James Brokenshire – 2019 Speech at LGA Finance Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, at the LGA Finance Conference on 9 January 2019.

Thank you so much for the kind introduction John [Councillor John Fuller, Vice-Chair, Resources Board, Local Government Association].

It’s a genuine pleasure to be with you on my birthday – there’s nowhere I’d rather be. And you will recall that a year ago I had to step down from my role to fight lung cancer, so it’s great to be here with you, and in good health.

As you highlighted, in many ways I feel as if I grew up with local government and certainly one of the favourite parts of my job is the chance to find out more about the work of your great councillors – our great councillors.

You live and breathe the issues affecting your areas. You make the places you live in better and improve lives as a consequence of that. That’s why I certainly couldn’t be prouder to be working alongside you.

But I’m under no illusion about the changes in local government. Challenging finances, shifting demographics and changing lifestyles can sometimes make it all feel like, just when you think you’ve got the answers, the questions then change again.

And through all this, I’ve been impressed with how you continue to deliver quality public services and satisfaction remains high. I know that that is no small task.

Local Government Finance Settlement

But I have been determined you get the support you deserve, and the resources you need to grow your economies and ensure opportunity for all – where no one is left behind.

It’s why, at last month’s provisional local government finance settlement, we provided a cash-increase of 2.8%: from £45.1 billion this year, to £46.4 billion next year.

It’s a real-terms increase in resources and I’m pleased the settlement has been broadly welcomed. And in that context I’m very grateful to my colleague, Rishi Sunak, the Minister for Local Government, for his tireless efforts on this work which will continue into the coming weeks, and we look forward setting out the final settlement in early February.

And today is another important part of that conversation.

A conversation that addresses the immediate pressures we face, yes. But equally, it’s a conversation about a longer-term vision for a resilient, self-sufficient and innovative local government.

A discussion that transcends numbers and duties, and reaches directly into the heart of communities.

Or in other words: we need to explain ‘why place matters’.

Meeting today’s pressures

But there’s no hiding from the pressures that you face. Our additional funding will support some of our most vulnerable groups, with £650 million for social care in 2019-20.

We’ve allocated £240 million of that to ease winter pressures – and that’s in addition to the £240 million we announced in October to alleviate winter pressures this year.

The remaining £410 million can be used flexibly – either on adult or children’s social care and, where necessary, to relieve the demands on our NHS.

As you know too well, adult social care is a complex issue. It’s something we need to get right.

But I don’t think it should simply be seen as some sort of problem; it’s also very firmly an opportunity. An opportunity to reaffirm our commitment as a society to those who need our support.

It’s why the NHS long-term plan which was announced yesterday I think will be a real game changer – giving us more flexibility to treat more patients at home or in their communities.

Because better integration of the health and care systems remains the key, and the upcoming green paper on the future of adult social care will chart how we can do this.

The Better Care Fund is already showing us how this might be done, for instance by improving patient inflow and freeing up nearly 2000 hospital beds. It’s a testament to the excellent work councils have been doing with their NHS partners.

In addition, at the latest Budget the Chancellor pledged an extra £84 million over the next 5 years to expand our Children’s Social Care programmes. This will support more councils with high or rising numbers of children in care.

It builds on the excellent work my department has already been doing to improve all services for families with complex problems, through our Troubled Families programme.


But as we meet today and as we look to those pressures, we must also rise to tomorrow’s challenges.

Brexit will generate a number of opportunities for local government. I’m grateful for how you’ve worked to prepare, to ensure we can be confident about our departure from the European Union.

But I know that many of you, like me, have heard the same message on the doorstep – get on with the job and deliver Brexit.

And looking ahead to next week’s vote – I’m clear that the deal we have on offer is a fair one.

It meets the objectives the Prime Minister set out at the start of negotiations, and involves significant concessions from the EU.

It delivers on the referendum result. It takes back control of our borders, our money and our laws. It protects jobs, security and the union.

And the alternatives simply take us back to square one. More division and more uncertainty.

We all have a duty to ensure every community can benefit from a modern, outward-looking Britain after Brexit.

And no one is better placed to deliver that than you, and local authorities will be, I think, at the heart of our success.

I am committed to ensuring local government and local leaders are adequately prepared to respond to any Brexit scenario.

I have set up a delivery board to support the implementation of changes linked to Brexit within local government – and the work of this group will expand in the coming weeks and months.

And I will shortly be announcing the allocation of £35 million to fund local authorities to support with their work on Brexit preparations.

Self-sufficient local government

But I’m mindful that our long-term thinking does require long-term funding – and I know you have called for greater certainty as we reach the end of the current multi-year deal.

Next year we will finalise the new formula. A formula that makes the link between funding and local circumstances much clearer.

And I’m encouraged by the strong consensus on the principles of our review of relative needs and resources. Because it doesn’t matter if you’re north or south, rural or urban, large or small – it simply has to work for everyone.

Our business rates retention reform consultation will build on my department’s existing work with the sector to improve the way local government finance works.

Because business rates retention will be at the heart of this change – the engine of a self-sufficient growth-led local government of the future.

Under today’s system, local authorities estimate they will retain around £2.4 billion in business rates growth in 2018-19 – a significant revenue stream on top of the core settlement funding.

And I recognise business rates appeals are an issue – and our consultation will address this too.

Ultimately, we want to give local authorities – give you – more control over the money you raise. Our plans to increase business rates retention from 75% from 2020 does that and more.

As well as continuing our existing pilots, at the draft settlement, I announced plans for a further 15 new pilots for 2019-20 and will also be piloting the 75% retentions rates in London.

21st century local government

Every authority stands to reap the rewards of increased growth in business rates income. And as we look ahead to the really important Spending Review, we have a unique chance to rethink and recast what local government in the 21st century can do.

The days of people passively accepting what’s offered, I think, are long gone. In our digital age, the ability to feed-back, interact with and shape services is the new norm and government – central and local – needs to reflect that.

It’s something my colleague Rishi Sunak has been looking at with his digital declaration: exploring how to apply new technology and new thinking to old problems, and transforming the ways we think about essential services.

But the future of local government isn’t just in the cloud – it’s also on our high streets and in our communities.

It’s why we provided a £1.5 billion support package for our high streets, with a further £420 million to repair and improve our roads and highways.

And the lifting of the HRA (Housing Revenue Account) cap will put local government back on the front line of house building – local authorities can now borrow more to build more.

And at the provisional settlement, I committed a further £20 million to maintain the New Homes Bonus baseline in 2019-20, to ensure we continue to reward councils for delivering the homes our country needs.

Since it began in 2011, we’ve allocated £7.9 billion to reward 1.6 million additional homes.

Because the success of our communities very much depends on all parts of our community having a decent, affordable, secure home – the challenge of a generation.


So, in conclusion, I’m pleased to be celebrating my 51st birthday with you.

It’s a turning point for me personally after a challenging year – and equally I know the different challenges that you have faced too.

But I am full of admiration for how you have responded – showing what world-class local government looks like.

And while the year ahead could inevitably provide some new challenges, perhaps new surprises, there’s no question that we’re all better placed to face it – and thrive.

And I look forward to working with you: to meet the challenges and to use the opportunities that lie ahead.

To build the homes our country needs.

To strengthen our communities.

To encourage growth, helping ensure every part of our country can prosper.

It’s the reason why we’re all here and why I’m genuinely so proud and privileged to work alongside you.

Thank you.

James Brokenshire – 2018 Statement on Rough Sleeping

Below is the text of the statement made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 18 December 2018.

In August, we published a cross-Government Rough Sleeping Strategy, setting out how we will halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end it altogether by 2027. The strategy has three core pillars of prevention, intervention, and recovery, with a preventive approach towards rough sleeping at its heart.

Today, the Government are announcing the locations of 11 Somewhere Safe to Stay hubs, warm and dry centres where people at crisis point will be able to seek shelter, while their housing and support needs are quickly assessed by specialist staff. This follows an expression of interest round which closed at the end of October, and includes the most innovative proposals, from local authorities who can mobilise and deliver services from this winter. A full list of the early adopter areas can be found here:


Somewhere Safe to Stay hubs, allowing for a quick and effective assessment of needs, are central to these local authorities’ “Rapid Rehousing Pathways”. In the 11 early adopter areas, we will be providing funding for a range of policies alongside the hubs—including specialist “Navigators”, supported lettings, and local lettings agencies—to ensure that there is a full and functioning pathway in place to help people into sustained accommodation and appropriate wrap-around support.

