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Duncan Smith: Defeating the five giants

Speech given at Toynbee Hall on Iain Duncan Smith's first anniversary as Party Leader

I am very grateful to the President, Chairman and trustees of Toynbee Hall for hosting today's speech.

Toynbee offers a helping hand to people of many ethnic, faith and political backgrounds.

Through the volunteers and policymakers who have been involved with its work, Toynbee's influence extends far beyond its East London roots.

The fact that its influence is growing today is a great tribute to John Profumo and its current staff.

William Beveridge spent a formative period of time at Toynbee Hall and has been one of the most prominent 'ambassadors' for the Toynbee philosophy of helping people to lead better lives.

Beveridge's identification of the five giants of his time makes Toynbee Hall the ideal location for my speech today.

Today - twelve months after I became Leader of the Conservative Party - I want to name the five new giants that threaten the hopes and security of every person in Britain.

Sadly for millions of vulnerable people throughout this country, these five giants have become more threatening over the last five years.

The facts stubbornly show that you are most likely to be hurt by the five giants if you are poor, if you live in the inner cities, if you are black, if you are very young or if you are very old.

The five giants of today

In the 1940s William Beveridge named the five giants of his time: want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.

Five new giants blight Britain today:

Failing schools.


Sub-standard healthcare.

Child poverty.

And insecurity in old age.

Travel to Britain's poorest communities and you'll find whole neighbourhoods in the suffocating grip of these five giants.

But the giants' footprints are found in every neighbourhood in Britain.

Many children are being left behind because of the breakdown of discipline in schools.

Fear of crime and drugs blights the leafiest and most prosperous neighbourhoods. An inadequate health service fails families in every part of the country. Children growing up in wealthy homes can still be starved of love and security. And older people are increasingly anxious about financial security in their later years.

The growing size and menace of the five giants threatens the security of people throughout Britain.

People who once felt completely secure now feel the giants' breath on their necks. But it is the impact of the giants on society's most vulnerable people that represents the most urgent challenge to society.

In March at my Party's Spring Forum, I said that bringing opportunity and security to vulnerable people in disadvantaged communities like Easterhouse was a mission fit for this new century.

This mission can only be achieved when we have toppled today's five giants.

The five giants stalking Britain

- Failing schools

The first of today's five giants is failing schools. A good education provides the surest foundation for success in later life.

Good schools reinforce the values of a good home.

But too many parents are forced to send their children to a school that is not right for them.

Too many children are falling behind in failing schools - particularly in our inner cities.

Teachers beginning their professional service in one of Britain's schools this month have chosen one of the most important careers in public life.

But the system is not making it easy for them.

A fifth of their time will be eaten up by form-filling which has nothing to do with teaching children. But worse, nearly all are going to face threatening behaviour and three times as many are being assaulted than just four years ago.

When teachers turn for help, the headteacher will say that centralised controls on discipline and exclusion mean that little can be done.

If a child is successfully excluded the government's appeals process might then divert thousands of pounds and many hours of the headteacher's time from the real mission of the school.

No wonder that nearly half of teachers in inner city schools are forced to abandon their chosen profession after just three years. The resulting vacancies crisis in many schools is forcing headteachers to employ people who are ill-equipped to help struggling pupils catch up.

The discipline crisis may be the cancer at the heart of the schools system but headteachers are not trusted to take other vital decisions.

One headteacher in Luton recently had to spend ring-fenced money on a staff room renovation when money was really needed for new books.

Centralised control and the undermining of parents and teachers is the key reason why more and more children are being left behind.

But drug abuse by children is a playing a terrible part, too.

It kills the ability to learn and children miss the chance of a decent education and their escape route from a life of dependency.

Drug abuse - like the other giants - preys most on the very vulnerable. For already disadvantaged children the conveyor belt to crime becomes still more difficult to escape.

- Crime

Crime is the second giant stalking Britain. Crime flourishes most in environments which have been surrendered to criminals.

Law-abiding people no longer believe the streets belong to them. A fear that grows as night falls. A crime is committed in Britain every five seconds, and a violent crime every 27 seconds.

