companies demonstrate that they are cyber savvy we are also bringing clarity to the broader standards landscape helping companies identify the best of the standards that exist in the marketplace and to protect organisations against cyber attacks.

GCHQ and BIS have drawn up, in partnership with industry, a series of requirements for what a good organisational standard for cyber security would look like. We are relying here on market support and industry telling us what their preferred standard is and how it aligns with the requirements.

Sector growth

At the last count, there are around 2380 UK companies in the cyber security sector which equates to 21 % of all UK security companies. In total, these companies support well over 26,000 jobs – currently 16% of all UK security employment. According to a UK Security Sector Report, UK Cyber Security sales amounted to £3.8bn with UK exports of £800m. Cyber security global growth is forecast over the next four years to be over twice that of the security sector as a whole as economic constraints bite in traditional defence and security markets. So it is clear that this is a growth sector and one which we should encourage and nurture.

The Cyber Growth Partnership

To this end, we have launched a new Cyber Growth Partnership, led by BIS and Intellect, the ICT representative organisation, representing over 850 large and small technology organisations. Central to this will be a high level group which will identify how to support the growth of the UK Cyber security industry, with an emphasis on exports. It will also help identify what currently stops the cyber security sector from growing, with a particular emphasis on SMEs and boosting their market potential.

The first meeting of this group took place last month. The main outcome of the meeting was an agreement with industry on the practical steps they needed the government to take to support export growth. For example we are looking at ways in which those businesses which government has procured cyber security products from can promote the fact that they are an HMG supplier to their prospective customers overseas.

We also discussed how industry and government can work together to ensure that the right inputs such as skills, R&D and funding are available to support growth.

It is early in the life of the group and we are keen that we don’t lose momentum – however the indications are that this group can play an important role in addressing issues that impact on sector growth.

Skills and research

The ideas for skills and research we discussed as part of the cyber growth partnership are focussed on what we can and have to do in the future.

Through the National Cyber Security Programme we are investing in skills research and training. Last week two new Centres for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security were established within UK universities to bring people with the right skills and knowledge into the cyber security field. The CDTs will provide broad training focused exclusively on cyber security and engage with industry to ensure that this training reflects the complex and dynamic nature of cyber threats. This is in addition to funding for Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security status to 11 UK universities and 3 new Research Institutes.

We are also taking steps to improve cyber security skills among young people and to widen the pipeline of talent coming into this field. e-Skills UK is developing interactive learning materials on cyber security for GCSE and A-level students. We expect these materials to be available to schools from September 2013.

At the end of last year, GCHQ and the other Intelligence Agencies launched a new technical apprenticeship scheme which aims to identify and develop talent in school and university age students. They aim to recruit up to 100 apprentices who will be enrolled on a tailored two-year Foundation Degree course. We also sponsor the Cyber Security Challenge UK in its work providing advice, support and guidance for anyone interested in a career in cyber security, and we want to create opportunities for employers and previously unidentified talent to come together. Since its launch in 2010, over 10,000 people have registered with the initiative.

GCHQ has also established a set of certification schemes to improve the skills and availability of cyber security professionals. The Certification for Information Assurance Professionals scheme will help Government and Industry to recruit cyber security professionals with the right skills at the right level, and into the right jobs. It will also assist participants to build a career path and to have the opportunity to progress through re-assessment as skills and experience grow.

All this will take time to filter through but we are putting in place the right processes to achieve increase the numbers of skilled people needed to help protect UK business.

Conclusion

In conclusion, cyber threats are an increasing challenge for UK businesses but they also present many exciting opportunities as well. We are making every effort to address the threats through improving our ability to detect and defend UK interests in cyberspace. We have to work with you, with UK businesses to help this growing sector to thrive. We want to work with industry through real and meaningful partnerships to ensure that UK businesses capitalise from this growing demand for the benefit of the UK as a whole.

Chloe Smith – 2012 Speech to ResPublica

chloesmith

Below is the text of the speech made by Chloe Smith, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, to ResPublica on 17 January 2012.