These hubs will not only take people off the streets into a safe environment but, crucially, will also take in individuals who have been identified as being at risk of sleeping rough, stopping them having to sleep on the streets in the first place. In this way, the “Somewhere Safe to Stay” model builds upon the success of the “No Second Night Out” model of rapid assessment hubs.

This approach fits with the Government’s objective to intervene sooner, and move towards a preventive approach towards rough sleeping.

The full programme of funding will enable local areas to connect people with the right support, and sustainable housing. It encompasses funding for specialist Navigators, who act as a single point of contact to support people from the streets into settled accommodation; the establishment of local lettings agencies to source, identify, or provide homes and advice for rough sleepers ​or those at risk; and funding for a supported lettings programme, which will provide flexible support to help individuals sustain their tenancies.

The announcement of the “Somewhere Safe to Stay” early adopters represents key progress against the delivery of the rough sleeping strategy, as set out in the “Rough Sleeping Strategy Delivery Plan” on 10 December. These pilots will be the first step in testing innovative structural change to local systems and the move towards a rapid rehousing approach, bringing us a step closer to the 2027 vision of putting an end to rough sleeping.

The Government will invite a wider bidding round in 2019, for other local authorities to improve and implement their “Rapid Rehousing Pathway”, and will announce the details of this in due course.

James Brokenshire – 2018 Statement at Locality Convention

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, on 7 November 2018.

Thanks, Tony I’m delighted to be here – as, I understand, the first Secretary of State to attend this conference for some time.

All I can say is that my predecessors didn’t know what they were missing!

You and your organisations represent some of the most exciting work going on in our communities and I’m so pleased to be here to thank you for everything you’re doing and to be inspired by your example.

Because as this year’s theme – “the power of community” acknowledges – you know, better than anyone, why strong communities – well-integrated, socially and economically robust communities – matter so much. In good times and bad, they are glue that binds us.

We saw this most powerfully, recently, in the aftermath of the tragedy at Grenfell Tower and the terror attacks in Manchester and London.

And who can forget the glorious celebrations around the London 2012 Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilees?

In this week alone, we’re marking the centenary of the Armistice and, from today, Diwali, with its hopeful message about the “victory of light over darkness”.

Underlining the rich diversity and the immense contributions from all communities that makes our country what it is.

But it’s not just the big milestones that count.

It’s the infinite daily interactions, the endless web of interdependencies, the collective memory of shared history and values that ultimately make a place more than a group of people living side by side and make it a community.

That, and a real sense of pride and belonging.

Despite the daily pressures we all face, that pride continues to shine through.

We see, for example, that 82% of those who responded to the Community Life Survey agreed that people from different backgrounds get on well in their area.

And 59% said that people in their neighbourhood pull together to improve it.

The benefits for communities that boast this pride and solidarity are clear.

The higher the levels of integration, the higher our sense of wellbeing and the less likely we are to suffer from anxiety and health problems.

If our children grow up in neighbourhoods where they have access to inclusive spaces like parks and activities such as arts and sport they’re less likely to turn to crime.

The wider our social network, the greater our prosperity as we share information more readily about job prospects.

But, in truth, that’s not how it often feels on the ground.

We live in a world that can feel increasingly divided and polarised, leaving us feeling that the world around us is changing, but that we have little control over our lives.

Making it harder to hold onto to what unites us rather than divides us.

As I said earlier, we’re all the stronger for our diversity as a country and all parts of our community should be able to take advantage of everything that modern Britain offers – to realise their potential and play a full and active part in our society.

And this, in many ways, is the defining challenge of the age for all modern, mature democracies: how to harness change and the opportunities that flow from it for the benefit of all and ensure that no-one is left behind.

There are no easy answers to this conundrum and many communities are, unsurprisingly, feeling the strain.

Hate crime is at worrying levels, here and – as we saw all too tragically in Pittsburgh – abroad.

As are issues around loneliness and social isolation, affecting young and old alike.

Our high streets, too, are under severe pressure.

And there’s a pressing need for more decent, affordable homes, but also worries about the impact of new development.

So there are some huge challenges facing our communities – challenges that I know many of you are meeting head-on; drawing on your invaluable local knowledge, networks and the latest technology and, in the process, empowering local people as never before.

And I want to pay tribute to your incredible efforts and the very real impact they’re having.

Here, in Bristol, for example, we can see how Knowle West Media Centre is harnessing digital technologies and the arts for the benefit of the community by supporting people to draw on them when developing their own enterprises and tackle the community issues that they care about.

There’s also the very commendable work of community-led groups like the Community Security Trust, Tell MAMA and Galop who are standing up to hatred and bigotry, wherever it exists, and supporting victims. I’m proud to stand with them.

Faith communities – such as the Al-Khoei Islamic Centre in London, which threw open its doors during the Jewish festival of Sukkot and built a Sukkah – are also making a real difference.

As is local government, which has a vital role to play in strengthening communities – in its own right and also while working in partnership with community groups and the voluntary sector.

I saw for myself what this means when I recently visited Cornwall – where a lot of my family came from – which has fully embraced the devolution agenda and is working with parish and town councils and a range of community groups to devolve assets, services and influence.

One such example was a much-loved running track in Par, which, coincidentally, I’d used in my youth, that had been taken over by a community group when it faced closure.

It was wonderful to see it in such good hands and the group’s high ambitions for its future, which included a skate park, café and a new children’s area.

And we can see that other authorities like Durham and Wiltshire are also stepping up to deliver this kind of “onward” devolution in service delivery – which puts local communities in the driving seat to decide their own priorities and find local solutions that suit local circumstances.

And which helps them take control and ownership of the spaces and assets that will help their neighbourhoods flourish – something that my department is championing in partnership with Locality through a Community Enabler Fund.

One of a number of projects on which I’m pleased to see that we’re collaborating.

This shift in power from the state to the citizen is true localism, a much-needed renewal of our democracy, in action.

And I want to see much more of it.

Cornwall, Wiltshire and Durham all became unitaries nearly a decade ago and they have shown that local reorganisation should not lead to services being sucked up to a more distant central authority on high.

Quite the reverse.

They have been able to drive services and decisions down to communities on the ground.

The benefits speak for themselves – tailored, more effective services, stronger local economies and more engaged, more confident communities.

Communities in which the conversation is happening, not official to official, but between local leaders and the people they serve.

It’s essential that we do much more to celebrate and learn from their example and from the communities who are leading the way – and that’s exactly what we’ll be doing through the fantastic Communities Roadshow being launched today.

Because it’s clear that we all need to play our part.

Councils, faith leaders, community groups, businesses, the voluntary sector.

And, yes, government – in doing what we can to support you and to create the conditions where local communities are truly free to determine their own destinies and removing the barriers that stand in your way.

To that end, I’m working with colleagues across government on projects such as the Integrated Communities, Civil Society and Loneliness Strategies as well as the Hate Crime Action Plan.

I have also launched the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission to reinforce the central role of communities in shaping our built environment.

Because decisions about the way we use space, about the quality of design and style of our buildings are inextricably linked to our sense of identity and sense of pride in the places we call home.

This is what creates strong neighbourhoods and all our spaces and places should embody this aspiration for, yes, beauty, and buildings that are in keeping with their surroundings and that are built to last.

In addition, I recently agreed an ambitious Mission Statement for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government that demonstrates why communities are at the heart of everything we do as a department – be it our quest to build more homes, support quality public services or drive local growth.

This Statement is centred on 4 themes.

Firstly, we’re giving communities more control over the decisions that matter to them.

Nowhere is this more evident than on housing.

We’re giving local people a bigger say over the future of their communities through for example, neighbourhood plans.

Residents all over the country – including here in Bristol – are seizing the powerful opportunity they offer to decide where new homes, green spaces and other facilities should go and how they should look and feel.

And I’m delighted that we’re backing them with more money – an extra £8.5 million, announced at Budget, which takes our current investment in neighbourhood planning to £34.5 million.

Then there’s the £163 million of funding we’re making available for community housing – housing for the community delivered by the community to meet local need.

Giving communities more control also means giving them a role in policy development through initiatives such as the Community Partnership Board that I’ll be attending for the first time later this month.

Secondly, we’re giving communities a sense of safety and pride by ensuring that they’re economically and socially resilient in changing times.

Businesses have a major role to play in this endeavour.

And so I’m pleased to announce that my department will be working more closely with Business in the Community to provide practical support to businesses on volunteering opportunities for their employees and to promote better integration between people from different backgrounds.

Business in the Community has an impressive track record in this area and I look forward to seeing what more we can achieve together.

We’re also working closely with businesses to revive our high streets which, in so many ways, represent the heart of our communities.

