Liam Fox – 2018 Speech on Exports Dividend of Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, on 17 October 2018.

Your excellencies, my lords ladies and gentlemen. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here tonight. I would like to thank, in particular, the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress, and all the staff of Mansion House for hosting us this evening.

Charles has been an advocate of DIT from the very beginning, so thank you for your support and your unwavering commitment to spreading the message of free trade around the world on behalf of the City of London.

I would also like to thank my three excellent ministers who are with us this evening – George Hollingbery, Rona Fairhead and Graham Stuart, all our trade envoys and all my fantastic staff from the Department for International Trade, all of whom contribute so much to Britain’s trade and investment performance.

And I wish to extend a particular welcome to the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, my friend and colleague, Roberto Azevêdo, who you’ll all be fortunate enough to hear from once you’ve sat through my speech.

Winston Churchill said that:

“Free Trade is a condition of progress; it is an aid to progress; it is a herald of progress.”

Those words were written more than a century ago, yet he was speaking from a tradition which stretched a lot further – almost a quarter of a millennium – to Adam Smith and David Ricardo.

In all our recent history the Governments of this country, whether Labour or Conservative, have recognised the strategic advantages of international free trade.

In this, of course, they have been right. All trade is strategic. It is also economic. It is also social.

It represents one of the oldest forms of human interaction, and one of the most enduring.

It has linked civilisations, crossed the deserts and the oceans, and bridged the chasm of time.

It spurs innovation, rewards enterprise, and fosters interdependence.

Trade is the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the TVs we watch, the mobiles we use, and the cars we drive.

And all these elements contribute to the “trade dividend”, and that is what I wish to discuss tonight – the human dividend, the security dividend, and the economic dividend of trade – before briefly turning to tonight’s Brexit discussions.

The Human Dividend

The first part of the trade dividend – the human dividend – is not always given the credit it deserves. But it is, perhaps, the most important of all.

As economies across the world have liberalised, opportunities for employment, or commerce, have allowed billions of people to lift themselves from poverty.

According to the World Bank, the three decades between 1981 and 2011, within all of our lifetimes, witnessed the single greatest decrease in material deprivation in history.

It is hard to imagine an international aid programme – even one as generous as our own – that would or could have been so effective.

Such a reduction in human suffering should rank among the greatest of humankind’s achievements, and we should recognise it.

At a fundamental level, free and open trade allows people to improve their own lives, by giving them access to global opportunities, sharing knowledge, skills and experience and fundamentally, by the exchange of goods and services.

As a consequence, living standards across the globe are at their highest level in history.

The desire for comfort, for financial security, to provide for your family and to leave something for your children is innate in humankind. We should all strive to ensure that the next generation can have an easier start in life than the one before.

The dream of achieving what once only existed in the developed world, increasingly blossoms in all parts of the globe – and more importantly is increasingly possible.

Our aim, as a Department and as a country should be to continue this remarkable progress. To give the world’s poorest the ability to trade their way out of poverty.

Yet those in the anti-trade lobby would deny them this possibility. As part of their wider ideological anti-capitalist agenda, they would stop the clock on the social progress and poverty reduction of recent decades.

We must take head-on the destructive arguments of those whose narrative is that free trade is nothing more than a global corporate conspiracy. In fact, our ability to trade is a condition of our freedom.

Indeed, as the American economist Milton Friedman said:

Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.

Free trade is intrinsically linked to personal and political freedom. And that brings me onto the second of our trade dividends – the security dividend.

It is important to understand that trade is not an end in itself but a means to an end – to grow and spread our collective prosperity.

The Security Dividend

I have always believed that prosperity underpins social cohesion. That social cohesion itself underpins political stability, and that political stability is the building block of our collective security.

These are all part of the same continuum; you cannot disrupt one of these without disrupting the whole.

To deny people their access to prosperity, or the economic freedom to achieve it, is to risk political extremism, uncontrolled migration, and diminished security.

For the United Kingdom, trade contributes directly to our safety, helping to fund our armed forces and our security services.

It ensures that vital supplies, such as energy and raw materials, continue to enter the UK from abroad.

And the denial of trade – the ability to impose effective economic sanctions on external aggressors – provides a vital tool in dealing with global dangers and rogue states.

Looked at another way, the clamour for economic freedoms against an authoritarian state can help to liberate the innovation, enterprise and individual aspiration that are hallmarks of a free society.

By this reckoning, the promotion of free and open international trade, will in turn foster political stability, promote social security, and build a safer world.

The Economic Dividend

Of course, the benefits of prosperity are not only felt internationally, but in this country as well.

It is as true today as it always was that there is no such thing as government money – only taxpayers’ money.

And, £186 billion of that taxpayer’s money comes, in one form or another, from business. So, it follows that if we improve the profitability and productivity of business through exporting and investment, then the public coffers benefit too.

When I arrived in the newly created Department for International Trade, I was amazed to find that we had no mechanism to enable us to translate the value of our exports into returns for the Treasury – although, as I am finding, this is not unique to the UK.

Since that day, the United Kingdom’s exports have risen dramatically. In 2017 alone, we saw a 10.9% increase. This means that since the time of the referendum we have added £111 billion to our annual exporting total with all the financial implications of tax receipts that this brings.

The result of this is what we might call the economic, or more precisely, the “export dividend’. As a government, we have been elected to be fiscally responsible whilst, of course, continuing to fund public services.

This can only be achieved through a strong economy that brings rising tax revenues without increasing the individual tax burden.

But fiscal balance is not solely about whether to raise taxes or cut spending – it is also about how to generate more revenue by growing the economy domestically and selling more of our goods and services abroad. Put simply as a country, if we want to spend more, we must earn more.

Increasing GDP, however, is not the sole preserve of government. I need hardly tell a room full of business leaders, the head of the City of London Corporation, and the Director-General of the WTO, that economic activity is led by private enterprise and through the demand and supply of a free market, rather than by government directive.

But where government does have a role to play is in facilitating enterprise – creating the optimum conditions for our businesses to succeed and thrive.

And thrive is what our businesses have done.

This remarkable achievement belongs to the thousands of exporters across the United Kingdom who have worked tirelessly to develop and manufacture great products and expand into global markets.

Many of you have joined us here this evening. Your success is Britain’s success.

Exporting, generates wider benefits for the economy, including productivity gains, greater profitability and increased longevity for those that participate in it.

That is not to downplay the importance of imports. It would be naïve indeed to ignore the huge and necessary role that imports play in the production of goods and services for export, as well as consumer benefits: with more choice of higher quality products at lower prices.

Our global era is one where interdependence is increasing – one of the reasons why protectionism and economic nationalism are likely to be inefficient, ineffective, and damaging.

Of course, to benefit fully from the opportunities of the global economy we have to be fully ‘match fit’.

Which is why it is important that supply side reforms, such as those set out in the Government’s Industrial Strategy, complement our push to transform the UK’s exporting potential. The two are mutually reinforcing. We must, create the right conditions for firms to move up the value chain, improving their productivity, competitiveness and profitability.

It is here that we can see the ‘coal face’ of the potential intersection between exports and GDP and its impact on government finances.

We know that higher incomes and economic activity translate into higher tax revenues, both at a business and personal level.

This obviously raises the question of just how great an export dividend could be.

Last month the Institute of Economic Affairs attempted to work this out – and I stress that this is not government analysis. But, where they got to suggested that a 10% increase in the gross value of our exports – currently at £620 billion – could lead to a £50 billion increase in GDP.

