Theresa May – 2018 Speech in Macedonia

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in Macedonia on 17 May 2018.

Thank you, Prime Minister, thank you for the warm welcome.

I’m delighted to be here in Skopje as we mark the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Macedonia and the UK.

I’m proud to be the first British Prime Minister in almost 20 years to visit this beautiful country.

As Prime Minister Zaev has just mentioned, today we both attended the first EU Summit with the Western Balkans since 2003.

Here leaders from across Europe and the region were working together to discuss the next steps we could take to help deliver stability, security and prosperity for the Western Balkans.

I know that the conflicts of the past can sometimes seem almost impossible to overcome.

Many difficult questions remain unresolved, including internal conflicts in the region, serious and organised crime, illegal migration and extremism.

We must be alive to the challenges of the past, yet remain ambitious in securing the peaceful, prosperous and democratic future that your citizens and communities deserve.

With the right political will, progress can be rapid and far-reaching – just look at what has happened here in Macedonia.

Just 18 months after Parliamentary elections, we’re already seeing significant changes and a government that is working hard to uphold the rule of law, reach out to its neighbours and make progress in negotiations on the Name Issue.

I know that both Macedonia and Greece are working closely to find a solution and this requires political courage and a willingness to make difficult decisions. Resolution will bring clear benefits to both countries and also to the region as a whole. And you can rely on the UK’s full support in this.

We want to see Macedonia continue on this positive path. That’s why the UK has quadrupled the support we give to Macedonia to contribute towards this government’s reform programme.

It’s why we are sharing our military expertise and are assisting Macedonia’s Strategic Defence Review, as you aim to adapt the Macedonian Army to NATO standards.

And it’s why we took the decision to host the next Western Balkans Summit in London in July – as part of the Berlin process.

Here we will look to strengthen regional security cooperation in the Western Balkans, improve economic stability, and foster greater political cooperation and overcome legacy issues stemming from the struggles of the past thirty years.

Prime Minister Zaev, your country is an integral part of Europe. And we know that a strong, stable and prosperous Western Balkans region benefits all European countries.

Our friendship, our relationship will continue to deepen, even as the UK embarks on a future outside of the European Union.

We are all Europeans. And as Macedonia’s response to the Salisbury attack shows, we share the same values and we face the same challenges that are better tackled when we work together.

So, today after 25 years, we’ve never been closer.

And, Prime Minister Zaev, I look forward to welcoming you to London in July to continue this important discussion.

Thank you.

Theresa May – 2018 Speech at Creative Industries Reception

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, at Downing Street in London on 8 May 2018.

Good evening everyone. It is a pleasure to welcome some of Britain’s great creative minds to Downing Street today, and I hope you have had the chance to admire some of the great British art we have here at Number 10. From Henry Moore to Stanley Spencer, who was brought up in my constituency, to Tracey Emin are represented here.

It’s a real who’s who of British art but our artists, modern and contemporary, are not the only world-leaders in our creative industries. I think what is great here this evening is that we have people from so many different aspects of our creative industries.

So while our films captivate audiences the world over, our fashion designers surprise and delight, our architects are shaping skylines and cityscapes on every continent.

In publishing, in music, in advertising and more, the UK consistently punches well above its weight. And every day our creative industries fly the flag for Britain on the global stage. Every year our creative industries contribute £92 billion to the economy, providing work for more than two million people right across the country.

I am not just talking about the big names, the stars of stage and screen who we all recognise, the sector provides highly skilled jobs right across the board. Technicians, producers, researchers, designers, coders, set builders, make-up artists…. The unsung heroes, the people without whom our creative industries would not be the worldwide success that they are.

But of course, the value of culture and creativity lies not only in its economic strength. Just as important is the less tangible contribution that it makes to our national life. The work you do brings joy to millions. It fosters unity, gives us a common currency. It helps to define and build our sense of national character.

“Without culture […] society is but a jungle”. Your work is a vital part of our national life and our national economy, and I am absolutely committed to supporting it.

And of course since 2015, Arts Council England has invested over £1 billion in arts and culture, with grants being made right across the country.

Our ambitious sector deal for the creative industries, announced just before Easter, will see a further £150 million invested by government and industry, spreading success and making the sector fit to face the future.

And today, I’m delighted to announce a £3 million fund that will provide a new source of finance for creative and cultural organisations across the North of England. Offering a mix of grants and loans, the social investment fund will be open to non-profit, community-based organisations that deliver a positive social impact.

And it will form part of the legacy for this summer’s Great Exhibition of the North: a game-changing moment for the region that showcases the very best of the North’s culture and creativity.

But our support goes beyond the financial. As we leave the European Union, we will continue to work with our European friends to protect cultural heritage and promote cultural diversity.

And, in Matt Hancock you’ve got a Secretary of State who really gets what the sector is all about, and is enthusiastic about it, and I know he is already doing great work with many of you who are here tonight.

Our creative industries really are at the heart of what makes Britain great. As I say, from the big screen to the local gallery, your sector has consistently led the world for many, many years – and I look forward to that success continuing for many more years to come.

Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for all that those who work with you do. And long may it continue.

Theresa May – 2018 Speech at Unveiling of Millicent Fawcett Statue

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in Parliament Square, London, on 24 April 2018.

Behind me, outside the Supreme Court, stands a statue of the Great Emancipator.

To my right, we see the man who did more than any other to gain independence for India.

Opposite Parliament, the man who saved Europe from the grip of fascism.

They are all great men, important men, men who deserve their places in history and in this square.

But I would not be standing here today as Prime Minister…

No female MPs would have taken their seats in Parliament…

None of us would have the rights we now enjoy, were it not for one truly great woman: Dame Millicent Garret Fawcett.