We know how much people value them – and how worried they are to see them struggling as technology changes the way we shop and do business.

Which is why the £1.5 billion package of support unveiled in the Budget for high streets is so welcome.

This spans not just vital short-term relief for small retailers – that will bring their business rates down by a third.

But also a long-term vision for our high streets that goes with the grain of our changing lives and flexes with technology to pave the way for the “smart cities” and “tech towns” of tomorrow.

A vision that will be underpinned by a £675 million Future High Streets Fund – which will help councils innovate and improve their town centres – and a relaxation of planning rules that will see more people living on our high streets and more mixed-used businesses.

There are currently over 27,000 premises lying vacant in England’s town centres.

If we turned just a fraction of these into homes, thousands more people could have a roof over their head.

And research shows that higher numbers of residents on our high streets can generate higher footfall and, in turn, higher demand for shops and services.

And there will be other imaginative, creative approaches – that will differ from area to area -–that will help our high streets reinvent themselves and thrive again – and I’m looking forward to celebrating these trailblazers and the incredible people behind them at the upcoming Great British High Street Awards.

We need to pull out all the stops to support communities to create many more of these vibrant, thriving hubs – hubs that make the most of the human interactions and experiences they offer that no online competitor can hope to replicate.

The action we’re taking is an important step towards this.

Which brings me to the third theme: inclusive community spaces.

These obviously include our high streets as well as parks and other assets and are crucial for many of the same reasons – their ability to bring people from different backgrounds together in a meaningful way that breaks down mistrust.

Plus their ability to combat social isolation and give people a sense of belonging.

As such, their value is beyond measure.

And so I’m delighted to be launching a new project, Open Doors, that will see empty shops being opened up to community groups offering services to younger and older people. The aim is to reduce loneliness whilst increasing footfall on our high streets and town centres.

We’re calling today for landlords, public and private, to come forward and play their part in this exciting initiative and help truly transform their communities.

We need to be bold and imaginative in tackling the challenges we face and ensure that – in line with the fourth and final theme – no communities are left behind.

This is especially important as we leave the European Union and chart a new course to a brighter future.

I want to ensure that all parts of our country can seize the opportunities that will be unleashed.

It’s with this in mind that our UK Shared Prosperity Fund will focus on tackling the inequalities between communities by driving up productivity, particularly in those areas whose economies are lagging furthest behind.

I want communities across the country to have a voice in determining their economic destiny.

This Fund will give them that voice and help bridge the divides between the places that are prospering and those that are struggling.

Now, this mission to build a more inclusive society also very much extends to people living in social housing.

The terrible events at Grenfell shone a light on their experiences which, for too long, had been overlooked by successive governments.

And before I go on, I want to condemn in the strongest terms the appalling video, on social media, showing an effigy of Grenfell Tower being burned on a bonfire.

It beggars belief that anyone would do this, given everything that the bereaved and survivors have been through. We will always stand by them – as a community and also with other people living in social housing.

To that end, we recently published a social housing green paper, informed by the views of around 8,000 residents from across the country, which focuses on the issues that matter most to them.

Many spoke of their pride in their home and communities, but also about the disgraceful stigma that they face – and creating a new contract on social housing.

We’re determined to stamp this out and are renewing and deepening our commitment to these communities to deliver a new generation of social housing.


Because the only way we will build a stronger, fairer Britain, the only way we can bridge the divides that hold us back, and renew our democracy is by building stronger, fairer communities.

Communities in which everyone has the opportunity, security and dignity to build a better life.

And that with a renewed focus on community we can create a country which works for everyone – and recognise that intrinsic connection between us.

Of family, of faith, of neighbourliness, of community.

That as we chart a positive new direction for our country through Brexit and beyond, we can create strong, confident communities socially and economically.

Which celebrates our rich diversity as a strength which defines the country, the people we are. That there is so much more that unites us than divides us.

James Brokenshire – 2018 Statement on Leasehold Reform

Below is the text of the statement made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 15 October 2018.

I have published a technical consultation on how to implement the Government’s reforms to the leasehold system in England.

This consultation marks the next step in my personal commitment to tackle exploitative and unjustifiable practices in the leasehold sector, making homeownership fairer for all.

Unjust leasehold terms also risk making relatively new houses unattractive to buyers. Therefore, last year the Government announced they would introduce ​legislation to prohibit the unjustified granting of new residential long leases on new build or existing freehold houses, other than in exceptional circumstances, and restrict ground rents in newly established leases of houses and flats to a peppercorn.

In addition, we want to address loopholes in the law to improve transparency and fairness for leaseholders and freeholders. This includes providing freeholders with equivalent rights to leaseholders to enable them to challenge the reasonableness of estate rent charges or freehold service charges for the maintenance of communal arrears and facilities on a private or mixed estate.

Finally, we want to introduce measures to improve how leasehold properties are bought and sold.

The consultation details a number of proposals setting out how our plans may work in practice. It asks important questions to understand people’s views on how this could affect them. It sets out and seeks views on:

how the changes to prevent unjustified new leasehold houses will work in practice, in what circumstances any exemptions will be provided, and how the policy will be enforced;

the future nominal ground rent for new leasehold properties being capped at £10 per annum, and what exceptional circumstances may warrant exemption;

how we intend to provide freeholders with equivalent rights to leaseholders to enable them to challenge the reasonableness of an estate rent charge or a freehold service charge for the maintenance of communal arrears and facilities on a private or mixed estate; and

measures to improve how leasehold properties are bought and sold.

We will use the evidence we gather to inform the legislation and the accompanying impact assessment.

The consultation will run for six weeks and will close on 26 November 2018. It is available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/implementing-reforms-to-the-leasehold-system, and I have placed a copy in the House Library.

Since becoming Secretary of State, I have already taken steps to ensure excessive and unfair leasehold practices are brought to an end. No new Government funding schemes will now support the unjustified use of leasehold for new houses.

This consultation, and the legislation which will follow, will make the leasehold system fairer, more transparent, and cheaper for home owners in the future.

James Brokenshire – 2018 Speech at Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize Award Ceremony

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State of Housing, Communities and Local Government, on 10 October 2018.

Thank you for inviting to me join you this evening.

It’s a real privilege to be here.

The Stirling Prize is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate British Architecture and since 1996, when it replaced the less august sounding ‘Building of the Year Award’, it has consistently showcased the immense talent coming out of this country.

When James Stirling won the Royal Gold Medal in 1980 he did so not only for his achievements but also for the potential of those ideas never realised.   That connection between accomplishment and promise, between the past and the future, is embodied each year in the Stirling Prize and its shortlisted nominees.

Helping to honour the legacy and inspire future generations of architects.

Thank you for your contribution to our country, our economy and our cultural life.

And it is to the role of the architect I wish to turn.

You are the guardians of quality.

So often the difference between the ugly and the beautiful isn’t because of ‘good architect vs bad architect’ but rather a case of there being little or no architect at all. What I know is we need more of your expertise involved in how we build and create communities, not less.

And ultimately, for me at least, that is why we build.

To create communities.

To create great places to live, work and spend time in.

To create please we are proud to call home.

To create that connection between the built environment and our identity.

At the core of this should be an aspiration for beauty.

Whilst we may debate its precise nature, its existence is beyond doubt.

And our spaces and places should embody this value.

As Secretary of State for Housing and Communities, these issues are an important part of my role.

And something I will be returning to in the coming weeks.

From the individual home through to the new settlements we need to build I pay special attention to the quality of design and style.

We need to build homes which fit with the world around them.

Helping to give confidence to people that development will be sympathetic to its surroundings. Helping grow a sense of community, not undermine it.

Helping to ensure our places are fit for the future, casting our eyes on the coming innovations in technology whilst keeping our feet firmly grounded in what communities want and need.

That’s why tonight is so special.

In recognising and celebrating the essential role of style, design and yes, architecture.

I’d like to congratulate all those shortlisted for this prestigious award.

You have all earned rightful plaudits for your work. Tonight we celebrate not just the winner – but all of you.

Thank you all for what you do.

And the very real contribution you are making in creating communities we can be proud of.

Thank you.

James Brokenshire – 2018 Speech to Conservative Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, at the Conservative Party Conference held in Birmingham on 1 October 2018.

Thank you to Shazia for your kind words of introduction.

Shazia is a great example of Conservatives making a difference in local government and making a difference in the communities they serve.

Thank you for your public service and all that you do.

Can I also introduce my fantastic team at the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government.

My ministers Kit Malthouse, Jake Berry, Rishi Sunak, Heather Wheeler and Nigel Adams. Our tireless PPSs Chris Philp and Leo Docherty and our whip Jeremy Quin.

