One minute, a Coalition Government publishing its third Queen’s Speech: fundamentally reforming pensions; tackling longstanding problems with social care; getting to grips with immigration. Big, bold measures that will leave a lasting imprint on millions of Britons’ lives.
The next? Westminster consumed by game-playing over Europe and gay marriage; MPs disappearing into a parliamentary rabbit warren, obsessing over this new tactic or that new trick: paving legislation, enabling referendums, wrecking amendments…
Anyone watching would be forgiven for asking: what are these politicians doing?
So it’s time to get back to governing; providing the leadership and focus the people of Britain deserve in these difficult times.
This morning I want to give three simple and clear reassurances; the three things I will work flat out to deliver to keep the government and the country on track.
Reassurance number one: Coalition until 2015
First, I am absolutely committed to this Coalition lasting until 2015 – as is the Prime Minister.
At the weekend I saw some rather creative coverage of comments made by the Prime Minister about the future of the Government.
In fact, he echoed exactly what both of us have always believed:
This Coalition has been remarkably radical; it still has work to do; and the best way for us to serve and improve Britain is by finishing what we started.
To those voices who say that it will be in either, or both, parties’ interests to prematurely pull the plug: I couldn’t disagree more.
In 2010 the British people dealt us this hand. And they will not forgive either party if we call time ahead of the election that has been legislated for in 2015 – destabilising the nation in the vague hope of short-term political gain.
I know some commentators think it would be clever to duck out six months early. But that doesn’t make any sense either.
The idea that the Liberal Democrats could suddenly win back those people who have never liked us going into government with the Conservatives is nonsense. As if we could pull the wool over people’s eyes, using an early exit to somehow erase the previous four and a half years.
And, frankly, that isn’t what we want. The Liberal Democrats look forward to fighting the next election as a party of government, on our record in government, and with a distinct vision of our own for the next government – having seen this one through until the end.
Reassurance number two: our priority is the economy
Reassurance number two: from now until that election, the Coalition will remain focused on the biggest task at hand – fixing the economy.
Of course Europe and gay marriage are important. These are issues my party cares deeply about.
But Britain is facing the most profound economic challenge in living memory. And now, more than ever, we cannot allow Parliament to be clogged up by these matters simply because they cause the biggest political punch ups.
Our priorities must be people’s priorities: boosting business, creating jobs, helping with the cost of living.
On the big ticket items the Coalition parties must continue to find a way forward together. Just as we have done on cutting income tax; dealing with the deficit; creating a million new jobs; transforming the education and welfare systems; providing unprecedented guarantees – £50bn worth – for infrastructure and new homes; greening our economy; creating record numbers of apprenticeships…
And there must be no doubt that this Coalition remains united on the end we all seek:
A stronger, rebalanced economy, built on sound public finances, with opportunities spread to every corner of the UK.
Two staunch opponents, working together to find answers to the most critical questions facing Britain today, pioneering major reforms that will stand the test of time. That’s what this Coalition has always been about – and it’s what it must continue to be about.
Reassurance number three: we will remain anchored in the centre
Lastly, reassurance number three: this Government will not vacate the centre ground.
There’s a mistaken idea, shared by both the Labour leadership and some in the Conservative party, that they decide what people care about in Britain today. The idea you can take a big marker pen and draw the centre ground wherever it’s ideologically convenient for you.
Ed Miliband thinks he can nudge the country to the left, luring people over with unfunded spending promises: more borrowing, bigger budgets, a risk-free, pain-free end to austerity.
Some Conservatives insist the centre of gravity has swung the other way. They seize on people’s reasonable concerns over things like immigration and welfare as proof the nation has shifted to the right.
Yet in reality millions of people across Britain continue to shun the extremes of left and right.
They want a stronger economy – but they also want a fairer society; not one or the other, both.
They want us to maintain stability by taking responsibility for our debts – but with the burden spread fairly.
These are the people who get angry when they see abuse of the benefits system – but they are still proud that their country provides help to the vulnerable, the sick and the poor.
They don’t believe it’s right when illegal immigrants get a free ride – but they still value the benefits that immigration has bought to the UK.
They emphatically agree that we should cut red tape to help business – but not at the expense of workers' rights.
They want more choice in our public services – but could never support privatising the NHS or profit-making in schools.
