Lib Dem News
Nick Clegg statement on the passing of Nelson Mandela
"Our thoughts go out to the people of South Africa who will be left heartbroken by this sad news.
“Every so often history produces an individual whose message is universal, and Nelson Mandela will be mourned and missed on every continent around the globe. The hope he offered was enough to unite races; it bridged cultures and transcended generations; and it could heal the deepest divides.
“That hope must now live on. Nelson Mandela's legacy will continue to burn brightly, there is little doubt about that. But our greatest tribute to him will be our commitment to equality, humanity and peace - the values for which he very literally put his life on the line."
Free school meals for all infants
The policy, announced at the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference in September, is confirmed in the Government’s Autumn Statement.
As part of the Autumn Statement funding of £450m in 2014-15 and £635m in 2015-16 will be made available to the Department for Education to fund this commitment. This is new money into the Department for Education’s budget. We are also making £150m of capital available to ensure that schools can build new kitchens or increase dining capacity where necessary.
Commenting, Nick Clegg said:
“Early on I made it very clear that universal free school meals would be my personal priority in this Autumn Statement and I’m proud that we are now delivering it. From the start of the next school year, every single infant school pupil will be able to sit to down to a free school lunch.
“Every child deserves the best possible start in life, and at the same time we are doing all we can to help ease the pressure on household budgets. This not only encourages positive eating habits and helps improve concentration and performance in the classroom, but this will also mean significant savings for families.
“Providing universal free school meals will help give every child the future they deserve, building a stronger economy and a fairer society.”
Alexander unveils National Infrastructure Plan
It comes on the day that six major insurers announced plans to collectively invest £25bn in UK infrastructure over the next five years. Much of this investment could go into the projects published today.
Commenting, Danny Alexander said:
“The Liberal Democrats are building a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.
“Our economy is growing because of the hard work of people and businesses throughout Britain. But the Coalition's economic plan is the rock on which our recovery is being built – it wouldn't be happening without the Liberal Democrats.
“The announcement today that six major insurers will invest £25bn over the next five years is a massive vote of confidence in the UK economy. It supports the wider £100bn public investment to rebuild Britain over the next seven years that I announced at the Spending Round 2013. Underground, overground, on shore, offshore, wired or wireless, tarmac or train track. You name it, we’re building it right now.
“This is great news for the people of the UK because after years of neglect, the UK’s energy, road, rail, flood defence, communications and water infrastructure needs renewal. It will boost the UK economy creating jobs and making it easier to do business. It will also make the UK a better place to live for everyone who calls it their home.”
Small businesses receive boost from British Business Bank
The intent to set up a British Business Bank was announced by Vince Cable at the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference in September 2012 with £1bn of new funds to get money flowing to small businesses as fast as possible to help them expand.
This latest cash boost will support a range of new innovative interventions including capital support for new businesses.
Liberal Democrats in Government are committed to helping small business in order to boost growth and rebalance the economy.
The British Business Bank will be based in Sheffield.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:
“Liberal Democrats are building a stronger economy in a fairer society enabling everyone to get on in life.Business Secretary Vince Cable said:
“Small businesses are working hard to fuel our recovery and help us build a stronger economy.
“I am determined that we do all we can to help companies that have struggled to get the investment they need. Investment that means they can employ those extra people, take on that new order, and buy new equipment.
“The British Business Bank will give smaller companies who have struggled to get loans in the past easier access to millions of pounds of cash to grow and create more jobs.”
“The British Business Bank is the second bank this Government has set up since 2010 and is focused on helping SMEs grow.
“It is a new long-term institution which is helping to create more competition in the banking sector and give access to finance to businesses who are currently struggling with high street banks, to get the cash they need to invest in their future growth.
“Since I announced this initiative more than 10,000 businesses have already been helped and this new money will help it do more of that. The British Business Bank is fixing a big long term problem in our banking system and it is set to unlock up to £10bn of finance over the next five years to help small and medium sized businesses grow”
Local authorities to receive new funding from Air Quality Grant programme
The money will be used for a wide range of new local projects in 28 local authority areas which have each been awarded between £10,000 and £60,000.
Dan Rogerson said:
“Local authorities have come up with some great ideas for improving air quality across our towns and cities.The Annual Air Quality Grant Programme has allocated over £50 million to support local authorities in monitoring and improving air quality since it was first introduced in 1997.
“Air quality has improved significantly in recent decades and it’s vital we do everything we can to keep that going. Funding these projects is another important step and will help local authorities keep up their good work.”
The grant programme is focussed on supporting projects set up to deal with high nitrogen dioxide levels normally associated with road transport.
Local authorities which receive grant funding will be required to provide a progress report by November next year and audit checks will be carried out to check how appropriately the money has been spent.
Employment grows once again
“This is another encouraging sign that the economy is recovering.
“Today’s figures show the total number of people in employment is now at a record high, with the rise being driven by a growth in full-time and permanent jobs.“The Liberal Democrats in Government have helped business create more than a million private sector jobs, and now we are working to help create a million more.“This recovery would not be happening without the Liberal Democrats in Government.
“There is a long way to go, but the economy is on the mend and jobs are crucial to building a stronger economy and a fairer society that allows everyone to get on in life.”
Free childcare for 92,000 two-year-olds
Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg welcomed today’s figures which show that after one month of the launch of the scheme, around 70% of the identified 130,000 children are already benefitting from free childcare. This is up from 20,000 children accessing free early education in 2010.
Evidence shows that two-year-olds who have access to good and outstanding nurseries and childminders benefit in terms of their early language skills, and physical, social and emotional development.
Liberal Democrats in Government want to see more eligible two-year-olds in high quality early education.
The Government has committed to providing funding for 130,000 two-year-olds to access free places from September this year – increasing to 260,000 from next September. This offer is backed up by more than half a billion pounds of Government funding this year, rising to £760m in 2014-15.
Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:
“A child's future can too often be decided even before they hang their coat on a peg on the first day of primary school.
“Early access to high quality childcare is vitally important to ensure children are ready for school, ready for the world and able to get a good start in life.
“Giving disadvantaged children early support gives them the best possible chance to succeed, it means they're less likely to fall behind their wealthier classmates and it can make a huge impact on their future. It is vital for a fair and prosperous society.
"This funding has meant that after just one month, 92,000 eligible two year olds are already benefitting from support and learning that can help shape their future.”
Ed Davey speech: Opening Up the Energy Markets
I want to start today by saying how crucial your work is to the country.
You produce and supply the energy that keeps our society running.
That heats our homes, lights our streets and powers our working lives.
Every single day, working together, you supply the country with one billion kilowatt hours of electricity.
Enough power to make 50 billion cups of tea every day. Or cook over 750 million meals.
But it is not only the power you produce that people need.
It’s the 103 billion pound contribution to the economy you make every year.
The taxes you pay.
The 660,000 jobs the industry supports.
The new, modern, climate-friendly energy infrastructure you are building to make sure Britain is energy secure.
So a Britain of blackouts remains a memory of our past, not part of our future.
