Jack Straw – 2003 Statement on Iraq


Below is the text of the statement made by Jack Straw, the then Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons on 17 March 2003.

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement in respect of Iraq and the debate that will be held in the House tomorrow.

As the House will be aware, in the Azores yesterday my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Aznar of Spain, President Bush of the United States and Prime Minister Barroso of Portugal called on all members of the Security Council to adopt a resolution—which would have been its 18th on Iraq—to challenge Saddam to take a strategic decision to disarm his country of his weapons of mass destruction as required by Security Council resolution 1441. Such a resolution has never been needed legally, but we have long had a preference for it politically.

There has been intense diplomatic activity to secure that end over many months, culminating in the past 24 hours. Yesterday evening, our ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, consulted his fellow permanent representatives from other Security Council member states. Just this morning I spoke to my Spanish, American, Russian and Chinese counterparts.

Despite those final efforts, I regret to say that we have reluctantly concluded that a Security Council consensus on a new resolution would not be possible. On my instructions, Sir Jeremy Greenstock made a public announcement to that effect at the United Nations at about 3.15 pm UK time today.

What we know about the Iraqi regime’s behaviour over many years is that there is the greatest chance of their finally responding to the United Nations obligations on them if they face a united Security Council. So, over the months since resolution 1441 was unanimously adopted by the Security Council in early November, the Prime Minister and I, and our ambassador to the United Nations, have strained every nerve in search of that consensus which could finally persuade Iraq, by peaceful means, to provide the full and immediate co-operation demanded by the Security Council.

Significantly, in all the discussions in the Security Council and outside, no one has claimed that Iraq is in full compliance with the obligations placed on it. Given that, it was my belief, up to about a week ago, that we were close to achieving the consensus that we sought on the further resolution. Sadly, one country then ensured that the Security Council could not act. President Chirac’s unequivocal announcement last Monday that France would veto a second resolution containing that or any ultimatum “whatever the circumstances” inevitably created a sense of paralysis in our negotiations. I deeply regret that France has thereby put a Security Council consensus beyond reach.

I need to spell out that the alternative proposals submitted by France, Germany and Russia for more time and more inspections carry no ultimatum and no threat of force. They do not implement resolution 1441 but seek to rewrite it. To have adopted such proposals would have allowed Saddam to continue stringing out inspections indefinitely, and he would rightly have drawn the lesson that the Security Council was simply not prepared to enforce the ultimatum that lies at the heart of resolution 1441: in the event of non-compliance, Iraq, as operational paragraph 13 spells out, should expect “serious consequences.”

As a result of Saddam Hussein’s persistent refusal to meet the UN’s demands, and the inability of the Security Council to adopt a further resolution, the Cabinet has decided to ask the House to support the United Kingdom’s participation in military operations, should they be necessary, with the objective of ensuring the disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and thereby the maintenance of the authority of the United Nations.

From the outset of this crisis the Government have promised that, if possible, the House would have the opportunity to debate our involvement in military action prior to the start of hostilities and on a substantive motion. The House will have that opportunity tomorrow. Copies of the motion, proposed by the Prime Minister and Cabinet colleagues, have been placed in the Vote Office.

In addition to dealing with military action the motion states that in the event of military operations the House requires that

“on an urgent basis, the United Kingdom should seek a new Security Council Resolution that would affirm Iraq’s territorial integrity, ensure rapid delivery of humanitarian relief, allow for the earliest possible lifting of UN sanctions, an international reconstruction programme, and the use of all oil revenues for the benefit of the Iraqi people and endorse an appropriate post-conflict administration for Iraq”.

In addition, the resolution goes on to endorse the middle east peace process as encapsulated in the imminent publication of the road map. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you will be specifying the time by which amendments to this motion must be received. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office will make a short business statement immediately after the proceedings on this statement.

To inform the debate, I have circulated several documents to all right hon. and hon. Members today. These include a copy of the response from my noble and learned Friend the Attorney-General to a written question in the House of Lords in which he sets out the legal basis for the use of force against Iraq, as well as a detailed briefing paper summarising the legal background which I have sent to the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I have also made available a note summarising Iraq’s record of non-compliance with resolution 1441. A new Command Paper comprising key recent United Nations documents, including the 173 pages of Dr Blix’s paper on “Unresolved Disarmament Issues: Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programmes”, which was published on 7 March in the Security Council, is now available in the Vote Office.

The debate tomorrow will be the most important in the House for many years. Some say that Iraq can be disarmed without an ultimatum, without the threat or the use of force, but simply by more time and more inspections. That approach is defied by all our experience over 12 weary years. It cannot produce the disarmament of Iraq; it cannot rid the world of the danger of the Iraqi regime. It can only bring comfort to tyrants and emasculate the authority of the United Nations. It is for these reasons that we shall tomorrow be asking the House to endorse and support the Government’s resolution.

Jack Straw – 2010 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Jack Straw at Labour Party conference on 28th September 2010.

Conference, after thirty years as an adornment on the Labour front bench I’m moving up to that most honourable of places, the back benches.

So, this will be my last conference speech from the platform and I have been promised that no one will be removed, arrested, or even offered a place on the NEC for heckling me.

It has been a huge privilege to serve the party and the British people in the posts I have occupied. Thank you.

My earliest experiences as a Labour front bencher coincided with the initial impact of Margaret Thatcher’s brutal economic policy.

Unemployment was rising fast, interest rates hit 15%, and inflation was on its way t o 22%. Never had the country needed a strong and united opposition more.

But while the people in this country were desperately looking to us for a constructive alternative, we were busily engaged in endless bouts of self defeating internal strife.

All people saw of Labour then, was division and disunity. A divided party is one which detaches itself from the concerns of the British people. It loses their trust and allows its political opponents free rein to scorch the earth across our social landscape.

We allowed the Thatcher-Major governments to last eighteen years. We cannot permit the Cameron-Clegg Government more than five.

So I’m very happy that despite the scale of our defeat in May we have begun our fight back in such a united manner.

For that we should thank, above all, Harriet Harman, for her fantastic leadership since the election. And we should also thank the five leadership candidates who fought their corners in a way which I believe has strengthened the party.

Now that Ed has become our leader we should all back him in the difficult task of developing our response to the Government’s cuts agenda and the social and economic damage which they will cause.

But beware that as the cuts begin to bite, and distress and anger about them rises, so too will the tendency of some people on the left to divide.

We mould our own future. If we are to stay relevant and electable in 2015 we have to learn the lessons of our past.

It took years of work by Neil Kinnock, John Smith, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, to undo the damage of the 1980s and reconnect us with all the people for whom this party works, recognising a fundamental truth: that we can only help the poorest and most insecure if we are in Government.

And we can only achieve Government by building our support not only amongst the weakest in society but crucially among, as Ed has said, the squeezed middle and amongst those who feel more secure about their incomes and their place.

Equality is the most important idea which separates us from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. We know that the countries which are healthiest, happiest and most secure are also those which offer the most equal societies.

Equality is not uniformity. It’s not about making everything and everyone the same. It is certainly not about levelling down. It’s about recognising and celebrating that every individual is different, and entitled to an equality of rights, of dignity, of the opportunity to realise their dreams to the greatest extent.

And equality too is about opposing private extravagance and public squalor.

It’s because of our values of equality that Labour in Government worked tirelessly to tackle poverty, by promoting economic growth alongside a national minimum wage, tax credits and the transformation of the public’s services.

We have to challenge the myths of Labour in power now being pedalled by the Conservatives and Mr Clegg.

We did build more schools and hospitals; we did recruit more teachers, nurses, doctors and police officers.

And the results were improved educational outcomes for everybody. School standards in my area alone, Blackburn with Darwen, more than doubled in a decade.

We literally improved people’s life chances through better health care and safer streets and homes as we drove down crime. And we guaranteed individual rights regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or disability.

One of my proudest achievements was the introduction of the Human Rights Act, which came into force ten years ago this Saturday.

It is one of the greatest steps for equality and rights – for the individual against the state – that this nation has seen in over three centuries. And we, the Labour movement, did it.

We introduced the strongest laws against racial discrimination and for racial equality anywhere in western Europe.

We banned religious discrimination – opposed by the Liberal Democrats. We repealed the disgraceful section 28 – introduced by the Tories. By this, and much else, we made Britain a more tolerant and a fairer place. Never forget that.

And keep telling your friends, your work colleagues, your neighbours, because if we don’t honour and celebrate our achievements our opponents certainly won’t do it for us.

If you think about it, crime too is an issue of equality. Indeed an issue of class.

The less well off you are, the more likely you are to be a victim of crime.

There’s no liberty, no opportunity, if you feel trapped in your own home or in fear on the stree ts. And that’s why we were so committed to make people safer from crime.

During those eighteen years of Conservative Government crime doubled. The rise in crime was disproportionately concentrated in poorer areas against poorer people; out of sight and so out of mind for the Conservatives.

And nothing changes – now they say they’re considering the abolition of ASBOs which have made such a difference to tackling anti social behaviour.

Conference, we were the first – the only – Government since the war not just to get crime down, but by a significant amount.

The British people welcomed the fact that crime fell. But Conservatives and Liberal Democrats don’t. They are in denial about the figures.

They’re now talking about changing the way crime is recorded and abolishing the most reliable series of data – the British Crime Survey. They are again tempted down the Norman Tebbitt path. Norman Tebbitt, who when faced with the relentless truth of ever r ising unemployment, changed the way it was counted not once, not twice, but 18 times.

But they’ll find it more difficult to fiddle the figures this time, because there’s something else we did – we put the Office of National Statistics on an entirely independent footing.

Conference, our great legacy on equal rights and public safety is at risk.

The Liberal Democrats have conspired to put the Human Rights Act under review. The Conservatives, meanwhile, are going to cut the use of DNA technology and CCTV, and restricting the ability of the police and local communities to fight the scourge of anti-social behaviour.

And who will benefit from this madness? There’ll be greater freedom for the criminal, less liberty for the law abiding. It’s crazy.

The Coalition Agreement represents the worst of both parties. You’ve got Conservative ministers implementing the most dangerous of the Liberals’ policies on crime, while Liberal ministers are complicit in rushing to implement savage Conservative cuts.

Nick Clegg has said he’s released the “inner Liberal” in many Conservatives. But Mr Cameron has undoubtedly set free the “inner Tory” in Nick Clegg.

Nowhere is that more evident than in Mr Clegg’s willingness to go along with Conservative proposals to gerrymander the boundaries. Even senior Tories have publicly admitted that they are doing this for narrow party advantage.

Nick Clegg boasts about his party’s commitment to localism. Guess what? His Bill bans the Boundary Commission, by law, from daring to set up any local public inquiry into boundary proposals. We’ve had the best, most bi-partisan system for settling boundaries in the western world. So good, that David Cameron used it in 2003 to defend his own West Oxfordshire boundaries and vocally to challenge those who claimed that the numbers of MPs should be cut.

But if Nick Clegg and David Cameron don’t want to listen to the public anymore, we must not ma ke the same mistake. As Ed Miliband has said, the crucial thing is that we listen and stay connected to maintain the confidence of the vast majority of the British people.

This is not about selling out, or any of that nonsense.