Put simply, increased exports could mean increased economic activity. Increased economic activity increases labour demand, raising employment and pushing up wages. And the resulting increased output leads to higher profits and higher corporate tax revenues.

And what of our budget balance. Based still on the 10% uplift in exports, the budget deficit could, according to the IEA, reduce by some £20bn. The potential for us to balance our budget, is real.

Of course, raising the value of a country’s exports by 10% is no easy task, even for a nation as dynamic, resourceful and competitive as the United Kingdom. But not impossible. 20 years ago, Germany’s exports were were exactly ours are today as a proportion of GDP, and now they stand at 47% of GDP, sitting on a fiscal surplus.

So we have accepted this challenge.

Our Export Strategy, launched in August, set out the ambitious target of raising exports as a proportion of the UK’s GDP from 30 to 35 percent, putting us towards the top of the G7.

That is the scale of our ambition.

For Britain to fulfil its whole potential we must access all the available global markets. It is not a choice between the EU and the rest of the world – we need to sell to both. The EU remains the market for 44% of our exports, but the EU itself accepts that 90% of global growth in the next five to ten years will come from markets outside Europe.

Tonight, the Prime Minister is in Brussels for the October EU Council. We have made our position clear: that we will honour the democratic decision of the British people made at the referendum.

We will leave the customs union and the single market. We cannot accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. We will leave the Common Fisheries policy and the Common Agricultural Policy. We will end free movement. We will have our own independent trade policy and we will not accept any solution that divides the United Kingdom by treating Northern Ireland differently to any other part of our country.

We hope that we will achieve agreement that leaves all European countries able to take advantage of both our own and growing global markets.

Trade, and the rules-based international system that upholds its freedoms, underpins everything, from political stability and security, to economic prosperity and the livelihoods that have lifted a generation out of poverty.

We are opening a new chapter in this nation’s history. It is a once in a generation chance to shape a better future for our own people, realise the highest ambitions of our businesses, and offer real leadership on free trade in an often uncertain and divided world.

It is also a chance to address the legitimate concerns of those who have been left behind by the pace of global change, and to build a global economy that works for everyone.

We in government have a responsibility to ensure that the dividends of trade are evenly spread. The rising tide of prosperity must lift all boats.

In fact, the dividends of trade are perhaps greater than for almost any other human activity. Yet in every place in the world, and at every time in history, trading freedoms have been under threat.

We all have a duty to defend it.

Iain Duncan Smith – 2002 Speech to the Jewish Welfare Board

Below is the text of the speech made by Iain Duncan Smith, the then Leader of the Conservative Party, on 26 April 2002.

As Leader of the Conservative Party, I have had the privilege of meeting with and addressing a number of Jewish organisations.

Almost every time I have done so, it has been against a backdrop of great sadness.

I have spoken to Jewish audiences just days after yet another suicide terrorist attack on Israel, just days after anti-Semitic incidents across Europe and just days after an article in the press written by a Jewish author urging more understanding of Israel’s plight.

Unfortunately, as I stand here today, the backdrop is no different.

But this time, there is an added factor. In my conversations with British Jews, I get a sense that there is deep anxiety and unease amongst the British Jewish community about the fate of Israel and public opinion.

Israel

Last week on Radio 4, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke passionately and eloquently about this unease. He reminded listeners that Israel had suffered 12,500 terrorist attacks – almost one hour of every day of every week.

He urged that the media to be more balanced in its criticism of Israel.

I agree. When watching our TV news bulletins I am often struck by the lack of sense of proportion and tendency to succumb to moral relativism.

Of course the crisis in Israel and the West Bank is a tragedy: a tragedy for Palestinians and Israelis. When innocents die wherever they come from we must all grieve.

Yet to insinuate that this is the fault of Israel is to wilfully misrepresent the facts. After all, the peace process – when Mr Barak’s proposals at both Camp David and Taba were turned down by Yassar Arafat.

Criticism should therefore be.

We will disagree with Israel sometimes about tactics. We urge that Mr Sharon withdraws speedily from the West Bank Towns.

It is the duty of any Government to protect their citizens from terror.

Just as the United States and the free world were right to pursue Al Qaeda and the Taliban after the outrage of September 11, so the Israelis have a right to react against the terrorists who are trying to destroy her very existence.

All the peace plans currently on offer will not work unless the Palestinian leadership grasp the nettle and no longer give succour to terrorists.

Neither is the cause of peace helped by those who should know better seeking to fan the flames of hatred by encouraging suicide bombers.

It is no good Chairman Arafat on the one hand writing in the New York Times an article condemning terror and recognising Israel’s right to exist and on the other covertly giving impetus to terrorist organisations like Hamas.

There must be no doubt that if the Palestinians are really committed to peace, the Palestinian Authority can call off the terrorists – just as they did for 24 days last Christmas.

We support the Tenet peace plan and Mitchell proposals and welcome the dialogue begun by Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. However, one vital key to the whole peace process must be the short and long term guarantee of Israel’s security, within secure and internationally recognised boundaries.

For its part, my party will work hard with the Government and President Bush to achieve these goals.

Moreover whilst we may differ with Israel over specific actions we must do all we can to support the values she stands for because these are the values that distinguish democracies from dictatorships and will underpin a real and lasting peace.

The British Jewish Community and Anti-Semitism

One of the alarming consequences of the problems facing Israel has been the resurgence of anti Semitism and the increased anxiety amongst Jewish communities in Europe.

Le Pen on the rampage in France, Jorg Haider in Austria and the rise of extremist parties elsewhere in Europe will heighten these forebodings.

I heard of marchers in Bournemouth shouting death to the Jews.

I am increasingly concerned when I hear reports of attacks on British Jews. 310 individuals alone last year.

But I am saddened when I hear members of the ‘chattering classes’ indulge in thinly veiled ‘salon anti-Semitism’.

The apparent remarks by poet Tom Paulin, that American Jewish settlers were ‘Nazis’ and should be shot are – if accurate – unforgivable.

When I think of these things, I am reminded of a recent meeting I had with a European Conference of Jewish community leaders. I told them of a powerful statement by Martin Luther King:

You declare my friend that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely anti-Zionist…when people criticise Zionism, they mean Jews. This is God’s own truth. Anti-Semitism, the hatred of the Jewish people has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic and ever will be so”.

Of course this does not mean that we can never criticise Israel or question her activities. I have some misgivings about the long-term course which Mr Sharon is engaged in but I understand the need for defence against the suicide bombers. But I think that the Israeli people will be quick to distinguish between those who are her real, but candid friends and those who want to use attacks on Israeli actions as an excuse for justifying their prejudices.

The Jewish Contribution

I think it was Peter Ustinov who once said:

I believe that the Jews have made a contribution to the human condition out of all proportion to their numbers: I believe them to be an immense people. Not only have they supplied the world with two leaders of the stature of Jesus Christ or Karl Marx, but they have even indulged in the luxury of following neither one nor the other!”

Jewish communities embody principles of family, neighbourliness and responsibility towards those in need.

Nowhere has this been truer than in Britain, where you have offered beacons of hope to the vulnerable amongst your community.

I understand that you have a Hebrew statement for this; Tzedekah (the act of giving).

Today’s society faces a paradox perhaps never faced before.

We have more choice than ever but more insecurity.

We have more mobility, yet our communities and neighbourhoods are breaking down.

We have more generous welfare benefits yet so many are still impoverished.

