John Hayes – 2016 Speech on Digital Security

John Hayes

Below is the text of the speech made by John Hayes, the Minister of State for Security, at the Policy Exchange in London on 25 February 2016.

The title of my speech this morning is taken from Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.

It is perhaps his best known, and most contentious, observation: “What is reasonable is real; and what is real is reasonable.”

The remark is contentious principally because some believe that Hegel was making a normative claim for what is actual: that what is real must be right.

But of course that is not the case.

Rather, Hegel, was arguing that ultimately philosophy must be a rational enterprise, concerned with understanding the world as it actually is.

What was true of Hegel’s philosophy then is equally true of public policy today, particularly in relation to the fundamental issue of security.

It is all too tempting to view the threat we face as abstract, as theoretical. To believe that we have always faced threats.

That the threats we now face are essentially the same as those in the past.

This is all too tempting because – as T.S. Eliot wrote in his four quartets – humankind cannot bear very much reality.

I want to speak this morning about security and keeping people safe.

The threat we face now is changing, ferocious and flexible.

That threat is evolving rapidly.

Responding to it is a testing challenge.

That requires us, now more than ever, to review, revise and rejuvenate what we do and how we do it.

And most of all what we need to do now and to do next.

The Investigatory Powers Bill, which we published in draft in November, is crucial to these efforts.

Fundamentally, our approach brings together work at home to build cohesive communities and root out extremism with cooperation and dialogue with nations worldwide.

Threat

Success requires realism.

The terrorist threat we face here in the UK is unprecedented and growing.

And that’s not only my view.

Andrew Parker, the Director-General of MI5, has said: “The threat we are facing today is on a scale and at a tempo that I have never seen before in my career.”

In the 12 months to September last year, our police and security services arrested 315 people for terrorism-related offences.

That’s an increase of a third on the previous year and from just 121 five years ago.

And we have stopped at least seven different attempts to attack the UK in the last 18 months alone.

There have been 16 attacks in Europe over the past two years, most of them inspired or directed by Daesh.

And the attacks in Paris in November 2015, in which 130 people died, showed what can happen when terrorists are successful.

The terrorist threat now is not confined to Europe, or even just to the West.

It is more sophisticated and more widely distributed.

It could be a marauding terrorist firearms attack, as we saw in Paris.

It might be an attack on transport, as we saw on the Russian MetroJet flight from Sharm El Sheikh or the attempted attack on the train travelling from Brussels to Paris.

It could be a co-ordinated attack on a tourist site, as we saw at Sousse in Tunisia, or more recently at Bamako in Mali.

Or it might be a knife attack, as we saw in Marseilles recently.

The diversity of the threat, as well as its volume, is a serious challenge to us here, and to our allies around the world.

The essential change in terrorism is the increasing adaptability of terrorists, and of Daesh in particular.

It uses new technology, new methods.

It is adaptable. And it revels in its own depravity.

It has murdered hundreds of thousands of men, women and children – the vast majority of them practicing Muslims, the very people it claims to speak for.

It operates in a way we have never seen before.

We have never seen this number, demographic or range of ages of people travelling to take part in conflict.

Daesh is responsible, directly or indirectly, for many of the attacks and attempted attacks that I have already mentioned.

And far from being isolated in Syria and Iraq, its influence is spreading to groups worldwide – in Libya, in West Africa, in Afghanistan and beyond.

But the other thing is that Daesh is not the only threat we face.

Al Qaeda and its affiliates continue to pose a very real and very present danger.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula took credit for the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in January last year, in which 12 people died.

It holds territory in ungoverned spaces in the Middle East.

The Al-Nusrah Front, its affiliate in Syria, has combined success on the battlefield with an effective online media campaign and a presence on the ground in Syria.

And AQ-M, its Africa-based affiliate, recently claimed responsibility for the attack on a Radisson hotel in Mali in November, in which 21 guests were killed.

JTAC, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre – experts who have access to the latest intelligence – assess that the threat to the UK is SEVERE, that means that an attack in the UK is highly likely.

And they don’t take that judgment lightly.

People should be alert, but not alarmed; watchful but absolutely sure of our resolve.

So the threat is growing.

More complex.

And more diverse.

It is for this reason that we should heed Hegel’s warning – to understand the world as it really is.

I know there is no complete solution to the problem I describe.

This is not a project.

You can’t ascribe a specific timescale to it.

These are unpalatable truths.

But if we are to succeed, we need to confront that reality.

Response

Which is what this Government has done.

Facing reality means disrupting terrorist attacks and those who help to support them.

And we have.