The struggle to achieve votes for women was long and arduous. Dame Millicent was there from the beginning, and devoted her life to the cause.

As a teenager, she collected names for the first pro-Suffrage petition even though she was too young to sign it herself.

As a young woman she overcame a dislike of public speaking and took to the platform at the first women’s suffrage meeting to be held in London.

For decade after decade, in the face of often fierce opposition, she travelled the country and the world, campaigning not just for the vote but on a whole range of issues.

She was a tireless advocate for equal access to education, pressuring universities to admit women on equal terms and establishing her own Cambridge college.

She fought for the rights of sex workers, convincing politicians to overturn the discriminatory Contagious Diseases Acts.

She campaigned to protect children from exploitation and abuse, reported on the treatment of civilians in the Boer War…

She was even responsible for Blake’s And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time being set to music by Sir Hubert Parry.

History has many authors. In our own small way we each help to shape the world in which we live.

But few of us can claim to have made an impact as significant and lasting as Dame Millicent, and it is right and proper that, today, she takes her place at the heart of our democracy.

On behalf of the whole country, I would like to thank all those who have made this possible.

Caroline, of course, who spearheaded the calls for a lasting memorial to Dame Millicent.

Sculptor Gillian Wearing, who has created a beautiful and fitting tribute.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, who has steered the project on behalf of the government from conception to completion.

And everyone who supported the campaign for this statue over the past two years: from Lord Finkelstein, a vocal advocate from the beginning, to the tens of thousands of individuals who signed petitions, wrote letters and lent their backing in so many ways. And around this square, the Mayor and others who had their role in this statue. This statue is your statue.

After Fawcett’s death in 1929, a tribute in one newspaper read that, “Whenever a new victory has been gained by women or some individual woman has found her way in at a new door, the minds of many have turned at once to Dame Millicent.”

Almost 90 years later, it is all too easy to forget those who forged a path for generations of women to follow.

To take for granted the progress that they achieved through years – decades – of bitter struggle.

We do so at our peril.

Because the fight for equality is far from won.

And as long as that is the case, we will need brave women and men to stand up and speak out in the face of injustice and discrimination.

Doing so will not always be easy.

But courage calls to courage everywhere.

And, for generations to come, this statue will serve not just as a reminder of Dame Millicent’s extraordinary life and legacy, but as inspiration to all of us who wish to follow in her footsteps.

Theresa May – 2018 Speech at Commonwealth Press Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, on 20 April 2018.

This week we have demonstrated that the Commonwealth is united not only by a common history – but by a common future: a future in which we work together for the benefit of all our citizens and for the wider world.

For when many of the greatest challenges we face are global in nature, the breadth of the Commonwealth – spanning six continents and a third of the world’s population – offers a unique perspective in helping to forge the global solutions we need.

No other organisation has our geographical and cultural diversity, while giving all nations an equal role, an equal voice and an equal standing.

And this week we have come together to reach a series of shared commitments that will help to build a more secure, more sustainable, more prosperous and fairer future for all.

This is the first time that security has been a central theme of our leaders’ meeting. And we have shown our resolve to stand together in defence of the rules based international system, and in defiance of those who threaten us all by seeking to undermine it.

Earlier this month the Assad regime violated international rules in the most egregious way by using chemical weapons in an indiscriminate and barbaric attack on its own people.

And while of a much lower order of magnitude, the use of a nerve agent on the streets of Salisbury here in the United Kingdom last month, is part of a pattern of disregard for those same global norms that prohibit the use of chemical weapons.

At this Summit, the Commonwealth has shown that it will play its part in a renewed international effort to uphold the global norms that say these abhorrent weapons should never, ever be used.

The Communique we have agreed today expresses our unanimous opposition to the use of these weapons – and our commitment to strengthen the effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

We must also update our shared international norms so they can protect us from new and emerging threats online.

So we have secured the world’s largest and most geographically diverse intergovernmental commitment on cyber-security co-operation.

The Commonwealth Cyber Declaration will help protect our people and businesses from ever-more sophisticated digital threats – and counter those who would abuse the freedom of the internet to undermine our values, our security and even our democracies.

When it comes to building a more sustainable future, there are few more authentic voices than the Commonwealth, with many island states severely affected by extreme weather events and the scourge of plastics polluting our oceans.

Indeed, we are in London today because of the devastation wrought on Vanuatu by Cyclone Pam in 2015.

So as a global leader in the fight against Climate Change, we are proud that every nation of the Commonwealth has now ratified the Paris Agreement.

And every one of our nations is united behind its highest ambition of pursuing efforts to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

At this Summit we have taken specific action to protect our oceans with the first ever Commonwealth Blue Charter.

The UK and Vanuatu are working together to launch the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution.

And we are already seeing a series of commitments that can mark a breakthrough in the battle to save our oceans.

For instance, Papua New Guinea has banned plastic bags…

…Belize will ban plastic bags, forks and other single use items by 2019…

…New Zealand has announced a ban on microbeads which will come into effect in June…

…The Bahamas is planning to ban plastic bags this year…

…and the UK has pledged to ban plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

This is only the beginning of what will be a defining agenda for the United Kingdom’s two-year Chair in Office – and I am pleased that Prime Minister Trudeau has indicated he will also make this a priority for the G7 in Canada this Summer.

A more sustainable future also means stepping up the fight for better global health.

With over 90 per cent of Commonwealth citizens living in malaria-affected countries, the Commonwealth has a particular duty to lead international efforts to tackle this deadly disease.

So earlier this week I called on Commonwealth leaders to pledge to halve Malaria across the Commonwealth by 2023. And I am pleased that this has been agreed today.

In building a more prosperous future, this is the first Commonwealth summit to make a unanimous statement on the need to fight protectionism.