We are spending billions on our public services yet not getting the services we require.

In short we have entered an age of deep insecurity and anxiety not just in the global village but the moment we open our front door to our own neighbourhoods.

Of one thing I am certain. If we are to ease that insecurity. If we are to fill the vacuum that exists at the heart of our neighbourhoods and communities, then we must make every effort to pin together what we have termed “the neighbourly society”.

This will not be achieved by state intervention alone.

To build a strong infrastructure in our neighbourhoods, and therefore help those most in need, we must have a thriving network of strong families, community groups, voluntary associations, faith inspired organisations and others – all dedicated to public service and responsibility to others.

It is only this network that can buttress the foundations of the neighbourly society.

I agree with the historian of the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board, Mr Heinz Skyte when he writes:

“the ethos of voluntarily contributing to the society, which nurtures us is deeply ingrained”.

This is the essence of Conservatism and what I mean when I say that my party will stop at nothing to help the most vulnerable people in our country – whether it be in the Easterhouse Estate in Glasgow, which I visited recently, London or in Leeds.

To achieve these things, we need not always start from scratch.

We need to look at organisations and individuals that are working hard to transform their communities. We need to visit them to learn best practice and see what more can be done to help them flourish.

We need to understand how it is that politicians so often create the problem of dependency which has blighted our society.

Since you were first established as the Jewish Board of Guardians in 1878, your whole purpose has been to provide relief to the poor, children, the old, the mentally ill and disabled, all through initiative, hard work and voluntary action.

What better demonstration is there of support for the family, community and those in need?

It seems to me that your commitment to family is deeply rooted at the heart of your organisation. I am told that Mr Robert Manning, your President who has done so much to make the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board the success that it has become, is the son of a previous President.

Moreover, I think I am right in saying that Mr Edward Ziff who has worked so hard to raise funds is part of a third generation dynasty of the Ziff family that has been on the Board since the 1940s.

There can’t be many better examples of the importance of family ties.

Your initiative has enabled you to raise £1.5 million on provision of vital services for the Jewish community in Leeds.

I am told that you have even found an ingenious use for the Euro in persuading people to part with approximately £2000 pounds in obsolete foreign currency.

That is one currency I hope helps you more, as it becomes more obsolete.

Through all your work, you have shown that the neighbourly society is something that really can be achieved.

That working within one’s community from the grassroots upwards to help the needy can have astonishing results – far better than any top-heavy, top-down, bureaucratised ‘anti-poverty’ scheme emanating from Whitehall.

When I look at this achievement, alongside the many others of the Jewish community; in education, in charity, in philanthropy and the professions I have no doubt that the Jewish sense of identity and tradition will continue be as vibrant as ever through our future generations.

When I think of the contribution made by the Chief Rabbi and other senior Jewish leaders to our national life and to civil society I am confident that this difficult period for the Jewish community will pass and that you will go from strength to strength.

That is why I believe it is incumbent on those of us in positions of influence to ensure that this is so. Britain’s proud status as an open and tolerant society depends upon it. It is the right and proper thing to fight for such tolerance and remind ourselves that friendship is for bad times as well as good.

Damian Green – 2002 Speech at Conservative Spring Forum

Below is the text of the speech made by Damian Green, the then Conservative Education Spokesperson, at Conservative Spring Forum on 23 March 2002.

Most of this session is for you to make your points and ask questions, but I just want to say a few words at the outset about the state of our education system, and our Party’s approach to making it better.

Since we are in Harrogate, the constituency of the Liberal Democrats’ Education Spokesman, I should as a matter of courtesy refer to the LibDems policy. Well, policies really, because it depends where you are. This is the party that votes to abolish grammar schools in Parliament, but defends them locally. That says it supports church schools, as long as they have nothing to do with religion. Today I can unveil a new LibDem policy, on the numeracy hour. The LibDems will ask the pupil what two plus two makes, and then agree with the answer.

But many of today’s problems in our schools stem from the Government. Five years ago education was the number one priority. Now, schools are rarely on his mind, even on the occasions when he visits this country. But even he can’t believe that it’s all wonderful. There are schools where classes have had 13 different teachers in 14 weeks. Truancy is up sharply since Labour came to power. Bullying is a real problem in far too many schools. Teachers are on strike for the first time in 20 years. Head Teachers are threatening industrial action for the first time since we created state education in 1870. 20 per cent of new teachers leave the profession within three years of starting—usually complaining about the unnecessary work caused by Government red tape.

So it’s not all rosy. But nor is it all bad. One of my early tasks has been to immerse myself in the education system, which is why I spent a week in a comprehensive in south London, both learning and teaching. One heart-warming memory was of a class of 13-year-olds. They had been studying Twelfth Night, and the teacher said that there was a production on in London, and asked who wanted to see it. Every hand in the class shot up.

It shows what can be achieved by an inspirational teacher, and it cheered me up no end to see that all those educational theorists who say that Shakespeare can mean nothing to modern inner city children from ethnic minorities are talking rubbish.

And we too should take a lesson from that teacher. We should applaud the work done by teachers up and down this country every day. Teachers are not wreckers, Mr Blair. They are hard-working professionals who deserve respect. No Government will create a world-class school system without the enthusiastic involvement of our teachers.

So our task over the coming months and years is to turn into practical policies our instinct to take power away from central Government and give it those who know and care most about education—parents, governors, teachers, and the local community. People often ask us the very fair question, what difference would you lot make?

My answer is that, just as a first point, if I were Education Secretary instead of Estelle Morris far fewer directions and guidelines would pour out of the Department for Education. Teachers would spend their time teaching instead of filling in forms. Governors would be allowed to set the direction of the school. Local people, local councillors, would be trusted to know the local schools better than the Minister back in Whitehall.

A Conservative Government would not interfere across the board. We would concentrate on the areas that need change. We would back heads who want to ensure discipline in schools. We would make our vocational education as good as the best of our academic education—because it’s just as important. And we would let schools reflect the needs of their local community, not the needs of the Government’s spin doctors.

Estelle Morris and I both want excellence in our schools. The difference is that she wants to achieve it by ordering people about; I want to achieve it by trusting people. Her way is doomed to failure. You cannot run 25,000 schools from the Secretary of State’s office. Our way is to set standards of excellence, to back heads and teachers in maintaining discipline, and to trust local people to know what’s best for their children. That’s the practical way, the Conservative way, and with your help, I want to make it the way all our schools are run after the next Election.

Iain Duncan Smith – 2002 Speech at the London Chamber of Commerce

Below is the text of the speech made by Iain Duncan Smith, the then Leader of the Conservative Party, at the London Chamber of Commerce on 18 April 2002.

It is a great pleasure to be with you at your President’s lunch today and I am extremely grateful to you for your kind invitation.

I’m looking forward to what is usually described as a full and frank discussion about the Budget in a few moments, but first I would like to set out where I think things stand.

Today’s newspapers are full of headlines about Gordon Brown punishing small businesses and their workers to pump more money into public services.

But none of this is new.

The Chancellor spent his first five Budgets raising taxes by stealth. He piled on £6 billion a year in extra taxes and another £5 billion a year in regulation.

What we saw yesterday was simply the final stripping away of the veneer of New Labour and a return to old-style tax and spend in spades.

With his increase in National Insurance contributions he broke cover.

The CBI estimates that the cost of doing business has gone up by £2.5 billion after yesterday.

The Federation of Small Business said that small firms will face a £2 billion bill to cover his National Insurance hike, and called the Chancellor’s Budget ‘a sickener’.