The problem of street crime continues to defy the government's efforts to control it. No one is safe. It's not just in the inner cities - people in every community are affected.

Two days ago, Sandra Howard, wife of my colleague and former Home Secretary, Michael Howard, was mugged. She was forced to the ground and her face pushed into the dirt while the attackers ripped her rings from her fingers.

Sandra and Michael's daughter has been the victim of three crimes in as many months. The war against crime must begin with our children.

Young people need good role models at school and in the home. Without them children find themselves on a fast-moving conveyor belt to crime and drugs.

Gangs offer substitute forms of friendship, identity and purpose to children without strong family or community support. When gangs get away with open drug use, intimidation and graffiti they move on to more serious crimes. A drug user needs quick and easy money to feed his or her habit and it's only a short step for a drug user to become a pusher, thief or mugger.

A visible police presence is society's frontline defence against anti-social behaviour and the crime it breeds. But when the police retreat from any neighbourhood, as local police stations close, the rule of criminal gangs becomes more and more oppressive.

- Sub-standard healthcare

The third giant is sub-standard healthcare. Patients and staff aren't fooled by the fiddling of statistics that pretend things are better than they are. Making the sickest patients wait the longest is just one of the disgraceful devices employed to artificially meet waiting list targets.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, thousands of patients still endure the indignity of mixed sex wards. For the first time ever, the NHS has more administrators than beds.

It is the elderly who are most badly affected by the failings of the healthcare system. People who - throughout their lives - have worked hard, paid their taxes and saved find themselves relying upon a wholly inadequate health service.

Cancelled operations, increased bedblocking and rising levels of emergency readmission all betray the problems of a system that - despite the best efforts of dedicated professionals - is failing older patients, in particular.

Compared to other OECD countries, cancers are much more advanced when first detected in Britain.

Surgical treatments for heart disease are low by all international standards. Britain has fewer specialist units for stroke patients.

Despite overwhelming evidence that increased spending over the last five years has not improved healthcare, Labour is unthinkingly planning more of the same.

Labour has promised European levels of spending on health but not the European standards of patient care that I have seen on my visits to the continent.

- Child poverty

The fourth giant is child poverty. Thankfully, most children growing up in today's Britain do not experience the material poverty of Beveridge's time. But too many are starved of basic love and security.

When I visited Easterhouse in Glasgow earlier this year I learnt about two young emaciated boys whose parents were stolen from them, night after night, by their drug habit.

These parents are in no state to provide their children with breakfast or to get them to school on time. Too many other children never see their fathers. Some fear the men who live with their mothers. Some are not missed when they return late from school.

Many of today's children have more material possessions than the post-war generation could even dream of. Whilst some are still in material need there is a deeper poverty. Times may have changed but children's fundamental needs have not.

Children are essentially the same at every time and in every place. Deeper than their material needs is a hunger for identity and security.

To be part of a loving home where they can become more than they could ever be on their own. The state cannot provide such a home. Prisons are full of children who have been in long-term local authority care.

Tony Blair announced his child poverty strategy in this very hall three years ago. But it won't work because it is one-dimensional. His measure of child poverty is solely financial. It ignores the cycle of failing schools, drugs and relationship breakdown that fuels the deepest kind of child poverty.

Before he became Prime Minister, Tony Blair warned that: "A strong country cannot be morally neutral about the family". But his obsession with measuring child poverty only through cash targets has produced a strategy that is morally neutral about the family.

- Insecurity in old age

Insecurity in old age is the fifth giant challenge facing Britain. The care of older people is a special responsibility of any decent society.

But the crisis in care and the challenge of pensions provision demonstrate that it is a responsibility that our country is struggling to meet.

The care crisis has its roots in the fact that 100,000 fewer old people are cared for at home with the support of their families. Over two thousand care homes have closed since 1997.

This has produced confusion and disruption for older people who deserve stability and security.

The Government's own figures suggest that a thousand people may have died every year because of the care home closures.