Good morning and thank you for inviting me to speak here today about Charities and Philanthropy.

It’s a subject of deep interest to me in my role in the Treasury and one that is vital to realising the Government’s vision of a Big Society.

And I’m pleased to be speaking about this issue here at ResPublica, as it is you that have led and shaped that debate in recent years.

It’s your innovative insights on public service delivery, emphasising the virtue and the potential of an associative society, that have set the agenda for ambitious reform across public services.

When we came to Government we knew that we were at a watershed for how we provide public goods and meet public need. Over the previous decade, under the previous Government, power was continuously hoarded to the centre, to Whitehall.

It became all about central levers and targets.

But over that decade, the very nature of society itself was changing, becoming less hierarchical in every sector.

The internet has been the great leveller and across every sphere it gave individuals the tools to take action for themselves, to produce their own solutions, to share their ideas with a wider community.

And across the board, businesses, pressure groups, social entrepreneurs, and charities seized the opportunity to grow with renewed vigour. And at the same time, or perhaps as a result of this change, there has been a profound shift in attitudes across society.

Whilst there are still those who point to Government and say “You do it”, there is an ever growing tide of people who are saying “We’ll do it.”

A wave of people who have the knowledge, tools, and support to take on responsibility not only for their own needs and their family, but the community that they live in.

A wave of change that brings irresistible pressure to reform at the very heart of Whitehall.

Big society

At its heart, the Big Society is about putting more power in people’s hands – a massive transfer of power from Whitehall to local communities.

Giving local councils and neighbourhoods more power to take decisions and shape their area.

Encouraging and enabling people to play a more active part in society

And opening up public services to enable charities, social enterprises, private companies and employee-owned co-operatives to compete to offer high quality services

We have made some excellent progress towards realising these ambitions. Not least in supporting the charities that drive volunteering and social action across the UK.

Steps taken to support charities

We have already taken steps to reduce the administrative burdens which can be a great weight on charities and distract them from their primary purpose and their primary love.

At Budget we committed to an online filing system for charities to claim Gift Aid, to be introduced during 2012/13. I know from feedback to the announcement that this will make a big difference across the sector.

And we have already delivered a significant first step with the introduction in April of intelligent forms for charities to apply for and claim Gift Aid.

These forms contain automatic checks so will considerably reduce the number of mistakes made, the need for manual checking and so speed up the claiming process.

HMRC will also be working with the sector to develop a Gift Aid database for charities. We have also taken steps to develop new fundraising opportunities for charities.

We opened a £100m Transition Fund to help charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises affected by reductions as part of the Government’s Spending Review.

This was part of a £470 million support for the sector, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to building the resilience of voluntary sector organisations.

We are developing new funding streams like the Big Society Bank, which will draw on money in dormant bank accounts to provide wholesale finance for charities and other groups.

But we are also working with charities to develop ways and means to galvanise greater giving across society.

Creating incentives for people to donate more to charities like those represented here so that they can continue and expand their programmes. It’s about identifying what Government can do to incentivise people in to giving more.

Budget and Autumn Statement 2011

We want to make it easier for people to give in a range of ways and at different life stages.

Tax reliefs for charities and charitable giving are an important way to do that, and though they cost over £3bn a year, they are a vital source of support for charities.

And over the last year we have taken important steps to improve the effectiveness of reliefs, and also expand opportunities for giving.

We are reducing the rate of inheritance tax from 40% to 36% for those individuals who leave 10% or more of their estate to charity. This will reduce the cost of giving to charity through bequests. We consulted on the detail of this proposal last summer, and will put legislation into place through Finance Bill 2012.

We have also made changes to encourage greater lifetime giving of pre-eminent works of art to the nation in return for a tax reduction.

At the Autumn Statement we announced an increase in the annual limit for both tax reductions under the Gifts of Pre-eminent Object scheme and taxes offset under the existing Acceptance in Lieu Scheme, from £20m to £30m.

