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This Year’s Round Up of Unmissable Royal Events

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Photographer: Sgt Donald C Todd - UK MOD © Crown copyright News / Editorial Licence.

Coming up to almost one year since the Coronation of King Charles III (6 May), we invite you to explore the upcoming and unmissable annual royal events in Britain in 2024.

Immerse yourself in a blend of contemporary and conventional experiences, new and old alike. Delve into one of Britain’s oldest traditions by attending the Trooping of the Colour ceremony in London or head north to one of Britain’s newest royal events and tend to a flourishing green thumb at the RHS Urban Show in Manchester.

Step into your own royal adventure with this year’s exciting line up of events experiences. 

RHS Urban Show – Manchester, NEW

18 – 21 April 2024 

The newest addition to the RHS collection, which isn’t an average RHS Flower Show: Manchester’s horticulture festival is all about gardening in the city – making the most of every balcony, backyard and bathroom shelf. The line-up will feature work-of-art garden designs, expert-led masterclasses, Q&A sessions and gardening workshops to help you develop your green fingers – a must-visit for every budding urban gardener. 

Royal Windsor Horse Show – Windsor

1 – 5 May 2024

Discover the Royal Windsor Horse Show, where equestrian excellence meets a dash of British charm against the stunning backdrop of Windsor Castle. It’s not just an event; it’s a tradition with royal ties.Whether you’re a horse lover or just after a classy cultural outing, this is your chance to soak in the world of royalty bathed in the summer sun.

Royal Windsor Horse Show © Crown Copyright Photographer: Sgt Rupert Frere Image APOLOND-2017-056 Windsor horse Show night-0278.jpg from www.defenceimages.mod.uk

Chelsea Flower Show – London

21 – 25 May 2024

Noted as the apex of architectural garden design, the annual Chelsea Flower Show focuses on the season’s top gardener extraordinaries. Showcasing their powerful landscape designs and setting the tone for the incoming floral trends. Always accompanied by a theme, this year is sure to be a spectacularly one of kind show. 

Queens Reading Room Festival – London 

8 June 2024

Back by incredibly popular demand, this show stopping event is set to warm the hearts of lovers of literature, authors, actors and experts alike. Soon to become a  regular addition to the annual line of royal events, the Queens Reading Room Festival returns for its second run this year. The charity led by Queen Camilla focuses on shining a spotlight on the value of literature and reading.   

After the stellar success of the inaugural event, The Queen’s Reading Room Festival returns by popular demand to Hampton Court Palace.

Trooping the Colour – London

15 June 2024 

Over 1400 parading soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians come together each June to mark the British Sovereign’s official birthday. The event, full of cheer, incredible fanfare and showmanship incorporates a procession from Buckingham Palace and down The Mall to Horse Guard’s Parade, all with members of the Royal Family riding alongside on horseback and in carriages. The event closes with an explosion of colour and patriotism in the sky through an RAF fly-past. 

Royal Ascot – Windsor

18 – 22 June 2024

Founded by Queen Anne, the Royal Ascot Racecourse has been a prominent spectacle for over 300 years. Every summer during the month of June, the races kick-off, with five days of flat horse-racing in the scenic countryside. Enjoy treats and drinks in your best dress (headpiece optional) and maybe even spot a royal!

Royal Highland Show – Edinburgh

20 – 23 June 2024

Hosted in the city of Edinburgh, the Royal Highland Show celebrates the best food, farming techniques and ancient traditions of the country. Discover the rural side of Scotland, with a fresh spin on modern living. From sheep shearing to shopping, there is an event to catch everyone’s eye.

Highland Games – Scotland 

July – September 2024

One of Scotland’s most important and highly anticipated annual events, the Highland Games take place across several cities, towns and islands throughout Scotland. With ‘expect the unexpected’ as the unofficial mantra, thousands of spectators attend every year to witness exciting events such as Caber Toss, Tug’ O War and even the Hammer Toss.

Royal Henley Regatta – Oxfordshire

2 – 7 July 2024

One of the most elite regatta events in the world, the Royal Henley Regatta boast the most, with over 300 races spanning just six days. Follow the sound of rushing water and cheering crowds to find the perfect viewing spot and enjoy the celebrated spectacle with drinks, sweet treats, and good friends.

 Henley Royal Regatta. Photo by Rowfotos licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show – London

2 – 7 July 2024

Immerse yourself in the horticultural wonders at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, renowned as the world’s largest annual flower show. The expansive ground of this iconic palace offers a chance to fully immerse yourself in an unmissable lush paradise of enchanting floral displays. 

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park – Cheshire

17 – 21 July 2024

Indulge your love for horticulture at the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park, a plant enthusiast’s haven set against the backdrop of Cheshire’s neo-classical gem, Tatton Park. Wander through breathtaking show gardens, immerse yourself in vibrant floral displays, and leave with an abundance of green-fingered inspiration, making it a standout royal adventure. 

The Royal Welsh Show – Wales

22 – 25 July 2024

A major event in the British agricultural calendar, the Royal Welsh Show consists of four days of livestock competitions and a wide range of activities including forestry, horticulture, crafts, entertainment, attractions, displays, countryside sports, and shopping. 

Make the most of these royal adventures coming in 2024

Step into a world of timeless elegance and captivating heritage as you explore Britain’s exceptional castles and palaces in 2024. Raby Castle in County Durham, reopening in spring 2024, is undergoing redevelopment with the aim to blend history and innovation. Visitors will be able to explore re-imagined gardens, stylish shops and taste local flavours. The iconic Leeds Castle in Kent recently added rooms for guests to stay within the walls of the castle itself for the first time ever. Come for the luxurious rooms and stay for the Motors by the Moat during the 10 & 11 of August, or dive into your own Sherlock Holmes adventure during the castle’s Murder under the Mistletoe adventure on December 13, 2024.  

Due to reopen in spring 2024, Scotland’s iconic Craigievar Castle is undergoing a facelift to refresh its extraordinary pink facade, creating the perfect backdrop for a fairytale-esque snapshot. Scotland’s Edinburgh castle also play hosts to a series of exciting summer concerts featuring shows from The National and Paul Weller.

Image of the Red Arrows flypast over Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. Photographer: AS1 Aeris Finney – Copyright: UK MOD © Crown copyright – MOD News Licence.

Discover the regal side of Norwich in summer 2024 and visit the reopened Norwich Castle following their major re-development, placing them as the most accessible castle in Britain. Cutting-edge projection and digital technology will immerse visitors in King Henry I’s lavish Castle, revealing its untold stories and Norwich’s medieval importance.

Visit one of Britain’s greatest palaces, the stunning Blenheim Palace, and join their Lights. Camera. Action! tour visiting the top filming locations in Netflix’s Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, along with other memorable features such as Harry Potter. Known for their extensive events programme throughout the year, the palace will not disappoint in 2024. From March 23 to June 30, step into the world of sartorial splendour as the palace’s ‘Icons of British Fashion’ experience awaits. Follow the evolution of Britain’s most famous fashion icons and discover the secrets behind their most timeless styles. The live music event Nocturne Live will take over the castle grounds from 12 – 16 June and their Food Festival returns for its 10th year from 25 – 27 of May.

One of Britain’s greatest palaces, the stunning Blenheim Palace.

Main photo credit: Photographer: Sgt Donald C Todd – UK MOD © Crown copyright News / Editorial Licence.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: We need robust conservative leadership and bravery will be needed says LIZ TRUSS

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Read our exclusive excerpt from Liz Truss’s memoirs (out today) in which she reveals the political lessons of a lost battle and explains how local Conservative parties need to hold their representatives to account for how they vote, what they say and the campaigns they support….

By Liz Truss.

In the first quarter of the twenty-first century, the West has taken a turn to the left. As a consequence, we have become weaker, both inside our own countries and abroad. Our foreign policy has appeased totalitarian regimes, which have thus been emboldened. Government, regulations and money-printing have all expanded, leading to an increase in inflation. Elected officials have been subjugated by an increasingly powerful administrative elite. The aftermath of the Cold War, in which free markets triumphed over statist communism, saw a period of terrible complacency by the West. 

This complacency has allowed left-wing ideology to fester and grow in the public sector as well as in the corporate sphere. Cultural relativism, which rejects British and American exceptionalism (as well as that of our free-world allies), has been embraced by much of the new elite. Extreme environmentalism and other previously fringe movements, such as trans activism, have been empowered and gained ground. Immigration is too high. 

Much of this decay from within has been encouraged and even sponsored by outside forces, many of them linked to the very totalitarian regimes that seek to undermine our way of life. Government has ballooned in size. The state now accounts for 46 per cent of GDP in the UK and 35 per cent of GDP in the US. At the turn of the twenty-first century, the figures were 36 per cent and 29 per cent respectively. 

The then newly elected Prime Minister, Liz Truss when she first arrived at No.10 Downing Street. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

There has also been a growth in the number and powers of quangos and regulators. The pervasive reach of state officialdom has encroached ever further into people’s lives. Parliamentary sovereignty has been diluted with more power accumulated by the quangocracy, an unaccountable judiciary and undemocratic international institutions. 

Too many conservatives, rather than seeking to roll back this encroachment, have tried instead to bring the government machine under conservative control. This is a futile exercise. Whatever some might claim, big government has never been a friend of conservatism. It takes power away from individuals and families; it saps enterprise, and it creates hundreds of thousands of jobs for leftists. The result of this relentless leftward tilt has been declining levels of economic growth and increased alienation through cancel culture and the wokeism that now prevails in everything from the media to the business world. While outpourings of popular discontent have been seen through the Brexit referendum, the election of Donald Trump and the gilets jaunes movement in France, none of these has changed the balance of power in the medium term. The permanent bureaucracy has been very effective at preventing the implementation of policies that the majority of the public supports. 

Conservative parties have often triangulated and accepted the direction of travel. Too many conservatives have stopped making the case for conservative policies and instead tried to get elected based on a promise to manage the bloated state bureaucracy more competently. I started as an MP in 2010, believing this leftist hegemony could be changed. Like most idealistic politicians, I assumed it was simply a matter of political will. I set about putting out ideas, books and policy papers. Many of my colleagues did the same. My subsequent experience in government over the ten years after 2012 showed me the true nature of what we are dealing with. When I was appointed a minister, I worked within the system to try to reduce regulations, curb spending and reform public services. Many of us in government had the same objectives. I found it cumbersome and frustrating, but I assumed this was to do with my lowly rank. The higher I rose up the ladder, the more I realised that the problems we faced were deep-seated and serious: a Conservative Party that had lost its compass and instead turned on itself and a bureaucratic state that was becoming increasingly bold in challenging and obstructing elected politicians. 