The British Chambers of Commerce said that Business Competitiveness had taken a step backwards.

The fact is the increase in Employers’ National Insurance contributions is purely and simply a tax on jobs.

And with people on average earnings having to pay an extra £214 pounds a year in tax from their income, it will also influence pay negotiations going forwards.

These things dwarf the eye-catching measures made by the Chancellor such as the reduction in the small companies corporation tax rate, the simplification of VAT and his research and development credit.

Overall his measures amount to an effective increase in Corporation Tax of 3%, except that they will bite on all firms no matter how profitable they are, no matter how small they are.

They will hit labour-intensive industries such as those in the service sector particularly hard.

And that includes those public services like health, education and the police that he says he is seeking to improve with his tax increases.

The NHS is Europe’s largest employer. Well over half its total costs are staff costs.

How much of yesterday’s NHS funding increases announced by the Chancellor yesterday will be eaten up by NICs increases for employers?

And what of the employees? A senior nurse will now be more than £300 a year worse off as a result of yesterday’s tax changes.

Will senior nurses not want a pay increase to compensate for the extra tax they are having to pay?

The total cost could be a billion pounds.

No wonder Tony Blair and Gordon Brown got a warmer reception than they were hoping for from an irate nurse when they went to the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital this morning.

She was right to say the Chancellor he had scored ‘an own goal’ by raising National Insurance on poorly-paid NHS staff.

And that is not the only own goal he has scored.

The Chancellor’s budget speaks volumes about his attitude to small businesses, many of them already struggling to survive under the burden of regulations he has imposed.

None more so than care homes – a crucial part of how we care for the vulnerable in our society.

Care homes have been closing all over the country as a result of the costs the Government has imposed on them.

They are labour-intensive businesses: around 80 per cent of their costs are labour costs.

The smallest care homes now operate on profit margins of less than 5 per cent.

Raising employers’ NICs by 1 per cent will reduce their profits by almost a fifth.

More and more care home owners will find that they can earn a better living by investing their money in a building society rather than by providing care for the elderly.

As the Chief Executive of the Registered Nursing Home Association said today:

‘For those care home owners who are already teetering on the brink, this tax increase on wages could be the final straw. Many care home owners could say “I’ve had enough”‘.

What kind of message is that to send to small businesses?

What kind of message is that for the Chancellor to send to the elderly?

But all of this is merely a down payment on future tax rises.

Now the Chancellor has turned on the tap, he will find it very hard to turn it off again.

His current increases in public spending only take us up to the next Election. Whatever he says at that Election he would ultimately need to raise taxes again, perhaps by as much as £6 billion a year during the next Parliament.

And not all of this would even go on schools and hospitals. Over the past five years welfare bills have increased faster than the money into health and education.

But at least the British people will know next time that he will tax, tax and tax again.

At the last Election, just ten months ago, Gordon Brown who once called National Insurance ‘a tax on ordinary families’ rejected claims he would jack up NICs as ‘smears that I utterly repudiate’.

After yesterday, no-one will ever believe a word they say again.

The tough medicine he dispensed yesterday is only part of a repeat prescription.

But will it work? The Chancellor has firmly closed his mind to any meaningful reform of the Health Service and has decided instead to try and spend his way to decent healthcare in this country.

In that sense it is a real gamble. We should never forget that in his first five years he had already increased real resources going into the NHS by one-third.

Consider the results of that approach.

Waiting lists are rising again.

Accident and Emergency waits have got longer.

The odds of surviving cancer in this country are among the worst in Europe.

Hospital beds are blocked and care home beds are being closed.

The NHS has to send patients abroad to be treated.

And last year a quarter of a million people paid for their own operations out of their own pockets, a record.

I heard Gordon Brown this morning on television and radio saying the NHS was the best health insurance scheme in the world.

To be honest I don’t think French patients, German patients or Swedish patients lie in their beds wishing they were British. Quite the reverse in fact.

Under the Chancellor’s plan, by 2007/8 the NHS as a whole will be spending roughly what a country like France spends today. But Wales and Northern Ireland already spend that now and their treatment of patients is worse.

At the end of the day it isn’t simply about money, it is about changing the way that money is spent.

Yes, we need to spend more money on health, but we also need to learn lessons from those countries who deliver healthcare to their people than we do.

I challenged Tony Blair on this point at Prime Minister’s Question Time before Christmas.

I asked him whether once we matched the European average on health spending we could look forward to European standards of health care. He said yes.

So today I issue this challenge to the Chancellor, if he matches European spending on health will he get rid of waiting lists as they have in Germany?

Will he give patients a legal right to treatment within four weeks of seeing their GP as they have in Denmark?

Will patients be able to go to the doctor and the hospital of their choice as they do in Stockholm?

Will Gordon Brown come with me as I visit Italy and Spain in the weeks to come to see what Britain can learn from the way they run health care there?

For in the end that is how yesterday’s Budget will ultimately be judged.

On whether it deliver things to people in Britain – especially our elderly and our vulnerable – that the citizens of other countries take for granted.

I think the Chancellor’s past record is a guide to his future performance.

He has closed his mind to genuine reform.

He is about to spend a lot of money on a system which is outdated, overly-centralised and incapable of using that money properly.

1970s methods used on a 1940s institution will not deliver 21st century standards.

In the process he will damage our competitiveness and make things more difficult for hardworking families.

David Lidington – 2018 Speech at UK Finance Annual Industry Dinner

Below is the text of the speech made by David Lidington, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, on 18 October 2018.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for the invitation and thank you for that welcome.

I am deeply conscious I am interposing a speech between you and the opportunity for food and drink, and also looking to my right, presumably for the karaoke for which this sector is renowned at the end of the evening. I will look forward to the FT’s music correspondents giving the full details tomorrow morning.

I want to start by being frank with you –

This country is facing some of the most complex social and economic challenges of any in recent history.

But those new challenges also bring with them new opportunities. And this sector and this country have track record of seizing those opportunities and making the most of them.

Many of you will be agog to know the very latest on what’s going to happen at the European Council in Brussels this evening –

Apart from the fact I suspect they won’t have anything like as good a dinner as they will have here –

The Prime Minister will welcome the progress made in recent weeks on the Withdrawal Agreement and the political declaration on the future relationship.

She will reiterate the need for the backstop to be temporary, and for this condition to be built into the agreement we negotiate with the EU.

And she will emphasise our continued commitment to getting a good deal in our mutual interest that respects the economic and constitutional integrity of both the United Kingdom and the European Union.

Getting that deal is something which I, having spent six years as Europe minister in the recent past, know is important for all sectors of the UK economy, including the financial services sector.

And I believe now is the time for a clear-eyed focus on the few remaining but critical issues that are still to be agreed.

I want to make it very clear that a deal is what we want. It is what we are working with every scrap of energy that we can muster towards achieving. And it is what we believe that we can and will secure at the end of the day.

And I think too that throughout the challenges ahead, whether those that arise out of our departure from the European Union or those that are posed generally by global competition and by the accelerating pace of technological change, the Square Mile will continue to display the characteristics that have helped make London the world’s pre-eminent financial centre.

That is certainly my view and I know it is the view of my colleague John Glen, the Economic Secretary, who is also with us this evening.

What strikes me – whenever I come to the City, whenever I talk to people – is that for centuries the City has been a place of innovation…

… of adaptability and resilience…

… and of problem-solving.