And now the economy is growing again, I expect this contribution to grow too – more jobs, more tax revenue, more investment in essential infrastructure.
And today I want to talk about this energy security challenge we face.
To ensure we have secure and affordable supplies of energy while we reduce the carbon emissions that cause climate change.
SERVE THE PUBLIC
But I have also come today to deliver a tough message.
Trust between those who supply energy and those who use it is breaking down.
You’ve admitted as much to me.
For it is so difficult for people to work out what exactly they are paying for, that they fear the big energy companies are taking them for a ride when bills go up.
Fair or not, they look at the big suppliers and they see a reflection of the greed that consumed the banks.
So this is a ‘fred the shred’ moment for the industry.
You deliver an essential public service, so your industry must serve the public – and the public must have trust in what you do.
The Government and Ofgem have been acting to open up the market, to increase competition, and put consumers in control of where they get their energy, and how they use it.
I want the energy companies to be part of that effort as well.
And that means opening up.
Opening up the wholesale markets, opening up the retail markets and opening up your books.
Because Government and society will not accept a closed shop in energy.
And so I want to talk about the changes we are putting in place to make sure the market work for consumers – keeping prices and bills as low as possible as we make sure energy supplies are secure.
But let me start first with that energy security challenge.
Because just as we need to work together to restore trust, so we need to work together to keep the lights on.
ENERGY SECURITY CHALLENGE
You are all well aware of the scale of the task we face.
Energy is the largest infrastructure programme across government.
We face a decade or more of structural transition as 20% of our old or polluting power stations go off line.
Replacing that capacity and moving increasingly towards low-carbon generation, as our climate-change commitments require, will be a herculean task requiring £110bn of capital investment between now and 2020.
Everything we do has to ensure that we drive investment into the system – not scare it off or freeze it out.
But that is also why energy is one of the biggest opportunities this country has to boost economic growth, speed up the recovery and create new high quality jobs in every nation and region of the United Kingdom.
This includes upstream extraction as well as infrastructure and networks.
We are providing the right conditions to make production in the North Sea commercially attractive with a system of incentives and tax reliefs worth billions of pounds.
Capital investment this year is expected to hit a record high of £13 billion with 167 new licences granted.
The indications coming out of Sir Ian Wood’s Review, which will report fully next year, suggest there is still more we can do with the potential to boost future returns by at least £200 billion.
Onshore, we are at an early stage with shale exploration – but it could also to add to indigenous energy supplies with significant benefits to the economy and energy security.
So we have put incentives in place to ensure that the necessary investigations take place to establish viability in the context of safe and environmentally friendly extraction.
But by far the biggest energy security challenge is to make sure that we create one of the most competitive and attractive electricity investment markets in the world that drives the transition to a cleaner, low-carbon energy system.
And that is exactly what the Energy Bill going through Parliament is for.
This is putting in place the most robust and comprehensive legal, financial and political framework for energy policy this country has ever had.
And – despite all the noise in the current debate over consumer energy bills – the Government’s Energy Bill is supported across the political parties.
Significant political consensus, worth reminding people of.
And that consensus, on the fundamentals, was confirmed once again by the Opposition front bench only last week.
So we expect the Bill to become law by the end of the year.
And the detailed proposals for implementing Electricity Market Reform we published last month will provide further certainty to industry and investors.
This builds on the progress over the summer with the publication of draft strike prices for renewable electricity under Contracts for Difference, a draft of the contract itself, and detailed proposals for the Capacity Market.
The fruits of bringing this greater predictability and certainty to investment are already showing.
Latest estimates suggest that at least £35 billion has been invested in new electricity infrastructure since 2010.
And much more is in the pipeline.
Renewable electricity capacity has increased by almost 40% since 2012.
Renewables are now supplying a record 15% share of electricity generation.
Halfway to the objective of generating around 30% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
In the past 12 months alone, we have provided consent for seven major energy infrastructure applications worth about £20 billion, with the capacity to generate electricity for more than 6 million homes.
That, of course, includes last month’s announcement that we have reached key commercial terms with EDF for the first new nuclear power station in a generation at Hinkley Point C.
So we are providing a framework for investors and the energy sector that gives long-term certainty with predictable returns, lowering risk and the cost of capital.
This is the market stability the Government is creating for the energy industry, to ensure energy security.
So, yes - the market has to work to meet our energy security needs and our historic infrastructure challenge.
Yes – we have to use the market to drive the decarbonisation that is imperative to meet climate change obligations to future generations.
So we do need our energy companies to be profitable.
So they can invest in our energy infrastructure, secure the energy supplies of the future, develop more energy efficient technologies, and create jobs.
But it is imperative that the markets, both wholesale and retail, deliver for the end-user.
Because ultimately markets that fail to meet the test of affordability for customers are markets that are broken.
Centrica’s Chief Executive, Sam Laidlaw, talked last week of the energy sector being in the ‘eye of the storm’.
Sam and I don’t always agree, but on this he is right.
When people see energy bills rising way above inflation year on year, you can understand the anger and frustration this causes.
People fear shareholder interests are being put in front of the needs of families and the fuel poor.
I am clear that the industry needs a reasonable rate of return.
Because without profit we won’t get investment.
And without investment, we risk a return to blackout Britain.
But those profits cannot come at the expense of the elderly, the vulnerable, and the poorest in our society.
Customers are not just cash cows to be squeezed in the pursuit of a higher return for shareholders.
And frankly, the latest round of bill rises have not been fully and openly justified.
And the public are right to challenge us, both Government and industry, to look at everything we are doing to see if we can bear down on rise.
So let me start with what the Government is doing before looking at what we expect you, the industry to achieve.
We do the country no favours if we resort to knee-jerk, quick fixes.
Some on the right wants us to turn our back on our social and environmental responsibilities by axing programs to help the fuel poor and boost green energy.
The left is in danger of reverting to type by bashing business, and proposing to fix prices.
But neither of these approaches actually solves the problem in the long-term.
Cutting energy bills by scrapping outright social and green levies punishes the fuel poor and punishes the future generations who will confront the full force of climate change.
If we were to pull back on our ambitions for tackling fuel poverty and energy efficiency, we would actually be hurting people.
And as I told the RenewableUK Conference last week, the level of support for investment incentives for renewables will remain as planned and as published because these are essential for investor confidence in the renewables sector and our commitments to a low-carbon economy.
Of course, as the Prime Minister has said, these subsidies and obligations shouldn’t exist one second longer than necessary – and that is why we keep them under continuous review.
And there is a valid debate about the method through which these policies are paid for – through bills, through taxation, or other means.
So it is right the Government looks at how we can reduce the impact of policies on bills and we expect to make announcements in the Autumn Statement in December.
But I am also clear that the role of Government is not to fix prices.
This will have a huge detrimental impact on the investment we need to deliver secure energy supplies.
And an investment squeeze would mean a huge blackhole in Britain’s energy security – risking blackouts and higher prices in the long run.
Price fixing would crush competition rather than encourage it.
Putting small suppliers out of business as they struggle to manage unpredictable rises in wholesale prices.
