The first phase of the campaign is a major apprenticeships drive. The party’s ambition is to double the number of companies offering apprenticeships from 100,000 to 200,000.
Campaigning ‘Action Days’ will take place across the country tomorrow [Saturday], with MPs and local parties highlighting the work they and the party nationally are doing to help create jobs and apprenticeships in their local areas.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg said:
“Britain is creating jobs. I know it doesn’t always feel like it – a lot of families are still feeling the pinch. But since the Liberal Democrats came into Government in 2010, we’ve helped British businesses create more than a million jobs. Now we want to help them create a million more.
“That will mean an unrelenting focus from Government for the next two years. The country is on a jobs mission and I’m determined the Liberal Democrats will lead it.
“We want more jobs for young people; more jobs outside of London; more jobs in high skilled manufacturing and the high growth industries of the future; more green jobs and more rural jobs too.
“We’ve already done a lot – investing billions in science, advance manufacturing and renewable energy, as well as creating work by investing in roads, railways and homes. Our Regional Growth Fund is providing money to firms around the country. And we’re offering £2,000 cash back to employers on the tax they pay on their employees, making it easier to take people on.
“But we need to do more – starting with a major apprenticeships drive. More and more young people are learning the skills they need for well-paid careers, not just in a classroom or lecture theatre, but in the office or on the shop floor – and they’re getting paid for it.
“It’s an old idea to help build a new economy. Not only do apprenticeships create new opportunities for young men and women, but companies get the loyal and capable staff they need to compete and expand. It works for all kinds of industries – from construction to catering; from advanced engineering to accounting.
“Vince Cable and I made this a priority when we came into office and the Coalition is investing record sums in helping firms hire and train apprentices. We’re also cutting red tape so it’s easier for smaller firms to take people on.
“But there are still firms and young people missing out. We have nearly five million businesses in the UK, but little over 100,000 currently offer apprenticeships. We need to be more ambitious – I want to see that number double to 200,000. Over time, I want to see apprenticeships viewed as a much more mainstream route to work. They’re a crucial building block for the stronger economy and fairer society we all seek, enabling everyone to get on in life.”
The economic benefits of offshore oil and gas production, for energy security, jobs, tax revenue and growth are set to be maximised, as Government announced the start of an independently-led review today.
The UK’s oil and gas industry is of vital national economic importance, supporting 440,000 jobs, and stimulating business, innovation and skills. Some 41 billion barrels of oil and gas have already been produced from the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) and we must maintain our momentum and make the most of the huge opportunity that the UKCS still represents.
The review will be led by Sir Ian Wood, who will undertake full analysis, and work with industry leaders and Government to make recommendations for improving the future economic recovery of UKCS oil and gas.
Secretary of State Edward Davey said:
“Although investment levels are rising strongly, the UKCS is one of the most mature basins in the world and therefore faces unprecedented challenges.
“Our offshore infrastructure is getting older, and we are seeing a decline in the rate of exploration and in the amount of oil and gas that is being recovered.
“All these issues need to be addressed if we are to stimulate innovation in this sector and see maximum economic benefit for the UK in the decades ahead.
“The MoD plans to fully integrate 30,000 fully-trained Reserves into the Regular Army by 2020, but this is going to be a real challenge which we need to do more to achieve. Surprisingly, Gurkhas aren't currently recruited into the Reserves automatically on leaving service – unlike other soldiers.
“We've got to retain the Gurkhas' unique skills and recognise their brave and dedicated service to this country by putting them into the Reserves. They can then lead the way in building the TA and the Regular Reserves into a new, rejuvenated and deployment-ready Future Reserves.”
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“There was nothing in this speech to demonstrate Labour have a plan on the economy. Labour left a record deficit, youth unemployment that had increased by 40% on their watch and a broken economy that had been focused on financial gamblers in the City of London for too long.
“Liberal Democrats are working in the Coalition Government to repair the damage done by Labour and build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.
“We are creating jobs across the country through the Regional Growth Fund and Vince Cable is overseeing a record rise in apprenticeships, helping 1.2m people gain the skills and experience necessary for a successful career.
“We have made the tax system fairer than it has ever been for the low-paid, with people on national minimum wage seeing their tax bill cut in half and 20m working people are paying £600 a year less than they were under Labour.
“Empty speeches dressed up as economic plans will not convince the British people to trust Labour again.”
“The positive vote for the Energy Bill is one of the biggest majorities this Government has seen.
“This overwhelming majority is great news as the Bill now makes its way through the House of Lords.
“A clear message has been sent to investors that we are providing the security they need to work with us to revolutionise the energy sector and produce cleaner energy, keep the lights on and people’s bills down.”
It’s a great pleasure to be here today supporting the work of the Met Office and your partners.
In a previous guise in the Business Department, I had Ministerial responsibility for the Met Office.
I’m proud of that association.
And Britain should be proud of its Met Office and our national excellence in weather and climate science.
If there is one thing we Brits know about, it’s weather.
So it’s unsurprising that we created a weather forecasting service that is the envy of the world.
World class scientists doing world class work across the gamut of climate science.
With the backing it receives from Government and in collaboration with the academic community, including people represented here, the Met Office Hadley Centre is a key component of the UK’s national climate capability.
And this is a resource not just for Britain, but as we have heard about today, a resource for other countries too.
I applaud this initiative, the Met Office working alongside the Natural Environment Research Council and the Environment Agency, to build the Climate Service UK based on your record together of delivering climate data, science research and sound, evidence-based advice.
The Climate Service UK will, I’m sure, become an essential framework for advising on the risks and opportunities of a changing climate at home and abroad.
Here at home, yesterday, we marked a milestone in our modern history.
The 60th anniversary of the coronation Queen Elizabeth II.
Much has changed during her reign – not just in Britain, but across the globe.
There are more of us.
The population of Britain has increased by around a third.
In that same time, the global population has close to trebled to over 7 billion people.
Inevitably, as a planet we consume more.
Britain’s own energy use has increased by around 40% since the 1950s.
But global energy use is rising more quickly – doubling in the last 30 years alone.
And, as we have heard from the scientists here today, our climate has been changing – and is continuing to change.
Since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, average global surface temperature has risen by around ½ a degree Celsius.
All these changes are connected.
The rise in population accompanied by increasing development has fuelled a rise in energy consumption – the vast majority of it supplied by fossil fuels – which has meant more carbon in the atmosphere – which has meant a warmer planet.
The facts don’t lie, the physics is proven.
Climate change is real and it is happening now.
That’s what I want to talk about today – the science of climate change and the action we need to take limit it to manageable proportions.
So let me start with the science.
We reached another milestone this spring.
Carbon dioxide briefly reached 400 parts per million in the atmosphere – 40% higher than before the industrial revolution and most likely higher than at any point in the last 3 million years.
The physics is clear: greenhouse gas emissions trapped in the atmosphere have direct consequences: increasing temperatures; less ice and snow; sea levels rising; more risk of extreme weather to name but a few.
Forecasts of the rate at which the world will warm in the future may differ – but all the traffic is in one direction.
The decade between 2000 and 2010 was the warmest in the global temperature record – warmer than the 90s, which was warmer than the 80s, which was warmer than the 70s.
And if we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the rate we are now, this will continue and will get worse.
On emissions, I agree with what Oxford’s Professor Myles Allan wrote last week in the Mail on Sunday:
“As almost everyone agrees, they still have to come down.”
And how do we know all this to be true?
To coin a phrase, “it’s the science, stupid.”
It’s what the evidence tells us.
As an example, a recent survey of over 12,000 peer-reviewed climate science papers provides a startling picture of the consensus that exists in our scientific community.
97% of the climate experts who expressed an opinion agree that human activity is driving global warming.
Just 3% question man’s contribution.
Let me quantify that for you.
If this was a general election vote, 97% of the vote would generate 630 MPs, the 3% just 20…..
………under a system of proportional representation of course.
Surveys like this are, of course, indicative rather than definitive, but when, as a policy maker, I am confronted with the evidence supported by such an overwhelming scientific consensus, I am clear, I am with the 97%.
And it frustrates me that there remains the need to confront those who loudly deny the basic proposition and seek to turn the public against the action required to meet the challenge.
Of course there will always be uncertainties within climate science and the need for research to continue.
The world’s climate is one of the most complex and chaotic natural systems.
Forecasting and modelling will never be 100% perfect.
There will be divergences between modelling systems, re-appraisals of evidence or adjusted projections.
Healthy scepticism is part of that process.
We make progress by building on what we know, and questioning what we don’t.
But some sections of the press are giving an uncritical campaigning platform to individuals and lobby groups who reject outright the fact that climate change is a result of human activity.
Some who even deny the reality of climate change itself.
This is not the serious science of challenging, checking and probing.
This is destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism born of vested interest, nimbyism, publicity seeking contraversialism or sheer blinkered, dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness.
This tendency will seize upon the normal expression of scientific uncertainty and portray it as proof that all climate change policy is all hopelessly misguided – from pursuing renewable energy to emissions targets themselves.
By selectively misreading the evidence, they seek to suggest that climate change has stopped so we can all relax and burn all the dirty fuel we want without a care.
This is a superficially seductive message, but it is absolutely wrong and really quite dangerous.
Take the issue that the Head of the Hadley Centre, Prof. Stephen Belcher addressed in his talk: the smaller than expected rise in average global surface temperature in the last decade.
As has been explained today, this pause in surface temperature is a false summit.
We have seen this before in the recent past, periods with little warming after which global temperatures have continued to rise.
The early 20th century and a period around the 1950s for example.
These are consistent with climate models which show similar plateaus.
Nothing in the basic physics of climate change has altered.
And surface temperature is but one indicator among many.
As a whole, the Earth continues to heat up.
The seas have continued to warm and sea levels to rise.
Arctic ice continues its long-term decline.
We have continued to see record-breaking weather events around the globe, and while each instance cannot be accurately attributed to climate change, we see the pattern and it should be a warning to us all what is at risk.
So climate change is most definitively not in reverse.
Unless we do something about it, the world is going to continue to get warmer and warmer – and the consequences for future generations will be severe.
The science tells us we cannot afford to relax, let up or wait for a miracle.
Those who argue against all the actions we are taking to reduce emissions, without any serious and viable alternative, are asking us to take massive gamble with the planet our children will inherit, in the face of all the evidence, against overwhelming odds.
No Government worth its salt would take that gamble.
And no political party worth voting for would make that argument.
So let me turn to how, politically and practically, this Government is getting on with bringing emissions down
The goal has to be led by the science too.
Our main challenge is to agree international actions that will reduce emissions enough to avoid really dangerous climate change, keeping global temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
This is the level at which it is widely accepted that society can adapt to climate change.
Not without significant challenge and change, but manageable.
And to meet this scenario, we need to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050, with greater cuts for the developed world, where per capita emissions are highest.
Every year we delay, the harder the target will be to reach, and the more severe the action required.
That is why the deadline of 2015 for a global deal for binding emissions reductions is really make or break.
Everything that we do between now and then has to be geared towards achieving success.
Let me set out how the UK is determined to make this happen by taking action at home, in Europe and on the global stage.
UK leading by example
Here in Britain, building on the groundbreaking Climate Change Act of 2008 enacted under the previous Government, we are now acting to meet the domestic emissions targets we have set ourselves.
The Carbon Plan sets out how we will achieve an 80% reduction by 2050.
Progressively decarbonising our energy sector, our transport, our economy.
Become much more energy efficient.
Encouraging the development of a diverse mix of low-carbon technologies, and lower-carbon fuels like gas, to meet our goals.
And this diversity is key.
We need to tap into all the viable low-carbon technology available and help to drive its commercial viability.
We cannot afford to turn our back on a technology that can contribute to the overall goal of emissions reduction – nuclear for instance or carbon capture and storage or on-shore wind.
None of these alone represent a single silver bullet, we need them all to contribute.
There is strength in a diversity of low-carbon platforms – including the flexibility to veer towards technologies as they mature and become more efficient and cost effective.
Putting all our eggs in one basket now, relying on a single immature technology such as carbon capture and storage for example, would be extremely dangerous – another huge gamble I’m not prepared to take.
And we would be utterly foolish to reject the development and use of lower-carbon fossil fuels such as gas to replace dirtier ones such as coal as a staging post on the way – particularly if this drives down emissions while other technologies mature.
The Energy Bill going through parliament at the moment is a key part of our domestic response – enabling low carbon technologies to compete in the electricity market and attract investment.
The Green Deal is designed to create a similar boom market in energy efficiency too.