It’s about listening, listening carefully – and putting our timeless values into ways which protect and benefit people as their lives – and their circumstances – change.

That’s what we’ve always tried to do in my great constituency of Blackburn – you know the one, with the world’s greatest football team, one of only four ever to win the Premiership.

We’ve now got a terrific Blackburn Labour website.

But new forms of internet communication like this can only ever be a supplement to face-to-face engagement.

In my constituency, we hold residents’ meetings where month in, month out, the halls are full. And soap box sessions in the Town Centre. Don’t dismiss them as “old-fashioned”. They cost next to nothing.

Above all, they work, because there is an equality of arms, of mutual respect, amongst everyone present.

And they work in another way. In Blackburn, Labour won against all odds in 1983.

My majority stayed up in 2005; and this year there was a swing in Labour’s favour.

And there are plenty of other constituencies which defied the national trend, always for the same reason – because we connected with people’s aspirations and their fears.

We didn’t talk over them or at them – we talked with them.

I know that our new leader, Ed Miliband has the same view.

I also know this…with the unity this conference is demonstrating, the effectiveness we’ve seen of our party in Parliament and in the country, and with the development of new policies for new times, we do have the strength and the energy to work relentlessly over the next four and a half years for that imperative for our nation – a Labour victory in 2015.

Jack Straw – 2009 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Secretary of State for Justice and the Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw, to the 2009 Labour Party conference.


I’m hard wired into our party. My mum joined Labour when Clem Attlee was leader.

I delivered my first leaflet in Loughton, Essex in 1955, the month that Winston Churchill resigned.

I’ve been a Labour student. A Labour councillor. A Labour MP for 30 years. 12 years in the Cabinet.

I’m still delivering leaflets – and I’ve even started blogging.

The other day Gordon brought along to Cabinet the man who invented the internet – a Brit – Sir Tim Berners-Lee. With that great gravitas in my voice which befits an alleged elder statesman, I told the Cabinet that being introduced to Sir Tim was like meeting the inventor of the wheel.

Quick as a flash, young Ed Miliband pipes up:

“And what was that like Jack?!”


And Ed’s right. I’ve been around a bit.  And there’s one thing my experience tells me: You never write off Labour.

We’ve faced tougher times before and come through.

We don’t shirk the challenge. And we deliver.

Go back to 1997. If I’d told people in Blackburn then that if they got a Labour government they’d see a £120m hospital, hundreds of old homes replaced by new and affordable housing, and more than twice as many youngsters getting good GCSEs, they’d have thought I’d lost the plot.

But we’ve delivered that and much more.

The first government since the war to oversee a fall in crime. The Conservatives doubled it. Never forget that.

A government which has delivered what has been called a “quiet” constitutional revolution – the Human Rights Act, FoI, devolution, independent national statistics. More open government, more power where it belongs: with the people.

Take Lords reform as well. We removed most hereditary peers in 1999.

Now we’ve got a bill before Parliament to end the hereditary principle once and for all.

Soon we’ll be publishing detailed legislative proposals on a new second chamber to replace the Lords. A chamber elected by the people for the people.

Then there’s the laws to protect the rights of the weak, the powerless, of minorities. We’ve now got the best legislation in Europe on race, religion and women, and it will be better still with Harriet Harman’s Equality Bill.

And it’s only Labour who’s ever acted in this way. Nothing from the Tories – except for just one piece of legislation. On discrimination against gay people. You know what the Tories did? They passed a law to make that discrimination worse – it was called Section 28 and it was disgusting. We repealed it.

Our work is not done but huge progress has been made.

Just look at what we’ve achieved this last year in my department

Stronger protections against forced marriage.

Tougher enforcement of employment tribunal awards.

Opening up family courts.

Measures to prevent house repossessions.

Giving local communities much more say in the criminal justice system.

For example, last December I brought in high visibility jackets for offenders on unpaid work – Community Payback.

Since then more than two million hours have been worked on almost 7000 such schemes and increasingly it’s the local community deciding what the offenders will do.

Conference, we have dramatically improved services available for victims.

We have trebled the money for that great voluntary organisation Victim Support. We’ve provided victims and witnesses with much better services in court.

We’ve appointed an independent Victims Champion, in Sara Payne. Soon there’ll be the first Victims Commissioner.

Now we want to go further, better to bring services for victims together.

So I can announce today that later this year we’ll be unveiling detailed proposals to create the first ever National Victims Service. In a parallel to the way in which the Probation Service is there for the end-to-end management of offenders, the new Victims Service will be there to provide one-to-one care and support for victims of crime.

This service will take some years before it is fully operational but we are going to make a start now. I’ve had to make lots of economies in my department but I have found the money to get this going. £2m for this year, £8.5m for next.

Working with Victim Support, we will start with those bereaved victims whose lives have been torn apart by the murder or manslaughter of a loved one.

Over time the service will be available to everyone who has been a victim of crime – if they want more support we will be there for them.

This is a pioneering idea. It’s what Labour is about. Supporting those who need and most deserve our help.

I didn’t come into politics to cut services. But for sure the taxpayer should get value for money. And sometimes that means making difficult decisions.

We are not going to shirk from them. But we’ll act with care. Treasure the things which matter the most.

Like our key public services. In contrast, for the Tories, public service is almost a term of abuse.

So I say this to anyone thinking of voting Tory:

Be careful of what you wish for. Don’t take the risk.

We’ll make savings when we have to. The Conservatives will cut because they want to.

Entrusting the Conservative Party to reduce the public sector deficit is like asking Sweeney Todd for a quick trim.

George Osborne is already displaying a ghoulish enthusiasm for wielding the knife.

He can’t wait. He can’t resist. It’s in the Tories’ DNA.

It’s why they’ve made the wrong calls on all the big decisions throughout the recession.

And conference, believe me people are starting to wake up to the Tory danger.

My mum, I’m pleased to say, is still going strong, aged 88. She can’t knock on doors these days, but she’s still making the case for Labour.

The other day a friend of hers – a lifelong Conservative – called her to say that at the age of 79 she’s made a big decision. She’s not taking the risk of voting Conservative next time.

She’s voting for Gordon Brown because she says she believes in him.

And if we show self belief we will win next year year.

We all believe in this party.

What it stands for, what it’s done, what only it can do. We have the values, the record, the policies for the future. Now we’ve got to go out and fight for them in a mother and father of a battle – and win.

Jack Straw – 2008 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, at Labour Party conference on 21st September 2008.

Conference, at the 1997 election, we promised that a Labour government would convict more criminals, fast-track the punishment of persistent young offenders; crackdown on neighbourhood disorder.

We’ve not just met these promises but done much more besides.

We never promised in 1997 to be the first government since the war to cut crime, and to do so by a third, to increase police numbers by 14,000, to reduce household burglary by 50% and car crime by almost 60%.

But we’ve done them all – and more.

And this record of delivery has been no accident, no lucky fluke.

We’ve delivered because our values are the ones most likely to create safer communities.

Fair rules, firm punishments. Rights, but also responsibilities. Deterrent, and reform.

Tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime.

Our approach works.

Crime denies the most fundamental of  rights. The right to feel safe; the very right to life.

When there are high levels of crime it’s those with the least who suffer the most.

And never forget that when someone is the victim of a crime, they are 100% victim – and no blizzard of statistics from people like me will take that away.

Yesterday we saw the determination of those affected by knife crime as they marched through London. We stand firm with all those who know too well the devastating impact these crimes have and as Jacqui will be spelling out  later, all of us pledge that we will relentlessly keep up our efforts to tackle it.

Labour will always put victims and their families first.

That’s why we are transforming criminal justice from a bureaucratic system to the public’s service.

It’s about a change of culture, of attitude, about lifting the veil which sometimes keeps justice from view: explaining more, hiding less.

So I’ve abolished the fees which newspapers had to pay for court lists.

And I’m going to open up the justice system through the power of the internet, with online court records so anyone can see for themselves what happened when someone appears in the dock.

In the very sensitive area of the family courts, I think we can shed more light whilst preserving the imperative of the welfare of the child.

And when people receive community punishments, the public must literally be able to see them working – so we are introducing high visibility jackets for all those on such sentences.

Prisons are obviously part of this service. Since 1997, we have increased prison places by 23,000 – a third, twice the rate of the Tories, and there’ll be another 13,000 places by 2014.

Conference, I am passionate about getting the correct balance between the rights of the accused and the rights of the victim.

That’s why I said last year that we would change the law so that those who are brave enough to have-a-go against burglars or street robbers do not find themselves unfairly in the dock.

Some were sceptical that it would happen, but we’ve done it.

In 1997 we began a quiet revolution to transform services for victims and witnesses. In the autumn we’ll continue that with a new bill before parliament.

Legal aid is one of Labour’s many great post war social reforms and it’s grown dramatically.

Legal aid spending per head in England and Wales is the highest in the world. It’s as much as we spend on prisons.

There are now three times as many lawyers in private practice but paid for by the taxpayer as there were three decades ago; the budget has grown faster than the health and education services.

The challenge now is how better to spend these huge sums in the interests of the public and justice; something I want to do with the legal profession and local government.

Conference, I am concerned about another element of legal services – “No win, no fee” arrangements.

It’s claimed they have provided greater access to justice, but the behaviour of some lawyers in ramping up their fees in these cases is nothing short of scandalous.

So I am going to address this and consider whether to cap more tightly the level of success fees that lawyers can charge.

Conference, this autumn, building on the Human Rights Act, we will be publishing proposals for a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

This is a further step in our programme of constitutional reform which includes giving Parliament control over war powers and treaties. And it is also achieving something that few thought possible – broad agreement across the political divide on turning the House of Lords into an elected second chamber: at long last.

These changes are not as important as a family’s shopping bill or a community ravaged by crime.

But they are needed. Globalisation can greatly diminish an individual’s sense of their own power to affect their and their family’s own future.

So ensuring that citizens are better able to exercise their rights is critical to the creation of more fairness and equality.

Fairness: it is at the heart of the Labour approach.

I can understand why the Tories try to appropriate our language, to sugar- coat their wafer-thin agenda with the fallacy that they care about social justice.

But we must not let them get away with it.

What happened – or didn’t happen – between 1979 and 1997 exposes the hollowness of the protestations of today’s Tories to be the party of fairness.

When these same people had the chance to act, to show their commitment to those things they profess today to care about, they allowed crime to double.

They could have acted on racial hatred, they could have set up an inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence.

They didn’t. We did.

They could have introduced new laws to deal with anti-social behaviour.

They didn’t. We did.

Now, contrary to all the evidence, the Tories accuse us of creating a “broken Britain”. It shows how little they’ve changed.

Running the country down when they were in power.

And still trying to run it down now just to gain power.

That’s the last thing we need at a time of global uncertainty.

Conference, since ’97 Labour’s approach, Gordon’s approach, helped the country stride forward when conditions across the world were more placid.

But what about now, when we face more turmoil internationally than for decades, more worry domestically than for many years?

Does Britain need these values, our values now?

Solidarity and support. Opportunity for all. Protection for those who are weakest.

Conference, Britain needs these values, our values, more than ever before.

And we will deliver.

Jack Straw – 2008 Speech at George Washington University


Below is the text of the speech made by Jack Straw, the then Secretary of State for Justice, at George Washington University on 15th February 2008.