Our Declaration on the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment will help to expand investment and boost intra-Commonwealth trade to a value of $2 trillion by 2030.

And we will play a leading role in shaping the future of global trade policy, using our unique perspective to help ensure that free and fair trade truly works for everyone.

This includes stepping up efforts to share the technical expertise to enable small and developing states to benefit from the growth of free and fair trade.

It means addressing systemic barriers to women’s full and equal participation in the economy – including increasing opportunities for women to trade internationally and supporting the growth of more women-owned business.

And it means investing in supporting our young people to gain new skills.

And at this Summit we have pledged to ensure that all girls and boys across the Commonwealth will be able to access at least 12 years of quality education and learning by 2030.

Finally, we have reaffirmed our commitment to a fairer future in which everyone is free to live their life and fulfil their potential.

We agreed the critical importance of the full social, economic and political participation of all our citizens for democracy and sustainable development to thrive.

I have been clear that nobody should face persecution or discrimination because of who they are or who they love. And the UK stands ready to support any Commonwealth member wanting to reform outdated legislation that permits discrimination, including against same-sex relations.

We will continue to protect and advance our core values of democracy, good governance and human rights at the heart of fairer societies.

And we welcomed the return of The Gambia to our family of nations.

This week has also given me the opportunity to hold a series of important meetings with Commonwealth leaders.

On Tuesday I met with the Caribbean leaders where I gave an absolute commitment that the UK government will do whatever it takes, including where appropriate payment of compensation, to resolve the anxieties and problems which some of the Windrush generation have suffered.

These people are British. They are part of us. They helped to build Britain. And we are all the stronger for their contributions.

This week began with the most inspiring gathering of young leaders from across our 53 nations.

And it is with those young leaders where the future of our Commonwealth lies.

So we were delighted to welcome the appointment of His Royal Highness Prince Harry as the Commonwealth Youth Ambassador.

Looking to that future, we have also reached an important longer-term agreement about the role of Head of the Commonwealth.

When Her Majesty the Queen assumed the throne the Commonwealth had just eight members.

Today it has 53.

We meet here today in no small measure because of the vision, duty and steadfast service of Her Majesty in nurturing the growth of this remarkable family of nations.

And on behalf of all our citizens I want to express the depth of our gratitude for everything that Her Majesty has done – and will continue to do.

Today we have agreed that the next Head of the Commonwealth shall be His Royal Highness Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales.

His Royal Highness has been a proud supporter of the Commonwealth for more than four decades and has spoken passionately about the organisation’s unique diversity.

And it is fitting that, one day, he will continue the work of his mother, Her Majesty The Queen.

As we begin the UK’s two-year Chair in Office, I look forward to working with all our Commonwealth partners in fulfilling the commitments we have made and preparing for the next meeting which we have today agreed will be held in Rwanda in 2020.

I began this week by saying that for the Commonwealth to endure, we must demonstrate our relevance and purpose anew.

Today I believe we have done that.

Our Blue Charter, our Cyber Declaration, our commitments to uphold the rules based international order, to fight protectionism, to defeat malaria, and to invest in education for all our young people…

…in all these ways and more, the Commonwealth has found its voice.

And we can look forward to a bright future with confidence.

Theresa May – 2018 Speech at CHOGM Retreat

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, on 20 April 2018.

Good morning and welcome to Windsor Castle; as we’ve seen, a magnificent setting for us to meet, in the best Commonwealth tradition, in the intimacy and privacy of our Retreat.

First let me thank Her Majesty The Queen for her generous invitation into her home, the first time a Heads of Government meeting has been held here in a remarkable history.

I am also struck by the number of Heads of Government we have assembled here today – a powerful demonstration of our commitment to revitalise the Commonwealth, and to tap into its vast potential.

And that vast potential has been clear at the forums this week. Our Commonwealth family has spent the last four days sharing perspectives, and finding ways to make a real difference to people’s lives. I think I speak for everyone around the room when I say that we have all been inspired by what we’ve seen and heard, particularly from our young people.

Yesterday we spoke about our shared challenges as we strive to build a more sustainable, more prosperous, more secure and fairer Commonwealth. Today is a chance to build on that, and for the Commonwealth Heads of Government to talk frankly and openly within the tradition of the Retreat.

Of course a conversation about these challenges cannot ignore the fact that at the very moment international co-operation is so important, some nations are choosing instead to shun the rules-based system that underpins global security and prosperity.

So I look forward to discussing how the Commonwealth can play its part to support this rules-based order, and the very concept of international co-operation.

Today, we also have a number of specific decisions to take, together with a broader conversation about the common future for the Commonwealth that we all want to see.

So I am sure today will be a memorable occasion for all of us, by the end of which I am sure we will all leave even closer friends, and with a unique understanding of each other in ways which cannot be matched by other summits.

Theresa May – 2018 Opening Statement at CHOGM

Below is the text of the opening statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, on 19 April 2018.

Good morning everybody, can I welcome you again to London, and welcome you to the first session of the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

This is the 25th time the leaders of Commonwealth nations have gathered to address the great issues of the day – although for many of us, myself included, this is the first time we’ve attended as heads of government. So let me extend an especially warm welcome to all the first-time attendees, and in particular to President Adama Barrow, bringing The Gambia back into the Commonwealth fold. Welcome.

I’d also like to formally thank Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of Malta for his work as Chair-in-Office. Your steady leadership delivered a very successful tenure, and it’s a pleasure to receive the baton from you at today’s meeting. Thank you.

It’s a meeting that takes place at a time of significant global challenges. The rules-based international system, which has consistently delivered both prosperity and peace, faces threats in many forms and on many fronts. Climate change and extreme weather continue to take lives and damage livelihoods across the Commonwealth. And the new opportunities afforded by the digital world have brought with them new risks, with our cyber security under attack from individuals and state actors.

