Greg Hands – 2019 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Greg Hands, the Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham, in the House of Commons on 1 April 2019.

I will begin by answering my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), who said that he had not heard a single argument against a customs union. I credit him for staying for the whole debate, because I am going to give him plenty. He also said that I had been involved in a filibuster, but my contribution to the business of the House motion lasted for one minute and 13 seconds. That must be the shortest filibuster that there has ever been. I did once speak for one hour and 43 minutes on beer duty, but I do not think that one minute and 13 seconds really counts.

Why is a customs union a very bad idea? Broadly speaking, it would mean a huge loss of control over our economic policy, a decline in our foreign policy influence and a huge democratic deficit. Trade policy is not just about trade deals. It is about much more, which we would be handing over to the European Union without a seat at the table. There are tariffs, remedies and preferences as well as trade agreements, and these would all be given over. The House of Commons would abrogate its responsibility in relation to the UK’s trade policy. This is not Andorra or San Marino, which are currently in customs unions with the European Union. This is the world’s fifth largest economy.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe and I were on the same side in the referendum in 2016, so I am approaching this debate not as some kind of Brexiteer, but from the position of what makes sense for the UK’s trade policy. It makes no sense in our democracy for the House of Commons to vote tonight to hand over control of UK trade policy to Brussels. It would mean that a Maltese Commissioner, a Latvian MEP, a Portuguese Commissioner and a Slovene MEP ​would all have more say over UK trade policy than any elected politician, including the UK Prime Minister. That is not democratically sustainable, nor is it sustainable for our foreign policy.

My right hon. and learned Friend and I served in the Government together. At that time, I went into various rooms in foreign countries to speak to foreign Governments, so I know that trade is one of the aspects of leverage that we have. As a member of the European Union, the UK has influence on EU trade policy. That will obviously be gone when we are no longer a member, but under a customs union we would also have no influence over our own trade policy. We would be unable to have those conversations with the Government of the United States when we can say, “Well, if we can do this on some other area, we will have a word in Brussels on this particular trade issue.” All of that would be gone.

Mr Kenneth Clarke

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way because I did not have time to give way to him in the end. I think he would acknowledge that it is a slight exaggeration to say that the British Government would have as little influence over deals being negotiated by the EU as a Latvian MEP if we moved into a customs union. As the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) just said, a big economy such as ours would add to the attractions of the EU market for a negotiating partner, so surely we should put in place a structure giving us far more consultation and involvement in the negotiations than my right hon. Friend is describing—not as good as now, but perfectly adequate.

Greg Hands

I think that is wishful thinking. The European Union is highly likely to prioritise the interests of its members versus the interests of non-members. That has always been the case. There are also serious arguments as to whether European Union rules would even allow a non-member to have an influence on EU trade policy. I am afraid that that is just a fact.

Entering into a customs union would be democratically unsustainable. Tariffs would be set by people who are not accountable to this House or to our constituents. That could be damaging for goods coming into the country, if those people were to set high tariffs on goods that our consumers would quite like access to. It could also happen the other way around with things such as trade remedies, as has been briefly mentioned. All these incredibly important aspects, including trade defences, would be handed over to Brussels. Now, Brussels might look after our trade remedies, but it would not give them priority. It would give the defence of its own industries—the fee-paying members of the European Union—priority over countries such as ours. This would mean that those all-important WTO investigations into, say, the ceramics industry, would be relegated below investigations to protect, for example, the German or Dutch steel industries.

On trade deals, the Turkey trap has been mentioned; this is about the asymmetry. The EU would offer access to our 65 million consumers without necessarily being able to achieve anything in return. I can guarantee that the UK asks would be the ones that would be dropped first, and that the UK items of defence would be the ones that the EU would concede first. It is inevitable because we would not be a fee-paying member of the European Union, so we would not be a priority.​

Steve Brine

I am listening very carefully to my right hon. Friend. I have a lot of respect for him, I have read his article and I have listened to every speech so far during today’s debate, so I understand what he does not want, which is a customs union. But bearing in mind that Parliament has yet to decide what it does want—and has rejected all other options, and the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement and political declaration—what is he arguing for?

Greg Hands

I continue to argue for the Prime Minister’s agreement, and that is where I think we should head. People talk about a compromise; that is the best compromise, and it is the one that my hon. Friend and I have both voted for.

I am astonished that the Labour Front Benchers are supporting the idea of handing over our trade policy. They were the people most passionately against TTIP, and other trade agreements, due to the access that it would supposedly have given foreign companies to the NHS. As it happens, I do not buy into that idea, but the idea that it will now be fine because we are handing over trade policy to the EU without having a seat at the table is for the birds. I think it was Senator Elizabeth Warren who said,

“If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.”

That is exactly what I fear will happen in an EU customs union if motion (C) is passed this evening.

Greg Hands – 2018 Speech on Trade Policy

Below is the text of the speech made by Greg Hands, the Minister of State for Trade Policy, on 26 April 2018.

Thank you.

We’re on the cusp of a profound moment for British trade. It’s almost exactly 13 months since Article 50, so it’s now 11 months until we leave the European Union.

As has often been said, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. But based on that text that was agreed last month, that means we’re 11 months from being able to negotiate and sign trade agreements – a power we haven’t had for 45 years.

That really does matter: it’s a time of great opportunity, but also great responsibility.

The vitalness of stakeholder engagement

And if nothing else that reminds us – especially sitting here, in the world’s greatest scientific society – of the need for a good evidence base.

Trade policy can be complex, after all. So I’d like to thank you all for coming – it really is important for us to hear what you have to say, and for you to contribute your expertise.

That’s why we genuinely put a lot of stock on stakeholder engagement – and thank you to everyone who responded to the Trade White Paper.

Many of you here are from business, or representing businesses. As I often say: businesses trade, not the government – we’re just here to help them trade.

Trade agreements are important, but ultimately they are simply there to facilitate you to do the actual trading.

They only have value insofar as they’re of value to individuals and to businesses.

The first thing that businesses normally raise with me is their need for certainty, so that’s the first thing I’m going to address: how our trade policy is designed to deliver certainty and continuity, whilst also taking advantage of the opportunities that lie outside the Customs Union.

Business after Brexit: certainty and continuity

The agreed text provides for an implementation period until the end of 2020, during which business will have access to the single market on the same terms they do now, giving more certainty for the near future and more time for firms to adjust.

And for 2021 onwards, the Prime Minister has said that she wants a deep, comprehensive and unique free trade agreement with the EU, so our businesses can have the best possible market access.

And, turning to my area of responsibility as Minister for Trade Policy, we are looking to transition the EU’s 40-or-so existing third-party free trade agreements, to give our businesses continued access to those markets on current terms.

We’re also supporting the EU in its ongoing negotiations elsewhere. The Commission is currently prioritising new agreements with Singapore and Vietnam and we are strong supporters of these: we’re full members of the EU until we leave, and we’re going to play a constructive role in the meantime.

And we’re working to take up our independent position at the World Trade Organization, too. We’re already a member in our own right, but we’re currently covered by the EU’s commitments, so we need to negotiate schedules in our own right.

This is not a cliff edge – the EU’s schedules haven’t been up to date in years.

Nonetheless, it is important that we do update them. In order to deliver maximum certainty and continuity for businesses, we will be replicating the EU’s existing schedules.

Together, these will give a great deal of certainty: certainty of continued access to the EU market in the near-term; certainty of deep and comprehensive access in the long-term; certainty of continued access to the EU’s free trade agreements; and the certainty of the WTO’s global rules.

And that certainty is certainly achievable.