This has made it all but impossible to deliver popular policies that would improve lives across the UK. I am talking about such things as building more homes and reforming the planning system, rowing back on net zero, stopping the boats coming across the Channel and controlling immigration, cutting corporate taxes, reversing burdensome diversity and equality rules and getting EU law off the statute book and out of Northern Ireland – all of which would make Britain grow faster while embedding confidence in our values and our way of life.

Prime Minister Liz Truss giving her address and leaving No10 Downing Street. 10 Downing Street. Picture by Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street

There has been some progress on this agenda. But looking back, I see that the changes I helped deliver – such as school reform, the Australia trade deal and accession to the CPTPP, and stopping gender self-ID – all took energy and political capital far disproportionate to what they managed to accomplish. They were all delivered in the face of near-hysterical opposition and occupied huge amounts of political bandwidth. Although they were desirable, none of them were game changers for the future of Britain. 

The Growth Plan (otherwise known as the mini-Budget) was my attempt to break the logjam and start tackling the big problems in Britain. Even getting it formulated and announced was a major achievement. In the Kafkaesque world of Whitehall, second guessing, inertia and sheer inaction prevent many good policies from even getting to this stage. But ultimately, the twin forces of institutional resistance and a Conservative parliamentary party that was not prepared to have an economic battle killed it. 

THE LESSONS OF A LOST BATTLE

My purpose in writing this book is not to relitigate the battles of the past quarter of a century. It is to learn from them. I want to provide a call to action for fellow conservatives who believe in our nation and our way of life and who share my frustration at what has been going wrong with our politics and governance. I want others to heed the warnings of what I saw happening and learn the lessons of the battle I lost. 

“My purpose in writing this book is not to relitigate the battles of the past quarter of a century. It is to learn from them.” Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street.

First, we must acknowledge that Britain and many other countries in the free world have a governance problem. Politicians, particularly conservative politicians, are increasingly unable to deliver on their promises and often get sidetracked or go along with the status quo. At best they content themselves with making small changes that come nowhere near meeting the scope of the challenges before them. I learned this with my very first policy skirmish, childcare deregulation, where ten years later we have still only eradicated a fraction of the red tape that would have cut costs for families. This is a problem across government on issues large and small. There is a conspiracy of silence about it because serving ministers understandably don’t want to admit how impotent they really are. I know it is comforting for many to believe it would have been possible for us to deliver the Growth Plan – tax cuts, spending restraint and supply-side reform – if only there had been more ‘pitch-rolling’, better communication and improved timing. It was just the way we went about it, they say. 

But having sat in the hot seat, I can tell you that is simply not true. Frankly, if it were just a question of better PR and political tactics, these policies would have been implemented by now, given that it has been obvious to many for some time that they need to happen. The forces obstructing this agenda are much deeper-rooted and thus more intractable. 

We can see this in the fact that the Conservative Party has changed its leader four times since 2016 and economic reform still remains out of reach. Yet, the only answer that onlookers ever seem to come up with is to put someone new in charge of the broken machine or to have a reshuffle. At some point, they will have to face the fact that the problem is not the latest tenant of No. 10 but the system itself. 

There must also be a recognition that it is not possible to deliver these policies without some degree of friction. Inevitably, the vested interests that are threatened will resist and use every tool at their disposal to obstruct change. Too often, politics is presented as being a contrast between stability and chaos, with stability prized as an end in itself. But this hides the real choice. ‘Stability’ usually implies acceptance of the status quo, while ‘chaos’ is used as a pejorative term for any disruptive change. This framing means politicians often conclude that the only way to achieve ‘stability’ is not to seek any change at all. These problems are not limited to the UK. When we look at the fractures in the US Republican Party, the growth of the administrative state in Washington and the size of America’s national debt, we see these forces are clearly at work across the free world and perhaps especially in the English-speaking world. We should look to Canada with great interest to see what will happen if the eloquent Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre wins the next election there. I hope that reading about my experiences will assist other conservatives in Britain and around the world in their own work to deliver change. To me, helping advance that agenda is the most important thing that could come from my time in government and is what I care about above all. 

To that end, I believe there are several important lessons for conservatives to learn about how we can win the argument and successfully implement our policies. 

Lesson 1: We Must Be Conservatives 

None of the issues we face will be solved without robust conservative leadership. This starts with core conservative principles. It means individuals and families controlling their own lives rather than facing ever more intrusion from the government. It means defending property rights, free speech and the rule of law. It means standing up for sovereignty, the nation state and British exceptionalism. And it means rejecting net zero zealotry and wokeism. 

The road to hell is paved with compromise and triangulation. Too many conservatives have lost the courage of their convictions in the face of the ceaseless onslaught of the leftist agenda. Instead of confronting these damaging and nonsensical ideas, they have sought to reach accommodation with them and have accepted the left’s terms of debate. This has led to the internal decay of conservatism and a focus on the superficial, rather than what is important. It has in some cases led to venality and nihilism and to the pursuit of power for its own sake. Whether through misplaced fear of being on the ‘wrong side of history’ or simple naivety about the implications, conservatives have too often given the benefit of the doubt to our opponents and allowed them to win by default. We should be clear that our enemies want to destroy us and not labour under the misapprehension that they are well-intentioned or neutral players. We should meet the threat in kind, by fighting for our ideas and fighting to win. 

“None of the issues we face will be solved without robust conservative leadership. This starts with core conservative principles.” Picture by Pippa Fowles / No 10 Downing Street.

Winning the battle of ideas and exposing our opponents’ agenda as dangerous is the only way we will prevail as conservatives. In order to overcome the resistance of the orthodoxy, we need to build significant popular support and be properly organised. This will take time and effort. We need to win the argument on university campuses and in schools. We need more conservative media outlets. We need to use consumer power from the public to challenge the leftist drift of large corporations. 

We need better conservative political infrastructure. This means building teams of people and structures that are capable of running government departments and No. 10 with a conservative ideology – well in advance of this happening. This will require significantly more funding going into conservative politics and a change in priorities. More should be spent on the long-term future of the conservative movement rather than immediate campaigning. 

The left has mobilised this way for years, and they are now reaping the rewards. In or out of office, their ideas have gradually infused public discourse and limited the scope of conservative policies. It is time to push back and mount an equally robust campaign against them. In order to do so effectively, conservatives have to know what they believe and be prepared to stand up for it. Local Conservative parties need to hold their representatives to account for how they vote, what they say and the campaigns they support. The party has to focus far more on the principles of conservatism, as well as on the mechanics of campaigning. 

Bravery will be required to change the culture, to get off the back foot and start fighting. The instinctive common sense of the public is our biggest potential asset, but it needs to be properly harnessed. We need to show a clear moral purpose and win support on that basis. I watched during the 1980s and 1990s as leftist organisations built up their support. They were committed. Obsessive. Fearless. We need to be the same. Our country needs us.

For the other lessons and indeed to read the book in its entirety, please order your copy today via https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/ten-years-to-save-the-west


Order your copy of former Prime Minister Liz Truss’s new book Ten Years to Save the West.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Over the course of a decade as a minister, Liz Truss sought to champion limited government and individual freedom in the face of the left-wing political agenda that frames the debate in so many institutions. 

Ousted by the establishment but still fighting for conservatism, Truss argues that the rise of authoritarianism and the adoption of fashionable ideas propagated by the global left give us barely a decade to preserve the economic and cultural freedoms and institutions that the West holds so dear.

Peppered with newsworthy anecdotes from Truss’s time in public life – such as her memorable last meeting with Queen Elizabeth II, her confrontations with the regimes in Moscow and Beijing, her encounters with the Trump administration and her dismay at the political class’s attempt to betray Brexit – Ten Years to Save the West is an urgent and impassioned call to conservatives about the radical changes that are needed for us to save the West. Ignore her warning at your peril.

Former Prime Minister Liz Truss says:

“I want to provide a call to action for fellow conservatives who believe in our nation and our way of life and who share my frustration at what has been going wrong with our politics and governance. I want others to heed the warnings of what I saw happening and learn the lessons of the battle I lost.”


REVIEWS:

Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister 2019–2022:

“Liz Truss is right about one big thing – the old establishment economic models are failing. That’s bad news for the entire western world. And she is right that the last thing any of us now needs is more socialism, more taxes and more regulation. We need to reject that tiresome refrain of the global left and instead pursue an agenda that unleashes enterprise and boosts economic growth. I commend this invigorating tract!”

Mike Lee, United States senator:

“By the time former heads of government get around to writing their memoirs, they usually look exclusively backwards, focused only on legacy. This is not the case with former Prime Minister Liz Truss, and we are very fortunate that this is so. Truss is a true movement conservative who has served at the highest levels on the world stage, and in Ten Years to Save the West she diagnoses clearly and vividly the problems she found there. 

“Western conservatism is under attack from inside and out, and this book is required reading for those all over the world who want to defend it. Truss will be a leader in this fight for years to come, and her book pulls no punches in describing the stakes of today and the challenges of tomorrow.”

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

SIGN THE PETITION: UK needs to leave ECHR and stop the boats

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Britain has the best judges and courts in the world… and ours are definitely independent. We don’t need Europe telling us what to do!”

We’ve now seen European judges go against decisions made by the UK’s Supreme Court, the UK’s High Court and the UK’s Court of Appeal.

To protect Great Britain we need to leave the ECHR, says Dame Andrea Jenkyns and other leading Conservatives.

Dame Andrea Jenkyns, the MP for Morley and Outwood, is leading the charge and calling on Rishi Sunak to take the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). She’s joined by other high profile Conservatives such as leading Barrister Paul Diamond and former Home Secretary Suella Braverman who called Strasbourg’s Rwanda interference last year “opaque, irregular and unfair when it comes to the will of the British people.”

Dame Andrea Jenkyns has already written to the Prime Minister saying: “We must not, and cannot, let the British people down on this issue of national importance. They deserve a government that is willing to stand up for what they believe in, and it’s only the Conservatives that can deliver on this.”

PLEASE lend your support and sign the petition which will be presented to Rishi Sunak by Dame Andrea Jenkyns and Conservative Post Editor Claire Bullivant.

UK must leave European convention on human rights

It is time to pull out of the European Convention of Human Rights. The European Courts should have no jurisdiction over the UK. Please sign the petition.
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Time for the UK to leave the European Convention on Human Rights, says leading human rights barrister

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CC BY-NC Bilde: Handout

By Barrister Paul Diamond

The ECHR has acted as a catalyst for a highly politicised agenda that undermines society and has become a vigorous tool to attack any remnant of morality, explains leading human rights barrister, Paul Diamond.

The small boats crisis cannot help but focus our minds on our continuing membership of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The inability of our government to control immigration, even of individuals who have crossed up to 30 ‘safe’ countries to come to live in their country of choice makes us look ridiculous; even more so as many who arrive on our shores appear to have the resources to pay up to $20,000 to people smugglers. 