We warned Labour that their regulatory onslaught would have these drastic effects. The growing pensions crisis is the second major source of insecurity amongst elderly people and others approaching retirement.

Six out of ten final salary pension schemes are now closed to new members. Labour's £5 billion a year tax on funded pensions has made this problem much, much worse.

When Conservatives left office the average household was saving around £10 of every £100 of income. Now families are saving less than £4 of every £100.

A country that saves so little is heading for long-term dependency. Labour have spread means testing so far up the income scale that next year over half of all pensioners will be affected.

But the means tests are so intrusive and complicated that up to a third of pensioners don't claim the benefits to which they are entitled.

And meanwhile Labour are drawing more and more people on to means tests by taxing the savings in their pension funds.

They are taking money out of our pensions and then handing it back in means-tested benefits.

Beveridge's citizens

Beveridge would have understood the reasons for the growth of the five giants. He knew that a sustainable society depended upon what he called "citizens".

In 1948 he wrote:

"The making of a good society depends not on the state but on the citizens, acting individually or in free association with one another, acting on motives of various kinds, some selfish, some unselfish, some narrow and material, others inspired by love of man and love of God.

The happiness or unhappiness of the society in which we live depends upon ourselves as citizens, not on the instrument of political power which we call the state."

Citizenship involves providing for family members, being a loving parent, playing by the rules or looking out for a neighbour in need.

It's about having a sense of responsibility, obligation and duty.

But all of these virtues have been undermined in the post-war period. The state cannot combat and defeat the five giants itself but it can support and strengthen the people who can.

The challenge for a government seeking to topple the five giants of today is to find ways of recognising the potential of free citizens to fulfil the task themselves.

Government should not obstruct citizens or, worse still, try to replace them. Neither should it be indifferent. Good government must focus on helping free people to achieve their goals.

A key objective of Conservative public policy will be the support of those citizens and behaviours that sustain any decent society's care for vulnerable people.

Every instinct of Labour politicians is to strengthen the power of the state rather than the relationships within society. In the 1970s Labour attempted to expand state-owned industries rather than support private businesses.

Today, Labour relies on a massive growth of the welfare state to compensate for the weakness of society's free institutions. Then - as now - the increased power of the state wasn't just the wrong solution it was at the very heart of the problem.

An ever-expanding state crowds out the people and undermines the institutions that generate the wealth and values upon which our way of life depends.

On the side of real people - not a failing system

The primary purpose of our policy will be the renewal of society. We will support and strengthen the breadwinners, law-abiding citizens, parents, public services users; and good neighbours of a free society. These are the Davids who will topple today's Goliaths.

- Breadwinners

As we roll out our policies for breadwinners I will think of small business people like David Nieman.

David spends an increasing amount of his time complying with changing government regulations.

He chairs a local business forum whose members are increasingly frustrated by the impact on their businesses of bureaucracy and crime.

Businesses are distracted from their primary purpose of employing people and serving their customers.

And they are about to be hit by an even bigger National Insurance burden. Conservative policy will free businesses from the red tape that is stifling the job creating potential of the economy.

And we will simplify the tax and benefits system so that all people can follow a path out of dependency.

- Law-abiding citizens

As we unveil our policies for law-abiding citizens I will remember the inspirational example of Sue Coe who I met in Faversham. Sue lost patience with a system that was failing her drug-abusing son. Sue stopped waiting for others to act and set up a counselling and support service for families affected by drugs. Sue's own son was put into prison for burglary committed to pay for his habit. But he's out again now.

Three days ago when Sue wouldn't give him any money to buy the crack he craved he assaulted her and robbed her purse. Her voice crackles with emotion when she tells her story - the story of too many parents across Britain - failed by an indifferent legal system.

A future Conservative government will invest in radical drug prevention and treatment services - particularly those operated by results-driven groups with first-hand experience of drug abuse.

In the wider war on crime, we will support social entrepreneurs that help vulnerable young children escape the fast-moving conveyor belt to crime.

We will judge them by results and not expect them to operate in the one-size-fits-all manner that government demands. And we will learn from New York where the tide of crime has been turned.

New York showed that only by reclaiming every neighbourhood from crime could the whole city live in peace.

Until we provide security and safety for the poorest communities we won't provide sustainable security for anyone. Until we get the police out of their cars and offices and onto the streets we will not overcome disorder.

The next Conservative government will deliver frontline, neighbourhood policing so that we can win the war against crime here, too.

- Parents

As we seek to support parents I will remember Eileen Wojciechowska. Eileen has fought a strong campaign against a clinic within her child's school that is prepared to distribute contraceptives and morning after pills without individual parents' knowledge and permission.

Children as young as eleven are told that they can seek help from the clinic without their mums and dads needing to know.

Decisions are being detached from schools and parents and given to central authorities.

But clinics like these do not have to pick up the pieces when this policy goes wrong. You don't improve children's prospects without supporting parental values and authority.

Conservatives will give parents real choice over which school they can send their children to.

We will give headteachers greater control over school discipline.

Teachers should be free to focus on the children in their class and on what the parents of those children want.

We will learn from European countries that do not take hard-working families for granted but have fashioned tax systems that support the majority of young people who still aspire to marriage. Helping families stay together and live independently of the state will be a central goal for the next Conservative government.

- Public service users

In reforming the public services I will remember people like Rose Addis. Rose received appalling healthcare from the NHS system and then was cruelly insulted by politicians unwilling to admit that they had failed her.

Investment without reform will not give us the Health Service this country deserves. We will encourage a greater diversity of health providers.

We will take the day-to-day management of the NHS out of the hands of squabbling politicians and give control to patients and professionals.

Because it's not only patients, parents and passengers who feel the system is against them.

Doctors, nurses and teachers all deserve better, too.

Their professional judgment and autonomy should not be constantly undermined and questioned.

Bureaucrats and politicians have become too intrusive, too attention-seeking.

We will ensure that the most important relationship for a doctor is with his or her patients. Conservative reforms will shift the focus of accountability for public service delivery from Whitehall to the local people who depend on services.

- Good neighbours

And as we help those people who are helping others I will think of Sandy Weddell. Sandy's Easterhouse Baptist church runs a breakfast club for children on that disadvantaged Glasgow housing estate.

The breakfast club provides much more than food.

It provides children with comfort and a sense of security at the start of every day. Volunteer-led and strongly values-based it is part of a community-based charitable sector that is routinely ignored by this Government.

That will change under the Conservatives. Charitable groups who are filling the gaps left by government failures should not have to beg for grants from bureaucrats who were the architects of those failures.

Taxpayers' money should reach charitable entrepreneurs without a thousand strings attached.

That is why we will transform voluntary sector funding mechanisms and examine how we can reform our tax laws in a way that will help charities.

We will also invite the larger and highly professional charities to become more involved in the delivery of appropriate public services.

Our overall policies will encourage and support the creation of a vigorous, diverse and independent voluntary sector.

Conclusion: Conservatives trust people

The five giants are in danger of breeding a deep sense of powerlessness and defeatism. Defeatism is greatest in Britain's poorest communities where the solutions of the Left have been most tried and most failed.

The most vulnerable people in society have been the principal victims of the one-size-fits-all approach to health, education and welfare.

They are cynical about a constant cycle of new government schemes that never deliver the stability and security they seek. Politics has pursued short-term fixes to long-term problems.

It has treated symptoms rather than root causes.

It has expanded the bureaucratic state rather than supported the potential of local people to find solutions for themselves and their families.

Defeatism has grown because politicians have persisted with policies that have already failed.

People are turning away from politics and democracy because too many politicians have promised too much and have squandered prosperity and opportunities.

People are sick and tired of politicians who put presentation before substance. People no longer believe that politicians can deliver change.

Young people, in particular, are turning away from a politics that is not worthy of their idealism.

The sense of defeatism has begun to infect commitment to voluntary and community involvement, too. Apathy cannot be arrested by gimmicks. It requires profound change in the way politics operates. People want honesty from politicians. They want leadership. They want change. I will deliver that change.

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