We have proscribed terrorists groups – 15, including 11 linked to Syria and Iraq.

We have revoked British citizenship from individuals.

Since May 2010, we have excluded over 100 hate preachers.

In 2014, we withdrew or refused a British Passport 24 times under the Royal Prerogative.

And, last year, we extended Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures, TPIMs, to include relocation powers to allow the police and Security Services to manage the risk from individuals we cannot prosecute or deport.

Facing reality means being prepared to respond to attacks in the national interest.

As part of the recent Strategic Defence and Security Review, the SDSR, we have done just that.

We will continue to invest in capabilities to protect ourselves against terrorist attack.

We will invest £1.9bn over the next five years in protecting the UK from cyber attack.

More than double our spending on aviation security around the world.

An additional 1,900 personnel for the security and intelligence agencies.

Facing reality means reviewing, in the light of the attacks in Paris last year, our response to a marauding firearms attack by terrorists.

Those attacks highlighted the challenges any country would face in managing multiple, concurrent incidents.

But since then, working with other nations, we have pressed for stronger protective security, crisis response and border management, to stop the movement of people and weapons, to increase information sharing, to improve controls on firearms and to enhance aviation security.

Investigatory Powers Bill

Facing reality also means ensuring that the police and security services have the legislation they need to keep us safe.

Powers that are necessary and proportionate.

Having passed the Counter Terrorism and Security Act last year, we published in November a draft Investigatory Powers Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny.

Communications and modern technology are at the heart of the threat we face, and so the heart of our response.

Facing reality means knowing that these days terrorists, paedophiles, serious fraudsters scheme in cyber space.

The web enables individuals the world over to communicate quickly, easily, often using encryption.

It works across borders and across jurisdictions, just as the extremists who use it do.

Difficult to detect and even more difficult to disrupt.

Of course its global nature makes regulation problematic.

Crucially, terrorists in Syria and Iraq can use the web to reach out using online communications to direct, enable and inspire individuals the world over to contemplate attempting, at least, murder and violence.

Communications data matters – that is the who, where, when and how of a communication but not its content.

It is a vital tool to investigate crime and protect the public.

It has been used by every major Security Service counter-terrorism investigation over the last year.

It is used in 95 per cent of serious and organised crime investigations handled by the CPS.

It might be used to find a missing person, to establish a link between a suspect and a victim.

It is used to investigate crime, to keep children safe, to check alibis and to tie a suspect to a crime scene.

When offences such as fraud are committed online, it is sometimes the only possible way of identifying the offenders.

It has been used in the investigation of many of the most serious and widely reported crimes against children, including the murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, as well as the Oxford and Rochdale child grooming cases.

Law enforcement capabilities are degrading due to rapid technological change and because more and more communications are taking place online.

So, while this is important for our counter-terrorism efforts, that is by no means the only reason it is important and it is by no means the only reason why we are bringing forward legislation.

Bernard Hogan-Howe, Metropolitan Police commissioner, has said that communications data is regularly used to tackle criminals whose activities affect the wider community, such as repeat burglars, robbers, drugs dealers. Put simply, the police need access to this information to keep up with the criminals who bring so much harm to victims and our society.

But it is important that we appreciate why this legislation is itself important – and in particular how far we have come in ensuring that we have a legal regime that serves the interests of both privacy and security.

We have provided more information than ever before about some of the most sensitive powers available to the security and intelligence agencies – including the use of bulk personal datasets and the acquisition of bulk communications data to thwart terrorist attacks.

The draft Bill puts these capabilities on a clear statutory footing and makes them subject to robust, world-leading safeguards.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee which looked into these matters in such very great detail – and I can see members of that committee in the audience here today – along with two other parliamentary committees who scrutinised the Bill, have made valuable recommendations about how the Bill could be improved and our proposals clarified. We are committed to ensuring the Bill receives maximum scrutiny.

We remain committed to having new legislation on the statute books by the end of the year – a result of existing legislation falling away on 31 December.

We will return to Parliament with a revised Bill.

The draft Bill goes further than the current oversight regime.

A double lock on ministerial authorisation of intercept warrant means that both judges and ministers will consider the evidence supporting warrants.

For trust is the golden thread running through the viability of the new legislation.

Which is why necessity and proportionality are the lodestars of the draft Bill.

Prevent

We cannot confront the reality of the threat we face without confronting the poisonous ideologies and extremist messages that underpin it.

As we have seen time and time again in cases of young people radicalised here in the UK, it is also more insidious than ever.

It is easy to assume the threat is elsewhere – is there – but in fact the threat is here and the threat is now.