This sorry state of affairs has been exacerbated by our inability to detain any (despite the fact that nothing is known about our new residents for, in many cases, passports have been destroyed) with the consequence, that a substantial number have been housed in pleasant four star hotels in receipt of medical and dental care that, let’s face it, may be out of reach of a growing number of UK citizens.

If a State cannot control its borders, maintain military preparedness, and maintain law and order internally (with a functioning judiciary) it is a failed State.

If a State cannot control its borders, maintain military preparedness, and maintain law and order internally (with a functioning judiciary) it is a failed State. The current policy weakens our security and makes the country unsafe for all citizens.  Mass migrations requires global solutions.

The ECHR, which was drafted in 1950, is often hailed as the greatest achievement of the post-war Council of Europe. The United Kingdom played a leading role in its formulation and drafting as a response to the unimaginable atrocities of National Socialism in Germany between 1933-45.  And, of course, the Jews could not leave Nazi Germany to find refuge.

Perhaps it is worth mentioning in this context the oft forgotten fact that Hitler was a socialist, albeit a National Socialist. And that Germany was for many years the intellectual, artistic, and cultural centre of Europe.  The fact that this deviant form of socialism can take hold of a country such as Germany is a warning for all countries.

The ECHR in 1950 was a modest and unremarkable treaty focusing on civil and political rights: such as right to life, fair trails and the freedom of religion and expression.  These were rights known to the common law for hundreds of years and the ECHR was thought to have little application to the United Kingdom.  It was designed to restrain the actions of certain countries with anti-democratic tendencies; and the post war success of Germany is something that needs to be recognised.

The ECHR was unnecessarily incorporated into national law by the Blair government in the Human Rights Act 1998.  Many in the Conservative opposition at the time saw the dangers of this politicised document being given the force of law; most noticeably by the late Baroness Young.

The ECHR was unnecessarily incorporated into national law by the Blair government in the Human Rights Act 1998.  Many in the Conservative opposition at the time saw the dangers of this politicised document being given the force of law…

Listening to the Labour front bench, one would think that we had no democracy, rule of law, free speech, or fair trials prior to the Human Rights Act.  The truth of the matter is that after 25 years of the Human Rights Act and the ECHR we have less freedoms than before.

For example, Freedom of speech is now on critical life support in the United Kingdom with hate speech, offensive speech, disinformation, and misinformation used everywhere to silence speech disapproved of.  The Police and woke employers seem to be very active suppressing lawful free speech. 

The ECHR has also instigated a full scale attack on our cultural Judaeo – Christian principles, the values upon which our freedoms depend. It can be argued that after millenniums, the Ten Commandments and the teaching of Christ on love remain the greatest civilising forces in history.

A fair debate on the BBC leaving the viewer to determine the merits of Brexit, Trump or global warming would be premised on views of democracy and free speech that have sadly long disappeared since the passing of the Human Rights Act. We have firmly entered the era in which an aggressive Police officer arresting a disabled (autistic) child for saying a female officer ‘looked like her lesbian nana’ is the reality of the new ‘human rights Britain’.  If that officer remains in the Police force, we need to be very concerned about our freedoms indeed.

Is the ECHR the problem?

Yes, it is, and it is a primary cause of the chaos in modern Britain, but it is not the only cause.

The long march through the institutions is a phrase attributable to the Italian communist Antonia Gramsci (1891-1937).  All our institutions have been taken over by an extreme liberal orthodoxy: the press, universities, schools, civil service, bureaucracies and so forth.  Universities can be highly dangerous places for free thinking and free expression.  Many of these developments would have taken place in European society with or without the European Convention.

The State is a leviathan that needs to be controlled so we are free to do as we will; we are not to be granted rights via documents such as the ECHR.

Be, of course, also vigilant of the bureaucracy: if there is an opportunity for expansion of personnel and funding, coupled with control over people’s lives, any new ideology will be gleefully received. For the bureaucracy the ECHR is a godsend.

The ECHR has acted as a catalyst for a highly politicised agenda that undermines society and has become a vigorous tool to attack any remnant of morality. If you are a morally upright employee, the chances are you will be dismissed for ‘gross misconduct’ for digressing from the ‘religion’ of diversity and inclusion code of conduct.  The human rights agenda is akin to a religious mania: a primitive, discriminatory, and violent religion with fanatical adherents.

The human rights agenda is akin to a religious mania: a primitive, discriminatory, and violent religion with fanatical adherents.

Many years ago, I met the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights: I wanted to discuss my fields of practice in human rights (religious liberty and freedom of speech).  The conversation soon stalled as there were only three human rights to discuss: mass migration, LGBT, and feminism.  I suspect feminism is no longer a human right worthy of protection as women’s rights have already begun to fall under the political sledgehammer of transgender rights.

It is for human rights that children as young as 3 must be taught about relationships and sexuality, that anyone who believes in marriage between a man and a woman must be dismissed from employment, or people who are white should not be recruited to the RAF.  It is for human rights that people can be abused, attacked, and degraded, and if one deviates from what Big Brother calls virtuous – God help you.

Growing Problems:

The worldwide rule of lawyers is an ever growing phenomenon with more and more subjects determined by both national and international courts, by-passing democratic institutions. However, the human rights agenda gives greater power to the courts to intervene in the social fields which impact the culture of society in unforeseen ways. This applies to inheritance laws to prisoner’s rights to lifestyle issues.  The appropriate forum for debate on cultural reform is parliament, but we’ve sailed past that.

Most people do not realise how expansive and controlling the human rights agenda is. The numerous human rights institutions work in co-ordination with each other: from the United Nations Committees to the EU and the Charter of Fundamental Rights to the ECHR.

The tentacles of the human rights agenda reach far and wide. The EU Commission has launched infringement proceedings against Hungary for violating the values (Article 7 TEU) of the European Union in the Hungarian government’s attempt to restrict of certain types of sexual literature (LGBT) to children.  The onslaught is relentless: although the initial action was instigated by the EU, it makes little difference as the ECHR will soon follow suit.

The EU and ECHR have acted under human rights law to cause chaos to the Polish judicial system.  Poland sought to reform the process for the selection of members of the judiciary (as Israel is seeking to do).  The ECHR has received some 100 applications from disgruntled members of the Polish judiciary with the intention of blocking the reforms and the ECHR has, in effect, ruled that any judge appointed since 2018 is not a judge(!).  What has human rights law to do with the appointment of judges unless the power of the human rights agenda is the power of judges….  And this is precisely why the judiciary must be accountable.

On immigration and unlawful entry to the United Kingdom, nothing can be done to stop the literal end of a culture and of the United Kingdom as we know it – without radical reform on a scale only a Trump-like character (like him or not) could do.

On immigration and unlawful entry to the United Kingdom, nothing can be done to stop the literal end of a culture and of the United Kingdom as we know it – without radical reform on a scale only a Trump-like character (like him or not) could do.

When millions of people simply decided to walk into Europe, Hungary built a wall and pushed back those seeking to settle in Europe.  The European Court ruled against Hungary and said that it must provide genuine and effective means to claim asylum in Hungary. 

When Italy pushed back migrant boats, after millions sought to cross the Mediterranean Sea, the European Court found against Italy, as each and every asylum seeker’s application must be individually considered.  Thus, when millions come to Greece, or thousands to the United Kingdom, each and every application must be considered and ultimately considered by a judge (if you have enough judges) with rights of appeal.  The applicants in turn must be given assistance in their claim according to European law.

But, as I said, the ECHR is only party of the problem.  There are numerous other treaties such as the Refugee Convention, UN treaties and resolutions in addition to the ECHR.  If there is not comprehensive reform of all these international obligations, piecemeal reform is worthless and whether it is  flights to Rwanda or anything else, they are doomed to failure. Even the Good Friday agreement has human rights commitments.

Needless to say, there will be the political push back against the United Kingdom for breaking the mould and defying the new legal order. We are used to that though, aren’t we?  Membership of the Council of Europe is conditional on membership of the ECHR and the EU will rachet up their animosity to us even more. The current government has no identifiable personality comparable to the task: it would take all of Margaret Thatcher’s will power to achieve this.

Conclusion:

Finally, there are the (genuine) humanitarian considerations to consider.  Ironically many who claim asylum in the United Kingdom are unlikely to be considered refugees in the common person’s perspective.  They are young men who have crossed countless countries where they could, but don’t want to live.  Many appear to have funds to pay people smugglers.  Many have no loyalty to the United Kingdom and would not fight in the armed forces in the recent conflicts.

But even if we could ensure that only genuine asylum seekers should be permitted to settle (for example, we transported all one million Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to the United Kingdom), there are simply too many refugees in the world, because the world is a very nasty place.

A comprehensive review of asylum policy is needed that does not enable settlement for the few in the West. For example, the response of the Muslim world to the Syrian refugee problem is scandalous.  Arabs could be easily re-settled in the Arab world (in regions with the same culture, language, and religion)- they come to the West for a better life.  Jordan keeps refugees in unsafe camps often funded by the West and the UNHCR, and rich Saudi Arabia (who funded the conflict but does next to nothing to meet its humanitarian spin-off crisis) and Egypt should have greater solidarity.  The Arab states are keeping the refugees in camps for political gain (as is largely the case with the Palestinians).

Why do we give aid to Pakistan and India who discriminate against Christians; and do not demand an improvement in their treatment.  In fact, most of the Christians living in the Muslim world could claim asylum in the West.

And for those of you who think the EU is virtuous, think again.  The EU passes these unsustainable laws of virtual unlimited migration to Europe: but as the unviability continues, they enter agreements with countries such as Turkey to beat on (literally – physically assault) the asylum seekers to prevent them physically reaching an EU border. Speaking of disingenuous.

This is a large and complex issue that requires an intelligent and humane response, but an open doors policy is insane. Repeal of the ECHR is urgent, but only a beginning – and don’t hold your breath…

Conservative MP for Morley and Outwood, Dame Andrea Jenkyns and Conservative Post Founder and Editor, Claire Bullivant, have started a petition on the Conservative Post to leave the ECHR. Please sign the petition below.

UK must leave European convention on human rights

It is time to pull out of the European Convention of Human Rights. The European Courts should have no jurisdiction over the UK. Please sign the petition.
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Main photo license: CC BY-NC Credit: Handout Reuters

Calling Conservative Party Members: DESELECT YOUR MP (if they’re not being conservative enough)

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If you are a Conservative Party member, you have more power than they want you to know about.

DID YOU KNOW? If 10% of an Association’s membership send in a letter of no confidence about their MP, we can start deselecting those Conservative MPs who aren’t actually being conservative.

