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Monday, 6 July

Conservative Party Conference - Environment, Energy, Security & Transport

The Conservative Party conference ended with PM Theresa May coughing her way through her speech and being handed a P45...while Bojo swiped at everyone (with some humour it has to be said). But what did those that might affect the FM scene have to say for themselves.

Please note the below is made-up of extracts and not full speeches. Some extracts have been edited together for brevity.

First came Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who spoke on a Cleaner, Greener, Stronger Britain after Brexit.

He said: “It’s wonderful to be here in Manchester - the fact that I’m on this stage this year is proof that this Government is committed to recycling. And, let me tell you, no-one is a bigger supporter of re-using once discarded material than me.

"For the first time in more than forty years we can - together - now determine our own environmental policies. We can do what we think is best to make our country cleaner, greener and more beautiful.

"Global warming threatens the balance of life on earth. Plastics in our oceans, waste in our rivers and nitrogen oxide in our air endanger our fellow animals and harm our children’s health.

"Precious habitats - from ancient woodlands in our own country to the great green lungs of our tropical rainforests - are being lost - and with them a home for threatened wildlife.

"Even as I speak a Labour Council - a Labour Council - is chopping down precious historic trees in Sheffield - hiding behind a PFI contract as it engages in wanton ecological vandalism.

"The first, and still the most ambitious, green party in this country is the Conservative Party.

"And leaving the European Union gives us the chance to secure a special prize - a Green Brexit. Now, of course, there have been environmental rules which we helped develop while in the EU which are important and which we must keep - indeed - where possible - strengthen.

The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy has been a failure - environmentally damaging and socially unjust. It’s damaged natural habitats, hit biodiversity and harmed wildlife. The number of farmland birds has reduced by more than half, pollinators such as wild and honey bees have suffered a drastic decline in numbers, and our rivers and chalk streams have seen fish stocks decline and small mammals disappear. On top of that, the CAP has channeled hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to the already wealthy, simply because of the amount of land they have."


Roads and vehicles

"Since the election, we’ve been acting decisively and rapidly to show how determined we are, to use every lever we can to improve our environment. That is why we have shown immediate leadership by demanding that our roads become greener and ending the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2040. That leadership has resulted in car companies offering their own scrappage schemes to get rid of dirty diesels. It has meant that taxi firms like Uber have pledged to get rid of polluting vehicles well before that 2040 deadline. And now great British entrepreneurs like James Dyson are inventing new cleaner, greener vehicles to meet global demand.


Plastics and the oceans

"There is a need to act before fish and bird life are devastated. The plastic bag charge has seen a massive reduction in demand, down 80%. And already this Government has announced a ban on the plastic microbeads which pollute our seas. And we are looking to go further to reduce plastic waste by working with industry to see how we could introduce a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles."


Amber Rudd, Home Secretary: Building a Safer Britain

"Standing here in Manchester it is impossible to forget the sight of this proud city, shrouded in grief, after a pop concert in May.

It is impossible to forget the images of the terrified concert-goers … the images of the injured and the dead - some so very young.

"The toll of those who have been the victims of such violence this year is grim.  It includes those targeted outside Finsbury Park Mosque, and in London Bridge.  It includes the innocent people mown down on Westminster Bridge. It includes Police Constable Keith Palmer who paid with his life in the line of duty, trying to stop that attack. 

"His death is a reminder of the daily danger in which our police force and intelligence agencies put themselves, to keep the rest of us safe.  They have our utmost gratitude and so too the brave men and women of the Fire Service, for their extraordinary heroism, in battling the Grenfell Tower fire. Their job, like mine, is to do everything in their power to keep this country safe. And this year, more than ever, it’s right that we thank them.

"There are other images from this year that I choose to remember.  And they are these. I remember the doctors and nurses from Guys Hospital, with so little regard for their own safety, running towards the carnage on Westminster Bridge.  Their only thought was to get to those who needed help.