And more than that, companies as well as individuals will be able to access the new scheme.

We have also announced an increase in the Gift Aid benefit limit from £500 to £2,500 to enable charities to better recognise the generosity of their significant donors.

We have not forgotten smaller charities or donations from those less well off. We are introducing a new Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme from April 2013.

This will be a big help for those charities collecting so called ‘bucket donations’, allowing them to claim a Gift Aid style payment on small donations up to £10 without collecting Gift Aid declarations.

Qualifying charities will be able to claim up to £1,250 in repayments on total donations capped at £5,000 per year.

These measures add up to a significant pack to support charities and charitable giving. But at the same time, there is no cause for complacency.

Payroll Giving

Last year’s Government White Paper on Giving demonstrated our commitment to encouraging more people to donate.

It included a commitment to raise support for Payroll Giving – a tax effective method for employees to make regular donations to charity.

Payroll giving provides a sustainable and predictable income stream for charities, and I have asked my officials to work with Cabinet Office to seek out ways to improve take-up.

We know that we have to do much more to raise awareness of the scheme, and ensure that awareness leads to action. Together with the charity sector and with employers we need to change behavioural attitudes to embed giving, in this case payroll giving, as the social norm.

Conclusion

At a time when we are having to cope with the worst fiscal deficit in our history, I hope you will agree that the Government has made an excellent start at supporting the charitable sector.

That said I believe that we are merely at the outset of a period of huge innovation and change for the charitable and wider third sector.

Not only in terms of finance and philanthropic support, but also for how charities and third sector will be increasingly intertwined with how we deliver public services for the future.

It is vital that we continue to engage with policy makers, the charities, and service users to ensure that we get these reforms right, and meet public need and efficient and effective way.

I look forward to our discussion and learning what more we can do working together in the years to come.

Thank you.

Chloe Smith – 2012 Speech to the Oil and Gas Fabricators Conference

chloesmith

Below is the text of the speech made by Chloe Smith, the then Economic Secretary to the Treasury, to the Oil and Gas Fabricators Conference on 27 July 2012.

Introduction

Good evening, and thank you for inviting me to speak to you today.

Even as we move towards a lower carbon economy, no one should be in any doubt as to the continued importance of oil and gas, which still provide nearly three quarters of the UK’s primary energy needs.

Oil and gas is one of the UK’s greatest industrial success stories, supporting a third of a million jobs, and successfully extracting the equivalent of 41 billion barrels of oil to date.

The supply chain – and fabricators such as yourselves in particular – plays an especially crucial role in making the oil and gas industry what it is today.

Highly skilled supply companies have developed a global reputation of excellence – which I was pleased to see recognised in an Economist article only last week.

I myself have seen this work in Aberdeen.

And I am particularly pleased to be in Norwich to discuss how we can help the sector continue to flourish, as the Southern North Sea and this region play a considerable part in that success as a centre of excellence for offshore activity and expertise.

In conversations with companies operating in the North Sea, it always strikes me that this is a truly global market – not only in terms of the commodities that are sold, but also in terms of competition for capital and jobs.

Companies can choose to invest in the UK or in Canada, Brazil or Nigeria.

A trained engineering graduate can begin their career in the Southern North Sea or in Norway, the Gulf of Mexico or Australia.

We recognise that, as the UK Continental Shelf matures, and other basins compete for the skills and investment it needs, Government and industry need to work together to adapt accordingly.

Let’s be frank – we need to ensure we extract the full benefit from the oil and gas that remain under the shelf.

The UKCS has many advantages:

– a superb hydrocarbon system;

– a wealth of seismic and production data;

– superb infrastructure; and

– oil companies that lead the world in skills and capability.

It is important that we play to these strengths and exploit them fully.

So I want to take a few moments today to talk to you about how we do that – working with industry to ensure that, through investment, innovation and the tax system, we can secure the greatest benefit for the UK that our rich natural resources can offer.