Friends, it’s been quite a year for me and today is a particular personal milestone.

When I addressed our Conference twelve months ago, I didn’t know it, but I had lung cancer.

In some of my darker moments earlier this year, I questioned whether I would be here at all – let alone fit, well and able to speak on this stage today.

When you receive a cancer diagnosis… when you are forced to confront your own mortality head on… it makes you appreciate what’s important… what makes life worth living.

I know I couldn’t have got through this period without the incredible love and support of my wife Cathy and our three children, Sophie, Jemma and Ben.

They’ve kept me positive, they’ve helped get me through surgery, through my recovery and back to strength.

But I also know that if it wasn’t for our amazing NHS I wouldn’t be here today.

They saved my life and in some way will have touched the lives of every person in this hall.

To all those who work in our NHS – thank you.

You are amazing and we pay tribute to all that you do.

Now I may be part of one lung lighter, but it hasn’t diminished my passion for our party, my pride in our country and my earnest belief that our best days lie ahead of us and not behind us.

That is what makes us Conservatives.

And a key part of this is building the homes our country needs.

The Prime Minister is right in seeing this as our biggest domestic priority.

And I am proud to serve alongside her to meet the challenges of our time and harness the opportunities of the future.

We must respond to the uncomfortable truth that through decades of under-investment and lack of political will for too many a home of your own is unaffordable and out of reach.

Everyone deserves a decent, affordable and secure place to call home.

When a generation is locked out of the housing market it hurts us as a country.

It’s the impact it has on the lives of individuals and their families.

It’s about social justice, opportunity and building a fairer, stronger Britain.

A Britain where ‘Generation Rent’ can become ‘Generation Own’.

A Britain where we turn the vision of a place you call home into a reality.

The last time a Government committed to building 300,000 homes a year was in 1951 when Harold Macmillan was Conservative Housing Minister.

Super Mac did it then and we will do it again.

We will build 300,000 homes a year by the mid 2020’s.

And we have made an important start.

Since 2010 one point one million new homes built.

Nearly half a million families are now home owners thanks to Help to Buy and Right to Buy.

And a million first time buyers are expected to benefit from our cuts to stamp duty with 80% of first time buyers paying no stamp duty at all.

If you aspire to own your own home then I want to say this to you.

We will help you.

We will build the homes our country needs.

We will support you to save for your deposit.

We will break down the barriers standing between you and the opportunities you deserve.

We will fix our broken housing market and make it work for you.

As for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party they may have given the Red Flag a reboot, but it’s the same old socialism that brought our country to its knees and would do so again.

Under the last Labour government house building fell to levels not seen since the 1920’s.

The number of first time buyers collapsed by over 50%.

Housing became more unaffordable, not less.

Labour doesn’t believe in increasing home ownership.

They would suspend Right to Buy and shatter people’s hopes and dreams of the chance to buy their own home.

It’s same old story from the same Old Labour.

No matter what they say, you know we’ll all have to pay.

But I know that there is much more to do to get the homes we need built.

We need to be bold and radical to remove unnecessary barriers and speed up delivery.

And in doing so we need a reformed planning system that is effective and responsive.

In July I published the new planning rule book.

It provides greater certainty and clarity for developers and communities alike.

To know the requirements and expectations and encourage a plan led approach to development.

Strengthening the protections for our environment and our precious Green Belt.

But we need to be smarter on how we use land and the space available.

Prioritising brownfield but also looking at land that’s already been built on.

That’s why I will publish proposals to permit people to build up on existing buildings rather than build out to use more precious land.

And give Councils greater powers to deliver the garden communities of the future.

But it’s not just about getting homes built – it’s about fairness.

Some practices in the leasehold market – such as unexpected costs that rise every year and bear no relation to services – can turn a homeowner’s dream into a nightmare.

That’s why we’re banning the unjustified use of leaseholds on new houses and limiting future ground rents for long leases to a peppercorn.

But we also need to address quality issues in new homes too.

That’s why I can announce today the creation of a New Homes Ombudsman.

This new watchdog will champion home buyers, protect their interests and hold developers to account.

And give confidence that when you get the keys to a new home you get the quality build you expect and the finish you’ve paid for.

Getting a fair deal extends to private renters too.

We’ve created a Rogue Landlords database to identify the worst offenders.

We are banning unfair letting agent fees being passed onto tenants.

And Capped deposit costs too.

Fairness also needs to be felt by people living in social housing.

That’s why I want to see a new deal for social housing tenants.

To deliver decent homes, strengthen redress and break unjustified stigma.

Equally as Conservatives we are committed to supporting the most vulnerable in our society.

It is simply unacceptable in modern Britain that there are still people living out on our streets with no roof over their head.

Our rough sleeping strategy and rough sleeping initiative are focusing efforts to drive change to give support to those most in need.

So that we end rough sleeping for good.

Most profoundly though, people should be safe in their own homes.

It’s been over a year since the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire.

This unimaginable horror has rightly shocked us all and underlined the need to do all that we can to see that such a disaster cannot happen again.

My work with Grenfell United and the wider community has been hugely helpful in keeping this issue right at the top of the government’s agenda.

And that is why today I can confirm that I will change the building regulations to ban the use of combustible materials for all new high rise residential buildings, hospitals, registered care homes and student accommodation.

And bring about a change in culture on building safety.

In advancing our ambitious housing agenda we need to create strong, prosperous, confident communities socially and economically.

Giving a sense of identity, a sense of place and an affinity to the places where we live, where we work, where we spend our time.

Communities where we recognise diversity and heritage.

How this makes us stronger;

How we all have so much more in common than divides us.

We have to defend the civility of civil society against hatred and separation.

We have to be robust in challenging anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred and division based on religion, heritage or background.

There is no place in our country for bigotry and intolerance.

And as Conservatives we will stand up against this in all its forms.

At the heart of our communities are our towns and high streets.

Our high streets are the beating heart of a local economy.

And local businesses are their lifeblood.

That’s why I’m proud that we’ve launched the Great British High Street Competition.

To recognise, to champion and to celebrate innovation and success.

But we know technology is changing the way we live our lives and the challenges this brings.

I look forward to receiving the work of our new high streets advisory panel led by Sir John Timpson.

So that we can take further action to support our high streets and help them continue to do what they do best.

I know that so much local success relies on the dedication and hard work of Conservatives in local government around the country.

I want to thank all of our Councillors who work tirelessly for their communities.

It’s because of you people understand that with a Conservative council you get quality services and lower taxes.

We asked Conservative councils to help fix the mess left by the last Labour government and they delivered.

In return we’ve devolved power, localised business rates, created a swathe of city region mayors, founded Local Enterprise Partnerships, kick started local industrial strategies.

Through the fair funding review and business rate retention we have the opportunity to drive further change, to support innovation and get the very best from local government.

But I know an ageing population and growing demand are creating real pressures on public services.

Health and social care are inextricably linked and any reforms must be aligned.

That’s why I’m working with Matt Hancock – recognising local government’s direct interests – towards the publication of the Social Care Green Paper.

This will include plans to reform social care, provide better integration of services and put the care system on a long term sustainable footing.

As we leave the EU we should be confident and positive about the potential of each part of our country and the contribution they can make to drive our future prosperity.

Through the Northern Powerhouse, the Midlands Engine and Silicon Vale linking Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes.

Through City Deals and Local Growth Funds.

Through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund supporting continued regional investment.

Helping deliver a country that works for everyone.

And we will harness the opportunities that are presented to us.

In 2022 Birmingham will host the Commonwealth Games.

It will provide the platform for this great city to shine on a global stage.

The chance to drive economic potential.

The chance to create a sense of pride – not just in this city but our country as a whole.

That’s why I’m proud today to announce the Government funding for the construction of the Athletes Village.

We will invest £165 million to help support the delivery of 5,100 new homes, but just as importantly create a long lasting legacy for Birmingham and from the Commonwealth Games.

And this is part of our Conservative mission.

To create a legacy.

A legacy of new homes and communities for your children and mine.

To show, that to be Conservative is to want to build for the future not turn away from it, and in doing so draw on our traditions, history and knowledge.

Whether through new homes, villages, towns, cities or communities, we Conservatives are working to build a new Britain.

A people reconnected to our nation with renewed pride and energy.

Optimistic and hopeful for the future.

Because the nation we are building is one where opportunity is for all and no one is left behind.

James Brokenshire – 2018 Speech at National Housing Federation Summit

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, at the National Housing Federation Summit on 20 September 2018.