Good morning, I am honoured to be here at the magnificent George Washington University.

This morning I want to set out some observations about the enduring and unique relationship between our two countries, and in particular to look at how our very conceptions of government and the constitution, whilst on the face of it very different, are borne out of the same root, and have to face up to the same challenge of remaining relevant in a twenty-first century democracy.

This challenge of remaining relevant has beset every government of every age.

It calls to mind the old adage of the man who walked into a bookshop in the French Third Republic asking for a copy of the Constitution. ‘We don’t deal in periodical literature’, the bookseller replied.

So, in this speech, I discuss three things:

First, our common constitutional heritage – how the US and the UK both have modernised the Magna Carta, and constantly adapted our constitutional arrangements to meet changing circumstances.

Second, to look at some of the steps we have taken in the United Kingdom to bring our constitution into line with modern expectations: the ‘quiet revolution’ over the last decade of the Labour administrations of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

And third, the lessons we can learn from the United States as to how we in the UK can shape the next chapter in the story of British liberty: towards a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

Part 1: Magna Carta

I would like to begin, where so much of our legal, governmental and social systems begin – with the Magna Carta.

In December of last year Sotheby’s in New York sold a 1297 copy of the Magna Carta for more than million – the world’s first million bill. It is both symbolic and fitting that it has been placed on display beside the Declaration of Independence just down the road at Washington’s National Archives. These two represent perhaps the most defining constitutional documents in the Western world. Their influence on the development of democracy in the United Kingdom, the United States as around the world cannot be overstated. Along with the Bill of Rights and the Constitution they are what James Madison called the ‘political scriptures’.

In the late eighteenth century, the Founding Fathers searched for an historical precedent for asserting their rightful liberties from King George III and the English Parliament. They found it in a parley which took place more than 500 years before that, between a collection of barons, and the then impoverished and despotic King John, at Runneymede in 1215. On that unremarkable field they did a remarkable thing. They demanded of the king that their traditional rights be recognised, written down, confirmed with the royal seal and sent to every county to be read aloud to all freemen.

Let us, however, prick the illusion, that the Magna Carta was precipitated by the equivalent of thirteenth century civil rights campaigners. The Magna Carta was a feudal document – designed to protect the interests, rights and properties of powerful landowners with the temerity to stand up to the monarch. Given its provenance, it is a paradox that a document which was founded on the basis of class and self interest has over centuries become one of the basic documents for our two constitutions, and one of the icons of the universal protection of liberty.

This is a measure of how constitutions evolve, grow, develop with changing circumstances; in this sense they can be very much like scripture. This is the process by which a document just shy of its eight-hundredth birthday still has a resonance and a relevance today. In more than 100 decisions, the United States Supreme Court has traced dependence on the Magna Carta for understanding of due process of law, trial by one’s peers, the importance of a fair trial, and protection against excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishment. These are principles which similarly have long formed the bedrock of our system of common law in the United Kingdom – as admired as it is emulated in democracies around the world.

I dwell on this historical point to demonstrate that in spite of the very different systems of governance in the UK and the US, there is an enduring bond between our two democracies, a shared legal culture, a common thread which can be followed back to the Magna Carta.

At the heart of each, of both, is a powerful and everlasting idea of liberty and of rights. I often think that the commonality between us and our ideas is best reflected in the person of one man, that great Anglo-American, Thomas Paine. Paine was born and raised in a small town in the east of England called Thetford in Norfolk, but was to go on profoundly to influence the revolutions in America and France. Indeed, the name ‘the United States of America’ itself is attributed to his creation. That Paine is commonly considered among the Founding Fathers, and later was elected to the French National Convention are measures of his remarkable contribution to the dialectics of liberty.

But though Thomas Paine’s seeds were the same wherever he sowed them, they grew. And their progeny then evolved in ground that was different, differences today reflected in very different systems of governance.

From independence, the United States self-consciously chose to develop a system of constitutional sovereignty, to prevent the new-born nation from ever being subject to the yoke of a despotic ruler.

As Washington himself implored: ‘that it is provided with more checks and barriers against the introduction of tyranny, and those of a nature less liable to be surmounted, than any government hitherto instituted among mortals hath possessed’.

As with many nations which later have had to define themselves as a product of great social trauma – civil war, revolution, independence, or more recently breaking free of the shackles of apartheid – you put your belief in and structured your system of government around a set of overarching principles around which their nation could unite – a constitutional form of government.

In the United Kingdom we have remained faithful to principle of Parliamentary sovereignty – whereby no power is pre-eminent to Parliament, where any law can be made and unmade. The Swiss constitutionalist, and contemporary of Tom Paine, Jean-Louis de Lolme described this in practice: ‘Parliament can do anything but change men into women and women into men’ he quipped.

In an aphorism I remember from when I was studying for the equivalent of my high school exams, Ivor Jennings, a later British constitutional historian, went on to correct him: ‘like many of the remarks de Lolme made, it is wrong. For if Parliament enacted that all men should be women then they would be women so far as the law was concerned’. Such are the vagaries of the English constitution!

Of course we have significant constitutional documents, of which the Magna Carta is only one. These include the 1689 Bill of Rights, the great Reform Acts of the 19th Century, the Parliament Acts, the Human Rights Act 1998. But in no one document can be found what is called the ‘British Constitution’. The constitution of the United Kingdom exists in hearts and minds and habits as much as it does in law.

This divergence between the American notion of constitutional supremacy and the British doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, has, according to a predecessor of mine as Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg:

‘long been viewed as symbolising a fundamental difference of outlook between the United States and Britain on constitutional matters generally, and more specifically on the status of civil rights in our respective legal systems’.

The lesson of history is that declarations of rights – what Madison described as ‘paper barriers’ – are not in themselves enough. Look at Weimar Germany or Soviet Russia. For rights to be afforded their true significance they need to have legal expression and enforcement as well as symbolic value. Judges, lawyers, politicians and philosophers from both sides of the Atlantic have been grappling with how best to provide a practical legal mechanism to access rights and an ethical framework for decision-making.

The American constitutional system puts the individual rights of man very obviously and explicitly at its heart. The continuing challenge is therefore how to interpret the aspirational features of your constitution in such a way as to continue to provide legal protections to its citizens while remaining true to the historic purpose of its framers. The jurisprudence of the United States Supreme Court (primarily) helps to constantly refresh and renew the interpretation of the Constitution. Through constant consideration and iteration, the Supreme Court has had the effect of continually breathing life into the constitution. It is not neglected but actively considered and – where necessary – renewed.

Part 2: The ‘quiet revolution’

The same cannot be said in the UK. The nature of our system of governance in Britain is such that constitutional amendment requires an Act of Parliament (but by no special procedure or majority). Our courts cannot change our constitution. The 1998 Human Rights Act was very careful on that point. So while the mechanism is different to the US, it remains underpinned by the same principle: constitutions must modernise to reflect the world in which they are operating.

The gradual development of our constitution was described by the Victorian lecturer AV Dicey as ‘historic’. Bagehot, another of the British greats, described it as ‘organic’, and the ‘product of evolution rather than design’. But that does not mean it is always easily understood, nor that it is always capable of changing appropriately to meet the needs of society

To put the constitution on a modern footing and to ensure that it is in a position to cope with the pressures facing it today necessitates regular and active constitutional maintenance. Without it, a logjam of constitutional adjustment builds up. Since 1997, when Tony Blair became Prime Minister, we have been clearing away the logjam which had accumulated. Aside, perhaps, from the years immediately prior to the First World War which saw the Parliament Act of 1911, historians have already suggested that the period since 1997 in which Labour came to power is unparalleled in the past one hundred years of our constitutional arrangements. We have staged, in the words of constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor, a ‘quiet revolution’.

Change in role of Lord Chancellor

The great Victorian Prime Minister Gladstone suggested ‘that the British constitution presumes more boldly than any other the good faith of those who work it’. But good faith, for so long the ‘British way’, is no basis on which to construct a modern constitution. Changes had to be made if we were to have a system of governance in which the British public could have confidence.

The ‘good faith’ described by Gladstone is the absence in our constitutional arrangements of a (formal) doctrine of separation of powers, one of the key areas identified by Paine and others as being a vital bulwark against tyranny. Ironically, nowhere was this constitutional anomaly more clearly seen than in the role of the office I now hold, Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor traditionally sat as part of the legislative, of the executive, and of the judiciary. He was Speaker of the House of Lords, a senior member of the Cabinet, and could, and did, sit as an appeal judge: a holy trinity of roles which contained a constitutional anachronism which had persisted for centuries, and which could not continue in any form of modern democracy.

Montesquieu argued that ‘there is no liberty if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and the executive’. Quite what he made of the role of the Lord Chancellor, history does not record.

But from my own perspective as the first commoner – that is an elected Member of Parliament – since Sir Christopher Hatton in the reign of Elizabeth I to be appointed Lord Chancellor I would like to add this. The separation of powers should not mean that the each ‘limb’ of state becomes dislocated. But as we move as a democracy to a model in which we enjoy a clearer separation of powers it is important that where there are connections these areas must be transparent.

First sentencing. It is an important principle that in any fair and just society, where the rule of law is predominant, that an impartial and independent judiciary is allowed to go about its business without impediment. Judges must be given the room to make their individual decisions based on the individual merits of the cases before them – without political interference. And this interference can also take the passive form in which sentencers and politicians each try to second-guess the other. To avoid this, I believe that we need to look very closely at a system such as, with different features, successfully operates in several states here, of a sentencing commission. Officials from my department have visited Minnesota and I myself look forward to heading to Virginia tomorrow to see how their commission works. In the UK we are looking very closely at whether a longer term mechanism better to control the supply of and demand for prison places is needed. In particular, we are looking from your experience at a model in which Parliament sets the overall framework for sentences, leaving judges free to concentrate on their individual decisions, within a clear set of parameters, and with capacity of the prison system taken into account in setting the framework, but not so that it interferes, in individual cases, with the sentence handed down.

The second specific area I would like to touch upon is the importance of maintaining accountability to Parliament via the Lord Chancellor. In a modern liberal democracy the judiciary are expected to act as a check and balance against the power of the legislature or the executive. But so too in a liberal democracy is that judiciary expected to be accountable to the public in ways which do not impinge on the fundamental principle of their independence. Accordingly such accountability is not expected to be direct – we have no interest in pursuing a route which would lead to the election of our judges – nor in a way which challenges their independence, but via the person of the Lord Chancellor, to Parliament.

The reforms enacted through the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 combine the best of the historical role of the Lord Chancellor, a strong figure within the executive who can defend the rule of law and the independence of the judges, with changes to our constitution which reflect modern conceptions of democracy: a final court of appeal – a Supreme Court -visible to the public as a court, and not as a committee of the upper house of our legislature; a judiciary with its head – the Lord Chief Justice – appointed from within the ranks of the professional judiciary and not a politician; a transparent, non-political means of appointing judges; and a Speaker in the legislature chosen by the legislative body and not by the head of the executive.

These reforms have provided the active maintenance that had been so needed if our constitution was to move with the times. The relationship they establish between the judges and the Lord Chancellor reflects our age. Judges should not be led by a politician. They need their own voice, and independent leadership. And it is clear that as part of this, judicial appointments must be made, and be seen to be made transparently, impartially and solely on the principle of merit.

