Tony Blair – 2016 Statement on Chilcot Inquiry


Below is the text of the statement made by Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, on 6 July 2016.

The report should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit. Whether people agree or disagree with my decision to take military action against Saddam Hussein; I took it in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country.

I note that the report finds clearly:

– That there was no falsification or improper use of Intelligence (para 876 vol 4)

– No deception of Cabinet (para 953 vol 5)

– No secret commitment to war whether at Crawford Texas in April 2002 or elsewhere (para 572 onwards vol 1)

The inquiry does not make a finding on the legal basis for military action but finds that the Attorney General had concluded there was such a lawful basis by 13th March 2003 (para 933 vol 5)

However the report does make real and material criticisms of preparation, planning, process and of the relationship with the United States.

These are serious criticisms and they require serious answers.

I will respond in detail to them later this afternoon.

I will take full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse.

I will at the same time say why, nonetheless, I believe that it was better to remove Saddam Hussein and why I do not believe this is the cause of the terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world.

Above all I will pay tribute to our Armed Forces. I will express my profound regret at the loss of life and the grief it has caused the families, and I will set out the lessons I believe future leaders can learn from my experience.

Tony Blair – 2003 Statement on Iraq


Below is the text of the statement made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 18 March 2003.

I beg to move,

That this House notes its decisions of 25th November 2002 and 26th February 2003 to endorse UN Security Council Resolution 1441; recognises that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and long range missiles, and its continuing non-compliance with Security Council Resolutions, pose a threat to international peace and security; notes that in the 130 days since Resolution 1441 was adopted Iraq has not co-operated actively, unconditionally and immediately with the weapons inspectors, and has rejected the final opportunity to comply and is in further material breach of its obligations under successive mandatory UN Security Council Resolutions; regrets that despite sustained diplomatic effort by Her Majesty’s Government it has not proved possible to secure a second Resolution in the UN because one Permanent Member of the Security Council made plain in public its intention to use its veto whatever the circumstances; notes the opinion of the Attorney General that, Iraq having failed to comply and Iraq being at the time of Resolution 1441 and continuing to be in material breach, the authority to use force under Resolution 678 has revived and so continues today; believes that the United Kingdom must uphold the authority of the United Nations as set out in Resolution 1441 and many Resolutions preceding it, and therefore supports the decision of Her Majesty’s Government that the United Kingdom should use all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction; offers wholehearted support to the men and women of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces now on duty in the Middle East; in the event of military operations requires that, on an urgent basis, the United Kingdom should seek a new Security Council Resolution that would affirm Iraq’s territorial integrity, ensure rapid delivery of humanitarian relief, allow for the earliest possible lifting of UN sanctions, an international reconstruction programme, and the use of all oil revenues for the benefit of the Iraqi people and endorse an appropriate post-conflict administration for Iraq, leading to a representative government which upholds human rights and the rule of law for all Iraqis; and also welcomes the imminent publication of the Quartet’s roadmap as a significant step to bringing a just and lasting peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians and for the wider Middle East region, and endorses the role of Her Majesty’s Government in actively working for peace between Israel and Palestine.

At the outset, I say that it is right that the House debate this issue and pass judgment. That is the democracy that is our right, but that others struggle for in vain. Again, I say that I do not disrespect the views in opposition to mine. This is a tough choice indeed, but it is also a stark one: to stand British troops down now and turn back, or to hold firm to the course that we have set. I believe passionately that we must hold firm to that course. The question most often posed is not “Why does it matter?” but “Why does it matter so much?” Here we are, the Government, with their most serious test, their majority at risk, the first Cabinet resignation over an issue of policy, the main parties internally divided, people who agree on everything else—[Hon. Members: “The main parties?”] Ah, yes, of course. The Liberal Democrats—unified, as ever, in opportunism and error. [Interruption.]

The country and the Parliament reflect each other. This is a debate that, as time has gone on, has become less bitter but no less grave. So why does it matter so much? Because the outcome of this issue will now determine more than the fate of the Iraqi regime and more than the future of the Iraqi people who have been brutalised by Saddam for so long, important though those issues are. It will determine the way in which Britain and the world confront the central security threat of the 21st century, the development of the United Nations, the relationship between Europe and the United States, the relations within the European Union and the way in which the United States engages with the rest of the world. So it could hardly be more important. It will determine the pattern of international politics for the next generation.

First, let us recap the history of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. In April 1991, after the Gulf war, Iraq was given 15 days to provide a full and final declaration of all its weapons of mass destruction. Saddam had used the weapons against Iran and against his own people, causing thousands of deaths. He had had plans to use them against allied forces. It became clear, after the Gulf war, that Iraq’s WMD ambitions were far more extensive than had hitherto been thought. So the issue was identified by the United Nations at that time as one for urgent remedy. UNSCOM, the weapons inspection team, was set up. It was expected to complete its task, following the declaration, at the end of April 1991. The declaration, when it came, was false: a blanket denial of the programme, other than in a very tentative form. And so the 12-year game began.

The inspectors probed. Finally, in March 1992, Iraq admitted that it had previously undeclared weapons of mass destruction, but it said that it had destroyed them. It gave another full and final declaration. Again the inspectors probed. In October 1994, Iraq stopped co-operating with the weapons inspectors altogether. Military action was threatened. Inspections resumed. In March 1996, in an effort to rid Iraq of the inspectors, a further full and final declaration of WMD was made. By July 1996, however, Iraq was forced to admit that declaration, too, was false.

In August, it provided yet another full and final declaration. Then, a week later, Saddam’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, defected to Jordan. He disclosed a far more extensive biological weapons programme and, for the first time, said that Iraq had weaponised the programme—something that Saddam had always strenuously denied. All this had been happening while the inspectors were in Iraq.

Kamal also revealed Iraq’s crash programme to produce a nuclear weapon in the 1990s. Iraq was then forced to release documents that showed just how extensive those programmes were. In November 1996, Jordan intercepted prohibited components for missiles that could be used for weapons of mass destruction. Then a further “full and final declaration” was made. That, too, turned out to be false.

In June 1997, inspectors were barred from specific sites. In September 1997, lo and behold, yet another “full and final declaration” was made—also false. Meanwhile, the inspectors discovered VX nerve agent production equipment, the existence of which had always been denied by the Iraqis.

In October 1997, the United States and the United Kingdom threatened military action if Iraq refused to comply with the inspectors. Finally, under threat of action in February 1998, Kofi Annan went to Baghdad and negotiated a memorandum with Saddam to allow inspections to continue. They did continue, for a few months. In August, co-operation was suspended.

In December, the inspectors left. Their final report is a withering indictment of Saddam’s lies, deception and obstruction, with large quantities of weapons of mass destruction unaccounted for. Then, in December 1998, the US and the UK undertook Desert Fox, a targeted bombing campaign to degrade as much of the Iraqi WMD facility as we could.

In 1999, a new inspection team, UNMOVIC, was set up. Saddam refused to allow those inspectors even to enter Iraq. So there they stayed, in limbo, until, after resolution 1441 last November, they were allowed to return.

That is the history—and what is the claim of Saddam today? Why, exactly the same as before: that he has no weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, we are asked to believe that after seven years of obstruction and non-compliance, finally resulting in the inspectors’ leaving in 1998—seven years in which he hid his programme and built it up, even when the inspectors were there in Iraq—when they had left, he voluntarily decided to do what he had consistently refused to do under coercion.

When the inspectors left in 1998, they left unaccounted for 10,000 litres of anthrax; a far-reaching VX nerve agent programme; up to 6,500 chemical munitions; at least 80 tonnes of mustard gas, and possibly more than 10 times that amount; unquantifiable amounts of sarin, botulinum toxin and a host of other biological poisons; and an entire Scud missile programme. We are asked now seriously to accept that in the last few years—contrary to all history, contrary to all intelligence—Saddam decided unilaterally to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd.

Resolution 1441 is very clear. It lays down a final opportunity for Saddam to disarm. It rehearses the fact that he has for years been in material breach of 17 UN resolutions. It says that this time compliance must be full, unconditional and immediate, the first step being a full and final declaration of all weapons of mass destruction to be given on 8 December last year.

I will not go through all the events since then, as the House is familiar with them, but this much is accepted by all members of the UN Security Council: the 8 December declaration is false. That in itself, incidentally, is a material breach. Iraq has taken some steps in co-operation, but no one disputes that it is not fully co-operating. Iraq continues to deny that it has any weapons of mass destruction, although no serious intelligence service anywhere in the world believes it.

On 7 March, the inspectors published a remarkable document. It is 173 pages long, and details all the unanswered questions about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. It lists 29 different areas in which the inspectors have been unable to obtain information. On VX, for example, it says:

“Documentation available to UNMOVIC suggests that Iraq at least had had far reaching plans to weaponise VX”.

On mustard gas, it says:

“Mustard constituted an important part . . . of Iraq’s CW arsenal . . . 550 mustard filled shells and up to 450 mustard filled aerial bombs unaccounted for . . . additional uncertainty”

with respect to over 6,500 aerial bombs,

“corresponding to approximately 1,000 tonnes of agent, predominantly mustard.”

On biological weapons, the inspectors’ report states:

“Based on unaccounted for growth media, Iraq’s potential production of anthrax could have been in the range of about 15,000 to 25,000 litres . . . Based on all the available evidence, the strong presumption is that about 10,000 litres of anthrax was not destroyed and may still exist.”

On that basis, I simply say to the House that, had we meant what we said in resolution 1441, the Security Council should have convened and condemned Iraq as in material breach. What is perfectly clear is that Saddam is playing the same old games in the same old way. Yes, there are minor concessions, but there has been no fundamental change of heart or mind.