Thanks to Baroness Warwick for that kind introduction.

It’s a great pleasure to be here – albeit on a site that I understand once housed one of Britain’s so-called ugliest buildings.

Some of you may remember – and even mourn – the County Hall Island Block apartments that stood empty here for 20 years before a 6-year old boy got his wish to set the bulldozers in motion.

Now we may all have our different views on architecture and design.

But I think we can agree that you know you’ve succeeded when you’re not constructing buildings that 6-year-olds want to demolish!

It’s also genuinely a great privilege to be speaking before we hear from David [Orr] for the final time in his role as the National Housing Federation’s (NHF) Chief Executive.

Though, I understand, it’s not just his speeches which are much much-anticipated.

I hear his performances at NHF karaoke nights, too, are also quite a draw.

And while I can’t promise to match David’s musical talents, I’ll do my best as the warm-up act!

Before I go on, I want to firstly applaud the tremendous leadership and public service David has shown through a long and distinguished career.

I also want to welcome your successor, Kate Henderson, and say how much I’m looking forward to working with Kate.

I know you’ll be putting your own stamp on the role, but what a great legacy to build on.

David, you have transformed the housing association sector and inspired and challenged us all to raise our game for people living in social housing and, indeed, all parts of our community, including the most vulnerable.

I think that’s the thing I have been most struck by, David’s passion, leadership, and humanity too – it comes from the heart and we have all been strengthened by it.

And I’m especially grateful for your contribution to the Rough Sleeping Advisory Panel which helped develop the Rough Sleeping Strategy we published recently – an issue that I know matters greatly to us both.

This Strategy – and, indeed, all our work on housing – is driven by the belief that everyone must have the security, dignity and opportunities they need to build a better life.

As the Prime Minister said yesterday, this mission is absolutely central to this government’s priorities – and very much in keeping with your founding ideals as a sector.

And, working with you, we’re delivering on it.

Housing associations played a big role in helping us deliver 217,000 homes in 2016 to 2017 – the highest level in all but one of the last 30 years. And I’m hugely grateful for all of your efforts.

But we know you can and want to do more.

Which is why we’ve listened to what you’ve told us – about wanting more certainty and stability to be able to protect and boost supply – and have responded.

We’ve put billions into affordable housing, including homes for social rent, and given housing associations a leading role in delivering this through long term funding deals.

We’ve given you more certainty over your rental income.

We’ve retained the funding for supported accommodation within Housing Benefit.

We’ve enabled councils to borrow more to build more.

We’re supporting Homes England to take a more strategic, assertive approach – putting more certainty into the system – and reforming planning to get Britain building.

We’re also taking action on other issues that you’ve raised such as doing more to capture increases in land value for the public good through:

changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF),

Section 106 planning obligations,

and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)

But I know there is more to do.

And as the Prime Minister said yesterday, we’ll be responding shortly to a consultation on developer contributions that includes proposals to help councils capture land values more effectively.

So the sector has never been better placed to really step up and help deliver the homes our country needs.

But this isn’t just about getting the numbers up.

It’s also about changing the false attitudes towards social housing.

Challenging the mistakes and flawed perceptions about people living in social housing.

About improving the experience of tenants – and rebalancing their relationship with landlords through stronger regulation.

And following the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower, ensuring, above all, that homes are decent, safe and well-maintained.

Which is what the social housing green paper published last month aims to do.

My thanks to David and housing associations for their enthusiasm and support for the extensive engagement that we carried out with residents that helped inform this work.

Yes, the Paper reminded us of the challenges that people living in social housing face.


The need for landlords to be more transparent and accountable.

Concerns about how complaints are handled.

To quote one resident we spoke to: “I feel privileged and lucky to be a housing association tenant. Having an affordable secure and quality home means everything and has helped me into employment. And the security has also helped my children be happy and successful.”

As the Prime Minister said, we need to do more to reinforce that pride in social housing.

That sense that it can be both a safety net and a springboard to a better life

Something we treasure in the way we do our NHS.

That’s why we’re investing in the sector and giving you the longer-term certainty that will help you build more, faster – both now and into the future.

In July, I announced 8 longer-term strategic partnerships between housing associations and Homes England worth around £590 million which will yield about 14,000 new affordable homes, including for social rent.

And which will see us championing modern methods of construction and more small and medium sized builders playing their part in a more diverse market.

And I want to thank both the NHF and Homes England – under David and Nick Walkley’s leadership respectively – for their valuable work on making this happen.

The Prime Minister’s announcement, yesterday, of the £2 billion initiative – enabling the most ambitious housing associations to apply for funding over the next decade – takes this to the next level.

This bold, new scheme is the first time any government has offered you this kind of long-term funding certainty and stability.

As such, it promises to be a game-changer – not just because it will help you get tens of thousands of new affordable and social homes built and provide a strong impetus for you to go further.

But because the certainty and stability that underpins it signals a new approach to the way we invest in and deliver housing in this country.

An approach that is a real vote of confidence in housing associations and places you firmly in the driving seat – to be industry leaders in building more and better, in driving innovation and setting higher standards for the way social housing is managed and the people who live in it are supported.

With your – as Diana put it yesterday – special combination of a “core social purpose” and “good business sense” you are uniquely well placed to pick up this baton.

So I urge you to make the most of this opportunity to help us deliver a new generation of social housing and help secure the high quality homes that people who can’t afford to buy or rent privately deserve.

These have to be homes that meet their needs.

And having listened to residents, we’ve decided, for example, not to implement the provisions in the Housing and Planning Act to make fixed term tenancies mandatory for local authorities at this time.

We understand that lifetime tenancies are, for some people, for some communities, essential for providing the security and stability they need to make a place truly feel like home.

That’s why it’s right that all social landlords should have the freedom to offer them.

Now, it’s also right and fair that social housing can be a springboard to home ownership.

And I want to commend the vital work by David and the NHF with this government on the Voluntary Right to Buy agreement.

This has already helped hundreds of housing association tenants to buy their homes and thousands more are set to benefit from the latest, large-scale Midlands pilot that launched last month.

We will be monitoring this closely; in particular in relation to replacing homes that are sold.

This groundbreaking partnership between government and the sector is an important step towards extending the dream of home ownership.

With that in mind, we have to challenge what I believe to be false choices.

In particular that you can either boost the supply of rented properties or support home ownership – that you can’t do both.

This doesn’t have to be the case.

Whilst championing better standards for renters, we should not apologise for backing the aspiration around home ownership.

Two thirds of social housing residents would like to be home owners.

These people – who run our businesses, keep our public services going, contribute to society in countless ways – are just as hard-working, ambitious and keen to improve their communities as anyone else.

We should recognise that ambition and provide that opportunity to which they aspire.

The social housing green paper sets out how we can do this, whilst also ensuring that councils can replace homes sold.

There’s nothing contradictory about this – about building more affordable homes and helping people meet the aim of home ownership.

I believe to say otherwise, is a false choice.

We have to do both.

And nor is there anything contradictory about promoting ownership and tackling stigma – another all too common false choice.

To do otherwise would be to ignore the ambition of the vast majority of social housing tenants.

All I want is to help each person living in social housing to make the right choice for themselves – not have it made for them.

And the same goes for another false choice that pits building more homes against building better homes.

We’re determined to deliver 300,000 homes on average a year by the middle of the next decade, but not at any price.

These are not just a roof over our heads. They are the foundations on which our lives and communities are built.

As the philosopher Sir Roger Scruton put it: “We are needy creatures and our greatest need is for home…All our attempts to make our surroundings look right – through decorating, arranging, creating – are attempts to extend a welcome to ourselves and to those whom we love.”

So good design and style matter – arguably more, not less, for people living in social housing and combatting the stigma that surrounds it.

It’s not our job in government to dictate what this looks like, but we all know how it feels.

Good design produces places that people have helped shape and are proud to call home.

It protects and strengthens the beauty of our natural environment.

It adds to the value of existing settlements for years to come, making it more likely that new development will be welcomed rather than resisted.

Therefore, building better will, in fact, help us build more – something that our social housing green paper recognises and how that must apply to social and affordable homes as it does to any other types of housing.

So it’s time we rejected these false choices.

Accept we can and should extend home ownership as well as deliver more quality affordable rented homes.

Accept that there is nothing incompatible or contradictory about these goals which, after all, have the same end: more people having decent, secure, comforting places they call home.

Accept that they are goals which are within our grasp.

The truth is that the best communities; the most interesting and successful communities, where most people want to live, tend to be mixed and diverse.

Places where people from all backgrounds, living in all types of housing, can come together, bound by a strong sense of belonging and identity.