Daesh’s propaganda combines extreme violence and extremist messages with modern technology, using social media to reach out to young and vulnerable over the whole world.

From their bedrooms they can access images of murder and brutality, messages of death and destruction.

The Police Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit is currently removing 100 pieces of Daesh or Syria-related content every day.

And we have seen the impact that such material can have time and time again.

To appreciate the impact of Daesh’s propaganda, take the case of a 14-year-old boy who, from his bedroom, plotted an attack on a parade in Melbourne.

That plot, developed over the internet, sought to behead police officers.

The child was recruited online by a known Daesh recruiter.

He himself had reached out in turn online to a 16-year-old girl, who was subsequently found to possess extremist literature, bomb-making instructions and violent imagery.

Had we not detected that young man’s plot, many would have been killed.

Cases such as this demonstrate Daesh’s insidious, sinister, seductive appeal; its ability to inspire, as well as to direct, attacks; and the extraordinary difficulty in detecting what they plan.

Because these two children were not battle-hardened foreign fighters; they were not individuals who had travelled to Syria; they were not career criminals.

They were young people, in their homes, using the internet – like my children, like so many of our children.

It is stories like this which make me so determined to counter Daesh and safeguard those at risk of being corrupted by it.

We cannot afford to ignore what lies behind radicalisation and terrorism.

We must identify, anticipate and counter the doctrine of our enemies and how it is proselytized.

Through our Prevent strategy, we have built a unique model of partnership between Government, civil society and industry.

It supports people who are vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. And it works with sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalisation.

Last year, we supported 130 community projects, reaching over 25,000 participants.

Over half of these were delivered in schools, aimed at increasing young people’s resilience to terrorist and extremist ideologies.

Since April 2015 we have engaged in Prevent with over 285 mosques, 200 community organisations, 100 faith organisations, 800 schools and colleges and 40 universities. The Prevent duty, of course, has cemented all of this.

Nurturing the common good in the national interest.

Much has also been made of Channel, our voluntary programme to support those at risk of radicalisation. Contrary to what some have alleged, this is, as I said, a voluntary programme.

And hundreds of people have been provided with support.

I can tell you today that the vast majority of those who choose to participate in Channel leave with no further concerns about their vulnerability of being drawn into terrorism.

Channel works.

Take the teenager reported to the police for considering travelling to Syria. She had a difficult family life – domestic violence; a broken home; isolated, few or no friends.

She had been subject to a serious assault. And perhaps unsurprisingly, she turned to the internet for religious guidance.

That so-called guidance led to her supporting Daesh and advocating hatred for non-believers.

Through Channel, however, she was able to rebuild her relationship with her mother, to address her religious concerns and build her self-esteem and self-confidence.

Let me be clear.

Prevent is about radicalisation. Prevent is about safeguarding.

The most significant of these threats is currently from Islamist terrorist organisations such as Daesh.

They are trying specifically to incite and recruit people of Muslim background, partly by distorting religion for their own ends.

Clearly, we need to respond to that.

We must protect those most at risk of radicalisation. But let me be equally clear – Prevent covers all forms of such activity, whatever its source.

This is about safeguarding; about protecting the common good.

Global response

I said earlier that the threats we faced are global.

A global threat necessitates a global response.

It is for that reason that we are playing a leading role in the global coalition of more than 60 countries committed to defeating Daesh.

The Coalition includes Iraq, partners in the Arab world, European nations and the United States.

We are working to defeat Daesh on all fronts – not just military, but cutting off its finances, sharing counter-terrorism expertise and working to defeat its poisonous narrative.

At the heart of our work is the need for a political solution in Syria that brings peace to the country and enables millions of refugees to return home.

We are working with the UN and international community to bring this about.

Daesh has a worldwide influence that reaches across states and reaches across borders.

So our response also needs to be global, not just in the UK, not just in Europe, not just in Syria and Iraq. In particular, Daesh has a footprint in Libya.

It is important that we continue to support efforts to establish a unified national government there.

It is only when one is established can begin the difficult work of establishing in turn effective, legitimate governance, restoring stability and tackling the threat posed by Daesh.

Defeating Daesh’s values

I spoke at the start about understanding the world as it really is.

And that, as I have said, means understanding the threat we face.

It means recognising the changing reality that makes the Investigatory Powers Bill so essential.

It means ensuring that we deal with the poisonous ideas that underpins Daesh’s appeal.

That is what drives all we do.

Not only does that mean keeping the UK safe, dealing with the severe threat.

It also means ensuring we are winning hearts and minds.

It means defeating Daesh’s purported values.

Daesh claims to offer clarity and certainty.