The Supreme Court

Those familiar with our legal system will know that currently the final court of appeal for the UK court system is a committee of the upper legislative house, the House of Lords – the ‘Law Lords’. To be appointed a member of that court is to be appointed a member of the legislature. In an age where accessibility is paramount, the court is virtually invisible, save that it can hand its judgement down before the television cameras of the Chamber of the Lords. It works. No-one challenges its integrity or expertise. Yet it’s an odd set-up – in principle as odd as having your Supreme Court sit in the Chamber of your Senate. The Law Lords have no separate identity apart from the House of Lords. Whilst the public are entitled to attend the hearings, they are very difficult to find, and there is little thought given to the public’s attendance. The highest court in the land for far too long has been beyond the reach or understanding of a great number of the British public. As Bagehot argued as long ago as 1867 that a supreme court ‘ought not to be hidden beneath the robes of a legislative assembly’.

As befits the constitutional trend towards the greater separation of powers, a United Kingdom Supreme Court has taken over a century before finally becoming a reality.

There is much that we admire about the US Supreme Court and that we hope to see replicated in our own. It is a highly visible symbol of judicial authority and it is accessible to the public, appealing to the public, and important to the public. When you visit the US Supreme Court you are struck, not only by the quality of its proceedings and the authority it clearly has in the eyes of the American people, but by the huge interest in it and its deliberations from the public: lines of people outside waiting to get in to hear its deliberations, the body of the court filled to the brim with members of the public, as well as lawyers, who had managed to get in.

The place where the court sits is important – a symbolic institution which is not visible or accessible would be pointless. Our new Supreme Court will stand proudly in one corner of Parliament Square, surrounded by, and in sight of, the other distinctive pillars of our constitution – the Houses of Parliament opposite, the Treasury on one side, and Westminster Abbey, where every King and Queen of England has been crowned since 1066, on the other side. It is a setting that is befitting a court of such significance and importance. I believe that the UK Supreme Court, at the apex of our justice system will establish itself as a court of similar world renown to that here in Washington.


But there will remain differences in how the how the two courts will operate. Our constitutional arrangements will remain distinct. I make no comment here about your system, but the strength of our legal system in the UK, in part, depends on our judges being beyond politics. In seeking new constitutional arrangements we do not ignore our heritage. We have I think been able to find a solution by which the judiciary can play a visible and effective role in holding the executive to account – but to do so in a way which does not embroil them in partisan politics nor undermine the sovereignty of Parliament.


Part 3: British Bill of Rights


It is a few years ago now, but I remember being struck in 2002 by the results in the US of a Public Agenda national opinion poll, in which 67% interviewed said that it is was ‘absolutely essential’ for ordinary Americans to have a detailed knowledge of their constitutional rights and freedoms. And 90% of respondents agreed that since the 9/11 attacks ‘it is more important than ever to know what our constitution stands for’. The report concluded that whilst the actual text of the constitution might be very imperfectly captured in people’s heads, ‘its principles and values are alive and well in their hearts’.


I would be fascinated to see what the equivalent scores would be back in Britain. I would suggest that there is a wide understanding that English constitutional documents such as the Magna Carta are profoundly important to the way we have developed as a society. And I have said before that I think that the British people have developed an innate understanding of rights which has come from a centuries-old tradition – it is in our cultural DNA. But I think that most people might struggle to put their finger on what those rights are or in which texts they are located. .


The next stage in the United Kingdom’s constitutional development is to look at whether we need better to articulate those rights which are scattered across a whole host of different places, and indeed the responsibilities that go with being British.

We can learn a great deal from the United States example, and particularly with regard to the enviable notion of civic duty that seems to flow so strongly through American veins. It is made much easier to fulfil your civic duty when you have a clear sense of to what you belong, and what it is expected from you.

In the United Kingdom many duties and responsibilities already exist in statute, common practice or are woven into our social and moral fabric. But elevating them to a new status in a constitutional document would reflect their importance in the healthy functioning of our democracy.

But why now? It is not because we are a society in turmoil but because we are a society in flux. We live in a modern, individualistic, consumerist age, in which old social classes have eroded. Much of this is welcome. But the consumer society has shifted attitudes in ways that also present us with some challenges. As the political scientist Meg Russell has said:

‘It is difficult to find anything more antithetical to the culture of politics than the contemporary culture of consumerism. While politics is about balancing diverse needs to benefit the public interest, consumerism is about meeting the immediate desires of the individual. While politics requires us to compromise and collaborate as citizens, consumerism emphasises unrestrained individual freedom of choice.’

In the civic sphere, it has arguably given rise to the commoditisation of rights, which have become perceived as yet more goods to be ‘claimed’. This is demonstrated in how some people seek to exercise their rights in a selfish way without regard to others – which injures the philosophical basis of inalienable, fundamental human rights. Alongside that, some people resent the rights that are afforded to fellow humankind – we see this is in the media uproar around human rights being a ‘terrorist’s charter’ or there for the benefit of unpopular minorities alone.

In this individualistic age, we would do well to remind ourselves of first principles: that rights come with duties.

This is hardly a new concept. Thomas Paine declared that:

‘A Declaration of Rights is, by reciprocity, a Declaration of Duties also. Whatever is my right as a man, is also the right of another, and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.’

I fully understand that there is not, and cannot be an exact symmetry between rights and responsibilities. In a democracy, rights tend to be ‘vertical’ – guaranteed to the individual by the state to constrain the otherwise overweening power of the state. Responsibilities, on the other hand, are more ‘horizontal’ – they are the duties we owe to each other, to our ‘neighbour’ in the New Testament sense. But they have a degree of verticality about them too, because we owe duties to the community as a whole.

In seeking to bringing greater clarity and status to the relationship between the citizen, the state and the community, we in the UK have to be constantly mindful of the scope and extent of their justiciability. I entirely agree with the words of former Lord Chief Justice Lord Bingham (now the Senior Law Lord) when he said that the importance of predicatability in law must preclude ‘excessive innovation and adventurism by the judges’. That was echoed by Justice Heydon of the High Court of Australia who suggested that judicial activism, taken to extremes, could spell the death of the rule of law.

If, for instance, economic and social rights were part of our new Bill, but did not become further justiciable, this would not in any way make the exercise worthless. This city is a living testament to the power of symbols. As the jurist Philip Alston described, Bills of Rights are ‘a combination of law, symbolism and aspiration’. What he makes clear is that the formulation of such a Bill is not a simple binary choice between a fully justiciable text on the one hand, or a purely symbolic text on the other. There is a continuum. And it is entirely consistent that some broad declarative principles can be underpinned by statute. Where we end up on this continuum needs to be the subject of the widest debate.

A Bill of Rights and Responsibilities could give people a clearer idea of what we can expect from the state and from each other, and provide an ethical framework for giving practical effect to our common values.


In an enabling state, in a democratic society, it is far more than the law which binds us together. But the law has a powerful role to play. In Britain, we are alone with Israel and New Zealand, among all of the developed countries in the world, in not having a codified constitution – by this I mean a single overarching source of law. And much of what we regard as our unwritten constitution is contained in ordinary laws which can be changed by ordinary legislative process and in conventions (Gladstone’s ‘good-faith’). The introduction of the Human Rights Act was a landmark in the development of rights in the UK, setting the liberties we enjoy on a constitutional footing. But the question which we are now putting to the British people is – whether this goes far this enough? The ‘quiet revolution’ has brought about greater clarity in our constitutional arrangements, but we need now to think very carefully about whether a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities should be a step towards a fully written constitution, which would bring us in line with most progressive democracies around the world. But that is a debate for another time.

In Britain, we have not had to struggle for self-determination or nationhood; nor for three and half centuries have we been torn apart by social strife. We do not wear our freedom on our sleeves in the same way as here in the United States, or Canada, or South Africa.

But, do we in Britain value these rights less as a result? I don’t think so.

I think an innate understanding of rights is a part of our national psyche, it is the amniotic fluid in which we have grown, so too is an inchoate appreciation, at least, of the obligations we have to each other. But we could make them better understood.

If a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities which clarifies this relationship is to be more than a legal document and become a ‘mechanism for unifying the population’, it is vital that it is owned by the British people and not just the lawyers. For it to have real traction with the British people they must have an emotional stake in, and connection with it. We have to make a reality of constitutional expert Professor Francesca Klug’s assertion that the true meaning of human rights is about providing ‘a framework of ethical values driven not just by the ideals of liberty, autonomy and justice, but also by normative values like dignity, equality and community’.

There is a careful balance to maintain; between preserving the UK’s constitutional heritage on the one hand, and running the risk of our public institutions becoming antiquated on the other. And in this there is much we can learn from you.

That here in the United States a single framework of government can and has endured the changes necessary in taking the United States from an isolationist, agrarian nation of 3.5 million people in 1789 to an industrialised, international hyper-power with a population nearly 70 times larger today testifies to its adaptability and durability. In this sense, longevity means success. What better judge than Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

‘[The US] Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why [the US] constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has produced.’

Thank you.

Jack Straw – 2007 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, to the 2007 Labour Party conference.

Conference, justice is the starting point of everything we stand for; central to our aims and values.

So I am very proud to be leading the new Ministry of Justice.

Delivering my programme depends on an excellent ministerial team: Michael Wills, David Hanson, Maria Eagle, Bridget Prentice and Philip Hunt.

On working with the law officers, Patricia Scotland and Vera Baird; with Ed Balls and Bev Hughes on youth justice; and above all with Jacqui Smith, Labour’s first, indeed, the very first, woman home secretary.

I’d like here to pay tribute to the assured and thoughtful way Jacqui has taken on one of the most difficult jobs in government.

If the post of home secretary is a venerable one, mine as lord chancellor is positively ancient.

The office dates back to the Dark Ages. Some say it’s still stuck there.

Well, you can tell how modern it is from the dress I’ll have to wear on state occasions – embroidered gown, frock coat, breeches, buckled shoes, silk tights.

But comrades, you should know that in a key step on the forward march to socialism, I’m dispensing with the wig.

Conference, the first duty of the state is to protect the public and to deliver a just society, and the first duty of the citizen in a democracy is to respect their neighbour and obey the law.

At the heart of our rule of law are our courts.

The British judiciary are among the very best in the world, unrivalled for their integrity, their professionalism, and their readiness to embrace change.

Britain is fast becoming the legal centre of the world not by accident, but by merit.

Last year the legal services sector generated 2% of our GDP.

For criminal justice, there have been major reforms over the last 10 years – better to balance the system towards victims, witnesses, and law-abiding citizens, to face the criminal with the fact that there’s only one person responsible for their criminal behaviour – themselves.

Crime is down by a third since 1997 after doubling under the Conservatives.

The chance of being a victim of crime is lower than 25 years ago.

But that is cold comfort for those who have suffered from crime.

Too often in the past, the voice of the victim, especially of the bereaved, was not properly heard in court.

But following the recent piloting of the Victims’ Advocate Scheme, from Monday, crown prosecutors across England and Wales will be speaking up for the victims in homicide and death-by-driving cases, and we will be looking to extend this.