All these issues and more will be addressed in a series of meetings over the next two days, both here at Lancaster House and in the retreat at Windsor.

The great strength of the Commonwealth is that all our members have equal status, an equal voice, and an equal right to make that voice heard. So as we tackle these challenges, I want to hear from everyone, and everyone will have chance to speak.

We face many challenges in the world today. But the Commonwealth is a unique organisation and, at this summit, we have an opportunity to deliver lasting change that benefits all of our 2.4 billion people. I’m looking forward to working with you all as we move the Commonwealth towards our common future.

Theresa May – 2018 Comments at Opening of CHOGM

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, at the opening of CHOGM in London on 19 April 2018.

Your M​ajesty, Your R​oyal Hi​ghnesses, Secretary-General, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. ​​ I am extremely proud to be welcoming you all to London – the first full Heads of Government meeting here in almost forty years.

I want to begin by expressing my gratitude to ​Prime Minister Muscat and his team: ​thank you for your incredible hard work. You represent a Commonwealth truth, that the size of a country does not limit its ambition and impact.

I hope that over the coming days and ​months we can ​build on the work you have begun as we forge a future for our common good.

Over many decades this organisation has brought together nations young and old, large and small, to celebrate our common bonds and to work to our mutual benefit.

There have been difficulties, successes, controversies. But I believe wholeheartedly in the good that the Commonwealth can do.

And this week as young people from our many nations gather and contribute their views, our responsibility as leaders is to ensure their voices are heard, and to build a Commonwealth that we can be proud to hand on to the next generation.

For in the Commonwealth we have an incredible opportunity.

An opportunity to show just what can be achieved through co-ordinated action and co-operation, to seize the possibilities open to us as member countries, and together, to take on some of the 21st century’s biggest questions.

How we support our most vulnerable member states as we tackle climate change and improve the health of our oceans, creating a more sustainable Commonwealth?

How we develop through trade, pushing back against protectionism, for a more prosperous Commonwealth?

How we respond to threats to the rules based international order and from cyber-attacks, creating a more secure Commonwealth?

And how, in all this, we advance those common values which our organisation has always stood for – democracy, human rights, tolerance, and the rule of law – so that we establish a fairer Commonwealth?

These are problems nations cannot solve alone. But by working together, we can make a real difference.

Over the past three​ days, we have seen the power of the Commonwealth in action at the Forums for ​business leaders, young people, women​, and civil society.

These discussions have demonstrated the vibrancy and creativity of our organisation – focusing on issues such as improving trade, youth unemployment, education and health – all of which have the potential to transform people’s lives.

And I am looking forward to taking these issues further with the heads of government over the next two days.

Finally, on behalf of all of you assembled here in Buckingham Palace, I want to offer ​my heartfelt thanks to​ Your Majesty,​ Head of the Commonwealth.

T​his week you have opened your homes to us – here in London and in Windsor. Over many years you have been the Commonwealth’s most steadfast and fervent champion.

You have been true to the deepest values of the Commonwealth – that the voice of the smallest member country is worth precisely as much as that of the largest; that the wealthiest and the most vulnerable stand shoulder to shoulder​.

You have seen us through some of our most serious challenges.

And we commit to sustaining this Commonwealth, which you have so carefully nurtured.

For your service, for your dedication, for your constancy – we thank you.

Theresa May – 2018 Statement on Syria

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 16 April 2018.

Mr Speaker, before I come to the substance of my statement I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in offering our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Sergeant Matt Tonroe from the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment who was killed by an improvised explosive device on 29 March.

Sergeant Tonroe was embedded with US forces on a counter-Daesh operation. He served his country with great distinction and it is clear he was a gifted and intelligent instructor who was respected by everyone he served with. Sergeant Tonroe fought to protect British values, our freedoms, and to keep this country safe.

With permission Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the actions that we have taken, together with our American and French allies, to degrade the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capabilities – and to deter their future use.

On Saturday 7th April, up to 75 people, including young children, were killed in an horrific attack in Douma, with as many as 500 further casualties.

All indications are that this was a chemical weapons attack.

UK medical and scientific experts have analysed open-source reports, images and video footage from the incident and concluded that the victims were exposed to a toxic chemical.

This is corroborated by first-hand accounts from NGOs and aid workers.

While the World Health Organisation received reports that hundreds of patients arrived at Syrian heath facilities on Saturday night with “signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals.”

And, based on our assessment, we do not think that these reports could be falsified on this scale.

Furthermore, Mr Speaker, the Syrian Regime has reportedly been attempting to conceal the evidence by searching evacuees from Douma to ensure samples are not being smuggled from this area.

And a wider operation to conceal the facts of the attack is under way, supported by the Russians.

Mr Speaker, the images of this suffering are utterly haunting.

Innocent families – seeking shelter in underground bunkers – found dead with foam in their mouths, burns to their eyes and their bodies surrounded by a chlorine-like odour.

Children gasping for life as chemicals choked their lungs.

The fact that such an atrocity can take place in our world today is a stain on our humanity.

And we are clear about who is responsible.

A significant body of information – including intelligence – indicates the Syrian Regime is responsible for this latest attack.

Open source accounts state that barrel bombs were used to deliver the chemicals.

Barrel bombs are usually delivered by helicopters. Multiple open source reports and intelligence indicates that Regime helicopters operated over Douma on the evening of 7th April, shortly before reports emerged in social media of a chemical attack. And the Syrian military officials coordinated what appears to be the use of chlorine weapons.

Mr Speaker, no other group could have carried out this attack.

The Opposition does not operate helicopters or use barrel bombs.

Daesh does not even have a presence in Douma.

And the reports of this attack are consistent with previous Regime attacks.

These include the attack on 21st August 2013 where over 800 people were killed and thousands more injured in a chemical attack also in Ghouta.

14 further smaller scale chemical attacks reported prior to that Summer.

3 further chlorine attacks in 2014 and 2015 which the independent UNSC-mandated investigation attributed to the Regime.

And the attack at Khan Shaykhun on 4th April last year, where the Syrian Regime used sarin against its people killing around 100 with a further 500 casualties.

Based on the Regime’s persistent pattern of behaviour and the cumulative analysis of specific incidents we judged it highly likely that the Syrian regime had continued to use chemical weapons on at least four occasions since the attack in Khan Shaykhun. And we judged that they would have continued to do so.

So we needed to intervene rapidly to alleviate further indiscriminate humanitarian suffering.

Mr Speaker, we have explored every possible diplomatic channel to do so, but our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted.

Following the sarin attack in Eastern Damascus back in August 2013, the Syrian Regime committed to dismantle its chemical weapon programme – and Russia promised to ensure that Syria did this, overseen by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

At the weekend, the Leader of the Opposition cited this diplomatic agreement as a “precedent that this process can work.”

But this process did not work.

It did not eradicate the chemical weapons capability of the Syrian Regime, with only last month the OPCW finding that Syria’s declaration of its former Chemical Weapons programme is incomplete.

And, as I have already set out, it did not stop the Syrian Regime from carrying out the most abhorrent atrocities using these weapons.

Furthermore, on each occasion when we have seen every sign of chemical weapons being used, Russia has blocked any attempt to hold the perpetrators to account at the UN Security Council, with six such vetoes since the start of 2017.

And just last week, Russia blocked a UN Resolution that would have established an independent investigation able to determine responsibility for this latest attack.

So regrettably, we had no choice but to conclude that diplomatic action on its own is not going to work.

The Leader of the Opposition has said that he can “only countenance involvement in Syria if there is UN authority behind it”.

The House should be clear that would mean a Russian veto on our foreign policy.

When the Cabinet met on Thursday we considered the advice of the Attorney General.

Based on this advice we agreed that it was not just morally right but also legally right to take military action, together with our closest allies, to alleviate further humanitarian suffering.

This was not about intervening in a civil war. And it was not about regime change.

It was about a limited, targeted and effective strike that sought to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of the Syrian people by degrading the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their use.

And we have published the legal basis for this action.

It required three conditions to be met.

First, there must be convincing evidence, generally accepted by the international community as a whole, of extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale, requiring immediate and urgent relief.

Second, it must be objectively clear that there is no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives are to be saved.

And third, the proposed use of force must be necessary and proportionate to the aim of relief of humanitarian suffering and must be strictly limited in time and in scope to this aim.

These are the same three criteria used as the legal justification for the UK’s role in the NATO intervention in Kosovo.

Our intervention in 1991 with the US and France – and in 1992 with the US – to create safe havens and enforce the no fly zones in Iraq following the Gulf War were also justified on the basis of humanitarian intervention.

So governments of all colours have long considered that military action, on an exceptional basis, where necessary and proportionate, and as a last resort, to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe is permissible under international law.

Mr Speaker, I have set out why we are convinced by the evidence and why there was no practicable alternative.

Let me set out how this military response was also proportionate.

This was a limited, targeted and effective strike that would significantly degrade Syrian Chemical Weapons capabilities and deter their future use – and with clear boundaries that expressly sought to avoid escalation and did everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.

As a result the co-ordinated actions of the US, UK and France were successfully and specifically targeted at three sites.

Contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition said at the weekend, these were not “empty buildings.”

The first was the Barzeh branch of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre in Northern Damascus.

This was a centre for the research and development of Syria’s chemical and biological programme. It was hit by 57 American T-LAMs and 19 American JASSMs.

The second site was the Him Shinsar chemical weapons bunkers, 15 miles west of the city of Homs, which contained both a chemical weapons equipment and storage facility and an important command post.

These were successfully hit by 7 French SCALP cruise missiles.

And the third site was the Him Shinsar chemical weapons storage site and former missile base which is now a military facility.

This was assessed to be a location of Syrian Sarin and precursor production equipment whose destruction would degrade Syria’s ability to deliver Sarin in the future.

This was hit by 9 US TLAMs, 5 naval and 2 SCALP cruise missiles from France – and 8 storm shadow missiles launched by our four RAF Tornado GR4s.

Very careful scientific analysis was used to determine where best to target these missiles to maximise the destruction of stockpiled chemicals and to minimise any risks to the surrounding area.

And the facility that we targeted is located some distance from any known population centres, reducing yet further any such risk of civilian casualties.

Mr Speaker, while targeted and limited, these strikes by the US, UK and France were significantly larger than the US action a year ago after the attack at Khan Shaykhun – and specifically designed to have a greater impact on the regime’s capability and willingness to use chemical weapons.

We also minimised the chances of wider escalation through our carefully targeted approach and the House will note that Russia has not reported any losses of personnel or equipment as a result of the strikes.

And I am sure the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to all the British service men and women – and their American and French allies – who successfully carried out this mission with such courage and professionalism.

Mr Speaker, let me deal specifically with three important questions.

First, why did we not wait for the investigation from the OPCW?

UNSC-Mandated inspectors have investigated previous attacks and on four occasions decided that the Regime was indeed responsible.

We are confident in our own assessment that the Syrian Regime was highly likely responsible for this attack and that its persistent pattern of behaviour meant that it was highly likely to continue using chemical weapons.

Furthermore, there were clearly attempts to block any proper investigation, as we saw with the Russian veto at the UN earlier in the week.

And let me set this out in detail. We support strongly the work of the OPCW fact-finding mission that is currently in Damascus.

But that mission is only able to make an assessment of whether chemical weapons were used.