That we have little or nothing to offer.

If we are to counter that claim, to succeed, we must be realistic about the challenge we face, and in response have a positive vision of the pluralistic society we value.

Out of adversity comes an opportunity – for us, for the UK, to provide real leadership and to develop a common response to terrorism that crosses social, cultural and national boundaries.

Tackling the problem at source means working with communities, through our Prevent strategy, and speaking out against those who would divide us.

It means working with industry, including with major communications service providers, to ensure we all have the tools we need and that they are fulfilling their responsibilities.

It means working at home and abroad – in Europe and beyond – to help them respond robustly to the threat.

As I have said there are those who are set on destroying our values, on radicalising our young people, on killing indiscriminately across the globe.

Out of adversity comes opportunity – for us, for the UK, to provide real leadership, to grasp that our certainty must outpace our adversaries, our commitment must out match those who want to harm us.

Sure that our confidence that we will triumph outshines those whose dark dreams and deadly intent we face. Our clear purpose is to keep our people safe from harm.

In this struggle for the national interest – our determined cause:

We will be certain.

We are committed.

And I am confident.

Thank you so much.

John Hayes – 2004 Speech on Housing

Below is the text of the speech made by John Hayes at Toynbee Hall on 24th May 2004.

We plant trees for those born later – and we build houses for them, too. Well – that’s how it should be. In recent times we often build – like we shop – for immediate consumption, on an excessive scale and with little regard for the future. Today I want to set out a different vision. A new vision. Built on age-old principles.

First, I will propose that the idea of the home – and its protection – should become a defining theme for Conservatives as we seek to become Britain’s government again.

Second, I will expose the twin threats posed by Labour’s gargantuan housebuilding plans –to Britain’s precious countryside and to the prospect of urban renewal.

Third, I will describe the priorities that will guide our housing policy.

The home and Conservatism For me, the idea of the home is an emblem of Conservatism.

To talk about housing is one thing. To talk of the home lifts us to a different emotional plane. The difference between a house and a home is like the difference between calling a parent a mum or an acquaintance a friend.

The home stands at the bright centre of our lives. Home is where lives start and end. It is where we return at the end of each day and at the end of all of our days. But there are far too many people – in our otherwise wealthy society – who either do not have a home or else the kind of home they deserve.

Frustrated aspirations to home ownership, overcrowding and fuel poverty are painful symptoms of what’s wrong with Britain. So what do Conservatives have to say in response? What do we have to say about homelessness and broken or abusive homes? What do we have to say to the young couple fearing that they’ll never be able to afford a first home together?

The Conservative Party must have specific and credible answers to these questions. Today I will describe the policy direction which has emerged from our dialogue with the organisations represented here today and many others besides. But, for me and Caroline Spelman – who I’m delighted is here – providing better housing is not simply about the mechanics of policy. Policies must be built on sound foundations. Ours will stand on our commitment to:

· help more people to afford a home of their own…

· ensure everyone has a warm, safe home – built-to-last – those least advantaged just as much as those of good fortune…

· give local communities control over how they develop…

· protect and enhance our precious environment…

· and regenerate urban Britain – building high quality homes on brownfield sites.

These are our goals. Goals at the heart of authentic Conservatism. The idea of the home can define a Conservative agenda for the twenty-first century. Homes are a symbol of social justice – of private ownership – of security – of independence from intrusive government – of local identity – of embryonic community life…

The duty of Conservatives is to help people to find a home that supports their aspirations and anchors them for life’s journey. That duty involves protecting people from forces that make that journey more difficult. On the first day of his leadership Michael Howard spoke of this duty.

“No one should be over-powerful”, he said.

“Not trade unions. Not corporations. Not the government. Not the European Union.”

“Wherever we see bullying by the over-mighty, we will oppose it.”

And we oppose the over-mighty planning system. It’s bureaucratic, unresponsive and esoteric. It frustrates developers and bemuses council tax payers. It’s intrusive when a light touch is needed; yet ineffective when it comes to saving greenfields or ancient woodlands. Heavy-handed regulation limits the scope for innovative development but fails to stem urban sprawl.

Conservatives know that the energy of the market powers the drive to social renewal. So we support protection of tenants from bad landlords BUT without making those protections so onerous that private landlords are discouraged from letting their properties.

We believe that private developers should build long-lasting homes in character and scale with the built environment and local landscape BUT to do so we know they need an efficient planning system which assists their businesses to plan.