Achieving continuity: trade bill, FTAs, the WTO

On the free trade agreement, it’s in the strong interests of both sides to agree thoroughgoing access to each other’s markets.

The EU27’s exports to the UK were nearly £320 billion last year, making us their second-largest trading partner after the US. This trade is worth more to the UK in relative terms, true, but it’s not a zero-sum game.

And this is the only agreement in history where both sides start from a position of regulatory alignment.

Domestically, as Minister for Trade Policy I’m currently taking the Trade Bill through the House of Commons.

That will give the government the domestic powers we need to roll over existing EU free trade agreements, and to sign up the World Trade Organization’s Government Procurement Agreement, so that UK companies can maintain their access to a global public procurement market £1.3 trillion – and so our public services get the best value possible, on passports or anything else.

The opportunities from Brexit

So that’s our approach for the near term, for continuity, for certainty. But what of the opportunities?

The first thing to say is that this isn’t all about trade agreements: the government is not solely concentrating on Brexit. To give one example, DIT is currently designing a new Export Strategy.

That will boost our exports – whether they’re going to the EU or the rest of the world.

As for our future trade regime – any future trade regime must benefit the poorest among us. That’s really important.

The Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill will let us set up our own trade preferences regime, to give developing countries preferential access to the UK market – again, we will deliver maximum certainty.

As a minimum, we will provide the same access as the EU, whilst leaving ourselves room to explore options to make our preferences even more generous and easy to use in the future.

And any future regime must work for consumers, as well as businesses.

We’re absolutely committed to upholding and strengthening our already high standards – so that consumers know they’re getting products that are safe to use, of good quality, and friendly to the environment.

As a country, our comparative advantage is in quality, not price: we want to see a global race to the top, not a race to the bottom.

Why we should leave the Customs Union

As for the Customs Union. The Prime Minister has been very clear that leaving the EU means leaving the Customs Union, and the UK will be leaving the Customs Union. That position was restated only this week.

Recently there’s been a lot of talk about this, and whether the UK would be better off leaving the EU but staying in a Customs Union.

So I’d like to talk through the reasoning behind this decision, and why it’s the right one.

If we are in a Customs Union, we would be unable to negotiate new agreements with countries outside the EU. And that’s where the real opportunities will lie: according to the IMF, 90% of global growth will be outside the EU over the next decade or so.

While Europe quibbles over tenths of percents, China, for example, is adding an economy the size of Norway to its GDP every 7 months – and that’s not even at purchasing power parity.

A Customs Union would leave us with the worst of both worlds. Remember that we cannot stay in the Customs Union, as we will not be a member state – legally it would only ever be a Customs Union.

If you look at Turkey’s Customs Union, whenever the EU signs a trade agreement with a third country, Turkey has to open up its markets to imports from that country. But Turkey’s exporters don’t get access to the third country’s markets in return – that’s reserved for EU exporters.

Turkey has to sign its own trade agreements with the third countries. But that’s very difficult, because Turkey isn’t allowed to offer those third countries anything in return, because it’s in a Customs Union.

So we should not be staying in the Customs Union. We should aim for an agreement that gives us the best of both worlds and there’s no reason why we can’t achieve that.

Trade with the EU and trade with the rest of the world – it doesn’t need to be an either/or choice.

For the reasons I set out earlier, it’s in both sides strong interests to sign a good EU-UK free trade agreement.

And we are also looking to sign new trade agreements abroad. Whilst in the EU we are still bound by the duty of sincere cooperation, so cannot sign or negotiate new agreements.

But we are preparing the ground. We have set up trade working groups covering 21 countries, including the world’s largest economies. Myself and other DIT ministers have made over 160 overseas visits.

Only last week I was in Singapore, talking to representatives of the ASEAN nations – it was fascinating to see the dynamism and optimism on show, and that’s something we should be taking advantage of.

But we can only fully take advantage with your expertise, so thank you all again for coming today.

Thank you.

Greg Hands – 2018 Speech on Trade and Tariffs

Greg Hands

Below is the text of the speech made by Greg Hands, the Minister of State for Trade Policy, on 25 April 2018.

Trade policy is all about playing to your strengths – it’s called comparative advantage for a reason. So I think it’s particularly apt that we’re being hosted by a purveyor of one of our finest exports – legal services. Especially one based in Manchester.

The work of the Department for International Trade

As you’ve heard, I’m the Minister for Trade Policy.

In crude terms, that makes me minister for trade agreements, as well as things like trade preferences for developing countries, agreeing WTO schedules, and establishing our own independent trade remedies regime, so we can protect industry against dumping and other unfair practices.

Today I’ve been asked to talk about our priorities in some of those areas.

But before I start I should emphasise that my department, the Department for International Trade, has a range of other priorities: things like encouraging small businesses to export, securing foreign direct investment from firms overseas, and providing export finance.

People often assume that DIT is a purely Brexit department, but this kind of bread-and-butter work is equally important and has been going on since long before the referendum: UK Export Finance is actually the world’s oldest export credit agency.

What Brexit has done is give this work renewed emphasis, which is why we now have a dedicated Department for International Trade, so that all trade-related work is done under one roof, and so trade has its own voice at the Cabinet table for the first time in over 30 years.

To give one example: UK Export Finance can now give support in over 60 currencies. We’ll also be launching a new Exports Strategy in the coming months.

A lot of that support is about helping us export more to the EU, and I’ve made numerous trips across Europe to promote UK exporters and the UK as an investment destination.

Our negotiations with the EU

I think that’s an important reminder that we shouldn’t see European trade purely through the prism of Brexit negotiations – trade isn’t all about trade agreements.

Nonetheless, I will touch on those negotiations.

As the Prime Minister has said, the government wants a deep, comprehensive and unique free trade agreement with the EU.

We want that because we value EU trade.

When I talk about the opportunities that lie outside the Customs Union, people often accuse me of ignoring the opportunity right on our doorstep. But I can assure you that the government is fully cognisant of that.

The EU takes two fifths of our exports; they’re a developed market of half a billion people starting 20 miles from Dover.

That will always be important – it’s simply that I don’t see this as an either/or choice.

As a British MP, born in New York with a German wife, I’ve always seen the choice between Britishness, globalism and Europeanism as a false trichotomy, and so it is here.

By leaving the Customs Union, we will have the ability to sign new trade agreements. But I believe we will also get a good deal with the EU.

By the Commission’s own estimates, trade with the UK are worth over EUR 800 Billion to the EU27. On the day we leave, we will immediately become the EU’s second-largest trading partner, only slightly behind the US, and well ahead of third-placed China. It is strongly in the EU’s interests to sign a deal.

Yes, in relative terms the trading relationship is worth even more to us than it is to them. But it’s not a zero-sum game.

And in technical terms this is more straightforward than most trade agreements: this will be the only trade agreement in history where the 2 sides start from a position of already being aligned.

Our priorities for non-EU trade

So I think we will get a strong, mutually-beneficial trade agreement with the EU. But what of trade agreements outside the EU – what of our priorities and our progress there?

We can split this out into our overall aims, how we’re achieving those aims, and how we’re prioritising them.

Our overall aim is to ensure continuity and certainty for UK businesses, by transitioning the 40 or so trade agreements the EU has in place with third countries.

We will also take advantage of the great opportunities outside the Customs Union – the IMF has predicted that 90% of global growth will be outside the EU in the coming years – by agreeing new trade deals.

We’re already making strong progress towards achieving these aims. Last month’s draft text on the withdrawal agreement included the ability for the UK to negotiate and sign new trade agreements during the implementation period.

