Tim Yeo – 2004 Speech on Patient Choice


Below is the text of the speech by Tim Yeo made on 10th May 2004.

I am delighted to have this chance to attend your Congress. Not just to speaking this session but also to meet many of you as I have been doing since I arrived in Harrogate. I have already had valuable discussions with Beverly Malone and I look forward to continuing those in coming weeks and months.

Later this week we will recognise Nurses day. Today I would like to pay tribute to the tremendous work you carry out in the NHS, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and to express my appreciation of the huge contribution which nurses and all health professionals working in the NHS make to our society.

I am well aware that over the past few years your job has got harder. Despite the increase in staff numbers which ministers so much like to trumpet, there are still too few nurses working in our hospitals.

Equally important there are too few nurses working in our communities.

As nurses you are caring for patients who have more complex illnesses than ever before.

Alongside this you are expected to treat patients faster. There are fewer beds in the NHS today than there were a decade ago. Demand for these is high and great pressure is put on managers to move patients on so others can take their place.

And as things stand, that pressure is going to increase.

As a nation we are living longer. The number of pensioners has already overtaken the number of children in this country for the first time. It will be a major challenge to provide the next generation of elderly people with the services they require. All the more so as a result of 70,000 care home places lost since 1996.

I am here today to give you a better understanding of what you can expect from the Conservatives.

It’s just over six months since Michael Howard phoned me and asked me to take on my present role in the Shadow Cabinet. I was thrilled to be offered the chance to return to the health field, in which I have had a long standing interest.

My last full time job before entering politics was as Chief Executive of The Spastics Society, now called Scope. The Society’s activities included the provision of long term care for adults with disabilities, short term respite care for both adults and children, and the sponsorship of medical research.

I went on to start the successful campaign to keep open the Tadworth Court Children’s Hospital – the country branch of Great Ormond Street Hospital for sick children – and became the first Chairman of the Trust set up to manage the hospital.

After entering Parliament I became a member of the Health Select Committee and later one of my ministerial posts was at the Department of Health where I was responsible under Virginia Bottomley for social services, mental health and children.

Inevitably that experience has shaped my perspective on the challenges we face now to sustain a world class National Health service.

Let me make clear at the outset that the Conservative Party is totally and utterly committed to the founding principles of the National Health Service.

We will maintain a service that provides care which is free to patients at the point of use. Which is available to everyone on the basis of need , not of ability to pay.

That is Michael Howard’s view.

That is my view.

That will be the basis of our policy when we form a Government

Our aim is to improve and strengthen the NHS, not to destroy it as some of our opponents try to claim.

When we highlight some of the major problems, we are not talking the NHS down

We know full well that much of what goes on in the health service is excellent. Every day thousands of people are satisfied with the care and treatment they receive. Genuine progress is being made in many areas, not least in cancer, most of it the result of tremendous hard work and dedication on the part of those who work at every level in the Health Service.

But in our view these improvements are happening despite the system and not because of it.

And the plain truth is that things are not as good as they should be

If they were, why do over a quarter of a million NHS staff – 22% of the total- leave each year and have to be replaced at a annual cost of £1.5bn – before you take into account the cost of lost experience?

While I welcome recent announcements on reductions in waiting lists, I still ask myself – Why is it that we should have to put up with health rationing in this country when for example in France the concept of a waiting list does not exist?

And I share the public’s cynicism about statistics emerging from this Government . Average waiting times have not improved . We are all aware that data can be manipulated by delaying scans or access to consultants. More people are resorting to paying rather than waiting like the former fireman in Wiltshire who used his redundancy money for his wife to be treated privately when she was told she would have to wait 18 months for an hysterectomy.

Whether you believe the spin or not, there is growing consensus that one consequence of Government focus on waiting lists is that the needs of the 17 million people with long term medical conditions have been neglected. Similar concerns exist over mental health.

And the shocking report produced recently by the European Respiratory Society confirmed that Britain has one of the worst records on respiratory disease, with death rates twice the EU average.

Not only is Britain lagging behind other countries. In some areas of public health, things have clearly got worse since 1997.

Obesity rates in both adults and children are increasing. Rates of sexually transmitted infections are getting worse. Notifications of tuberculosis are up by over twenty per cent in the United Kingdom since 1999.

And I know that it’s as worrying for nurses as it is for patients that on average, 13 people a day die from MRSA, caught in hospital.

Figures published by the Health Protection Agency this Spring show that the number of people dying from the MRSA ‘hospital superbug’, has increased by 106 per cent since 1997 in England and Wales.

Most people in the country will agree with The Chief Medical Officer who described the figures as ‘shocking and unacceptable’ .John Reid’s answer is to introduce some more bureaucrats and give nurses badges saying ‘ Ask me if I have washed my hands’.

It’s time to get serious about the basics. I believe nurses in charge of wards should be given the authority to ensure that wards are clean, with the power to stop payments to cleaning companies if the job has not been done properly.

I’ve drawn attention to these shortcomings not because I believe that all the news about the NHS is bad, but because to hear some of the claims made by Ministers, you’d think everything was perfect.

Far from it. My diagnosis points to three failings.

Yes, welcome new investment is going in but too much money is being wasted on layers of administration that don’t add value to patients.

Secondly there has been too much interference from politicians in the running of the NHS. Too many initiatives driven by the needs of spin-doctors not patients. Too little trust in the competence and judgement of qualified professionals in the front line

And thirdly as a result of that political inteference, a culture has grown up which too often seems to treat patients as statistics and the people we rely on to deliver care as just cogs in a vast bureaucatic machine.

These are not failings of the professionals who work in the NHS but of the politicians who have got their priorities wrong.

Let me illustrate some of these concerns

I am concerned about waste because the more money that’s wasted, the less there is to recruit and retain permanent nurses and doctors. The less there is to support Agenda for Change.

That’s why I’m horrified by the increased cost of the NHS Administration and Estates Staff in England from approximately £3 billion to £5 billion since 1997. A jump of almost two billion pounds in five years – all spent on bureaucracy.

Over the last year the number of managers has increased at almost double the rate of nurses.

And Department of Health administration costs have increased by £40 million since 1998.

Then there’s the Modernisation Agency, introduced as a result of the NHS Plan, with a staff which grew to 760 in three years and consumed an annual budget of £230 million. It will soon cease to exist in its current form.

What have these millions of pounds spent on bureaucracy delivered in terms of improved patient care?

Last month a leaked ministerial document in the Sunday Times revealed that since 1997, Health productivity as measured by consultant episodes has actually fallen by 15%. Productivity may not be a useful measure for nursing, but the report, and the way the Government sought to conceal this information, suggests that something may be amiss.

How did ministers respond? By asking that the basis of calculation be changed to make them look better.

Which brings me on to my second concern , the level of political interference in the NHS .

We did a consultation exercise last year. From the hundreds of letters we received from health professionals , one consistent message came through loud and clear.

Leave us alone to do our job!

I agree.

It is time for politicians to stop trying to micromanage the NHS.

With over 400 targets in Labour’s NHS plan ,we are in danger of forgetting what the Health Service is for.

We know how this target culture takes up your time and the time of other professionals.

We know how it distorts clinical priorities and demotivates staff.

Last year, a House of Commons Committee heard evidence from Dr Richard Harrad of the Bristol Eye Hospital who explained that waiting time targets for new outpatient appointments at the Bristol Eye Hospital had been achieved at the expense of cancellation and delay of follow-up appointments. The result was that 25 patients went blind.

And the chilling words from Ian Bogle, outgoing Chairman of the BMA Council who said,

‘The one memory that will linger long …. is the creeping, morale-sapping erosion of doctors’ clinical autonomy brought about by micro-management from Whitehall which has turned the NHS I hold so dear into the most centralised public service in the free world.

He continued:‘We now have a healthcare system driven not by the needs of individual patients but by spreadsheets and tick boxes.

What a damning indictment of the environment you are being asked to work in !

Nothing is more important to the quality of patient experience than the role of nurses.

But as a result of added bureaucracy and continued staff shortages, nurses still experience difficulty in finding sufficient time to attend to the needs of patients.

Yes there are more nurses, but not as many as the Government would have us believe.

Within some categories there are in fact fewer numbers of staff now than in 1997. For example the number of health visitors has decreased since Labour came to power, as has the number of district nurses working for the NHS.

And the statistics, if not my eyes, tell me that nurses are getting older.

According to an RCN study , 100,000 nurses are due to retire in the next 5 years .Combine that trend with the current 15% fall out of trained and student nurses each year , and it is clear that the Government is running hard to stand still on nurses numbers.

It is typical of them to go for the quick fix. You know better than I how increasingly reliant we are on agency staff and on nurses from overseas, often from countries that cannot afford to lose them. These are unstable props on which to build for the future.

Meanwhile this country continues to export qualified health professionals. Last year, for example, the number of nurses leaving the UK to work in the USA doubled.

We need to show much greater urgency in addressing the reasons why nurses are leaving and why the Government has failed to persuade them to return to the NHS.

Yes, I recognise there are real issues around pay and access to affordable housing.

As with all professions, nurses need to feel that they have a career ladder to climb should they wish to do so. And this should not mean having to move away from patient care and into management. In this context I see Agenda for Change as a step in the right direction.

We need to look creatively at ways to incentivise experienced nurses to defer their retirement plans whether it be through more flexible hours or financial rewards, linked to length of service.

And we need to pay particular attention to how we encourage future generations into nursing. I particularly want to understand why so many students drop out of training. Is it because courses focus too much on the academic aspects of nursing rather than the practical elements? Or because nurses struggle to find convenient clinical placements to complete their training ? And when they do find such placements, are they being adequately supported and supervised? Or are the hours so inflexible that they can not accept them?

And last but by no means least , we must address the workplace issues that frustrate what I am sure remains the core instinct of every nurse – the desire to give the best possible care to people who can’t help themselves.

Too much form filling; too much inteference; confused layers of authority; insufficient resources to do the job.

These are some of the responses I have received, but it’s not for me to tell you – its for you to tell me.

So what difference would the Conservatives make? What can you expect from us?

First, we recognise that the National Health Service has been subjected to continuous reform over the last few years and the last thing it needs is further root and branch upheaval.

That is why our policies for the health service propose a change in approach rather than disruptive structural reform.

Politicians talk too much about structures and about money. These issues are important but we must not lose sight of what matters to patients. Everyone would rather be healthy than be ill so Government’s first aim should always be to improve our prevention strategies, something that Ministers lose sight of if they become bogged down in trying to micro manage the NHS.

And when people do become ill they want fast access to consistent , high quality care which treats them with dignity as individuals. This is what the people who pay for the NHS deserve .

Our plans for helping the NHS deliver that on a more consistent basis reflect tough lessons learnt in the past – both in Government and opposition .

They are built around three interdependent pillars.

Firstly, we are committed to invest the money that will give you the tools to do the job.

Secondly, we see our mission as taking the politics out of an NHS that has been a political football for too long.

We are determined to free qualified professionals from the bureaucracy that too often gets between you and the patient who needs your help.

Thirdly, we want to give those patients much greater say over where they are treated. With that power of choice we believe comes the power to get quicker treatment and to force improvement in the service they receive.

Let me give you a clearer idea of what that means.

Underlying our commitment to the NHS is the promise made by my colleague Oliver Letwin, Shadow Chancellor last February.

In the first two years of the next Parliament a newly elected Conservative Government will match Labour’s spending on the NHS.

This means that regardless of who wins the election, spending on the NHS will increase by broadly the same amount.

So the debate is not about ‘ How much money? ‘ but ‘ How will you spend it?’

And we are determined to spend it better , with much fewer layers of administration to divert money from the front line.

Our mission to give hospitals much greater freedom means that many more decisions about investment will be taken locally by people who are closer to patient needs. Labour talk about this but will not deliver. The instinct of Gordon Brown’s Treasury is to control everything from the centre and drive improvement through national targets. I believe very strongly that this is wrong. The system was too centralised when I was a Minister twelve years ago. It’s far more centralised today.

That has to change. It’s not the job of the Secretary of State to be Chief Executive of the NHS. It’s time instead that he and other politicians admitted the damage that results from incessant interference

So we will scrap targets and star ratings. Standards will continue to be monitored by CHAI within a framework set by Government but Hospitals will become accountable to patients not bureaucrats.

And the money will follow the patients. So that success will be rewarded and failure will not be tolerated for so long.

And because we are determined to give patients more choice, we need to invest in making more capacity available to them . Critically that means a quantum leap in the number of qualified permanent doctors and nurses. We do not underestimate the challenge but know that we can go much further than Labour in stripping away the red tape and bureaucratic interference that is so damaging to job satisfaction. Indeed I know from my seven years as Chairman of the Tadworth Children’s hospital that when nurses and other professionals are set free from artificial external controls,job satisfaction and staff morale increase dramatically. The whole of my experience – in business and politics- convinces me that the more you trust professionals to do their job the better they will do it.

That will be our way.

Both Conservatives and Labour talk about extending choice. The difference lies in scope and commitment.

Our programme of choice goes with the grain of Government initiatives to establish a national tariff and electronic patient records. But we intend to go further than them in extending choice. We have called our instrument of choice – the Patient’s Passport.

Any patient requiring elective treatment will be able to use the passport. We intend the passport to be just as relevant to those with chronic conditions as it is for those who require hospital treatment. Of course the choice of pathways for someone with a chronic condition will be more complicated to map, and in some cases the framework of standards is not yet clear. So this is why we have already started our discussions with the relevant organisations on how best to translate our policy into action for those with chronic conditions.

The passport will enable the patient, usually in consultation with a doctor or another professional, to decide where they go for treatment. That may still be their nearest hospital, but it could be another hospital where the waiting time is shorter, or which is more convenient for their family, or where clinical expertise is greater.

Choice will be informed with information on waiting times, treatments and outcomes available to them and their advisers.

But the choice will be theirs.

Our proposals represent a comprehensive of programme of patient choice. This means that, for the first time NHS patients can choose to be treated in an alternative setting to the NHS.

Should they decide to do so, our proposals will allow them to take a proportion of the NHS cost to assist them with the payment of their treatment elsewhere.

Not only does this give patients more control over where they are treated, but it will also help those who elect to stay within the NHS by giving them faster access to NHS treatment. It is not about taking resources from the NHS. It is about taking pressure off the NHS.

Labour can hardly criticise this aspect of our policy. After all they are now buying services from the private sector at an ever increasing rate

Our choice agenda will cut waiting times because patients will have the right to go where the waiting list is shortest.

Because the money goes with them , their right to choose will make providers of care more responsive to their needs.

It will stimulate new provision both inside the NHS and outside. As long as we maintain a service that provides care to an acceptable standard , which is free to patients at the point of use, then we have no political obsession with who owns that capacity.

But we are committed to help the NHS respond to this new environment.

Through a massive programme of investment to make sure the resources are there .

Through immediate withdrawal of politicians from day to day management of the NHS , giving qualified professionals the freedom to address patient needs.

It boils down to where trust is best placed.

After 7 years, it is clear that Labour places its trust in Whitehall.

Our vision, born of experience, is different.

Trust is best placed with patients and the people they trust. You.

Our vision is to give Britain a truly National Health system in which every patient has access to any doctor and any hospital , and where doctors and nurses choose to stay because they are respected and given the freedom to deliver a standard of care that they are proud of.

Tim Yeo – 2000 Conservative Party Conference Speech


Below is the text of the speech made by Tim Yeo at the Conservative Party Conference on 4th October 2000.

This debate has shown which party is the true champion of the countryside.

It’s shown that Labour’s claim that it represents rural Britain is utterly bogus.

Last week John Prescott, the true voice of Labour, said supporters of the countryside had contorted faces.

I suppose life looks different through the windows of two Jags.

But John Prescott’ll soon find out that insults like that simply mean that rural Britain will make sure that after the next election he’ll be driving his own car and buying his own petrol.

Maybe by then he’ll be backing Michael Portillo’s tax cuts.

Let me introduce my team.

Our spokesmen in both Houses. Jim Paice, Malcolm Moss and Hazel Byford.

And our whips Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and Arthur Luke.

Last year Tony Blair set out his vision of the countryside.

A giant theme park, a rural version of Labour’s Millennium Dome.

Where the past is forgotten, traditions mean nothing, and the future is bleak.

By contrast we believe in a living and working countryside.

A countryside for all the people.

For us the survival of farming is part of Believing in Britain.

Without farming the rural economy will decline.

Without farming our green and pleasant land will fall into decay.

We will never let that happen.

When I finish I want you all to come with me to our Country Fair, just outside the Conference Hall.

To demonstrate our support for the countryside.

Our belief in a sustainable agricultural industry.

Because sustainability is the key to the future.

As the world’s population grows, as living standards rise, how do we leave our children and grandchildren a better planet than the one we inherited?

How do we stop using resources selfishly for ourselves alone?

These are the questions we must answer.

The questions Labour is ignoring.

But before we can achieve our long-term vision short term problems must be tackled.

And as speakers have pointed out this morning these problems have not just been neglected by Labour.

They have been made worse by Labour.

When nice Nick Brown took over from Junket Jack Cunningham there was a sigh of relief.

Nice Mr Brown went round appearing to listen to farmers.

The trouble is that’s all he did.

At last week’s Labour conference he talked about shipbuilding.

About coal mining.

About the steel industry.

But he didn’t once mention dairy farmers, or pig farmers.

That’s why he isn’t fit to be Minster of Agriculture.

He’s not nice Nick any longer.

He’s Nasty Nick.

And if the Cabinet were in Big Brother.

Nasty Nick would be thrown out first.

Unless of course Chatshow Charlie Kennedy was one of the other contestants.

For him, and for the rest of Chatshow Charlie’s barmy army, the ones who were here in Bournemouth two weeks ago, politics is just another chatshow where the audience is bored with getting the same answer to every question.

Whatever the question, Charlie’s answer is a tax increase.

More tax on income.

More tax on petrol.

You name it, they’ll tax it.

But let’s give credit where it’s due.

The Lib Dems say they want to help the countryside.

And they’ve certainly thought up some new ideas.

Like getting rid of the Queen.

Like promoting gay marriages.

Like setting up an asteroid task force.

They’re really in touch.

So closely in touch their agriculture spokesman says, “overall it would be churlish to say [Nick Brown] hasn’t been pretty successful.”

The truth is Nick Brown has been disastrous.

Disastrous for dairy farmers whose income under Labour has fallen by 70 per cent.

Disastrous for cereal farmers whose income under Labour has fallen by 75 per cent.

Disastrous for pig farmers whose income under Labour has disappeared altogether.

Last year sixty people left farming every day.

Gordon Brown boasts of ending boom and bust.

But in the countryside he’s started bust and bust.

And all Nasty Nick offers is a sticking plaster for an industry that’s bleeding to death.

To make matters worse they’re strangling farmers and small businesses with red tape.

Burying them under a mountain of paperwork.

Forcing small abattoirs to close.

Applying regulations more toughly here than elsewhere.

Regulations like a Nitrates Directive which hardly any other country enforces.

An Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive, which was never intended to apply to farming at all.

I give you this promise.

When William Hague is Prime Minister and I am Minister of Agriculture we won’t enforce European rules any faster than France, than Spain, not even than Italy.

And we’ll do our damnedest to stop any more needless regulation from being introduced in the first place.

But it isn’t only Nick Brown’s actions which damage farmers, consumers and the countryside.

It’s his inaction too.

Take beef exports.

Last year Labour claimed they’d ended the export ban.

Even though they hadn’t ended their own ban on beef on the bone.

France didn’t agree.

They illegally blocked the export of safe British beef.

In response Nick Brown did nothing.

As the crisis got worse he stopped speaking to his French counterpart.

At the Anglo French summit British beef wasn’t on the agenda or the menu.

Instead of confronting France Nick Brown sat cringing in Whitehall.

And today, fourteen months after Tony Blair boasted that the beef export ban was over, exports are less than one per cent of what they were.

Is that what Tony means when he says, “by playing by the rules it is possible to win in Europe”?

Sadly it isn’t only beef farmers Labour has betrayed.

Pig farmers have also been condemned – often to bankruptcy.

Pig farmers who rear their pigs more humanely than many farmers abroad; who pay for extra health measures because of BSE, a problem they did not cause.

Labour doesn’t care how much bacon or ham or pork is imported from countries with lower health and animal welfare standards.

Other farmers have suffered, too.

Dairy farmers like Graham Bigwood, the Somerset tenant farmer, who is with us today.

Two weeks ago I had a letter from Graham. He said:

“We have now reached the sad stage of talking to the Crown Commissioners about our future. We are a year behind on our rent and our debts are steadily rising.

“Yesterday I spoke to the Tenant Farmer’s Association who advised me to try and negotiate a package with the Crown to leave Binham Farm. For the last twenty five years I have worked for eighty plus hours a week in dairy and face financial ruin as a result of this crisis.”

In March Graham invited me to his farm where I helped milk his cows at five in the morning.

He invited Nick Brown, too.

But Nick didn’t go.

He didn’t want to talk about Tony Blair’s cave in last year on milk quotas or about how he smashed up Milk Marque.

And Labour’s damaged other farmers too.

Sheep farmers have been betrayed because Labour feeds the army South American mutton rather than good British lamb.

Arable farmers, like those in Tony Blair’s own constituency, who I’m visiting next month, have been betrayed by Labour’s refusal to claim agri-monetary compensation.

Hill farmers have been betrayed by Labour’s skewing of the rules to hurt the most vulnerable.

Horticulture farmers are burdened with Labour’s bogus Energy Tax, which we will repeal.

Fruit growers like one I visited in Kent who had to leave fields of fruit to rot because Labour won’t let him employ the people he needs to pick his crops.

You’d think Tony Blair wants to put Britain’s farmers out of business.

And if that’s the case Nasty Nick’s the right man for the job.

It’s a scandal that Britain’s rural communities are being destroyed.

And it’s a scandal that Labour is letting down consumers too.

In March when Parliament debated a Conservative Bill requiring labels to say where food comes from and how it’s produced, a Labour Minister deliberately talked it out.

Tony Blair is too scared of what Brussels might say if Britain stood up for honesty in food labelling even to let Parliament debate the subject.

So consumers continue to buy food labelled British even if the ingredients were grown abroad.

This is a fraud on consumers.

A fraud which Labour refuse to stop.

A fraud we will end.

A fraud made worse because Nick Brown’s too weak to stop sub-standard food entering Britain.

Like the poultry produced in the Far East using growth-promoting drugs banned in Europe on health grounds.

Last year the European Commission found some French livestock was fed on human sewage.

But when I demanded that British consumers should be protected Nick Brown did nothing.

Is there a single person in this hall who believes that if it had been British farmers feeding their animals human sewage, Labour would not have cracked down?

But when it’s a French farmer Nick Brown’s the farmer’s friend.

The Minister who lets British consumers eat sub-standard food – as long as it’s produced abroad.

The Minister who lets British farmers be destroyed by unfair competition.

But it isn’t only farmers and consumers that Labour is betraying.

It’s the environment, too.

Labour’s shambolic handling of GM crop trials threatens the integrity of organic and conventional farmers alike.

And they’re rushing ahead with commercial planting regardless of the effect on wildlife.

In July I launched our policy document “A Fair Deal for Farmers”.

At its heart is our belief that the job of farmers is producing high quality food for British consumers.

As well as looking after our rural environment.

“A Fair Deal for Farmers” is full of positive ideas.

Common sense ideas.

Deliverable ideas.

A retirement scheme for tenant farmers, like those Philip Cochrane and I met two weeks ago in Stafford, the seat Philip will represent in the next Parliament.

A common standard for organic food so consumers know that items labelled organic mean what they say wherever they come from.

Planning guidance to make it easier to reuse old farm buildings for new small businesses.

These policies will be introduced in the first months of the next Conservative government.

Along with lower fuel taxes so country people can afford to use their cars.

Honesty in labelling so mums and dads know what they’re giving the kids.

Less red tape so farmers can get on with what they’re good at instead of filling in forms in triplicate.

An end to substandard imports so we can trust all the food we eat.

So competition is free and fair instead of being loaded against British producers.

“A Fair Deal for Farmers” also sets out our commitment to sweeping reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, which has failed consumers, failed taxpayers, failed farmers, and failed the environment.

Farm policy must move more towards the market.

But it must also reflect the unique nature of the industry and its impact on the environment.

If agriculture declines the fabric of our countryside is damaged, wildlife suffers, and the rural economy gets weaker.

So I’ve got a message for Tony Blair.

Instead of banning hunting he should be tackling the real issues.

Instead of raising fuel taxes he should be helping rural business.

Instead of building all over the green fields he should be protecting the environment.

Instead of shutting down the post offices he should be breathing life into villages.

Instead of stripping the countryside of policemen he should be tackling rural crime.

Instead of introducing the right to roam he should be defending private property.

But Labour have had their chance.

And they’ve squandered it.

And the last few weeks have shown voters know that too.

The seeds of Tony Blair’s downfall have been sown in rural communities up and down the land.

A winter crop which will yield a rich harvest.

A harvest of new Conservative MPs.

Who understand farming.

Who care for the countryside.

When the election comes rural Britain will deliver a damning verdict on Labour and its Liberal Democrat lackeys.

Because they’re fed up with all the broken promises.

Fed up with the arrogance and the lies and the spin.

Fed up with a Government that says it’s listening but goes on lecturing.

Fed up with Ministers who preach to us about the environment as they cruise in their chauffeur driven gas-guzzling limos.

Fed up with the highest fuel taxes in Europe, with queues at the pumps and buses that are cancelled.

Fed up with a Government that let’s terrorist murderers out of jail but wants to imprison people who go hunting.

Fed up with the billions wasted on spin-doctors salaries and Dome bail outs while pennies are denied to disabled people and pensioners.

Fed up with a Government that is soft on crime cuts the police force.

Fed up with a Government that says taxes are going down when we all know they are going up.

So whether it takes eighteen days, or eighteen weeks, or eighteen months.

With your help this Conservative Opposition is going to drive Tony and his cronies out of Downing Street and save Britain’s countryside before it’s too late.

Tim Yeo – 1983 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons


Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Tim Yeo in the House of Commons on 5th July 1983.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech on a subject which affects far more people than the obscure title of the order suggests and which has become controversial.

I declare an interest as the director of the Spastics Society which is one of the charities that derives substantial revenue from a football pool that is operated under the Pool Competition Act 1971. I hope to remain employed by the society until the end of this year and thereafter to serve it in a voluntary role.

Although my constituency is new, it comprises some of the oldest and most beautiful villages in East Anglia. About two thirds of my constituency formed part of the old Sudbury and Woodbridge constituency. I pay warm tribute to Mr. Keith Stainton, the former Member of Parliament for that constituency. He had a distinguished war record and served the constituency most conscientiously for almost 20 years. I can testify to the loyalty and respect that he commanded in the constituency.

Suffolk, South is an area of sharp contrasts. The other one third, which was part of the old Bury St. Edmunds constituency, contains Haverhill, a town with a substantial GLC overspill population, and many rural villages. It is a reflection on the excellent work of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), who supported me generously before and during the general election campaign with time and advice, that he is spoken of as highly on the GLC estates in Haverhill—where there is now a rapidly growing element of owner-occupation — as in the villages by people who are Suffolk born and bred.

The Pool Competitions Act is an important measure for several of the leading charities. The Spastics Society, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, the National Fund for Research into Crippling Diseases, better known as Action Research for the Crippled Child, are the best known, and each derives substantial revenue from the pools that operate under the Act.

Over the past 25 years, the Spastics Society has received almost £40 million from that source, making it the most important single source of revenue. Those who decry the operation of the football pools ignore the tremendous benefit that has been conferred not just on the charitable organisations, but on the thousands of families who have reason to be profoundly grateful for the income received by charities from the operation of the Spastics Society, football pool and other charity pools.

The relative importance of the pools has declined. The Spastics Society football pools contributed 44 per cent. of total voluntary income in 1973–74 whereas the figure for 1982–83 was down to 6 per cent. However, £500,000 still comes to the society from the football pool. That is three times the amount received by direct grant from central Government.

The society paid £483,000 last year in unrecoverable VAT. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will have the opportunity to remind his Treasury colleagues about the burden that VAT imposes on charities. The sum of £500,000 is a substantial one in charity terms. It is enough to pay for the whole of the Spastics Society’s social work service of 30 specialist workers assisting families in England and Wales. It is sufficient to cover, in running 33 centres for spastic adults, the difference between the cost and the fees received from local authorities. The money from the football pool is financing worthy activities.

Apart from the income that the charities receive, there is another aspect of the football pools that has so far been overlooked this evening. They provide a means for 1.5 million people every year to make a small contribution to charity while at the same time enjoying, quite legitimately, a modest flutter with the possibility of sizeable, although not sensational, financial gain. Although it may be held that gambling is in one sense an undesirable activity, I do not believe that the participants in such football pools, by staking perhaps 15p or 20p a week, are endangering their family budget. The operation of the pools may mean that among the 1.5 million weekly subscribers are some who would not otherwise be aware of the charities that they are supporting and the work that those organisations are doing.

There has been a general recognition for a number of years that the existing position, requiring the renewal of the order every year, is unsatisfactory not only for the Government and the House but for the operators of the pools who cannot make any long-term plans, and for the charities who are uncertain about the security of the income. Therefore, I welcome without reservation the statement by my right hon. Friend that the Act will be renewed annually throughout the life of the present Parliament. As we all know, this will run for a full five years. The Government have given the pool operators and the charities a longer period of secure operation than at any time since the original passage of the Pool Competitions Act 1971. For that reason I know that the charities will be grateful to my right hon. Friend for his assurance.

My right hon. Friend will also know that extensive consultations have been held over the past few years with the Home Office, and the charity pool operators, and the charities were fully involved in those consultations. The charities and pool operators made clear their preference for new legislation that would permit the continued operation of charity pools on a permanent basis. If that is not possible, I hope that my right hon. Friend will hold discussions with all the parties involved to ensure that any damage to the charities’ incomes, following the ending of the present basis of pool operation, will be minimised.

Bringing the present charity pools within the scope of the 1976 Act would be difficult to achieve without some adverse impact, but if it cannot be done. I hope that my right hon. Friend will argue even more strongly with his Treasury colleagues about value added tax.

The Pool Competitions Act enshrines what seems to be an anomalous position, because it restricts the charity pools to a small number of specified operators. I stress that that restriction has been the wish of successive Governments since 1971. The charities concerned have no desire to be part of an exclusive group. At all times, the charities and pool operators have been at pains to stress that they would be happy for the Act to be amended to allow other charities to compete on an equal basis.

When the matter was discussed in the past—the point was raised again this evening—concern was expressed about the expenses of pool operators. I stress, for the benefit of those who do not understand the nature of these pools, that the pool operators are commercial companies which are separate from the charities. The Spastics Society, for example, exercises no management control over the Spastics Society football pool, and has no legal responsibility for its administration.

To some extent, I share the concern about the expense ratios. However, the circumstances of the pools have to be borne in mind, in particular the proportionate cost of running a football pool with a small weekly stake. It is 16p in the case of the Spastics Society football pool. The cost of running such a pool will inevitably be much higher than the cost of running a pool that has a weekly stake of, say, £1. Moreover, all subscribers should be aware how much of their stake — in the case of the Spastics Society football pool, it is 15 per cent. — goes to the charity, how much goes to the prize fund, and how much to expenses. Pool subscribers will also be aware that after the charitable donation has been deducted from their weekly stake, one third of what remains goes to the Customs and Excise in betting duty.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) may have talked to a number of leading fund raisers during the past week, but he has not attempted to talk to me, or to my colleagues who are involved in fund raising, and whom I see in the Gallery. As I run one of the largest fundraising operations in the country, raising about £10 million a year from voluntary sources, it is a shame that the hon. Gentleman made no attempt to talk to me if there is as much concern about fund-raising methods and costs as there seems to be. We in the Spastics Society are perfectly happy with the present system of pool operations.

I hope we shall find a way forward that does not damage the financial position of the charities over the longer term. The voluntary sector plays a major part in the life of our country, and unusually, it enjoys the support, both practical and philosophical, of most, if not all, sections of the community. The true size of voluntary organisations is not known precisely, although the Charities Aid Foundation is sponsoring research, the results of which will be available later. It is likely to show that in economic and financial terms the voluntary sector is a force to be reckoned with.

The Government have expressed their enthusiasm for the voluntary sector on many occasions and have backed their words with deeds such as increasing direct Government grants and fiscal concessions in the form of covenants, legacies and relief from stamp duty. That has demonstrated tangibly the Government’s remarkable support for the activities of many leading charities. Bearing in mind that every pound of direct Government support is boosted by voluntary donations and that in addition to expenditure by voluntary charities considerable real value is obtained through the work of unpaid volunteers, there is a substantial multiplier effect at work, converting each pound of Government assistance into several pounds’ worth of activity.

The voluntary sector is one of the most cost-effective areas for Government expenditure. With the severe limitations that will now exist, quite rightly, on both central and local government expenditure over the next few years, the significance of the voluntary sector is likely to grow.

By giving his assurance, my right hon. Friend the Minister has given some short and medium-term help to the charities. But the long-term anxiety is perhaps now more pronounced. It is in the interests of the community for the House to approve legislation that allows some modest form of gambling to be promoted for the benefit of charity. By doing so, the voluntary sector, which we are all so anxious to encourage, would receive continuing benefits.