They think gay people should be treated as equal with straight people, and so able to get married – but they wouldn’t condone forcing a church to conduct those ceremonies against its will.
In the 21st Century, Britain’s centre ground is modern; balanced; inclusive.
It doesn’t face left; it doesn’t face right; it faces forward.
And if you stand in the centre ground, rest assured: so long as I am Deputy Prime Minister this Coalition will not walk away from you.
Coalition until 2015. Cleaning up the mess in the economy Labour left us. Anchored in the centre ground. Exactly as we set out in May 2010.
It won’t all be plain-sailing.
Some of the most divisive issues – like the UK’s role in Europe – are not going to go away.
We also have to be realistic about the other challenges that come with the later stages of Coalition. As we head towards the election there will be increasing pressure on David Cameron and myself to act as party leaders as much as PM and DPM: pressure to put party before nation. And I don’t pretend I won’t relish the moment I can hit the campaign trail on behalf of the Liberal Democrats in the run up to the General Election.
But here’s the bigger truth: whether you are the larger or smaller party, the fact is governing together in the public interest carries a cost. Making compromises; doing things you find uncomfortable; challenging some of your traditional support – these are the dilemmas the Conservatives are coming to terms with, just as my party has had to.
The next two years will not be without their hurdles and no doubt there will be disagreements between the Coalition parties along the way. Let’s be clear: sincere policy debates and ideological differences are, and will continue to be, a part of coalition.
But the parliamentary game playing we’ve seen over the last few weeks discredits the importance of these issues, and it’s an unwelcome distraction.
Our parties made a commitment to the people of Britain: we promised to govern responsibly and to stay focused on the issues that matter most.
That has not changed. It will not change. And I am more determined than ever that we finish what we started.
Almost ten years ago, I started my career on the Liberal Democrat Frontbench as Home Affairs’ Spokesman. Back then I argued that what was needed to reduce crime was simply a focus from Government on firm, practical solutions that addressed the root causes of crime and that were proven to work.
It’s a view I’ve retained. And an approach the Liberal Democrats have pursued in Coalition Government. Because ensuring people are free from crime and free from the fear of crime is essential to the foundation of any liberal society. And it’s why tackling crime effectively is central to our party’s vision of a Britain where everyone can get on in life.
Free From Crime, Free From The Fear of Crime:
Old or young, rich or poor, you are not free to live your life, realise your ambitions, or hope for the future, if you are scared of what lies just beyond your front door.
The populist rhetoric of the last Government played up public fears and promised to tackle the root causes of crime. But what actually happened, they implemented more often than not heavy-handed measures designed to chase headlines: policies that sought to restrict the freedom of criminals by taking away the civil liberties of innocent citizens.
Unprecedented expansion of state surveillance, a wasteful ID cards’ programme and the inclusion of innocent people on the DNA database – these policies reinforced the views of both commentators on the Right, who argue we’re a nation stuck in a spiral of moral decline, and those on the Left, who believe we’re in a state of irreversible social decline.
Liberalism Is The Solution, Not The Problem:
But, this pessimistic vision of Britain ignores just how far we’ve come as a country and how much things have changed for the better. Most importantly, they deny a brighter future for our children – a younger generation, which government data shows, is actually less likely to take drugs, drink or smoke.
In fact, I would argue that it is the more liberal, more tolerant and less violent society – in which we live now – which has provided us with the right conditions for a substantial and sustainable fall in crime
When I was growing up, images of communities torn apart by riots, football games destroyed by hooligans and violent clashes between police and striking unions routinely dominated the news. These images are largely consigned to the past.
Now…of course there are exceptions. The senseless riots in 2011 were a powerful reminder of just how vital our work together – the Government, the police and the public – is to make our communities safer.
But our country is far less accepting of such violence. We are more ready to challenge racism, sexism and homophobia.
And we remain fully committed to tackling crimes such as domestic violence, or other abuses that happen behind closed doors.
For example, last year I launched the government’s Teen Rape Prevention campaign. We have a long way to go, but action like this is hugely important in making sure that young people everywhere understand that sexual abuse isn’t something that happens in a dark alley, but can be something that happens in your own home, perpetrated by someone you thought you could trust.
This Government has been committed to tackling these hidden crimes. We have introduced legislation to criminalise forced marriage, introduced new laws against stalking and the Home Secretary is leading important work into the dreadful cases of sexual abuse against young people who are vulnerable and need protecting, including those in care.