And, in the way it has been proposed by Labour for 20 months while they work out what to do next, it will have no permanent effect.
It’s a sticking plaster with no sticking power – it’s a con.
And, in my view, one of the most irresponsible proposals from a leader of the opposition made in modern times.
The best way to keep bills as low as possible for the long term is to continue to pursue our twin track strategy.
First energy efficiency – to help people use less energy and therefore pay less – through initiatives like the green Deal, ECO and energy demand reduction.
We are creating the first energy efficiency market in the world – so it will take time.
There will be no backing down on energy efficiency – because this is the way to bring bills down permanently.
The second is through robust and rigorous competition in the markets to bear down on costs and prices – keeping them as low as possible.
And that is what I want to concentrate on now.
We’ve seen small suppliers gain substantial business on the back of this year’s high price rises.
Customers should switch to get better deals from companies who don’t deliver on price or on good customer service.
And I will do everything I can to enable that choice.
And make that choice more available to the most vulnerable in our society too – through collective switching and working with trusted third parties like the Citizens Advice Bureau, Age UK and National Energy Action.
For competition and switching will only work well when there is a relationship of trust between suppliers and consumers.
And only when consumers have real choice and can control who they buy from.
So let me deal first with the issue of trust before turning to choice and control.
The Government’s commitment to look how our policies impact on bills must be matched by a commitment in industry to open up your books and set out exactly how you are bearing down on your own costs to make bills as low as possible.
As Sam Laidlaw said, “the starting point is about transparency, and the energy industry does not have a good story to tell here.”
There is nowhere near enough scrutiny of how supplier operating costs and profits are made up and why these costs are justified.
The industry must be much more transparent and Ofgem will have our full support to introduce whatever regulations are necessary to deliver that greater transparency.
Ofgem already require the big energy suppliers to produce annual statements showing the costs and profits of their generation and supply activities.
This makes the market clearer for consumers so they can see the margins energy suppliers make on the different parts of their business.
But the overall transparency of financial flows within companies remain opaque.
Ofgem will deliver by spring next year, a full report on the transparency of the financial accounts of the energy companies and ways that that could be improved, building on the work already completed by accountancy firm BDO.
So I urge you to engage fully with the current Ofgem consultation.
This should not be a reactive process.
You need to come forward with ideas about how you can open up too.
And that includes issues such as how direct debits and bill credits are managed.
That is why I’m pleased, after meeting with Greg Barker last week, that Energy UK has agreed to develop and take forward a best practice model with its members.
Because the more you demonstrate what you are doing to keep bills down, the quicker trust will be rebuilt.
But trust is only one part of the equation.
Today’s highly regulated market must be improved to boost the competition that we know delivers for consumers.
To deliver a real ability for people to control where they get their energy from and how they pay for it.
RETAIL MARKET REFORM
First they have to be able to easily compare prices and to switch to a provider and tariff that gives them the best deal.
Ofgem’s Retail Market Reforms will do away with the complex web of hundreds of tariffs and confusing information on bills.
By December Ofgem’s cap on the number of tariffs suppliers can offer will be in place and by the end of March consumers will have clearer bills showing the cheapest tariff suppliers offer.
But we can go still further to make sure that retail competition operates effectively by working together to unpick the laborious switching system which deters people from acting in their best interests.
That is why I have challenged the suppliers to deliver faster switching.
I met yesterday with representatives from many of the suppliers and I’m encouraged by the commitment to make this happen.
But people also need a choice of who to switch to and that is why I am determined to help dilute the dominance of the big six over the retail and wholesale markets.
Competition works best when established companies are challenged by innovators, forcing them to adapt their practices to make sure they continue to deliver for their customer base.
That is why the contraction of the number of suppliers under the last Government from 14 majors in 2000 to just 6 in 2010 was so damaging.
Freeze out new entrants and you freeze out new business models and new ideas that can deliver better, faster and cheaper for customers.
So our reforms are opening up the retail market.
In 2010 there was no independent domestic supplier with a customer base greater than 50,000.
Now we have three independents with more than 100,000 customers, and a further eight companies have entered the market since May 2010.
I am determined that this trend continues.
With 98% of domestic customers still with the big six, there is a lot of room for greater competition and diversity.
To do that we also need to make sure that the market is accessible to independent generators on a fair basis in the wholesale market.
Our reforms in the wholesale market may have received almost no attention but I regard them as critical in our fight for consumers.
WHOLESALE MARKET REFORM
Thanks to improvements achieved already in the last year or so – led by Ofgem - the big barrier for generators is clearly no longer the day-ahead market but the forward markets.
Here the UK’s performance is poor.
This is where there is now great scope to drive competition and drive down prices.
Ofgem have now set in train an ambitious package of reform.
The proposed Market Maker reforms will provide independent generators and suppliers greater access to the power generated by the Big Six and other large power producers, enabling them to purchase and deliver cheaper energy to consumers.
This transparency in the way electricity is traded will give independent generators a foothold in the UK energy market and encourage new players to invest.
I am prepared to use the powers we are taking in the Energy Bill to improve energy market liquidity should Ofgem’s proposals be delayed or frustrated.
So I would urge companies to work with Ofgem to implement these proposals as swiftly as possible.
And how can we make sure that the raft of reforms from retail to wholesale are having the desired effect?
Well that is the purpose of the new annual competition review.
The first of the new competition assessments will be delivered by spring next year.
The assessment will be undertaken by Ofgem, working closely with the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition and Markets Authority when it comes into being.
Now the exact metrics for the review will be a matter for the regulators.
But I have made it clear that they should look in depth and across the energy sector at profits and prices, barriers to entry and consumer engagement.
The Government has equipped the regulators with strong powers to deal with unjustified barriers to competition.
If abuses are found they must be addressed.
I speak as the former Minister for Competition, who made and drove the decision to establish the Competition and Markets Authority and reform Britain’s competition law.
So I can be clear with you.
The CMA has teeth.
And the annual competition assessment is an innovation I expect they will cut their teeth on.
So trust is about playing by the rules.
And rules have to be enforced.
Companies that play outside the rules will be penalised and fined.
With our Energy Bill, Ofgem has powers to require energy companies to make compensation payments directly to consumers who have lost out, but we can and should go further.
That is we intend to consult on the introduction of criminal sanctions for anyone found manipulating energy markets and harming the consumer interest.
This is the proper way for Government to intervene in the markets.
Set the right rules and enforce them properly.
That is what we are doing.
That is what will have lasting effect delivering for generators, suppliers and consumers alike, in the years ahead.
Making sure investment continues to flow, that industry can flourish and that the markets deliver for consumers.
So this is a tough message I’ve delivered today.
These are very difficult and complex issues we are working through.
There is no quick fix.
And I reject the counsel of those who say you must be either on the side of consumers or the side of business.
That is the bad old days of conflict and division.
We need to make sure we keep bills affordable.
But we also need our energy sector fit and healthy.
Delivering the power we need.
Delivering jobs and economic growth.
Building the modern climate-friendly energy infrastructure that will keep this country running far into the future.
And with the stability and certainty the Government is providing, now is the time to grow and invest and improve.
And I know that you are rising to this challenge.
So let’s together meet the challenge of affordability too.
Making sure that well regulated and competitive markets deliver for the hard-working citizens of this country.
Staying the Course on the Environment #whyiamgreen
Cracks in the green consensus
Over the years, I’ve heard the green agenda described in a number of ways: vote winner, vote loser; niche interest; minority sport; middle class luxury; Lib Dem obsession, even.
For a long time, politically-speaking, the environment was up.
Tony Blair entered Downing Street on a promise to put it right at the heart of government.
The Conservatives asked us to vote blue in order to go green.
And yet these days, across much of the Westminster village at least, the environment is being written off by campaign chiefs on both left and right: too expensive in hard times; a distraction from more pressing debates.
On no other issue has the political establishment proved more fickle.
Just look at the current debate on energy bills and green levies. The same Conservative and Labour politicians who used to shout at one another across the Despatch Box: ‘you don’t care about the environment, we’re the greenest’ now turn the accusation on its head: ‘you care too much about the environment, you’re the greenest’.
Labour’s promise to temporarily freeze energy bills – as well as being a con, with energy companies bound to hike up prices both before and after – would also be a huge blow to our renewables sector – spooking investors and threatening billions of pounds worth of investment in green energy. The only thing green about this policy is its naivety.
Labour have undermined what was their one and only green pledge – a decarbonisation target – with a policy that would damage the very industry needed to deliver it. They’re abandoning the environment to score a few populist points. It’s utterly Janus-faced.
Senior members of the Conservative party now openly attack environmental policies as anti-growth, as well as publically question the threat of climate change.
And yet all of us sat to hear Sir Mark Walport, the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, when he came last month and explained to the Government that the recent IPCC report - which made clear the threats posed by man-made climate change - was the most exhaustive, authoritative, peer reviewed report on climate change ever published. How much more hard science is needed to convince the climate change deniers they’ve got it wrong?
And the upshot of all of this? That the green consensus across the political parties is, I’m afraid, falling away.
The right time to go green
And at the worst possible time. Conventional wisdom tells us that the environment must now go on the backburner while we prioritise our economic recovery – but I believe the opposite is true. If there was ever a time to sharpen our focus on our green commitments, it’s now.
There is a perfect symmetry between the nature of our economic recovery and our environmental responsibilities.
We are a nation learning to live within our means. We have been forced to shift our sights to the horizon, so that we think not just of quick profits today, but of lasting prosperity tomorrow, driven by responsible business and sustainable growth. In government and in millions of households up and down the country, we have been reminded of the value of every penny and every resource – these days nothing is taken for granted. And everything we are doing – every difficult decision – is about ensuring our children do not pay the price for our mistakes.
What better set of values to underpin a renewed commitment to our environment?
The cynics will say: forget it, people aren’t interested, they’ve got enough on their plates.
And of course, if you ask people to list their priorities at a time when they are struggling to pay their mortgage, or put food on the table, protecting the environment will come much lower down.
But this idea that the British people have suddenly stopped caring about green issues simply isn’t true.
A few weeks ago, I announced a 5p charge on throw-away plastic bags. I cannot tell you how many people advised me against it. I was warned that this was the wrong time. It would be presented in the media as a tax on hardworking people. I would look out of touch.
Yet every single person I have spoken to about it since has told me they support the move. Even the few who have grumbled to me that they would have preferred Government to foot the cost have still agreed: if it reduces the carrier bags blighting our countryside and harming our wildlife – which it will – it’s a small price to pay.
The desire to protect and conserve our natural heritage is a very British thing. And which parent doesn’t want their children to grow up in a Britain where the air and water are clean? Who wants their grandchildren to be condemned to a world of droughts, heatwaves, floods?
I often take my three sons walking across the rocky cliffs of Stanage Edge in the Peak District, near my constituency, and you cannot put a price on the excitement of their faces when they’re let loose on those rocks. Our connection to our environment is emotional, and those feelings don’t simply switch on and off.
So today I want to make it very clear that my commitment to the green agenda is as strong as it ever was, and it will stay that way – whether fashionable or not, and no matter what the other parties do. I was as pleasantly surprised as you were, back in 2010, to hear a Conservative Leader declare he wanted this to be the greenest government ever. And every day my colleagues and I are working hard to hold our coalition partners to their word.
Our view is simple: the Government made a commitment to the environment, and we must now stay the course. We stuck to our guns on the economic strategy and deficit reduction – despite endless calls to abandon it. We did that because it is right for the generations that will follow us. And in exactly the same way, for exactly the same reason, we must hold our nerve on the environment too.
Over the last three years we’ve achieved a lot.
The Liberal Democrats haven’t got everything we wanted. It’s well known, for example, that Ed Davey, Danny Alexander and I argued for the inclusion of a 2030 decarbonisation target in the Energy Bill. We wanted to get on the front foot, giving the power sector the certainty that will encourage them to start reducing their emissions now.
However, we couldn’t win the Conservatives round and it came down to finding a compromise. We agreed to delaying the setting of the target to 2016 and, in return, they agreed to triple the funding for renewable energy. The Liberal Democrats remain committed to an ambitious decarbonisation target, and that will certainly be in our manifesto next time round, but these are sometimes the realities of coalition.
But plenty of battles have been won, and there are a whole range of big, significant reforms now underway.
Ed Davey’s Energy Bill is going to create the world’s first low carbon electricity market. Over the last year alone, the amount of renewable electricity generated in the UK has grown dramatically.
On our watch, the UK has increased its lead as the world’s number one generator of offshore wind.
Britain is on track to meet our target of getting 15% of our energy from renewables by 2020.
Vince Cable’s Green Investment Bank – another world first – is up and running. Its first few projects alone will support a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking over 1 million cars off our roads.
80% of the 85,000 homes which have had a Green Deal assessment have told us that they have or intend to install an energy saving measure as a result.
We’ve introduced the Local Sustainable Transport Fund – a pot of money for councils to invest specifically in low carbon transport schemes.
Over £1 billion is now being invested to make it easier for people to get about on foot and by bike, buses, trains and trams.
As we head to the annual UN climate change negotiations in Warsaw next week, we do so as a leading voice within the EU, where we are pushing, crucially, for agreement to cut the EU’s greenhouse gases by 50% by 2030. This is the most ambitious target proposed by any member state. A robust EU target will be absolutely crucial for getting a good global deal at the Paris Summit in 2015. And whichever party gets in at the next election will need to make these negotiations a priority from day one.
In our natural environment, we’ve introduced a presumption in favour of sustainable development, and maintained strong protections for the Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Something many of the people in this room were involved in.
We’re on track to plant a million more trees by the end of the parliament – the majority in the most deprived and least green areas.
After a comprehensive review, we plan to launch a new National Pollinator strategy next spring to protect the country’s bees and many other pollinating insects.
We’re reducing the amount of waste we send to landfill and we’re investing in cleaning up England’s rivers, lakes and waterways.
We’ve promoted animal welfare, including ending the practice of keeping laying hens in tiny battery cages and, for the first time, implementing welfare standards for game-birds. We are also strongly committed to working with our international partners to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, and in a few months we’ll be hosting a major international conference in London to agree the action that is needed.
We’re seeing encouraging progress on biodiversity – this year’s biodiversity assessment report shows, for example, more land and sea protected and fish stocks better managed.
We have also now implemented the Marine and Coastal Access Act, which seeks to improve the management and protection of our marine environment and increase public access to our coastal paths: so more people can access the beauty of Britain’s landscape, and we’re going to be saying more about marine conservation shortly.
So we haven’t sat back. We haven’t satisfied ourselves with a bit tinkering at the edges.
Our task in government now is keeping up this momentum. There is no doubt about the challenges presented by the changing political climate. The Liberal Democrats are now the only one of the three main parties which still sees the environment as a priority, and we take our responsibilities extremely seriously here.
Protecting the green agenda will, in my view, require leadership on three specific fronts.
First, we need to aggressively counter the myth that if you are for the environment you must be against the consumer.
Second, we must ensure that, as we continue with our recovery, we make low carbon industry a cornerstone of the new economy.
Third, we need a renewed focus on our natural environment. Our efforts to drive UK prosperity will be meaningless if we don’t protect our natural wealth.
Before I say more on each of these points, I want to make clear that this is very much an agenda where I want to work with you, the people in this room.
I know there are some concerns about the impact that the Transparency Bill is going to have on the way that green groups can work with the government, so let me address that head on.
The legislation the Government has put forward does not in any way affect the day to day work of charities. All it seeks to do is to make sure that people with very deep pockets cannot distort the democratic process, subverting the legitimate role of democratic parties.
Let me give you an example. At the moment you could have the oil industry going down to Brighton Pavilion and saying, “Don’t vote for the Greens, because the lights will go out if they get re-elected”. Nothing stops big oil from basically hijacking the Brighton Pavilion electoral contest. This kind of thing is not an idle threat – we have seen it in the US and here at the last General Election spending by non-party organisations doubled. So we have to act.
But we understand that there are fears that some very small organisations might be caught up in the legislation – and we’ve listened to those.
We’ve confirmed this week that we will amend the Bill to raise the thresholds for campaign spending above which organisations must register.
And we’ll also allow additional time for the Bill to be considered in the House of Lords, to ensure we have time to consult further with civil society and provide the necessary reassurances. Third parties not engaged in electoral campaigning do not need to fear the impact of this Bill.
Consumers vs green
So back to leadership on three fronts.
First we’ve all heard the argument that going green is too expensive - we cannot afford it in these straitened times.
It’s a powerful argument, and with millions of households feeling the squeeze, it shouldn’t be underestimated. And of course we need to keep down the cost of bills – no one should pay a penny more than is absolutely necessary.
But we also need to keep the lights on, and the answer to high bills isn’t turning our backs on the fuel poor; or the tens of thousands of people who are employed in the green renewable energy sector; or sacrificing our environment.
And we need to be much more robust – all of us - in rejecting utterly the idea that being pro-green is somehow anti-consumer. That is a false choice and it warps the public discussion around these issues.
We will all be better off when the UK relies less on gas and coal. The Government has taken the strategic decision to move away from an overreliance on a small number of imported sources of energy, where the price is volatile, in order to spread our bets across a more diverse range of domestic supplies. Yes that has to include gas, nuclear and shale. But it is also about creating an energy mix with a much bigger role for low carbon – where costs are falling, and will continue to fall.
We’ll all be better off when our homes waste less heat.
And we are all better off when British green businesses flourish. We must never, ever talk about consumers as if they are somehow divorced from the wider economy. The UK’s green industry is worth around £128 billion and employs almost a million people. We’re relieved when we hear that the economy is expected to grow this year by 1.4%. Well between 2011 and 2012, the low carbon and renewable sector grew by around 3% and it’s expected to keep on growing.
So whenever someone tells you that we can’t afford to go green, correct them: we can’t afford not to. If you are for the environment, you are for cutting bills, growing our economy and creating jobs.
Which brings me to number two: the need to build on our strengths in green industry.
The UK’s economy has turned a corner, there is no doubt about it. But the job isn’t finished yet. The Coalition will need to spend the next eighteen months locking in the recovery, and whoever is in government after 2015 will need to continue with that task.
If that is my party, we will do everything we can to strengthen the role of the low carbon sector in the new economy.
The UK is already a world leader in marine energy and offshore wind, but we cannot be complacent.
China, India, America, Germany, Brazil – the race is on with our competitors for green global investment. China has committed to invest $286bn in renewables - that’s bigger than the Finnish economy. On energy efficiency, they’re investing $376bn in energy efficiency - that’s bigger than the economy of the United Arab Emirates.
And if Britain wants to keep up, our green industries need maximum political support. My Coalition partners talk a lot about winning the global race. Well, this is one area where we are in pole position and it would be a huge mistake to take our foot off the pedal now: economic myopia of the worst kind.
Given the nature of their investments, we need to give low carbon firms as much clarity and certainty as possible. Not least in our sweeping reforms of the electricity market, and we’re on track to achieve Royal Assent for the Energy Bill by the end of the year – exactly in line with our timetable.
On the fourth Carbon Budget, Government has committed to reviewing it and it’s no secret that some people on the right will want to reduce our ambitions, but I think it’s important that Government remains committed to targets which are as ambitious as possible, setting a lead for carbon reduction across the world.
Vince Cable and I also want to see the Green Investment Bank given the power to borrow on the markets as early as possible in the next parliament – in order to support greater levels of investment.
And I can confirm that the Coalition is today giving a big push to one of the most promising of our green industries: ultra low emission vehicles.
The UK’s automotive industry has undergone a renaissance in recent years and we have the potential to emerge as a trailblazer in the development, design and manufacture of green cars. The Nissan factory in Sunderland produces the world’s number one electric car – the LEAF. And Toyota chose their factory in Derbyshire as the first place outside Japan to mass manufacture their hybrid technology.
We’re doing well compared to our European competitors, helped by a buoyant UK car market. But, if we’re to stay ahead we need to secure the UK’s position as both a global leader in the production and adoption of low carbon vehicles. We need to see more people who live in Britain driving these cars and enjoying the lower running costs they can bring.
The benefits in terms of our greenhouse gas emissions could, potentially, be very significant – around a fifth come from our roads, which is why the Coalition has said that we want all new cars and vans purchased here to be effectively zero emission by 2040. And, of course, this is how we can dramatically improve the air we breathe too.
The Coalition committed £400 million, from 2010 to 2015, to help take this from a niche to mainstream market – with support to provide plug in charging points, boost consumer interest, and strengthen R&D.
And in this year’s Spending Review we announced a further £500 million to be invested by 2020 – making this one of the longest and most substantial packages of support for Ultra Low Emissions Vehicles in the world.
The job now is making sure that we get the most out of every penny, so today I am launching a call for evidence from key players in the industry to find out how we kick start demand and make the UK the number one European destination for investment in ultra low emissions vehicles.
Tell us what the barriers are. Tell us how we can help reduce costs and keep these vehicles affordable. Tell us what changes we need in our infrastructure and business environment.
Because I think it’s especially important that we hear from the leading innovators in this field, alongside our call for evidence, I’ve also asked Elon Musk, a pioneer of electric vehicles in the US, and CEO and co-founder of Tesla Motors, to personally advise Government on how we can reach the UK tipping point for electric vehicles more quickly.
Elon helped design the ground-breaking Tesla Roadster. He brings unmatched expertise to the table. Among other issues, he’ll consider how we can boost investment, massively increase the take up of electric vehicles across the country and promote the benefits of ultra low emission vehicles more widely to drivers.
Our call for evidence will run alongside this work until 10 January, and we’ll be saying more in the months that follow.
Without wanting to pre-empt the outcomes of either of these pieces of work, I do think it’s clear that – despite the valuable long-term savings they offer - the current upfront costs of electric cars are still quite high. They currently make most financial sense for the biggest purchasers and biggest users of cars we have: fleet vehicles, hire cars and taxis – cars that are on the road every day and can take full advantage of the lower running costs.
So I especially want to hear from fleet purchasers, and that includes those in the private and public sector, cab companies and others about what they would need to make the jump from buying low emission to specifically ultra-low emission vehicles.
We already have some excellent tax incentives to help drive adoption of this technology in the crucial fleet sector. But what else can we do?
If we get this right, we can help secure the UK’s position as a global leader in ultra low emission vehicles, and that would be a huge boon for our economy, and our environment too.
Third, we need to remember, in all of this, the importance of our natural environment.
There is a great deal of discussion and debate about the UK’s future; about how we make ourselves richer; about the kind of country we wish to be.
And yet we rarely ask ourselves the role our natural world must play in this. That is a mistake. Our recovery, our legacy – these aren’t just about GDP; that’s the argument I made at the Rio Summit last year. We are bending over backwards to clear our debts for our children and grandchildren – but they will be infinitely poorer unless we protect their natural inheritance too.
So we must now find a way of elevating the natural environment so that it is given proper consideration and protection – and that’s where government has to take a lead.
While Whitehall has, by and large, become pretty good at thinking about the other bit of the environmental agenda – our carbon footprint – the impact of our actions on the natural environment has rarely been as high in policymakers’ minds.
So, in Coalition, we have been trying to correct that imbalance. We produced the first White Paper devoted to the natural environment in twenty years, and out of that we’ve seen a new Biodiversity Strategy for England as well as the first ever comprehensive assessment of our eco-systems.
As many of you know, the Liberal Democrats blocked the merger of Natural England with the Environment Agency, which would have effectively seen the former scrapped. And we’ve established a Natural Capital Committee to advise Government on the sustainable use of the country’s natural assets. One further step, although not for this parliament, would be a statutory body advising the government on the natural environment – an equivalent to the committee on climate change – and that is something we are now looking at as a party.
I believe our presence in Whitehall has also been critical in giving Departments the confidence to uphold and enforce important environmental protections.
During our reforms of the planning system, for example, while we wanted to minimise the administrative burden for applicants, it was important to us that we protect Statutory Consultees – including the green organisations that have to be consulted during the planning application process. Of course we don’t support pointless red tape, but we’re not allergic to these kinds of regulations. We’re not ideological about it. Smart, green regulation plays a hugely important role in protecting our natural assets.
So, to finish, my aim today is straightforward: I want you to leave here knowing that there is still a mainstream political party – a governing party – for whom the environment is a priority.
You and your organisations have become the guardians of the green agenda in Britain. You have held to your convictions as politicians and governments have come and gone, and I want you to know directly, from me, that this Coalition will not turn its back on the environment. Not any government of which my party is a part.
You will hold our feet to the fire, and I welcome it. But rest assured that we want the same thing: to defend the green agenda; to protect the environment; to take the right decisions now for the generations that will follow us.
Public register will boost company transparency
The register will contain information on individuals with an interest in more than 25% of a company’s shares or voting rights, or who otherwise control the way it is run.
This means there will be greater transparency of company ownership and control, making it easier to expose bad practice.
Liberal Democrat Business Minister Jo Swinson said:
“A stronger economy depends on investors, employees and the public having trust and confidence in companies and those that are running them.
“We believe a public register, listing those who really own companies makes Britain a better place to invest and do business. People have a right to know who controls UK companies and greater openness will help tackle tax evasion, money laundering and other crimes.
“The vast majority of companies and directors in the UK contribute productively to the economy, abide by the rules and make an enormous contribution to society. But the few who operate in the shadows, threaten the trust on which good business is based. Liberal Democrats in Government are shining a light on who really owns and controls companies in the UK.”
Labour must stop putting politics over national interest on HS2
“The Labour leadership’s muddle over HS2 has caused confusion for business and led to their own party warning of the damage their political games could do to the North of England.
“It’s welcome they are now saying they do support the North-South rail line. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls need to promise to stick to this position and stop putting party political tactics over the national interest.”
Final nail in the coffin of immigration vans
“This report just goes to show what a horrible failure these vans were.
“It is important to give people information about returning to their country of origin, but it must be done in the right way.
“Over 1,000 people complained about these vans and we always said they were distasteful and inappropriate.
“The Advertising Standards Agency ruled they made false claims and communities were unnecessarily demonised.
“The Liberal Democrats have always made clear these vans will not return and this report is the final nail in their coffin.”
Liberal Democrats in Government driving economic recovery
The figures show Britain’s economic growth of 0.8% with a 2.5% rise in construction.
Today’s figures show the economy is growing and that Liberal Democrats in Government have helped to stabilise the economy. This recovery would not be happening without Liberal Democrats in Government.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:
“Today’s GDP figures are encouraging and show that we are firmly on the road to economic recovery.
“This Government has set Britain on the right course by repairing the country’s finances and helping to create 1.4 million new private sector jobs.
“We must continue to work hard to build a stronger economy and do it fairly, with investment in jobs and measures such as the increased personal tax allowance putting more money in the pockets of hard-working people.”
Reforms for women offenders will improve family life and employment opportunities
The reforms will provide employment opportunities for low risk offenders.
Prison service staff will be responsible for forging links with local employers and providing practical training so offenders are able to join the workforce on release.
Next year we will be piloting a new open unit at HMP Styal focused on helping women into jobs on release. Only thoroughly risk-assessed female offenders would be eligible to be located there.
These reforms will help build on a falling female prison population, down by 10 per cent since 2010, alongside falling crime rates.
Commenting, Lord McNally said:
“When a female offender walks out of the prison gates, I want to make
sure she never returns.
“Keeping female prisoners as close as possible to their homes, and importantly their children, is vital if we are to help them break the pernicious cycle of re-offending.
“And providing at least a year of support in the community, alongside the means to find employment on release, will give them the best possible chance to live productive, law abiding lives.”