Yes, we are facing a huge challenge.

But I know that there’s no sector better placed than you to meet it.

As the Prime Minister said, you have blazed a trail for many high quality and, yes, beautiful homes that have stood the test of time and served the public good.

That make a mockery of arguments that high density and affordability have to equal low quality and a lack of character.

This is the difference that I know we all want to see as we look forward.

As David said in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire, we have an “obligation…to make this a moment of change”.

It’s clear that, to do this, to make this difference, to meet that obligation, we need all parts of the sector to pull together.

We’ve responded to your calls for more support.

And I’m looking forward to seeing housing associations; with your unique and impressive track record, seizing this unprecedented opportunity and leading the charge.

To deliver the homes we need and the brighter future our people deserve.

James Brokenshire – 2018 Statement on Housing Policy

Below is the text of the statement made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 2 July 2018.

Since we published our Housing White Paper last year, we have been making significant progress in fixing the broken housing market, reforming our planning system and increasing housing ​supply to start to improve affordability, as well as taking steps to ensure that communities have the safe and high-quality homes they need to thrive.

Our new national planning policy framework—coming into force this summer following our consultation—will transform the planning system, and at of autumn Budget we set out £15 billion the new financial support for housing, taking our total investment to £44 billion over the next five years. Since 2010 we have delivered over a million new homes, and in 2016-17 we saw 217,350 new homes delivered—the highest number in all but one of the last 30 years.

Our new national housing agency, Homes England, is taking a more assertive approach to getting homes built. This has already started—for example in Burgess Hill, a site that is desperately needed for affordable housing but which sat undeveloped. Homes England has now stepped in, bought the land and is delivering the infrastructure. Today I am announcing a plan to build over 3,000 homes on the site.

But we need to go further, and in particular we recognise the housing market needs an injection of innovation and competition. Getting new players into the market and embracing modern methods of construction will allow us to build faster and drive up choice and quality for consumers.

To help do this, today I am announcing that the local authority accelerated construction programme is moving into its delivery phase. Through this fund, we are releasing £450 million to speed up delivery of homes on surplus local authority land and encouraging the use of modern methods of construction and SME builders. Homes England has started the process of funding negotiations with a number of local authorities to ensure their sites can deliver greater pace and innovation in house building.

But this is not just about the number of homes, it is also about ensuring we deliver the right homes in the right places, and building communities that people are happy to call home.

Today I am announcing that we have launched a new Homes England programme to deliver the community housing fund. Community groups and local authorities in all parts of England outside London are now able to apply for capital and revenue funding to bring community-led housing schemes forward. Homes England has published a prospectus on its website at: www.gov.uk/topic/housing/funding-programmes.

Through this fund, housing will be delivered where the mainstream market is unable to deliver. The housing it helps provide will be tailored to meet specific local needs and will remain locally affordable in perpetuity. It will help sustain local communities and local economies and help raise the bar in design and construction standards. Now that it is launched, it will unlock a pipeline of thousands of new homes and help this innovative sector grow to make a substantial additional contribution to housing supply. A similar programme is being developed for London—delivered by the GLA—and an announcement on that will be made shortly.

We also want to protect the rights of tenants in the private rented sector and give them more security. That is why I am publishing today an eight-week consultation on overcoming the barriers to landlords offering longer tenancies to tenants in the private rented sector.​
Longer tenancies will help tenants, particularly those with children, who are currently on short-term contracts and who are unable to plan for the future. Longer tenancies can benefit landlords too by helping to avoid the costs of finding new tenants. The aim is to collect views on what could be done to provide tenants with greater security while providing flexibility for landlords to regain their properties if their circumstances change. In the consultation, we propose a new model tenancy agreement of three years with a six-month break clause and options on how to implement the model which include legislation, financial incentives for landlords, and voluntary measures to encourage its use. Copies of the consultation will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are available online.

Finally, for too long, the leasehold market has been left to evolve without much attention to who actually benefits. We are determined to reform the leasehold market to make it work for consumers. We have announced a programme of leasehold reform including a ban on new leasehold houses, restricting ground rents to a peppercorn and making enfranchisement easier, quicker and cheaper. We will bring forward legislation at the earliest opportunity, but we want the industry to change in advance of legislation and have written to developers setting out our expectations.

Today I can also confirm that Government funding schemes for housing supply will no longer support the unjustified use of leasehold for new houses, wherever possible, and that we will hardwire this as a condition into any new schemes. In future, ground rents on new long leases in flats will be limited to a peppercorn.

James Brokenshire – 2017 Speech to European Policy Centre

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to the European Policy Centre on 6 November 2017.

It’s a great pleasure to be here in Brussels today … and I’m grateful for the opportunity to update you on the current situation in Northern Ireland.

During my visit today I am taking the opportunity to brief senior members of the Commission along with MEPs as the UK Government continues its negotiations to leave the EU in 2019.

And of course part of my role … working with the Prime Minister and the Secretary for Exiting the EU … is to ensure that we secure an agreement deal that delivers for all parts of the UK, including Northern Ireland.

Everyone here knows that Northern Ireland has unique circumstances which need to be recognised in the final withdrawal treaty to leave the EU … and making progress on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is essential in moving negotiations to the next phase.

But before I talk specifically about Northern Ireland in the context of leaving the EU I thought it would be useful to give an overview of the current political, economic and security situations there.

Because as I stand before you today, nearly a quarter of a century after the terrorist ceasefires and twenty years after the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, it’s easy to assume that everything in Northern Ireland has been solved.

And you could easily be forgiven for thinking that’s the case.

Northern Ireland today is in so many respects unrecognisable from where it was in the early 1990s.

Until the beginning of this year we had seen a decade of devolved government in Northern Ireland led by the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein … the longest such period of uninterrupted devolved government since the 1960s.

The kind of terrorism that I used to see growing up in the 1970s and 1980s is no longer a daily fact of life … along with the military presence to deal with it.

Northern Ireland today is the most popular destination outside of London for foreign direct investment into the UK. And of course relations between Northern Ireland and Ireland … and between the United Kingdom and Ireland … are at their strongest ever.

So there are so many positives to take about Northern Ireland.

The beautiful scenery and countryside.

The industrial heritage.

The exciting new opportunities.

Our thriving creative industries.

The quality of life.

The warmth and friendliness of people who live there.

And of course the example that Northern Ireland has shown the world as to how it is possible to emerge from a period of terrible suffering and conflict to a new era of peace, stability and greater prosperity.

In that context I would like to pay tribute to the European Union … including Michel Barnier … for the support you have given to Northern Ireland … backing the peace process, encouraging economic growth and providing vital funding for programmes designed to bring communities together.

The EU can be very proud of the role that it has played in Northern Ireland over decades … and both the UK and Irish Governments are very grateful for that.

But for all of this progress significant political, economic and security challenges remain … and I would like briefly to take each of these in turn.

Politically, Northern Ireland has been without a functioning devolved government since the beginning of this year. Civil servants have been able to spend money but key decisions over local services that require political input have not been taken.

Crucially, a budget for the current financial year has yet to be set.

This is putting public services under strain … and very soon both the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Civil Service assess that Northern Ireland will begin to run out of resources.

Earlier this year I had to step in and legislate to set some local taxes so that local councils could continue to carry out their functions.

We have now reached the point at which it is unlikely that an Executive could be formed in time to pass a budget for Northern Ireland by the end of this month.

In those circumstances I am left with no option but to legislate at Westminster to enable the Northern Ireland civil service to continue spending money to already agreed totals.

This would not be my budget … it would be one prepared by the Northern Ireland civil service on the basis of the previous Executive’s priorities.

Should an Executive be formed the budget could be amended or changed … and indeed if an Executive were formed with sufficient time left under expedited procedures to pass the budget bill in the Assembly … I would clearly wish to proceed instead with legislation to enable that to happen.

I’m clear … introducing and passing a budget in Westminster does not mean that we are introducing direct rule, any more than legislating for local taxes did earlier this year.

And needless to say, the UK Government will only take this step with the greatest reluctance … not because we want to but because we have to.

But it would be a dereliction of duty to see the public services on which people rely begin to disintegrate before us.

Of course I still hope we can avoid this step.

The UK Government … along with the Irish Government … is working tirelessly to bring about an agreement between the main Northern Ireland parties that would enable an Executive to be re-formed.

And we will stick at it, because . . . as President Clinton’s visit to Northern Ireland last month, nearly 20 years after his key role in the Belfast Agreement, prompted many of us to reflect . . . we have come so far.