State of the sector

I am pleased to see that 2012 is already shaping up to be a successful year.

DECC expects a substantial increase in offshore field approvals over last year, on top of the many other discoveries already being worked on; and applications for the 27th licensing round are the largest since offshore licensing began almost 50 years ago – 35 more than the previous record.

And I was very pleased to see Oil & Gas UK’s most recent Business Confidence Index show a significant rise in confidence in the first quarter of 2012.

I am keen for the industry to maintain this momentum, by making the most of the many opportunities still available.

Fiscal measures

We recognise that the Government has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the regulatory and fiscal regimes help to deliver the best possible future for the UKCS.

And today I want to focus on some of the recent decisions we have taken that highlight the Government’s commitment to delivering a fiscal regime that encourages investment and innovation – as well as ensuring a fair return for UK taxpayers.

We have been engaging constructively with companies at an individual and industry-wide level on tax issues that could promote confidence and facilitate further investment in the basin.

And at this year’s Budget we announced a package of measures to secure billions of pounds of additional investment in the UKCS.

… Adopting a contractual approach to offer long term certainty on decommissioning relief, delivering billions of pounds of extra investment;

… A new £3 billion allowance for deep fields with sizeable reserves, targeted at the west of Shetland

… A significant expansion of the value and size threshold for the small field allowance

… As a signal of our intent, we brought in legislation giving Government the power to introduce a brown field allowance.

… And only yesterday the Chancellor announced further support for the gas industry alongside wider measures on the UK’s energy market as a whole.

This included a new allowance aimed at securing investment in large shallow water gas fields in the North Sea. This is likely to benefit investment in this area – the Southern North Sea – in particular, and I am pleased that this has been welcomed by the industry.

Taken together, the changes we have made to the field allowance regime aim to encourage investment in commercially marginal fields – ensuring that, as a country and for you as an industry, we continue to make the most of the rich resources available to us.

The positive effects of these changes will be felt across the industry, including throughout the supply chain.

These changes also follow from excellent engagement between Government and industry.

Earlier this month I chaired the second meeting of the Fiscal Forum in Aberdeen – a Forum we established to provide a regular, structured basis for the ongoing discussions on the key tax issues facing the industry, complementing the excellent work done by DECC’s PILOT group.

I warmly welcome the constructive engagement we have seen from all sections of the industry attending.

And I know that there is important work still to be done. Earlier this month, I was pleased to launch our consultation on Decommissioning Relief Deeds, and I look forward to hearing industry’s views on the issues we raise there.

Following the introduction of the necessary legislation, and in recognition of the importance of ongoing investment in older fields, discussions are also ongoing between Government and companies on a potential brown field allowance.

It is through this kind of co-operation that we can ensure that Government and Industry can deliver together for the UK – not just on the fiscal regime, although that is clearly a key part of our thinking, but also through ensuring the sector has the access to the skills and technology it needs to reach its full potential.

Technological challenges

The best overall outcome from the basin will require innovation and advances to existing technologies.

We have made changes to the tax regime to encourage innovation, including improving the viability and generosity of R&D tax credits, and we need to continue to look beyond fiscal policy at the support Government can offer.

My Ministerial colleagues in DECC are tackling the challenges of maintaining our infrastructure through PILOT, and I know the workgroup is due to report back to them in the Autumn.

And DECC are also working to deliver an “Innovation Demand Chain” event at the beginning of November to share challenges and connect operators with developers.

Skills

But the success of the sector is reliant not just on the best technology, but also on the best people.

The strong supply chain we have brings quality, highly paid jobs in an exciting industry – whether in the UKCS, or any other hydrocarbon-producing country, where our expertise is highly prized.

The subsea sector in particular has been very successful in recent years and is forecast to continue growing at around 8 per cent this year.

With the potential to create an additional 10,000 jobs in the next two years in that part of the industry alone, it is imperative we have the training to get the right people with the right skills in the right place.