And we support enterprise BUT oppose Gordon Brown’s eagerness to scrap controls on out-of-town hypermarkets introduced by John Gummer for the last Conservative government. Because Mr Brown’s permissiveness threatens market towns and high streets as much as it threatens the countryside. Conservatives recognise that the market and government can be good servants of the common good but neither should become so powerful that they make it harder for families to lead free and responsible lives. The idea of the home and all that it represents helps Conservatives to rediscover the things that really matter.

Labour’s approach to housing

You can tell how much Labour value housing. John Prescott has been put in charge. The Deputy Prime Minister has now turned his attention to housing. Recently, he welcomed the Treasury-commissioned Barker report. The Deputy Prime Minister is arguing that Britain needs at least two million more houses. That’s more than enough houses to gobble up land equivalent to two cities the size of Birmingham. That means for every year – two towns the size of Middlesbrough will eat into England’s shires. Mile after mile of the world’s finest countryside – Britain’s green and pleasant land – would be bulldozed. There’s a greenfield site near every Briton that he proposes to build on and every community will be blighted by his plan to slacken planning regulations.

Mr Prescott’s other misplaced passion – Regional Authorities – will overrule the wishes of local people and impose sprawling developments on reluctant communities. Labour’s policy has mutated from ‘predict and provide’ to ‘dictate and provide’. But one-size-doesn’t-fit-all. We should encourage local diversity and allow local government to come up with local solutions.

I’m clearly not alone in finding Labour’s approach frightening. The House of Commons Committee that shadows John Prescott has warned that a major housebuilding programme is unlikely to reduce house prices. They know that it’s low interest rates, macroeconomic factors and the relative unattractiveness of alternative investment opportunities that drive up house prices. A supply-side solution to the problem of house price inflation will be slow and crude.

The same Committee warned of “excessive pressure on the water supply and other natural resources” and the significant costs of providing “the transport links, education and other facilities which new neighbourhoods require”.

Similarly, the Campaign to Protect Rural England has said: “any such massive increase in the rate of building of new homes would have unacceptable environmental impacts and would impose enormous infrastructure and service costs.”

Mr Prescott’s impending blitz of Britain’s countryside would be distressing enough if it was justified. But Labour’s approach is based on fundamentally flawed assumptions. Mr Prescott would lead you to think that there was a shortage of available dwellings. In fact: there were a million more dwellings than households in 2001. An excess that has grown by 300,000 dwellings since 1991.

Labour’s approach would lead you to conclude that population growth is outstripping expectations. In reality the 2001 census revealed that there are 900,000 fewer people in Britain than previous government estimates. Labour’s approach would lead some people to believe that housebuilders are desperate for more land. In fact: planning permission has already been granted for 250,000 homes.

Labour’s approach might lead you to think that they’d cracked the problem of empty houses. In fact: more than 700,000 homes stand empty in England tonight – and have done so for at least six months.

Labour’s approach would lead you to believe that new home construction had a big impact on house prices. In fact: data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders has shown that 90% of property transactions involve existing homes.

Myths and errors fuel Labour’s unacceptable approach to housing. Rural and urban communities are both being let down by Labour. Much of rural Britain would be concreted over – destroying vast swathes of the world’s finest countryside. And the opportunity to renew urban Britain – a task that includes housebuilding but also requires the introduction of school choice programmes and a zero tolerance of drugs and crime – would be missed yet again.

A wholly different approach is needed.

Conservative housing policy

The direction of Conservative housing policy has been inspired and informed by many meetings with developers, pressure groups, charities and housing experts. And I’m very glad that some of those people are here today. I’ve listened carefully and I’m certainly committed to a continuing dialogue. The priorities that will characterise a future Conservative government’s housing policy are:

· Aspiration.

· Social justice.

· Community.

· Harmony.

· And sustainable regeneration.

(1) Supporting the aspiration to own a home

Our first policy priority addresses the crisis of affordability. The Barker Report revealed that only 37% of new households in England could afford to buy a home – down from 46% fifteen years previously. The situation in London is especially serious. In 1993 a home in London cost approximately four times the annual income of those in the bottom quarter of the earnings scale. In 2002 eight times that group’s annual income was required to buy a home. No wonder 35% of our capital city’s first time buyers need help from parents or others to buy a home. The problem is so acute that the Government has been forced to introduce schemes to help the capital’s key workers find homes. But on-the-job houses are today’s tied cottages. They are a quick fix for the symptoms – not a cure for the cause of the affordability crisis. This is not the portable share of equity or assistance with mortgage eligibility that would help key workers to buy a home of their choice – where they want.

The affordability pressures on key workers and first-time buyers will only worsen if Labour gets the opportunity to load graduates with tuition fees debts. It will deteriorate still further if young people, living with their parents and slowly saving for a deposit, are hit by the Liberal Democrats’ plan for a local income tax.