So for example, an Association with 150 members would only need 15 letters of no confidence to go in to call for a Special General Meeting.

For too long there have been concerns the Conservative Party’s candidates department have been weeding out actual centre-right conservatives and pushing liberal centrists.

Let’s change that. It’s time to start flexing our muscles and steering our party back to proper conservatism. We want MPs who promote proper conservative values: free speech, free markets, free people, low taxes, small government, Brexit and Britain! Poll after poll show the country is also calling out for this.

It doesn’t matter if your local Parliamentary Candidate has already been selected; a Special General Meeting has the power to change its mind.

Members have told us the first ten MPs they want deselected are as follows:

If you are a member of one of the above associations please send in your letter now.

The letter you need to send:

Copy and paste the following letter (with your name and association details added) and send it off to your local association. Please also copy in Editor@ConservativePost.co.uk so we can keep a tally of how many letters are going in to each Association.

Dear Chairman,

I am writing to request a Special General Meeting to consider the following motion:

“That this meeting of members of the XXXXX Conservative Association / Federation does not confirm the selection and adoption of XXXXX as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the XXXXX Constituency.”

I can confirm the above motion uses wording similar to that used by CCHQ themselves for a similar motion that members voted upon elsewhere, proving that the motion is valid and that the precedence of a confirmatory vote of members has been set.

I believe we should immediately start the process of selecting a new Prospective Parliamentary Candidate.

Yours sincerely, XXXXX


Constitution Guidance For Your Information:

The following guidance applies to the Conservative & Unionist Party, and is a democratic way for local members to take an element of control over local selections for Parliamentary Candidates. 

Under clause 10.1.2 of Schedule 7 of the Conservative Party’s constitution, a Special General Meeting of an Association or Federation can be called by a petition signed by not less than fifty members of the Association or 10% of the current qualifying membership of the Association (whichever is less) sent to the Secretary of the Executive Council of the Association requesting them to convene such a meeting. If there is no Secretary in post, it can be sent to the Chairman or Chairwoman. Local party members can do this by sending an email, either one-by-one or by using a ’round robin’ format. A printed version with physical signatures can also be presented.

The motion being put to the meeting allows members to choose if they back their Parliamentary Candidate by voting for or against the motion as they see fit. If the motion is passed then the Association would have to consider the role of Parliamentary Candidate as vacant.

Let’s make sure we support actual conservatives who believe in conservative values and deselect those that don’t. People Power!


Photo credits: UK GOV – Licence CC BY 4.0 Deed | Attribution 4.0 International

Parliament is neither fair nor representative. We are again at a crossroads like in 1832, says Lord Cruddas 

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By Lord Cruddas.

We are in a similar situation (but for very different reasons) to the years leading up to The Great Reform Act of 1832. 

The industrial revolution was well under way. Revolution in the country had been in the air for some time.

This followed years of criticism of the electoral system.

A list of Prime Ministers from this period illustrates that they mainly came from the hereditary nobility. With a UK population of very roughly 22 or so million, only approximately 400,000 could vote. It was neither fair nor representative. Basically, to vote you needed to own property or pay certain taxes.

The Reform Act didn’t open the floodgates of democracy or remove all barriers to being eligible to vote but it was a start of changes for the better. Today Parliament is again neither fair nor representative.

Firstly, it has either delegated its authority to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), within its jurisdiction or through treaties to other institutions outside its jurisdiction. 

Unrepresentative and unelected bodies now provide it with the “expert opinions” and “facts“ to justify the new laws Parliament wants to introduce.  Such bodies often have a particular narrative to follow instead of objectively analysing all of the facts.

Secondly Parliament thinks that contrary to what people clearly feel or the Government’s own manifesto, it knows best and fails to represent those it is meant to by following through on its promises or by clearly putting barriers in the way. The Brexit parliamentary impasse was a terrible indictment of Parliament as a democratic institution.

“Today Parliament is again neither fair nor representative” says Lord Cruddas, the President of CDO, an organisation which fights to promote a democratic party. Photo credit: CDO

If the Labour Party forms the next government, it will press for more sub-delegation to be captured in due course by unaccountable bodies with agendas that the ordinary people of this great country wouldn’t support if asked on a fully aware basis of what is intended. This basically divorces Parliament and the elected government from being accountable and responsible for policy implementation. They will just point to advice from an NGO which in turn consulted others.

The Shadow Chancellor also has a coterie of tax advisers who seem to have a predilection for taxation in one direction as being the solution for everything.  

But this divorcing of Government from clear accountability is also happening too under a Conservative Government. It is shameful cowardly conduct by all parties attempting to avoid ballot box retribution. It is also a practice which has been breeding like a virus at a prolific rate in the devolved assemblies and local authorities.

A couple of examples of Labour’s thinking:

  • Sue Gray, Kier Starmer’s Chief of staff has recently announced labour’s plans to have Citizens Assemblies to decide on important constitutional / social issues. Isn’t that the role of Government via their manifestos? And on a limited number of matters isn’t a referendum the right route? The various assembly representatives will unsurprisingly be attuned to the agenda of the party that set them up.
  • Another example, which currently has a potentially ironical twist to it, is the Labour Party idea of having an Integrity and Ethics Commission to clean up politics. As proposed it would have enormous and far reaching powers and undermine the authority of Parliament. At its launch by Angela Rayner, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, it was stated as being a body which would “stamp out corruption in Government.” It will be interesting to see if it still retains its main proponent?
  • The recent European Court of Justice judgement that the Swiss Government has a duty to protect its citizens from climate change is quite an extraordinary judgement.

A sovereign state needs to take into account many different factors on most issues. It’s energy source is a reflection of, to mention a few, its own energy availability, its infrastructure, its geographic location, its economy and its national security. Only it can decide what is right for its people.

To have an external court and lawyers try and dictate to a sovereign country, from a narrow and wholly inadequate base of the proper considerations it needs to take account of, is frankly preposterous. And if the state is in breach of a treaty obligation, then the way to deal with that is to seek an amendment to the treaty and any underlying local incorporating legislation or if necessary, step away from the treaty. 

To have an external court and lawyers try and dictate to a sovereign country, from a narrow and wholly inadequate base of the proper considerations it needs to take account of, is frankly preposterous.

This mission creep does not augur well for the UK and it remaining a party to the ECHR.

The current fiasco with the UK’s illegal immigration problem is beyond a case in point. Controlling ones borders and who can remain after coming here illegally is one of the most basic functions of statehood. The conduct of both Houses of Parliament on this issue demonstrates a massive failure of Parliament to give a proper weighting to the significance and consequences of many issues for the British people, as a whole. Hence my parallels with the failures of Parliament in the early 19th Century and for which the electorate will probably, quite rightly, not show any mercy.

  • The proposed ban on smoking proposed by the Conservative Party being a very slippery slope, setting a precedent for much greater intrusion into people’s rights. Even though this attitude isn’t just confined to them, it is symptomatic of a philosophical problem the Conservative Party currently has.
  • The CASS report disclosed that a great number of adult gender clinics refused to disclose highly relevant evidence relating to patients changing their minds and the physical and mental suffering they experienced in connection with the transgender process. What beggars belief is that the Head of the NHS didn’t use their powers to require compliance with their disclosure obligations. This is the root of the problem through so many institutions and the Civil Service where no one is held to account. The rot is well and truly established. Failure to do your job, particularly on serious matters with serious consequences for the well-being of the young should result in immediate replacement. The selective basis of the police’s enforcement of many laws of incitement is another case in point.

Whilst the last century was about having different opinions this century and of late, in some quarters, is about having different facts and the reduction of personal freedoms, if you disagree about someone’s “ facts”. But in truth they are just opinions and ill-informed ones without regard to a proper distillation of all the facts.

This is very much the modus operandi of nationalist parties like the SNP as seen through their failed transgender laws and now again through their Orwellian hate speech law.

Socialist parties and some in the Conservative Party wish to extend the state into matters which are really about individual freedoms. There is no empathy for personal freedoms instead intolerance and totalitarianism is propagated with ever more threats of breaking the law and serious consequences for the individual. This is the path an activist minority are pushing for.  

Laws are being passed on matters which are more in truth social issues which any society has to live with by standards changing during its evolution. By in effect weaponising the courts to address matters which shouldn’t be within their remit, will only in due course undermine the Court’s own standing and law enforcement more generally.  

All of this and many more examples should be a clue as to what the Conservative Party needs to do if it wishes to remain relevant to the ordinary man and woman of this great country.

What is needed is a clear manifesto spelling out where the Conservative Party stands. And it cannot be where it is now.

What is needed is a clear manifesto spelling out where the Conservative Party stands. And it cannot be where it is now. Tinkering with the same agenda or just a variation of the Labour Party position will be a recipe for failure. There will be no clear choice and so no competition before the public. The Conservative Party will lose because it will demonstrate the same old stale, unsuccessful approach to things.

Thatcher’s Conservative Party’s 1979 manifesto basically said enough is enough – the current approach isn’t working. So the Conservative Part’s policies need to be bold. They need to be a clear rejection of the root of the problems above and most importantly with parliamentary candidates who understand and believe in a more traditional conservative approach which rolls back the state interfering on its current trajectory.

This is our 1832 moment to set the right course.

Lord Cruddas is the President of the CDO and is a former Conservative Party Treasurer.

Powerful DragonFire laser weapon to be installed on Royal Navy warship by 2027

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Defence Secretary Grant Shapps. Photographer: Rosie Hallam - UK MOD © Crown copyright. MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

By 2027, the Royal Navy is set to bolster its arsenal with a formidable addition: a powerful laser weapon.

This advancement comes as the demand for defences against drone and missile threats, such as those posed by Houthi rebels, continues to escalate.

The cutting-edge DragonFire laser, slated for installation on a warship, will augment the Royal Navy’s robust air defense capabilities, which already include systems like the Sea Viper and Sea Ceptor missiles. These systems have recently demonstrated their efficacy by neutralising Houthi targets in operations within the Red Sea, conducted by vessels like HMS Diamond and HMS Richmond.

Operating at the speed of light, the DragonFire laser can engage targets – be it drones, missiles, or aircraft – with remarkable precision and cost-effectiveness. Despite its immense power, a single burst from DragonFire costs no more than £10.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has emphasised the imperative of adapting procurement processes to address evolving threats, ensuring swift acquisition of cutting-edge equipment for the Armed Forces.

Mr Shapps said:

“In a more dangerous world, our approach to procurement is shifting with it. We need to be more urgent, more critical and more global. 

“Our widespread reforms will deliver the latest kit and weaponry for our Armed Forces faster and help identify export opportunities that can boost the UK economy.  