But ultimately we have a responsibility to provide good governance in Northern Ireland … and we will not shirk our responsibilities.

The next area where we have a great deal more work to do is in strengthening the economy and building a stronger society.

Northern Ireland’s economy continues to grow.

Unemployment is still falling … while in the past twelve months employment has hit record levels. As I said earlier we continue to attract significant foreign direct investment.

And we have some world beating businesses.

But the economy is still far too dependent on government spending.

And we need to rebalance the economy in a measured and sensible way.

Levels of worklessness and welfare dependency are still far too high.

So we are looking at things like City Deals that have proven very successful in other parts of the UK.

And we remain committed to the devolution of Corporation Tax so that Northern Ireland is better able to compete for investment with its nearest neighbour, Ireland.

But for that to happen Northern Ireland needs a functioning devolved government.

Alongside strengthening the economy, we need to tackle deep seated social divisions.

In Northern Ireland today over 90 per cent of public housing is segregated along sectarian lines.

Over 90 per cent of children in Northern Ireland are educated separately.

It is regrettable that additional so-called peace walls … or interface barriers … have been erected since the signing of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and still divide communities today.

Indeed some independent estimates put the cost of division in Northern Ireland at around £1.5 billion.

So bringing people together … and building a stronger, more shared society has to be an urgent priority.

Most of the responsibility for tackling this rests in the devolved sphere.

And the previous Executive had made a start … for example with programmes under its strategy called Together: Building a United Community.

For our part the UK Government has provided significant financial support … for example in helping to fund schemes to promote greater shared housing and more shared and integrated education.

But clearly much more needs to be done.

It requires significant political will and drive if we are to overcome decades … some might say centuries … of division and build a stronger more united community.

And that needs to come primarily from local politicians working together for the good of the whole community. So there’s another reason why it’s so important to have a functioning Executive back up and running.

The community divisions that still exist in Northern Ireland can, on occasion, still fuel tensions and public disorder … though on a much reduced scale than in previous years.

And they can also be exploited by paramilitary and terrorist groups that continue to exist and operate in Northern Ireland.

The threat level from dissident republican terrorists remains severe in Northern Ireland… meaning that an attack is highly likely.

Even though they are relatively small in numbers, they retain lethal capability and intent.

The fact that you don’t hear more about them is primarily down to the superb efforts of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, our security services and An Garda Siochana.

And the levels of co-operation that currently exist between the PSNI and the Garda … and between the UK and Irish Governments … must be preserved, and where possible enhanced, following Brexit.

In addition to the continuing threat from terror too many communities in Northern Ireland are held in the grip of paramilitary groups … criminals who prey on society primarily to line their own pockets.

They engage in gangsterism and carry out brutal attacks … often by appointment … on people within their own community to exert fear and control.

Following the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement the Executive … working with and supported financially by the UK Government … devised a strategy for tackling paramilitary groups with the aim of putting them out of business for good.

There was never any justification for the existence of paramilitary and terrorist groups in Northern Ireland … and there is none today.

But if the strategy for tackling paramilitary activity is going to be at its most effective … and that will only be seen through results on the ground … then it needs to be led locally.

And that’s another reason why Northern Ireland needs a properly functioning Executive.

Finally, Northern Ireland needs a fully functioning Executive to ensure that its voice is fully heard as the UK leaves the EU.

As I have said before … we joined the Common Market in 1973 as one United Kingdom and we will leave the European Union in 2019 as one United Kingdom.

And as the Prime Minister has made clear … leaving the EU will mean that we leave both the single market and the customs union.

I find it difficult to imagine how Northern Ireland could somehow remain in … while the rest of the country leaves.

But as we have made equally clear we are determined to find bespoke solutions to Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances … not least as the only part of the UK to share a land border with an EU member state.

We need to deliver an outcome that works for all parts of the United Kingdom.

We fully recognise the extent to which the Northern Ireland economy, while an integral part of the UK economy, is also fully integrated with that of Ireland particularly in areas like the agri-food sector.

We fully recognise the flow of traffic across the border on a daily basis for people going about their business be it to work, study, shop or simply visit friends and relatives.

And we fully recognise those ties of family and shared history that exist between people on the island of Ireland as well as between Ireland and Great Britain.

All of this requires creative and imaginative thinking by the UK and Irish Governments along with negotiating partners in the EU. But I believe solutions can be found … and it is in that positive sense that the UK Government has approached the current phase of negotiations and we will continue to do so.

And the Northern Ireland and Ireland position paper published by the UK Government in August set out clearly and positively where we stand.

We want to ensure that the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement is fully protected … including the constitutional principles that underpin it, the political institutions it establishes and the citizens’ rights it guarantees.

We want to preserve the Common Travel Area … and, yes, ensure that we have as frictionless and seamless a border as possible between Northern Ireland and Ireland with no physical infrastructure at the border.

We want to protect the single electricity market that operates across the island of Ireland to ensure continuity of supply for the benefit of business and domestic consumers.

At the same time we need to ensure that nothing is done that undermines the integrity of the UK single market … Northern Ireland companies sold four times as much into Great Britain than to Ireland in 2015.

And of course no border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland or anything that fractures the internal market of the United Kingdom, which benefits Northern Ireland hugely.

Of course none of this was ever going to be easy.

But I believe that with a positive attitude on all sides it is achievable.

As both the Prime Minister and the Secretary for Exiting the EU, David Davis, have set out to the House of Commons in recent days, significant progress has been made in the negotiations so far.

Within the Northern Ireland-Ireland Dialogue, we have agreed that the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement should be protected in full, including its constitutional arrangements.

We have proposed that the UK and the EU seek to agree text for the Withdrawal Agreement that recognises the ongoing status of the Common Travel Area…and have already developed joint principles with the EU on this.

We have also mapped out areas of cooperation that function on a North-South basis to ensure this continues once the UK has left the EU.

And we are determined to press on so that we can move to the next phase of negotiations as we deliver on the democratic wishes of the people of the UK as set out in the June 2016 referendum.

During this speech I have deliberately set out some of the big challenges that face us in Northern Ireland. But I want to end on a positive note.

Nearly twenty years on from the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement Northern Ireland is immeasurably in a better place.

Huge progress has been made.

What have often looked like insurmountable problems have been overcome.

We’ve seen commitment, courage and above all leadership on all sides.

And we’ve seen enormous international goodwill and support … including from the EU.

But we can’t just rest on what has been achieved.

We need to tackle today’s challenges in order to build a better tomorrow.

For our part the UK Government … along with our partners in Ireland … are determined to do just that…

As we strive to build a stronger, more prosperous Northern Ireland for everyone. And a Northern Ireland that can look to the future with confidence and optimism.

Thank you.

James Brokenshire – 2017 Speech at Top 100 Companies

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, on 14 September 2017.

Thank you David [Elliott, Ulster Business Editor], and thank you for the kind invitation to speak here today. It is a great honour to be here and to join you in celebrating the very best of NI business.

I would like to thank A&L Goodbody, Ulster Business Magazine and Lanyon Communications for hosting and organising this fine event.

Events like these are a welcome reminder of the economic progress we have seen in Northern Ireland since the Belfast Agreement nearly two decades ago.

Some often query whether, when politics comes to the fore, business takes a back seat as a result.

But the transformation of Northern Ireland in the past two decades shows why it is imperative to keep both at the heart of the work we do.

To see the change, from a place which had struggled to attract investment and jobs against a backdrop of terrorism and instability, to one of the most popular locations in the UK outside of London for foreign direct investment, shows exactly why we see a stronger economy as a key priority for Northern Ireland.

And as Mark Thompson mentioned in his remarks, 2016 was a hugely successful year for the Top 100 – with record sales and a 16% increase in profits from world-beating businesses making strides at home and globally. I can only congratulate you all for that achievement.

The fundamentals of the UK economy as a whole are strong. We have grown continuously for more than four years, reduced the deficit and delivered a record number of jobs.

We are proud of this record but not complacent. We must restore productivity growth to deliver higher wages and living standards for people across the country. That is why we are committed to investing in infrastructure, technology and skills to deliver the best possible base for strong future growth.

This strength includes continued growth in Northern Ireland, which has secured 34 new Foreign Direct Investment projects in the last year alone, creating more than 1,600 new jobs. We now have more than 800 international companies located in the region and employing in excess of 75,000 people.

And overall the picture is one of solid growth, increasing output, falling unemployment, and job creation.

Indeed we saw yesterday that unemployment is now at 5.3%, the lowest since the great crash in 2008, while more than 10,000 jobs were created over the course of the year. And the last quarter saw the sharpest rise in business activity in 2017 so far.