And although we can’t do that yet – we’re bound by the EU’s principle of sincere cooperation – we’re laying the groundwork.

We’re laying the groundwork domestically. I am currently taking the Trade Bill through Parliament, which will, amongst other things, give us the power in domestic law to transition the EU’s existing third-party trade agreements.

And we’re laying the groundwork with our trading partners: we have set up trade working groups with 21 countries.

As for prioritising trade agreements: as you would expect, this is a holistic process; we look at things like the ease of achieving a deal and the size and compatibility of the other country’s economy.

But there’s no algorithm that will tell you what to do.

Our world-leading services

As you would expect, whoever we discuss trade with services are important.

Services make up 44% of our exports. That’s equates to a higher-proportion of GDP than for any G7 country and makes us the world’s second-largest services exporter; second only to the US.

And if anything that underestimates the importance of service exports: when you look at value-add – taking into account re-exports – services are worth around two-thirds.

That’s led right here, by the financial, professional and business services of the City of London: a sector close to my heart, given the time I spent on trading floors here before I went into politics, and the number of my Chelsea and Fulham constituents who work here.

Given our hosts, I specifically want to mention our ‘Legal Services are GREAT’ campaign, launched in October in Singapore.

This is spreading the word worldwide about our legal system’s predictability, commercial adaptability and certainty; our judges’ integrity and experience; and the depth and breadth of expertise that has made to UK such an exceptional global legal hub.

We want to protect our services trade as we leave the EU. But we also want to do much more. Trade in services has historically resisted liberalisation much more than trade in goods.

The UK: a voice for free trade

So trade policy post-Brexit will be about much more than individual trade deals. It will also be about Britain becoming a voice for free trade, at the World Trade Organization and other international fora.

We are currently working to ensure we have our own WTO tariff schedules. We’re already a member in our own right, but we’re currently covered by the EU’s schedules, so we’ve taken the decision to replicate these for the time being, partly so business has maximum certainty.

We’re already a World Trade Organization member in our own right. But not one with our own voice, as the EU speaks for all member states.

The IMF estimated that we were the world’s fifth largest economy at the end of last year, and in today’s world, where there’s so many forces in favour of protectionism, it is to everyone’s benefit to have a nation of Britain’s stature making the case for free trade.

Greg Hands – 2018 Speech on Spain

Below is the text of the speech made by Greg Hands, the Minister of State for Trade Policy, in Spain on 30 January 2018.

Your Excellency Ambassador Bastarreche, Mr President San Basilio; distinguished and honourable friends; please allow me to thank the Spanish Chamber of Commerce for their kind invitation to attend this annual gala.

It’s an honour and privilege to be here and to address you all.

I was invited to give a speech on a topic of my choosing; which was fantastically exciting. But my office insisted that, given I am a Minister for International Trade and, given I would be speaking to such an esteemed audience, I should perhaps narrow my focus a little.

So my speech on the Great Fire of London which started just a stone’s throw from here and ravaged the original version of this beautiful building, the Skinners Hall, will have to wait for another day…

Nevertheless, the commercial relationship between the UK and Spain is something I am more than happy to discuss. And today is an opportune moment to do so.

Today we can look back on a year when the historic visit of King Felipe and Queen Letizia demonstrated the strength of our longstanding bilateral relationship.

Indeed, the UK and Spain share diplomatic ties going back 500 years, and commercial ties which go back even further. Even Shakespeare made reference to the joys of Spanish sherry and Canary wine. It is certainly a proud history on which to build.

Even more tantalising than sherry or wine is the vitality of our trading relationship today, and the opportunities we can see for tomorrow.

That is why as well as being able to celebrate the past, tonight is an opportunity to look to the future, and the chance we have not just to sustain, but strengthen our bonds of friendship.

Spain is the UK’s seventh largest trading partner, with UK exports to Spain in 2016 amounting to an impressive £14.6 billion. Furthermore, figures show that UK exports of goods to Spain increased by more than 15% in the year to November 2017, compared to the same period a year ago.

The statistics on our investment in one another’s economies are even more impressive.

Spanish investment in the UK was £30.3 billion in 2016, with Spanish firms investing in our transport infrastructure, in clean energy, telecoms, automotive manufacturing and financial services. Spanish banks have the largest presence of all foreign banks in the UK, larger than Germany or the USA; indeed Santander alone employs around 20,000 people in Britain.

Meanwhile, UK investment in Spain was £56 billion in 2016, 24% higher than in 2015. Globally renowned British brands are flourishing with the likes of Rolls Royce, GSK, Diageo, BUPA and BP, helping to generate many jobs in Spain.

And yet, there is potential to do much more.

When Prime Minister Rajoy visited the UK in December he wrote of his ambitions for our relationship, stating:

The aim will be to build a strategic alliance to respond to the common challenges and goals of the 21st century. Britain can count on Spain’s loyal and sincere friendship. We want the best for the UK because it is simply another way of wishing the same for Spain.

I believe that fulfilling that potential should be the ambition of all of us here this evening.

This will not be without challenges. I appreciate that many of you will likely have concerns about the UK’s exit from the European Union and our future relationship with our European partners.

But I can stress to you this evening, as I have done on many occasions, the UK’s vote to leave the EU was not a decision to turn our back on our friends in Europe, it was a vote to build a more global Britain alongside, and in partnership with, a strong Europe.

The referendum was not driven by isolationism, nor is it an excuse for Britain to abdicate from its international responsibilities.

We are not rejecting our European friends and allies or disowning any of the good that the European Union has done. Rather, we are looking to strengthen our ties with those nations, which will drive economic growth in the 21st Century.

There can be no doubt that the UK and Spain are united in our ambition for a brighter, more prosperous world for both our peoples. Through our common outlook and shared values, we share a firm friendship that will only grow as we redefine our relationship with the European Union in the coming years.

We will approach our future discussions with the EU with determination and creativity. We are working to secure the best and most ambitious agreement that will benefit us, but also, importantly, that will benefit our European partners.

As the Prime Minister has said, to hope for anything but success for our neighbours would be truly perverse. It would be an inconceivable act of self-harm.

And of course, we cannot overlook the continued importance of the UK to the European Union.

Overnight, on 29th March 2019, the United Kingdom will immediately become the EU’s second-largest and most important external trading partner; a vast, £600 billion export market, rivalled only by the United States in the depth and breadth of our commercial connections to the continent.

The EU is rightly seeking free trade agreements with the likes of the Mercosur nations, Australia and New Zealand (which we, like Spain, overwhelmingly support). But it would be absurd for the EU not to seek a comprehensive free trade agreement with almost its largest trading partner, only 30 kilometres from the coast of France – the United Kingdom.

As we look to develop this new partnership, we start from the unique position of regulatory alignment, trust in one another’s institutions and a shared spirit of cooperation. We should, therefore, be optimistic, and ambitious, about what we can achieve.

That is why the UK government is listening to business. We are keen to understand commercial concerns and make sure we address them where we can, giving them the certainty they need to invest and grow.

For example just this week the Secretaries of State in HM Treasury, BEIS and DExEU issued a joint letter to businesses setting out our ambitions for an implementation period, to help businesses adapt and prepare for the UK’s exit from the EU.

Equally, I am sure my Spanish counterparts and governments throughout the EU27 are keen to understand business concerns and how the EU’s future trading relationship with the UK will affect commercial interests.

I would urge all businesses to use this opportunity to advocate an open, frictionless trading relationship; building on our firm partnership to prioritise investment, growth and job creation.

We are setting out to build this new relationship at a time when we are facing the voices of economic nationalism and anti-globalisation. Growing protectionism in the world is of great concern to us all.