Affordability is about people – not buildings.

Setting affordability targets ignores the plain fact that houses become unaffordable as the market changes. So, we must help people to afford the homes that are available. Promotion of shared equity will be at the heart of the Conservative Party’s help for first-time buyers, key workers and other people currently struggling to fulfil their aspiration to home ownership. First-time buyers who can’t afford to buy 100% of a house might be able to afford a half or two-thirds. Building on the policies introduced by the last Conservative government– a government lucky enough to have as housing ministers Sir George Young and David Curry – we will work with the lending industry, builders and local authorities to bring about an equity revolution enabling millions more people to get on the property ladder.

In my own area I know there is consideration of how a fresh approach to shared equity can help provide affordable local housing. Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy policy was one of the defining ideas of her first government. It enabled millions of people to own their own homes.

But now we must go further. I want people to have the opportunity not just to buy the place they occupy but to buy a home of their choice. This opportunity – rooted in the concept introduced by the last Conservative government but never enthusiastically endorsed by Labour – will mean looking at how we can promote and extend transferable discounts to help tenants buy a home in the marketplace. By achieving a better pull-through from social housing this should ease pressure on the public purse.

Conservatives also want to extend the right-to-buy to housing association tenants and we will consult housing associations and tenant representatives on how this policy can be implemented.

Our aim is to create a more fluid social housing sector. One that increases the sector’s capacity to help those people desperate for a home because it also helps others to move from social housing to market housing.

(2) Social justice: all Britons to have warm, safe homes – built-to-last

The policies I’ve just outlined on affordability will most help people on lower incomes.

But the Conservative commitment to ensure more people – whatever their income – live in warm, safe homes doesn’t end there. The scale of the empty homes crisis is a scandal when the number of homeless people has rocketed under Labour. Priority homelessness has risen from 102,650 in 1997-98 to 129,320 in 2002-03. These aren’t just damning statistics. Homelessness blights futures and costs lives. Homeless children are more likely to suffer ill health. Homeless adults are more likely to succumb to addiction. Roughsleepers are thirty-five times more likely to commit suicide than you and I. The Government has moved 4,000 families out of bed and breakfast to meet a pledge. But as Barnado’s say 9,000 families in B&B aren’t covered by it.

Conservatives believe that families placed in temporary accommodation by social services – who say the Government don’t count – need help, too. We should redefine suitable accommodation and aim at a new measure of what is appropriate. I seek the advice of Shelter, Crisis, Barnado’s and others on achieving this.

We will also take action to correct the mismatch between people and the properties they want and need. Many people – who as they get older – have more special needs but are living in unadapted, large houses whilst large, growing families are living in overcrowded accommodation. We must enable those who want to downsize to do so, by reviewing the availability of accessible, sheltered and extra-care housing. And by working with the care homes sector rather than against them – as the Government seems to do.

Getting a better housing match could also helped by the provision of better information. I want to see local authorities maintaining an ‘accessible homes register’. Such a register would assist disabled and elderly people in their search for suitable housing and potentially save local authorities a fortune because of the reduction in unnecessary adaptation and readaptation of houses. Even so, much of the housing stock is unsuitable for people with disabilities. With a 300,000 shortfall in wheelchair-accessible homes, urgent action is needed.

In England alone there are over 700,000 homes that have been empty for at least six months. Another 100,000 are estimated to be empty in Scotland and Wales. Many more properties – that fall just outside the definitions set by the Empty Homes Agency – are empty, unused and deteriorating. At last – after continuous pressure from Conservatives and others – the Government has reacted by offering an amendment to its Housing Bill.

But, as usual, they’ve missed the point.

A fifth of these empty properties are owned by the public sector! Dilatory local authorities must be obliged to let homes quickly. In the private sector incentives are normally preferable to penalties. The challenge is to encourage homeowners to make vacant properties available for rent. We need to look again at legal, administrative and tax incentives and disincentives of bringing these homes into use. Before Labour destroys more of Britain’s countryside it would seem sensible to fill these empty homes – over 300,000 of which are in London, the South-East, the South-West and the Eastern region.

There are particular housing problems in rural Britain. The exception site policy has provided important opportunities for incremental development in rural towns and villages, but the Government is unenthusiastic about it. Not only is there a case for its maintenance, but also one for extending the opportunity for developers and local authorities to cross-subsidise affordable housing, through the construction of market houses in rural areas.

We also propose to look again at incentives to the use adapted redundant farm buildings for housing. But it’s no good building rural homes to suck in second homeowners and buy-to-letters. The allocation of affordable housing should prioritise local people: those with roots, family or a job in the countryside.