“DragonFire shows the best of the UK at the forefront of military technology, and we will not delay in getting it in the hands of our military to face down the threats we’re facing.”

This groundbreaking laser technology, under development for nearly a decade, recently underwent successful tests conducted by government scientists in the Hebrides. With plans expedited by five years from 2032, DragonFire will be integrated into Royal Navy vessels, following new procurement regulations introduced this week.

Image of the ‘DragonFire’ Laser Directed Energy Weapon (LDEW), seen here undergoing trials at DSTL’s (Defence Science and Technology Laboratory) range at Porton Down in Salisbury, UK. Photographer: Henry White. UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024 News / Editorial Licence.

Captain Matt Ryder, overseeing new capabilities as Head of Above Water Battlespace in the Royal Navy’s Develop Directorate, emphasised the Navy’s proactive stance towards adopting innovative technologies. He highlighted the relevance of laser weapons, particularly in safeguarding Freedom of Navigation in the Southern Red Sea amid Operation Prosperity Guardian.

Captain Ryder said:

“The Royal Navy has always been on the front foot to embrace new technologies to enhance our capability.

“We recognise this cutting-edge UK laser weapons technology as highly relevant and the need to accelerate it into service on board our ships at the earliest opportunity.

“Clearly a current operational focus is on protecting Freedom of Navigation in the Southern Red Sea as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian, where in recent months HMS Diamond and HMS Richmond have each successfully deployed Air Defence capabilities to defend legitimate shipping in the area against drone and missile threats.

“Noting the quantity and varied sophistication of air and missile threats seen in the Southern Red Sea, we see a very relevant and current example of where laser weapons could provide an additional layer of defence to protect shipping, at a potentially much lower cost per shot and without the inherent onboard magazine and silo capacity constraints associated with interceptor missiles.”

While existing missile systems remain vital components of the Royal Navy’s defense strategy, DragonFire presents an additional layer of protection, offering potentially lower costs per shot and circumventing onboard magazine and silo capacity limitations associated with interceptor missiles.

Developed by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) in collaboration with industry partners MBDA, Leonardo, and QinetiQ, DragonFire represents a significant leap forward in UK defense capabilities. Dstl’s Chief Executive, Paul Hollinshead, underscored the achievement as a testament to UK innovation and preparedness for future challenges.

Mr Hollinshead said:

“This is excellent news, and a real step forward in enabling operational advantage at pace for UK Defence. Dstl is all about preparing for the future and the DragonFire technology is a great example of that.  

“Our scientists along with industry partners have worked tirelessly to bring laser technology to where it is today, one which I am proud to say is a UK sovereign capability.”

Ghost of England’s ‘lost’ blossom endures through street and place names, according to new research

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Cherry Street in central Birmingham - telling the story of our 'lost blossom' | © National Trust Images

With the National Trust’s Blossom Week blooming this week (20-28th April), new research published by the charity has revealed the significance of historic blossom in all its different guises in influencing the street and place names that still exist today.

By analysing modern and historic maps, and matching these results to the orchards research undertaken by the Trust using artificial intelligence in 2022, the new research has been able to paint a picture of blossom over time across more than 90% of England and 30% of Wales.

The detailed analysis of place names found that the number of place names associated with blossom has doubled from 3% (23,000 of the 700,000 place names examined) in 1900 compared to 6% (51,000 of the 912,000 place names examined) in 2023 – despite the loss of blossom from our landscapes.

This pattern was reflected broadly when comparing place names in cities and rural locations.

One of the strongest correlations observed was the link between declining areas of traditional orchards and increases in place names associated with blossom. Across all counties surveyed, over 70% evidenced an increase in blossom-related place names alongside a decline in the presence of traditional orchards; and for cities the figure was even higher, with over 80% following this pattern.

Professor Matthew Heard, Head of Environmental Research & Data at the National Trust says:

“Over the last century, blossom has been disappearing from our landscapes.

“Since 1900, half of our traditional orchards – and their blossoming trees – have been lost across England and Wales. But despite this, we clearly haven’t lost our connection to them – their memory is something we seem to want to keep alive.

“How many of us know of an Orchard Close, or a Chestnut Avenue in our towns and cities? Place names can point to our values, beliefs and shared stories – they help us navigate cultural memory as much as they do the landscape itself. They can also provide us with clues about the changing nature of the world around us.”

‘Blossom related’ place names – results in more detail

Counties with the biggest declines in proportion of place names associated with blossom were Berkshire (12% of all place names in 1900 to 9% in 2023) and Hampshire (16% in 1900 to 11% in 2023).

Regionally, London and the South-East was the only region with a proportional decline in ‘blossom-related’ place names since 1900, from 7.2% (the highest of any region or country) to 6.7%. Despite this proportional decline, the region has still seen an overall doubling of place names linked to blossom (from 7,754 in 1900 to 13,682 in 2023) and is second only to the South-West where 7.1% of all place names today (7,896) are associated with blossom.

Wales was found to have the smallest proportion of place names linked to blossom today at just 3.2%, with the biggest proportional regional increases in the West Midlands (2.3% in 1900 to 6.3% today) and the North-East where the lowest representation of any region or country in 1900 (just 0.7% of place names) has increased substantially to 5%.

Moreover, when considering modern city boundaries which have a far greater footprint today than in 1900 – the presence of blossom in place names has literally bloomed. For instance, Hartlepool (1.2% in 1900 to 14.5% in 2023) and Stockton-on-Tees (0.7% in 1900 to 11.3% in 2023). But, on the flip side, cities in the South-East like Reading and Crawley have seen declines in the use of names linked with blossom from around 8% in 1900 to just 3% today.

Setting aside these few exceptions, it appears that despite the declines in the presence of blossom in our landscapes, the use of words linked to blossom in our place names has increased.

‘Orchard related’ place names

The increase in current place names adopting ‘orchard-related’ terms has increased despite a loss orchards of 56%, with just 4,017Ha left growing today – equivalent to an area slightly larger than the Isle of Wight.

The relationship between ‘orchard-related’ place names and orchards was established by placing a 500 meter buffer around the orchards’ datasets (showing orchards present in 1900, lost since 1900 and present today) produced as part of the research in 2022.

Matt continued: “What’s especially interesting is that 52% of current place names with the word ‘orchard’ in them are within 500 metres of an orchard that has been lost since 1900, but are more than 500 metres from an existing one. In other words, these names are acting as ‘fossil blossom’ – they are like imprints of the past.

“This ‘fossil blossom’ is an important part of our cultural memory – and might point the way for action to bring back blossom.”

When digging deeper into the more regional and country variations of place names in 1900 compared to today, there appears to be a dilution in the more individual characteristics of certain types of blossom across the regions.

Tom Dommett, Head of Historic Environment at the National Trust said: “When analysing the ‘orchard-related’ terms in place names today compared to 1900, it appears that our blossoming landscape – or at least the way we name it – has become more homogenous, less distinctive and less diverse – with less use of specific varieties as part of these naming conventions, such as Perry in the South West and West Midlands – and less use of vine and pear in the East Midlands.

“It’s possible that the proliferation of more generic orchard related terms in current place names reflects a combination of the perceived importance of historic blossom sites, and simultaneously a loss of local history and character.”

Looking particularly at Wales, there are far fewer Welsh language names today. In 1900 Welsh language ‘blossom-related’ place names accounted for three quarters (74%) of all blossom-related terms and just under 2% of all place names in the country. By contrast in 2023, Welsh language ‘blossom-related’ terms place names made up less than a third (31%) of all ‘blossom-related’ terms, and only 1% of place names.

Tom concluded: “The results in Wales resonate with ongoing concerns by campaigners that Welsh place names are being lost with our research revealing a halving of Welsh blossom-related place names between 1900 and 2023.

“These findings are very likely linked to the prevalence of Welsh speakers as a whole – given that there were far more Welsh speakers in 1900, compared to today, with a 42% decrease in people able to speak Welsh which also corresponds with the loss of Welsh place names.”

Annie Reilly, Programme Manager for the National Trust said: “As part of this year’s Blossom Week celebrations – supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery – we want to encourage more people to just start to notice and consider the places names that surround them and how these names could be rooted into the cultural history of the area.

“Through our Blossom programme, our aim to bring blossom back to as many cities as possible through various projects including the blossom gardens in London, Plymouth, Newcastle and Nottingham.

“We’re aiming to incorporate 4 million blossom trees as part of our ambitions to plant and establish 20 million trees across England, Wales and Northern Ireland by 2030.

“Where we can, we want these plantings to reflect the cultural history of the area through the use of traditional varieties, helping the connection between people, blossom and place to endure, as well as benefitting nature.

“As well as bringing blossom back to urban areas this research will be helpful in those places where we might want to emphasise the connection more strongly – but in a way that suits the particular needs of the site today. For example, we have a woodland site at Dunham Massey which is going to be planted with blossoming trees such as blackthorn, hawthorne and crab apples to reflect that it was once an orchard.”

There are hundreds of opportunities to get involved with blossom themed events happening at National Trust places and in towns and cities across the country during Blossom Week including a picnic in the orchard at Crook Hall Gardens in Durham, discover blossom trees by following Manchester’s Bloomtown trail, the immersive Blossom themed display at the Outernet in central London and a blossom procession ‘Gwel an Bleujenn’ (view of the flowers) at Cotehele in Cornwall with poetry and dancing. The Trust’s Blossom campaign is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, with the Manchester events supported by CJ Wildlife.

Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “Our players have raised more than £6.5 million, helping to support the invaluable work of the National Trust.

“I hope lots of people get involved in the many events taking place over Blossom Week, to help them connect with nature and mark the arrival of spring.”

Source: National Trust

Sharp reduction in government’s energy consumption and emissions saves millions for public estate

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The latest figures released this week in the government’s annual State of the Estate report, highlight the significant progress being made to make the public estate more sustainable and efficient.

  • Over £163 million in savings was secured last year due to reduced overall energy consumption across government buildings.
  • Direct emissions from government buildings were reduced by 14% in 2022/23.
  • The sale of surplus government land and property generated £1.07 billion in capital receipts, which will be invested back into the estate

A major efficiency drive has seen more than £163 million in energy cost savings secured and a significant fall in direct emissions from government buildings.

The latest figures released this week in the government’s annual State of the Estate report, highlight the significant progress being made to make the public estate more sustainable and efficient.

In part through the disposal of unused property and the relocation of civil servants into modern, multi-departmental hubs, the government has been able to reduce its energy bill by £163 million and cut direct emissions by 14% compared to the baseline 2017/18.