Free trade has transformed the world for the better; opening up new markets, providing access to millions of potential new customers, and allowing businesses to benefit from the exchange of ideas, expertise, talent and technology, across borders.

It is critical that the UK and Spain continue to collaborate as global advocates of free trade, for example in our shared support for the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement.

I sincerely hope that we continue to work together, to champion the cause of free trade, both while the UK remains a member of the EU and after our departure.

I would like to close this evening, firstly, with a commitment.

A commitment that this government will forge ahead, creating the conditions for your businesses to grow and succeed, confident that your investment is underpinned by sound institutions, the rule of law, proportionate regulation and open markets.

And secondly, with an ask. An ask that you continue to innovate; to invest; to identify and capitalise on opportunities, and to create jobs and prosperity for all of our citizens.

I look forward to working with you all, to build on the solid foundation of our unique and historic relationship and to realise our mutual aspirations for a more prosperous future in both of our great nations.

Muchos gracias.

Greg Hands – 2018 Speech on Britain and German

Below is the text of the speech made by Greg Hands, the Minister of State for Trade Policy, on 17 January 2018. The speech was originally made in German.

It is a pleasure to join you today, especially in such an inspiring setting.

I am particularly delighted to give this speech in German – it is a language very close to my heart.

Indeed my home is filled with the German language. When I finish my day job as Minister for Trade Policy, I go home to my family: my German wife and our 2 children, both of whom can speak German better than me!

I must say my children know how to take advantage of being both British and German.

I should also tell you that as MP for Chelsea and Fulham, football is a big thing in my constituency.

Before the last World Cup, I asked my son, “Which country are you going to support in the tournament?”

“Papa,” he said, “I will split my loyalty in the tournament 50:50 between England and Germany. I will support England for the first half, and then switch to Germany”. He is a clever boy.

We have a home in Germany too, and almost every year I visit the party conferences of both the CDU and the CSU. I may even have more friends in each of them then they have with each other.

My ties to Germany go back beyond my career in politics. I lived for much of the years 1985 – 1988 in what was then called West Berlin.

I discovered the particular Berlin dialect –Berlinerisch – while working as a Bädewarter in the exotic location of the Sommerbad Kreuzberg, and working at whatever holiday jobs I could find, such as a the Kaufhaus des Westens (or KaDeWe), and even McDonalds.

During this time my love of German culture, people and language really took root.

That is why today I am pleased to have been asked to speak to you about the special and enduring partnership that exists between Britain and Germany.

If I achieve anything today it will be to impart to you the enthusiasm with which I and my ministerial colleagues believe in this partnership, and in the opportunities for us to work together in the years ahead.

In June 2016 the people of Britain made a democratic decision to leave the European Union.

More votes cast for Brexit than Prime Ministers Thatcher, Blair or Cameron ever managed to achieve. 1.3 million more people voted to leave than to remain.

The instruction from the British people to their politicians, including those who had campaigned on the side of remain such as myself, was crystal clear.

We are now more than a year on from that historic vote and things have changed. We are no longer a country defined by how we voted, but instead by our willingness to make a success of the result.

I believe in the success that Brexit can be, if negotiators on both sides get it right.

I am optimistic about Britain’s future as an independent trading nation and optimistic of the new partnership we will form with Europe and with Germany.

As Prime Minister Theresa May has clearly stated, we want to be the EU’s strongest friend and partner. For us to thrive side by side.

The British people chose to leave the European Union. We did not choose to leave Europe.

Indeed we want to maintain and where possible strengthen our ties around trade, security, law enforcement and criminal justice cooperation.

In 2016 the UK imported goods worth £242 billion from the EU.

Conversely, the UK exported £145 billion worth of British goods to the EU in 2016.

That amounts to a £97 billion goods deficit for the UK with the EU.

That is why it is to both sides’ advantage that we secure the greatest possible tariff and barrier free access to European Markets, whilst offering the same access to the UK market.

While the statistics I quote are rightly impressive, they fail to demonstrate the cultural and ideological ties that unite us and that underpin our trading relationship.

Like Ludwig Erhard, we believe in the power of free trade to strengthen our economies, improve the lives of citizens and vitally to help build a more secure world.

As Erhard said himself –

As one’s economy grows, the value of human labour increases.

Leaving the European Union is not a move away from this desire for improvement.

Instead, we are becoming a more vocal champion.

Before the decision to leave the European Union was taken, the department within which I am a minister, the Department for International Trade did not exist. Trade did not have a seat at the cabinet table and had not done for many years.

Trade is now at the top of our agenda. Both as we move to a new, deep and special partnership with Europe but also as we look out to the world.

We must both be passionate advocates for free trade at a time when the cause needs champions. The need to resist the tide of protectionism is an endeavour that unites Britain and Germany.

As the Prime Minister has clearly set out- we are not looking for an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution. Instead the UK and European Union have the opportunity to build a new, bold and ambitious future economic partnership.

This is of course an ambitious vision, but to quote Ludwig Erhard once more,

In my experience small things fail too easily, but big plans are filled with a fascination that touches people and that in itself constitutes success.

I was at the CDU party conference last year and was struck by Angela Merkel’s speech about how the largest demonstration in Germany in recent years was not against Putin, Assad or even Trump, but was against TTIP.

Championing free trade will of course extend to our support of the EU’s trade agenda. While we remain a member, we will continue to support on-going trade negotiations with third countries. After we leave, we will continue to argue for trade liberalisation at the EU level.

We want prosperous free trading neighbours on our doorstep; it is in our national interest and, we believe, the route to a safer world.

Of course, we cannot talk about economic security without reference to the mutual defence interests that exist between the UK and Germany.

To keep our people safe and to secure our values and interests, we believe it is essential that, although the UK is leaving the EU, the quality of our cooperation on security is maintained.

Such cooperation is vital not only because we face the same threats, but because we share the same values, of peace, democracy, and the rule of law.

I believe that we can use that same spirit of cooperation and mutual trust to inform our commercial and political relationship.

There are few countries in the world that already share such a close economic relationship as Germany and UK.

We are natural and long standing trading partners.

Germany accounts for 13% of total UK imports – no other country in the world sells us more. That means around 1 in every 8 pounds spent in the UK on imports goes to Germany.

A similar story is true on investment. In 2016 the UK invested £21 billion in Germany. And now around 240,000 people in Germany work for British companies based here, making us your third biggest investor.

For those people, the individuals working for Allianz insurance in Guildford Surrey or their counterparts working for Rolls Royce in Brandenburg, not far from where my family and I own a home, the partnership between the UK and Germany is part of their daily life. It is a natural and easy union.

We want to protect this in the years to come.

Touching briefly on the financial services sector as I know this is the topic of the next session.

We need to think creatively about the options, but we believe we can find a positive solution, using our unique starting point of regulatory alignment to ensure that your businesses continue to have easy access to what will remain by far the largest concentration of financial services expertise and liquidity in Europe, even when the UK is outside the EU.

So it is not the case, as some have suggested, that Brexit is an attempt to undermine the institution of the EU or the prosperity of its members.

That would be an inconceivable act of self-harm for the UK. As the Prime Minister has stated to hope for anything but success for our neighbours would be truly perverse.

Therefore, I look forward to seeing a creative solution to a new economic relationship that can support prosperity for all our peoples. And I am glad that we have now made sufficient progress to move onto the second phase of negotiations.

The guidelines published by President Tusk for the next phase of negotiations point to the shared desire of the EU and UK to make rapid progress on an implementation period, with formal talks beginning very soon. This will help give certainty to the business community that we are going to deliver a smooth Brexit.