Nick Clegg speech at Morpeth School
A LIBERAL VISION FOR EDUCATION
The fundamental reason why, I believe, education matters so much is to ensure every child has a fair chance of a successful life. That’s also why, I expect, many of you got into this profession in the first place.
Yet despite the efforts of successive Governments and the progress made to raise education standards in this country, on average, children from poorer families still do worse than their better off peers.
As last week’s report from the independent Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission shows, here in Britain, your parents’ income still remains the biggest indicator of what you’ll go on to achieve. More than your talent and potential. And more than in most other countries in Europe.
Some claim this is just a fact a life. They argue that any chance for social mobility in this country ended when the final bell rang for grammar schools, and disparage any efforts to break the link between disadvantage and achievement as social engineering at its worst.
I cannot accept this view. In politics, and in this Coalition, what motivates me and my party - more than any other issue – is increasing social mobility: building a fairer society, where everyone can succeed, irrespective of the circumstances of their birth.
So, when we came into government, in education, we prioritised three things:
First, ending Labour’s micromanagement of our schools. For thirteen years, Labour responded to every problem in our education system with a new target from the central government – frustrating our teachers and stifling the creativity needed to drive excellence across the board.
Second, we wanted to use the muscle of the state to level the playing field so that all children can flourish – not just the well-off. That’s what our £2.5 billion pupil premium is for – additional money to help close the gap, which we are beginning to see having an effect.
And, third, we wanted to make sure that the state is intervening where it can make the biggest difference - when children are young. Access to high-quality early years education helps give children the best possible start in life. That’s why I have made the early years a personal priority: we have increased the hours available for three and four year olds and extended it to two year olds in families which are most feeling the squeeze. Last month I announced free school meals for all children in infant school; and, one of the first things David Laws did when he became Schools Minister was insist that we rebalanced the pupil premium so that more of the money goes to children when they are in primary school, to help them catch up before they fall too far behind.
Freedom for schools; a level playing field for all children: and more support for children in their earliest years.
It’s an approach that seeks to drive diversity and autonomy within the schools system, but with the guarantee of opportunities for all.
So freedom, yes, but with fairness too. For liberals, it is essential we provide both.
FREEDOM WITH FAIRNESS
I’m proud of our work over the last three years to increase school autonomy, which, in Government with the Conservatives, has been through the academies programme. It is Liberal Democrat policy to give all schools, whether they are academies or not, those same freedoms to attract and reward excellent teaching, set their own term dates and vary their school day.
We believe greater autonomy enables school leaders to take responsibility in those areas where they know what’s best for their pupils, whilst also giving them the freedom to innovate.
But it shouldn’t surprise you if I say that, although we work well with the Conservatives, our two parties still have differences of opinion - some strongly held. And looking to the future, there are aspects of schools policy currently affected by the priorities of the Conservative Party which I would not want to see continue.
For example, whilst I want to give schools the space to innovate, I also believe every parent needs to know that the school their child attends, whatever its title or structure, meets certain core standards of teaching and care. A parental guarantee - if you like.
Parents don’t want ideology to get in the way of their children’s education. They don’t care about the latest political label attached to their child’s school. What they want, and expect, is that their children are taught by good teachers, get taught a core body of knowledge, and get a healthy meal every day.
What is the point of having a slimmed-down national curriculum if only a few schools have to teach it? Let’s teach it in all our schools.
And what is the point of having brilliant new food standards if only a few schools have to stick to the rules? Let’s have quality food in all our schools.
That’s my philosophy. Diversity amongst schools, yes. But good universal standards all parents can rely on too. And, frankly, it makes no sense to me to have qualified teacher status if only a few schools have to employ qualified teachers.
Over the last ten years, there’s been a revolution in the way in which we’ve recruited and trained our teachers. Whether it’s through the on-the-job learning offered through schemes like Teach First and School Direct or the continued contribution of our universities to educating generations of Britain’s teachers.
Together, these diverse routes into the classroom have raised the public profile and status of our teachers and enabled more graduates, more teaching assistants and more people from a range of backgrounds to join this profession. What all of these routes have in common is that at the end of them you are recognised as a Qualified Teacher. And I want every parent to know that their child will benefit from this kind of high quality teaching.
That’s why I believe we should have qualified teachers in all our schools.
That means free schools and academies too.
This view has sparked quite a bit of excitement this week – and some criticism: the idea that, if you seek to give parents reassurances on basic standards, you are somehow turning your back on school autonomy. And, equally, that having open differences of this kind is bad for Coalition government.
Let me say something on both points.
In my first ever speech as Lib Dem leader, back in 2008, I called for a new generation of schools which could be set up by different providers, like educational charities, parents and voluntary organisations, providing they had the right credentials. My party supports school freedom. At our conference in the spring of this year, the Liberal Democrats passed a motion celebrating the unprecedented freedom granted to head teachers and teachers by the Coalition Government. The party wants to see all schools have more freedoms like academies.
But I am totally unapologetic for believing that, as we continue to build a new type of state funded school system – in which parents are presented with a dizzying range of independent, autonomous schools, each with its own different specialism, ethos or mission – parents can make their choice safe in the knowledge that there are certain safeguards. A safety net, if you like, to prevent their children from falling through the cracks.
So, yes, I support free schools and academies, but not with exemptions from minimum standards. That’s the bit I want to see change. And that will be clearly set out in our next General Election manifesto.
There is nothing – absolutely nothing – inconsistent in believing that greater school autonomy can be married to certain core standards for all.
And I am totally unapologetic that the Liberal Democrats have our own ideas about how we do that.
Ultimately, the Labour Party is hostile to school autonomy – their instincts always take them back to Whitehall’s heavy hand.
Meanwhile, many on the Right are hostile to setting minimum educational standards. At least they are in academies and free schools. In maintained schools, however, the Conservatives seem to believe it is alright to micromanage things down to which ancient British kings are taught in history class. All that I ask is that we seek to deliver the same balance of freedoms and core standards across all schools.
And, in the liberal centre, the Liberal Democrats – and, I believe, most parents – know that there is a balance to be struck:
So in the future, the Liberal Democrats will seek to build on everything we have achieved in this Coalition – driving greater diversity and freedom in all our schools.
But, as we do, we will also strive to make sure that every parent can send their children off in the morning, knowing that, whatever kind of school they go to – academy, free school, maintained school, whichever – their sons and daughters will be taught core subjects, by qualified teachers and they’ll get healthy meal.
On this and other aspects of education policy the Liberal Democrats will carry on setting out our stall: for example, last month I made it clear that I will want to see schools funding protected in the next Parliament – that’s a Liberal Democrat priority for our next manifesto.
People have a right to know what our vision for the future is. And explaining that vision is perfectly consistent with the Liberal Democrats being proud of what we have done in this coalition, and continuing to work with our coalition partners to deliver radical reform and the strong government the country needs. Being in Coalition today doesn’t prevent either of the Coalition parties setting out how we may differ in the future. That’s how Coalition works.
And I can tell you today that one area where we have agreed further reform is on better support for our teachers and school leaders – the people who are too often missing from the debate on structures and standards.