Urban areas that have been gentrified suffer, too, and we will look at how this can be addressed. I’m personally interested in ideas put forward by Gary Streeter MP for a new system of housing tenure – called ‘local hold’. Homes that can only be bought by people with long-standing, local connections.

Social renewal means helping those in most need. 380,000 households do not claim the housing benefit to which they’re entitled. Those households are being failed by an over complex system. David Willetts MP, the Conservative spokesman on welfare issues, is already committed to find remedies to this failure.

(3) Community – giving local communities control over how they develop

My third policy theme is the need to give communities control over how they develop. Lawyers have said that the Government’s planning bill will keep their profession employed for years. Rather than undertaking necessary reform of planning Labour’s bill will throw the whole system into a period of massive upheaval. It’s a bill built on irreconcilable objectives. The first, purportedly, to make the planning system more transparent and effective. The second, unforgivably, to transfer more power to unaccountable regions. A more remote system can never be better at recognising local needs and responding to communal sensitivities.

We need more user-friendly, efficient planning. There will be no ‘dictate-and-provide’ under the Conservatives. We will trust local communities; reduce government dictats; counter the undercapacity in the planning system – and give developers a fair deal by setting tougher statutory planning timetables. Conservatives understand that real communities evolve. They’re not designed by economists and imposed by Whitehall. Local people – not Mr Prescott – should decide what kind of houses they want and where they should be built.

In its rush to build more and more houses Labour is stripping local authorities of strategic planning powers and giving them to regional planning bodies that cannot be as sensitive to the needs and traditions of local communities. The Leader of Kent County Council, Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, has rightly warned that: “Local areas are in danger of losing their local identity to the man in Whitehall. Local people are in danger of losing their local voice and ultimately their countryside”.

The Barker report calls for an even greater erosion of local democracy. New regional planning executives would deliver housebuilding goals that would be “independent from local government”.

Yet, ironically, the Government’s unwillingness to provide adequate infrastructure is inhibiting development. Kent alone has an allocated land bank of 41,000 acres – largely undeveloped – because of a lack of infrastructure.

The transfer of power from local people to remote regional bureaucracies is supported by the Liberal Democrats – but will be reversed by the Conservatives.

(4) Harmony – the protection and enhancement of our precious environment

Housing isn’t just about where we live but how we live and who we are. Housing policy and planning should give everyone the opportunity to live in a safe, warm, well-designed home. Our aim must also be to mix generations, help families to stay together and build houses that add to the landscape and locale. Everything built should add aesthetically to what is already there. This vision must inspire all development. Social housing should never be ugly; it should never be bad housing.

For too long the most disadvantaged of our countrymen have endured indecent homes. Good local authorities are already working to ‘decent homes plus’ because standards set by the Government aren’t good enough. Shelter tell me that 500,000 households are officially overcrowded. An estimated three million live in fuel poverty. This just isn’t acceptable.

I congratulate South Holland District Council who are building village council homes to a standard set higher than the private sector equivalent. They are showing that the design and quality standards that win awards must be the standard for all. Every local authority should develop supplementary planning guidance through local design guides and specific site appraisals – as the best already do.

I think of the ambitions of the Victorians and the way those ambitions were reflected in the way they built. From public lavatories to public libraries the Victorians built to last Every building – a statement of local pride.

We must raise our sights today and build warm, secure homes that people are proud to live in and others pleased to gaze at. The Prince of Wales has also modeled a very special vision of community in Poundbury. Tenants live next door to owner-occupiers. Workshops and offices are close to the homes of the people who work in them. All of the building materials used complement the local environment.

All over Britain market and social housing should harmoniously meet environmental objectives. Britain’s housing industry is already building concept homes that recycle ‘grey-water’ and harness bio and solar power. Our age should match the ambition of the Victorian age with a commitment to environmentally sustainable housing.

(5) Sustainable regeneration – high quality homes for urban Britain

Brownfield land is a stream and not a reservoir. Brownfield development will be a central component of Conservative housing policy. Because, as we know, as land use changes development opportunities emerge. A housing policy that is seamlessly connected to a vision of urban renaissance so that, once again, our cities become places where families want to live and have their children schooled. Urban development has an unhappy post-war record in Britain. There has been an inhuman concentration on purely utilitarian objectives. Britain’s post-war cities, towns and villages have often been disfigured. Local identity corroded by an aesthetic orthodoxy which has given us buildings out-of-keeping in scale, design and materials with their surroundings. Time and again hastily-built, thoughtlessly-designed houses are demolished ahead of time at significant cost to the taxpayer. The planning system has routinely torn communities apart.