There are countless examples of those qualities that you can find shining through the fabric of the history of this City of London.

Bob, you listed in your earlier remarks a whole host of examples of how over the past 12 months alone this City, and this sector within the City, have demonstrated those qualities of adaptability, resilience and problem solving.

You mentioned at one stage what you have been doing in this sector over cyber security. Just two days ago I launched the second Annual Report of the National Cyber Security Centre.

One thing that I announced then is that the Government is going to copy the best of what you have done – the CBEST approach and standards that have been pioneered by the United Kingdom’s financial services sector.

We are going to adapt a GBEST approach to ensure that government and government suppliers are also working to ensure that when people do business with the UK of any kind, they know that this will be the most cyber secure business environment of any other in the world.

You look at the history of the City, and I can point to examples of those qualities of adaptability and problem-solving – at least two of them in this building itself.

You have probably already admired the magnificent 170-foot king post timber roof of this space, the so-called ‘Porter Tun’.

But you might not have yet a story about some early 19th century porter in the vaults lying beneath our feet.

The founder of this brewery, Samuel Whitbread, wanted to save money by switching from storing the porter in casks to a bulk storage system.

He soon found himself in difficulty.

The surviving documentation shows that the liquid ran through the walls “as through a sieve”.

Fortunately two of the great men of the day, Josiah Wedgwood and John Smeaton, applied their minds to the challenge in the great tradition of the City.

Now, that tradition of course is not solving problems through the rapid consumption of alcohol –

They didn’t drink it all themselves…

But what Wedgwood and Smeaton did was use their engineering expertise to help the Brewery go from strength to strength.

You might say they had successfully consigned the problem of uncontrolled leaks to the past.

Something that I am trying to persuade the Cabinet that they should adopt as well.

Government and business working together
But that anecdote exemplifies in a way the qualities that have helped the City prosper…

… and helped our financial services sector create opportunities for people around the country, too.

And it’s particularly important, at a time when in the years since 2008 we have seen an ebbing of more general public confidence and trust in UK finance, in the City, even in the free enterprise system itself, that we do ensure that we both speak about and demonstrate what this sector does for the prosperity and security of people in every part of this nation.

Roughly two-thirds of the 2.2 million people who work in the financial and related professional services sectors are based outside London.

And across all the major sectors the UK financial services industry is highly developed.

We’ve got the largest asset management sector in Europe…

… we have the largest banking sector in Europe…

… and the largest insurance sector in Europe, too.

All told, last year the UK was the largest net exporter of financial services in the world, with a trade surplus of £61 billion.

I think our dynamic financial services sector should be the beating heart of a free market economy…

… An economy that helps everyone in our country realise the opportunities ahead.

That includes creating new opportunities for small businesses, mutuals, charities, co-operatives and social enterprises.

We want to nurture vibrant, healthy, innovative, competitive and diverse marketplaces.

And so, I know, do you, representing UK finance business.

Financial services is a key part of our economic infrastructure.

It generates wealth…

… it creates jobs up and down the country…

… and provides tax revenue to support our vital public services.

That’s why this government is committed to listening to your views and engaging with you closely on a range of issues.

Working together we can help back businesses to create jobs while ensuring that they also play by the rules.

Working together we can build the homes people need so that everyone can have a safe, decent place to live.

And working together we can help people to achieve their true potential – whether that is about enable people to develop the skills they are going need in an economy that is being transformed every day by digital technology…

… or whether it is about ensuring everyone has access to the kind of opportunities that most of us in this this room sometimes take for granted.

Collaborating on the domestic financial services agenda
All of us in this room, for example, can agree on the importance of affordable credit.

Regardless of their background or income, it’s right that everyone should have access to useful and affordable financial products and services.

The government is committed to addressing this issue…

That is why that subject formed part of the work of the Financial Inclusion Policy Forum, established earlier this year, which brings together industry, the third sector, ministers and the regulator.

UK Finance has worked alongside Toynbee Hall to co-chair the Forum’s subgroup which is exploring ways to increase the availability of affordable credit to all consumers.

That important work highlights how, coming together, we can explore solutions to the difficult challenges facing the most vulnerable men and women in our society.

Our collaborative efforts can support consumers…

… and they can protect them, too.

UK Finance data shows there were more than 30,000 cases of automated push payment fraud in the first half of 2018.

Both individuals and micro-businesses are being harmed by these kinds of scams.

We do need to take them very seriously…

… That’s why I’m delighted that requirements for consumer protection and the principles for reimbursement for consumers who fall victim to them have been developed by a joint Steering Group of industry and consumer group representatives.

And on behalf of the government I want to say a big thank you to UK Finance for your work in providing the secretariat for that Steering Group.

The publication of its draft voluntary code is an important milestone and we look forward to hearing responses to its consultation in due course.

It’s right that industry takes the necessary steps to protect consumers against this kind of fraud…

… and so we welcome UK Finance’s work in helping to develop it.

There are many other examples I can give of collaborative working:

UK Finance’s work with the Post Office to raise awareness of the Post Office’s services that allow banking in person to continue,

… or UK Finance’s integral role supporting our response to economic crime, including through the Joint Fraud Taskforce, the Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Taskforce and seconding staff to help build the new National Economic Crime Centre…

… or the very welcome engagement of UK Finance and others across the financial services sector as we draft the necessary legislation for onshoring.

Financial services and Brexit
As I have said at the start – and as I say again now – we recognise how important it is that we get a good Brexit deal, and that firms and their customers do not face a cliff-edge at the point of our exit from the European Union.

That is what the entire Cabinet is working towards, and we are committed to making further progress in negotiations.

But it’s also right that we ensure that we are prepared for any and all scenarios, just as you would also expect of any responsible business.

I want to say how grateful I am to UK Finance for your input into this process – your expertise really is invaluable.

But I also want to say that although there has been escalating excitement about the possibility that a deal with the European Union would prove elusive…

… the growth in newspaper column inches does not reflect an increased likelihood of no deal.

As the Prime Minister has said:

This is the time for cool, calm heads to prevail.

I believe her pragmatic proposals which she has put forward are in the economic interests of both sides – of businesses and of consumers in all 28 countries of the European Union.

We are asking our European partners to respond with ambition and with urgency…

… and to concentrate with us on completing this task in the interests of all our citizens.

We have had good working-level discussions with the European Commission on our proposals for the future relationship in financial services.

And what we have proposed in our White Paper is logical.

Our financial markets are deeply integrated.

That indisputable fact underlines why the bilateral treaty agreement we are putting forward should be bolstered with regulatory dialogue and supervisory cooperation.

We should recognise the autonomy of both sides in decisions relating to market access and the rulebook.

And the UK government is proposing a framework for financial services that will provide stability for the EU-UK financial ecosystem…

… preserving mutually beneficial cross-border business models and economic integration…

… and stabilising the current EU equivalence framework through a transparent and de-politicised process…

… for the benefit of businesses and consumers in both the United Kingdom and the EU 27.

Realising this means achieving that deal with our European partners that we remain committed to working towards.

Conclusion
The United Kingdom has always been both a European country and also one which has global interests and a global perspective.

And as we prepare to leave the European Union the United Kingdom is going to need to focus with even greater energy and determination on the opportunities to be a greater global force, forging new relationships, stronger trade links and working to increase global security.

My colleague John Glen put it this way:

the commercial instincts of this country have been honed and sharpened over the centuries…

… and we fully expect those instincts to prevail as we prepare to leave the European Union.