But while this crucial work continues, it is important that we recognise that, given more freedom and given more choice, the vast majority of us are exercising it more responsibly. And we’re doing so at a time of tough economic conditions.
Greater liberty, in other words, has not frayed the fabric of society. It has brought us closer together as a society and has brought a long-term fall in crime.
Fall in Crime:
Under this Government, crime is at its lowest levels since independent records began. That’s fewer homes burgled and possessions stolen. Fewer communities blighted by vandalism. And fewer people hurt, or killed in violent attacks.
This continuing fall in crime is one of the biggest untold success stories of this Coalition.
Lots of people predicted that in tough economic conditions, crime would go up, as it has done in the past. But it hasn’t and we should be proud of that fact. It has been achieved without excessive bureaucracy or increasing intrusion.
We have done this by focusing, quite simply, on what works.
Freeing the Police to Cut Crime:
And much of that is down to the work of the police. In a time of economic austerity, where every public service is having to take its share of cuts, the police have stayed focused on cutting crime and they have succeeded.
Every police officer, every PCSO, should be extremely proud that, on their watch, crime has dropped.
Even as they have faced difficult decisions on police budgets and the pay and pensions provided to police officers. And they have done this with professionalism, with care and by developing relationships with their local communities that last.
By ending the target-driven culture of form filling and red-tape, the Coalition Government has ensured officers are free to do what works.
And it’s an approach that has delivered results: ensuring that England and Wales are now safer than at any time since independent records began.
Empowering Communities & Victims:
We are also empowering communities to take control of the problems in their own areas.
Take restorative justice. An approach championed by local Liberal Democrat Councils taking tough, but practical solutions that actually work in bringing down crime.
Now we’re in government, we’re introducing Neighbourhood Justice Panels in 15 places across the country. They help victims deal with crime in a way that benefits their community and makes the offender face up to the wrong they have done.
We’re also empowering the public to trigger action from the police and their local partners on persistent anti-social behaviour.
And we’ve ensured that sentences in the community are a genuine and tough alternative to custody, where locking someone up isn’t the best solution.
By making more offenders perform unpaid work in the community, we will make sure that they pay back to their community, while also being rehabilitated through meaningful activity that teaches discipline and hard work.
And through restorative justice, these offenders can make a real difference to a victim’s ability to cope and recover from the damage that they themselves have suffered.
Doing What Works:
Of course, community approaches are not suitable for every crime. And when your house is burgled, or your car stolen, it doesn’t feel like crime is falling. If you’re attacked, or abused, society doesn’t feel that safe.
So sometimes prison is the right option and those who commit serious offences should serve their sentence behind bars.
But the story shouldn’t end when the cell door slams shut. Prisoners’ time behind bars must be used to change behaviour for good, not just take someone off the streets for a while. A lesson must be learnt. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Every year, reoffending costs our economy around £10 billion. Almost half of those leaving prison are reconvicted within a year.
Considering that the cost of sending a criminal to prison is more than it costs to go to Eton, we need a better return on our investment.
For years, the Liberal Democrats have argued that you only truly break the cycle of crime when you cut reoffending. That is why in Government, we’ve been determined to reduce both its economic and social costs.
And as their current Shadow Justice Secretary admitted himself, this is where Labour got it so wrong.
The last Government talked tough on crime, but appeared to believe that a ballooning prison population was a good thing.
So be tough on crime, sure. Be tough on the causes of crime, yes. But none of it matters unless you are also tough on breaking the cycle of crime. As a society, we want a justice system that punishes people where it must, but also seeks to change people where it can.
For me, criminal justice policy should not be ideological, but pragmatic. It should have a relentless focus on what works. So this Government is using our investment more wisely – to ensure our prison and probation services are equipped to produce better citizens, not better criminals.
We know that those on short sentences are most likely to reoffend and yet shockingly they are the ones who have, until now, received almost no rehabilitation, or support. That is why the Coalition Government is driving a rehabilitation revolution. It’s a programme of legislation and innovative public service delivery that will transform the way offenders are dealt with once they leave prison and address persistent reoffending.
It is a radical, but practical approach that has the potential – in my view – to leave a bigger, more lasting imprint on British society than almost anything else that the Coalition Government might achieve. And I’m proud of the changes we’re implementing now and our plans for the future.
A Never-Ending Cycle:
Imagine a young 21 year old offender released from a 6 month prison sentence for burglary today.
He’s been brought up in care. Since leaving there at 18, he’s not had a permanent place to live. In and out of trouble, he’s not found much in the way of work. He can’t read, or write well so he’s struggled to get a job. He also suffers from mental health issues and drug problems that are influencing his actions and have intensified in prison.
And just in case you think I’m relying on lazy stereotypes here, let me spell out what the statistics themselves say. Only around a third of prisoners are in work a month before custody. Fifteen percent of them are homeless. And it is estimated that around a quarter of offenders suffer from anxiety and depression. While 81% of them have used illegal drugs before entering prison.
Today, that young offender would leave prison with 46 pounds in his pocket and not much else. There would probably be no-one to meet him outside and nowhere for him to go.
If he’s lucky, he’ll find a temporary bed on a friend’s sofa. If not, he’ll end up homeless. And within days he could end up back in the Criminal Justice System after breaking into another house; stood in front of a custody sergeant, who probably already knows his name.
People tell him to get a job. But he doesn’t know how. And he has nowhere to live. Nobody will give him a chance. And the only people he can rely on, of course, are the ones that got him into this mess in the first place.
That has to change. Because it is the victims of crime and the wider public that reoffending impacts the most. Whether that’s because they are directly hurt by re-offenders’ crimes, or because they read about what’s happening and think it says everything they need to know about modern Britain.
A Rehabilitation Revolution:
This destructive cycle of crime is what we are working to break. If we are going to do all we can for the victims of crime and our communities, we can’t allow this problem to go unsolved. Our Offender Rehabilitation Bill receives its Second Reading in Parliament today.
It brings forward for the first time a mandatory requirement for the most prevalent re-offenders – those serving sentences of 12 months or less – to undergo a targeted programme of support on release to help them turn their lives around.
Because we know that the majority of those sentenced to prison are sent there for 12 months or less. And that of those almost 60% of them reoffend on release.
This will have a significant impact on women offenders also. Proportionally, more women than men are serving short-term prison sentences. Many of these women have complex needs. For example, they are more likely to have mental health problems than male prisoners, more likely to have reported experiencing some sort of childhood abuse. And they are more likely to be the primary carer for children. This Government is determined that these reforms will help women prisoners too.
Change will start in the police station and courts with experts on hand to identify whether a mental health or drug problem could be one of the main drivers behind this young offender’s behaviour. So he can be dealt with in a way that is appropriate for his illness and crime.
Following conviction, for example, he could be sent to a drug recovery wing in prison to help him get through withdrawal and the most intense, early stages of recovery.
Work in Prison:
The changes will continue in prison. We are putting more and more offenders like him to work in prison every year: making sure he doesn’t lie idle in his bed. That he is paying back to society and learning the pride and value that comes from a hard day’s work. What’s more, the money he earns from the work he does will go into a compensation fund for victims.
Alongside action to improve prisoners’ core skills, this will ensure that a young offender can get experience to help him find work outside the prison walls. And employers like Timpsons, Network Rail and the National Grid are already going into prisons and training prisoners in skills that can translate into real-life employment.
We’ve already increased the work hours of prisoners by over 800,000 hours last year.
And we want to get more businesses involved in these schemes as well as find more commercial work for prisoners to do, without undercutting local businesses.
Beyond the Prison Gates:
But the real change comes when our offender is released. A few weeks before he leaves, he will start working with a new provider organisation to organise and plan for his resettlement beyond the prison gates.
If possible, the young offender would have been sent to a prison close to his local community. So that any positive, personal ties that he did have – with family, or friends – could be maintained. If that can’t happen, we would then aim to relocate him closer to home towards the end of his sentence.
In prison, he’d work with the service provider to develop a programme of tailored support that fits his needs.
This could mean getting him a place on a basic skills course at the local college, or finding him somewhere to live.
They’ll ensure that from day one – if he is claiming JobSeekers allowance on release – he has a place on the Government’s work programme, with access to information and training that will help him get a job.
If required, they could also organise additional drugs treatment and testing to help him stay clean.
Most importantly, when he gets out there will be someone there to meet him. A mentor – someone experienced, potentially someone whose been an offender themselves and knows what it takes to build a life free of crime outside – who can help this young man through advice and support stay on the straight and narrow in that critical first year after release.
