Schools minister addresses CentreForum on education policy

27 November 2014

Rt Hon David Laws MP, Minister of State for Schools, chose CentreForum to deliver a speech on early years, schools and college policy in this parliament and beyond. The full text of the speech is below.

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Justice Minister addresses CentreForum and the Prison Reform Trust

19 November 2014

Rt Hon Simon Hughes MP, Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties, delivered a speech to CentreForum and the Prison Reform Trust which outlined a liberal approach to reforming criminal justice and penal policy. The full text of the speech is below.

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How can we unlock citizen creativity to strengthen communities?

Creative Citizenship, with its emphasis upon creativity, innovation and the civic potential of online media, hints at new ways forward for long-established political ambitions to stimulate economic and cultural activity at the community level.  Labour’s Third Way; the Conservatives’ Big Society and the Liberal Democrats’ Open Society are way-markers on this journey, though each of these approaches has had their critics.

To coincide with the Creative Citizens conference at the Royal College of Art on the 18th and 19th September, CentreForum have launched their contribution to this dynamic area of policy development. 

 September 2014.

Author Stephen Lee.

Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference 2014: The Big Interview with Baroness Kramer

The Big Interview with Baroness Kramer

Partner: The Transport Hub

Sunday 5th October

The Q&A session with Baroness Kramer, Minister of State for Transport, began with a question about aviation policy and building a new runway. Baroness Kramer was unable to answer the question because it might compromise the independence of the Davies Commission. She was able to speak about reducing aeroplane emissions by 50% by 2050, and the possibility of bio-fuels. Bio-fuels are problematic in that they divert food crops into fuel crops. Kramer said that the technology has a long way to go to solve this, and we have to take a stand with our European partners to reduce emissions. 

An audience member raised the concern that HS2 will never get past Birmingham. Baroness Kramer replied that we are past the point of no return for phase 2. She said that passenger demand for train routes is escalating rapidly, and we are out of train paths. Phase 1 of HS2 is crucial for providing the capacity we need. North of Birmingham the role of HS2 changes – it’s not a commuter route. The midlands and northern cities see the potential to use HS2 as the underlying infrastructure framework for an economic renaissance. The south of England cannot be the single source of economic prosperity, and connectivity is key in changing this – including east to west lines. Baroness Kramer is increasingly working with communities, asking what support they need to drive economic growth. 

Baroness Kramer continued by explaining that Phase 1 will start on the ground in 2017, within the next Parliament, and open in 2026, costing £17.5 billion in total, which is financeable on an annual basis. She asserted that there has been a re-commitment to infrastructure by the coalition government. For instance, they have spent £24 billion on roads – sums not seen in a generation. Baroness Kramer said we have suffered from not spending, just maintaining our roads. 

The next question asked was whether consumers could expect lower fares from an inefficient Network Rail. Baroness Kramer agreed that Network Rail needs to become more efficient, and she has confidence in its recent leadership. For years we weren’t bringing through the management chains the engineering expertise that you need, and we are now playing catch up. The travelling public are using trains in growing numbers, and they are getting more punctuality and reliability after a cultural shift towards customer service. 

When asked about re-nationalising the Network Rail debt, Baroness Kramer responded that many people have a rosy view of British Rail, and she does not want to see a return to those accounting standards. She added that she is very concerned that we continue to finance for five year periods, showing commitment to the industry rather than the stop/start method of chancellors in the old days. There should be an arm’s length relationship between the government and Network Rail.

Baroness Kramer told the audience that the Department for Transport was more collegiate between Tories and Lib Dems that other departments. She believes that the Lib Dems have made sustainability a much larger part of the picture – it has become conventional wisdom, and also provoked a change in thinking in the private sector. She added that the Tories have got the cycling brief, but the coalition put £374 million into cycling, and the benefit to cost ratio of projects that facilitate cycling are enormous.

By Harriet Davison

Mental Health Commission Launch

“The Pursuit of Happiness: A New Ambition for our Mental Health”

Tuesday 8th July 2014

The Royal Society

Speakers:

  • Rt Hon Paul Burstow MP (Commission Chair)
  • Angela Greatley, Chair, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust
  • Dr Mike Shooter, President, BACP
  • Professor Stephen Bevan, Director of the Centre for Workplace Effectiveness
  • Dr Ian Walton, Sandwell GP and IAPT Lead
  • Chair: Duncan Greenland, CentreForum

Coverage from the launch of the Mental Health Commission can be found on CentreForum's youtube channel or by clicking on the individual videos below.

1. Introduction

2. Rt Hon Paul Burstow MP

3. Angela Greatley

4. Dr Mike Shooter

5. Prof Stephen Bevan

6. Dr Ian Walton

7. Question and Answer