In recognition of this, the Government – particularly my colleagues at BIS and at DECC – has established close working relationships with OPITO, Cogent and Skills Development Scotland to address the skills challenge.

Together, we are ensuring the opportunities and rewarding prospects of the industry are promoted to young people, as well as the jobs for highly skilled and qualified individuals looking for employment or changing career from other industries.

Summary

I have set out today what we are doing to help the industry continue to benefit the whole of the UK through making the most of the energy resources we enjoy.

Without the fabrication industry, we would never have experienced the energy revolution we did, alongside the wealth and economic stimulus that oil and gas has given us.

We need to continue to work in partnership – government and industry – to ensure that that continues: getting regulation right; getting the tax regime right; and developing and applying the right skills and technology.

From what I can see of the programme of papers, it is clear that you are continuing that tradition, and long may it continue.

Thank you.

Chloe Smith – 2013 Speech at the Government Construction Summit

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Below is the text made by the Cabinet Office Minister, Chloe Smith, on 2nd July 2013.

Since coming into office we have made it a key priority to reform public sector construction so we can build the schools, hospitals, prisons and roads this country deserves – and at the same time help develop a more efficient, more innovative and more competitive construction industry.

This is a hugely important agenda for us. Britain remains in a global race for the jobs and opportunities of the future.

And our construction industry is critical to this country’s growth – both in creating jobs and in providing the crucial infrastructure this country needs to compete globally.

So we are reforming to ensure we invest in the right places to achieve growth and support UK suppliers to grow here and abroad.

We are also reforming to achieve greater efficiency. The public sector is under unprecedented pressure to produce more for less today. As we address the huge deficit we inherited – budgets are tighter across the sector, but the demand and expectations for public services are rising.

We owe it to the taxpayer to deliver public services that don’t just cost less but are better, more innovative and more catered to the individual’s needs.

Today I want to talk about how the Government has and will continue to promote efficiency and reform in public sector construction, alongside innovation and growth in the construction industry. I will focus on the key areas of efficiency, cost benchmarking, procurement reform, fair payment and new digital models of procurement.

But first I’ll highlight the context for reform. As you know, two years ago, this Government published a cross-Government Construction Strategy with clear objectives to promote efficiency and reform in Government construction, alongside innovation and growth in the construction sector.

How would this work?

On one hand Government would be a tough negotiator – hunting for the best prices and deals on behalf of the taxpayer. We set out a target to make public sector construction 15 to 20 per cent more efficient by 2015.

But at the same time we would build long-term strategic relationships with suppliers; making it easier and simpler to do business with Government.

Today as you’ve heard – a new Industrial Strategy for construction (IS) has been launched – a fine example of how industry and government has worked together to give the sector a long term vision. This builds on foundations of the Government Construction Strategy and gives it a broader momentum to spearhead lasting change through reform.

The themes of the Government Construction Strategy are peppered throughout the drivers of change highlighted in the Industrial Strategy.

The first of these themes I want to discuss is efficiency.

In the past there was a shocking productivity gap between the public and private sectors. And the more money that’s been pumped into public services – the less efficient we’ve become.

This wasn’t good enough at any time – today facing the twin challenges of less money and rising public expectations – there needs to be reform.

The Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group has led an ambitious programme of reform, transforming the way Government works – acting as an effective operations centre at the heart of Government, driving efficiency and clamping down on waste.

This work supported Departments to deliver £3.75 billion of savings in our first year in office, £5.5 billion in 2011-12 and we recently announced £10billion of savings for 2012-13.

Construction is playing its part in this. We reduced costs to contribute £447 million savings in 2012/13.

One of our key efficiency reforms has been the publication of benchmarks of Government construction costs establishing what a project should cost.

Before the launch of the Strategy, few government clients had compiled their benchmarks and made them widely available.

This is no longer the case. We have now published department cost reduction trajectories and construction cost benchmarks, which help inform central government and wider public sector clients as to what they currently pay for construction and what their construction should therefore cost, moving forward.