We are already seeing some positive results. For example, in Peterborough Prison where older, longer serving prisoners are actively mentoring those serving shorter-sentences. Given their experiences, these mentors are proving to be some of the most effective people to convince those who’ve made a mistake not to repeat it over and over again.
We’re not ideological about this approach.
What we want to see is something that takes and builds on the best from the public sector, the best from the private sector and the best from the voluntary sector to break the cycle of crime for good.
That is why we are reorganising the Probation Service, so that the public, voluntary and private sectors can work more flexibly and effectively side by side.
We want to extend the good work that is taking place all over the country, including right here. And we want to ensure that all of those with a strong track record in this area – including smaller regional rehabilitation charities, social enterprises or entrepreneurial staff from Probation Trusts interested in starting an employee mutual to bid for work – are able to get involved
That is why I’m pleased to announce today a package of tailored support to help fledgling mutuals and smaller rehabilitation organisations bid for contracts.
This includes access to around £7 million worth of funds to help these groups bid and support their work in communities. This is addition to the £10 million mutuals support programme, which is open to probation staff.
We are also making available to these groups valuable financial tools, legal advice, coaching and training and a network of peers and expert contacts to help take them through the bidding process.
We are serious about getting those who know what they are doing involved in our rehabilitation revolution.
So in conclusion, let me be clear, I am wholly committed to that Rehabilitation Revolution. And we are putting in place the legislation, innovative policies and providers to deliver solutions that work. That will tackle, for the first time ever on a mandatory basis, the complex issues and drivers behind the persistent problem of reoffending.
And provide the support needed to fundamentally change the lives of those released from prison.
As a society, I believe, we’re more progressive and we’re more liberal. These are the best conditions in which to cut crime. A society, in which the Government and public can bring about the necessary changes that will ensure a future, where more people are free from crime and the fear of crime: in short – a stronger, a fairer Britain.
Thank you very much.
“HS2 is a huge leap forward for our rail network and will improve connectivity for generations to come.
“Liberal Democrats support HS2 because it will build a stronger economy and a fairer society, creating 40,000 direct and thousands more indirect jobs, as well as bridge the gap between the north and south. And that’s before you consider the economic benefits to the wider areas serviced by HS2.
“In assessing the value of HS2 we must look at all the overall benefits, including for passengers by increasing capacity on existing lines and significantly cutting the travel time, and to the environment by reducing our reliance on domestic flights and transferring millions of journeys from road to rail.”
“While it is disappointing that overall unemployment is up, it is good news that youth unemployment has fallen as that will be encouraging for young people who are looking for work.
“To build a stronger economy in a fairer society, Liberal Democrats have been focusing on giving young people the skills and experience necessary for a successful career.
“That is why Nick Clegg has introduced the £1bn Youth Contract that will ensure young people have the opportunity to earn or learn and Business Secretary Vince Cable has overseen the creation of more than 1m apprenticeships.
“We will continue to work hard to get more people in employment and build a stronger economy.”
Let me first thank the African Diplomatic Corps, African Heads of Mission and Commonwealth Business Council for inviting me to open this business forum and for organising this event.
Today is a chance for all of us to recognise the businesses and jobs being created by African and British entrepreneurs together. And to focus on securing the wealth of investment opportunities available to us in the future. So I’m also pleased to see so many business leaders here with us as well.
It’s a fitting tribute, I think, to mark the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union. I want to welcome my old friend Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus – Chairman of the Executive Council of the African Union – as we recognise and celebrate some of the achievements of that partnership.
Five decades ago, the Organisation of African Unity was there to help countries across the region transition from colonial rule. And as the African Union, it is there again now to support the continent as it takes on an increasingly global role.
On a recent visit to Mozambique and Ethiopia, I saw for myself how successful businesses, both large and small, are transforming millions of people’s day-to-day lives.
In Ethiopia, for example, I met female entrepreneur Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu. What others saw as scrap, Bethlehem saw as a business opportunity.
Her company Sole Rebels, which turns old car tyres into shoes, now employs around 80 people. It’s an enterprise that’s transforming the lives not just of Bethlehem and her workers, but also their families and the people they do business with elsewhere.
As a quick aside, Bethlehem would never forgive me if I didn’t tell you that you can buy her shoes online, here in the UK. I still wear the fabulously comfortable and very brightly coloured shoes that I got from her myself earlier this year.