Other achievements in the report include:

  • Since March 2020, 83% (18,283 roles) of the 2027 Places for Growth target have been delivered, and 31.2% of UK-based SCS are now located outside of London.
  • The One Public Estate programme, delivered in partnership with the Cabinet Office, Local Government Association, and Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities, secured £63m in capital receipts, £26m in running cost savings, released land for 6,000 homes, and helped create 9,000 jobs.
  • Generated £1.07bn in capital receipts from the disposal of surplus land and buildings to support regeneration and residential development in communities

To mark the report’s publication, the Manchester First Street Hub celebrated its ‘topping-out’ ceremony yesterday (April 18th) The ceremony marked the beginning of the countdown to the completion of this new UK Government Hub in the heart of Manchester city centre. The c.12,000 sq. ft. building is scheduled to be ready for fit-out by the end of 2024 and open its doors in late 2025.

Once completed, the Manchester First Street Hub will accommodate approximately 2,600 civil servants from several key government departments and support the relocation of over 700 civil service roles under the Places for Growth programme.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office, Alex Burghart, said:

We are committed to creating more modern and productive work environments where civil servants can be inspired and take pride in delivering the best possible service to the taxpayer.

These savings on our energy bills, alongside the income generated through the disposal of unused property, will be reinvested into improving the overall quality of the public estate.

Source: Cabinet OfficeGovernment Property Agency, and Alex Burghart MP

Conservatives criticise Labour for paying some asylum seekers £1,600 a month for “doing nothing”

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“Conservatives are stopping the boats, Labour are paying for them!”

Conservatives have criticised Welsh Labour for permitting some asylum seekers to participate in Wales’ basic income pilot program which will pay them close to £20,000 a year.

Valued at £20 million, the initiative provides £1,600 monthly to 18-year-olds leaving care, which includes unaccompanied asylum seekers.

Rishi Sunak, during Prime Minister’s Questions, criticised Labour’s alleged payment of £1,600 to “illegal migrants,” saying it’s in direct contrast to the government’s efforts to deter illegal immigration.

Welsh Conservatives have also called the “£1,600 a month for illegal migrants is a disgraceful misuse of taxpayers’ money.”

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Rishi Sunak said:

“I know the Labour leader has said that the Welsh Labour government is his blueprint, and unbelievably as my honourable member said, Labour in Wales are trying to pay illegal migrants £1,600. 

“We’re stopping the boats, Labour are paying for them”.

Andrew RT Davies MS, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives added:

“Illegal migrants should not be getting a monthly payment in Wales, and this policy from Labour is nonsensical.

“The universal basic income scheme is a colossal waste of tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money and the eligibility of illegal migrants will act as an unacceptable pull factor to the benefit of evil people smugglers.

“Vaughan Gething should swallow his pride, admit this policy was a failure, and focus on the Welsh people’s priorities.”

“The eligibility of illegal migrants will act as an unacceptable pull factor to the benefit of evil people smugglers” – Andrew RT Davies MS, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives.

Officials have said the scheme is the highest amount offered on a basic income scheme anywhere in the world.

However, the Welsh Labour government has defended its intention to assist young asylum seekers in “rebuilding their lives.”

Welsh Labour say the basic income scheme, launched last year, aims to assess how such payments can aid care leavers in transitioning to independence. Unaccompanied asylum seeker children (UASC) turning 18 have been eligible to apply for the scheme from its inception, receiving £1,280 monthly after tax. The program offers unconditional monthly payments for two years to individuals who have been in care for at least 13 weeks.

As of March 8, there were 294 recipients of the basic income pilot, with an estimated total of around 500 participants expected by the scheme’s closure to new applicants in June. Of these, 152 identified as Welsh, 57 as British, and 37 as English. The remaining 35 recipients reported various other nationalities, while 13 did not provide a response.

The news that migrants are being paid has also been met with distain on Welsh streets.

Sam Jones, a mother of 3 from Cardiff told the Conservative Post: “I work two cleaning shifts and help out at my friend’s shop on Saturdays just to make ends meet. I would love to get £1600 for doing nothing! I will never vote Labour again. They have priorities all wrong. The Welsh people should come first. Why are they giving our tax money to pay for people to do nothing?”

Simon Hall, a farm hand from Denbigh added: “I’m 18 and this is my first proper job. I’m working hard to try and save up so I can get a place of my own… my only day off is on Sunday at the moment and it’s hard work. I’m flat-out. How can these people get more than me for not even working? And they aren’t even from here. I’m all for helping people in need but this is taking p%@*!”

The controversial scheme has caused more controversy this week when the Welsh Labour government requested relaxed legal aid rules for pilot participants, a proposal rejected by Conservative ministers.

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies accused Labour ministers of seeking to exempt asylum seekers from legal fees.

The Conservative Welsh Secretary has also accused Labour politicians of not knowing what their colleagues in the Welsh Government were up to.

Sheffield Forgemasters gets qualification to deliver UK’s next generation of civil nuclear power plants

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Photo credit: Sheffield Forgemasters

Sheffield Forgemasters has been awarded a crucial strategic qualification, positioning the company to support development and delivery of the next generation of civil nuclear power plants.

Sheffield Forgemasters’ status as the only company in the UK capable of manufacturing reactor vessel components for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), coupled with its ASME status, make it a crucial capability in delivery of this advanced power-generation technology.

The company’s nuclear qualification came after an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Section III Division I NCA 3300 (NCA 3800), NCA 4000 and NQA-1 Code survey and audit, recommended it for Material Organisation (MO), and welding (NPT) accreditations.

Ian Nicholls, group technical director, at Sheffield Forgemasters, said:

“We undertook the ASME audit in November and have now received confirmation that the audit recommendation has been approved by the committee. The accreditation is a huge development with heightened requirements and protocols embracing all our processes, employees and selected sub-suppliers.”

The qualification comes soon after the company announced a ground-breaking development in the acceleration of welding for large nuclear vessels, using Electron Beam Welding to reduce more than a year’s worth of manual welding to less than 24 hours.

As well as being the sole UK supplier of large, nuclear-grade forgings and castings, Sheffield Forgemasters’ MO and NPT status now makes it one of the only UK companies qualified for fabrication of the main components within a civil nuclear power plant.

Ian added:

“The ASME accreditation, coupled with our development of Electron Beam Welding for large diameter, nuclear grade vessels, places Sheffield Forgemasters at the pinnacle of development for Small Modular Reactors and presents significant possibilities for the UK’s domestic nuclear new-build programme.”

The ASME code is the most comprehensive series of guidelines for civil nuclear manufacture in the world with an emphasis on doctrines that have parallels with the European Nuclear manufacturing code, RCC-M, and other submarine nuclear standards.

Sheffield Forgemasters first gained ASME accreditation as a Nuclear Materials Organisation in 1992 will now continue its work to advance manufacturing technologies for the next generation of SMR civil nuclear power plants.

BAE Systems awarded contract to maintain and repair light guns in Ukraine

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Gabby Costigan, BAE Systems' Group Managing Director, Business Development and Andy Start, Chief Executive of DE&S, sign the agreement in Ukraine. Photo credit: BAESystems

The Ministry of Defence has awarded British multinational arms, security, and aerospace company, BAE Systems a contract to maintain and repair gifted L119 Light Guns in Ukraine. 

The contract, which was announced during a recent UK Government-led trade mission to Kyiv, means that L119s which were donated by the UK to Ukraine can be serviced in country and returned to the frontline more quickly.

The L119 Light Gun has proved to be a trusted system that Ukrainian forces have favoured because of its accurate firepower, light weight, low logistical requirements and mobility. As the original manufacturer of the Light Gun, as well as more than 15 other systems in use in Ukraine, BAE Systems has been working with allied governments since the start of the war to help with training and support.

Following a meeting with President Zelenskyy in 2023, the Company has established a legal entity in Ukraine, opened an office and signed agreements to better understand and support Ukraine’s capability requirements and to help revitalise Ukraine’s industrial base.

The L119 contract builds on a teaming agreement signed with British company AMS in December. Under the contract, BAE Systems and the AMS team will provide maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services from maintenance facilities in Ukraine.

Gabby Costigan, Group Managing Director, Business Development said:

We’re committed to working with our government customers and industry partners to provide solutions that will help Armed Forces Ukraine secure victory. Our partner establishing a strategic military repair facility will significantly reduce the time that critical artillery assets are out of service. This contract is another step in strengthening our relationship and paves the way for us to provide more direct, long-term support to Ukraine.

Major General Anna-Lee Reilly, Director DE&S Operations, UK Ministry of Defence added:

As the conflict in Ukraine continues it is vital that the UK Government and UK industry continue to support the Ukrainians to sustain their equipment. The contract with BAE Systems for the refurbishment of the L119 Light Gun continues the UK’s theme of enabling the maintenance and repair of equipment inside Ukraine to minimise the time that equipment will be away from the front line. The repair facility that has been secured is scalable to provide a similar capability for UK and other nations’ systems. This commitment from BAE Systems and AMS to work in country demonstrates the continued support from the UK Government and Defence Industry to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

As well as providing support to gifted equipment, BAE Systems has also been involved in delivering major elements of the UK Government’s cyber security support to Ukraine.

The Company’s capabilities are helping to detect, block and counter both destructive cyber-attacks and cyber espionage against military targets as well as civilian infrastructure that supports vital services for the Ukrainian people.

Met Police threaten to arrest ‘openly Jewish’ man in London for walking near pro-Palestine march

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Photo: X/@antisemitism

The Met Police have been accused of allowing no-go zones for Jews in London, according to claims made by Gideon Falter, head of the Campaign Against Antisemitism.

Last Saturday, Falter, who was wearing a kippah skull cap, was stopped by officers in the Aldwych area while walking with friends after attending synagogue. He encountered a pro-Palestinian march and was informed by police that his presence as a Jew could provoke tensions among the marchers.

Video footage of the exchange was uploaded to social media, where Falter was told he couldn’t cross the road during the march. He was warned that remaining in the area could result in arrest for causing a breach of the peace.

Falter expressed disbelief at the situation, stating that merely being openly Jewish shouldn’t be controversial in London. He criticised what he perceives as the Metropolitan Police’s policy of effectively creating no-go zones for Jewish Londoners during such marches, rather than addressing the threat of antisemitic violence. Falter emphasised that his concern lies with the Met’s overall approach to these weekly events, suggesting that officers are placed in challenging situations due to the lack of resources to manage protests where criminal behavior, including racism and violence, is observed.

Falter says that after six months of marches making Jews feel unsafe, the Met should take action and has called on the Met Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, to use existing powers under the Public Order Act to curb or ban these marches. Falter has urged accountability from Rowley, as well as from Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London.

Mr Falter says:

“Sir Mark Rowley has the distinction of presiding over the worst surge in antisemitic criminality in our capital city since records began. For months, his approach to policing has abjectly failed both London’s Jewish community and our country.