This is important for spurring on efficiency. For example since 2010 the Education Funding Agency has reduced the average cost of a new secondary school from £2450/m2 to £1460/m2 and is currently out to tender with the Priority Schools Building Programme at this lower cost. This represents a 40 per cent reduction.

The cost data will not reduce the overall amount to be invested in construction but will mean that taxpayers will get more for this money.

So successfully delivering projects at 15 to 20 per cent less than the historic benchmark will mean that the public sector will be building £1.2 billion worth more in projects by 2015.

The equivalent to approximately 60 new secondary schools.

The latest publication of cost benchmarks is published today with, for the first time, more granular department cost benchmarks, and data direct from local authorities. It shows that costs are coming down and sets the pace at which further reductions will be achieved. As we move forward we would like to include private sector comparison data – this exercise is now underway and I would appreciate your help to build up this overarching sector view.

A Government hunting for the best deals is not just good news for the taxpayer and for the service user – it’s good for British businesses too. Efficiency and growth will go hand in hand as we open up to all kinds of businesses and business models.

We’re changing the way we engage with the industry over upcoming contracting opportunities. In the past, constrained by fears about picking winners, cosiness with incumbents and breaching theories of efficient markets, we have left business to flounder in the dark about what’s coming up – meaning we were also blind as to what the industry could offer.

But over the last two years, Government has been publishing a pipeline of upcoming opportunities that gives suppliers a clear picture of the contracting landscape across Government construction.

The latest iteration includes £19.2 billion worth of investment over the next two years. Now that the spending round has been announced a refresh of projects will be completed shortly. So keep an eye open for updates.

I hope you’ve taken the time to visit the New Models of Delivery knowledge hub today and view our new microsite that will make pipeline data more accessible to search.

The pipeline is seen as a key enabler for growth and investment in the Industrial Strategy. It calls for further development to bring a regional emphasis and ownership of local pipeline data and to encourage new partners to contribute.

As well as engaging better with the market before procurement – we are also reforming the way we procure. Historically businesses have found bidding for public sector work excessively bureaucratic, time-consuming and expensive. This often meant the best, most cost-effective ideas were shut out from the start – particularly those coming from small, innovative firms.

SMEs are a crucial engine for growth – 99.9 per cent of the UK’s businesses are SMEs, they are responsible for almost half of our private sector output and create two thirds of new jobs.

Yet when we came into office only 6.5 per cent of Government business was going to SMEs.

This Government set out an aspiration to ensure that 25 per cent of our business in Central Government should go – directly or indirectly – to SMEs by 2015.

To achieve this we have made our procurement processes much simpler, more open and less bureaucratic – so all businesses, no matter what their size, have a chance of success. For example, using PAS91 (2013) to standardise PQQs in the construction industry; and advertising contract opportunities centrally.

There is also much greater visibility of opportunities. In the past businesses often simply didn’t know what was out there. Now the Contracts Finder website gives businesses a single place to survey everything on offer from Government.

We are using technology to enable quicker procurements such as e-Auctions.

And we have introduced more accountability. Our Mystery Shopper allows suppliers to report instances of poor procurements across the public sector for Cabinet Office to investigate.

These reforms are starting to pay off. Overall Government has increased its direct spend with SMEs from 6.5 per cent in 2009-10 to 10 per cent in 2011-12, and in 2011-12 figures from Government’s top suppliers shows that SMES had benefitted from a further 6.6 per cent of spend in the supply chain. We hope to publish information on spend in 2012-13 later this year.

Another key priority for us is to ensure there is prompt payment to the supply chain. Timely access to cash is of course critical to the survival of many SMEs.

There is now a contractual obligation which took effect for all central Government contracts placed to pay down to tier three within 30 days.

We are also working with key central government departments to roll out Project Bank Accounts across government construction projects. This will improve the speed and security of payment to members of construction supply chains down to tier 3 within a matter of days.