The council has also confirmed that discussions will now begin on trade and our future security partnership.

An implementation period means that both businesses and public services will only have to plan for one set of changes in the relationship between the UK and the EU.

Most of all, the significance of the UK as a trading partner for the European Union should not be underestimated.

Of course, we need to preserve our productive and open trading relationship. What is more, what kind of message does it send to the rest of the world if we didn’t?

This is at a time when free trade is being questioned in many parts of the globe. If friendly and trade-liberal powers like the EU and the UK can’t reach a free trade agreement, then what message does that send to Washington, Beijing and Delhi?

I told you earlier that my rather smart son has opted to support both England and Germany. Well I agree with his approach – maybe not when it comes to football – but when it comes to our shared prosperity and mutually dependent future.

It is only by working together that we can hope to meet some of the challenges facing our societies and economies in the coming years and that we can truly thrive.

Thank you.

Greg Hands – 2016 Speech on the UK and Algeria

Gregg Hands
Greg Hands

Below is the text of the speech made by Greg Hands, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in Algiers on 22 May 2016.

Ministers, Lord Risby, Ambassadors, distinguished members of the business community, ladies and gentlemen:

It is a great pleasure to be here with you today in Algiers.

Aside from being a government minister, I’m the Member of Parliament for Chelsea and Fulham – not just MP for two famous football clubs, but two thriving and lively parts of London, home to 80,000 people. But at the moment, I am in the shadow of the MP for Leicester after their amazing Premiership win.

As you heard, I am also Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the British government.

That means I am No 2 in the team of Ministers, led by George Osborne, whose task is to pull out all the stops for economic growth and greater prosperity.

Indeed, I manage a portfolio of some 740 billion pounds’ worth of spending – although, unlike some of my former colleagues in the City, my objective is not to make that number bigger!

This is my second visit to Algeria after being here for 10 days in 2006.

I had already met President Bouteflika in London, at the inauguration of the UK-Algeria Parliamentary Friendship Group.

So I was delighted to have the chance to visit, as part of a Parliamentary delegation 10 years ago, Algiers, Oran and Constantine. I was struck by the great heritage of this country, including Tipasa and Djemila. I very much enjoyed your wonderful hospitality.

And, as I stared across the Gorges du Rhumel in Constantine, I was able to reflect on the way in which different cultures and eras – including, of course, the 21st century – had each, in turn, made their mark.

So when I was given the opportunity to revisit Algeria, this time as a member of Her Majesty’s government, I leapt at the chance.

The Prime Minister has told me what an excellent, informative visit he had here in 2013, when he had a most productive discussion with His Excellency the President of the Republic. And he warmly recalls his meeting with you, Prime Minister, at No 10 Downing Street in December 2014.

The Prime Minister’s visit in 2013 was, of course, the start of something significant.

President Bouteflika asked David Cameron to help project the partnership with Algeria into the 21st century.

Together, they agreed that the partnership needed to acquire 3 strong components: first, close security co-operation; second, the increased participation of the United Kingdom in the Algerian economy; and third, to support Algeria’s efforts as it increases the use of the English language.

Before I turn to business issues, let me say a very few words about the first two components.

The security issue is fundamental to our joint success. The attack at In Amenas in 2013 made this clear. Vital Algerian and British interests were attacked; and I am proud of the way in which we stood firmly together to tackle the terrorists.

Progress since then has been strong. We had our sixth bilateral session of talks just last Thursday, in Algiers, which took further steps forward in what is an increasingly close relationship. This is an area where we will continue to work together over the coming years.

On the use of the English language, I am delighted that the British Council is reaching millions of Algerian schoolchildren through its work with the Algerian Education Ministry; and thousands of others directly, through their Teaching Centre, and through courses run for, and in, businesses in Algiers.

I say this as a keen linguist myself: knowledge of foreign languages is one of the most important skills that can be taught. And English, in particular, equips people to succeed throughout the world. Where there is an appetite for people to learn it, we will strive to meet that appetite.

But it is, of course, the business relationship that brings me here today.

For too long – and excuse me for being blunt – the UK didn’t attach enough importance to Algeria.

That’s now changing; since the Prime Minister’s visit, and the appointment of Lord Risby as the Prime Minister’s Envoy for Economic Partnership, we’ve seen important partnerships forged, as together, we explore the opportunities Algeria has to offer.

Over 120 British companies have now come here today. And an even larger number from the Algerian business community are here to meet them. That proves to me that the message – that there is good business to be done here – is truly sinking in.

So I hope you have the chance to talk to each other and to establish strong links.

And I hope you continue to build those links after this forum as well. London and Algiers are not very far away from each other – indeed, Algiers is the nearest capital to London, outside Europe. And there are so many sectors in which Algeria and the United Kingdom can work together, for the joint benefit of our businesses and our peoples.

Oil and gas is of course a given. BP and Shell are long established here and our Ambassador hosts trade missions from the oil and gas supply chain every few months.

But with the fall in the price of oil over the last two years, I know that you, Prime Minister, have recognised that Algeria has to develop its portfolio beyond hydrocarbons.

You are right. There is a vast untapped resource here. Renewable Energy, for example, can be really significant, and I want the UK to get more involved.

But alongside developing the links sector by sector, we need to offer practical assistance to our business communities.

So I want to talk today about 3 separate projects which are going to make a difference for all of us.

The first is the Double Taxation Treaty, which will ensure that tax isn’t charged on the same income in both countries – levelling the playing field for UK businesses active in Algeria.

I am delighted that ratification has now been completed. It has entered into force, and will have effect in Algeria on the 1 January 2017, and in the UK in April 2017. I’m sure you’ll all be very pleased to hear that!

The second is establishing a UK-Algeria Chamber of Commerce. This has long been a stated desire of our Embassy here, and of the Embassy of Algeria in London.

The Embassy here has, of course, offered advice and services for several years, but it makes sense for these efforts to be supported by a business-run forum, where Algerian and British companies can develop the habits of joint working.

So I am pleased to say that plans are now being developed to establish a chamber here in Algiers.

This is very much work in progress. It could provide a workspace for visiting businesspeople. It should be a hub for information for those Algerian businesspeople seeking partners or seeking to invest in the UK. But whatever shape it ends up taking, its success will depend on your input.

So I want as many of you as possible who are here today – from both countries – to register your interest by simply leaving your business card at the Embassy’s Stand in the foyer outside. You’ll then find yourself automatically included on Ambassador Noble’s updates as his team keep you all informed.

The third ground-breaking project is to open a British International School in Algiers. The plan is to offer education in English working to the UK and Algerian curriculums. The objective is to open in 2018.

No-one likes to leave their family behind when working overseas, so this will be another great incentive to companies who want to invest in Algeria.

This all goes to emphasize that the United Kingdom doesn’t see Algeria just as a market, but as a place to invest in: and one with a great deal of potential.

There are 28 million people under 30 years of age here: they are the future of the country, together with its other resources.

I’ve heard of the changes recently made to the Constitution, and know that work has now begun on the new Investment Code.

Your new Economic Model, Prime Minister, is eagerly awaited and I hope that, in improving the business environment, it will play an important role in growing the Algerian economy and British participation in it.

So although my visit here is brief this time around, I am already looking forward to visit number 3!

I hope that the roundtables this afternoon will help you all in finding new ventures to pursue.

My government’s global objective is to help 100,000 British companies start exporting by 2020 – and this Forum today should certainly play a role in achieving that.

Let me close by once again thanking you, Prime Minister, for joining us here today; and I look forward to seeing the relations between our two nations grow ever closer and stronger.

Greg Hands – 2016 Speech on EU Membership

Gregg Hands
Greg Hands

Below is the text of the speech made by Greg Hands, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, at the Mansion House in London on 27 April 2016.

Introduction

Good afternoon – it’s great to be here today in Mansion House, and many thanks to Gerald and the City of London Corporation for inviting me along to talk to you.

Let me introduce myself – I’m Greg Hands and I’m the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, as well as the MP for Chelsea and Fulham – some of you here may even be my constituents. As Chief Secretary, my job is to run all of public spending.

But before I entered politics I used to work in financial services myself, in the 1990s – including at two foreign banks – and people in the City often tell me that once you’ve worked in the industry, you can never really leave it behind!

When I started work at Credit Suisse in 1990, it was only 3 years after the ‘Big Bang’, and working for a foreign bank seemed like an exotic adventure. Now, graduates would treat it as something entirely natural, so open has London become to the global financial services industry.

So although my day job is mainly focused on managing the £742 billion this country spends every year, I’m really pleased to talk to you today about a subject which is still very close to my heart: making sure the UK remains one of the best financial hubs in the World.

World Leaders

The UK is officially the world’s premier international financial centre.

Three leading independent surveys all rank London number one last year, praising our stable legal system, skilled workforce, and cluster of complementary professional services.

We should be really proud of this achievement, and vow to maintain it.

We manage over £6 trillion of assets here – with well over half of that from international banking.

We’ve got around half of the world’s top financial firms choosing to base their European HQs here in the UK.

In fact, there are more bank head offices here in London than in any other place in the world.

And the contribution you make to our economy is huge:

International banking accounts for around half of the worth of our entire banking sector, give work to just under a third of its employees, and pay over 50% of its taxes.

That’s why we are not resting on our laurels, and so I’d like to talk about just 4 areas where we’re taking action to make sure Britain is a place that banks from across the world wish to be based in:

– getting our tax system right
– making sure our regulatory framework is world-class
– investing in the country’s infrastructure
– staying at the cutting edge of financial technology

Tax

So let’s start with one of the most crucial, as well as controversial areas: getting the tax system right.

We believe in low taxes but taxes that are paid – that’s why, for example, we’ve cut corporation tax dramatically to make sure we will still have the lowest rate in the G20.

But, as ever, it’s always a balancing act.

I will be very frank here. Because, of course, the government is committed to reinforcing the UK’s position as a world-leading financial centre.

However, this commitment needs to be balanced against the need for banks and building societies to make an appropriate tax contribution, one that reflects their unique risks to the financial system, and to the wider UK economy.

That is why we have introduced specific taxes on the banking sector.

These taxes will result in banks paying a 25% rate of tax on profit greater than £25 million – the lowest rate among G7 nations – and a 0.1% levy on the UK balance sheet liabilities of the largest banks.

Extra tax will rarely prove popular with those who have to pay it.

But the recent changes mean a fairer and more sustainable basis for taxing the UK banking sector, which allows banks to plan for the long term with greater certainty.

Regulation

Secondly, we are working hard to make sure we have a regulatory system that delivers a high standard of oversight, while at the same time supporting competition.

Of course, that means regulation that is both clear and proportionate.

But it also means making sure we work to bring international standards into line – to make it easier for companies like yours to operate across borders.

That’s why, for example, we’ve been strong supporters of the European Commission’s plan for Capital Markets Union – a range of measures designed to further integrate Europe’s capital markets – whether through reform of, say, venture capital rules, or changes to securitisation regulations.

And I’m pleased to see that the Commission seem keen to make swift progress on this, as well as more proportionate regulation for smaller banks.

We will certainly continue to push them to accelerate their efforts on this front.

Investment in Infrastructure

Third, we’re making sure we have the infrastructure in place to support our status as a global hub.

It’s no secret that for too long, we didn’t build enough.

To put it in context, across the Channel in France, they’ve built 2700 miles of new motorway since 1990. That’s more than the entire UK motorway network put together.

And in the noughties, the Dutch built over 4 times more motorways than we did – for a country a fifth of the size.

We’re turning that around with over £100 billion investment scheduled by the end of this Parliament.

Crucial to this is regional growth, which flows on from the idea of the Northern Powerhouse.

Our strategy is this: let’s increase investment, let’s get money flowing in, let’s get these projects built; but, at the same time, let’s think about the coming decades and how we can prioritise meeting the challenges we face.

FinTech

Fourth, we’re determined to embrace and nurture new ideas and technology.

We’re already the ones to beat when it comes to FinTech, ahead of other hotspots such as California, New York and Singapore. And the support we are providing for this sector is envied across the world.

We have one of the best regulatory systems and we are committed to keeping it that way.

Membership of the EU

There is, of course, a lot more we’re doing. But, in the interest of time, I really want to turn now to an issue looming on the horizon, and one which I know many of you are following very closely: what happens on the 23 June 2016.

I know that many of you may have real concerns about the possibility of the UK leaving the EU – some of you may even have done some serious thinking about what your companies might do, in the event of a vote to leave.

We understand how important our membership of the EU is for many of you, who have chosen to base your European headquarters here in the UK.

As a member, we act as a gateway to the European market. Not only do we have common regulatory standards, but firms in the UK can sell their services across the single market through the EU’s financial services passport.

We share your concerns about leaving. In our view, the evidence is clear: we are stronger, safer and better off, as a member of a reformed European Union, compared with outside on our own.

You’ll have seen last week the publication of the Treasury’s analysis of the risks involved in leaving the EU.

This showed that if the UK left the EU, we would be permanently poorer – an annual loss of 6.2% of GDP after 15 years.

And it set out that EU membership is an important factor in the UK’s position as a global financial centre, providing a gateway to European markets.

There are those who say that we were just scaremongering about the effect it could have on our position as a financial hub; that we’ll still get market access; that Europe won’t harm itself by cutting us off.

Well, no one actually knows what would happen. It would be a huge leap into the unknown.

But what we do know is that the EU hasn’t signed an agreement with any other country – including Switzerland – to give them full access to the single market in financial services, without having to comply with EU rules.

We know that it wouldn’t be in the EU’s interest to do so.

And we know that even with access to the EU financial services passport, we’d have to follow EU rules, just without any say over what they are.

So I want you to rest assured that we are doing all we can to make the case to stay in the EU, and help people understand what we would risk, if we were to leave.

Conclusion

Above all, we know how much a strong, thriving financial services sector matters to the economy.

That is why we’re not only working hard to fend off the huge threat to your industry that leaving the EU would entail, we’re also going on the offensive with a wide range of proactive measures, to cement our place as a dynamic and attractive place for foreign banks to operate in.

And I look forward to continuing our successful partnership with you, long into the future.

Thank you.

Greg Hands – 2016 Speech at Non-Executive Directors’ Conference

Gregg Hands
Greg Hands

Below is the text of the speech made by Greg Hands, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, on 21 April 2016.

Good morning – it’s very good to be here today.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Greg Hands, Chief Secretary to the Treasury – you may know me as the minister who gives your departments a hard time during the spending process!

That is of course in the best traditions of the Treasury. And it’s particularly vital to meeting this government’s commitment to fixing the public finances.

A responsible government should only spend what it can afford. And it is the job of the Chief Secretary to make sure that happens.

As you will all be aware, the job has got a little harder recently. We have experienced a downturn in the economic forecast, largely due to factors outside of our control. That increases the need for government to keep the pressure up on public spending.

So what I will be doing is searching for £3.5 billion of savings from public spending in 2019-20, on top of the existing savings plans set out at Spending Review 2015, in line with continuing action to ensure maximum efficiency from every pound of public spending.