“CAA polling now finds that 69% of British Jews feel the need to hide their identity in public, and 90% say that they would avoid the centre of town when an anti-Israel protest is taking place. Synagogues in central London now require the presence of dozens of officers backed by police vans to operate when marches are taking place.

Under his [Sir Mark Rowley’s] leadership, the inaction of the Met Police has prompted a national debate about the extremism exhibited on our streets. He has explained away open calls for jihad shouted on our streets and the beaming of a slogan calling for genocide on Big Ben.”

In response, a Met spokesman acknowledged the concern raised by the video and stated that they recognise the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, which includes regular protests and marches in central London. The spokesman affirmed everyone’s right to travel safely throughout the capital and expressed willingness to meet with anyone organising a march or protest ahead of April 27.

The Met spokesman said:

“We are aware of this video and fully acknowledge the worry it has caused, not only to those featured, but also anyone who watches it, and will review the circumstances.

“We have always said that we recognise the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues to be an issue of concern for many Londoners, and this includes the regular protests and marches in central London.

“Everyone has the right to travel throughout the capital in safety. We will meet and discuss with anyone who wishes to organise a march or protest ahead of April 27.”

Conservatives crackdown on ‘sick note culture’ to get Britons back to work

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According to the Office for National Statistics, since 2020, the number of people out of work due to long-term sickness has risen significantly, reaching a record high of 2.8 million people as of February 2024.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivered a speech on Friday morning, emphasising a “moral mission” to eradicate the “sick note culture” and reintegrate healthy individuals into the UK workforce.

Sunak pledged to overhaul the welfare system to ensure that those capable of working are provided with the best opportunities to return to their jobs after a period of illness.

The Prime Minister stressed the British belief in work as a source of dignity and purpose, asserting the government’s responsibility to ensure that hard work is always rewarded.

Acknowledging the concerning trend since the Covid pandemic, with 850,000 more people now economically inactive in Britain, Sunak announced a review of the current system. Under the proposed changes, specialist work and health professionals will take over the responsibility of issuing sick notes from GPs. Feedback from healthcare professionals, employers, and individuals with relevant experience will be solicited in an upcoming consultation.

Statistics indicate a significant rise in long-term sickness-related unemployment since 2020, with a record high of 2.8 million people affected as of February 2024, according to the Office for National Statistics. The majority of these individuals cite depression, anxiety, or nervousness as secondary conditions contributing to their unemployment.

Sunak also outlined plans to combat benefit fraud, aiming to align the Department for Work and Pensions with HMRC to treat benefit fraud similarly to tax fraud. Charities, however, criticized the proposed reforms, arguing they disproportionately target the sick and disabled amidst crumbling public services.

These developments follow recent controversy sparked by comments from Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride, who reiterated the need for a “grown-up” conversation about mental health and workforce participation. Stride emphasised the necessity of addressing the escalating costs of welfare spending and rejected accusations of demonizing individuals reliant on support systems.

As the government moves forward with its welfare reform agenda, discussions continue on how best to balance support for those in need with fiscal responsibility.

Prime Minister’s speech on welfare

A transcript of the speech, exactly as it was delivered is as follows:

Today I’d like to talk about the growing number of people who have become economically inactive since the pandemic…

 …and the moral mission of reforming welfare to give everyone who can, the best possible chance of returning to work.

The values of our welfare state are timeless.

They’re part of our national character – of  who we are as a country.

We’re proud to ensure a safety net that is generous for those who genuinely need it – and fair to the taxpayers who fund it.

We know there are some with the most severe conditions who will never be able to work. 

And some who can no longer work because of injury or illness.

And they and their loved ones must always have the peace of mind that comes from knowing they will always be supported.

But we also have a long-standing and proudly British view that work is a source of dignity, purpose, of hope.

The role of the welfare state should never be merely to provide financial support… 

…as important as that will always be…

…but to help people overcome whatever barriers they might face to living an independent, fulfilling life.

Everyone with the potential should be supported…

And not just to earn, but to contribute and belong.

And we must never tolerate barriers that hold people back from making their contribution… 

…and from sharing in that sense of self-worth that comes from feeling part of being something bigger than ourselves.

That is why this is a moral mission.

And why the value of work is so central to my vision for welfare reform.

And it’s fitting to be setting out that vision here, at the Centre for Social Justice. 

Over your 20-year history, you’ve inspired far-reaching changes to welfare. 

I want pay tribute to you and of course your founder, Iain Duncan-Smith… 

…who began the journey of reform in 2010… 

…a journey carried through so ably today, by Mel Stride. 

Because when we arrived in office in 2010, people coming off benefits and into work could lose £9 for every £10 they earned…

…by far the highest marginal tax rate. 

That was morally wrong.  

So we created Universal Credit to make sure that work always pays. 

We introduced the National Living Wage – and increased it every year, ending low pay in this country.  

We’re rolling out 30 hours of free childcare for every family over 9 months of age.  

We’ve halved inflation, to make the money you earn worth more.  

And we’ve cut workers’ National Insurance by a third.

A tax cut worth £900 for someone earning the average wage… 

…because it is profoundly wrong that income from work is taxed twice… 

…when other forms of income are not. 

For me, it is a fundamental duty of government to make sure that hard work is always rewarded.  

I know – and you know – that you don’t get anything in life without hard work.

It’s the only way to build a better life for ourselves and our family; and the only way to build a more prosperous country.  

But in the period since the pandemic something has gone wrong.  

The proportion of people who are economically inactive in Britain is still lower than our international peers.  

And lower today than in any year under the last Labour government. 

But since the pandemic, 850,000 more people have joined this group due to long-term sickness.  

This has wiped out a decade’s worth of progress in which the rate had fallen every single year.  

Of those who are economically inactive, fully half say they have depression or anxiety. 

And most worrying of all… 

…the biggest proportional increase in economic inactivity due to long-term sickness came … 

…from young people. 

Those in the prime of their life, just starting out on work and family – instead parked on welfare.  

Now, we should see it as a sign of progress that people can talk openly about mental health conditions… 

…in a way that only a few years ago would’ve been unthinkable.  

And I will never dismiss or downplay the illnesses people have. 

Anyone who has suffered mental ill health or had family or friends who have, knows that these conditions are real and they matter. 

But just as it would be wrong to dismiss this growing trend… 

…so it would be wrong merely to sit back and accept it… 

…because it’s too hard; or too controversial; or for fear of causing offence. 

Doing so, would let down many of the people our welfare system was designed to help. 

Because if you believe as I do, that work gives you the chance not just to earn…

…but to contribute, to belong, to overcome feelings of loneliness and social isolation… 

…and if you believe, as I do, the growing body of evidence that good work can actually improve mental and physical health… 

…then it becomes clear: we need to be more ambitious about helping people back to work.  

And more honest about the risk of over-medicalising the everyday challenges and worries of life.  

Fail to address this, and we risk not only letting those people down.  

But creating a deep sense of unfairness amongst those whose taxes fund our social safety net… 

…in a way that risks undermining trust and consent in that very system. 

We can’t stand for that.  

And of course, the situation as it is, is economically unsustainable. 

We can’t lose so many people from our workforce whose contributions could help to drive growth.

And there’s no sustainable way to achieve our goal of bringing down migration levels, which are just too high…

…without giving more of our own people the skills, incentives, and support, to get off welfare and back into work.

And we can’t afford such a spiralling increase in the welfare bill… 

…and the irresponsible burden that would place on this and future generations of taxpayers.

We now spend £69bn on benefits for people of working age with a disability or health condition. 

That’s more than our entire schools budget; more than our transport budget; more than our policing. 

And spending on Personal Independence Payments alone is forecast to increase by more than 50 per cent over the next four years.  

Let me just repeat that: if we do not change, it will increase by more than 50% in just four years.  

That’s not right; it’s not sustainable and it’s not fair on the taxpayers who fund it.

So in the next Parliament, a Conservative government will significantly reform and control welfare.  

This is not about making our safety net less generous. 

Or imposing a blanket freeze on all benefits, as some have suggested.  

I’m not prepared to balance the books on the backs of the most vulnerable. 

Instead, the critical questions are about eligibility… 

…about who should be entitled to support…

…and what kind of support best matches their needs. 

And to answer these questions, I want to set out today five Conservative reforms for a new welfare settlement for Britain. 

First, we must be more ambitious in assessing people’s potential for work.  

Right now, the gateway to ill health benefits is writing too many off… 

…leaving them on the wrong type of support… 

…and with no expectation of trying to find a job, with all the advantages that brings. 

In 2011, twenty percent of those doing a Work Capability Assessment… 

…were deemed unfit to work. 

But the latest figure now stands at 65 per cent. 

That’s wrong. 

People are not three times sicker than they were a decade ago. 

And the world of work has changed dramatically. 

Of course, those with serious debilitating conditions should never be expected to work.  

But if you have a low-level mobility issue, your employer could make reasonable adjustments…  

…perhaps including adaptations to enable you to work from home. 

And if you are feeling anxious or depressed, then of course you should get the support and treatment you need to manage your condition. 

But that doesn’t mean we should assume you can’t engage in work.  

That’s not going to help you. And it’s not fair on everyone else either.  

So we are going to tighten up the Work Capability Assessment… 

…such that hundreds of thousands of benefit recipients with less severe conditions… 

…will now be expected to engage in the world of work – and be supported to do so.

Second, just as we help people move from welfare into work… 

…we’ve got to do more to stop people going from work to welfare. 

The whole point of replacing the Sick Note with the Fit Note was to stop so many people just being signed off as sick.  

Instead of being told you’re not fit for work… 

…the Fit Note provided the option to say that you may be fit for work… 

…with advice about what you could do; and what adaptions or support would enable you to stay in, or return to work, quickly.  

11 million of these Fit Notes were issued last year alone.  

But what proportion were signed “maybe fit for work”? 

6 per cent. 

That’s right – a staggering 94 per cent of those signed off sick… 

…were simply written off as “not fit for work.” 

Well, this is not right. And it was never the intention.  

We don’t just need to change the sick note – we need to change the sick note culture… 

…so the default becomes what work you can do – not what you can’t.  

Building on the pilots we’ve already started..

…we’re going to design a new system… 

…where people have easy and rapid access to specialised work and health support…

…to help them back to work from the very first Fit Note conversation.  

And part of the problem is that it’s not reasonable to ask GPs to assess whether their own patients are fit for work. 

It too often puts them in an impossible situation where they know that refusal to sign someone off… 

…will harm their relationship with that patient. 

So we’re also going to test shifting the responsibility for assessment from GPs… 

…and giving it to specialist work and health professionals…  

…who have the dedicated time to provide an objective assessment of someone’s ability to work…

…and the tailored support they need to do so.  