Fortunately there are signs of better practice in regeneration today. Where regeneration projects are owned by local people they are much more likely to be sustainable. At Perry Common in Birmingham, local people – local champions – have modeled a kind of regeneration that meets local needs and is in harmony with community wishes. I know that Wimpey, Redrow and Bovis all have particular developments in different parts of Britain that illustrate what the best can be like.

Smaller builders also often excel. I was proud to be a guest at the Federation of Master Builders awards lunch where the outstanding success of projects across Britain was recognised.

The planning system – and government guidance that supports it – must enable best practice to become contagious. Such high quality housing depends upon a high quality construction industry and I welcome Kate Barker’s emphasis on increasing take-up of building industry apprenticeships. The challenge for government is to give builders the chance to excel – the challenge for builders is to rise to the task. Too often local authorities, Government departments and quangoes hold on to land that could be developed.

We will review the planning, regulation and tax treatment of contaminated land with a view to making it safe and then developing more of it. In contrast, anxious to meet its brownfield development targets the government has crammed high density housing into suburban back gardens. More than half of the ‘brownfield land’ which the Government claim has been previously developed is people’s backyards, gardens and the like.

Labour is doing nothing to prevent ‘town-cramming’. Nor are they stemming urban sprawl. The inner green belt is being built over. The percentage of greenbelt land developed has doubled under Labour. 91% of Mr Prescott’s much-trumpeted new greenbelt land is actually in a handful of remote parts of northern Britain – faraway from the development pressures of southern England. Mr Prescott’s greenbelt is clearly elastic.

The Conservative ‘brownfield first policy’ will be heralded by the drawing up of a ‘Blacklist of Blight’. The people of Portsmouth recently saw the beginning of the demolition of the long and much-loathed Tricorn Centre. Other great British cities have been blighted by buildings that shout too much and insult their neighbours.

Over the next twelve months I’m going to tour Britain and put together this ‘Blacklist of Blight’. In some cases an infamously ugly building will be blacklisted. In other cases a derelict dump spot – a crumbling and disused factory or the site of a demolished warehouse- will be added to my list of Blight.

Some of this land will be suitable for new housing. Sometimes for greening over. Once fully evaluated by the next Conservative government all blacklisted buildings and sites will become priority candidates for a mixed provision of high-quality housing and community services.

Building houses on brownfield sites by redesignating former commercial and industrial land will be a priority for that government. There is a great opportunity for Britain’s property developers to use their world class skills to rejuvenate urban Britain.

Conservatives are also ready to reflect on some of the factors driving the scale and volatility of demand for housing. Volatile demand makes it particularly difficult for developers to invest with confidence. So can this volatility be ended?

Stabilising the demand for housing raises controversial issues in the same way as increasing its supply… They’re just different controversies.

The growth of the buy-to-let and second home markets – partly a result of the relative unattractiveness of alternative investment vehicles – hardly helped by Labour’s mishandling of the pensions industry – is one area of concern.

Family breakdown is another. I believe that much more could be done to help couples to fulfil their aspirations to start a family home and to stay together once children have arrived.

Conclusion

Owning a home is the number one financial objective of most working families. Families that are being let down by Labour. During the horror of World War I soldiers dreamt of ‘home fires burning’ – and then Lloyd George promised ‘homes fit for heroes’. Now, as then, if housing policy is right – many of society’s other goals become easier to achieve.

A child learns more quickly if he or she isn’t moving from one temporary form of accommodation to another. A warm home improves the welfare of children and older people, in particular. Thoughtfully-designed housing estates prevent crime. Where housing tenure and size of dwelling is mixed different generations are more likely to look after one another.

Borrowing – prudently secured on a home – can support small business start-ups. It is in the interests of good, holistic public policy that we enter a virtuous circle of good housing feeding better health, education and welfare and these, in turn, supporting a good housing policy.

A focus on the home will also help Conservatives to reconnect with the British people. Helping everyone to have a good home reinforces traditional Conservative strengths like our commitment to property ownership and independence from government.

But the principles and policies I’ve also outlined point to equally deep to sometimes neglected Conservative beliefs. The emphasis on protecting the countryside and ending urban blight renews our party’s aesthetic and conservationist character. The emphasis on tackling homelessness and the affordability crisis is in tune with the Conservatism of Disraeli and Shaftesbury. Conservatives know that we are all diminished when some of us are diminished. And Conservative housing policy requires new vision. New vision. Age-old principles. A journey to deep-rooted Conservatism. A journey home.