Even if the OPCW team is able to visit Douma to gather information to make that assessment – and they are currently being prevented from doing so by the Regime and the Russians – it cannot attribute responsibility.

This is because Russia vetoed in November 2017 an extension of the Joint Investigatory Mechanism set up to do this. And last week, in the wake of the Douma attack, it again vetoed a new UNSC resolution to re-establish such a mechanism.

And even if we had OPCW’s findings, and a mechanism to attribute, for as long as Russia continues to veto, the UN Security Council still would not be able to act.

So Mr Speaker, we cannot wait to alleviate further humanitarian suffering caused by chemical weapons attacks.

Second, were we not just following orders from America?

Let me be absolutely clear: we have acted because it is in our national interest to do so.

It is in our national interest to prevent the further use of chemical weapons in Syria – and to uphold and defend the global consensus that these weapons should not be used.

For we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised – either within Syria, on the streets of the UK or elsewhere.

So we have not done this because President Trump asked us to do so.

We have done it because we believed it was the right thing to do. And we are not alone.

There is broad based international support for the action we have taken.

NATO has issued a statement setting out its support, as have the Gulf Co-operation Council and a number of countries in the region.

And over the weekend I have spoken to a range of world leaders – including Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Gentiloni, Prime Minister Trudeau, Prime Minister Turnbull and European Council President Donald Tusk.

All have expressed their support for the actions that Britain, France and America have taken.

Third, why did we not recall Parliament?

Mr Speaker, the speed with which we acted was essential in co-operating with our partners to alleviate further humanitarian suffering and to maintain the vital security of our operations.

This was a limited, targeted strike on a legal basis that has been used before.

And it was a decision which required the evaluation of intelligence and information much of which was of a nature that could not be shared with Parliament.

We have always been clear that the government has the right to act quickly in the national interest.

I am absolutely clear, Mr Speaker, that it is Parliament’s responsibility to hold me to account for such decisions – and Parliament will do so.

But it is my responsibility as Prime Minster to make these decisions.

And I will make them.

Mr Speaker, as I have been clear this military action was not about intervening in the civil war in Syria – or about regime change.

But we are determined to do our utmost to help resolve the conflict in Syria.

That means concluding the fight against Daesh, which still holds pockets of territory in Syria.

It means working to enable humanitarian access and continuing our efforts at the forefront of global response, where the UK has already committed almost £2.5 billion, our largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.

And next week, we will attend the second Brussels Conference on supporting the Future of Syria and the Region which will focus on humanitarian support, bolstering the UN-led political process in Geneva, and ensuring continued international support to refugees and host countries – driving forward the legacy of our own London Conference held in 2016.

And it means supporting international efforts to reinvigorate the process to deliver a political solution: for this is the best long-term hope for the Syrian people.

The UK will do all of these things.

But as I have also been clear, that is not what these military strikes were about.

Mr Speaker, as I have set out, the military action that we have taken this weekend was specifically focused on degrading the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their future use.

In order to achieve this there must also be a wider diplomatic effort – including the full range of political and economic levers – to strengthen the global norms prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, which have stood for nearly a century.

So we will continue to work with our international partners on tough economic action against those involved with the production or dissemination of chemical weapons.

And I welcome the conclusions of today’s European Foreign Affairs Council, attended by my Rt Hon Friend the Foreign Secretary, that confirmed the Council is willing to consider further restrictive measures on those involved in the development and use of chemical weapons in Syria.

We will continue to push for the re-establishment of an international investigative mechanism which can attribute responsibility for chemical weapon use in Syria.

We will advance with our French allies the new International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, which will meet in the coming weeks.

And we will continue to strengthen the international coalition we have built since the attack on Salisbury.

Mr Speaker, last Thursday’s report from the OPCW has confirmed our findings that it was indeed a Novichok in Salisbury – and I have placed a copy of that report’s Executive Summary in the Library of the House.

While of a much lower order of magnitude, the use of a nerve agent on the streets of Salisbury is part of a pattern of disregard for the global norms that prohibit the use of chemical weapons.

So while the action was taken to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Syria by degrading the Regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring its use of these weapons – it will also send a clear message to anyone who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity.

We cannot go back to a world where the use of chemical weapons becomes normalised.

Mr Speaker, I am deeply conscious of the gravity of these decisions.

They affect all members of this House – and me personally.

And I understand the questions that – rightly – will be asked about British military action particularly in such a complex region.

But I am clear that the way we protect our national interest is to stand up for the global rules and standards that keep us safe.

That is what we have done – and what we will continue to do.

And I commend this statement to the House.

Theresa May – 2018 Speech at Commonwealth Business Forum

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, on 16 April 2018.

Good morning everyone.

I would like to start by thanking the Lord Mayor for hosting us here today at the beautiful Guildhall, the home of the City of London’s administrators for almost 600 years.

As we have just heard, the building has witnessed its fair share of history over the centuries. And today it is a privilege to add to the rollcall of great events with the 11th Commonwealth Business Forum.

We are here today to discuss how best to make this a more prosperous Commonwealth for all, with contributions from leading figures in some of the world’s top businesses.

And this is just one of four such fora running this week ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, giving a voice to hundreds of people who, in so many different ways, do so much to make our Commonwealth the amazing institution it is.

There is the People’s Forum, providing a platform for the Commonwealth’s incredible Civil Society groups. The Women’s Forum will look at ways of overcoming the challenges still faced by a great many women and girls. And, perhaps most important of all, there is the Commonwealth Youth Forum.

It is so important because, while the Commonwealth itself is a venerable institution, its citizens are much younger: almost two thirds are under the age of 30.

The young people of today are the Commonwealth of tomorrow, its business leaders, its innovators, its heads of government.