The innovation, the resilience of the financial services sector have been demonstrated time and time again in our national history.

Plague, fire, and blitz have not stopped the City in the past.

And while the markets that the City serves and the workforce that serves those markets have changed beyond recognition…

… I believe we can be certain of one thing:

It will be the City’s great traditions of resilience, adaptability and innovation that will continue to help it and the entire finance sector to grasp the opportunities ahead.

Thank you very much indeed.

Chris Grayling – 2018 Statement on the Rail Review

Below is the text of the statement made by Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, in the House of Commons on 11 October 2018.

Mr. Speaker,

I would like to update the House on the government’s Rail Review, which we will use to build on the successes of our busy railway, to deliver a network that is fit for the future and better serves passengers.

I will also update the House on the current performance of Northern and GTR.

For a generation before the 1993 Railways Act, British Rail was in seemingly terminal decline. Passenger numbers where falling. Stations were closing. Short term decisions were being made at the expense of the traveling public. The Railways Act brought investment, new services and better reliability.

A quarter of a century later, the situation is very different. Our UK rail network is at capacity in commuter areas, with many of the most intensively used lines in Europe. On many routes, it simply isn’t possible to squeeze more trains onto the network.

As we now know, the railways were not in terminal decline after all – they had simply been starved of investment. Privatisation has reversed the decades of decline and heralded the fastest expansion of our railways since they were built by the Victorians. It has also delivered billions of pounds of investment and radically improved safety. Our railways are now among the safest in the world.

But this welcome expansion has brought new, acute challenges. On major commuter routes across the country, trains are packed each morning. Network Rail, which represents a third (38%) of the industry (based on spend), is nationalised. It is also responsible for over half (54%) of the daily disruption.

But no matter whether it is a failure of the track, a fault with a train, or a customer incident, it is because there is little resilience or margin for error in the system that, when things go wrong, the knock-on effect can last for hours.

This problem is compounded because the railway is run by multiple players without clear lines of accountability.

When I took over as Transport Secretary in 2016 I said that change was needed. I started to bring together the operation of the tracks and trains, which had been split up in the 1990s, to be controlled by single operational teams. This is helping overcome the problems caused by fragmentation, and creating a railway that is more responsive to passenger needs.

I also said that change needed to be evolutionary and not revolutionary, to avoid destabilising the industry. So we have started to shape alliances between the teams running trains and track to create a more joined-up and customer-focused structure.

But the difficulties with the introduction of the new timetable over the summer and the problems we are experiencing with many major investment projects has convinced me that evolution is no longer enough. The collapse of Virgin Trains East Coast has also highlighted the need for radical change.

Simply, we need this change to ensure that the investment going into the railways, from both the government and the private sector, results in better services for passengers and delivers the improved reliability, better trains, extra seats and more frequent services we all want to see.

Last month, my department announced a root-and-branch review of the rail industry.

Keith Williams, deputy chairman of John Lewis and Partners and former chief executive of British Airways, is leading this work and I expect him to make ambitious recommendations for reform to ensure our rail network produces even greater benefits for passengers and continues to support a stronger, fairer economy. Keith Williams’s expertise in driving customer service excellence and workforce engagement will be incredibly valuable as we reform the rail industry to become more passenger-focused.

Keith will be assisted by an independent expert challenge panel from across the country, with expertise in rail, business and customer service.

The panel will ensure the review thinks boldly and creatively, challenging received wisdom, to ensure its recommendations can deliver the stability and improvements that rail passengers deserve. They will be supported by a dedicated secretariat and will now begin engaging with the industry, passengers, regional and business representatives and others across the country, drawing on their expertise, insights and experiences to inform the review.

It will consider all parts of the rail industry, from the current franchising system and industry structures, to accountability and value for money for passengers and taxpayers. It will consider further devolution and the needs of rail freight operators, and will take into account the final report of Professor Stephen Glaister into the May 2018 network disruption, due at the end of the year, which I will turn to shortly.

When we establish what we think is the right approach to mend our railways, it must be properly tested and scrutinised independently.

I have today (11 October 2018) published the Rail Review’s terms of reference, and have placed copies in the libraries of both Houses, together with the names of the Rail Review’s independent panel.

The review will build a rigorous and comprehensive evidence base, and it will make recommendations regarding the most appropriate organisational and commercial framework for the sector that delivers our vision for a world-class railway.

The private sector has an important part to play in shaping the future of the industry, but it is important that the review considers the right balance of public and private sector involvement.

Mr Speaker, some have called for the return to a national, state-run monopoly, and for us to go back to the days of British Rail. There is an expectation that taking on hundreds of millions of pounds of debt onto the government books will magically resolve every problem.

This fails to recognise that many of the problems that customers faced this year were down to the nationalised part of the railways.

It also creates the sense that a government-controlled rebrand would somehow make every train work on time. Those who make this argument fail to tell passengers that the much-needed investment that is taking place today would be at risk, and that taxpayers’ money would be diverted from public services to subsidise losses.

The review will look at how the railway is organised to deliver for passengers. It will look forensically at the different options, and then make recommendations on what will best deliver results in different areas of the country.

The review will conclude with a White Paper in autumn 2019, which will set out its findings, and explain how we will deliver reform. We expect reform to begin from 2020, so passengers will see benefits before the next election.

I have commuted by train for most of my career; over 35 years. I still do. I am proud to be in a government that is supporting a major programme of investment in rail, from Thameslink to the Transpennine upgrade, with new trains in the north, south, east and west.

But I can’t stand by while the current industry struggles to deliver the improvements that this investment should be generating. So it’s time for change.

The review will not prevent us taking every opportunity in the short term to improve passenger experiences. That is the government’s focus, and that is why we are committed to an investment of £48 billion in the railways over the next 5 years.

Mr Speaker, Professor Stephen Glaister’s interim report has provided us with an accurate account of the series of mistakes and complex issues across the rail industry that led to the unacceptable disruption that passengers experienced earlier this year.

We know that in the north, delays to infrastructure upgrades, beyond the control of Northern Rail, were a major factor in the resulting disruption. Richard George, the former head of transport at the London 2012 Olympic Games, is now working with the industry and Transport for the North to look at any underlying performance issues.

In the 4 weeks ending 15 September, over 85% of services met their punctuality targets; the highest level delivered for Northern Rail’s passengers since the timetable introduction in May. Northern is now running 99% of the planned May timetable, and we are working with Transport for the North and the industry to plan further uplifts in services, while prioritising reliability.

In the coming months, passengers across the north will begin to benefit from the brand new trains that were unveiled last week. There will be over 2,000 extra services a week, all the Northern and TransPennine Express trains will be brand new or refurbished, and all the Pacers will be gone.

Mr Speaker,

I now want to turn to GTR which has new leadership and where the reliability of its services have significantly improved; since the introduction of the interim timetable in July, 85% of trains arrived at their station on time.

In addition to this, in the last week, the first of the new Class 717 trains that will run on its Great Northern routes begun testing.

GTR is now operating 94% of the weekday services it planned to run from 20 May, including all services during the busiest peak hours. By December 10 it plans to introduce all planned off-peak services. There is, however, more work to do to improve services at weekends.

Since the disruption in May there has been intense scrutiny from the government and its independent regulator, the Office for Road and Rail, on what went wrong and why.

GTR must take its fair share of the responsibility – its performance was below what we expect from our rail operators.

Officials in my department are taking action to finalise how we will hold GTR account for the disruption and the Rail Minister will keep the House updated.

Mr Speaker, our action demonstrates that when passengers experienced severe disruption, this government took action.

To help passengers plan ahead.

To reduce delays.

To reduce cancellations.

To properly compensate disrupted fare-payers.

The Rail Review that I have announced will continue this approach, ensuring the rail industry is always focused on the passenger first and that record investment delivers the services that passengers want and deserve.

James Brokenshire – 2018 Statement on Leasehold Reform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

measures to improve how leasehold properties are bought and sold.

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

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

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

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

Tracey Crouch – 2018 Speech on Loneliness

Below is the text of the speech made by Tracey Crouch, the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in the House of Commons on 15 October 2018.

I should like to make a statement on the publication of the Government’s landmark strategy to tackle loneliness.

This is a very emotional statement to make. I am standing here at the Dispatch Box with a clear line of sight to the coat of arms representing our colleague who took this issue of loneliness and catapulted it into the stratosphere. I have dedicated a brief nine months to developing the strategy, but Jo Cox dedicated her whole life to tackling loneliness, and the publication of this strategy, which bears her photo, and a copy of which I have set aside for Jo’s children, is dedicated to her. I hope she would be proud.

The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness was set up with a vision to carry forward her important work, and in January the Prime Minister welcomed its report and many of its recommendations, including the appointment of a cross-Government ministerial lead on loneliness, a post which I was overwhelmingly humbled to be offered. I would like to take this opportunity to thank in particular the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) and my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Seema Kennedy) for their vital work as co-chairs of the commission. Their dedication and passion have been essential in leading and driving forward action, and I am personally grateful to them for the cross-party support they have given me since I have taken on this work.

Since then, our work in the UK has gained global attention. Loneliness is increasingly recognised as one of the most pressing public health issues we face across the world. Feeling lonely is linked to early death, with its impact often cited as being on a par with that of smoking or obesity. It is also linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, cognitive decline and even Alzheimer’s.

It is estimated that between 5% and 18% of adults in the UK feel lonely often or always, but they are frequently hard to reach and suffer in silence. The Government are committed to confronting this challenge. The strategy published today outlines the Government’s vision for England to tackle loneliness, complementing the work being done in the devolved Administrations, and creating ​a place where we all have strong social relationships, where families, friends and communities support each other, where organisations promote people’s social connections as a core part of their everyday role, where loneliness can be recognised and acted on without stigma or shame, and where we can all make an effort to look out for each other and ensure that moments of contact are respectful and meaningful.

To get there requires society-wide change, which is why the strategy recognises that Government cannot make the necessary changes alone. It sets out a powerful vision of how we can all play a role in building a more socially connected society. But there is no quick fix to achieving this vision, so it is very much a starting point rather than the end. It largely concentrates on the role Government can play and how we can set the framework to enable local authorities, businesses, health and the voluntary sector, as well as communities and individuals, to support people’s social connections. But it also describes the important responsibilities that we all have as individuals to our family, friends and communities and gives some examples of the great work already under way across the country to create strong and connected communities. It is a cross-Government programme, rather than a programme of one Department, and sets out a number of policy commitments ranging across policy areas such as health, employment, transport and housing and planning, and I am pleased that so many of my colleagues involved in the strategy are sitting alongside me on the Treasury Bench this evening.

I wish briefly to draw five areas to the attention of the House. The strategy sets out a commitment to improve and expand social prescribing across England. It is estimated that GPs see between one and five patients a day because of loneliness. This is a policy that has been very much developed in response to some of the brilliant work by the Royal College of General Practitioners, frontline health professionals and others, and it will change the way patients experiencing loneliness are treated.

Social prescribing connects people to community groups and services through the support of link workers, who introduce people to support based on their individual needs. By 2023, the Government will support all local health and care systems to implement social prescribing connector schemes across the whole country. In addition, the Government will explore how a variety of organisations, such as jobcentres, community pharmacies and social workers, refer people into social prescribing schemes and test how to improve this. The Government will also work with local authorities to pilot and test how the better use of data can help to make it easier for people to find local activities, services and support.

The Government will also grow a network of employers to take action on loneliness, working with the Campaign to End Loneliness. The Government strategy includes a pilot with Royal Mail and sets out details of a new pledge that employers can sign up to, demonstrating their commitment to helping their employees to tackle loneliness. I am really pleased that a number of businesses and organisations have signed up, including Sainsbury’s, the Co-op, National Grid and the British Red Cross, along with 18 or so others, as well as the UK Government civil service.

Earlier this summer, we announced that £20 million of funding would be made available from the Government and other partners to support initiatives to connect people. ​In the strategy today, I am pleased to announce that a further £1.8 million will be made available to support even more community spaces and used to transform underutilised areas, including creating new community cafés, art spaces or gardens.

Furthermore, the Government will build a national conversation to raise awareness of loneliness and reduce the stigma. We will explore how best to drive awareness of the importance of social health and how we can encourage people to take action. In addition, Public Health England’s forthcoming campaign on mental health will explicitly highlight the importance of social connections to our wider wellbeing.

Finally, the strategy sets out the Government’s ongoing commitment to this agenda. The ministerial group that steered development of the strategy will continue to meet to oversee the Government’s work on tackling loneliness. The group will publish an annual progress report. My ministerial colleagues in the group, from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, will have their portfolios extended to include loneliness, to show the importance of the agenda across a wide range of policy areas. My colleague at the Department of Health and Social Care, who already has loneliness in her portfolio, will also continue to provide invaluable support on this work.

The Government’s intention is to embed consideration of loneliness and relationships throughout the policy-making process. From next year, individual Government Departments will highlight the progress they are making on addressing loneliness through their annual single departmental plans. The Government will also explore other mechanisms for ensuring that loneliness is considered in policy making, including through adding loneliness to the guidance for the family test.

The Government strategy is a significant first step in the national mission to end loneliness in our lifetimes. An enormous number of people, organisations, voluntary groups and others have helped to produce the strategy; the list published in the strategy of my thanks extends to four pages, so I cannot mention them all here. As there is no way they would have written it into the speech or the strategy themselves, I would like to place on the record a huge thank you to the team of officials who have been enthusiastic secondees from across Whitehall to work on this strategy. They have brought with them invaluable energy and expertise from their Departments, and it has been an enormous pleasure to work with them.

The strategy builds on years of dedicated work by many organisations and individuals. It sets out a powerful vision on how we can all play a role in building a more socially connected society and is supported by important policy commitments to make that vision a reality. I call on all hon. Members across the House to join me in taking action to defeat loneliness. Together we can address one of the most pressing social issues of our time. I commend this statement to the House.

Theresa May – 2018 Statement on EU Exit Negotiations

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 15 October 2018.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House ahead of this week’s European Council.

We are entering the final stages of these negotiations. This is the time for cool, calm heads to prevail, and for a clear-eyed focus on the few remaining but critical issues that are still to be agreed. Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union went to Brussels for further talks with Michel Barnier. There has inevitably been a great deal of inaccurate speculation, so I want to set out clearly for the House the facts as they stand.

First, we have made real progress in recent weeks on both the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration on our future relationship. I want to pay tribute to both negotiating teams for the many, many hours of hard work that have got us to this point. In March, we agreed legal text around the implementation period, citizen’s rights and the financial settlement, and we have now made good progress on text concerning the majority of the outstanding issues. Taken together, the shape of the deal across the vast majority of the withdrawal agreement—the terms of our exit—is now clear. We also have broad agreement on the structure and scope of the framework for our future relationship, with progress on issues such as security, transport and services.