However, after 7 March, the inspectors said that there was at least some co-operation, and the world rightly hesitated over war. Let me now describe to the House what then took place.

We therefore approached a second resolution in this way. As I said, we could have asked for the second resolution then and there, because it was justified. Instead, we laid down an ultimatum calling upon Saddam to come into line with resolution 1441, or be in material breach. That is not an unreasonable proposition, given the history, but still countries hesitated. They asked, “How do we judge what is full co-operation?”

So we then worked on a further compromise. We consulted the inspectors and drew up five tests, based on the document that they published on 7 March. Those tests included allowing interviews with 30 scientists to be held outside Iraq, and releasing details of the production of the anthrax, or at least of the documentation showing what had happened to it. The inspectors added another test: that Saddam should publicly call on Iraqis to co-operate with them.

So we constructed this framework: that Saddam should be given a specified time to fulfil all six tests to show full co-operation; and that, if he did so, the inspectors could then set out a forward work programme that would extend over a period of time to make sure that disarmament happened. However, if Saddam failed to meet those tests to judge compliance, action would follow.

So there were clear benchmarks, plus a clear ultimatum. Again, I defy anyone to describe that as an unreasonable proposition.

Last Monday, we were getting very close with it. We very nearly had the majority agreement. If I might, I should particularly like to thank the President of Chile for the constructive way in which he approached this issue.

Yes, there were debates about the length of the ultimatum, but the basic construct was gathering support. Then, on Monday night, France said that it would veto a second resolution, whatever the circumstances. Then France denounced the six tests. Later that day, Iraq rejected them. Still, we continued to negotiate, even at that point.

Last Friday, France said that it could not accept any resolution with an ultimatum in it. On Monday, we made final efforts to secure agreement. However, the fact is that France remains utterly opposed to anything that lays down an ultimatum authorising action in the event of non-compliance by Saddam.

Hugh Bayley (City of York): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

The Prime Minister: Very well.

Hugh Bayley: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I took the view that Britain should not engage in military action without a second resolution, but the decision of some members of the Security Council to back away from the commitment that they gave in November to enforce resolution 1441 has made me change my mind. Does my right hon. Friend agree that France’s decision to use the veto against any further Security Council resolution has, in effect, disarmed the UN instead of disarming Iraq?

The Prime Minister: Of course I agree with my hon. Friend. The House should just consider the position that we were asked to adopt. Those on the Security Council opposed to us say that they want Saddam to disarm, but they will not countenance any new resolution that authorises force in the event of non-compliance. That is their position—no to any ultimatum and no to any resolution that stipulates that failure to comply will lead to military action. So we must demand that Saddam disarms, but relinquish any concept of a threat if he does not.

From December 1998 to December 2002, no UN inspector was allowed to inspect anything in Iraq. For four years, no inspection took place. What changed Saddam’s mind was the threat of force. From December to January, and then from January through to February, some concessions were made. What changed his mind? It was the threat of force. What makes him now issue invitations to the inspectors, discover documents that he said he never had, produce evidence of weapons supposed to be non-existent, and destroy missiles he said he would keep? It is the imminence of force. The only persuasive power to which he responds is 250,000 allied troops on his doorstep. However, when that fact is so obvious, we are told that any resolution that authorises force in the event of non-compliance will be vetoed—not just opposed, but vetoed and blocked.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central): If it is the case, as the Government continually say, that the French position was so uniquely influential, why did not the Government and the United States pursue the second resolution, which—if the Government have given us a true reflection of the Security Council’s position—would show that the French were isolated?

The Prime Minister: For the very reason that I have just given. If a member of the permanent five indicates to members of the Security Council who are not permanent members that whatever the circumstances it will veto, that is the way to block any progress on the Security Council. [Interruption.] With the greatest respect to whoever shouted out that the presence of the troops is working, I agree, but it is British and American troops who are there, not French troops.

The tragedy is that had such a resolution ensued and had the UN come together and united—and if other troops had gone there, not just British and American troops—Saddam Hussein might have complied. But the moment we proposed the benchmarks and canvassed support for an ultimatum, there was an immediate recourse to the language of the veto. The choice was not action now or postponement of action; the choice was action or no action at all.

Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent): What does the Prime Minister mean by an “unreasonable veto”? Were the 30 occasions on which the UK has used the veto and the 75 occasions on which the US has used the veto reasonable or unreasonable?

The Prime Minister: We can argue about each one of those vetoes in the past and whether they were reasonable, but I define an unreasonable veto as follows. In resolution 1441, we said that it was Saddam’s final opportunity and that he had to comply. That was agreed by all members of the Security Council. What is surely unreasonable is for a country to come forward now, at the very point when we might reach agreement and when we are—not unreasonably—saying that he must comply with the UN, after all these months without full compliance, on the basis of the six tests or action will follow. For that country to say that it will veto such a resolution in all circumstances is what I would call unreasonable.

The tragedy is that the world has to learn the lesson all over again that weakness in the face of a threat from a tyrant is the surest way not to peace, but—unfortunately—to conflict. Looking back over those 12 years, the truth is that we have been victims of our own desire to placate the implacable, to persuade towards reason the utterly unreasonable, and to hope that there was some genuine intent to do good in a regime whose mind is in fact evil.

Now the very length of time counts against us. People say, “You’ve waited 12 years, so why not wait a little longer?” Of course we have done so, because resolution 1441 gave a final opportunity. As I have just pointed out, the first test was on 8 December. But still we waited. We waited for the inspectors’ reports. We waited as each concession was tossed to us to whet our appetite for hope and further waiting. But still no one, not even today at the Security Council, says that Saddam is co-operating fully, unconditionally or immediately.

Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): The Prime Minister will carry the House with him in describing the evil of Saddam Hussein and the effectiveness of the threat of force. Can he therefore explain why the diplomacy that has not so far succeeded—not through lack of his effort—should not be continued for a little longer, so that agreement could be reached between all permanent members of the Security Council? Then if force had to be used, it could be backed with the authority of the UN, instead of undermining the UN.

The Prime Minister: We could have had more time if the compromise proposal that we put forward had been accepted. I take it from what the hon. Gentleman has just said that he would accept that the compromise proposal we put forward was indeed reasonable. We set out the tests. If Saddam meets those tests, we extend the work programme of the inspectors. If he does not meet those tests, we take action. I think that the hon. Gentleman would also agree that unless the threat of action was made, it was unlikely that Saddam would meet the tests.

Simon Hughes indicated assent.

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman nods his head, but the problem with the diplomacy was that it came to an end after the position of France was made public—and repeated in a private conversation—and it said that it would block, by veto, any resolution that contained an ultimatum. We could carry on discussing it for a long time, but the French were not prepared to change their position. I am not prepared to carry on waiting and delaying, with our troops in place in difficult circumstances, when that country has made it clear that it has a fixed position and will not change. I would have hoped that, rather than condemn us for not waiting even longer, the hon. Gentleman would condemn those who laid down the veto.

David Winnick (Walsall, North): Does my right hon. Friend agree that a criticism can be made of all the countries that make up the Security Council because it has taken 12 years to reach this point? Why was action not taken earlier? The delay and frustration has only encouraged the Iraqi dictator to act as he has, and there is no justification for further delay.

The Prime Minister: I truly believe that our fault has not been impatience. The truth is that our patience should have been exhausted weeks and months and even years ago.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): The Prime Minister says that the French have changed position, but surely the French, Russians and Chinese always made it clear that they would oppose a second resolution that led automatically to war. [Interruption.] Well they publicised that view at the time of resolution 1441. Is it not the Prime Minister who has changed his position? A month ago, he said that the only circumstances in which he would go to war without a second resolution was if the inspectors concluded that there had been no more progress, which they have not; if there were a majority on the Security Council, which there is not; and if there were an unreasonable veto from one country, but there are three permanent members opposed to the Prime Minister’s policy. When did he change his position, and why?

The Prime Minister: First, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely wrong about the position on resolution 1441. It is correct that resolution 1441 did not say that there would be another resolution authorising the use of force, but the implication of resolution 1441—it was stated in terms—was that if Iraq continued in material breach, defined as not co-operating fully, immediately and unconditionally, serious consequences should follow. All we are asking for in the second resolution is the clear ultimatum that if Saddam continues to fail to co-operate, force should be used. The French position is that France will vote no, whatever the circumstances. Those are not my words, but those of the French President. I find it sad that at this point in time he cannot support us in the position we have set out, which is the only sure way to disarm Saddam. And what, indeed, would any tyrannical regime possessing weapons of mass destruction think when viewing the history of the world’s diplomatic dance with Saddam over these 12 years? That our capacity to pass firm resolutions has only been matched by our feebleness in implementing them. That is why this indulgence has to stop—because it is dangerous: dangerous if such regimes disbelieve us; dangerous if they think they can use our weakness, our hesitation, and even the natural urges of our democracy towards peace against us; and dangerous because one day they will mistake our innate revulsion against war for permanent incapacity, when, in fact, if pushed to the limit, we will act. But when we act, after years of pretence, the action will have to be harder, bigger, more total in its impact. It is true that Iraq is not the only country with weapons of mass destruction, but I say this to the House: back away from this confrontation now, and future conflicts will be infinitely worse and more devastating in their effects.

Of course, in a sense, any fair observer does not really dispute that Iraq is in breach of resolution 1441 or that it implies action in such circumstances. The real problem is that, underneath, people dispute that Iraq is a threat, dispute the link between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and dispute, in other words, the whole basis of our assertion that the two together constitute a fundamental assault on our way of life.

There are glib and sometimes foolish comparisons with the 1930s. I am not suggesting for a moment that anyone here is an appeaser or does not share our revulsion at the regime of Saddam. However, there is one relevant point of analogy. It is that, with history, we know what happened. We can look back and say, “There’s the time; that was the moment; that’s when we should have acted.” However, the point is that it was not clear at the time—not at that moment. In fact, at that time, many people thought such a fear fanciful or, worse, that it was put forward in bad faith by warmongers. Let me read one thing from an editorial from a paper that I am pleased to say takes a different position today. It was written in late 1938 after Munich. One would have thought from the history books that people thought the world was tumultuous in its desire to act. This is what the editorial said:

“Be glad in your hearts. Give thanks to your God. People of Britain, your children are safe. Your husbands and your sons will not march to war. Peace is a victory for all mankind . . . And now let us go back to our own affairs. We have had enough of those menaces, conjured up . . . to confuse us.”

Now, of course, should Hitler again appear in the same form, we would know what to do. But the point is that history does not declare the future to us plainly. Each time is different and the present must be judged without the benefit of hindsight. So let me explain to the House why I believe that the threat that we face today is so serious and why we must tackle it. The threat today is not that of the 1930s. It is not big powers going to war with each other. The ravages that fundamentalist ideology inflicted on the 20th century are memories. The cold war is over. Europe is at peace, if not always diplomatically. But the world is ever more interdependent. Stock markets and economies rise and fall together, confidence is the key to prosperity, and insecurity spreads like contagion. The key today is stability and order. The threat is chaos and disorder—and there are two begetters of chaos: tyrannical regimes with weapons of mass destruction and extreme terrorist groups who profess a perverted and false view of Islam.

Let me tell the House what I know. I know that there are some countries, or groups within countries, that are proliferating and trading in weapons of mass destruction—especially nuclear weapons technology. I know that there are companies, individuals, and some former scientists on nuclear weapons programmes, who are selling their equipment or expertise. I know that there are several countries—mostly dictatorships with highly repressive regimes—that are desperately trying to acquire chemical weapons, biological weapons or, in particular, nuclear weapons capability. Some of those countries are now a short time away from having a serviceable nuclear weapon. This activity is not diminishing. It is increasing.

We all know that there are terrorist groups now operating in most major countries. Just in the past two years, around 20 different nations have suffered serious terrorist outrages. Thousands of people—quite apart from 11 September—have died in them. The purpose of that terrorism is not just in the violent act; it is in producing terror. It sets out to inflame, to divide, and to produce consequences of a calamitous nature. Round the world, it now poisons the chances of political progress—in the middle east, in Kashmir, in Chechnya and in Africa. The removal of the Taliban—yes—dealt it a blow. But it has not gone away.

Those two threats have, of course, different motives and different origins, but they share one basic common view: they detest the freedom, democracy and tolerance that are the hallmarks of our way of life. At the moment, I accept fully that the association between the two is loose—but it is hardening. The possibility of the two coming together—of terrorist groups in possession of weapons of mass destruction or even of a so-called dirty radiological bomb—is now, in my judgment, a real and present danger to Britain and its national security.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that thousands of scientists and civil servants in this country—hundreds of them my constituents at Porton Down—have been warning of those threats for some years and are hugely relieved that he and his Government are taking this seriously? They will support him, as will I.

The Prime Minister: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): What could be more calculated to act as a recruiting sergeant for a young generation throughout the Islamic and Arab world than putting 600 cruise missiles—or whatever it is—on to Baghdad and Iraq?

The Prime Minister: Let me come to that very point.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: Let me deal with this point first. Let us recall: what was shocking about 11 September was not just the slaughter of innocent people but the knowledge that, had the terrorists been able, there would have been not 3,000 innocent dead, but 30,000 or 300,000—and the more the suffering, the greater their rejoicing. I say to my hon. Friend that America did not attack the al-Qaeda terrorist group; the al-Qaeda terrorist group attacked America. They did not need to be recruited; they were there already. Unless we take action against them, they will grow. That is why we should act.

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment.

Sir Teddy Taylor: Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: Just give me a moment and then I will give way.

Let me explain the dangers. Three kilograms of VX from a rocket launcher would contaminate 0.25 sq km of a city. Millions of lethal doses are contained in one litre of anthrax, and 10,000 litres are unaccounted for. What happened on 11 September has changed the psychology of America—that is clear—but it should have changed the psychology of the world.

Of course, Iraq is not the only part of this threat. I have never said that it was. But it is the test of whether we treat the threat seriously. Faced with it, the world should unite. The UN should be the focus both of diplomacy and of action. That is what 1441 said. That was the deal. And I simply say to the House that to break it now, and to will the ends but not the means, would do more damage in the long term to the UN than any other single course that we could pursue. To fall back into the lassitude of the past 12 years; to talk, to discuss, to debate but never to act; to declare our will but not to enforce it; and to continue with strong language but with weak intentions—that is the worst course imaginable. If we pursue that course, when the threat returns, from Iraq or elsewhere, who will then believe us? What price our credibility with the next tyrant? It was interesting today that some of the strongest statements of support for allied forces came from near to North Korea—from Japan and South Korea.

Sir Teddy Taylor: The Prime Minister is making a powerful and compelling speech. Will he tell the House whether there has been any identification of the countries that have supplied these terrible biological materials—such as anthrax and toxins—to Iraq? Should those countries not be identified—named by the Prime Minister and condemned?

The Prime Minister: Much of the production is in Iraq itself.

Lynne Jones: A moment ago my right hon. Friend said that the association between Iraq and terrorists is loose, yet last night President Bush told the American people that Iraq has aided, trained and harboured terrorists, including operatives of al-Qaeda. Was President Bush accurate in what he told the American people?

The Prime Minister: First, let me apologise to the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir Teddy Taylor). He was making a point in my favour and I failed to spot it.

Secondly, to my hon. Friend, yes, I do support what the President said. Do not be in any doubt at all—Iraq has been supporting terrorist groups. For example, Iraq is offering money to the families of suicide bombers whose purpose is to wreck any chance of progress in the middle east. Although I said that the associations were loose, they are hardening. I do believe that, and I believe that the two threats coming together are the dangers that we face in our world.

I also say this: there will be in any event no sound future for the United Nations—no guarantee against the repetition of these events—unless we recognise the urgent need for a political agenda that we can unite upon. What we have witnessed is indeed the consequence of Europe and the United States dividing from each other. Not all of Europe—Spain, Italy, Holland, Denmark and Portugal have strongly supported us—and not a majority of Europe if we include, as we should, Europe’s new members who will accede next year, all 10 of whom have been in strong support of the position of this Government. But the paralysis of the UN has been born out of the division that there is.

I want to deal with that in this way. At the heart of that division is the concept of a world in which there are rival poles of power, with the US and its allies in one corner and France, Germany, Russia and their allies in the other. I do not believe that all those nations intend such an outcome, but that is what now faces us. I believe such a vision to be misguided and profoundly dangerous for our world. I know why it arises. There is resentment of US predominance. There is fear of US unilateralism. People ask, “Do the US listen to us and our preoccupations?” And there is perhaps a lack of full understanding of US preoccupations after 11 September. I know all this. But the way to deal with it is not rivalry, but partnership. Partners are not servants, but neither are they rivals. What Europe should have said last September to the United States is this: with one voice it should have said, “We understand your strategic anxiety over terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and we will help you meet it. We will mean what we say in any UN resolution we pass and will back it with action if Saddam fails to disarm voluntarily. However, in return”—Europe should have said—”we ask two things of you: that the US should indeed choose the UN path and you should recognise the fundamental overriding importance of restarting the middle east peace process, which we will hold you to.”
That would have been the right and responsible way for Europe and America to treat each other as partners, and it is a tragedy that it has not happened. I do not believe that there is any other issue with the same power to reunite the world community than progress on the issues of Israel and Palestine. Of course, there is cynicism about recent announcements, but the United States is now committed—and, I believe genuinely—to the road map for peace designed in consultation with the UN. It will now be presented to the parties as Abu Mazen is confirmed in office, hopefully today, as Palestinian Prime Minister. All of us are now signed up to this vision: a state of Israel, recognised and accepted by all the world, and a viable Palestinian state. That is what this country should strive for, and we will.

And that should be part of a larger global agenda: on poverty and sustainable development; on democracy and human rights; and on the good governance of nations.

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment.

That is why what happens after any conflict in Iraq is of such critical significance. Here again there is a chance to unify around the United Nations. There should be a new United Nations resolution following any conflict providing not only for humanitarian help, but for the administration and governance of Iraq. That must be done under proper UN authorisation.

Mike Gapes: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way, and I endorse very strongly what he said about the need for the road map of progress in the middle east. However, the problem is that there is a perception that we are engaged in a bilateral action with just the United States. Could he respond to my constituents and others who believe that, and point out how strong is the support for action at this moment to rid the Iraqi people of the oppressive Saddam regime?

The Prime Minister: I shall certainly do so. The UN resolution that should provide for the proper governance of Iraq should also protect totally the territorial integrity of Iraq. And this point is also important: that the oil revenues, which people falsely claim that we want to seize, should be put in a trust fund for the Iraqi people administered through the UN.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment. Let the future Government of Iraq be given the chance to begin the process of uniting the nation’s disparate groups, on a democratic basis—

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: If my hon. Friend will allow me to continue for a moment, I shall come back to him.

The process must begin on a democratic basis, respecting human rights, as, indeed, the fledgling democracy in northern Iraq—protected from Saddam for 12 years by British and American pilots in the no-fly zone—has done remarkably. The moment that a new Government are in place, committed to disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, is the point in time when sanctions should be lifted, and can be lifted, in their entirety for the people of Iraq.

Jeremy Corbyn: I thank the Prime Minister for giving way. Can he tell the House what guarantees he has had from the Turkish Government and the Turkish military that they will not use the opportunity of a war in the south to invade the northern part of Iraq and destroy the Kurdish autonomous region and the demands of Kurdish people for their own self-determination? There is a very serious fear that the Turkish army has always wanted to destroy any vestige of Kurdish autonomy.

The Prime Minister: Turkey has given that commitment. I have spoken to the Turkish Government, as have the President of the United States and many others. I have to say to my hon. Friend that it is clear from the conversations that I have had with people in that Kurdish autonomous zone that what they really fear above all else is the prospect of Saddam remaining in power, emboldened because we have failed to remove him.

I have never put the justification for action as regime change. We have to act within the terms set out in resolution 1441—that is our legal base. But it is the reason why I say frankly that if we do act, we should do so with a clear conscience and a strong heart. I accept fully that those who are opposed to this course of action share my detestation of Saddam. Who could not? Iraq is a potentially wealthy country which in 1979, the year before Saddam came to power, was richer than Portugal or Malaysia. Today it is impoverished, with 60 per cent. of its population dependent on food aid. Thousands of children die needlessly every year from lack of food and medicine. Four million people out of a population of just over 20 million are living in exile.

The brutality of the repression—the death and torture camps, the barbaric prisons for political opponents, the routine beatings for anyone or their families suspected of disloyalty—is well documented. Just last week, someone slandering Saddam was tied to a lamp post in a street in Baghdad, their tongue was cut out, and they were mutilated and left to bleed to death as a warning to others. I recall a few weeks ago talking to an Iraqi exile and saying to her that I understood how grim it must be under the lash of Saddam. “But you don’t”, she replied. “You cannot. You do not know what it is like to live in perpetual fear.” And she is right. We take our freedom for granted. But imagine what it must be like not to be able to speak or discuss or debate or even question the society you live in. To see friends and family taken away and never daring to complain. To suffer the humility of failing courage in face of pitiless terror. That is how the Iraqi people live. Leave Saddam in place, and the blunt truth is that that is how they will continue to be forced to live.

We must face the consequences of the actions that we advocate. For those of us who support the course that I am advocating, that means all the dangers of war. But for others who are opposed to this course, it means—let us be clear—that for the Iraqi people, whose only true hope lies in the removal of Saddam, the darkness will simply close back over. They will be left under his rule, without any possibility of liberation—not from us, not from anyone.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment. This is the choice before us. If this House now demands that at this moment, faced with this threat from this regime, British troops are pulled back, that we turn away at the point of reckoning—this is what it means—what then? What will Saddam feel? He will feel strengthened beyond measure. What will the other states that tyrannise their people, the terrorists who threaten our existence, take from that? They will take it that the will confronting them is decaying and feeble. Who will celebrate and who will weep if we take our troops back from the Gulf now?

Glenda Jackson: Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: I am sorry. If our plea is for America to work with others, to be good as well as powerful allies, will our retreat make it multilateralist, or will it not rather be the biggest impulse to unilateralism that we could possibly imagine? What then of the United Nations, and of the future of Iraq and the middle east peace process, devoid of our influence and stripped of our insistence?

The House wanted this discussion before conflict. That was a legitimate demand. It has it, and these are the choices. In this dilemma, no choice is perfect, no choice is ideal, but on this decision hangs the fate of many things: of whether we summon the strength to recognise the global challenge of the 21st century, and meet it; of the Iraqi people, groaning under years of dictatorship; of our armed forces, brave men and women of whom we can feel proud, and whose morale is high and whose purpose is clear; of the institutions and alliances that will shape our world for years to come. To retreat now, I believe, would put at hazard all that we hold dearest. To turn the United Nations back into a talking shop; to stifle the first steps of progress in the middle east; to leave the Iraqi people to the mercy of events over which we would have relinquished all power to influence for the better; to tell our allies that at the very moment of action, at the very moment when they need our determination, Britain faltered: I will not be party to such a course.

This is not the time to falter. This is the time not just for this Government—or, indeed, for this Prime Minister—but for this House to give a lead: to show that we will stand up for what we know to be right; to show that we will confront the tyrannies and dictatorships and terrorists who put our way of life at risk; to show, at the moment of decision, that we have the courage to do the right thing.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech at NSPCC Full Stop Campaign Launch


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, made at the NSPCC Full Stop Campaign Launch on 23 March 1999.

NB – the original numbers have been lost from the transcript.

Your Royal Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am delighted and honoured to be here this morning to launch a campaign that I believe will be something very special. Something that is going to make a difference.

Something that Jim Harding has just said sticks in my mind. Cruelty to children is not inevitable. It can be prevented. We can act effectively to tackle it. There is hope. We cannot and will not be deflected from ending it.

Child poverty is one issue. I have no doubt the circumstances in which a child is brought up, play a huge part in their development. It is the reason for the focus of policy on social exclusion. Kids brought up in a culture of family instability, drugs, crime, poor housing and education, long-term unemployment. All these problems need to be confronted head-on. In other words, we must have both hope and ambition.

By the end of this Parliament, we aim to lift 700,000 children out of poverty.

All this will help. But it needs more. This campaign has one Big Idea. It is a long-term idea. It is that children are everybody’s responsibility.

It is about personal, professional and public responsibility for children. That is, our responsibility. Everyone’s responsibility.

Because ending cruelty is not just in the interests of children themselves.

It is in everyone’s interest.

The Full Stop Campaign’s goal is to end child cruelty. But it is much more than that. It is about ending cruelty and replacing it – where it exists – with positive support for parents. I therefore wholehearted endorse a strategy based on:

– better access to help and advice for everyone – children and parents alike

– through schools, helplines, the internet and local community organisations and networks

– and through particular initiatives like making parks and open spaces safer for children

– and providing a birthpack which gives guidance to new parents, for every baby born in the new millennium.

The Government is complementing what you are doing now. We have already put in place tough legislation on sex offenders. We will support the Private Member’s Bill sponsored by Deborah Shipley, which will for the first time put the Department of Health’s Consultancy Index on a statutory footing and help to unsuitable prevent adults from working with children.

A �0 million programme Sure Start will be available to local partnerships to deliver support services, including family support, childcare, primary healthcare, early learning and play. Some of these services may be provided in the home. The Sure Start programme will help children be ready to thrive when they reach school. Each programme will service the local community within ‘pram pushing’ distance.

We are also undertaking a far reaching programme to improve the quality of services for vulnerable children at risk or in care. The ‘Quality Protects’ Programme to transform the quality of children’s care will be backed by a special grant of �5million.

Through this, we will take steps to strengthen the regulatory system to ensure that all children’s homes and fostering agencies are subject to welfare inspections. We will establish a new Regional Commission for Care Standards to make sure that children’s services are properly licensed and inspected.

We are doing this because children are central to our overall agenda for social policy. We need to break the cycle of disadvantage so that children born into poverty, or let down by the education system, or abused, are not condemned to social exclusion and deprivation in adulthood. So throughout their childhood, children must get a better deal.

As Prince Andrew said, as a father he supports this campaign. It is as a father I support this campaign. The government supports this campaign.

The private passion we feel for our children should become the public passion we feel for our children.

I believe ending cruelty to children is the right idea at the right time. It is the best way to invest in the future. We all have a part to play. Let it be our ambition for Britain for the new Millennium.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech at Maths 2000 Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, at the Maths 2000 Conference held on 16 March 1999.

This conference is to announce that next year will be Maths Year 2000 – following this year’s National Year of Reading.

But let me start with the bigger picture.

Education is this government’s top priority. That is why we are investing an extra £19 billion in education over the next three years, an unprecedented commitment to our children’s future.

It is investment for modernisation and higher standards at every level. Because without change, we will never achieve our goals.

Our programme of modernisation extends right across the education system:

  • A huge expansion of nursery and under-fives provision, to give our children the best possible start in life.
  • A transformation in the teaching of the basics in primary schools, so that all 11-year-olds are up to standard in literacy and numeracy.
  • A modernisation of the comprehensive system – including a significant increase in the number of specialist and beacon schools – so that secondary schools develop the skills of young people of all abilities.
  • A reform of the teaching profession, to reward performance properly and to improve the status, training and reputation of a profession which has been undervalued for too long.
  • A reform of further and higher education, raising standards, extending opportunities, and modernising the system of student finance to make it sustainable for the next generation.

This is the big picture – a government committed to the serious investment and reform needed to create a world-class education system for this country. At every level it requires step-change – step-change in aspirations, step-change in attainment, and step-change in confidence that we can meet our goals if we resolve to do so.

Maths Year 2000 is part of that big picture, and a key part. As a country, we have devalued mathematics for too long.

It is frankly scandalous that four in ten of our eleven-year-olds are not up to the basic numeracy standard expected of their age. And we need to do far more to ensure that adults who lack basic numeracy skills have the opportunity to acquire them.
This means destroying the myth that’s it’s clever to be hopeless at maths.

The urgent priority is to improve the teaching of maths in our schools, particularly primary schools, which lay the foundations for success or failure. The national numeracy strategy, to be launched this September, is designed to achieve this.

But we must also forge a new status for maths within society as a whole – to make numeracy more accessible, even fun. That’s what Maths Year 2000 is all about.

We want to see projects to popularise maths in every community nationwide – involving schools, colleges, businesses, shops, the media, and voluntary organisations.

One of the successes of the Year of Reading has been Mersey TV’s Brookside adult literacy initiative – “Brookie Basics”. I look forward to something similar for numeracy – if not on Brookside, then perhaps a venue equally popular.

I am therefore delighted that Carol Vorderman spoke to you earlier. I’m told that her theme was ‘Why is maths so scary?’ – We need to eliminate the fear and replace it with confidence in dealing with numbers in every age group nationwide.

It is especially important that we instil that confidence in children during their first years at school.

A child who cannot read cannot learn. And a child who lacks confidence in arithmetic and basic maths is equally disadvantaged in modern life.

Yet we inherited a situation where a third of our eleven-year-olds were not up to standard in English, with an even higher proportion not up to standard in maths.

There is no more important task for us all – government, teachers, parents, business and the wider community – than putting this right.

That’s why we launched the national literacy strategy last September, with the literacy hour and high quality training and support. This has been widely welcomed by teachers, and is already making an impact.

Now we are doing the same with numeracy. Many primary schools already have a daily maths lesson, with structured learning programmes to support it. We are taking a big step forward, and this week will be sending comprehensive training and support materials to all schools for the new national numeracy strategy, which will lead to the numeracy hour in primary schools from this September.

The numeracy strategy has been extensively piloted already, and has received an extremely positive response.

Far from being regarded as an imposition, it is seen for what it is – first class support for teachers in planning and delivering maths classes, on a daily basis, to meet the expectations of parents that all children should be up to standard by the time they leave primary school.

The training materials are only the first step. With the extra investment for education more than 300 numeracy consultants have been appointed to train and support teachers. Primary head teachers and other teachers will receive training in the next school term, and there will be additional training for schools that need it.

We are also continuing to expand our numeracy summer school programme, which has been highly successful in raising standards. There will be more than 300 numeracy summer schools during this year’s summer holidays.

This is an important day for head teachers, teachers, and all those involved in maths education. Maths Year 2000, and the national numeracy strategy, give us the chance to make a step-change in maths competence across society, starting in our schools.

Our numeracy target is for 75% of all 11-year-olds to be up to standard by 2002. We are now at 59%.

We need to commit ourselves – together – to doing everything necessary to meet the 75% target. I am convinced we can do it. The numeracy strategy is in place. We have allocated the necessary resources to back it up. The will is there. Now we need to deliver.

There is no more important challenge facing us as a country. I wish you well in everything you are doing to make a success of Maths Year 2000 and our numeracy strategy.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech at NATO’s 50th Anniversary


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, on 8 March 1999.

A 50th anniversary is a time to celebrate the achievements of the past and to plan ahead for the future. This conference, which I am delighted to have a chance to address, is an opportunity for open debate among friends and partners on the way ahead for the NATO Alliance, a debate which I warmly welcome. The 50th Anniversary Summit next month in Washington will be the time for decisions as well as celebration. It will shape the way we provide for our defence and security for the early part of the 21st century.

The Alliance is fortunate to have at its helm a Secretary General of the quality and fine touch of Javier Solana. I am delighted that he will be speaking here tomorrow, and would like to thank him for all the work he has done. I am glad that Jose Cutileiro, who has steered the work of the Western European Union so ably, is also attending.
The range of representation here today, including from countries beyond NATO’s borders – Russia, Ukraine, Central Europe, including the Baltic States, and elsewhere – shows how NATO’s horizons have widened. East and West, divided for too long, are now intertwined. NATO guaranteed the stability and defence of Western Europe since its foundation 50 years ago. It is now adapting and developing.

But there are unique qualities which we must hold on to.
NATO binds the United States and Canada with Europe. NATO members guarantee each others defence. We have an integrated military structure in which our forces plan for operations under a single command structure. NATO has prevented the nationalisation of defence for the first time in modern Europe. It is these qualities which have made the Alliance so strong and which we must preserve and cherish into the next century.


In the Cold War NATO’s main role was the defence of its own members in the face of a persistent and very real threat. Now, NATO exports security to others. We are now creating a framework of stability and security across the whole Euro-Atlantic area, with NATO at the core. The main tool is NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme. Partnership with 43 countries, including many who were once our adversaries.

Our partnerships with Russia and Ukraine are the most important. Negotiated so skilfully by Secretary-General Solana, backed by the vision and good sense of US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who is speaking here later today, the NATO-Russia Founding Act ushered in a new era for Russian co-operation with the West. We now consult with Russia more intensively than ever before on issues ranging from proliferation and arms control to the Balkans and the Millennium Bug. The NATO-Ukraine Commission, too, is building up a track record, increasing understanding and laying the framework for working together.


Three of our Partners – Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – have gone beyond partnership and later this week, at a ceremony at Independence, Missouri, will become members of the Alliance itself. These three countries which were fought over for too long, and this century rarely enjoyed real independence, will take the ultimate step to guarantee their defence by becoming members of the Alliance. They will also share responsibility for the defence of their fellow Allies.

I hope they and other European countries will also become members of the European Union in a few years time. NATO and the European Union, perhaps the World’s two most successful organisations, extending their reach and the benefits they bring.

NATO enlargement not only underpins the defence of its new members. It will also strengthen European security as a whole. Although Russia and others have their concerns, I believe these are now receding as the defensive nature of the Alliance and our wish for genuine partnership becomes clearer.

I want the process of NATO enlargement to continue, at the right pace. At the Washington Summit, we will commit ourselves to helping other applicants to prepare themselves to come through NATO’s open door. I look forward to more countries joining once they and NATO itself are ready, and as their inclusion in the Alliance strengthens European security as a whole.


Sadly, the countries of the former Yugoslavia have not all shared in the progress made by NATO’s partners. NATO was slow to become engaged in the Balkan wars of the 1990s. We tried to bring peace to Bosnia through the UN and with political good offices but without the willingness to use force which we now know was necessary. Our troops, under the auspices of the UN, did a good job at great risk, to deliver humanitarian relief. But they could only deal with the symptoms of the problem. It was NATO that brought serious force to bear and gave the desperately needed muscle to end the war. Since Dayton, NATO has underpinned the peace and created the conditions in which Bosnia can rebuild.

In Kosovo, we will not repeat those early mistakes in Bosnia. We will not allow war to devastate a part of our continent, bringing untold death, suffering and homelessness. Robin Cook and Hubert Vedrine, with their partners in the Contact Group, made good progress at Rambouillet towards an interim political settlement based on substantial autonomy.

But political agreement is not enough: the Balkans are littered with agreements that are signed but not implemented. To make an agreement work, to bring stability to Kosovo, an international force is an indispensable element. Only NATO is equipped to lead it. Either side in the negotiations can wreck the chances of full agreement. But both must understand their interest in success.

The Kosovars should see that the time has come for the Kosovo Liberation Army to cease its operations and accept demilitarisation.
The Serbs must reduce their forces to agreed levels and allow a NATO-led force to underpin the new autonomy arrangements.
We will not accept prevarication in the negotiations. No side can be allowed to obstruct the process. In this crucial period President Milosevic and his commanders must also understand that NATO will not stand by in the face of renewed repression in Kosovo or atrocities like the one we witnessed recently at Racak. Nor can the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

True peace and security will not come to the Former Yugoslavia until authoritarian, nationalist governments give way to democracy based on ideas rather than ethnicity. Free press, a market economy, responsible and accountable government and an end to repression are all essential for the long term. NATO can help by providing a stable base. But it is for the people of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia to build their own civil societies and free institutions.

The countries of the Former Yugoslavia will integrate into the European mainstream eventually. Their leaders and societies have to become more like their counterparts in West and Central Europe before that can happen. I expect to see further political change in the Balkans. But political change should be achieved by political means. More war will only set back those dreams of security and prosperity to which the ordinary people of the Balkans aspire.


In dealing with the Balkan wars of the 1990s the full strength of the Alliance, Europeans and Americans working together, has been needed. Alliance cohesion with a strong US role, have given clout to our political efforts, and forced the warring factions to stop fighting and start negotiating. US engagement in European security was essential to our success. It will remain essential in dealing with future wars and other profound challenges to security and stability on our continent.

The initiative I launched last autumn on European defence is aimed at giving greater credibility to Europe’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. Far from weakening NATO this is an essential complement to the Transatlantic Alliance. We Europeans should not expect the United States to have to play a part in every disorder in our own back yard. The European Union should be able to take on some security tasks on our own, and we will do better through a common European effort than we can by individual countries acting on their own.

Europe’s military capabilities at this stage are modest. Too modest. Too few allies are transforming their armed forces to cope with the security problems of the 1990s and the 21st century. To strengthen NATO and to make European defence a reality, we Europeans need to restructure our defence capabilities so that we can project force, can deploy our troops, ships and planes beyond their home bases and sustain them there, equipped to deal with whatever level of conflict they may face. George Robertson will address this issue in more detail when he speaks to you on Wednesday. But let me assure you of this: European defence is not about new institutional fixes. It is about new capabilities, both military and diplomatic.

The declaration which President Jacques Chirac and I issued at St Malo was the first step to defining the new approach. We decided that we should go beyond the Berlin arrangements agreed by NATO in 1996 to give Europe a genuine capacity to act, and act quickly, in cases where the Alliance as a whole is not militarily engaged. In any particular crisis, the European Union will develop a comprehensive policy. But within that, deployment of forces is a decision for Governments. I see no role for the European Parliament or the Court of Justice. Nor will the European Commission have a decision-making role on military matters.

Anglo-French collaboration has continued and fleshed out the practical requirements for Europeans to decide and act soundly on military matters.

I want our Alliance as a whole to give support to these European developments. I look to our Summit in Washington to endorse some important next steps. It would be foolish and wasteful for Europe to duplicate the tried and tested military structures in which we already play a full part in the Alliance.

We should use what we have in the Alliance. But those structures and assets need to be more readily available for European led operations and we need to be able to rely on them being available. At the same time, we European Allies need to commit ourselves at the Washington Summit to develop the full range of capabilities needed for the sort of crisis management tasks and humanitarian operations where Europe might take the lead. Only then can we make European Defence a reality.

To retain US engagement in Europe, it is important that Europe does more for itself. A Europe with a greater capacity to act will strengthen both the European Union and the Alliance as a whole. And I want our Allies in NATO who are not members of the European Union to be able to play a full role in European operations, without reserve.

With the Alliance’s endorsement and agreement on these points, the next step will be the WEU Ministerial in May where we shall take stock of the first part of the audit of European capabilities, which I suspect will start to reveal how much more we Europeans need. The June European Council in Cologne will be an opportunity to draw these threads together. I hope we will reach agreement there on the principles for new arrangements for security and defence in Europe, giving the European Union a direct role and a close working relationship with NATO.

These tasks are substantial. Our responsibility is huge. 50 years ago a British Labour government helped found the NATO Alliance which locked Europe and North America safely together through all the dangerous years of the Cold War.

We are now creating new arrangements for the 21st century. We do not know exactly what dangers lie before us, what threats we will face. We must be prepared for some difficult challenges, for decades to come. Let us lay the foundations for dealing with them now in a spirit of partnership, cooperation, interdependence and commitment.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech at the Rail Summit


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, at the Rail Summit on 25 February 1999.

Today is an important day for railways in Britain.

In 10 years’ time, I want today to be seen as the day of rail’s new beginning in Britain.

This government rightly focuses much of its intention on raising standards in our schools and hospitals. Education is key to our success as a nation. A thriving NHS gives all of us peace of mind.

But it is transport – our trains, and buses and roads – that often determine the quality of our life.

Most people use them almost every day. Most people face the anger, irritation and frustration when their journey takes twice as long as they would like.

When people talk about the rotten day they have had, they are often talking about the rail journey they have just taken. The train was cancelled. It took twice as long. It was so crowded they did not get a seat.

This has got to stop. A modern Britain needs a modern transport system. That means fast, punctual trains; a modernised efficient London Underground; cities not gummed up by congestion. Passengers given proper information, timetables that are easy to use, fares that don’t break the bank.

That is the agenda of passengers. And John Prescott and I are at this summit to champion the frustrated passenger.

Today’s summit is about how we end the misery and deliver for passengers.

It will take time. Just like rebuilding the NHS. Or creating a first class education system. Or reforming welfare.

These things take time. But today must be a day of commitment.

I know many of you share that commitment. I offer you a partnership to help realise it. But it must be a partnership based on success, results, real, genuine, sustained improvement in our transport system.

We have moved beyond the sterile debate between wholesale privatization and old-style state control. There is a different way. A third way. That’s what we’re doing on the London Underground. That’s what we’re doing with the Channel Tunnel rail link. That’s what we’re doing with the new Strategic Rail Authority.

Now I know that many of you here are working hard for a better rail system. I know that many of you are trying hard to make Britain’s railways better. I pay tribute to those in the industry who are getting results.

But I know as well that many of you here take the view that trying hard isn’t enough. I have to say to you plainly today that overall, the rail industry is not getting good enough results. It is not doing well enough. Its service standards are not high enough.

It needs to start doing better. And it needs to start doing better now.

I know it. Your customers know it. And you know it.

There has to be improvement. Above all in two key areas: in investment, and in service.

For too long Britain’s railways were systematically starved of investment. As a result, the fabric of the railway network we inherited when we came into Government was tattered, and torn. It was patently inadequate for its task. Our railways were, quite frankly, worn out.

I know investment is now increasing. 1800 vehicles, trains and carriages, have now been ordered and will be operative in the next two years. But there must be more. Not just replacing existing capacity but expanding. As a result of decisions taken in the last two years, there will be more drivers and better infrastructure and stock. But with passenger numbers rising we must do more. Because as it stands today, the railway system simply lacks the capacity to sustain our policies to expand both passenger travel and freight transport by rail, and to relieve road and air congestion.

To deliver those policies, we must invest – with the lion’s share of that investment coming from the private sector, in the public-private partnerships trailblazed by John Prescott.

Our watchwords apply to rail as to anywhere else: investment for reform, and money for modernisation. When investment goes up, service standards will go up too.

But at the same time, we need action now to improve services now.

Passenger complaints are rising. And passengers are right to complain because it is unacceptable to see punctuality falling back to the level it used to be under British Rail – and worse.

I know that it’s in part been driven by the growth of the number of passengers, 13 per cent up in the last two years, and in the increased number of services, but it is also the result of mistakes and poor management. Mistakes like getting rid of too many drivers and other staff. Like not having enough reliable rolling stock. Like defects in the track and signaling systems.

I welcome the move by the railway industry to try to combat the curse of a fragmented and incoherent industry. The new Strategic Rail Authority we shall be establishing will be a big help in putting that right. The Industry’s own action plans are steps in the right direction.

But you need to do more. And my central challenge to you today is this: you must improve your performance, improve punctuality and reliability, and combat overcrowding.

You must listen to your customers. You must give the passengers what they want – and what they’re paying for.

If you’re going to be true private sector companies operating in the market, then you must accept that in the railways as in other businesses, the customer really has got to be king.

I’m confident you have the resolve and the responsibility to accept the challenge I’m putting to you today. I believe you will put in place the improvements which are necessary. We will be monitoring your progress closely, and calling you back to another summit next year to hold you to account.

But though I do believe that you will be able to make progress and to secure improvement, I want today to make it perfectly clear to you that you are on trial.

You are failing your customers, and those who continue to fail them have no place in the rail industry of the future.

Companies in breach of their franchise agreements have seen action taken against them by the franchise director. Some of his actions have attracted criticism from people who’ve said they’ve not been tough enough.

You know we intend taking more and better powers to promptly punish poor performance.

But today I want to go further and say this to you: don’t think either that the length of the franchises held by train operating companies means that everything between us is set in stone.

Don’t think that because the franchises are contractually in place, there is nothing we can do to drive forward improvements. That we will have to wait until the franchises come to an end.

We are of course bound by the contractual arrangements reached by our predecessor in government.

But we are willing to go beyond those arrangements by opening negotiations now – negotiations which will lead to an extension of the franchise for the best-performing companies, the real improvers, regardless of when their current franchises are supposed to come to an end.

We know that there are companies who will steer clear of this offer. The poor performers. Those who are unwilling or unable to improve.

For them, the end of their franchise will mean exactly that.

The end.

But we know too that there are companies keen to start negotiating. Companies who are willing to offer improved performance and new investment in exchange for an extension to their franchise. Extra time over which they can earn a return on extra investment.

I welcome that. I look forward to these companies and the new rail authority sitting down in the very near future to start work together to improve standards and improve services.

Delivering on our promises on transport is as important to the Government as delivering on its promises in all our key areas, like education and health.

On transport, as with education and with health, we said we would deliver. And we will.

That’s the challenge for today. That’s the outcome I want to see from this summit.

I’m confident we can do it. I believe we can work together to achieve a step change improvement in rail transport. To take rail into a new era.

Today should be a new beginning for rail in Britain.

A new move towards the railway system of the future our country needs and deserves.

As a key part of a new, dynamic and confident Britain for the 21st century.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech on Modernising Public Services


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, on 26 January 1999.

NB – the original numbers have been lost from the transcript.

I am very pleased to be to speaking to you today. To 500 Charter Mark winners – a record. Many of you are previous winners. 18 of you are here for the third time.

So my first reason for speaking to you today is simple. To say thank you. To say thank you to Dyfed-Powys Police, for investigating every reported crime and solving two thirds of them; to the Compensation Agency in Northern Ireland for cutting costs by a tenth while increasing applicants’ satisfaction by a quarter; to the Newcastle Benefits Agency for working with the local authority to improve their service to pensioners. To say thank you to you all for the work you do.

But there’s another reason. I want others to notice how good government can be. Because we should value our best public servants – people like you – as much as our captains of industry.

Valuing public service

I said last week that we needed to change society’s prejudices about volunteering. That do-gooding shouldn’t be a term of derision. Well it’s the same for public service.

We inherited an under-valued public sector. It is absurd that we ever got into the position under the previous administration where government seemed to devalue the very people it relied upon to deliver its programme. Where private was always best. Where the public sector was always demonised as inefficient.

In the last 21 months, I’ve met many people across the public sector who are as efficient and entrepreneurial as anyone in the private sector, but also have a sense of public duty that is awe-inspiring. Most of them could be earning far more money in business. But they don’t and you don’t.

Why not? Because of a commitment to public service. Because helping a five year old to read, coaxing a patient out of a coma, convicting a burglar is fulfilling in a way that money can’t buy. This country needs its wealth creators, but it needs its social entrepreneurs as well.

So let me say today, loud and clear – this government values public service; this government is proud of its public servants. What made you choose this career is what made me go into politics – a chance to serve, to make a difference. It is not just a job. It is a vocation. Britain relies on that ethos of public service, and we need to rekindle it if we are to deliver improved public services.

After 18 years of public service being talked down, this is a difficult task. There was a time when we could assume that the brightest and best of each generation would want to join the public sector. But that is an assumption we can no longer make, particularly when the financial rewards at the top of the private sector are so great, and too often public sector workers are weighed down by bureaucracy and silly rules.

So this year I want to launch a major new initiative on this. Not delivering a solution from on high, but starting from what public servants think, from your day-to-day experience, your successes and frustrations. Through this speech today I want to start a conversation with public servants and others, about recruitment, retention and motivation. Write to me or take part in the debate on the Number 10 web site. We will respond through the Modernising Government White Paper later this year. And we will not duck the difficult questions you raise.

So, first, we will tackle pay. For example, in teaching, we are proposing the most radical changes to the profession in living memory. In health, we will see that nurses are properly rewarded and improve recruitment and retention. In both, we are revising pay scales and introducing new grades – advanced skills teachers and nurse consultants – so that more can afford to stay at the front-line.
But increased pay must be tied to improved results. And that may mean taking on some sacred cows to make better use of the pay bill. Do we need greater differentials within the public sector? Should we decentralise pay more? What are the lessons of performance pay and where else should we be using it?

Of course, there will always be constraints on public resources. We will never match the salaries at the top end of the private sector. So we need to look at non-financial rewards too.

This is about esteem – from ceremonies like today’s to nominations to the House of Lords, from careers advice to portrayal in the media. But what more should we do?

It’s about career prospects. So in both teaching and health we are looking to fast-track careers. But what more do we need to do to retain the enthusiasm of young people? Should we be devolving responsibility earlier and further down our organisations? How can we spot those with exceptional potential and bring them on quicker?

It is about making sure we get the best people into public service drawn from all sections of the community and all ethnic and religious backgrounds. So for example new patterns of family life mean working habits must change. But progress is often frustratingly slow. What more could we do to make a difference?

It’s about developing skills. So, we’re creating the Centre for Management and Policy Studies in Whitehall – a virtual business school for the public sector. There are similar initiatives in health, education, local government. But again we may need to do more.
It’s about greater career flexibility. So we are examining how we can make it easier for people to move between departments and around the public sector. And we need to get more interchange with the private sector – so it becomes routine rather than exceptional for there to be private sector appointments to the civil service for a few years and civil servants gaining experience in the private sector before rejoining the civil service.

And of course it means not tolerating mediocrity in the public sector. I make no apology for saying that we cannot afford incompetent teachers, nurses, police officers, local government workers. Because all that will do is undermine the good work done by people like you. So, what more could we do to have fast but fair disciplinary and incompetence procedures?

Modernising public services

So we need to value and reward public servants. But the main reason people will come into the public sector and their most important reward will still be the chance to make a difference, to be part of a public service they are proud of. So I now want to turn to our strategy for modernising public services.

This must start with a diagnosis of the problems faced by the public sector. First, they needed proper investment, especially schools and hospitals. So, over the next three years, we are investing in our public services – � billion in health and education alone.

But the problem was not just how much government spent. It was how it was spent. Ministers traditionally spent most of their time fighting yearly spending rounds. Departments pursued policies that were contradictory. Efficiencies were covered up for fear the Treasury would take the money back. Front line workers were hampered by silly rules.

We’ve already started to address these problems and will elaborate our strategy in the White Paper. I believe it is nothing short of a quiet revolution in the way government works in Britain, an approach focused on outcomes, rather than inputs.

That’s why we started with a Comprehensive Spending Review – so that we could adapt the spending patterns we inherited to the priorities on which we were elected.

We have made big changes in what the money is spent on, but only in return for clear targets. For the first time, these have been published, in Public Service Agreements. They set out long term objectives in each area, backed by 500 clear, demanding targets such as: cutting deaths from heart disease and strokes by a third amongst people under 65; or getting half of 16 year olds achieving 5 or more A-C’s at GCSE.

In turn, departments are setting standards for local public services to deliver – whether on exam results, rough sleepers, truancy or waiting lists. And local agencies are setting their own targets for local people to judge their success.

Focusing on outcomes will allow us to address the second traditional weakness of Whitehall I mentioned – contradictory policy making. Government is organised vertically, with departments based on the function they perform – such as paying benefits or running the National Health Service. But people’s problems are rarely so neat: the socially excluded will need help not only with housing, but education, health and so on; starting up a new business will involve interaction with a whole range of Government agencies.

We are determined to overcome these divisions. New approaches to joined up government are being tried all over Whitehall – the Social Exclusion Unit in the Cabinet Office, Sure-start for the very young or the new Active Community Unit that we announced last week. All examples of policies being developed and implemented jointly across departments, with joint targets and often joint budgets.
Focusing on outcomes also helps us free up the public sector. Because we have agreed what departments are trying to achieve, we spend less time double guessing how they do it. The centre can devote more time to developing strategy and less to trying to micro-manage front line services.

In particular, we have given departments three year spending plans. Departments can now shift money between programmes and keep any savings they make from one year to the next – another revolution in Whitehall, which should eradicate the traditional March rush to spend unused budgets before the end of the financial year.

Again, departments are passing those freedoms on to their front line. We have abolished crude and universal capping of council tax, while at the same time protecting local tax payers. We have put doctors and nurses in the driving seat in shaping and funding local health services.

And the more successful you are, the more autonomy we will give you. So, for example, OFSTED is introducing a light touch inspection regime for good schools. The best councils – beacon councils – will in due course have more freedom to vary local taxes.

But that doesn’t mean we will tolerate failure. Because the people who suffer from a bad service are the users – the pupils, the ill, the elderly, often the most vulnerable in society.

So we need rigorous and fair inspection systems to know whether public services are achieving their targets. We need league tables to allow individuals to choose which services to use. And we need competition within the public sector and where appropriate with the private sector – because what matters is not who delivers the service but the outcome it secures.

Now freeing up the public sector doesn’t mean we will cut you adrift. We will help you by spreading best practice. This needs to be rigorous, based on evidence of what does and doesn’t work. In the health service, we are setting up the National Institute for Clinical Effectiveness – to assess what treatments works best and at what cost and issue guidance to front-line doctors. In local government, we welcome the fact that the LGA has set up a new Improvement and Development Agency. In education, we are implementing a numeracy and literacy strategy to tackle decades of under-performance.

But guidance from the centre can only go so far. The problems you face are all different. You often know how to solve them, but are held back by silly rules or set ways of doing things. That’s the rationale behind action zones for health, education and employment. They are laboratories to test new ways of working. They suspend rules that stifle innovation and ensure that those innovations can be spread around the system.

But it’s also about culture. We shouldn’t be afraid to take risks, even if that means risking failure. When we fail, we should learn from our mistakes. Because if we never make mistakes we’ll never change anything. My idea of the ideal public servant is not someone who never fails, but someone who always tries to make a difference.

Finally, we need to organise our services around the individual. That means listening to their views. That is why we have set up a People’s Panel of 5000 to ask taxpayers about the services they get. And it means organising services around the needs of users, not the convenience of producers. We live in a 24 hour economy – we can no longer deliver services 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. We are in the middle of an information revolution – we need to explore how the telephone and the Internet can improve convenience. For example, NHS Direct will enable people to contact a nurse over the phone when they need help, rather than going to hard-pressed A&E departments.

So we need public services that feel tailor-made – not uniform,’one size fits all’. We need to find better ways of delivering services, particularly enabled by new technology. And there’s a �5 billion Capital Modernisation Fund to turn those new ideas into reality.


I’ve argued today that we need to turn back the tide. Stop denigrating public service, start valuing public servants again. Match the private sector at its best, be proud of the public sector at our best. Provide proper rewards and funding, not services starved of cash and with low morale.

I’ve tried to start a debate about attracting people into the public sector. I’ve said that will involve financial and non-financial rewards. And that it will involve giving you the resources to do your jobs.
I have outlined our strategy. Invest in public services. Focus on outcomes. Devolve power to the front-line. Value the public servants who succeed. Encourage innovation. Work across government boundaries. Organise around the individual.

We will set this vision out at more length in the White paper. I look forward to your views. Because together we can make a real difference, to the prosperity of our country and to the lives of our citizens, in particular the vulnerable and excluded. I know you will rise to the challenge.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech on the Millennium Bug


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, on 25 January 1999.

A year ago this month, four out of five Britons were aware of the Millennium Bug. Today, virtually all are.

A year ago, only a quarter of smaller companies had started to fix it. Today, half have.

Only some two thirds of local authorities had started. Today, all of you have.

So first of all I want to thank you for the work you do, whether as officers or councillors, day in day out, tackling the Bug. As in so many other areas, you are the ones who turn speeches like this into reality.

Thank you also to four people from central government. Margaret Beckett – who has mastered the issue with her usual calm effectiveness. John Prescott – who was telling local authorities about the importance of the Bug before it became fashionable. But most of all Don Cruickshank and Iain Anderson who have been advising government on our work with the private and public sectors respectively. Not many people would leap to take a job where if you help solve the problem, you will be criticised for crying wolf, and if you don’t, you will be held responsible for accidents beyond your control. But it is typical of both of them that they did and have set about their task with determination.

So we have come a long way in 1998. But we cannot be complacent. My purpose today is to spur you on to finish the job. Think of it as a half time pep talk – we’re definitely ahead of the game, but could still throw it all away.

This time last year, many companies weren’t even aware of the problem. Awareness is now 100% – thanks to the work of Action 2000. But the job isn’t finished. Action 2000’s judgement now is that as a rule larger companies will be ready. But half of smaller companies have not yet started work. The good news is that they still have time to fix the problem if they act now. The bad news is that if they don’t, they risk severe problems, including bankruptcy.

Of course, Action 2000 hasn’t been the only organisation raising awareness. Many private companies, like BT and NatWest, have decided the best way to help themselves is to help the smaller companies who are their suppliers and clients. And many local authorities have done the same – for example the Isle of Wight and Lewisham who have organised seminars for local businesses.
This time last year, the skills shortage in small companies looked insuperable. That’s why I announced the Bug Buster programme -to train 20,000 small company employees.

The latest figures show that 18,000 people have either been trained, are being trained or have booked their course. We will not only meet the targets I set last year. We will do more. I can today announce that we will expand the programme by 10,000 places to 30,000 in all. And these figures are only for England. If you add in figures for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland we will have trained 36,000. Local authorities can also benefit from the expertise which the TECs have developed – you can buy Bug Buster courses from your local team.

This time last year, there was no way of knowing what effect the Bug would have on the national infrastructure. Companies that had been focused on sorting out their own problems were starting to worry that those efforts would be in vain if, for example, their electricity or phones didn’t work.

Since then, Action 2000 has created the National Infrastructure Forum, which brings together the utilities and major public services to work together to prepare for the Bug.

They are undergoing one of the most rigorous and objective assessments anywhere in the world. Last Thursday the regulators reported on progress in the key power, telecoms and finance sectors. Their assessment was that these sectors are well on the way to beating the bug.

But the job is not finished. Don Cruickshank will be explaining later this morning what he hopes the Forum will achieve this year. And there is also a crucial role for local authorities to play here. We need an Infrastructure Forum in each region. Nick Raynsford has already set up a team in London because the eyes of the world will be on London as we go into the new Millennium.

So let me turn now to the meat of today’s conference – action at the local level.

This time last year, John Prescott and Jeremy Beecham wrote to you asking every leader and chief executive to make dealing with the Bug one of the council’s top priorities.

We all depend on your services – whether traffic lights and waste collection, benefits or housing. If you can’t do this because of the Bug, we will all be affected. And when things go wrong, people turn to their councils, particularly the vulnerable – such as the old and the disabled.

I know from my visits around the country and what colleagues tell me that you are acting:

Sorting out your systems

Leading local emergency planning

Raising awareness

That you are here today indicates that local government is treating the bug seriously. I want to thank the LGA for organising the conference – a great opportunity to pool knowledge and share best practice. For example, Hertfordshire and Suffolk Coastal District Council will be sharing with you later their approaches to emergency planning. Earlier this month, all the key organisations in Lincolnshire signed the Millennium Bug Pledge – pledging to co-operate and to share information.

If any of you have not yet signed the Pledge, you can do so here today.

But that is only a first step. We know that in local government, as elsewhere, the job is not finished. Indeed, in some councils there are particular problems which have been identified by the Audit Commission. The best amongst you have sorted out your problems, just as our best companies have. But others still have a good way to go. No one can afford to be complacent.

So we are today announcing a package of measures to help local government prepare for the Bug. They are not financial – our proposals for local authority spending already make provision for dealing with the Bug. Today’s measures are about sharing information and expertise. It is a package developed in close partnership with the LGA and the Audit Commission. John Prescott, Jeremy Beecham and Helena Shovelton, the new Chair of the Audit Commission, are writing to all council leaders today to tell them what we are doing, how it will help them, and what they need to do.
For our part, we are setting up in each of the Government Offices a dedicated team, including people from local authorities, to work with councils in their region.

These teams, drawing on the work of the LGA and Audit Commission, will form an overview of what has been achieved and what else needs to be done in their areas. They will work with councils, helping them to share experience and best practice. They will be able to play an important part in providing public reassurance.

Because, as in central government, we need to be straight with the public about the state of progress. No one can afford to miss the deadline and if anyone falls behind, the Audit Commission will have to name them.

So a huge amount of work has been done in local government, with the LGA acting as a key catalyst. You have made real progress, and we are counting on you to finish the job in 1999.

This time last year, the Bug was a potential national emergency. I think Britain has risen to this challenge and that the threat of serious disruption over the Millennium is now falling.

But ironically, now is the time we need to plan for such an emergency, even if its likelihood is falling. This is something the media find hard to understand – they assume that because we have plans we must be worried. The truth is that the government has well-established procedures for a wide range of emergencies – from floods to terrorism, from hurricanes to epidemics. Very few of these risks ever materialise, but we would be foolhardy and much criticised if we didn’t plan for them.

The same is true for the Millennium Bug. We are not inventing new procedures – we are adapting them to the particular circumstances of the Bug, such as New Year’s Eve. Indeed, this emergency is in some respects easier to plan for because we know the risk dates in advance.

Mike O’Brien, from the Home Office, will be saying more about this later today. For now, I would simply say that many councils are doing excellent work in this area. One example is the Sussex Millennium Management Group. It has asked everyone who is running a millennium event in Sussex to provide details of their plans. This means their plans can take account of the overall picture of the celebrations in the area.

Finally, let me say a few words about the international situation. The bug is the ultimate symptom of the global economy – we share much of the same technology and if one country’s infrastructure fails other countries will be affected.

So Britain has taken a lead internationally. The Foreign Office has undertaken an intensive global awareness raising programme. Our embassies have contacted governments to raise the profile of the issue. Our early contribution of £10 million to the World Bank’s Year 2000 programme has supported work in nearly 200 countries.

We have made sure that the Bug is addressed in all relevant international organisations – from the United Nations to the EU.
As a result of our efforts and those of other countries the level of global action has risen dramatically. We will now target our efforts on countries who remain less informed and on developing countries. And we will be working with international partners to achieve more effective co-ordination.

Time is the most precious commodity with the Millennium Bug, so I won’t take up any more of yours. I believe that 1998 was the year Britain really got to grips with the Bug. We have made real progress – in raising awareness, dealing with the Bug in private and public organisations and developing joint approaches at local, national and international levels.

My message today has been to thank you for your part in that and to ask you to finish the job in 1999. There is no room for complacency. Finish sorting out your systems. Think about how you can best ensure the continuity of essential services. Lead infrastructure work in your areas. Adapt your emergency plans. If we work in partnership, we can make sure the transition to the year 2000 is remembered not for major disruptions, but for its unique celebrations.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech at the Millennium Commission Awards Fellowship


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, on 21 January 1999.

We all know problems in our communities that we could solve given a few hundred or thousand pounds. Some goalposts to turn a disused piece of ground into a football pitch. Some training to help teenagers who drop in to a community centre. Some child care to help single mothers look for work or training.
Well today I want to celebrate a scheme that encourages both ideas like these and the local heroes behind them – the Millennium Awards Fellowships.

It’s a £200 million Lottery programme. It provides grants to turn ideas into action – to empower ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Today we are recognising the first 4,000 award winners. Award winners who have led neighbourhood clean up projects, got children interested in science, improved community transport. Who have worked with the elderly – on befriending schemes or learning to use the internet to keep in touch with grandchildren. Cybergrannies who put people like me to shame.

And most of the awards are to people who never before felt they had a role to play in their community.

By the year 2004, over 40,000 people will have won awards. So I want the message to go out today – get involved, apply for an award, nominate someone you know.

Because this is what I mean by community – that we are more than a set of individuals just looking after ourselves. We achieve far more by working together than we do alone. Because the truth is by giving a couple of hours of a week, we can make a real difference to the lives of others.

This scheme will help build those communities. Each award winner will become a Millennium Fellow. We want to forge a link between you, creating a network of 40,000 people, so you can keep on helping your communities and encourage ever more people to get involved.

This is how I want to celebrate the Millennium. Celebrating extraordinary events. Extraordinary global events like the Dome. But also extraordinary local people like today’s award winners.

So, thank you and good luck.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech on Teachers Green Paper


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, on the Teachers Green Paper on 19 January 1999.

NB – the original numbers have been lost from the transcript.

I am delighted to be with you this morning. Education is the government’s top priority. But we can’t achieve our goals without a first-class teaching profession – a profession which is capable, well-led and properly supported.We already have very many excellent teachers and headteachers. But we need more. And we need to make a fundamental change to the status of teachers in our society – putting them where they belong, on a par with doctors and other top professionals.For too long teachers have wrongly been regarded as second class professionals. This must change if we are to succeed in creating a world-class education service for the 21st century.That’s why we are investing an extra �bn in education over the next three years. And why we are devoting part of the money to supporting and improving the teaching profession.Our proposals are set out in the Teaching Green Paper published before Christmas. There has been a huge response from schools and individual teachers. It’s because I want to hear your views first-hand that I am here today for the first in a series of consultation meetings hosted by education Ministers and officials.Before Estelle Morris makes a brief presentation and we take your questions, let me make three points.First, what I call the big picture.A lot of attention has focussed on our proposals for teachers’ pay. This is obviously a crucial issue.But our plans need to be seen in the context of far wider proposals:

  • A doubling of investment in school buildings over the next three years.
  • A revolution in the provision of IT equipment, and training to see that teachers are confident in using it.
  • A big increase in funding for training and back-up in schools, including more support staff and teaching assistants, freeing teachers to teach effectively.
  • A range of programmes, spearheaded by the literacy and numeracy strategies in primary schools, to give teachers better support in their jobs.

Our proposals need to be seen as a whole. Greater financial rewards for teachers are just one element. It is taken together – not in isolation- that we believe that they will transform the status and working conditions of teachers. David Blunkett and I have never claimed that there is a single quick fix.Secondly, even in the area of pay, we aren’t only talking about rewards for individual performance. We recognise the importance of team working – and of rewards for successful team working.That’s why, as David Blunkett said, our plans include a new national fund of � million a year to reward all staff at schools which demonstrate excellent performance or significant improvement. Let me stress that we aren’t just talking about the top schools by raw results – but also schools which show the highest level of sustained improvement, whatever their starting point.Third, the question of individual rewards for performance. I know there are concerns, particularly about crude judgements based on exam results, and about comparability between schools.We take these concerns seriously. The Government will want to see appraisal recognise success in improving performance, whatever the starting point. Headteachers and line managers must play an important role in making judgements, as they already do on a host of other matters besides pay. But we will want to ensure proper national standards, with external assessors to ensure credibility and consistency.Let’s be clear why we are doing this. I want a situation where our best teachers – not just a small number at the top, but a large proportion of the profession – are better paid and better motivated. Where more of our best graduates choose teaching and rise faster through the profession. And where successful leadership is better rewarded – particularly headteachers who take on the toughest schools and turn them round.These are urgent national imperatives. Better incentives for performance are one, though only one, way of meeting them.

Teachers have everything to gain from these proposals. So do the parents and pupils who our schools exist to serve.