This approach is win, win, win.
Win for the climate change policy as we reduce carbon emissions and transition to a lower-carbon economy.
Win for energy security and consumers as we diversify the energy mix and progressively wean ourselves off the volatile global fossil fuel market.
And win for the economy – for growth, jobs, research and development, as we unleash £110bn of private sector investment to modernise energy infrastructure.
UK leading through Europe
It is not only setting an example at home, we are leading through Europe too:
Building the necessary alliances to push through a substantive structural reform for the EU Emissions Trading Scheme which is a key mechanism in helping us to meet our climate change goals.
And making the case for an ambitious EU emissions reductions target for 2030.
By being a strong voice for emissions reduction in Europe, the UK is shaping the global debate in the run up to 2015.
Under the UN climate negotiations Framework, the UK negotiates as part of the EU, providing us with greater credibility and weight when it comes to dealing with the super-economies of China, India and the US.
Together we represent 504 million people and 25% of the world’s GDP (compared with 63 million people and 3% of the world’s GDP as the UK alone).
The EU has a real opportunity to be the driving force behind a new global deal that will see international action complementing the UK’s domestic action.
That is why the UK is arguing for Europe to adopt an ambitious emissions reduction target for 2030 of 50% on 1990 levels as part of Europe’s approach to the getting a global deal in 2015.
And even if such a global deal doesn’t come about, the EU should aim for a unilateral 40% reduction.
These targets are achievable, affordable and necessary if we are to limit climate change to manageable proportions.
Countries should be free to pick the mix of technologies to decarbonise their energy that suits their circumstances and are most likely to succeed for them: from energy efficiency to new nuclear; from carbon capture and storage to renewable heat.
Above all, we must keep our eyes on the prize: a binding global deal to reduce carbon emissions and limit climate change to manageable levels.
Without the EU adopting an ambitious approach, a global deal will be virtually impossible.
That is why the ambitious emissions target for the EU that we are arguing for is so important.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude today by referring back to where I began – with anniversaries.
There is another 60th anniversary we celebrated last month – that of the first climbers to reach the summit of Everest, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
Since then – as climbing technology has improved, gear has got lighter, and safer routes mapped – over 3,000 climbers have made it to the top, including the first octogenarian who summited a fortnight ago.
This just underlines the determination of the human spirit – and the progress of human ingenuity.
But those who scale today find an Everest that is changing rapidly.
It is not just the detritus of the constant human traffic.
As new study has found that with rising temperatures on the mountain, the snowline has shifted upwards by some 180 metres over the last half century.
These are weathervane events that should spur us to act.
When it comes to tackling climate change, as a global community, we have made it to base camp.
Science has given us an understanding of the scale of the problem we face.
And is providing us with the tools to tackle it.
Now we need to find the will to make the climb.
To harnessing all the ingenuity we can muster.
To tap that determination of the human spirit.
To build the low-carbon societies that we will need to survive through the next century and beyond.
The next few years will be definitive in the fight against climate change.
I am determined that together we grasp this opportunity.
Governments, scientists, campaigners, businesses, journalists, the whole of society.
The 97% working together to meet our collective responsibility to pass on to future generations a planet that can sustain them.
“Three years into this parliament and Labour still has no credible economic policies. Ed Balls’ proposed savings are a drop in the ocean.
“And he still refuses to acknowledge it was his party’s chronic mismanagement that got us into this mess. The idea Labour can demonstrate ‘iron discipline’ on spending is laughable.
“They oppose every cut but refuse to admit what their alternative would amount to – more spending, more borrowing and more debt. They should be honest with voters.
“Liberal Democrats are the only party who can be trusted to deliver both a stronger economy and a fairer society.”
“It won’t be easy: there will be bumps and scrapes along the way.”
That’s what I said three years ago, in the joint press conference David Cameron and I gave on the first day of this coalition government. And as you’ll have noticed, some weeks are more bumpy and scrapy than others!
Some times we have fierce disagreements that leave people on both sides deeply frustrated. But given that this coalition is formed of two political parties with many widely differing beliefs and policies, that’s not exactly remarkable.
What I believe is remarkable is the resilience of this government, and the amount – bumps and scrapes notwithstanding – that we have achieved so far. We’ve shown that when it comes down to the real business of government, like creating jobs, balancing the budget and helping with the cost of living, we can act like grown ups and get things done.