Perhaps most significantly, we have made progress on Northern Ireland, on which the EU has been working with us to respond to the very real concerns we had about its original proposals. Let me remind the House why this is so important. Both the UK and the EU share a profound responsibility to ensure the preservation of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, protecting the hard-won peace and stability in Northern Ireland and ensuring that life continues essentially as it does now. We agree that our future economic partnership should provide for solutions to the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland in the long term, and while we are both committed to ensuring that this future relationship is in place by the end of the implementation period, we accept that there is a chance that there may be a gap between the two. This is what creates the need for a backstop to ensure that if such a temporary gap were ever to arise, there would be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, or indeed anything that would threaten the integrity of our precious Union.

This backstop is intended to be an insurance policy for the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland. Previously, the European Union had proposed a backstop that would see Northern Ireland carved off in the EU’s customs union and parts of the single market, separated through a border in the Irish sea from the UK’s own internal market. As I have said many times, I could never accept that, no matter how unlikely such a scenario might be. Creating any form of customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would mean a fundamental change in the day-to-day experience for businesses in Northern Ireland, with the potential to affect jobs and investment. We published our proposals on customs in the backstop in June. After Salzburg, I said that we would bring forward our own further proposals, and that is what we have done in these ​negotiations. The European Union has responded positively by agreeing to explore a UK-wide customs solution to this backstop, but two problems remain.

First, the EU says that there is not time to work out the detail of this UK-wide solution in the next few weeks, so even with the progress we have made, the EU still requires a “backstop to the backstop”—effectively an insurance policy for the insurance policy—and it wants this to be the Northern Ireland-only solution that it had previously proposed. We have been clear that we cannot agree to anything that threatens the integrity of our United Kingdom, and I am sure that the whole House shares the Government’s view on this. Indeed, the House of Commons set out its view when agreeing unanimously to section 55 in part 6 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018 on a single United Kingdom customs territory, which states:

“It shall be unlawful for Her Majesty’s Government to enter into arrangements under which Northern Ireland forms part of a separate customs territory to Great Britain.”

So the message is clear not just from this Government but from the whole House.

Secondly, I need to be able to look the British people in the eye and say that this backstop is a temporary solution. People are rightly concerned that what is only meant to be temporary could become a permanent limbo, with no new relationship between the UK and the EU ever agreed. I am clear that we are not going to be trapped permanently in a single customs territory unable to do meaningful trade deals. So it must be the case, first, that the backstop should not need to come into force; secondly, that if it does, it must be temporary; and, thirdly, while I do not believe that this will be the case, that if the EU were not to co-operate on our future relationship, we must be able to ensure that we cannot be kept in this backstop arrangement indefinitely. I would not expect the House to agree to a deal unless we have the reassurance that the UK, as a sovereign nation, has this say over our arrangements with the EU.

I do not believe that the UK and the EU are far apart. We both agree that article 50 cannot provide the legal base for a permanent relationship, and we both agree that the backstop must be temporary, so we must now work together to give effect to that agreement.

So much of the negotiations are necessarily technical, but the reason why this all matters is that it affects the future of our country. It affects jobs and livelihoods in every community. It is about what kind of country we are and about our faith in our democracy. Of course it is frustrating that almost all the remaining points of disagreement are focused on how we manage a scenario that both sides hope should never come to pass and that, if it does, will only be temporary. We cannot let that disagreement derail the prospects of a good deal and leave us with the no-deal outcome that no-one wants. I continue to believe that a negotiated deal is the best outcome for the UK and for the European Union. I continue to believe that such a deal is achievable, and that is the spirit in which I will continue to work with our European partners. I commend this statement to the House.

Chloe Smith – 2018 Speech on Democracy

Below is the text of the speech made by Chloe Smith, the Minister for the Constitution, in Brussels, Belgium on 15 October 2018.

Introduction

We agree democracy is essential for free, well-governed societies to prosper.

We in the UK, along with you, are part of a community, extolling the virtues of democracy.

But as the leaders of the G7 agreed earlier this year in the Charlevoix, “democracy and the rules-based international order are increasingly being challenged by authoritarianism and the defiance of international norms”.

It’s up to all of us to work together to defend our democracy and preserve it for future generations. In my view we must respect it, protect it and promote it – those are the themes I will be working on in the UK, Europe and around the world.

As the Minister for the Constitution in the UK Government, today, I will set out what we are doing to defend the UK’s democracy. We are committed to:

– maintaining transparency, fairness and equality for parties, campaigners and voters

– we want to protect the safety and security of the electoral process, free from fraud and interference

– and we want to build on our democratic traditions to remain world leaders in maintaining confidence in our democracy

Transparency for digital campaigning

Starting with one of the challenges we face – for the last three decades the internet has not only revolutionised the way we interact with each other, it has revolutionised the way we do politics, too.

Information is only a moment away, and on the whole those changes are positive.

Thirty years ago, voters also didn’t also have to worry about whether their choice was being influenced by misleading political ads on social media.

The digital landscape poses challenges which we can’t afford to shy away from addressing.

On international affairs – we know that certain states routinely use disinformation, bots and hacking as foreign policy tools. It’s not surprising that they should try to influence other countries democratic systems to further their own agendas.

Democracy is based on citizens being confident that the elections they vote in are fair and transparent.

Governments must act to meet the pressures of digital campaigning so this confidence is assured, in terms of foreign-originated content, but of course also domestic content and debate too.

We are working to protect the news environment so accurate content can prevail and has a sustainable future.

We have to be alive to the fact that traditional news outlets aren’t the main source of information anymore.

We must give everyone the skills they need to distinguish between fact and fabrication.

In the UK, we are publicly consulting on how to require digital campaigning material to include the details of who has produced it.

Because voters need to see which organisation or individual is targeting them.

Salisbury

People need to be informed about the threats facing our country. I am immensely proud of the work done by the National Security Communications Team and the government’s Russia unit in revealing the role of the GRU in the despicable Salisbury attack.

The actions of the GRU are genuinely a threat to all our allies in democracy.

We are working together by sharing information about their activity with our international partners so that others can learn more about the threat they pose.

Safety and security of elections

In the UK, we have seen no evidence of successful interference in our democratic processes. We are vigilant.

I am confident that our voting system is secure.

Whilst UK voting systems do not lend themselves to direct electronic manipulation because our ballots are conducted with paper and pen.

But we recognise that confidence in the electoral system, and participation in it, are very much linked.

In the UK – there’s a reform we’re doing – you only need to say your name and address to get your ballot paper – a test based on a 19th century assumption that people knew their neighbours at the polling station.

Clearly, this process can be open to abuse and needs to be updated for our more modern, populous society.

One approach is to bring the UK in line with other European countries such as the Netherlands, France and Germany and many others where people can confirm their identity when they vote.

Conclusion

We know it is vital that everyone has confidence that their vote is theirs, and theirs alone.

Not only that – they have to feel that their vote matters, and that their voice is being heard, too.

I want the reputation of the UK’s democracy to be absolutely solid:

– known for its transparency and fairness

– known for being a safe and secure electoral system, untainted by misinformation

– I want it known for being a democracy that genuinely does work for every voter

– and known for the willingness of its government to work hard to increase confidence in our democracy for the people it serves

As I said, we must respect, protect and promote our democracy for the next generation.

That work has a vital task for our times.