Also Vodafone’s innovative M-Pesa system. Recently launched in Mozambique, it’s a money transfer service enabling people to carry out financial transactions on their mobile phones.
Started first in Kenya, with investment from Vodafone and support from the UK Government, this extends access to vital banking services for millions of people, who would otherwise only be able to trade in cash.
In Kenya alone, there are now 17 million users, with around 10% of Kenya’s GDP being processed through the system per year.
What these stories show us is the positive change that success, however big or small, can bring. Seven of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa.
Recent research shows that almost a quarter of African countries’ GDP grew at 7% or higher in 2012. It’s estimated that that growth across the continent could rival China in years to come.
Now that’s a story worth telling, but one often lost in the customary narrative of conflict and instability in Africa. So it’s time to rewrite the script. Africa is being transformed: once perceived by the outside world as merely a continent in distress; now looked to as a great continent of opportunity.
And as Africa’s presence on the global stage increases, we need to secure economic success for every country in the region. For the good of Africa, for the good of the UK and for the good of the world.
Everybody, of course, wants growth – the key decision is how you achieve it. More and more African countries face a choice between the economic models of authoritarian capitalism, on the one hand, and liberal democracy, on the other.
In countries like China, authoritarian capitalism argues the case for economic growth ahead of political freedoms. And it’s a seductive argument in view of surging growth rates, which have occurred in the absence of political freedom.
But ultimately it is a false promise. My view, the liberal view, is that economic progress and political rights are inseparable. They are parallel tracks, each reinforcing the other.
Fairness, freedom, empowerment, education, the rule of law – these are not so-called Western values. They are the values that will underpin healthy economies across the globe, long into the future.
And in a world of younger populations, growing middle classes and technological innovations that allow relationships and communities to form across traditional state borders, the demand for both economic success and political freedom – will only increase. Lasting stability depends not just on opening up our economies, but creating open societies too.
As nations across Africa continue to grow and prosper, the UK will seek to be an effective partner. First, in terms of the UK’s own changing relationship with Africa. And second, how the UK through European and international channels, not least our current G8 presidency, is determined to address the fundamental barriers to further growth and investment in Africa and the rest of the world.
Our focus is more trade; fairer tax; and greater business transparency.
The UK remains a strong partner with Africa. I’m proud that we will honour our commitment to spend 0.7% of this nation’s wealth helping the world’s poorest countries.
As you may know, legislation to enshrine this commitment in law was not included in last week’s Queen’s Speech – it’s an issue that has proved highly controversial amongst some Conservative MPs – but I’m pleased that the Coalition Government in its deeds and actions will continue to meet our commitments abroad: and our actions show that we will not balance the books on the backs of the world’s poorest.
But we also understand that aid must be properly targeted and that longer-term success depends on supporting businesses and trade in new and emerging markets.
UK companies already export more to Africa than they do to Brazil, India and Russia combined. That’s good, but we can always do more.
Especially, if we’re to compete effectively with companies and governments in Europe and elsewhere, who are making a determined push to seek out their own opportunities in Africa.
In line with Africa’s vision for a Continental Free Trade Area and the African Mining Initiative, we also want to explore how the G8 can help to unblock trade corridors across Africa, building on the successful trade facilitation programmes run by the DFID-supported Trademark East Africa.
As well as what Britain can do bilaterally, there is also the question of what Europe can do collectively. We are two great neighbouring continents joined by the Mediterranean.
Yet somehow, I don’t feel the EU acts with the coherence and leadership, which Africa deserves.
Other world powers, notably China, have a clear and consistent strategy: China invests big. It invests fast in pursuit of clear economic objectives.
I believe the EU could and should offer an alternative approach – one that can contribute to lasting success in Africa built on economic, political and social reform. Prosperity and stability in Africa and Europe are mutually reinforcing: when Europe fails, Africa is affected; when Africa fails, Europe is affected. So we must work together, continent to continent, so we both succeed.
Through the UK’s presidency of the G8, we are also keen to focus the agenda on issues that are fundamental not only to your success, but also, in the long-term, our own and the rest of the world.
Eight years ago at Gleneagles, we secured an agreement to cancel debt for the world’s poorest countries and to double aid. That action contributed to strong economic performances across Africa over the last decade.