They have incredible potential, and we as a Commonwealth have a duty to help them reach it. That is why I have put youth at the heart of this week’s agenda, and why I began this morning by meeting with some of the Youth Forum’s delegates.

As we talked about their ideas and aspirations, about their vision for the future of the Commonwealth, I was struck by the vital role that businesses like yours have in tackling their concerns and giving substance to their ambitions.

They called for cleaner oceans and greater sustainability.

You can help deliver that by changing business practices and creating innovative new products and solutions. They called for action on youth unemployment.

You, as entrepreneurs and business leaders, create the jobs and opportunities our young people need and, by driving our economies, you fund the schools and colleges that equip them with the skills they need.

And the members of the Youth Forum called for an inclusive Commonwealth where greater prosperity is enjoyed by everyone.

That is something that simply cannot be achieved without strong, successful businesses. Because the best way to raise living standards for all is through economic growth based on free enterprise operating in inclusive, fair and open rules-based markets.

A key part of that, one that has become more important in the years since the Commonwealth was founded, is international trade – and it is an area in which the Commonwealth is flourishing.

The 2018 Commonwealth Trade Review predicted that trade between member states will be worth $700 billion by 2020. Here in the UK, for example, the value of our exports to fellow members is roughly double what it was 20 years ago.

Yet risks remain. Global growth is fragile. The challenges posed by protectionism are all too clear. And the world economy is changing, as new technology creates new jobs in some industries while supplanting them in others.

If Commonwealth businesses are to flourish in such times, if we are to deliver and secure the prosperous future our young people want and deserve, then the Commonwealth and national governments must not be afraid to act.

Because although the system of international commerce has done much good for the world, it can always be improved. Playing fields can be levelled, barriers removed, the benefits opened up to all.

So while we should be unapologetic in our support for free and inclusive trade, we should also work hand in hand with businesses to make it more efficient and effective, for example by supporting the use of international standards.

Shared standards have huge potential to stimulate trade.

They create a common language for trading partners across the globe, enhance trust in supply chains and stimulate innovation.

Greater use of these international standards across the Commonwealth will reduce the costs of trade between members, as well as with partners beyond the Commonwealth, for greater global benefit.

That is why the UK will be funding an all-new Commonwealth Standards Network, which will support developing countries in particular to better meet existing international standards.

The network will provide a significant opportunity for national standards experts to collaborate and share best practice.

And it will empower developing countries to have a stronger voice in the international standards community – something that has benefits on a global scale.

We will also be funding a Trade Facilitation Programme, supporting and providing technical assistance to selected Commonwealth countries in implementing the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement. Full implementation of the WTO agreement is estimated to reduce trade costs by up to 16 per cent for the less-developed countries.

It will cut the average time needed to import goods by 47 per cent, and the time taken to export by as much as 91 per cent, a huge boost for businesses across the Commonwealth.

But no amount of action on these fronts will truly be successful if half the Commonwealth’s citizens continue to face significant barriers to participation in the economy.

If our family of nations is to realise its full potential, then we must take action to boost women’s access to economic opportunity, and empower them to create and build their own businesses.

Many members have already signed up to the Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment, which seeks to remove barriers to, and support, the participation of women in trade.

It is an impressive start, but I believe we can go further.

So, over the next two years, the UK will work with the International Trade Centre to deliver a new programme: SheTrades Commonwealth.

SheTrades will offer Commonwealth-wide support to help countries break down gender barriers in international trade.

It will provide a forum for member states to work collectively and share best practice.

And will compile the data needed to identify what works and track progress over time.

The programme will also deliver targeted interventions in a number of countries, providing training for women entrepreneurs, connecting them to market and investment opportunities, and helping firms overcome barriers to engaging with women-owned businesses.

Boosting women’s participation is the right thing to do, but business equality is not just about doing what is right – there are real economic benefits.

It has been estimated that if women played the same role as men in labour markets, as much as $28 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025.

If Commonwealth members are not giving women an equal opportunity to succeed in business and in trade, they are trying to take on some of the biggest economies in the world with one hand tied behind their backs.

That will not change overnight. But SheTrades represents an important step in the right direction – one that, like the other initiatives I have talked about today, will deliver benefits across the Commonwealth and beyond.

When we all work to the same standards, when we break down barriers to trade and when we empower women to take their rightful place in the economy, the benefits are felt not just by countries and individuals involved.

Freer, easier trade means stronger economies, more jobs, more choice and lower prices – and that is true here in the UK, across the Commonwealth and around the world.

With its unique scope and global voice, such a Commonwealth can set a powerful example to the world, one that demonstrates and underlines the importance of protecting free trade and the rules-based international order.

Today’s initiatives are an example of what can be done to make that happen, of how governments can lay the groundwork for growth. But you in business also have a vital role to play.

The discussions here will feed into the full summit, so I hope you take the chance to share ideas and insights, to identify new challenges and new opportunities, to highlight where Commonwealth governments can step up and do more and even where, perhaps, we should step back and do a little less.

The Commonwealth has never just been about heads of state and government.

It has always been an organisation in which people and businesses from around the world can come together and work together to improve all our lives.

This is your forum, and this is your Commonwealth.

So let us make it an organisation that works for all of us, and shape a future of which we can all be proud.

Theresa May – 2018 Press Conference Statement on Syria

Below is the text of the press conference statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, on 14 April 2018.

Last night British, French and American armed forces conducted co-ordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their use.

For the UK’s part four RAF Tornado GR 4’s launched storm shadow missiles at a military facility some 15 miles west of Homs, where the regime is assessed to keep chemical weapons in breach of Syria’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

While the full assessment of the strike is ongoing, we are confident of its success.

Let me set out why we have taken this action.