And so that local communities can be more involved in their courts, my department is preparing to publish regular performance information on the courts.

When people are convicted we have to ensure they are properly punished.

We have provided an additional 20,000 prison places – twice the rate of the Conservatives – and plans are in hand for a further 9,500.

We are working doubly hard to stop prisoners re-offending, to get them off drugs and into skills and a job – to stay out of trouble.

I pay tribute to our prison officers and probation officers who have this task.

Conference, enforcing the law, securing justice, is not just a matter for “them” – courts, prisons, probation service, police; but for all of us.

How each of us reacts if we encounter a burglar or a street robber has to be a matter of individual discretion – and there’s a critical line between responsibility and recklessness.

I know from personal experience that you have all of a millisecond to make the judgement about whether to intervene.

In such a situation, the law on self-defence works much better than most people think, but not as well as it could or should.

The justice system must not only stand up, but be seen to be standing up for people if they do the right thing as good citizens.

So I intend urgently to review the balance of the law to ensure that those who seek to protect themselves, their loved ones, their homes and other citizens, know that the law really is on their side – that we back those who do their duty.

It is from our mutual obligations that the rights we have must flow.

That was well understood by those who inspired and drafted the European Convention on Human Rights. They were British lawyers -senior Conservatives, as it happens.

That was also well understood by the first MPs who called for the European Convention to be brought into British law. Again, they were senior Conservatives.

The Convention, the Human Rights Act, set out values which are British above all.

Their language echoes down the corridors of our history, as far back as the Magna Carta – the right to life, the right to a fair trial, the right to marry, the right to free speech.

Only today’s Conservatives, in their political confusion and intellectual meltdown, would contemplate abandoning these rights. We will not do so.

Instead, we are developing and consulting on a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, which will build on the Human Rights Act and which would bring out more clearly the responsibilities we owe to each other – above all to observe the law and to respect the rights of others.

This British bill and the consultation with it is part of the major programme of constitutional change which Gordon Brown announced in his first key statement to Parliament as prime minister.

This programme is about what it means to be British.

Most other countries have, through the traumas of revolution, occupation, colonisation have had to argue what it means to be a citizen.

We have escaped these traumas, but we’ve escaped the argument too, so that we have only an instinct but not an articulation of what it means to be British.

So as part of this work we will be launching a great public debate on a British Statement of Values. There’s one other thing which we are determined to do.

To end the “royal prerogative” as the main source of government powers – that ghostly, rattling presence from the divine rights of kings, which should have no place in a modern democracy.

So power over the civil service, power over treaties, and power over war and peace will be based not on Henry VIII’s or Charles I’s idea of power, but on Parliament’s and the people’s.

Conference, this programme of constitutional change is not an abstract, academic exercise – it’s got a direct practical purpose, of value to everyone in this land.

As Jacqui will be spelling out, we are determined to take immediate action to fight crime and disorder, to make our communities safe.

But we also know that the communities with the lowest crime are most likely to be the ones with the most active citizens.

Citizens who are inspired by a sense of belonging, shared values, and duty to others; by a sense of justice.

And it is justice, great and small, that I am determined to deliver.

Jack Straw – 2004 Speech on Britain and India


Below is the text of the speech made by Jack Straw, the then Foreign Secretary, on 7th February 2004 in Bangalore, India.

Let me thank Astra Zeneca for their hospitality. This research and development centre is focussed on the needs of the developing world, so it is appropriate that it is the first such centre which Astra Zeneca has opened in an emerging market. Its work on tuberculosis and other infectious diseases is hugely important and welcome: 5 000 people die from tuberculosis every day, almost all of them in the world’s poorest countries. Astra Zeneca is the first major pharmaceutical company to devote an entire research unit in India to a developing-world disease.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

No Briton can come to India and not be conscious of the legacy which centuries of shared history have left in our relationship. As Tony Blair said here in Bangalore in 2002, that history is present every day on the streets of modern India and modern Britain.

But today our relationship is much more about the future than the past. It has never been so good, and it is getting even better.

And the relationship is changing – with business at the forefront of that change.

Increasingly, our business links are a true two-way partnership. Britain has long been one of the biggest investors in India – we are currently the third largest. But over the last five years, India has also become an important investor in Britain – it is now the eighth largest. While Astra Zeneca, whose headquarters are in the UK, was opening this research centre in Bangalore, Dabur, an Indian firm, was investing in a pharmaceutical company in Britain to work on a new cancer drug.

That is a good example of the role played by cutting-edge science in our business relationship today. Britain and India have some of the best scientists and researchers in the world. The UK is a world leader for example in biotechnology, while India is building on traditional strengths in areas such as agricultural science and chemistry and developing new expertise in space sciences and energy technologies. Our governments, in partnership with industry, are working to encourage links between scientists by providing grants, fellowships and scholarships. The newly-launched Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Awards, worth £10 million, will allow top science PhD students from India and a number of other countries to study at leading research institutions in the UK.

The fruits of our closer scientific and research cooperation are tangible. About three quarters of Indian investments in the UK are in the knowledge-based sector. Indian IT, biotech and pharmaceutical companies recognise that the UK offers the best place from which to approach a growing European market, which is why 60% of Indian investment in Europe comes to Britain. That investment has created over 1 100 jobs over the last three years. The UK is now also India’s largest market in Europe for IT services, worth nearly $1 billion a year.

Already more Indian companies are listed on the London stock exchange than on the NASDAQ and the New York stock exchange combined. Our trade in goods is rising by 20% every year; trade in services is probably rising even faster. At least two thirds of all software professionals who come from abroad to work in Britain are from India. 14 000 Indian students come to the UK every year to study – four times as many as only five years ago. I have just come from the new British Library in Bangalore, where I was presenting awards to the latest group of Chevening scholars to complete their studies in the UK.

So our partnership is changing and prospering. The Indian community in Britain is playing a crucial role in that. Many Britons of Indian origin are amongst those forging the hi-tech links which are changing the nature of our business relationship.

People of Indian origin have always prospered in Britain. Today they number well over a million – the largest single ethnic minority in Britain today, and the most prosperous. Their links with traditional sectors are still strong with people of Indian origin running a large proportion of British retail outlets. But today, they are just as likely to make their money in IT or biotechnology or law. I see much of this for myself in my own parliamentary constituency of Blackburn, which boasts many people of Indian origin with strong links to the subcontinent.

Young British entrepreneurs of Indian origin are not just prospering in Britain – they are also prospering in India, and forming a vital bridge between our two countries. Take Karan Bilimoria, UK co-chairman of the Indo-British Partnership for trade and investment. Born in Hyderabad, he created a beer called Cobra which has become a household name in the UK. Now he is bringing it back to India by investing here. Or take the example of the many young British Indians working in the IT sector, who are establishing partnerships with Indian firms to help them develop new software.

Bangalore is playing an important part in our burgeoning business partnership. More than 70 British companies have operations here, including leading firms such as HSBC, Rolls Royce, BAe Systems, Logica CMG and Misys. Their work ranges from software development and electronics to aerospace, engineering or education. Bangalore’s links with Britain are also strong in the other direction, through the investments in the UK of Indian IT firms such as Wipro, Mindtree and Infosys, or through collaboration on cutting-edge biotechnology research.

Many of you will know that one aspect of these links in particular has recently hit the headlines in Britain – the decisions by some British companies to outsource services to India, and especially to this region. Increasingly, our mortgages are processed here, our bank transactions completed, our insurance claims approved, our telephone directory and rail enquiries answered – all here in Bangalore.

That reflects first of all the advantages this region has to offer. The concentration of service companies here is also part of a wider trend, as the Indian economy grows into an ever more important domestic market in its own right which service providers want to get close to.

Quite naturally, attention in Britain has focussed on the potential job losses when companies outsource work to India. The British Government, like any government, takes seriously the impact that such decisions have on local employment conditions. We share the concerns of those immediately affected by them, and we have put in place a comprehensive package of support for those facing redundancy.

But we must be realistic about the scale of this. The British newspapers will lead on the jobs lost when British companies source work abroad; but they are generally silent on the number of jobs created by companies from overseas choosing to invest in the UK. We read about the banks and insurers who are relocating jobs to India; but many people are less aware that in 2002, for example, inward investment in the UK financial services sector alone created 5 000 British jobs.

Inward investment is not coming to Britain by accident, but because we have an open, stable economy and a highly-skilled workforce; and because we are investing for the future in education, skills, infrastructure and innovation. Some call centres are moving abroad; but call centres in the UK are set to grow too. Some are even moving back to the UK. Many US companies source their services in Britain. We already have some 5 500 call centres employing 400 000 people. And of course Britain is part of the world’s largest single market in the shape of the European Union, set to grow on 1 May this year to 450 million people.

Globalisation creates jobs in India; but it creates jobs in Britain too. The overwhelming evidence is that open economies, where business can make its own decisions unhampered by protectionist barriers and bureaucratic over-regulation, prosper more than closed ones.

So we will not practice protectionism at home. If British companies benefit from working with Indian service providers in Bangalore and elsewhere, then Britain as a whole benefits.

And this belief in the virtues of open competition means we will also work to break down barriers and disincentives to trade and investment abroad. I believe for example that Indian companies and Indian consumers will benefit if British firms are allowed greater access to Indian markets in sectors where they are world-beating – such as banking, accounting, legal services and insurance.

It is also important that those foreign companies investing here have the right safeguards for their business. I could hardly visit Astra Zeneca, for example, without emphasising the importance for the global pharmaceutical industry of an efficient and properly-enforced intellectual property rights and patent system, in line with India’s WTO obligations. There is still some work to be done to achieve this; but the benefits it could bring in terms of greater investment in India make it well worthwhile.

I hope also that we can soon see an increase in air services between our two countries by resolving our differences and agreeing new flights in the ongoing negotiations. That is what business and consumers in both countries want.

Increasingly the barriers to mutually-beneficial competition between India and Britain are disappearing. Bureaucratic obstacles to investment in India by British companies continue to shrink. And India’s economic reforms over the last ten years have broken down barriers to trade, investment and competition. Those reforms have already paid off handsomely; and all the forecasts are that the impressive rates of growth of the last years are set to continue. India is already the world’s eleventh largest economy, and the fourth largest in purchasing power parity terms. The highest-performing regions in India are true Asian tigers, with growth rates of 10%. There is a real feel good factor here which is obvious even to visitors like me.

But India’s success is in my view not just down to market reforms: it is also the product of a solid framework of values and institutions. India’s democratic, pluralist society supports a vibrant diversity which helps innovation to prosper. A country with 5 500 daily newspapers and almost 46 000 periodicals is a country where discussion, debate and creativity thrive. It is no accident that India produces the largest number of films in the world. India’s other advantage is an education system which produces more than 3 million graduates every year. They are helping make this country a world-class player in cutting-edge fields such as biotechnology and IT, as this centre demonstrates.

And that economic success is not just making our bilateral business partnership stronger. It is also bringing us closer together in terms of our international interests. Nowhere more, perhaps, than in the importance we both attach to making progress on global free trade – whilst ensuring that we do so in a way which maximises the positive impact it can have on the world’s poorest countries.

The last fifty years have shown how much we all benefit from free trade world-wide. Since the GATT was launched in 1947, with a newly-independent India as a founder member, world trade has increased twenty times. That has helped deliver a six-fold increase in world output.