Working together again now, focused on the 3Ts of Trade, Transparency and Tax, we can achieve even more.
Over the next decade revenues from newly discovered extractive resources in Africa will increase massively, dwarfing aid volumes.
In 2010 exports of oil and minerals from Africa were worth £216 billion – nearly seven times the value of international aid in the same year – £31 billion.
Too often in the past such revenues have bypassed Africans – due to unfair tax systems and opaque business deals. Lining the pockets of the few. Denying investment and jobs for the many. That has to stop.
We want to make sure Africans receive their fair share from the resources they have and the business they do. That demands fairer tax rules and greater transparency around what is being paid for oil, gas and mining resources and where the profits then flow.
We are pushing for more companies to report on the revenues they pay to governments, and for more governments to report on the revenues they receive.
The EU has just agreed legislation that will require all oil, gas and mining companies listed in Europe to publish what they pay to governments, in line with the US. Through the G8, we are pushing for equivalent standards to be applied globally.
The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative sets a global standard for this. The UK helped establish EITI in 2003 and has been one of its staunchest backers. We’re now actively considering whether and how the UK should implement this initiative.
We also want to support greater transparency around land transactions; and to publish more G8 government data, including about aid budgets, in an open and accessible format – so it’s of real use to citizens across the world. Information empowers citizens and allows them to take control of their own development. Governments across the world must be accountable to their citizens.
Equally important is ensuring that tax regimes are transparent and efficient. Already, the UK’s flagship governance programme in Ethiopia has helped their authorities increase tax revenue from £8.2bn per year in 2002 to £55bn in 2011.
Only in partnership together – developed and developing countries- can we ensure our systems work as they should. These tax revenues are integral to deliver the infrastructure and skills that will drive growth in the future.
The Prime Minister and I will be chairing a high-level G8 event on 15 June to drive forward progress on tax, trade and transparency. We want to discuss with businesses, NGOs and governments how to achieve real progress on the agenda.
So today is about celebrating the next 50 years of Africa’s unity. We can’t ignore the challenges we face, but we also need to focus on the major, growing commercial opportunities that do exist. Building on our work together through the African Union, EU and G8 and directly with African States, I can see opportunities that benefit both Africa and the UK.
Today’s forum is another important step in the right direction. I look forward to hearing the outcome of your discussions. Our relationship with Africa remains strong, but is changing.
We are partners focused on growth, jobs and security. So let’s look to the next fifty years of the African Union and the success of our work together in the future.
- That’s why we are introducing a bill cutting National Insurance Contributions for small businesses.
- Our Energy Bill will create green jobs and growth, supporting as many as 250,000 jobs in the private sector.
- Legislation for High Speed 2 will bring in the first main line to be built north of London for almost 120 years, creating another 100,000 jobs.
- Our bill modernising intellectual property rights will save millions of pounds for some of our most innovative companies.
- Liberal Democrat pensions minister Steve Webb’s Pensions Bill will make saving for retirement simpler and fairer.
- We are introducing a Care Bill to cap social care costs so that pensioners do not have to sell their homes to fund their long-term care. These are the kind of important long-term reforms that Labour always ducked.
- We are helping families with the cost of childcare, supporting people who want to get back to work but feel they cannot afford to.
- The Queen’s Speech includes measures to reward companies that play by the rules. We will be expanding the General Anti Abuse Rule to cover big firms that try to get out of paying National Insurance, and our Consumer Rights Bill will make it easier for people to ensure they get good value for money.
- And because we want Britain to be a place that attracts people who will play by the rules and make a contribution, an Immigration Bill will be brought forward to clamp down on people from overseas who abuse our public services.
- We will make sure people feel safer in their own communities. In this session we will introduce a new Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill that will do more to keep our neighbourhoods safe and secure. Our Offender Rehabilitation Bill will also transform the way offenders are dealt with once they leave prison, tackling persistent reoffending.
- Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill: will introduce new powers to tackling anti-social behaviour, giving victims a say in the way their complaints are dealt with; strengthen powers to tackle irresponsible dog ownership; establish the powers of the College of Policing in statute; extend the powers of the Independent Police Complaints Commission; establish an independent review body on police pay and conditions; criminalised forced marriage; and target the use of illegal firearms
- Care Bill: will simplify and modernise the framework for care and support; implement the cap on care costs that people will spend in their lifetime; introduce a number of measures in response to the Francis Inquiry, including a ratings system for hospitals and care homes, a single failure regime and a statutory duty of candour.
- Consumer Rights Bill (draft): will set out a simple, modern framework of consumer rights to promote growth through competitive markets.
- Defence Reform Bill: will improve the way we procure and support defence equipment and enhance the use of the Reserve Forces.
- Deregulation Bill (draft): will reduce the burden of excessive or unnecessary regulation on businesses, organisations and individuals
- Energy Bill (carry over): reforms the energy market to ensure secure, clean and affordable energy. The Bill was introduced in November 2012 and will continue its passage in the third session
- European Union (Approvals) Bill: will provide Parliamentary approval under the European Union Act 2011 for ministers to vote in favour of various proposals in Brussels: Pericles (anti-euro counterfeiting); Europe for Citizens (EU civic integration); and EU Archives (formalising the depositing of EU documents in an archive).
- Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill: will extend the scope of the regulatory regime currently governing remote gambling, providing greater consumer protection for people in Great Britain.
- High Speed Two Preparation Bill: will provide Parliamentary approval to incur expenditure on preparatory works for HS2 in advance of the planned Hybrid Bill.
- High Speed Two Hybrid Bill: will provide powers to construct and operate the London to West Midlands leg of the national High Speed 2 network (known as phase 1)
- Immigration Bill: will reform immigration law, including provisions to strengthen our enforcement powers and protect public services.
- Intellectual Property Bill: will simplify and strengthen design protection; make the IP system more accessible to SMEs and increase legal certainty and reduce risks in IP intensive markets.
- Local Audit and Accountability Bill: will close the Audit Commission, make new arrangements for the audit of local public bodies and increase local accountability by extending the Council Tax referendum lock to other levying bodies and putting the local government publicity code on a statutory footing.
- Mesothelioma Bill: will establish a Diffuse Mesothelioma payment Scheme and make related provision; and to make provision about the resolution of certain insurance disputes.
- National Insurance Contributions Bill: will extend the General Anti-Abuse Rule to National Insurance Contributions; introduce a National Insurance employment allowance of £2,000, reducing the cost of employment; prevent the use of offshore employment payroll companies to avoid employer National Insurance Contributions; and remove the presumption for self-employment for limited liability partnerships in some circumstances.
- Northern Ireland Bill: will give effect to a number of changes which will improve the operation of institutions and politics in Northern Ireland.
- Offenders Rehabilitation Bill: will ensure offenders will all be supervised after release and all offenders serving short sentences will have 12 months supervision; create a new rehabilitation requirement for community sentences; and provide incentives to offender management providers to innovate to reduce reoffending.
- Pensions Bill: will introduce a single-tier pension system, bring forward the increase in State Pension age to 67 and lay the framework for its regular review. It will also introduce a system for the automatic transfer of small pension pots.
- Water Bill: will reform the water industry in England and Wales and will also ensure flood insurance remains available and affordable in areas of high flood risk throughout the United Kingdom.
- Welsh Assembly Bill (draft): will move the National Assembly for Wales from four to five year fixed terms; remove the ban on candidates at an Assembly election standing in both a constituency and a region; and ensure that members of the Assembly cannot at the same time be members of the House of Commons.
Raising the tax-free allowance is the Liberal Democrats’ flagship policy and has so far seen Income Tax bills slashed by £600 a year for millions of low and middle income workers compared to what they were paying under Labour. As a result, more than 2m people on low pay have been lifted out of paying Income Tax altogether.
The tax-free allowance will rise again next year to £10,000, fulfilling a commitment from the front page of the Liberal Democrats’ 2010 General Election manifesto and resulting in a total tax cut of £700.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander said:
“If you get paid today, take a moment to compare your pay slip to last month’s. You’ll see that Liberal Democrats have cut your taxes.
“From this month, the Liberal Democrats will have lifted 2m people out of Income Tax and given a tax cut of £600 to more than 20m people.
“It has taken the Liberal Democrats being in Government to deliver the largest programme of tax cuts for working people for a generation.
“The Liberal Democrats are the only party that will radically cut taxes for people on low and middle incomes to build a stronger economy and a fairer society so that everyone can get on in life.”
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- Happy Pay Day! Check your pay slip & you’ll see @libdems have cut your taxes pic.twitter.com/FgFNzAHwIu