From enabling people to earn a full £10,000 before they start paying income tax to helping create over a million new jobs, from investing billions in our schools to expanding apprenticeships on an unprecedented scale, this government has a record to be proud of.
Next week, Parliament is back in session, ready to start in earnest on this year’s legislative agenda. Some critics have written it off already, accusing the government of paralysis. It’s simply not true.
Yes: we have a few tense votes coming up on Europe and Equal Marriage. These are important and, for some, divisive issues. But though they may dominate the news for weeks, they will take up just a few hours or days of Parliamentary time. MPs and Peers will spend the vast majority of their year implementing big social and economic changes on which the coalition remains firmly united – changes that will make Britain stronger and fairer.
A high speed rail network. Fairer pensions. A cap on the costs of care for disabled and elderly people. Improved consumer rights and better protection for energy customers.
This is the major business of this government because our focus remains what it has been from day one: the economic and social repair job we know Britain needs, and which we set out in our coalition agreement. I won’t let the coalition be pulled off that course.
This government is the first peacetime coalition in Britain in 80 years. But the wait will not be so long again: I believe coalitions will become more and more frequent as people’s dissatisfaction with the old two-party politics deepens. Political parties of left and right are going to have to get used to not getting their own way all the time, putting aside their differences and working together in the national interest.
The bumps and scrapes will continue. But the achievements will, too, as this government works steadily on, building a stronger economy and a fairer society.
In the interview, he says: “The investments we’re making in low-carbon energy infrastructure, whether it’s wind, biomass engineering, solar, tidal or marine, they are all going to produce a lot of jobs.
“Green jobs, green growth, green investment, are what Liberal Democrats are delivering in Government. We’ve got to show that we’ve come up with new innovative ways to help people with their energy bills.”
These include ‘collective switching’, which enables communities and co-operatives to save money by purchasing energy from supplier together. He also says the UK could see 60,000 people employed as part of it by 2015, as new grants help to create a market in energy efficiency and retrofitting homes.
“DECC runs a competition called Cheaper Energy Together and we’ve seen local councils and community energy groups bringing people together to experiment with this new way of buying energy,” he says.
On the Coalition, he commented: “In the Coalition Agreement the Conservatives signed up to a lot of our green agenda, so I think it’s fair to say that there are parts of the Conservative Party who are quite comfortable with it. But it’s equally true to say there are some that aren’t.”
This was a week that put things in perspective. I know I speak for all Liberal Democrats when I say that our thoughts are with the family and friends of Drummer Lee Rigby – the British soldier attacked and killed in Woolwich on Wednesday. And I’ve made it clear, on the party’s behalf, that we are immensely grateful to our police, security services and armed forces, who do an extraordinarily important job.
That last few days have reminded me, and probably many of you, of a simple but important truth: when your values are under attack, you have to hold on to them even more firmly than before.
Yesterday, at the request of some friends in the Muslim community, I convened a meeting, in London, of representatives from different faiths, community organisations and secular groups. Before the speeches I held a private discussion with a smaller group, and I wish I could have broadcast it across the nation. Just days after a brutal act of terror, men and women from across the faiths and political parties, gathered around the table, each calling for the same thing: unity. It would have made you immensely proud.
And there have been other victories for our values this week. Getting the Equal Marriage Bill through the House of Commons was no mean feat and it’s something all Liberal Democrats should feel good about. Britain is now one step closer to being a country where all forms of love – gay or straight – are celebrated equally, and that wouldn’t have happened without our party.
The Coalition was also able to confirm that hundreds of Afghan interpreters who served bravely alongside British forces will have the chance to settle in the UK. Paddy’s been heavily involved with this campaign for a while. At one point, it was suggested that Afghan interpreters might not be granted this right, but clearly that was something I – we – couldn’t accept. Don’t forget, it was under pressure from the Liberal Democrats that the previous Labour government extended the right to reside here to Iraqi interpreters. When someone has risked their life to help our servicemen and women, it seems so obvious to me that we owe them a debt.
So it’s been a difficult week, but it’s also been a week which has reminded us who we are. This is an open, diverse and generous nation, where, in our toughest moments, we come together. That’s something no act of hate or violence will change.