Last Saturday up to 75 people, including young children, were killed in a despicable and barbaric attack in Douma, with as many as 500 further casualties.

We have worked with our allies to establish what happened. And all the indications are that this was a chemical weapons attack.

We have seen the harrowing images of men, women and children lying dead with foam in their mouths.

These were innocent families who, at the time this chemical weapon was unleashed, were seeking shelter underground, in basements.

First-hand accounts from NGOs and aid workers have detailed the most horrific suffering, including burns to the eyes, suffocation and skin discolouration, with a chlorine-like odour surrounding the victims.

And the World Health Organisation has received reports that hundreds of patients arrived at Syrian health facilities on Saturday night with “signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals.”

We are also clear about who was responsible for this atrocity.

A significant body of information including intelligence indicates the Syrian Regime is responsible for this latest attack.

I cannot tell you everything. But let me give an example of some of the evidence that leads us to this conclusion.

Open source accounts allege that a barrel bomb was used to deliver the chemicals.

Multiple open source reports claim that a Regime helicopter was observed above the city of Douma on the evening of 7th April.

The Opposition does not operate helicopters or use barrel bombs.

And reliable intelligence indicates that Syrian military officials co-ordinated what appears to be the use of chlorine in Douma on 7th April.

No other group could have carried out this attack. Indeed, Daesh for example does not even have a presence in Douma.

And the fact of this attack should surprise no-one.

We know that the Syrian regime has an utterly abhorrent record of using chemical weapons against its own people.

On 21st August 2013 over 800 people were killed and thousands more injured in a chemical attack also in Ghouta.

There were 14 further smaller scale chemical attacks prior to that summer.

At Khan Shaykhun on 4th April last year, the Syrian Regime used sarin against its people killing around 100 with a further 500 casualties.

And based on the Regime’s persistent pattern of behaviour and the cumulative analysis of specific incidents we judge it highly likely both that the Syrian regime has continued to use chemical weapons since then, and will continue to do so.

This must be stopped.

We have sought to do so using every possible diplomatic channel.

But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted both on the ground and in the United Nations.

Following the sarin attack in Eastern Damascus back in August 2013, the Syrian Regime committed to dismantle its chemical weapon programme – and Russia promised to ensure that Syria did this, overseen by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

But these commitments have not been met.

A recent report from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said that Syria’s declaration of its former Chemical Weapons programme is incomplete.

This indicates that it continues to retain undeclared stocks of nerve agent or precursor chemicals – and is likely to be continuing with some chemical weapons production.

The OPCW inspectors have investigated previous attacks and on four occasions decided that the Regime was indeed responsible.

And on each occasion when we have seen every sign of chemical weapons being used, any attempt to hold the perpetrators to account has been blocked by Russia at the UN Security Council, with six such vetoes since the start of 2017.

Just this week, the Russians vetoed a draft Resolution that would have established an independent investigation into this latest attack – even making the grotesque and absurd claim that it was “staged” by Britain.

So we have no choice but to conclude that diplomatic action on its own will not be any more effective in the future than it has been in the past.

Over the last week the UK government has been working intensively with our international partners to build the evidence picture, and to consider what action we need to take to prevent and deter future humanitarian catastrophes caused by chemical weapons attacks.

When the Cabinet met on Thursday we considered the advice of the Attorney General, the National Security Adviser and the Chief of the Defence Staff – and we were updated on the latest assessment and intelligence picture.

And based on this advice we agreed that it was both right and legal to take military action, together with our closest allies, to alleviate further humanitarian suffering by degrading the Syrian Regime’s Chemical Weapons capability and deterring their use.

This was not about interfering in a civil war.

And it was not about regime change.

As I discussed with President Trump and President Macron, it was a limited, targeted and effective strike with clear boundaries that expressly sought to avoid escalation and did everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.

Together we have hit a specific and limited set of targets. They were a chemical weapons storage and production facility, a key chemical weapons research centre and a military bunker involved in chemical weapons attacks.

Hitting these targets with the force that we have deployed will significantly degrade the Syrian Regime’s ability to research, develop and deploy chemical weapons.

A year ago, after the atrocity at Khan Shaykhun, the US conducted a strike on the airfield from which the attack took place. But Assad and his regime hasn’t stopped their use of chemical weapons.

So last night’s strikes by the US, UK and France were significantly larger than the US action a year ago and specifically designed to have a greater impact on the regime’s capability and willingness to use chemical weapons.

And this collective action sends a clear message that the international community will not stand by and tolerate the use of chemical weapons.

I also want to be clear that this military action to deter the use of chemical weapons does not stand alone.

We must remain committed to resolving the conflict at large.

The best hope for the Syrian people remains a political solution.

We need all partners – especially the Regime and its backers – to enable humanitarian access to those in desperate need.

And the UK will continue to strive for both.

But these strikes are about deterring the barbaric use of chemical weapons in Syria and beyond.

And so to achieve this there must also be a wider diplomatic effort – including the full range of political and economic levers – to strengthen the global norms prohibiting the use of chemical weapons which have stood for nearly a century.

Although of a much lower order of magnitude, the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the UK in recent weeks is part of a pattern of disregard for these norms.

So while this action is specifically about deterring the Syrian regime, it will also send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity.

There is no graver decision for a Prime Minister than to commit our forces to combat – and this is the first time that I have had to do so.

As always, they have served our country with the greatest professionalism and bravery – and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

We would have preferred an alternative path.

But on this occasion there is none.

We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised – either within Syria, on the streets of the UK or elsewhere.

We must reinstate the global consensus that chemical weapons cannot be used.

This action is absolutely in Britain’s national interest.

The lesson of history is that when the global rules and standards that keep us safe come under threat – we must take a stand and defend them.

That is what our country has always done.

And that is what we will continue to do.