Oliver Letwin – 2019 Speech on Brexit and Parliament

Oliver Letwin

Below is the text of the speech made by Oliver Letwin, the Conservative MP for West Dorset, in the House of Commons on 12 June 2019.

I am delighted to follow the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir Vince Cable). Much that needed to be said has already been said, so I shall not tediously repeat it. I want to make two points that I do not think have been sufficiently brought out so far in the debate and that might influence hon. Members who are still undecided about how to vote in a few minutes’ time.

First, almost everyone who has spoken has agreed that it would be wrong for the UK to leave the EU without a deal, without Parliament having the chance for a decisive vote. We have no way of telling in advance how that vote would go, or whether Parliament would have an alternative. It has rightly been pointed out that without an alternative we could not prevent no deal from occurring, and it also is questionable whether there would be a majority for any alternative. However, almost everyone has agreed that we need to leave open the option for Parliament to make its mind up in such a decisive vote.

It has been pointed out repeatedly that one possible means of preventing such a vote is a prorogation. I am indeed concerned about that, but I accept that we might be in luck and have a Prime Minister who does not seek to use that route. However, I want to draw hon. Members’ attention to a point that has not come out so far, which is that prorogation is not by any means the only way in which an incoming Prime Minister who was determined ​to leave with or without a deal—as many have put it—could avoid having a decisive vote. They would not need to go to the lengths of prorogation; in fact, they would not need to do anything. If they introduced nothing to the House of Commons to give us an opportunity for such a vote, the House would not, in the absence of this motion and what follows it, have any such opportunity.

Sir William Cash

My right hon. Friend has just referred to this motion “and what follows it”. This is a phantom motion about a phantom Bill. Will he illustrate exactly what we are meant to be talking about, as he did before, because a few months ago there were five Bills—we ended up with a No. 5 Bill? Will he please tell us what specific wording he would import into this motion if it were to be carried to the next stage?

Sir Oliver Letwin

My hon. Friend will not need to wait very long. If, but only if, this motion is passed today, it will be proper for those who put it forward to publish a sixth Bill, which it will be the job of the House to inspect and on which the House will take a view. It could be that the Bill will be defeated, but that will be a question for the democracy of our Parliament.

Sir William Cash rose—

Sir Oliver Letwin

I will not give way. I am sorry.

The point I am trying to make is that it is not necessary to prorogue to prevent a vote. The incoming Prime Minister would simply need to avoid taking any action. In those circumstances, we would leave on 31 October, and only after that would we need emergency legislation to catch up with the fact that we had left—

Sir William Cash rose—

Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind) rose—

Sir Oliver Letwin

I will not give way. I am terribly sorry, but I promised the Speaker that I would be quick and I am going to be quick.

We would then all be forced to vote for that emergency legislation because we could not possibly leave the country exposed to the fact that it had left without a deal and without due legislative preparation. So it is perfectly possible for an incoming Prime Minister to avoid any decisive vote unless we force one, and that is the purpose of reserving the day.

My second point relates to that, and again I do not think it has fully come out in the debate so far. My right hon. Friend the Brexit Secretary has said that there is no reason to act now because there is no emergency—we are not facing immediate withdrawal without a deal, as we were when the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) and I put forward measures to prevent that and to ensure that we sought an extension—and of course he is right: we have until 31 October. That sounds like a long way away, but in parliamentary terms it is not. If we do not do these things now and on 25 June, and in the House of Lords thereafter, and if we do not have in place a process that leads to forcing a decisive vote in this House in early September on whatever the new Prime Minister puts forward, there will be no legislative time to do this, because the House traditionally sits for only two weeks in September and a couple of weeks in October.​

That is well known to incoming Prime Ministers, and all the candidates are filled with sagacity and understanding of Parliament, so they will know perfectly well that they only have to occupy four weeks with doing nothing and we will be out. So, although it is not a fast-burning fuse, it is a bomb, and the fuse is already burning. If we do not put the fuse out now, we will not be able to disassemble the bomb in September or October.

Sir William Cash

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Sir Oliver Letwin

I am terribly sorry, but I will not.

That is why it is wrong to say that this proposal is premature. It may be right or wrong to vote for this motion this evening, but it is the only time we are ever going to get, and I hope that my hon. Friends and Opposition Members who are wavering about whether to support it recognise that they will have to look back if they do not support it now. If we fail, as we may well do this afternoon, they will have to look back on that as the direct cause of, in all likelihood, our leaving on 31 October without a deal. It is because I do not wish to have that on my conscience that I have taken the uncomfortable step of signing a motion that has at the head of it the name of the Leader of the Opposition, whose party I do not follow and with whose policies I generally profoundly and radically disagree. However, this is an issue so important that it transcends party politics, and I owe it to my fellow countrymen to ensure that we do not descend into a no-deal exit without Parliament having had a decisive vote.

Oliver Letwin – 2019 Speech on Brexit

Oliver Letwin

Below is the text of the speech made by Sir Oliver Letwin, the Conservative MP for West Dorset, in the House of Commons on 29 January 2019.

Unlike the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden), I am a very easy man to please. I voted for the Prime Minister’s first deal, I shall vote for whatever she brings back and I am going to vote for the Brady amendment. I am past caring what deal we have, I will vote for it to get a smooth exit.

The fact is that tonight we are faced with a choice of huge significance for our country, but it is not about the deal we do or do not get eventually, which I suspect in ​the long run will have to be done through some kind of consensus we have not yet found in this House. We are not really voting about that tonight.

The 29th of March is not an abstract fact, it is going to happen. There is going to be a 29 March, which is a real day, and what we are really voting about tonight is the question whether, in the absence of this House taking action, we will leave the EU without a deal—in fact, in the absence of the House taking action tonight rather than two weeks from now, because I do not believe that vote is really going to happen. I am perfectly aware that some very old friends of mine, whose integrity and passion I respect and admire, believe that leaving without a deal is a perfectly tolerable outcome, or even a good outcome, for this country. I respect that opinion, but I do not share it.

I am also aware that many people think the Conservative party will suffer if it is seen in any way to do anything that delays the exit date. I accept that there is some suffering, and I have experienced some of it in my constituency. I have experienced some of it through the tirades of those who send me emails and the like. I accept that.

What my hon. Friends ignore is what will happen, first, to this country, which should be our first preoccupation, and, secondly, to our party if we leave on 29 March, taking the risks involved in not having a deal, and it goes wrong. Incidentally, I entirely accept that it might be perfectly all right, but it might not. If it is not, it will be Conservative Members and our Government—it will not be Opposition Members, some unseen force or the EU—to whom those difficulties will be attributed by the population of our country. When the people elect a Government, they expect that Government to look after them and not to impose risks and difficulties.

If those risks materialise, our party will not be forgiven for many years to come. It will be the first time that we have consciously taken a risk on behalf of our nation, and terrible things will happen to real people in our nation because of that risk, and we will not be able to argue that it was someone else’s fault. I beg those Conservative Members who are still in doubt—I know there are many who are not—to consider that issue when we go into the Lobbies tonight.

Finally, I will say one word on the question whether amendment (b) and the Bill proposed by the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) and my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) is some kind of constitutional outrage. The Father of the House spoke about it, as did my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), and I will add a word.

It is a fine thing to debate constitutional process but, if one is going to do so, it is important to read the books. It is important to know what our constitution is. There is one pre-eminent authority on the law of our constitution, and the one thing that A. V. Dicey makes clearer than anything else in his very large book is that the House of Commons has undisputed control of its own procedures. The Standing Orders of the House of Commons, which Bagehot tells us are the nearest thing in this terrible constitutional melee to a constitution in our country, are under the control of this House. There is ​nothing improper, wrong or even unusual about changing Standing Orders by a majority of this House of Commons. Until 1906, the Government did not have control of the Order Paper. It was invented for a particular reason that the Government should have that control, but there is no need for them to have it in future.

Oliver Letwin – 2006 Speech at the Policy Exchange

Oliver Letwin

Below is the text of the speech made by Oliver Letwin at the Policy Exchange on 16 March 2006.

“I want to speak today about where Conservative policy comes from and about where it is going.

But, before I do that, I want to begin by saying how refreshing it is to find myself here, making this speech.

Policy Exchange was founded by my friends and colleagues, Francis Maude, Archie Norman, and Michael Gove at a time when the Conservative Party’s fortunes were at a low ebb. Today, from those slight foundations, under the brilliant guidance of Nicholas Boles, it has become one of the seminal influences on political debate in Britain. And — a particular pleasure to me — it is now chaired by my best man, Charles Moore.

To say that I feel at home here would be an understatement.

But it would also be an understatement to say that circumstances have somewhat changed since the foundation of Policy Exchange.

The dark days of the Conservative Party are past.

The sunlit uplands now beckon.

We know that reaching them and ascending them will involve a long route-march followed by a steep climb.

But we can at least see them clearly before us. And we now possess two items that every mountaineer requires: a compass and a map..

My aim today is to describe the direction indicated by the compass and the route shown by the map.

Let me start with the compass-bearing.

In what direction does it point?

It points towards a government that supports society more and dominates society less.

I hope this does not surprise you. It ought not to do so. The desire to see the state supporting society rather than dominating society, is the enduring characteristic of conservative thinking.

That is the deep instinct from which all our policy will spring.

We have expressed it in two slogans, “trusting people” and “sharing responsibility”.

These slogans are, for us, central.

The conviction that government should trust people more and dominate them less springs from the view that our society is more complicated and subtle than is dreamt of in the philosophies of Whitehall departments, agencies and inspectorates.

We believe that the people best equipped to organise anything are typically those who are involved in it.

We think this is true of families, schools, hospitals, businesses, villages, towns and cities.

But this doesn’t mean that we think government should wash its hands of all these things. To have a strong sense of the limitations of government is not to lack aspirations for government.

When we say that we believe in shared responsibility, we mean that we acknowledge the responsibility for government to support society — to establish a stable framework of expectation that enables all our people, through their various social relations, to make a civilized life for themselves.

Our vision, in short, is of a government that opens opportunity rather than of a government that directs society.

Before I go any further, I want to pause, to reflect on how that centre-right view differs from the view currently espoused by the centre-left and on how it marks out Modern, Compassionate Conservatism.

The difference between our view and the centre-left view lies in the fact that, for the centre-left, the default position is direction by the state.

The rhetoric of the centre-left does not always disclose this default postion. Indeed, in the hands of the most Blairite proponents of New Labour, the rhetoric frequently tends in the opposite direction. The intelligent Mr Miliband, for example, talks glowingly of ‘double-devolution’. By this, he apparently means devolving power to local authorities and then devolving it further to the entities governed by local authorities, including social enterprises. So far, so excellent.

But I fear we shall find that, in practice, this alleged “double-devolution” results in centralisation — with the government constraining the bodies to whom power is ostensibly devolved with a welter of centrally imposed targets, performance monitoring, inspections, specific grants and the like.

Why do I say this? Because the trend of the present Government’s actions, as opposed to its rhetoric, has been to seek centralist and directive solutions whenever a specific, centrally determined goal is not being achieved at high speed. Speak to professionals in our schools, hospitals and police forces, and you will find them echoing that view. Speak to the social enterprises and voluntary bodies, and you will hear endless tales of the lengths to which they have to go to fit their actual projects into the highly targeted and ever-changing initiatives and schemes devised by Whitehall.

Actions, as they say, speak louder than words — and the only plausible conclusion when one looks at the actions rather than the words is that the centre-left instinct to solve social problems through central government direction is thoroughly intact.

This willingness of the centre-left to engage in central direction is linked in an interesting way with their desire for short-term results.

If your main concern is with the long-term sustainability of arrangements and changes, then you want them to run with the grain. You want them to emerge, so far as possible, from choices and decisions made voluntarily by participants in civil society — because choices made that way are more likely to last.

But if you are impatient, if what you want is rapid results, then you are far more likely to get what you want by imposing it through central authority. Of course, if you do things that way, you pay the penalty that, when central authority alters its focus or removes its interest, there is likely to be a reversion. But by then perhaps people — or the media — will have moved on, and in the meanwhile the coup of the initial, fast result has been obtained.

And that, I fear, is pretty much a thumbnail sketch of much of the recent modus operandi of the centre-left in Britain. Centrally imposed measure, causing a media stir in the short term, followed by unexpected (but actually predictable) failure to achieve sustainable change in the long-term.

So there is a clear distinction between our long-term, centre-right approach of trusting people more and dominating them less, and the yearning of the centre-left for short-term results, with their consequent readiness to default to central direction whenever those results are not immediately forthcoming.

But our approach is also, distinctively, a modern and compassionate approach.

Its modernity lies in a new agenda which addresses the great challenges of our time. I shall return to that agenda in a moment.

What marks our approach as compassionate is the centrality of our concern with social justice.

We want today’s modern, compassionate Conservative Party to be the party that offers a way back in for the unemployed, the homeless, the disabled, the refugee, the orphan, the drug-addict, for those who have been kept out and for those who have been shut out, for those who have lost out and for those who have dropped out, for all the victims of state failure.

In the recent past, despite various efforts on our part to rectify the perception, too many people have imagined that we were somehow a Party focussing solely or mainly on a quite different set of people — those who can look after themselves, or the rich.

Of course, we wish there to be in Britain opportunities for all people of every kind.

But the focus of modern compassionate conservatism is not on those who can look after themselves. It is on those who are most in need. Our intention, in using government to support society, is that society should thereby be enabled to support the least advantaged.

So, on the one side, we have the centre-left, defaulting to short-term, centralist, statist solutions. And, on the other side, we have a Modern, Compassionate Conservative Party — a Party of the centre-right, which sees its task as using government to support society, in order that society can sustainably provide opportunity for those most in need of it.

That is where the modern, compassionate conservative policy agenda comes from.

The next question is: where is it going?

And the first answer is: towards a coherent policy programme.

This may sound like an obvious statement.

Who wouldn’t want a policy programme?

Who would want an incoherent policy programme?

But I should bring to your attention that, if the desire is obvious, the fulfilment of the desire is anything but obvious.

I do not believe that the Government can claim, at this stage in its term of office, to have anything recognisable as a coherent policy programme. If you ask how its policy on housing coheres with its policy on carbon-emissions, or how its policy on localisation ties in with its police amalgamations, or how its fiscal policy ties in with its policy on competitiveness and productivity, you will not find it easy to give convincing answers.

I will pass over, in respectful silence, the question of the coherence of Liberal-Democrat policy.

But I fully recognise that we, too, over recent years, have found it dauntingly difficult to establish a coherent policy programme.

Part of the reason for this is that the world is complicated.

It is fairly easy to stipulate an array of desirable policy outcomes. But — because the world is a complicated place — it is genuinely difficult to find means of satisfying all of the desires simultaneously.

A serious policy programme therefore has to rescue coherence out of the real-world tensions, by establishing how the greatest possible proportion of any given desired outcome can be achieved without sacrificing too much of the other desired outcomes.

This requires imagination, foresight and hard work. It cannot be achieved in a rush.

A Party in opposition, in the early stages of a Parliament, has the time to do it properly.

But, to do it properly, one has to find the right way of asking the right people the right questions. And that is exactly the process in which we are now engaged.

Let me start with the questions.

First of all, they don’t come in neat boxes — certainly not the neat boxes gift-wrapped by Whitehall departments.

So we have not asked our Quality of Life Policy Group to think about our transport policy, or our energy policy, or our housing and planning policy, or our climate change policy, or our wider environmental policy. We have instead asked them to think about all these things together — because they are all connected with one another.

And then we’ve invited our Economic Competitiveness Group to look at these same things (along with some other items) but asking a different question — not how they affect our quality of life, but how they affect our competitiveness.

Two policy groups, each asking the same questions? Yes — and probably getting different answers.

Why? Because the world is a complicated place, and because both quality of life and economic competitiveness count, and because we know that it is only by resolving the tensions that arise when we consider the same areas of policy from both angles that we can develop a policy programme that is coherent and built to last.

And of course the questions we have asked our policy groups to address — the angles from which we have asked them to look at the complicated world — are not arbitrary. We have asked them to consider what we think are the most difficult and important questions facing Britain today — How do we improve our quality of life and do our bit to protect our planet? How do we become more economically competitive? How do we do more to relieve global poverty in the face of globalisation? How do we improve our public services? How do we strengthen national and international security and increase community cohesion? How do we bring social justice to a Britain in which so many of our fellow-citizens are trapped in multiple deprivation?

I am not suggesting that these are the only questions to be asked. Some others — very important in themselves — will need to be considered, such as the measures required to strengthen our democracy, which Ken Clarke and his team are looking at in a separate task force.

But I do say that any policy programme which can answer those questions convincingly will be a programme worthy of a government for this country.

Such a policy programme is exactly what we need to build out of the work of the policy groups. And when we come to that great architectural project, we shall know that the bricks out of which we are fashioning the building have been constructed with the aid of experts — because the people we have asked to work with us in these groups are real experts.

And the strength of the groups lies not just in the experts within them, but also in the vast range of understanding and opinion upon which they will draw. It lies in the research they will commission, the evidence they will hear, the ideas and proposals they will receive from far and wide in what is undoubtedly the most transparent policy-making process yet developed by a major political party in Britain.

So I think we can say that we have found a way of asking the right people the right questions.

But, of course, we cannot end there.

The really difficult work is yet to come in the later part of next year, when we come, as a Shadow Cabinet, to construct the programme on the basis of the analyses, suggestions and recommendations of the policy groups and task forces. We shall undoubtedly accept some of the recommendations unamended. But we shall also undoubtedly have to reject or modify many others in order to obtain a coherent whole that appropriately balances the competing objectives in a complicated world.

And this, last stage is not, of course, one that can be left to the experts. There is a point at which, when the experts have said their say, the politicians have to make the judgements. We cannot escape, as a potential government, the responsibility for deciding on the difficult balances between competing objectives –because it is upon the ability to make those judgements that the success of a government depends.

I cannot say that it will be easy, or that the work of the policy groups will make it easy.

But I can say that it will be a considerable step forward for us and for our country if the Conservative Party is able go into the next election with a policy programme that constitutes a clear answer to the great political questions of our time, and if that answer is coherent in three senses — coherent in the sense of having resolved the tensions between conflicting aims, coherent in its remorseless focus on social justice, and coherent also in conforming, throughout, with the vision of a government that is there to support rather than to dominate society, so that the answers we propose to the great questions are long-term answers, answers that are built into the fabric of society, built sustainably, built to last.

Oliver Letwin – 2004 Speech to Conservative Party Conference

Oliver Letwin

Below is the text of the speech made by Oliver Letwin, the then Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the Conservative Party Conference on 4 October 2004.

Do you remember?

Do you remember when Tony Blair offered us a new kind of politics? Do you remember that?

Well, we’ve had a new kind of politics.

It’s a kind of politics where nobody any longer trusts a word that politicians have to say.

We’ve had a new kind of politics.

We have a civil service, bigger than Sheffield. We have!

We have more officials in one department, the Department of Work and Pensions, than there are soldiers in the whole of the British Army. That’s a new kind of politics.

A new kind of politics, where a pensioner in my constituency is spending a third of her entire disposable income on council tax. That’s a new kind of politics.

Or the young person whose trying to get a foot on the ladder, trying to get a house for the first time, buying a house for £60,000 and 1 pence and they’re paying £600 of stamp duty.

Or the family expecting to inherit an ex-council house, and they’re paying death duties. That’s a new kind if politics.

It’s a new kind of politics.

When the Prime Minister, the first Lord of the Treasury hasn’t a clue what’s going on in the Treasury. Has to smuggle officials through the back door of No 10 to find out. That’s a new kind of politics.

Do you remember something else? Do you remember when they told us there was going to be justice for all? Social justice.

So when that pensioner in my constituency is paying a third of her income, her disposable income, on council tax, is that social justice? No.

Or when that young person, trying to get their foot on the ladder, is clobbered with £600 of stamp duty, is that social justice? No.

Or when that family expecting to inherit that ex-council house is paying inheritance tax, is that social justice? No.

You know what makes it all desperately unfair, so unjust, is that these people aren’t even getting value for money.

Do you remember the story of the woman who found that her rubbish was being collected half as often as before? The government said is it was some kind of directive, and the council said it was some kind of directive and they couldn’t do it anymore as well as they used to. And what did she do? She was probably a Conservative. She went out. She hired a private firm and she charged her neighbours and they were happy to pay. They pay all that council tax and then pay, on top, to have their rubbish collected.

Is that value for money?

Or when you’re sitting in a traffic jam, and you’re thinking of all those taxes you’re paying, is that value for money?

Or the parent who desperately wants to send their child to the school of their choice, and they’re appealing, and they know that 80% of the appeals in inner cities are turned down. Is that value for their taxpayer’s money?

Or your grandmother. The grandmother whose trying to get into hospital. She’s waiting 6 months and after paying taxes all her life. She gets in. She gets MRSA. Is that value for her taxpayer’s money? No. No.

And can we do something about all this? Can we take action to change things, to make a difference? You bet we can!

We can thin down this fat government by getting the money, from the taxpayer, the frontline where it’s needed. We can give the taxpayers of this country, something that they haven’t had these last seven years.

We can give the taxpayer value for money.

We’ve shown what that means. You saw the video.

You saw how line by line, department by department, we’ve been working through the fat bureaucracies. Working out how we can thin them down. Just last week Nicholas Soames and I announced what that means for frontline defence. By saving on the fat bureaucracies elsewhere in Whitehall, and by slimming down the bureaucracy within the Ministry of Defence, we can bring £2.7 billion more to frontline defence between now and 2008 than Labour plans, and that means we can save our regiments.

There is somebody else who’s heard about all this. Somebody who gets most of his best ideas from our programmes. You guessed it, Tony Blair.

So, he rings his neighbour next door, the neighbour from hell.

So it’s our Tony and our Gordon.

And Tony says to Gordon: “Gordon these guys, these Conservatives, they seem to be on to something. Couldn’t we do something to thin down the fat bureaucracies you’ve created?” Note the “you”.

And Gordon says: “Tony, give us a break. We’re Labour, we specialise in fat bureaucracies.”

And Tony says to Gordon: “Well Gordon, couldn’t we at least pretend that we’re going to do something to slim down the fat bureaucracies. Give us a hint Gordon.”

And Gordon says to Tony: “Now you’re talking. I can say we’ll cut 104,000 jobs out of the bureaucracy. 20,000 of those, well they’ll be in the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales. We don’t have to do anything about them. 11,000? They’ll be reallocated. They won’t go anywhere. And to make up for the remaining 73,000, well, I’ll make up for them by hiring another 200,000 bureaucrats over the next 3 years, so we’ll end up with more than we started with.”

It’s a sham.

It’s a pretence.

And it means just one thing. It means Labour’s third term tax rises.

It means council tax on the average home rising to £2,000 a year.

It means £900 more of national insurance from the average earner.

It means Labour’s third term tax rises.

And can we do anything about that? Yes, indeed we can.

By thinning down those fat bureaucracies. By sticking within my tight spending plans. We can fill in Gordon Brown’s black hole and prevent Labour’s third term tax rises.

And by sticking to my tight spending plans, we should enable ourselves to do more.

We should enable ourselves to do something serious. To give us a simpler and a fairer tax system.

We should enable ourselves to give this country a serious remedy, for that pensioner who’s paying a third of her disposable income on council tax.

We should enable ourselves to give that family which has a person in it, a young person trying to get on the housing ladder, paying that £600 of stamp duty, some relief.

We should enable ourselves to give to the other family that’s expecting to inherit the ex-council house, some relief from the inheritance tax.

Yes. We should expect to be able to do something serious for those people.

Now, I know what many of you expect me to say next.

I know what some people in some sections of the media think it would be courageous if I said next.

They think it would be courageous if the next thing I said is: I promise you to cut taxes by so much and such-and-such a day.

It wouldn’t be courageous at all. It would be very easy.

I’d say it. You’d cheer. We’d all leave, and no one out there would believe us at all. Because there have been too many broken promises on tax, from too many politicians.

The sad truth is when we were in office, we made promises on tax we couldn’t keep.

And everybody knows what happened when Tony Blair said he had no plans to increase tax at all and then raised them 66 times by stealth.

So no more broken promises on tax.

Instead of promises, actions

Instead of words, deeds,

The next Conservative government will act to make a difference, to make Britain better.

On the first day of that government I will freeze civil service recruitment.

In the first week of that government I will lift the controls those wretched best-value, comprehensive, performance, assessment regimes of Labour government.

And in the first month of that Conservative government I will delivery a budget which will implement the James reforms, and begin the thinning down of those fat bureaucracies and set Britain on the path to a lower tax economy.

Actions. Measurable, accountable actions to make this country a better place to live in.

Shouldn’t be any kind of surprise to hear Conservatives talking about actions.

As we go forward into the next election, as we face that great test and meet that great challenge, let’s remind ourselves who we are.

We are the party of action.

We are the party of Shaftesbury who first took action to bring compassion into British politics.

We are the party of Wilberforce who freed the slaves.

We are the party of Disraeli, who elevated the condition of the people in order that he could make a Britain one nation.

And yes, we’re the party of Margaret Thatcher, who gave people the right to own their own homes, and gave Britain back her freedom and her security.

And now, our party, under the leadership of Michael Howard, as the next government of this can set Britain free again.

Oliver Letwin – 2016 Speech on Psychoactive Substances

Oliver Letwin
Oliver Letwin

Below is the text of the speech made by Oliver Letwin at the UN General Assembly on 19 April 2016.

Chair and distinguished guests.

The United Kingdom welcomes this Special Session as a unique opportunity to enhance the global approach to drugs, and to lay forward a clear roadmap for a new Political Declaration and Plan of Action in 2019.

We must ensure that our work is fully integrated with the Global Goals Because the 2030 Development Agenda and our efforts to address drug harms are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

The United Kingdom welcome the Outcome Document. It combines ambitious goals with operational recommendations that all Member States should consider implementing.

Chair,

The United Kingdom is delivering a modern, balanced, evidence-based response to drugs within the UN conventions.

There’s been a reduction in drug misuse among adults and young people over the last ten years in England and Wales and more people are recovering from their dependency now than in 2009.

We are currently developing a new drug strategy, which we will publish shortly. Our 2016 drug strategy will build on our current balanced approach of reducing demand, restricting supply and building recovery, and will tackle drugs as a key driver of crime.

Chair,

Responding to the global challenges posed by new psychoactive substances is a priority for the UK.

In January we introduced new legislation, the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. This introduces a general ban on the production, supply, import and export of all new psychoactive substances and complements our wider, balanced response.

Over the last three years the United Kingdom has worked to demonstrate global leadership on this issue, with the long-term objective of establishing a sustainable international system that can deal effectively with new psychoactive substances.

Our work has included forming the International Action Group on New Psychoactive Substances – an informal group of Member States and international organisations that seeks to coordinate and drive the international response.

The international community has made significant progress, but there is more to be done.

We must redouble our efforts to meet the challenge of new psychoactive substances, including through data-sharing, policy exchange and international cooperation to bring the most harmful substances under international control.

Chair,

The United Kingdom implements a smart, proportionate criminal justice response at each stage of the process.

This includes alternatives to incarceration for minor drug offences, integration of criminal justice and health services to ensure that offenders who misuse drugs get the support they need, and independently-produced sentencing guidelines that ensure consistency and proportionality in sentencing.

Importantly, the United Kingdom delivers proportionality in criminal justice and good health outcomes while retaining a criminal offence for drug possession.

Chair,

The United Kingdom has a proud history of championing human rights, and we oppose the use of the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle.

The UK does not provide criminal justice, or other assistance, which may result in a death sentence being applied. We will hold international agencies funded by the UK to account for compliance with this and all other human rights obligations.

Chair,

The United Kingdom remains fully committed to reducing the transmission of HIV and other blood-borne diseases among people who inject drugs.

The agreed target of reducing HIV transmission by 50% by 2015 has not been fully met, but we have the tools to achieve this reduction now at our disposal.

We have clear evidence that the package of measures set out in the WHO’s 2014 Consolidated Guidelines are effective.

The UK is proud to be the second largest international funder of HIV prevention, care and treatment, and we will continue to take a leading role on this issue, including at the High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in June.

Chair,

Up to 5.5 billion people live in countries with low or non-existent access to controlled medicines. Too many people live and die in avoidable pain.

The UK will continue to invest in supporting health systems across the world, and we must strengthen international efforts to make material progress here, in accordance with the roadmap set by the Global Goals and the accompanying targets.

Chair, thank you for this opportunity to address the General Assembly.

Oliver Letwin – 2009 Speech on Regulation

Below is the text of the speech made by Oliver Letwin to the Policy Exchange on 27th January 2009.

Arguably, the biggest failures of the last eleven years have been failures of regulation. Some of these failures have been failures of under-regulation.

Notoriously, bank lending has been under-regulated. Equitable Life was under-regulated. Haringey children’s services department has been under-regulated.

But other failures have been failures of over-regulation.

Doctors, nurses, teachers and police officers all complain about being over-regulated.

Small businesses and voluntary groups are screaming about being over-regulated.

And farmers are being driven mad by over regulation.

How come there is both over-regulation of some things and under-regulation of others?

Superficial answers abound. ‘The Government has its eye on the wrong balls’. ‘It all depends on the tabloid headlines’. ‘Some things are more difficult to regulate than others’. ‘Some things are easier to over-regulate than others’.

But all of these superficial answers miss a deeper point …

… Labour’s failures of under-regulation stem from exactly the same conceptual mistake as Labour’s failures of over-regulation.

Indeed, in many cases, over-regulation of Type A has actually caused under-regulation of Type B.

What are these two types of regulation?

And what is the conceptual mistake that has led both to over-regulation of Type A and to under-regulation of Type B?

First, the two types of regulation:

Type A regulation is RULE-BASED. It has the form (often also the legal character) of law.

Like any other rule-based system, Type A regulation prohibits certain actions and mandates others.

So, for example, the Type A regulation of money-laundering forces every bank and building society to do certain things when a new client seeks to open an account. Passports are to be inspected, the addresses of grandmothers written down, and so forth. In the absence of such procedures, the Type A regulation prohibits a new account being established.

Whether the things that are commanded actually have any effect on the amount of money-laundering is not a concern for the clerks and managers who are compelled to keep these records. As long as the records are amassed, dutifully stored and available for inspection, the call of duty (which is the stern daughter of the voice of God) has been heard and obeyed.

This is, of course, what happened – mutatis mutandis – in the case of Haringey children’s services.

They received, just after the horrific death of Baby P, a commendable Ofsted report. Processes were in order. Everything requiring to be done under regulation of Type A had been done.

The baby was dead – ah yes, a tragic error. But the REGULATION had been observed.

Much the same applies in the case of the over-lending and complex derivatives which are one of the main causes of Labour’s current debt crisis. The FSA – bless its cotton socks – had been studiously applying rule-based regulation. And the rules had been observed.  The procedures had been followed.

The entire financial system was put at severe risk? Well, yes. But that was a mere lacuna. The REGULATION had been complied with.

Proponents of Type A regulation have a touching faith that following the processes mandated in the rules will somehow guarantee the results which the rules are designed to deliver. But, of course, there is no such guarantee in practice. Following a given set of rules will produce the expected results if, but only if, the activity in question is very simple and the rules are very well judged.

In general, the activities we most want to regulate – banking, looking after children at risk, flying airplanes, cutting people up on the operating table and so forth – are not simple at all, and devising rules that will guarantee results in these complex activities is well-nigh impossible.

Hence, the need for regulation of Type B.

In Type B regulation, the regulator supervises the activity in question on the basis not of rules but of professional competence. Type B regulation is not rules-based but JUDGMENT-BASED.

A classic case of Type B regulation was Victorian school inspection. The school inspectors in those days did not require large volumes of paperwork to be produced by the schools they visited. They did not inspect the processes employed by the teachers. Instead, they inspected the children, hearing them say their lessons. If the inspector thought the children knew what they ought to know, given their abilities and ages, then all was well. If not, not.

No rules. No processes. Just a judgment of the outcomes.

It was much the same in the good old days before 1997, when Mr Brown hadn’t yet deprived the Bank of England of the power to supervise the banks. The main instrument of regulation was the Governor’s eyebrow. If, in his judgment (based on the judgment of his colleagues who were respected banking professionals) a given commercial bank was taking excessive risk, the Governor’s eyebrow would be raised – and the risky practice would be discontinued.

No rules. No processes. Just a professional judgment of the risk.

In Type B (judgment-based) regulation, what counts is the ability of the professionals engaged in the regulated activity to satisfy the fellow-professionals doing the regulating that they are properly living up to their professional responsibilities.

By contrast, in Type A (rule-based) regulation, what counts is the ability of the professionals engaged in the regulated activity to tick all the boxes on the questionnaire sent out by the computers of the regulator.

This is what helps to explain both the conceptual mistake that Labour has made about regulation and the reason why that mistake has generated, at one and the same time, over-regulation and under-regulation.

The conceptual mistake is very simple. It consists of confusing Type A regulation with Type B regulation.

Every time there is a call for something to be regulated, the Labour Government leaps into the fray – with new rule-based (Type A) regulation that specifies more processes that must or must not be followed.

And, every time, Labour ministers imagine that they are thereby somehow going to affect, in some determinate way, whether the professionals engaged in the regulated activity are properly fulfilling their professional responsibilities.

But, of course, there is in practice no particular reason why mandating processes in a complex activity should generally be expected to produce results similar to Type B regulation – where suitably qualified professionals in the regulatory bodies make judgments about whether the professionals in the field are living up to their professional responsibilities in an effective way.

Neither form of regulation can produce the innovation or pressure for excellence that come only from contest and competition.

Nor can either form of regulation create the sense of duty, the sense of professional ethics, which are the only true and sustainable basis for connecting professional responsibility with social responsibility.

And, of course, there is no guarantee that any form of regulation will be perfect even in its own terms. Rule-based regulation will not produce 100 per cent compliance with the rules; and judgement-based regulation is only as good as the judgment of the regulators.

But, for all that, there is a decisive difference between Type A regulation which dwells on rules and processes, and Type B regulation which dwells on judgment.

Judging professional performance can help to draw attention to poor professional performance, and can thereby help to prevent continuing disasters.

The last eleven years in Britain have provided ample evidence that mandating processes, by contrast, will generally do nothing more than make people follow those processes – often with little or no beneficial effect on outcomes.

But we must add one rider.

Process-based (Type A) regulation may well make things substantially worse.

Indeed, the howls of protest now emanating from all those doctors and nurses, teachers and police officers, business people, charity trustees and farmers, are essentially howls of protest about the distorting effects of excessive Type A regulation.

When processes are mandated, the scope for professional responsibility is diminished – because the time and energy that the professional might otherwise devote to fulfilling his or her professional responsibilities is reduced by the amount of time and effort that has to go into adhering to the mandated processes.

Public choice theory teaches us what common sense in any case indicates – that people in important positions do what the system gives them incentives to do. If the system of regulation gives them incentives to adhere to processes, they will adhere to processes – even if that means suspending their professional judgment.

And this is how the present Government has created the miracle of too much regulation becoming, at one and the same time, too little regulation.

As the amount of Type A, rule-based regulation expands, the amount of process-following and box-ticking rises and the amount of professional responsibility exercised by the professionals in the field diminishes. In the absence of much Type B, judgment-based regulation, no-one notices that decline in professional responsibility – until, all of a sudden, there is a crisis and you wake up to find that (despite all the burdens of following mandatory processes) the activity in question displays the classic symptoms of under-regulation.

Let me end with a little morality tale drawn from real life.

It concerns farmers.

More particularly, it concerns farmers near rivers and streams that are vulnerable to nitrates pollution.

Those (many) farmers who combine high professional standards with a high conception of their social and environmental responsibilities know very well that they should not distribute slurry on land near to rivers on wet days.

But our dearly beloved European Commission and our dearly beloved Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs decided that regulation must be introduced to protect these nitrate-vulnerable zones.

What was the reaction?

Search out old hands who could go and use their professional judgment to come down like a ton of bricks on farmers who were recklessly polluting rivers on wet days?

Heaven forfend! That, after all, would be judgment-based Type B regulation.

No, this was a serious matter requiring serious measures from serious men.

Call for the Type A regulators.

Make rules.

And lo, rules were made. Processes designated. No tipping of slurry in certain (wet) months. All tipping of slurry to take place in other (dry) months.

But, cried the farmers, some days in dry months are wet and some days in wet months are dry. Let us take professional responsibility, and we will avoid tipping the slurry when it would pollute the rivers. Come down on us like a ton of bricks if we do pollute the rivers, but let us choose the dates for the slurry.

Alas, the farmers were unaware that they were facing a Government in the grip of a theory.

Only rules and processes were on the menu. Judgments were off.

So there are now, by decree (and largely unnoticed by the almighty), wet months and dry months. And the slurry is being stored in great stores every day in the wet months (including the dry days) and it is being distributed over the fields in huge quantities every day in the dry months (including the wet days); and the process is being adhered to; and the boxes are being ticked; but the farmers are bearing huge new costs of storing slurry and I’ll bet you anything you like that the pollution is not being much reduced, or even – in some cases – that it is being made worse.

And that’s what happens when you get in a muddle about the difference between different types of regulation.

You end up with too much regulation of the wrong kind and too little regulation of the right kind.

Oliver Letwin – 2009 Speech on Regulation

Below is the text of the speech made by Oliver Letwin to the Policy Exchange on 27th January 2009.

Arguably, the biggest failures of the last eleven years have been failures of regulation. Some of these failures have been failures of under-regulation.

Notoriously, bank lending has been under-regulated. Equitable Life was under-regulated. Haringey children’s services department has been under-regulated.

But other failures have been failures of over-regulation.

Doctors, nurses, teachers and police officers all complain about being over-regulated.

Small businesses and voluntary groups are screaming about being over-regulated.

And farmers are being driven mad by over regulation.

How come there is both over-regulation of some things and under-regulation of others?

Superficial answers abound. ‘The Government has its eye on the wrong balls’. ‘It all depends on the tabloid headlines’. ‘Some things are more difficult to regulate than others’. ‘Some things are easier to over-regulate than others’.

But all of these superficial answers miss a deeper point …

… Labour’s failures of under-regulation stem from exactly the same conceptual mistake as Labour’s failures of over-regulation.

Indeed, in many cases, over-regulation of Type A has actually caused under-regulation of Type B.

What are these two types of regulation?

And what is the conceptual mistake that has led both to over-regulation of Type A and to under-regulation of Type B?

First, the two types of regulation:

Type A regulation is RULE-BASED. It has the form (often also the legal character) of law.

Like any other rule-based system, Type A regulation prohibits certain actions and mandates others.

So, for example, the Type A regulation of money-laundering forces every bank and building society to do certain things when a new client seeks to open an account. Passports are to be inspected, the addresses of grandmothers written down, and so forth. In the absence of such procedures, the Type A regulation prohibits a new account being established.

Whether the things that are commanded actually have any effect on the amount of money-laundering is not a concern for the clerks and managers who are compelled to keep these records. As long as the records are amassed, dutifully stored and available for inspection, the call of duty (which is the stern daughter of the voice of God) has been heard and obeyed.

This is, of course, what happened – mutatis mutandis – in the case of Haringey children’s services.

They received, just after the horrific death of Baby P, a commendable Ofsted report. Processes were in order. Everything requiring to be done under regulation of Type A had been done.

The baby was dead – ah yes, a tragic error. But the REGULATION had been observed.

Much the same applies in the case of the over-lending and complex derivatives which are one of the main causes of Labour’s current debt crisis. The FSA – bless its cotton socks – had been studiously applying rule-based regulation. And the rules had been observed.  The procedures had been followed.

The entire financial system was put at severe risk? Well, yes. But that was a mere lacuna. The REGULATION had been complied with.

Proponents of Type A regulation have a touching faith that following the processes mandated in the rules will somehow guarantee the results which the rules are designed to deliver. But, of course, there is no such guarantee in practice. Following a given set of rules will produce the expected results if, but only if, the activity in question is very simple and the rules are very well judged.

In general, the activities we most want to regulate – banking, looking after children at risk, flying airplanes, cutting people up on the operating table and so forth – are not simple at all, and devising rules that will guarantee results in these complex activities is well-nigh impossible.

Hence, the need for regulation of Type B.

In Type B regulation, the regulator supervises the activity in question on the basis not of rules but of professional competence. Type B regulation is not rules-based but JUDGMENT-BASED.

A classic case of Type B regulation was Victorian school inspection. The school inspectors in those days did not require large volumes of paperwork to be produced by the schools they visited. They did not inspect the processes employed by the teachers. Instead, they inspected the children, hearing them say their lessons. If the inspector thought the children knew what they ought to know, given their abilities and ages, then all was well. If not, not.

No rules. No processes. Just a judgment of the outcomes.

It was much the same in the good old days before 1997, when Mr Brown hadn’t yet deprived the Bank of England of the power to supervise the banks. The main instrument of regulation was the Governor’s eyebrow. If, in his judgment (based on the judgment of his colleagues who were respected banking professionals) a given commercial bank was taking excessive risk, the Governor’s eyebrow would be raised – and the risky practice would be discontinued.

No rules. No processes. Just a professional judgment of the risk.

In Type B (judgment-based) regulation, what counts is the ability of the professionals engaged in the regulated activity to satisfy the fellow-professionals doing the regulating that they are properly living up to their professional responsibilities.

By contrast, in Type A (rule-based) regulation, what counts is the ability of the professionals engaged in the regulated activity to tick all the boxes on the questionnaire sent out by the computers of the regulator.

This is what helps to explain both the conceptual mistake that Labour has made about regulation and the reason why that mistake has generated, at one and the same time, over-regulation and under-regulation.

The conceptual mistake is very simple. It consists of confusing Type A regulation with Type B regulation.

Every time there is a call for something to be regulated, the Labour Government leaps into the fray – with new rule-based (Type A) regulation that specifies more processes that must or must not be followed.

And, every time, Labour ministers imagine that they are thereby somehow going to affect, in some determinate way, whether the professionals engaged in the regulated activity are properly fulfilling their professional responsibilities.

But, of course, there is in practice no particular reason why mandating processes in a complex activity should generally be expected to produce results similar to Type B regulation – where suitably qualified professionals in the regulatory bodies make judgments about whether the professionals in the field are living up to their professional responsibilities in an effective way.

Neither form of regulation can produce the innovation or pressure for excellence that come only from contest and competition.

Nor can either form of regulation create the sense of duty, the sense of professional ethics, which are the only true and sustainable basis for connecting professional responsibility with social responsibility.

And, of course, there is no guarantee that any form of regulation will be perfect even in its own terms. Rule-based regulation will not produce 100 per cent compliance with the rules; and judgement-based regulation is only as good as the judgment of the regulators.

But, for all that, there is a decisive difference between Type A regulation which dwells on rules and processes, and Type B regulation which dwells on judgment.

Judging professional performance can help to draw attention to poor professional performance, and can thereby help to prevent continuing disasters.

The last eleven years in Britain have provided ample evidence that mandating processes, by contrast, will generally do nothing more than make people follow those processes – often with little or no beneficial effect on outcomes.

But we must add one rider.

Process-based (Type A) regulation may well make things substantially worse.

Indeed, the howls of protest now emanating from all those doctors and nurses, teachers and police officers, business people, charity trustees and farmers, are essentially howls of protest about the distorting effects of excessive Type A regulation.

When processes are mandated, the scope for professional responsibility is diminished – because the time and energy that the professional might otherwise devote to fulfilling his or her professional responsibilities is reduced by the amount of time and effort that has to go into adhering to the mandated processes.

Public choice theory teaches us what common sense in any case indicates – that people in important positions do what the system gives them incentives to do. If the system of regulation gives them incentives to adhere to processes, they will adhere to processes – even if that means suspending their professional judgment.

And this is how the present Government has created the miracle of too much regulation becoming, at one and the same time, too little regulation.

As the amount of Type A, rule-based regulation expands, the amount of process-following and box-ticking rises and the amount of professional responsibility exercised by the professionals in the field diminishes. In the absence of much Type B, judgment-based regulation, no-one notices that decline in professional responsibility – until, all of a sudden, there is a crisis and you wake up to find that (despite all the burdens of following mandatory processes) the activity in question displays the classic symptoms of under-regulation.

Let me end with a little morality tale drawn from real life.

It concerns farmers.

More particularly, it concerns farmers near rivers and streams that are vulnerable to nitrates pollution.

Those (many) farmers who combine high professional standards with a high conception of their social and environmental responsibilities know very well that they should not distribute slurry on land near to rivers on wet days.

But our dearly beloved European Commission and our dearly beloved Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs decided that regulation must be introduced to protect these nitrate-vulnerable zones.

What was the reaction?

Search out old hands who could go and use their professional judgment to come down like a ton of bricks on farmers who were recklessly polluting rivers on wet days?

Heaven forfend! That, after all, would be judgment-based Type B regulation.

No, this was a serious matter requiring serious measures from serious men.

Call for the Type A regulators.

Make rules.

And lo, rules were made. Processes designated. No tipping of slurry in certain (wet) months. All tipping of slurry to take place in other (dry) months.

But, cried the farmers, some days in dry months are wet and some days in wet months are dry. Let us take professional responsibility, and we will avoid tipping the slurry when it would pollute the rivers. Come down on us like a ton of bricks if we do pollute the rivers, but let us choose the dates for the slurry.

Alas, the farmers were unaware that they were facing a Government in the grip of a theory.

Only rules and processes were on the menu. Judgments were off.

So there are now, by decree (and largely unnoticed by the almighty), wet months and dry months. And the slurry is being stored in great stores every day in the wet months (including the dry days) and it is being distributed over the fields in huge quantities every day in the dry months (including the wet days); and the process is being adhered to; and the boxes are being ticked; but the farmers are bearing huge new costs of storing slurry and I’ll bet you anything you like that the pollution is not being much reduced, or even – in some cases – that it is being made worse.

And that’s what happens when you get in a muddle about the difference between different types of regulation.

You end up with too much regulation of the wrong kind and too little regulation of the right kind.

Oliver Letwin – 2007 Speech on Cameron Conservatism

Below is the text of the speech made by Oliver Letwin on 8th May 2007.

Do Cameron Conservatives have a theory?

This is not, of course, the same as asking whether Cameron Conservatism is theory-driven.

Like any distinctively Conservative discourse, Cameron Conservatism is radically pragmatic rather than radically dogmatic. It is a practical response to felt need – a balanced answer to what are understood to be real and present challenges.

But a political position which is not theory-driven, (which, indeed, is profoundly sceptical of theory as a guide to political action) may nevertheless disclose deep theoretical dispositions – distinctive patterns of thought which, through their internal coherence, lend strength to pragmatic responses as these come under attack in the battle of ideas and strengthen also the unity of purpose displayed when pragmatically tackling the perceived real-world challenges.

In this sense, then, I repeat my question, do Cameron Conservatives have a theory?

And my answer, in that same sense, is yes. The pragmatic responses of Cameron Conservatism to perceived real-world challenges do disclose a set of coherent theoretical dispositions.

In particular, Cameron Conservatism is an attempt to achieve two paradigm shifts – a shift in the locus of political debate and a shift in the theory of the state.

First, it is an attempt to shift the locus of debate from an econo-centric paradigm to a socio-centric paradigm.

Second, it is an attempt to shift the theory of the state from a provision-based paradigm to a framework-based paradigm, within which government (apart from its perennial role in guaranteeing security and stability)…

is conceived principally as an agency for enabling individuals, families, associations and corporations to internalise externalities and hence to live up to social responsibilities without the further intervention of authority.

This concise description of the theory is inevitably both dense and unfamiliar.

Let me now unpack it, employing a somewhat more perspicuous and familiar idiom.

But before I do so, let me offer you what is sometimes called a meta-thought or a second-order observation.

There is a reason why I have been using this ridiculous, high-falutin language.

I want to make the point that ridiculous high-falutin language is not the sole prerogative of Gordon Brown with his post neo-classical endogenous growth theory…

Nor of David Miliband with his “emphasis on the value of equality and solidarity…supplemented by renewed commitment to the extension of personal autonomy in an increasingly interdependent world”.

You shouldn’t think that, just because someone uses complicated words, they have a coherent theory. And you shouldn’t think that, just because someone tries, most of the time to speak in plain English, they don’t have a theory.

Cameron Conservatives have a strong attachment to plain English. That is because we think that it is easier to think clearly in clear language. But this has misled some people who think that theories come in complicated language to think we haven’t got one.

And my point is that, despite our general preference for plain language, we do have a theory. It can be expressed (as I have just expressed it) in complicated language. It can also be expressed (as I am about to do) in much simpler terms.

So what do I mean by Cameron Conservatism being an attempt to shift the locus of debate from an econo-centric paradigm to a socio-centric paradigm?

It all goes back to Marx.

Before Marx, politics was multi-dimensional – constitutional, social, environmental as well as economic. But Marx changed all that. The real triumph of Marxism consisted in the way that it defined the preoccupations not only of its supporters but also of its opponents.

After Marx, socialists defended socialism and free marketeers defended capitalism. For both sides, the centrepiece of the debate was the system of economic management. Politics became econo-centric.

But, as we begin the 21st century, things have changed. Since Thatcher, and despite recent recurrences of something like full-blooded socialism in some parts of Latin America, the capitalist/socialist debate has in general ceased to dominate modern politics. From Beijing to Brussels, the free market has won the battle of economic ideas.

Victories like this often cause a hiatus in political thought. And the transition to a post-Marxist politics caused just such a hiatus.

For several years, politicians have been wandering round in the mist, trying to discern the shape of a new politics more suited to an age in which socialism and capitalism no longer vie for acceptance.

After war, the peace is sometimes more difficult for the victors than for the vanquished. So it was in this ideological war. Peace proved particularly difficult for British Conservatives – the very group that had raised the battle-standard and led the global army of the free market to victory.

But, after a decade of disarray and enforced reflection on the part of the British Conservative Party, an answer has emerged. Cameron Conservatives have recognised the profound consequences of the fact that we have entered a post-Marxist era. Politics – once econo-centric – must now become socio-centric.

If the free market is a matter of consensus, the debate must change its nature. Instead of arguing about systems of economic management, we have to discuss how to make better lives out of the prosperity generated by the free market. Growth in well-being hasn’t kept pace with growth in domestic product.

At the recent Conservative Spring Forum, I chaired a discussion about the work of our six policy groups. Afterwards, a senior party official – who had taken time off from his arduous administrative responsibilities to listen to the discussion – approached me to say that he had now understood what we were up to. “Instead of economics”, he said, “it’s now about the whole way we live our lives”.

Bull’s eye.

Instead of being about economics, politics in a post-Marxist age is about the whole way we live our lives; it is about society.

Politics today is socio-centric.

The first theoretical advance (the first paradigm shift) of Cameron-Conservatism is to see that fact clearly – to refocus the debate, to change the terms of political trade, to ask a different set of questions.

As David Cameron put it in his speech to the same Spring Forum:

“It’s not economic breakdown that Britain now faces, but social breakdown. Not businesses that aren’t delivering, but public services. Not rampant inflation but rampant crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour. Not irresponsible unions – it’s irresponsible parents…

And as a recent report from UNICEF showed – a report which put Britain at the bottom of the international league table for the well-being of children – it’s not that Britain is the sick man of Europe; we’re becoming the sick family of Europe…The mission of the modern Conservative Party, could not be clearer. It is to bring about Britain’s social revival: to improve the quality of life for everyone in our country, increasing our well-being, not just our wealth.”

So far, I hope, so clear.

But what do I mean by saying that Cameron Conservatism is also “an attempt to shift the theory of the state from a provision-based paradigm to a framework-based paradigm, within which government (apart from its perennial role in guaranteeing security and stability)…

is conceived principally as an agency for enabling individuals, families, associations and corporations to internalise externalities and hence to live up to social responsibilities without the further intervention of authority?”

Here, we move from the focus of the debate to the arguments on each side of the refocused debate – from the nature of the question to the nature of the answer.

And, first, we have to attend to the meaning of the provision-theory of the modern state.

This is the successor to socialism in the post-Marxist era. It is, in British terms, the essence of Gordon Brown’s version of New Labour.

The provision-theory accepts the free market as the engine of economic growth. But, just as Clause 4 socialism once saw the state as the proper provider of goods and services through ownership of the means of production, so the provision-theorists of Brownian New Labour see the state as the proper provider of public services and of well-being through direction and control.

The tell-tale marks of provision-theory are to be seen in much of the record of the last ten years – the targets and directives, the reorganisations, schemes and initiatives. Direct government intervention has been brought – with the best of intentions, though often with notable lack of practical success – to bear on schools and hospitals, police officers and neighbourhoods, local authorities and universities…

The state has been seen as the source of enlightened social action, just as it was once seen as the source of enlightened economic action.

The Cameron Conservative framework-theory of the state is fundamentally different. It takes the same place in the socio-centric political debate of the twenty-first century that free market theory once took before it triumphed in, and hence outdated, the econo-centric debate of the twentieth century.

The framework theory of the modern state sees government as having two fundamental roles: to guarantee the stability and security upon which, by common consent, both the free market and well-being depend; and, much more controversially, to establish a framework…

of support and incentive which enables and induces individual citizens and organisations to act in ways that fulfil not merely their own self-interested ambitions but also their wider social responsibilities.

It is in emphasising this second duty of government that Cameron Conservatism distinguishes itself radically from the provision-theory of Brownian New Labour.

Cameron Conservatism puts no faith in central direction and control. Instead, it seeks to identify externalities (social and environmental responsibilities) that participants in the free market are likely to neglect, and then seeks to establish frameworks that will lead people and organisations to internalise those externalities – to act of their own volition in ways that will improve society by increasing general well being.

The intuitions about human nature that underpin this framework-theory of the modern state in twenty-first century post-Marxist socio-centric politics are unsurprisingly the same as the intuitions about human nature that underpinned free market theory in twentieth century econo-centric politics.

The first intuition is that human enterprise, initiative, vocation and morale are the things that lead to progress and sustainable success in the socio-environmental sphere, just as in the economic sphere. The second, allied intuition is that command and control systems eventually fall under their own weight because they stifle enterprise, initiative, vocation and morale.

And the third intuition is that a framework which leads people to internalise their social responsibilities and to fulfil those responsibilities of their own volition in their own ways is accordingly a much more powerful engine for sustained socio-environmental success than direct government control.

Will the framework-theory based on these liberal conservative intuitions come in time to win the battle of ideas in socio-centric politics as comprehensively as its precursor, liberal conservative free market theory, did in the old econo-centric political debates?

It is too early to tell.

But one thing at least is clear. Cameron Conservatives have both an analysis of the nature of twenty-first century politics and a theory of the role of the modern state.

To win a battle of ideas is always a hard task. But having an idea is certainly a good starting-point.

Oliver Letwin – 2003 Speech at Conservative Spring Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Oliver Letwin at the 2003 Conservative Spring Conference on 16th March 2003.

On our minds today, we have two great matters: the war with Iraq and the threat of terrorism in this country. But we cannot allow these matters to prevent us from considering the abiding problems of our society – in particular, the problems of crime and disorder. Just as Rab Butler took his great Education Act through Parliament in 1944, against the backdrop of war, so, we, today, must attend to the nature of our society, notwithstanding the dangers in which we find ourselves.

2003 did not begin well for Britain.

It began with a tragedy.

On New Years Day two teenage cousins Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis – out at a party in Birmingham – died in a hail of sub machinegun fire.

Alas, this was not an isolated incident.

Gun crime has risen; violent crime has risen; burglary has risen; drug offences have risen; and criminals contemplating a crime know they have only a 3% chance of being caught and convicted.

In almost every sphere of criminality it is the criminal that is winning.

What kind of country are we now becoming?

We are facing a retreat from civilised values.

Things happened yesterday that didn’t happen last year. Things happened last year that didn’t happen ten years ago.

First fists, then knives, then guns. First pot, then smack, then crack. First cities, then towns, then villages. First men, then women, and then children.

Only a few years ago we were worried about knives. Now we are worried about sub machine guns.

In some of our inner city estates, those who can get out do so. The poor, the old, the weak retreat from parks and playgrounds, from streets and shopping areas to live behind closed doors.

But, despite this crisis of criminality, despite the retreat from civilisation that is occurring in many of our most vulnerable neighbourhoods, I am still optimistic we can turn back the tide.

Across the country, I have met and seen remarkable individuals who are determined to reduce crime on their estates.

These are individuals who refuse to give up. We Conservatives must do everything we can to support them.

I want to tell you this morning about some of these people.

Recently, I visited Handsworth in Birmingham where I met two groups, Parents United and the Partnership Against Crime. These groups were set up in response to the shootings in Aston. They are determined to work with local churches to draw their young people away from the gun culture and off the conveyer belt to crime.

They are doing everything possible to ensure that the tragedy that befell the families of Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis does not happen to another family.

Recently I also went to the Clarence Way Estate in Camden, North London. This is an Estate riddled with drug users, dealers and drug related prostitution. Residents often have to step through needles, excrement and vomit just to get out of their front door. Young children see addicts injecting in front of them on their way to school, as often as other luckier children might see their friends on swings in a park.

The whole Estate has just one part time WPC who manages to patrol every Tuesday, Wednesday and every other Saturday. I doubt that the drug-dealers wait politely to let her arrest them when she arrives!

I am not sure that the drug dealers regard the police as having a right to be on the estate. When I was there, I saw at first hand drug addicts waiting for their next drop and dealers providing it. They even shouted at us to move on as we were on their “territory”.

I was told of a man who lives in the block and is a leaseholder. He hasn’ t seen his daughter for three years because she is too afraid to make her way through the drug addicts on every corner. He has had excrement and firebombs put through his letterbox because he had the temerity to ask the drug addicts to get away from the outside of his front door. The police couldn’t deal with it because they were tied up with other crimes in the area, or as it was described “with paperwork”.

Mental torture is not too strong a term for this man who suffers day in, day out, for months, for years.

This is an Estate which has been virtually taken over by the forces of criminality…

Almost.

I say “almost” because of the efforts of a remarkable woman, Silla Carron who lives on the Estate.

Almost single handedly she has worked hard to make her Estate a better place to live. She has established a Tenants Association and she has organised petitions for more police on her Estate. Through vigorous campaigning she has secured funding for a dog patrol that provides some safety on the estate.

When Silla Carron decided to do something about her estate, nobody told her to do this.

She did it out of a sense of service and responsibility to her family and neighbours.

You can’t teach good neighbourliness from on high or for that matter from Downing Street.

This is something the Home Secretary doesn’t understand. He is well intentioned. He talks tough. But he delivers very little.

Every time there is a crisis, every criminal outrage we face, Mr Blunkett responds with initiatives and targets, ably designed to create favourable newspaper headlines to show that he is doing something.

He thinks that every problem can be controlled by pressing buttons at his desk in Queen Anne’s Gate.

But, what is really needed, is to find ways to encourage and motivate the networks of individuals, families and community associations that are doing their best to keep their neighbourly society alive.

Over 5 years we have had over sixteen Criminal Justice Bills and over 100 initiatives. We have had targets galore. But the targets have not been met. Targets for recorded crime, for class A drugs and for reducing robbery have been missed. Other targets on drugs, vehicle crime, burglary and asylum have gone missing altogether.

Then there are the inevitable “summits” at the Home Office and Downing Street.

An American philosopher George Santayana once said:

“trust the man who hesitates in his speech and is quick and steady in action. But beware of long arguments and long beards”.

Thinking of David Blunkett, I agree.

It is time he was reminded of that old proverb “saying is one thing, doing another”.

All this tough talk by the Home Secretary impresses for a while. The problem is that the failure to deliver in the long run breeds at best cynicism and at worse despair.

If we are not careful, the public will turn away from traditional politicians to local, dangerous extremists whose only appeal is that they are ‘outsiders’ and offer quick and simplistic solutions. Their success will cause immense damage to the fabric of our society.

That is why all of us have to work hard to ensure that the success of the BNP in some towns in the North is not replicated across the country.

We face the threat of ever growing apathy and of ever-decreasing turnouts at elections. We face the danger of ever-increasing support for the kind of people who want to make this country a nasty and brutish place to live.

We must not and we will not allow the contrast between rhetoric and the Government’s reality to be exploited by such people.

Nowhere is that contrast between rhetoric and reality greater than in the case of asylum.

Britain has lost control of her borders. Last year a record 110,000 people sought asylum here – the highest number in Europe. Of these, just 8,000 and their dependents were judged to be genuine refugees.

Yet of the tens of thousands who were turned down, a mere 3,000 were removed from the country.

The whole system is in chaos.

David Blunkett’s response to this problem has been the same again: talk tough but do very little.

Now we have the implausible spectacle of the Prime Minister, clearly under pressure, pledging to halve the numbers of asylum seekers by September. Unless the Government intend to manipulate the statistics by issuing in-country work permits or visas without restrictions on work to people who would otherwise claim asylum, this is a very rash promise indeed.

A future Conservative Government will scrap our entire asylum system.

We will replace it with a system of rational quotas for genuine refugees. We will accept around 20,000 refugees in a quota identified offshore with the help of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. That 20,000 is larger than the number of genuine refugees admitted each year at present, but only one-fifth of the number of people currently using our asylum system to enter the country.

Conservatives are determined to end the asylum chaos. We can no longer tolerate a system in which the genuine refugee, sometimes suffering from the most horrific persecution, is pushed way down the queue by those who are brought here frequently by people traffickers, to seek economic security.

We can no longer support a system on which the taxpayer is spending £1,800 million a year. The quota system eliminates the need for asylum centres and costly processing. There will be no need for processing here because those within the quota will already have been identified as genuine refugees in refugee camps overseas. All those who arrive illegally and outside the quota will be removed. Our scarce financial resources could be better spent elsewhere.

And I have a clear idea – which I am glad to say I share with the Shadow Chancellor – about where the money we save on the asylum system could and should be spent.

We will spend it on the police.

I know very well that policing is not the whole answer to the breakdown of order.

That is why we have set out a range of policies that will offer long-term solutions to crime rather than quick fixes.

For over fifteen months we have been meeting and consulting with hundreds of experts and practitioners in the field. We have travelled to America and countries across Europe visiting prisons, young offenders institutions, drug offender projects and neighbourhood policing schemes. In Bournemouth last October I set out to you the direction of our policy.

We are determined to tackle crime at its source by lifting young people off the Conveyer Belt to Crime. We will intervene early when children show signs of disruptive behaviour, giving support to parents struggling to provide necessary authority and guidance. We will tackle persistent young offenders by providing for longer but more constructive custodial sentences, in which there is an intensive effort to rehabilitate and in which support continues long after they have been released. And we will focus effort on getting children off heroin and crack cocaine, providing a choice for every addict between compulsory, intensive treatment and rehabilitation or the penal system.

But before we can do any of these things effectively, we have to reclaim our streets for the honest citizen.

We have to ensure that once again police become the custodians of our neighbourhoods and the guarantors of authority and order.

We can do this only by putting police on the streets where they can apprehend criminals and deal with social disorder.

Often politicians promise more police on the beat but the reality is empty. The Government have been doing this for the past six years.

It is time for real policemen and real neighbourhood policing.

That is why I make this pledge to you today that the next Conservative Government will increase police numbers by 40,000.

That is 5,000 extra police officers a year over eight years.

This commitment will cost money.

For those of you wondering where we will get the money from, let me reassure you: I have never been a serial spender! And I do not intend to start now.

As I mentioned to you a moment ago, Britain pays a heavy price for the shambles on asylum.

Total spending on asylum seekers is now – I remind you – £1.8 billion a year. This is a crazy figure given that most of the cash goes on those who are not genuine refugees.

Were we to have an efficient and working system we could make significant savings on this amount and spend it where it is needed the most: waging the battle against ever rising crime by having tens of thousands more policemen on our streets.

Our strict quota system for refugees will in due course save more than £1.3 billion a year. We know that, because the Australian quota system shows how much such an arrangement costs.

These savings will allow us to provide 5,000 extra police officers a year, starting one year into the next Conservative Government. And amazingly enough we will have money left in the bank.

Our proposals will enable our chief constables to put police officers back onto the streets in every Parish and neighbourhood across Britain.

A long time ago, the Prime Minister promised to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.

The truth is that under Labour there has been very little serious, concerted and effective action to achieve a long-term change in the level of crime.

There are no coherent and focused programmes to take young people off the conveyer belt to crime. There are no substantive measures to get people off hard drugs. There are no efforts to recapture the streets through real and sustained neighbourhood policing.

The Government have missed an opportunity to get to grips with crime.

It is time to offer a real alternative.