It is in all our interests to make sure that process continues. The European Commission has estimated that halving trade protection world-wide would boost world income by $400 billion per year, or 1.4% of world GDP.

The critics of globalisation argue, however, that this wealth will simply be amassed by powerful multinational companies and by the world’s richest countries, at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable.

But in fact breaking down barriers to free trade can help the poorest most of all. Since the end of the Uruguay Round in 1994, developing countries’ trade has grown at twice the rate of other countries’. The evidence is that relative to GDP, the poorest countries would gain most from further liberalisation. Taking again the example of a halving of trade barriers world-wide, the European Commission puts the possible gains to developing countries at $150 billion a year. That is three times what they get in aid, and it would lift 300 million people out of poverty by 2015.

The Doha Round is a development Round – which makes it all the more urgent that we get the negotiations back on track. India’s active engagement is a condition of success – so I strongly welcome the clear statements that Minister Jaitley has made lately reaffirming India’s commitment to the trade Round.

You would not expect Britain and India to have identical interests in the Doha Round. But it is a sign of our growing and changing partnership that we have more in common than many would think. First and foremost, we share a strong interest in seeing the Round reach a liberalising conclusion. We have a common interest in avoiding protectionism, for example over steel tariffs. With our long legal traditions, we both want an effective global dispute settlement arrangement.

I know that agriculture is a frequent bone of contention between Europe and countries such as India. But in fact, we in Britain would like to see more Indian access to the European market for your farm produce. Agricultural subsidies are an example of how protection harms both rich and poor. In the OECD countries they amount to more than the national income of the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. The more we can open developed-world markets to agricultural products, the more we help countries trade themselves out of poverty. And the more choice and savings we offer to consumers in the developed world – because agricultural protection increases the cost of food by an estimated $1 500 per year for a family of four in the EU.

Last June the EU took an important step to reform the Common Agricultural Policy by deciding to cut the link between subsidies and production. Over time, this reform has the potential to change fundamentally the direction of European agriculture – to make it more market-oriented and less trade-distorting. But there is more we can and should do – so re-engaging in the Doha round is vital.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Britain and India both want the Doha round to bring lasting benefits to the world’s poorest. That is part of our commitment to fighting poverty – a commitment which we have long shared, but which is also changing as our modern partnership evolves.

We share the Millennium development goal of cutting world poverty in half by 2015. Britain’s commitment to India’s poorest regions has never been stronger – we are spending £200 million on development in this year alone in India, more than we spend anywhere else. At the same time, Britain and India are increasingly working together as donors, for example in Africa and through the multilateral development institutions.

I think we have both come to realise through this shared experience that sustainable development is about much more than just raising incomes. If we do not also tackle environmental degradation, conflict, insecurity or disease, we cannot create the conditions where people can build better lives for their families. By promoting our shared values of democracy and the rule of law abroad, we are also promoting the conditions where stability and prosperity can take root. India’s example – of a stable, democratic framework which supports a vibrant and unparalleled diversity of people, languages, religions and opinions – shows that link very clearly.

In the same way, we strive for economic success not just because it creates jobs and improves the living standards of our citizens, but because it also cements their security. It is surely no coincidence that the historic steps forward in India-Pakistan relations in recent weeks come at a time of economic confidence in both countries. After half a century of tensions, both countries have a strong incentive to build a secure, peaceful zone where their citizens can continue to prosper. The rejuvenated prospects for SAARC’s economic cooperation will help reinforce that.

That process will, I hope, show how a virtuous circle of prosperity and security can be built. Greater security encourages business to invest for the long term, and the closer ties of interdependence created by trade and growth reinforce security. We have seen in Europe how former enemies can cooperate to build lasting peace and prosperity. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it is something worth working for.

In today’s interdependent world, the agreement to discuss a resolution of the Kashmir dispute is great news not just for people in the subcontinent, but for people everywhere.

As I see for myself in my constituency, it is certainly great news for all those who have come from that region to make their home in Britain. More widely, we all have an interest in seeing peace and security entrenched, because insecurity and tension, however far away, can affect us all. A peaceful and secure India is good for Britons who want to do business here, or simply to visit as tourists to enjoy the marvels India has to offer.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I started by saying that our relationship, steeped in shared history, is today prospering and changing. Our business links are strong and growing stronger, and they are at the heart of our deepening partnership.

Britain and India have long shared common values. More and more, we share common interests too, and a common approach – whether on globalisation and free trade, promoting sustainable development, or fighting terrorism and building peace and security. Ours is a modern partnership which is firmly oriented towards the future. Let me thank you all for the role you play in that.

Jack Straw – 2004 Speech on French-British Relations


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, in Paris on 12th January 2004.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The relationship between France and Britain reminds me of a family. Families are not optional, and they are not always easy. When there are rows they are often all the more intense. But family members know they have a special bond.

The Kings and Queens of England from 1066 until the fifteenth century spoke French and spent most of their time in what is now France – and many are still buried here. When in the 19th century Queen Victoria asked for the remains of Henry II and Richard the Lionheart to be ‘returned’ from the crypt at Fontevrault, the then Préfet of Maine-et-Loire declined, on the basis that the Plantagenets were ‘French citizens who had long since returned home’. While English and French kings – often linked by family ties – fought for the throne of France in the Hundred Years War, Scotland forged the Auld Alliance. Later the Huguenots who arrived in the seventeenth century greatly enriched British life.

The next time that you in France worry about the spread of the English language, you can comfort yourselves by thinking of the legacy French has left on my side of the channel. Our royal motto is ‘Dieu et mon droit’ – and if you object to that, ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’. Indeed the English language is a hybrid of Anglo-Saxon and the Norman French which William brought with him in 1066, which means there are often two words for the same thing. We rear swine, bulls or sheep, good Saxon words; but we eat pork (porc), beef (boeuf) and mutton (mouton).

Our history has always been close; but it has often featured rivalry and conflict. No Frenchman who takes the Eurostar to Waterloo station and walks across the Thames to Trafalgar square can forget that – nor can a Briton visiting one of France’s many monuments or museums dedicated to Joan of Arc.

But in fact we have not fought each other seriously since 1815 and today, thankfully, our most passionate rivalry is confined to the sports field. England and France will open their Euro 2004 campaigns in Portugal this summer against each other – and let’s hope the same two teams meet in the final.

Although we had fought no wars against each other since 1815, by the end of the 19th century Britain and France, as the world’s two pre-eminent colonial powers, were vying for influence in Africa, Asia and beyond. The great achievement of the Entente Cordiale of 1904 was to temper that rivalry and mark the beginning of a new, closer relationship which has now endured 100 years of troubled European history. The Entente laid the basis for our military alliance through the last century, including in the two World Wars.


No Foreign Secretary can forget the importance of our alliance against Nazism. During the second world war, my official Residence in London was the home of General de Gaulle. His portrait hangs to this day on the wall, his statue opposite – constant reminders of the bond forged between our countries during Europe’s darkest hour. Together, our two countries helped free Europe from the grip of Nazi terror. This year we have another chance to remember that when we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

Despite our shared goal and our shared victory, Britain’s and France’s experiences of the second world war were profoundly different. Britain’s memories are of lonely and dogged resistance of 1940, and of the support of the Empire and of the United States in winning final victory. France remembers not just the contribution of the Resistance and French forces to the eventual defeat of Nazism, but also the horrors of invasion and occupation.

Inevitably, our approaches to Europe in the decades after the war were shaped by these experiences. France’s overwhelming priority was to build a framework where war with Germany, which it had suffered three times in seventy years, would be made impossible. And General de Gaulle was determined to recover French national pride through leadership in Europe. Britain’s first reaction to European integration was to treat it as something which did not concern us; only later did we decide to be part of it. Our experience during the war convinced us deeply that keeping the strongest possible relationship between Europe and the US was the cornerstone of our security and prosperity.

These differences of history are important, and they are still visible today. Any relationship, especially one of neighbours with more than a thousand years of interlinked history, is bound to be complex and involve differences and disagreements. But our differences can too easily be exaggerated. This year’s Entente Cordiale celebrations are a chance to remind ourselves that what unites us is much more than what divides us.

Most obviously, we share today a commitment to Europe and a conception of how the European Union should work.

Britain and France are both strong and proud nations with firmly-entrenched national traditions of democracy and political debate. At the same time, however, we both recognise that no nation can deal alone with the threats which confront it. Nor can we alone make the most of the opportunities of today’s world. We are stronger when we pool some of our sovereignty in order to achieve objectives we could not achieve on our own.

Neither of us wants a federal European superstate. It would not work; and our citizens would not be comfortable with it. Both of us want a Europe of nations – and a Europe which works.

The negotiations on a new constitutional treaty for the EU have been living proof that the EU is an organisation of sovereign member states who have to reach agreements among themselves for the work of the Union to go forward.


We need time to build consensus on EU institutions; but we cannot let this be a time of inaction in Europe. All the recent focus on institutions, necessary as it has been, has I am afraid done little for public approval of the EU. According to a recent poll by Eurobarometer, fewer than half of people across the EU thought their country’s membership of the Union was a good thing.

We have to remember that institutions are only a means to an end. What people want is a Europe which delivers security and prosperity to its citizens.

Britain and France are well placed to help deliver this.

The European single market – the largest in the world – was a huge, historic achievement which enhanced the prosperity of all of us. Today we need to keep the EU focussed on delivering reforms which will create more jobs and higher growth. Together we can meet the challenges of a globalised and fiercely competitive world – but we cannot do so by standing still.

France and Britain are also committed to helping the EU develop a stronger, more coherent voice in foreign affairs commensurate with its economic standing as the world’s largest trading bloc. Again, we are well placed to do so. Our history as colonial powers left us with networks of friendship, culture and language – and also ties of obligation and responsibility – which cover almost every region of the world. We are members of more international organisations than any other countries in the world. We are both natural multilateralists. When we work together, it increases our influence and that of Europe as a whole.

I visited Iran last October with my French and German colleagues, Dominique de Villepin and Joschka Fischer. All three of us went as foreign ministers of sovereign nation states. But together, acting on the basis of an EU consensus, we got commitments from Iran on its nuclear activities which are now being turned into concrete action as Iran co-operates with the IAEA. And we are following this through by continued engagement with this dossier.


As permanent members of the Security Council and with our effective armed forces, Britain and France have also led efforts to develop an effective European Security and Defence Policy. This enables Europe to act on its own to protect and advance its interests, to act with NATO support, or indeed better to support NATO through stronger military capabilities. France played the key role in both of the first two operations – in Macedonia and in the Bunia province of the DRC. We are now working to plan for an EU-led force to replace NATO in Bosnia.

Behind our foreign policy is our shared and profound interest in maintaining the authority and centrality of the rules-based, multilateral international system. We both, rightly, attach great importance to our permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Despite our differences on Iraq, on almost every other UN issue our views are very close. When we agree between us, our influence with other members of the Council is persuasive.

But our influence in New York is only as strong as the UN itself. That means we have a strong common interest in keeping the US and others fully engaged in the multilateral system, and in making that system as effective as possible.