This is very much doable: the extra sum represents less than 0.5% of total government spending, or around 1% of departmental resource spending.

These savings are smaller than those we have delivered before. Over the last five years government expenditure was reduced to 40%, from the unsustainable level of 45% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), in 2010. That involved a fall in departmental spending of 1.7% in real terms per annum, from 2010-11 to 2015-16. Looking towards 2019-20, the projected savings are only 0.9% per annum in real terms.

Perhaps even more importantly, at the same time as cutting the cost of government, we protected, and in many cases, improved core services:

Crime has fallen by more than a quarter since 2010; there are more young people going to study full time at university than ever before; and record numbers of children are now taught in schools that are “good” or “outstanding”.

So we have proven that we can do more with less.

The challenge is that the electorate likes to say “more please”. The demand is always there for government to do more. That is invariably going to be an ongoing pressure.

The situation is, therefore, that money remains tight, while expectations continue to increase. What this means for departments is that we all need to be even more alive to opportunities to become more efficient in everything we do.

This is where the efficiency work initiated by the Cabinet Office creates real value.

And there are some smart ways in which they have helped departments achieve further efficiencies:

Whether that’s developing and using common platforms and services, to drive economies of scale.

Rationalising our estates footprints, through property hubs, whereby departments share a smaller number of buildings in key locations…

Or increasing the skills of the civil service, both generally, and among specific professions and functions, such as digital, commercial and change management.

In addition, we are also merging the Major Projects Authority with Infrastructure UK, to strengthen the assurance and support afforded to departments and project teams, and you heard from Tony Meggs earlier.

We’re introducing single departmental plans, to ensure that departments have the right resources and can deploy them where they are most needed, and you will shortly hear from John Manzoni more on that.

We’re improving both our recruitment and training, to ensure that we have the right commercial and leadership skills in-house.

And we’re undertaking a review of the government’s strategy for IT contracts, an area where I still think significant savings could be realised.

So what can you, as non-executive directors, do to help drive efficiency forward?

I would recommend five things:

First, maintaining focus, within your departments, on the five cross-cutting priorities Sir Ian [Cheshire] has drawn up: talent, single departmental plans, arms’ length bodies, major projects and risk management.

Second, making sure that your boards have sight of data on efficiency measures in the department, and scrutinise departmental programmes through the lens of efficiency.

Third, ensuring that your departments have programmes that are in line with the work of the Cabinet Office’s efficiency unit: programmes to develop common platforms and services (where relevant); the rationalisation of estates,; and the upskilling of the workforce, particularly in relation to digital, commercial and leading and managing change.

Fourth, ensuring robust engagement with the delivery of your Single Departmental Plan, particularly the commitments to drive efficiency.

Fifth, making the most of your expertise, and getting involved in projects outside of your board – for example, taking a leadership role in departmental reviews on issues such as procurement, or advising specific programmes.

I think what underpins all five actions is the need, across the Civil Service, to get a better understanding of costs and outputs.

A lot of you will know about the transformation which took place in the prison service. They used their detailed understanding of the costs of running a prison, from meals, to staff, to building maintenance, to really drive down costs by holding service providers to account.

But there is a lot of other good work going on in the public sector, looking at costs and productivity.

In the Spending Review last year, we said we would establish a new Costing Unit to build a more forensic understanding of the cost of public services and drive productivity across the public sector’.

This is now up and running, and using cost data to improve efficiency across government.

The Costing Unit has done 11 projects so far, on a wide variety of topics such as the border, further education, criminal justice and mental health.

To give you an example of the sort of savings which are up for grabs, the Border Force looked at their costs and outputs to think about their productivity and how they could achieve the same service for less. By looking at costs, they identified £200 million of potential savings out of £900 million, for instance by increasing the number of passengers using e-gates.

That is the sort of saving which should be exciting all of us.

And, to conclude, that is where your role, as non-executive directors, can really add value: by asking the tricky questions, suggesting solutions which you’ve seen work well elsewhere, and – to borrow a phrase from the founder of FedEx, Fred W Smith – making sure that your departments are “keeping the main thing the main thing”.

Thank you for your work so far – and let’s keep up the pressure.

Greg Hands – 2016 Speech at the London Stock Exchange

Gregg Hands
Greg Hands

Below is the text of the speech made by Greg Hands, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, at the London Stock Exchange on 29 February 2016.

Good morning – it’s great to be here with you at today’s market opening; thank you, Xavier Rolet for your invitation.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Greg Hands, Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

I myself used to work at the cutting edge of finance: designing models for financial derivatives, back in the early 1990s. Some of my former derivatives colleagues have now become fintech entrepreneurs themselves.

So, in me, you find someone absolutely convinced of the boost that technology can give to competitiveness.

My Ministerial role is largely to manage the UK’s £700-odd billion portfolio of public spending – because a significant part of this government’s long-term plan for securing Britain’s economy is about being sensible on public spending.

But that is merely one side of the coin; the other is, of course, going for growth.

I am a big believer that one of the best ways you secure long-term growth is by making yourself home to exciting, fast-growing industries.

Financial technology firms – Fintechs for short – are precisely one such industry.

I am delighted that this week, an independent EY report has ranked Britain first amongst the world’s seven leading Fintech hubs, from Silicon Valley to Hong Kong.

Our ambition is to maintain, and to consolidate, that position.

Because Fintech is good news; and the economic case for supporting UK Fintechs is nothing if not compelling.

Britain’s Fintech market generated over £6.5bn in revenue last year. Our Fintechs attract significant global investment, with around £550m in capital invested in 2015. Our Fintech industry employs over 60,000 people. Indeed – and this gives me some pleasure to say – more people work in UK Fintech than in US Fintech, or in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia Fintech combined.

And aside from the positive economic effects, Fintech also promotes greater competition in financial services. That means better products, better services, a more efficient market – and, of course, it makes people’s lives easier too.

In the early days of eBay, you had to send people cheques in the post before they sent you the item you’d won. Now we have Paypal.

Ten years ago, the Guardian was saying that this new-fangled idea of music on a mobile phone would never catch on. Now every high street bank has mobile banking; Barclays has even developed Pingit to transfer money instantly.

While firms such as Funding Circle offer Britain’s businesses a smarter way to access alternative sources of finance.

What we have seen in recent years is a mixture of new market entrants, and established, more traditional companies, both developing Fintechs, and in many cases joining forces to do so.

I believe there are two ways in which the UK Fintech industry can continue to go from strength to strength.

The first is great regulation: that is, regulation which, while protecting the customer, helps new technology to start and grow and succeed.

The second is great collaboration: between Government, regulators, academia, investors, start-up firms, and established businesses.

There’s lots that the Government, working with partners such as the Financial Conduct Authority has done on the “great regulation” front.

The FCA’s Project Innovate Innovation Hub do excellent work in helping innovative businesses understand the regulatory framework and apply for authorisation.

The “regulatory sandbox” – a wonderful piece of jargon there – is helping innovative firms test new ideas at an early stage with real customers.

And our work on the creation of an open banking standard could revolutionise the way people manage their financial information.

“Great collaboration” is equally important. And the events which have taken place all over London this week – Fintech Week – have forged some excellent relationships.

I hope that today’s Fintech Investor Forum brings yet more people together, to throw around ideas, discuss new opportunities, and hopefully create some productive partnerships.

There is palpable excitement about what Fintech can achieve here in the UK.

Our ambition is simple: to consolidate our position as the global Fintech hub, and to keep ourselves at the cutting edge of financial innovation.