It’s a cliché to say it, but no less true that what you never forget about your school days are those teachers who changed your life.
A good teacher knows how to inspire and enthral a class of children to learn - whatever the subject.
He or she recognises each child for the individual they are, and does whatever they can to help that child build on their talents for a happy, successful life.
As a father of three school-age children, I also speak from experience when I say these are the teachers that your children never stop talking about when they get home from school.
That special connection - with someone who makes you as enthusiastic about learning, as they are about teaching - is what defines, for many of us, the very best in education.
It’s what we want for our children. It’s what we expect from our local schools. And critically, it’s what the brightest and best teachers in Britain strive to achieve every single day.
As Jemima Reilly, the head of this school, told us, “We are proud to attract and maintain good quality teachers...we give our teachers the space to grow and in turn their students grow and flourish alongside them.”
And as Ofsted has pointed out, if you’re a poor child going to school in some parts of Britain, you’re less likely to do well than poor children here in Tower Hamlets.
This isn’t just Britain’s inner cities that we’re talking about here. In some cases, these are relatively prosperous regions like West Berkshire and Shropshire and our seaside towns like Blackpool or Hastings.
The issue isn’t that there aren’t brilliant schools or teachers in these areas. There are.
But there are also weak schools and schools which have simply stalled.
These schools are failing many children – including from disadvantage backgrounds - who with the right support and attention could thrive.
The good teachers in these schools want to learn from their better performing neighbours. But they don’t have a clear idea about how to start that conversation.
They want to improve. Do more for local children and parents from all backgrounds. But they don’t have the right leadership and skills on site to boost their performance.
They want to share their own knowledge of what works beyond their own classroom with their colleagues. But don’t know how to make that happen.
They can’t progress. Their schools are stalled and could do much better. And, worse of all, the children they teach are heading for a life defined by their background not their talents.
We already know that some good Local Authorities are meeting that challenge by helping schools in their area find good leaders. And our ‘Similar Schools’ data is designed to help schools – without that kind of support – to link up and learn from outstanding schools tackling the same issues as them. So, as we improve the information available online, I’d encourage more schools to use it.
But we need to do more if we’re to tackle this issue nationally and ensure that more schools can benefit from the expertise of our best head teachers.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – HEAD TEACHERS
That’s why I’m pleased to announce today that the Government will be setting up a programme to get outstanding leaders into the schools that need them the most.
The Department for Education will be setting out further details in due course. But what I can say is that there will be a pool of top talent within the profession, a Champions League of Head Teachers, made up of Heads and Deputy Heads, who will stand ready to move to schools in challenging circumstances that need outstanding leaders.
So if you’re a school facing tough challenges and finding it hard to recruit an exceptional leader, you’ll be able to call on this team and request someone with a proven leadership track record.
We’re looking for experienced Head Teachers ready for a new challenge, or bright Deputy Heads looking to take the next step and lead a school.
If you are selected, we’d need you to make a real commitment to the school, its staff and its children.
You’ll receive help to relocate to the areas where you’re needed and the necessary professional support to turn around your school. And we will work to help you in your new role taking on this challenging school.
This is entirely voluntary. No one will be forced to accept one of these positions or move.
We want the first of these leaders to be in place from September 2014.
Initially the scheme will start small, but our ambition is for this team to become as important to our education system as Teach First.
So in conclusion, if we’re to build a stronger economy and fairer society in Britain then we need every child in every region of our country to be succeeding.
That’s the vision I have for education in this country. A system built on greater choice, innovation, accountability and excellence: designed to benefit everyone.
Where every school has the freedom, autonomy and resources to thrive.
Where every teacher is empowered to be the best, progressing and improving throughout their career.
Where every parent has a guarantee that their child will receive the best standard of education available.
And where every child gets the attention, support and excellent teaching they need to achieve the happy and fulfilling life they want.
Statement on Grangemouth closure – Ed Davey
Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey said:
“I am saddened to hear of INEOS’ plans to place petrochemicals business into administration, particularly because of the impact it will have on the workforce and local community.
“While respecting INEOS’ right to make this decision, it is regrettable that both parties have not managed to negotiate a fair and equitable settlement that delivers a viable business model for the plant.
“Even at this late stage, I urge INEOS to continue dialogue with the workforce, and Government will offer help and support with this.
“INEOS have informed us that the refinery will stay open and the management wish to restart full operations as soon as possible.
“We stand ready to help with discussions between the management and the union to ensure this can happen.
“Fuel supplies continue to be delivered as usual and there is no current risk of disruption to supplies.
“I continue to work very closely with the Scottish Government, and other colleagues across Government to share information with them.”
New projects pass first hurdle to secure Government guarantee for infrastructure
These projects have passed the first stage in proving that they are eligible for the guarantees and are now at a stage called prequalification.
More than half of those that have prequalified are energy projects, which will help ensure that Britain develops a sustainable future energy supply.
The prequalified projects are now subject to further discussions and assessment, which could result in receiving Government backing to act as a guarantor.
Commenting, Danny Alexander said:
“Getting our infrastructure right means we can be globally competitive, boost growth and create jobs across the UK. What we see today is the extent to which the Government is reaching out to help the private sector build Britain’s key infrastructure.
“Having passed the first hurdle these companies know the government is there to help if they need it. I hope today’s announcement will encourage even more businesses to consider how they can take advantage of a guarantee.”
The scheme is authorised to issue up to £40bn of guarantees in total and is open to major infrastructure in sectors including energy, transport, communications and housing.
New figures prove Liberal Democrats are tough on crime
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show crime against households is down by 7 per cent compared with the same time last year and has hit the lowest level since the record began in 1981.
Norman Baker said:
“The drop in number of crimes is very welcome. It shows we are tackling crime better than any time during the last 30 years and are providing safer communities for people than Labour ever did.The figures were announced following the launch earlier this month of the National Crime Agency aimed at tackling the growing threat of serious and organised crime.
“Police reform is working and crime is falling. Recorded crime has dropped yet again and now by more than ten per cent under the Coalition Government.
“People have the right to go about their daily lives without being scared of becoming victims of crime, and it is Lib Dems in the Coalition Government who are helping to make their lives safer.”
One million more people in work as unemployment falls
Across the UK the number of unemployed people in the UK has dropped by 18,000 in the last three months.
The figures released show that the number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance has fallen by 41,700.
Today’s figures also show that the total number of people in employment is at a new record high, with 29.87 million people in work between June and August.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Minister for the Department of Work and Pensions Steve Webb said:
“The Liberal Democrats in Government have helped business create more than a million private sector jobs, and now we are working to help create a million more.
“Today’s figures show the total number of people in employment is now at a record high, with the rise being driven by a growth in full-time and permanent jobs.
“There is a long way to go, but the economy is on the mend and jobs are crucial to building a stronger economy in a fairer society that allows everyone to get on in life.”
Letter from the Leader: #whyIamIN
- UKIP are the party of "Out".
- The Conservatives can't stand anything European and many, in their heart of hearts, want out too.
- Labour used to be internationalist but have lost all the courage of their convictions.