"I remember the courage of Mohammed Mahmoud, Imam at the Finsbury Park Mosque, and the small group who, in his own words, 'managed to calm people down to extinguish any flames of anger or mob rule'.

"There are those who after the failed device at Parsons Green opened their homes, and offered to ‘put the kettle on’ – a uniquely British response.

"And in the aftermath of the attack here in Manchester, communities came together in a great expression of solidarity. United in sadness with a desire to show the city was not beaten. 

"It is such displays of courage in the face of terror, of resilience, and of compassion, that I think should make us proud.  Proud of the spirit which pulls us all together, in defiance of those who would harm us. 

"As Home Secretary, you see the sorts of initiatives around the country that are doing excellent work, to build stronger, more resilient communities. 

"After the year we have faced, we will need more of them.

"I’ve spoken to mothers learning about what their kids do online, so they know where they could be vulnerable to pernicious influences.  I’ve seen groups set up to challenge racism in sports, and places where those same sports are being used to encourage greater integration in communities.

"Establishing the new Commission on Countering Extremism will further support this agenda, by exposing extremism and division.  It will be key in challenging those who preach hatred. 

"The task of tackling the warped Islamist ideologies that have inspired terrorist attacks this year is without a doubt amongst the greatest we have faced.  But it is not the only one.

Violent and non-violent extremism in all its forms – Anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism, Islamophobia, intolerance of women’s rights – these, and others, cannot be permitted to fester.  Our values are far, far better than this. And we owe it to ourselves to root this hatred out wherever it emerges.

"As we have seen all too painfully this year, the UK faces an unpredictable threat from terrorism.  From lone wolf actors, to those radicalised online in their bedrooms, to Da’esh groups hiding in the ruins of Raqqah.  We face random attacks at home, and well-planned threats to British Nationals and our interests overseas.

"We also face a real and growing threat from the extreme right. We all remember the tragic murder of the excellent MP, Jo Cox, as she took part in our democratic process.  Last year, I made the first terrorist proscription for an extreme right-wing organisation – National Action. And just last week I banned two more repugnant mutations of that organisation.

"What I can tell you is that while 5 plots got through this year, 7 were also stopped by our world class security services. Be in no doubt, the huge investment we are making in our counter terrorist efforts is saving lives, even when we tragically have seen so many lost.

"If we’re to do better then we have to be a step ahead. And that means being nimble and responsive as the threat evolves.

"Over the last months, I have been reviewing our counter-terrorism powers and legislation. We have seen what could be interpreted as a shift towards crude attacks, with lone or few attackers, using everyday items. There also appears to be a trend towards shorter timescales, from aspiration to attacks. If we’re going to keep people safe we need to disrupt plots in their early stages. Many such plots will include some element of online radicalisation.

"Extremists and terrorist material can still be published online, and is then too easily accessible on some devices within seconds…Messages of hatred and violence accessible from any laptop or smart phone. Progress has been made, but this has got to stop. Today I am announcing that we are tightening our laws for individuals looking at this type of material online. We will change the law, so that people who repeatedly view terrorist content online could face up to 15 years in prison.  This will close an important gap in legislation.  At present, the existing offence applies only if you have downloaded or stored such material – not if you are repeatedly viewing or streaming it online. A critical difference.

"We will also change the law in another important way.  If someone publishes information about our police or armed forces for the purpose of preparing an act of terrorism, then they could face up to fifteen years in prison."


Online providers

"In the aftermath of the Westminster Bridge attack, I called the internet companies together. Companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft. I asked them what they could do, to go further and faster.

"They answered by forming an international forum to counter terrorism.  Now I address them directly. I call on you with urgency, to bring forward technology solutions to rid your platforms of this vile terrorist material that plays such a key role in radicalisation."

Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary: Putting passengers at the heart of transport

"We are in government and we have a big job to do together. Not just in delivering Brexit. Not just in putting record investment into our transport in every part of the country. My bit is about the things that join all of that together: the roads, the railways, the ports, the airports. Even planning for Space Ports so that in future we can launch satellites from right here on British soil.