It’s win-win: for our businesses, for our consumers, and for our economy.

Greg Hands – 2016 Speech on Plans for London

Gregg Hands

Below is the text of the speech made by Greg Hands, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in London on 25 February 2016.

Good morning – it’s great to be with you today.

I’m Greg Hands; Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

A bit about me: I was born in the States – my first political memory being Richard Nixon’s election – but my family moved back to the UK when I was very young.

After studying history at university, I worked in financial services, in London and New York; was elected Member of Parliament in 2005; became a Whip after the 2010 election; and last year the Prime Minister asked me to become Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

One of the big aspects of being Chief Secretary is the job of portfolio manager.

The sums are quite something. 4 trillion pounds of assets and liabilities; over 700 billion pounds of expenditure a year.

Some people I speak to in the City get quite jealous of those numbers.

But the big difference, of course, is that making those numbers larger isn’t an indicator of success!

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has to rein in public spending, and make sure that taxpayers’ money is spent wisely.

The caricature of the Treasury is as the department always saying “no, we can’t afford this”.

That’s not entirely unjustified: we were elected by British voters to eliminate the deficit, and made it clear that this would largely be through fiscal consolidation.

We set a very clear path at last year’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review; but navigating it over the coming years has its challenges.

It’s certainly a significant part of my job description to make sure we stick to that path, and that involves being tough; or, being an “economist” in the 19th century definition of the word – i.e. someone who believes in making economies in public spending wherever possible.

This is compounded by the economic landscape we’re currently experiencing.

The Chinese slowdown, the fall in oil prices, continued instability in the Middle East – all are economic risks to a greater or lesser extent.

And because we are an open, trading economy, and rightly so, all these threats will have some sort of impact on us.

The best way to insulate ourselves from these threats is to get our own house in order.

So what I have been saying to the civil servants looking after public spending is: “Now is not the time to take our foot off the pedal”.

Our long-term economic recovery depends on us continuing to seek ways to be more efficient, more effective, smarter in the way we use our resources – and that’s one of the things I’ll be concentrating on over the coming years.

But there is another part of the narrative. Spending cuts – though necessary – by themselves won’t deliver the economic results we need for long-term economic security.

It is equally important that we pull out the stops for enabling growth.

So the sorts of conversations taking place in the Treasury aren’t simply “take this off the shopping list”.

They will be along the lines of: “How can we do this in the most cost-effective way? Could we be more innovative about how we fund it, or design it? Is there a cheaper way of achieving the same outcome?”

Because we know that in order to achieve optimum economic growth, government investment is vitally important. The trick is to do it wisely.

That is why in a large number of areas, we have maintained, and even increased, spending.

Some of these areas are services which improve our quality of life; the NHS, our life chances; schools, our national security, or our commitment to help the world’s poorest people.

And some of those are areas which can be real drivers of economic growth in the future – science, research, broadband, housing, regional growth, and infrastructure, to name a few.

We know that it is businesses – such as the ones you represent – who generate growth in this country. And our programme of spending is directly calibrated to make it easier for you to do that – wherever you are in the UK.

Because although the Northern Powerhouse is a highly exciting programme for regional rebalancing through growth, the Chancellor is in the same place as I am: you don’t make the weak stronger by making the strong weaker.

This is the greatest city in the world, and we’ll keep it that way.

So what are our plans for helping London go from strength to strength? Four things:

Transport is one of the things my constituents are the most exercised about – rightly so. Inadequate transport is bad for productivity and bad for quality of life.

At the Spending Review last year, we committed to £11 billion support for London.

This funding will enable TfL to invest in the network in projects including Crossrail, due for completion in 2018; major underground upgrades, including new trains and increased capacity; 1,700 hybrid-electric buses this year; and new cycle superhighways to open by the end of this year.

Aside from this, we’ll see HS2 construction beginning next year, with the line from London to Birmingham to be completed in 2027, and extended to Leeds and Manchester by 2033.

As HS2 is built, places connected to it – for instance, Old Oak Common – will also receive funding for redevelopment.

And we’ve also pledged £55 million to extend the London Overground to Barking Riverside.

And of course, one of the most important investments we can make is in our people: making sure that we have world-class skills is at the heart of our long-term plan.

That’s why we have protected funding for the core adult skills participation budgets in cash terms, at £1.5 billion.

This will help around 1.7 million learners each year to develop the skills that employers need.

It is also why we are giving local areas more say in setting up skills systems that are responsive to local economic priorities.

We will vastly expand further education loans, to help those seeking to move their skills to a new level; and we will also consult on introducing maintenance loans for people who attend specialist, higher-level providers.

We’re funding five National Colleges and a new network of Institutes of Technology. Given London’s particular strengths in the digital sector, I’m delighted that the National College for Digital Skills – opening this September – will be based in Tottenham.

And there is our apprenticeship system – which is at the heart of our commitment to a world class skills system.

By 2020, spending will be double the level of spending in 2010-11 in cash terms.

We’re also putting control of funding in the hands of the employers through the apprenticeship levy, so that the system delivers the skills they want and need.

We’re committed to creating 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020, and I am delighted that employers across the capital are playing a key part in this, including in the design and development of new degree apprenticeships.

It is also vital that our world-class workforce has good places to live.

Being MP for an area where house prices set new records practically every month, I’m acutely aware of the pressures – particularly when it involves getting onto the property ladder.

Essentially, we need to build more.

Our manifesto committed to delivering 200,000 Starter Homes – homes for sale at a 20% discount, available to younger first time buyers, who plan to live in them.

In the Spending Review, we announced £2.3 billion to help deliver up to 60,000 of these.

We also committed to developing 135,000 Help to Buy: Shared Ownership homes in London, which will allow more people to buy a share in their home and buy more shares over time, as they can afford to.

The scheme will be open to all households earning less than £90,000 in London, and will relax and remove previous restrictions, such as local authorities’ rights to set additional eligibility criteria.

And our London Help to Buy scheme launched last month. The scheme will offer buyers with a 5% deposit on a loan of up to up to 40% of the value of a new build home, interest-free for 5 years.

Finally, we’re supporting specific developments. The Barking Riverside extension, which I mentioned, a few moments ago, will provide 10,000 new homes.

And the £97 million we’re providing to support redevelopment at Brent Cross will support 7,500 homes.

The fourth plank of our strategy for keeping London world-class is to help develop our financial services sector.

That means opening ourselves up to new and emerging markets – particularly in Asia and the Middle East, which still provide enviable levels of growth.

It means priding ourselves on exceptional standards of regulation, conduct – and therefore trust.

It means harnessing new technology, and fostering competition in the market.

And it means maintaining excellence, not merely in financial markets, but in all the range of associated professional services that come with the territory.

The hard work we’ve put in since 2010 has meant that London now enjoys the accolade of the world’s most dynamic financial centre, according to the Global Financial Centres Index.

Maintaining this competitiveness while keeping the highest standards of conduct is a major area of Treasury focus, and one on which my Ministerial colleague Harriett Baldwin is working tirelessly.

Underpinning all this activity is our core belief that the best way to ensure Britain’s continued prosperity is a thriving private sector, one that adds value and creates jobs and growth.

It’s fair to say that many of the old consensuses about the economy have disappeared.

Those of us who believe in things like the free market, and private-sector driven growth, and the benefits of wealth creation, need to continue making that case.

The very best thing we can do is to prove the naysayers wrong, through our actions as well as through our arguments.

Time and again throughout history, a dynamic, innovative private sector has proven the biggest spur to increasing our standard of living.

I look forward to working with you so that this continues over the coming years.