It is wonderful to be able to celebrate such success – to recognise the strength and resilience of the economy in Northern Ireland. But building upon that success must be the priority for the year ahead. And as we look to do so, it is important that we acknowledge the key issues that we must face.

EU Exit

The first is EU Exit.

We might be leaving the EU but we are not turning our backs on our friends and partners in Europe.

As a Government our goal is to secure a deal that works for the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, as we leave the European Union.

This was reiterated in the Government’s Position Paper on Northern Ireland and Ireland, setting out in more detail how we might achieve our objectives.

This Position Paper expanded on the Government’s proposals for a future customs relationship with Europe. We proposed two options: a highly streamlined model and a new customs partnership. In our Northern Ireland/Ireland Paper we have set out the additional facilitations that the Government see as necessary to protect the open border and ensure as frictionless a movement of goods as possible.

Specifically, the Government has proposed that small and medium sized businesses should be exempt from all customs processes entirely. This imaginative and flexible solution to the free movement of goods would see some 80% of all Northern Ireland businesses free from any interaction with customs processes.

And for those businesses not falling into that category, the Government wants highly streamlined and flexible administrative arrangements to ensure no physical checks are required on goods crossing the land border.

Our second proposal is a new customs partnership with the EU, aligning our approach to the customs border in a way that removes the need for a UK-EU customs border.

One potential approach would involve the UK mirroring the EU’s requirements for imports from the rest of the world where their final destination is the EU.

These are bold and imaginative proposals to the issue of free flow of goods across the border with Ireland. And we would encourage everyone to get behind that debate as we look to develop the next stage of detail and an implementation plan.

But of course the open border is about more than goods, it is also fundamentally about people and communities. The Government is absolutely committed to ensuring the border remains open to allow for the normal everyday interactions between people on either side.

For its part, the UK wants to continue to protect the CTA and associated reciprocal bilateral arrangements. This means protecting the ability to move freely within the UK and between the UK and Ireland with no practical change from now, recognising the special importance of this to people in their daily lives, and the underpinning it provides for the Northern Ireland political process.

We also recognise that investors, businesses and citizens in both the UK and the EU, and beyond, need to be able to plan ahead. In order to avoid any cliff-edge as we move from our current relationship to our future partnership, people and businesses would benefit from an interim period, for the implementation of the arrangements, which allowed for a smooth and orderly transition.

The Government believes it would help both sides to minimise unnecessary disruption and provide certainty for businesses and individuals if we agree this principle early in the process.

The Government is keen to explore with the EU a model for an interim period which would ensure that businesses and people in the UK and the EU only have to adjust once to a new customs relationship.

So the UK Government has been clear that we will respect and recognise the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland and its relationship with Ireland as we leave the European Union.

We must avoid a return to a hard border, and trade and everyday movements across the land border must be protected as part of the UK-EU deal.

The Government will take account of these unique circumstances and the priority attached by all parts of the community in Northern Ireland to avoid a hard border and protect cross-border trade and cooperation.

Lack of an Executive

But the most immediate challenge is the lack of an Executive, and the imperative – for growth, prosperity and for the people of Northern Ireland – to see power-sharing return.

For nine months government has effectively been in the hands of civil servants, rather than politicians who are rightly accountable to the public for the decisions they make. This has meant there has been no political direction to tackle the fundamental challenges facing Northern Ireland – including the reform and transformation of critical public services.

So our overriding priority for the UK Government in Northern Ireland remains the restoration of devolved power-sharing government in Stormont. We believe in devolution. It is right that decisions over local services – like health, education, transport and economic development – are taken by local politicians in locally accountable political institutions.

This is why I am working intensively with the Northern Ireland parties and, in accordance with the well-established three-stranded approach, the Irish Government, to secure the reestablishment of inclusive, stable, devolved government in the interests of the entire community in Northern Ireland.

I have been clear with the parties that they must come together and reach agreement in the short window of time that remains.

If this does not happen within a short number of weeks, we risk greater political decision-making from Westminster – starting with provision for a 2017-18 Budget this autumn.

This is not what anyone wants and would profoundly be a step back not a step forwards. But in the continuing absence of devolution the UK Government retains ultimate responsibility for good governance and political stability in Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom – and we will not shirk from the necessary measures to deliver that.

If things don’t change we are on a glide path to greater and greater UK government intervention.

But I believe we can change course. This can be achieved with political leadership and with support of the people of Northern Ireland – including communities and businesses.

I ask everyone here tonight to do all you can to help secure what Northern Ireland wants and needs.

There is so much at stake. Risks, yes. But also so many opportunities, because I firmly believe in the huge unlocked potential there is right across Northern Ireland.

Opportunities to leverage the UK-wide Industrial Strategy to deliver stronger growth, and capitalise on new Sector Deals to support the industries of the future – like biotech and life sciences – where the UK, and Northern Ireland in particular, has the potential to lead the world.

To take forward with this Government a comprehensive and ambitious set of City Deals for Northern Ireland to prosper, and to put innovation at the heart of Northern Ireland’s growth.

To be at the heart of a stronger, fairer and more prosperous United Kingdom, and one that is more outward looking than ever before as we make trade deals around the world – with NI business able to realise their ambitions and make their mark on the world stage.

And to make use of the considerable freedoms available, getting the devolution of corporation tax back on track to enable Northern Ireland to cut its rates to attract investment and jobs.

In all of these ways – and more – I see a bright economic future for Northern Ireland.

And that is a future that the UK Government will support – through all the ways above, as well as through the range of funding streams there will be available, whether our £4.7bn Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, our £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund, and far more besides.

And that is what a restored Executive can do for Northern Ireland. It can promote an enterprise-driven economy, somewhere where young entrepreneurs want to invest and the younger generation see opportunities to forge their careers in Northern Ireland – a place where innovation, skills, opportunity and prosperity are at the forefront of the way ahead.

With a stable, power-sharing government in place, business can rely on the backdrop of stability that removes barriers to finance, to investment, and which boosts confidence to create jobs and opportunities.

And that is exactly why it must remain our absolute priority in the critical weeks ahead.

Impact on business/private sector

All the while, I want to reassure you that the UK Government will always uphold its responsibilities to the people and businesses of Northern Ireland.

I will continue to keep communications open with businesses right across Northern Ireland. Some of you may be aware of the work of my Business Advisory Group, but more broadly too, my door will always be open to hearing more from the business community.

For no matter what, I will remain a strong advocate for Northern Ireland and NI business within the Government and beyond.

Including on the Government’s ongoing work to support Bombardier in the ongoing trade case brought by Boeing.

Let me be very clear: it is a top priority for this Government to safeguard Bombardier’s operations and its highly skilled workers in Belfast.

This is obviously a commercial matter, but Ministers across Government have engaged swiftly and extensively with Boeing, as well as the US and Canadian governments on this case.

We want to encourage Boeing to drop what we see as an unjustified case, and to get round the table and seek negotiated settlement with Bombardier. And we would encourage all those with an interest, whether of a political view or none, to join us in pushing for the same outcome.

Working to restore devolved government

So as we approach our dinner, I want to finish by being clear of what we want to see in the weeks to come in the best interests of Northern Ireland.

Over the last few weeks, the DUP and Sinn Fein have been holding meetings together and this intensive dialogue is continuing.

These discussions have been constructive and I am hopeful that further progress will be made as they continue. The issues remain relatively small in number and are clearly defined. But difference remains.

We have also been bringing together the other parties eligible to join an Executive and have had positive engagement with them in line with our commitment to an inclusive process.

But ultimately we cannot force an agreement.

That has to come from the parties themselves.

And we – all of us in this room – want to see those parties come together to…

…make the important decisions facing Northern Ireland’s public services…

…to contribute to the important discussions about how the UK will leave the European Union alongside the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales…

…and to support continued economic growth in Northern Ireland: investing in infrastructure, taking its own decisions on corporation tax, and taking other actions to support businesses large and small…

To do this it’s vital that they continue to work together to find a solution to their differences.

And it is my belief that they are committed to doing so… in the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland.

I have very much welcomed the growing voice of businesses, trade unions, the voluntary sector and others in stressing the need for the return of devolved government – as we have seen for example in the media profiles by business leaders from across different sectors this week.

And tonight, I would encourage all of you here to continue to make it clear to the political parties just how important the restoration of devolved government is for business, for ordinary people and for Northern Ireland as a whole.

We all want to see the parties come together and form an Executive. They need to hear from you just how important it is for to you to see them working together for the good of Northern Ireland.

And deliver the bright positive future for NI we know we can achieve together.