Our differences over Iraq were, in essence, differences over how best to maintain the authority of international rules. I respect the position which France took, and it is a matter of regret to me that we were divided over it. But Britain went to war in Iraq, as a last resort, because Saddam Hussein was still defying the international community after 12 years of discussion and 17 UN resolutions. We felt that international law without enforcement would become a dead letter. If we had failed to live up to the tough words of the unanimous Resolution 1441 and its many predecessors, we would have not only been left with the continuing threat from Iraq: our ability to persuade others to respect international standards would also have been much diminished.

Whatever our differences over military action in Iraq, today we share a commitment to bringing security, prosperity and representative government to the Iraqi people. Under the plan proposed by the Governing Council and endorsed by the UN, power will be fully handed over to a provisional Iraqi government by July. For the first time in more than a generation, the Iraqis have the chance to build the kind of country they deserve.

France has much to contribute to this by way of expertise – in policing, in constitutional development, in reconstruction. Tragically, two French civilian experts lost their lives last Monday while working on that reconstruction, and our thoughts are with their families and friends.

Their deaths are another reminder of how important it is to defeat the terrorists, who want to stop Iraq becoming the free, stable and prosperous country its people want. The Multi-National Force in Iraq is committed to stay as long as the Iraqis want and as mandated by the UN Security Council, to help the people of Iraq create the secure environment they need.

France’s and Britain’s commitment to an effective, rules-based international system does not just apply to relations between states. We are also well placed to lead efforts to promote better governance, the rule of law and human rights within states around the world.

Between us we have produced many of the greatest thinkers on the rights of man and the good governance of public business: Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Paine, Mill, to name just a few. We both have long and entrenched traditions of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in our own countries. So we are uniquely placed to advance these values in less fortunate parts of the world, including Africa, to which our history gives us a special shared commitment. We have increasingly come to recognise that without promoting these values, and the sustainable development which they can help facilitate, we cannot hope to create the more stable and prosperous world we both want.


We shall mark the centenary of the Entente Cordiale with a State visit by HM the Queen to France in April, and a return visit by the President of the Republic to Britain in the Autumn. But the celebrations are not just about big official occasions. We also want them to be the chance for people to get to know each other better, to celebrate the links they have and to build on them further; and to break down the stereotypes which are there on each side of La Manche. Many events will be designed for young people, and occasions such as friendly sports matches will raise money for our joint fight against the ravages of cancer.

Ties between people across the Channel are already very strong. A quarter of a million French people live in the UK today. In the other direction, at least 100,000 Britons have homes in France, the largest settlement since the Hundred Years War, bringing cricket and cream teas to the Dordogne and Normandy. These are not only people retiring to enjoy France’s climate and quality of life. We have farmers, carpenters, teachers – younger people from all walks of life settling and working in France without difficulty. This is Europe at work. Meanwhile, France gets 12 million visits a year from Britons – and 3 million French visit the UK.

Each of our countries sells 10% of its exports to the other – that’s €60 billion of trade every year. 1 300 French companies have invested in the UK; 1 800 British companies have done so in France. Four and a half centuries ago Mary Tudor lost Calais; in 2001, the Conseil Général of Seine-Maritime bought the English port of Newhaven in order to maintain the ferry service to Dieppe. More French students study in Britain than anywhere else abroad. 1270 UK towns are twinned with partners in France – more than in any other country. My own constituency of Blackburn was the first town ever to twin with a partner abroad. It did so formally in 1926, and informally before that, with the little town of Péronne in the Département de la Somme, because so much blood had been shed by the young of both towns on the soil there, in a terrible but common endeavour – and because the people of my town wanted to help Péronne in its rebuilding.

I don’t believe the talk of cultural rivalry between France and ‘les Anglo-Saxons’. We enjoy the best of both cultures – look at the lasting success of the musical we call ‘Les Miz’ in London. The same is true in sport. French sportspeople such as Thierry Henry at Arsenal, or British ones such as the sailor Ellen MacArthur, have hundreds of thousands of fans on both sides of the Channel. English football and rugby would be less exciting than they are without the many French players in the top clubs – or their French managers.

Whatever field you take, our links are strong. But we still know less about each other than we like to think. In a recent poll conducted in France, 75% of respondents said they didn’t know the UK very well. Though a majority thought the relationship important, most felt it was more between governments than between people.

The challenge for this year’s Entente Cordiale celebrations is to understand each other better and to make our links even stronger than they are. France and Britain share goals and ambitions in everything from creating jobs and safeguarding security at home, to promoting justice and sustainable development abroad. Our economic and social agendas are coming closer to each other. We both want more energetic international action to tackle AIDS and global warming. The list is long.

No-one would expect two great nations like ours to agree on everything. But we can achieve even more together than we already do – and this year gives us a great opportunity to make that a reality.

Jack Straw – 2004 Speech at Chatham House


Below is the text of the speech made by Jack Straw, the then Foreign Secretary, at Chatham House on 12th February 2004.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As ever, it’s a great pleasure to be here at Chatham House and to have the chance to speak to such a distinguished audience. I want to talk today about the Strategy for the Foreign Office which I published in December, and the wider international debate on the nature of foreign policy today.

When I was Home Secretary from 1997-2001, my job – as defined by the mission statement of the Home Office – was ‘to build a safe, just and tolerant society’. As Foreign Secretary, it is ‘to work for UK interests in a safe, just and prosperous world.’

That similarity is no accident. Much of what we want to achieve in Britain is dependent, to at least some extent, on being active abroad. If we want to keep drugs off British streets, we must tackle poppy cultivation in Afghanistan; we must fund judicial reform projects in South America and the Balkans so that drug barons cannot escape the courts; and we must get European Union police forces to work more closely together against drug gangs. In the face of terrorist or criminal networks who operate globally, as we saw so tragically at Morecambe Bay last Friday, we must maintain a foreign policy which is closely integrated with our domestic agenda.

More widely, a multicultural country such as Britain is by definition somewhere where foreign policy matters at home. The relationship between India and Pakistan is of special interest for the many hundreds of thousands of British people with family links to South Asia – and those people, as I noted last week when I visited India, form a vital bridge between our countries. Likewise, our relationship with the Islamic world is inseparable from our own society – it is just as much about how I interact with my 25,000 Muslim constituents in Blackburn as it is about Europe’s or America’s relationship with the Middle East.

As the world becomes more interdependent, the boundary between ‘foreign’ and ‘domestic’ policy is increasingly blurred. Foreign affairs are no longer very foreign. And that means that they matter more, perhaps, than ever before.

The end of the Cold War brought liberty and democracy to millions, and lifted the threat of global nuclear confrontation. But as the superpower stand-off came to an end, the world also became more complex, and new threats to our security emerged. Conflicts in the dissolving Yugoslav federation brought instability to the borders of the EU, along with the related influx of refugees and the spread of organised crime. In Africa, the collapse of state authority in former superpower clients allowed chaos and conflict to spread far beyond its original borders.

We began to realise then that far away had a direct impact on our own security. The attacks of 11 September 2001 brought this new reality into even sharper focus, as the violence and repression of the Taleban tragically struck New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. It was clear that there was no such thing any more – if indeed there ever was – as a far-away country of which we knew nothing and to which we could afford to be indifferent.


We understood then that we had entered a new era in foreign policy. We needed better to understand the new threats we face today, which are as likely to come from non-state groups such as terrorists and international criminals as they are from other states. We needed to work out how best to tackle them, and address the conditions in which they could thrive, as well as looking ahead strategically at the context in which threats and opportunities for the UK were likely to evolve.

It was also clear that we could not hope to act on every issue: we would need to prioritise those which were most important, or where the UK could make a difference.

And because of the close link between foreign and domestic policy, we would need to agree international priorities not just for the Foreign Office, but for the whole of government. In the Foreign Office, we would need to look hard at how best to organise ourselves to pursue our goals.

Those were the challenges to which the Strategy which I published in December last year aims to give at least some initial answers.

The Strategy identifies eight international priorities for the UK, based on an analysis of the threats and opportunities we face and of how we expect the world to develop over the next ten years. They are set out in full in the highlights of the Strategy which you have on your chairs today.

Our conclusion in the Strategy is that Britain’s safety and prosperity depend more than ever on working for a safe, just and prosperous world. To protect the UK from threats such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and international crime, and to promote our economic interests, we must be active and engaged in the world. Our aim must be to build lasting safety and prosperity underpinned by justice – by sustainable development especially for the poorest and most vulnerable, and by democracy, good governance and human rights.

This is an integrated agenda, with justice as its pivot. There is no longer, if there ever was, a distinction between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ foreign policy, between pursuing your interests on the one hand and pursuing your convictions on the other. We cannot pursue lasting safety and prosperity if we do not also promote justice.

And to act on this integrated agenda we need to use the tools at our disposal in a joined-up way. So this Government’s record levels of development aid help lift people out of poverty and disease, and tackle environmental degradation. Our diplomacy helps prevent and resolve conflicts, and build trust and peace. We work with countries around the world to reinforce good governance, human rights and the rule of law.


We do so not just because it is right, but because it is firmly in Britain’s interest. By working on this integrated agenda we are tackling the conditions where frustrated hopes and crippling injustice can allow terrorism and extremism to prosper. And we are helping build states which are reliable partners for the UK, and stable and prosperous places for Britons to do business with or to visit.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Having set out what we need to do, across government, the Strategy also sets out our initial thoughts on how the Foreign Office can best play our role in implementing this agenda. Its overriding conclusion is that our global network of 223 posts in over 150 countries around the world is our vital asset. Not everything they do can or should hit the headlines. But the contribution British diplomacy makes to building peace, promoting reform and good governance, defusing tensions and tackling threats to our own security and prosperity is very real. And that diplomacy pays. Sorting out Bosnia, where conflict had been allowed to spread, cost the British taxpayer £1.5 billion. Kosovo, where we took military action to avert humanitarian disaster, cost £200 million. Macedonia, where we have been able to prevent conflict through early common action, cost us just £14 million.

Our posts also provide high-quality public services around the world. 50% of all our staff work in service delivery. Our consular staff provide assistance and advice to 1 000 British travellers each week. The Travel Advice on the FCO website gets 700 000 hits every month. UKVisas handles some 2 million visa applications every year. Last year UK Trade and Investment helped bring on nearly 1,800 new exporters, helped nearly 4,400 companies break into new markets and recorded over 700 decisions by foreign-owned companies to locate in the UK creating 34,000 new jobs.

We do all this with an operational budget of £950 million per year – about a quarter of one per cent of government expenditure. So the Foreign Office’s global network delivers real value and results which matter to people’s lives. Now, the Strategy gives us a framework for getting better value still, by focussing our resources on the Government’s strategic priorities.

We are now looking at how best we can adapt our organisation to do this. It is already clear that we will need to maintain an effective network with global reach in order to achieve our priorities and to deliver high-quality services to the public. We will also need to build in more flexibility to respond quickly to crises and to new opportunities. We are getting better at this: at one point last year 5% of all our staff in London were redeployed to working on Iraq.

But we must also recruit and retain a more diverse workforce, against the backdrop of the threat to our staff from terrorism and from difficult conditions, and the challenges of global mobility. We still have a long way to go in achieving levels of diversity which truly reflect the diversity of the UK which we represent.

And lastly, we will need to work more closely across Government and with outside players such as Parliament, NGOs, Trades Unions or business. All these actors have a growing role in international affairs, and a shared stake in developing British foreign policy.


But whatever efforts we make in the Foreign Office and across the Government, Britain can achieve none of our priorities on our own. The challenges we face are global, and they require a global response. That means our uniquely strong network of alliances and cooperation around the world, combined with the global connections which our history and language provide, are more important today than ever.

Our membership of the European Union and our relationship with the United States are central to almost everything we do internationally. It is also of paramount importance to our future prosperity and security that the relationship between Europe and the US continues to be strong. That transatlantic partnership is deeply rooted in shared values, economic interdependence and common interests, and is essential to pursuing progressive change and global order. But we will need to keep working in order to maintain its strength. That will mean building a shared agenda, with Europe more effectively pursuing our shared security interests, and the US working with Europe and others on the wider economic development and environmental priorities that are so closely linked to our security.

The Strategy also highlights the historic opportunity we have to develop strategic relationships with emerging powers such as China and India as they play a greater and changing role in the international system. Russia and Japan will also continue to be key global powers and central to achieving our international priorities.

The backbone of all our relationships internationally is the multilateral system, with the United Nations at its heart. As permanent members of the UN Security Council, we have a fundamental interest in keeping that multilateral system strong and effective.

But the challenge for us now is to help strengthen the international system so that it is fully adapted to today’s international challenges. International rules, embodied in the UN Charter, have provided the framework for world order since the end of the second world war. But the world today is very different from that of 1945 when the UN Charter was signed. We need today to be able to act together, through the United Nations, to prevent the breakdown of order in states around the world, because it directly affects our own security. Decisions by states which fifty years ago would have been considered a matter of domestic policy – for example on developing certain kinds of weapons – are today of urgent interest for the whole world.

We manage our interdependence through common rules; but to be truly effective we also need to be prepared to enforce them with all the tools at our disposal, including military force as a last resort.


Take for example the global threat from the proliferation of WMD. I welcome the fact that this threat is now being taken as seriously as it must be by the international community – as demonstrated for example by the European Security Strategy. We now have a chance to reinforce our common action against it, for example through agreeing a UN resolution setting up a mechanism similar to the Counter-Terrorism Committee established by Resolution 1373.

Common action gets results. Iran has chosen to work with the IAEA and with Britain, France and Germany supported by the EU to resolve the outstanding issues surrounding its nuclear programme. Libya has chosen to engage with the UK and the US, and now with the IAEA and other appropriate bodies to disarm itself of WMD – a courageous step forward which will bring greater security to the whole region. North Korea remains a difficult case, but is engaged with China and others in the six-party talks, which we hope to see resume in the near future.

I know that many disagreed with the action the British government took in joining military action against Iraq. But I ask them to reflect on how dangerous the world would be today if we had shown that 17 mandatory UN Resolutions over 12 years were merely empty words. The big question left unanswered by those who still disagree with our military intervention, is this: what would you do to protect global security from a regime which threatens regional or international stability, and places itself defiantly beyond the reach of the international system on which our security depends? These are questions we and our partners must now grapple with, co-operatively and creatively. We cannot ignore them. The modern world is too dangerous for that.

We also need to discuss another key strategic challenge for the next decade: how we engage with the Arab and wider Islamic world. This will be crucial to most of the international priorities I have set out today. We need better to understand the forces that give rise to the hostility that some feel so deeply towards the West. And we need to show that we will help those who recognise the need for political, economic and social reform to deal with rising unemployment, low growth, low levels of human development and increased discontent.

Reform must come from and be shaped by the region itself, not be imposed from outside. But we in Europe, working with the US and in other groupings, must demonstrate how we can assist. Whatever our differences over Iraq, as Joschka Fischer said last weekend, we need to put those behind us. We must all recognise that the structural problems confronting many countries in the Middle East are not just their problems, but ours.

Ladies and Gentlemen,


I began by noting the similarity between my two most recent jobs, between a safe, just and tolerant society and a safe, just and prosperous world.

Everyone in society has a stake in its safety, justice and tolerance. States such as the UK have centuries-old traditions of the rule of law with which people identify and which form the bedrock of all civilised life. The challenge for international diplomacy in the 21st century will be to build an international order in which states and people feel something of the same stake in working for a safe, just and prosperous world as they do in their own societies.

Safety, justice and prosperity are inextricably linked to each other; and achieving our goals means working on all three in an active and engaged way. How the UK uses our global network of relationships and influence to meet that challenge is the central theme of the FCO Strategy.

I want the Strategy to be the beginning of a process of debate, not the end. The post-Cold War world is complex and uncertain and presents new risks and opportunities. We have not yet reached a global understanding on what those risks and opportunities are, or how we should deal with them. But we are at a pivotal time for international policy. The European Security Strategy, or the formation of a High-Level Panel by the UN Secretary General, are examples of increasing efforts to develop an effective common response to today’s complex challenges. I hope that the FCO Strategy can start to frame Britain’s contribution to that global debate.

Jack Straw – 2004 Speech on Reconstructing in Iraq


Below is the text of the speech made by Jack Straw, the then Foreign Secretary, in Davos, Switzerland, on 21st January 2004.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

2003 was momentous for Iraq, bringing the end of a regime which had for more than a generation brought the people of Iraq only violence, impoverishment and isolation. From this historic turning point the challenge for 2004 is to build the new Iraq which its people want – an Iraq governed by its people, secure and prosperous, at peace with its neighbours and reintegrated into the family of nations.

No-one argued that this was a process which would be over in a matter of months, and we still have a long way to go. The security situation is of course my number one concern; and there have been difficulties in other areas too, such as reconstruction – perhaps more than some expected.


But I believe that overall life for Iraqis is slowly but steadily improving, some terrible terrorist outrages notwithstanding. Iraqi police and security forces, with the help of the Multinational Force, are building security based on the principle of consent, not on the repressive violence of Saddam’s security forces. Some 45,000 police are now on duty, with more being trained; their confidence and expertise are growing. Criminality has reduced significantly over the past months. I’m pleased to say that the British Police Service is in the lead in our sector in the south on police training.

Meanwhile 17,000 reconstruction projects, large and small, have already been launched. Almost 2,000 schools have been refurbished. 70 million revised textbooks are being printed and distributed. Over 30 million doses of vaccines have been provided since July.

I recognise that the provision of services does not yet meet the expectations of the Iraqi people. We are working hard to ensure that basic services are provided in an equitable way to all the people of Iraq. However, despite the obstacles posed by decades of severe underinvestment and by sabotage, electricity and water supplies have been improved as I saw when I visited Iraq in July and November last year.


A newly independent central bank and a new currency are in place. You will have seen little of this in the papers. But the currency transfer has taken place remarkably smoothly. Iraq is developing more trusting and constructive relationships with its neighbours, and growing trade is boosting the Iraqi economy. We have made good progress on Iraq’s debt – the G7 has agreed to a substantial reduction of the debt burden in the context of a Paris Club settlement. Iraq’s natural resources, including its oil, can now be used for the benefit of all its people, instead of being held hostage to the ambitions and extravagances of a ruling clique. I have been privileged to have been to Iraq and it is only when you are there that you can see the scale of extravagance of the Palaces, plundered from the people. It is obscene.


Approved by UNSCR 1483 the Iraqi Governing Council is a the most representative administration Iraq has ever seen. It embodies the diversity and complexity of Iraqi society. It is worth remembering that over half of the IGC are Shia. There is a political pluralism within the Governing Council which is wider than exists in many countries in the region.

Democratic campaigning followed by elections will be the key to forming a representative government for the people of Iraq. Specific dates have been set for an end to occupation, for a representative, sovereign Iraqi Transitional Government from July 2004; for a permanent constitution and for free and fair direct elections to a national constituent Assembly and Government in 2005.

The contribution of the United Nations to the electoral and constitutional processes in 2004-2005 will be vital. I welcome the fact that on Monday the UNSG – Kofi Annan – as requested by the Iraqi Governing Council, has undertaken to consider sending a UN technical team to Iraq to look into the feasibility of elections before June. The UN Secretary General has also confirmed his intention to appoint a Special Representative for Iraq at an appropriate time. This reaffirmation of the UN role is welcome. Of course we understand the security constraints they face, and no-one can forget the terrible nature of the attack on the UN last August. The Iraqi Governing Council and the Coalition will of course help with appropriate security arrangements.

Meanwhile Iraqis are coming to terms with a real political debate, choosing between a host of rival sources of information – satellite dishes which were illegal under Saddam, more than 200 newspapers, unrestricted access to the internet. A dynamic Iraqi press corps is emerging, with journalists gaining experience and confidence in their reporting. Iraq already has a more vibrant press than many of its neighbours.


Looking ahead to later this year, the key event is the transfer of full authority to Iraqis by 1 July. The coalition will then move into a support role in partnership with the Iraqi people.

Our job is not to dictate Iraq’s future, but to support the consensus of Iraqi opinion. That means our policy will remain responsive as that opinion develops. Nonetheless, the fundamental principles of what the Iraqi people are working for, and what we should therefore promote, are already clear.

In partnership with Iraqis, we will work to promote stable, internationally-recognised federal government whose leaders they can choose, which respects their diversity and protects the rule of law and human rights. At the local level, we will help build democratically-elected administrations empowered to represent local populations. Already the Provincial Councils are being broadened to represent their constituencies more fully. We are also promoting an independent judicial system with strong courts and impartial non-political judges, upholding the rights of the Iraqi people.

Our commitment to reconstructing Iraq is firm. We will continue to help the new Iraqi public administration to run effectively, providing advice and guidance when that is what the Iraqis request. We are likely to channel a substantial part of our financial assistance to Iraq through the UN/World Bank International Reconstruction Fund Facility. We will also focus our assistance on reinforcing the capacity of the Iraqi civil service to administer the country effectively, and on rebuilding essential public services, most urgently in the poorest parts of the country which were the most neglected under Saddam.


To achieve all of this, Iraq needs a stable, secure environment protected by non-partisan police and armed forces. If the Iraqi government requests, the Multi-National Force, with a strong British contingent and as mandated by the UN security council, will continue to work alongside Iraqi forces in maintaining security, while helping those forces to build the capacity to do this on their own.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The whole international community agreed on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, on his defiance of 17 UN Resolutions over 12 years, on the need to resolve the 173 pages worth of outstanding WMD concerns which UNMOVIC identified. However, the decision to take military action was and remains controversial. I respect the views of those who disagreed with us. But I would also ask them in turn to look back a year and consider the consequences of allowing Saddam Hussein to defy the final warning issued unanimously by the Security Council in Resolution 1441. I am in no doubt that if we had sat on our hands and not acted the world would today be a much more dangerous place.

And very few of the Iraqi people argue that Iraq is not a far better country today with Saddam out of power and answering to justice for his terrible crimes.

I make no secret of the fact that there are serious challenges ahead for Iraq – on security, on employment, on making a success of the political and constitutional process. But these difficulties can be overcome with determined and focussed effort. Whatever the differences a year ago, the whole international community today stands behind the Iraqi people. We are committed to helping them achieve their goal of building the free, secure and prosperous country they deserve.