"Between now and 2020 we will be replacing or refurbishing every single train in the north of England and we'll have longer trains. More seats. Free wi-fi. The things passengers say they want.

"Wales and the Southwest have brand new intercity trains starting later this month.  And there are more to come – in East Anglia and the East Coast Mainline – and in the West Midlands and the South.

"We'll see the first ever rail link between Manchester’s two main rail stations, Piccadilly and Victoria. The first electric railway between Liverpool and Manchester. That programme will carry on. Using electrification where it makes a difference to passengers. Using digital technology where it makes a difference to passengers. Always focused first and foremost on what does actually make a difference for passengers.

"Then there's the long awaited link road between the M56 and the M6 and upgrades to motorways across the north. The missing links that are finally linking Newcastle and London by motorway.

"And our investment programme in the North will continue. Today I can announce our plan to deliver £100 million for local road schemes across the North of England. This Investment will help to reduce traffic congestion in the North West the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber.  The details of individual schemes will be announced in due course.

But it’s not just about investing in the North. We’re finally moving ahead with dualling the A303 to the South West. We’re upgrading the A14 to provide better links from East Anglia to the Midlands. We’re modernising commuter railways in Birmingham and Bristol and providing funding for the Welsh to do the same in Cardiff.   We’ve started work on a new Thames Crossing between Essex and Kent.

"Finally, I am setting out details of our £80 million programme to bring smart ticketing, using mobile phones, barcodes and smartcards across almost all of the rail network by the end of next year." 


Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

"I have seen first-hand the innovation where our country leads the world. From the success of another great Northern industrial city, Hull, this year’s UK City of Culture, to the amazing achievements of our women’s sports teams in the summer, and from Tech City to Media City – there is so much variety and so much opportunity for all across the country.

"But it has always been the case that great design, great art, great culture have relied on great science and great engineering. We are brilliant in this country at bringing these together to make Britain world leading in both.

"The digital world is making life better for every person, family and community across our country – as well as bringing new challenges which this government is determined to confront so everybody can enjoy the benefits.

"We have increased broadband coverage to over 93 per cent of the U.K. – and it will be at 95 per cent by the end of the year.
That 95 per cent will then become 100 per cent when the universal right to a broadband connection."


David Gauke, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

"Where are we today ? Youth unemployment is down by over 400,000; long term unemployment down by 400,000; 600,000 more disabled people are in work. Today there are over 3 million more jobs in this country than seven years ago.

"We have established auto enrolled pensions. By the end of August, over 8.5 million people had been automatically enrolled into a workplace pension.

"We are giving employers the tools they need to recruit, retain and support disabled people. Almost 5,000 employers have signed up to the Disability Confident scheme so far, and this number is growing rapidly.

"Among the people that need more support are those with mental health conditions. That’s why we have trained 1,800 Universal Credit work coaches in how to support claimants with mental health issues.

"Of course, there are some people who suffer from such severe disabilities that they will never be able to work. Last year, my predecessor, Damian Green, announced that we were looking to exclude those with severe lifetime health conditions from any requirement to be reassessed for out-of-work benefits.  After early tests of this approach, it has now been implemented and I can tell you that around twice as many people are expected to benefit from this reform than were originally thought.

"It is right that we focus our disability benefits on those that need it most.  We will support those who are unable to work, while helping those who can work to maximise their potential."


Other speakers

Amongst the many other speakers, David Lidington, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice spoke on the subject of putting security and rehabilitation at the heart of prison reform; Sir Michael Fallon MP, Secretary of State for Defence spoke on defending our people and our values but made no reference to MoD property disposal as a means of funding; Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke widely including briefly on the subject of funding for the Northern Powehouse; Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary chose the topic of Winning the future but not before pausing to remember the tragic events in Las Vegas.

Theresa May, Prime Minister closed the Conservative Party conference on the subject of renewing the British dream (including the provision of world class public services).

Article written by Brian Shillibeer


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