This is already working well. The Highways Agency now uses Project Bank Accounts on all contracts awarded post October 2011.

Through electronic bank accounts they pay prime suppliers at the same time as subcontractors down to tier 3 and already this has had a great impact in preventing cash from being held up in supply chains.

Last year alone £1.1 billion worth of projects signed up to use Project Bank Accounts and I’m pleased to announce today that in 2012/13 we exceeded our target of £2 billion, with nearly £2.2 billion of spend having been committed via Project Bank Accounts since their introduction.

The Industrial Strategy re-emphasises this Government’s commitment to fair payment. PBAs, along with supply chain finance and enterprise credit guarantee scheme will continue to support liquidity to the supply chain.

The reforms I have outlined so far are making a difference – but they are not the end of the story.

We are determined to keep piloting new innovative ways of working with the industry – and ultimately embed these across Government and other public bodies. And we are committed to driving efficiencies through harnessing the latest digital technologies.

This is a key theme in the Industrial Strategy – the aim is that new models of procurement once proven, become business as usual across the public sector.

We are currently trialling three new models of procurement which call for the early involvement of the supply chain, and more integration around the design, the construction and the manufacture of products.

These are: Integrated Procurement Insurance; Two Stage Open Book and Cost Led Procurement. Building Information Modelling (BIM) is also becoming successfully embedded in Departments along with Government Soft Landings.

I hope you’ve all taken the opportunity to meet the experts spearheading these new ways of working at the New Models of Delivery and BIM knowledge hubs here today.

We are starting to see how effective these new methods can be. For example using Two Stage Open Book, Surrey County Council has reduced the cost of maintaining the county’s roads by 15 per cent [in addition to 16 per cent achieved in procuring long-term contract]. Project Horizon has demonstrated clearly the benefits of contract-led, properly structured early contractor involvement and supply chain improvement processes.

Then the Ministry of Justice has secured £800,000 of savings through the implementation of BIM at Cookham Wood prison in Kent where a 180-cell extension is now on site. Through BIM’s innovative 3D modelling, MoJ was able to visualise exactly what was being built before the process started and identify any potential issues, leading to savings being made right at the outset.

BIM is the enabler of a better future; a more collaborative built environment that liberates added value at all stages of the asset lifecycle. It allows SMEs to compete with bigger companies. And the savviest, smartest firms are already maximising the potential that BIM can unlock.

Take Bryden Wood, a British-based multi-disciplinary design and technology company, who in February won a competitive tender for a landmark construction project in St Petersburg, Russia. They beat much larger, international practices and it was their experience of working on complex projects where BIM is essential to coordinate the vast range of design, construction and handover activities that secured the contract.

The Government has established a requirement for centrally procured public projects to be level 2 BIM-enabled by 2016. Through this, we want to encourage innovation and collaborative working across all tiers of the supply chain right from the start of procurement process.

In March this year, Fiatech recognised the UK government and industry for their leadership in advancing technology and productivity improvement in capital projects by presenting us with the James B. Porter, Jr. Award for Technology Leadership. This award will be officially presented to us in a few moments.

This is a real achievement – the UK is now seen as a world leader in the use of BIM in the public sector.

Public sector construction in this country is entering a new era – where design excellence, effective procurement, efficient delivery and competitive pricing is becoming the norm. This is good news for the taxpayer, for services users, the industry – and the economy.

We are producing world class iconic public sector buildings such as the London Olympics Velodrome, Tate Modern and UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre. All winners of the Prime Minister’s Better Public Building Award at the BCI annual awards.

But we are not about to start resting on our laurels.

To continue to achieve success the Government and industry needs to keep working together – as we have on the Industrial Strategy.

It’s vital we continue to join up and share our resources, ideas and best practise. Tell us where barriers remain, report incidences of bad practise to Mystery Shopper – and if you have an innovative idea that will save money and improve public services – we want to hear it.

This Government is open for business – together we can create better public services and a better future for construction in the UK.