Third, for those who could work with the right support… 

…we should have higher expectations of them in return for receiving benefits.  

Because when the taxpayer is supporting you to get back on your feet… 

…you have an obligation to put in the hours. 

And if you do not make that effort, you cannot expect the same level of benefits.  

It used to be that if you worked just nine hours a week, you’d get full benefits without needing to look for additional work.   

That’s not right. Because if you can work more, you should.  

So we’re changing the rules.  

Anyone working less than half a full-time week will now have to try and find extra work in return for claiming benefits. 

And we’ll accelerate moving people from legacy benefits onto Universal Credit, to give them more access to the world of work.    

One of my other big concerns about the system… 

 …is that the longer you stay on welfare, the harder it can be to go back to work. 

More than 500,000 people have been unemployed for 6 months… 

 …and well over a quarter of a million have been unemployed for 12 months. 

These are people with no medical conditions that prevent them from working… 

…and who will have benefitted from intensive employment support and training programmes. 

There is no reason those people should not be in work, especially when we have almost 1 million job vacancies. 

So we will now look at options to strengthen our regime. 

Anyone who doesn’t comply with the conditions set by their Work Coach…

…such as accepting an available job… 

…will, after 12 months, have their claim closed and their benefits removed entirely.

Because unemployment support should be a safety net – never a lifestyle choice.

Fourth, we need to match the support people need to the actual conditions they have. 

And help people live independently and remove the barriers they face. 

But we need to look again at how we do this through Personal Independence Payments. I worry about it being misused. 

Now its purpose is to contribute to the extra costs people face as they go about their daily lives. 

Take for example, those who need money for aids or assistance… 

 …with things like handrails or stairlifts. 

Often they’re already available at low cost, or free from the NHS or Local Authorities.    

And they’re one-off costs… 

…so it probably isn’t right that we’re paying an ongoing amount every year.  

We also need to look specifically at the way Personal Independence Payments support those with mental health conditions.   

Since 2019, the number of people claiming PIP citing anxiety or depression as their main condition, has doubled… 

…with over 5,000 new awards on average every single month. 

But for all the challenges they face…

…it is not clear they have the same degree of increased living costs as those with physical conditions.  

And the whole system is undermined by the way people are asked to make subjective and unverifiable claims about their capability. 

So in the coming days we will publish a consultation on how we move away from that… 

…to a more objective and rigorous approach that focuses support on those with the greatest needs and extra costs. 

We will do that by being more precise about the type and severity of mental health conditions that should be eligible for PIP. 

We’ll consider linking that assessment more closely to a person’s actual condition…

…and requiring greater medical evidence to substantiate a claim. 

All of which will make the system fairer and harder to exploit. 

And we’ll also consider whether some people with mental health conditions should get PIP in the same way through cash transfers… 

…or whether they’d be better supported to lead happier, healthier and more independent lives…  

…through access to treatment like talking therapies or respite care. 

I want to be completely clear about what I’m saying here. 

This is not about making the welfare system less generous to people who face very real extra costs from mental health conditions.  

For those with the greatest needs, we want to make it easier to access with fewer requirements.

And beyond the welfare system, we’re delivering the largest expansion in mental health services in a generation… 

…with almost £5 billion of extra funding over the past 5 years, and a near doubling of mental health training places. 

But our overall approach is about saying that people with less severe mental health conditions… 

…should be expected to engage with the world of work. 

Fifth, we cannot allow fraudsters to exploit the natural compassion and generosity of the British people.   

We’ve already cracked down on thousands of people wrongly claiming Universal Credit… 

…including those not reporting self-employed earnings or hiding capital   

And we’ll save the taxpayer £600 million by legislating to access vital data from third parties like banks. 

Just this month, DWP secured guilty verdicts against a Bulgarian gang caught making around 6,000 fraudulent claims…

…including by hiding behind a corner shop in North London. 

And we’re going further.  

We’re using all the developments in modern technology, including Artificial Intelligence…

…to crack down on exploitation in the welfare system that’s taking advantage of the hardworking taxpayers who fund it.

We’re preparing a new Fraud Bill for the next Parliament which will align DWP with HMRC… 

…so we treat benefit fraud like tax fraud… 

…with new powers to make seizures and arrests. 

And we’ll also enable penalties to be applied to a wider set of fraudsters through a new civil penalty. 

Because when people see others in their community gaming the system that their taxes pay … 

…it erodes support for the very principle of the welfare state. 

Now, in conclusion some people will hear this speech and accuse me of lacking compassion.  

Of not understanding the barriers people face in their everyday lives. 

But the exact opposite is true. 

There is nothing compassionate about leaving a generation of young people to sit alone in the dark before a flickering screen… 

…watching as their dreams slip further from reach every passing day.  

And there is nothing fair about expecting taxpayers to support those who could work but choose not to. 

It doesn’t have to be like this. 

We can change. We must change. 

The opportunities to work are there… 

…thanks to an economic plan that has created almost a million job vacancies. 

The rewards for working are there… 

…thanks to our tax cuts and increases to the National Living Wage. 

And now, if we can deliver the vision for welfare I’ve set out today… 

…then we can finally fulfil our moral mission, to restore hope…

…and give back to everyone who can, the dignity, purpose and meaning that comes from work.  

Thank you.

Largest ever expansion of childcare in England’s history heralded huge success

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Secretary of State for Education, Gillian Keegan. Picture by Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

Government publishes new data showing 195,355 children benefitting from government-funded childcare for two-year-olds in successful April launch.

Hundreds of thousands of parents will be able to more easily manage their career and childcare over the next two years following the hugely successful launch of the largest ever expansion of childcare in England’s history.

This month, eligible working parents of 2-year-olds were given 15 hours of government-funded childcare for the first time, as part of the government’s long-term plan to build a brighter future for families and help grow the economy.

Since January, applications have been open for parents to apply for an eligibility code to access the new 15 hours of childcare, which they take to their chosen childcare provider to validate.  

The latest data, set to be published on Monday, will reveal that 195,355 two-year-olds are already benefitting from government-funded places. This puts the rollout on the same trajectory as the previous expansion of free childcare hours to three- and four-year-olds in 2017.

Today, the government has confirmed that 79% of codes issued have now been validated by providers. In 2017, 71% of codes that had been issued to parents were validated by a similar point in the rollout.

Thousands more children will have their places confirmed over the coming weeks. The government expects some eligibility codes will go unused as parents change their mind about formal childcare or were issued a code even though they didn’t need one.

All local authorities have reported they are currently meeting the demand from parents for childcare places.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said:

We are transforming childcare in this country to deliver the support that hard-working parents deserve.

As today’s figures show, our plan is working. Thousands of parents are returning to work, and tens of thousands more will be able to do so later this year and next.

Childcare expansion on this scale is unprecedented in this country, and we will continue providing maximum support to nurseries and all providers to make it a reality.

Alice Barrett, a mother from Nottingham, applied for the 15 hours from April for her son, Wyatt. Alice and her partner both work full time, and they are already seeing significant savings thanks to the new offer. She says:

The entire process for me was stress free and very well rolled out. We have recently received the breakdown of our bill for May, and we are saving up to £200 per month.

We are so grateful to be eligible for the scheme, and the additional funds we now have will help us with allowing a buffer for bills and any unexpected costs, as well as getting Wyatt back on track with his swimming and other activities his enjoys.

The government has also today published projections for the additional places and staff needed for the wider rollout, which will see eligible working parents able to access 30 hours of free childcare per week after their child turns 9 months old, until they start school. This will save families an average of £6,900 per year. 

The Department for Education estimates that just 15,000 additional places – an increase of 1% – will be needed for this September, with thousands of those expected to become available this summer supported by £100 million of capital investment and additional £12 million of delivery support for local authorities.

Around 70,000 further places are likely to be needed for September 2025, when the offer expands to 30 government-funded hours for children from 9 months old to when they start school.

According to the government’s Provider Pulse Survey published today, the largest barrier identified by the sector (45% of respondents) to scaling up for 2025 was future funding certainty. To give providers the confidence to support each stage of the rollout, the Chancellor committed to £500 million of additional funding over the next two years, providing a level of certainty which is already unlocking tens of millions in private sector funding.

Laura Trott, Chief Secretary to the Treasury said:

Funded childcare means working parents know their children are safe and well looked after. It is such a huge weight off parent’s minds, helping them pursue careers and play a part in growing our economy.

This month’s rollout alone will help thousands of parents into work. But that is just the start, as our full investment will also mean many more parents can get into work or increase the hours they work.

Last year, the number of childcare places increased by around 15,000, and the number of staff by around 13,000, even before direct government interventions to increase capacity.

These numbers have continued to grow over the course of this year, driven by higher average rates paid by government for the new entitlements than parents would have paid and £1,000 cash incentives for new joiners. Our new recruitment campaign has already driven over 73,000 people to find out more about working in early years.

To further increase capacity, a new pilot is also beginning this summer to explore how unused school space could be repurposed to support childcare settings to offer more places.

The school space pilot this summer involves matching a small number of private, voluntary, or independent childcare providers with surplus school and college space.

If the pilot is a success, the government will roll it out widely ahead of September 2025, helping fast-track the process for schools, colleges and childcare providers.

A total of 40,000 additional staff compared with 2023 are required by September 2025. A total of 170,000 places are required, with around half already available in the system and half needed as new capacity.

Minister for Employment Jo Churchill said:

This huge expansion in free childcare means more parents can return to work, boost their earnings and ensure long-tern financial security for their family.

We have generously increased the support working parents on Universal Credit can receive towards childcare costs, helping remove barriers and allowing parents to give their children the best start in life.

Parents with a preferred provider are urged to secure their place for September now, ahead of when applications open for eligible working parents of 9-month-to-23-month-olds on 12 May.

Parents will be able to apply for codes for September until 31 August, and the government has today updated the process to make sure all eligible working parents can apply, regardless of whether they are in work or on parental leave.

A spokesperson for the National Partnership in Early Learning and Childcare, said:

We welcome the government’s increased investment in early learning and childcare and have been pleased to work closely with those across the sector to ensure a smooth rollout of the April entitlement, so families can access this vital provision.

We are committed to continued collaboration with the government, local authorities and parents, working together throughout this process to enable all children to access high-quality and exemplary early learning and childcare.

Simone Carter, Managing Director, N Family Club, said:

We welcome the enhanced funding offer and recognise the positive impact this will have on many children and their families.

Making care more affordable will allow providers the opportunity to reach more families, and enable more children to experience the lifelong benefits of quality early years education.

Source: Department for EducationHM TreasuryJo Churchill MPThe Rt Hon Laura Trott MBE MP, and The Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP