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David Cameron’s speech to the CBI

19 November 2012

Here is the full transcript of the speech David Cameron gave to the CBI earlier today. It is, on the face of it, a speech full of intent and energy; but, two and half years into government, David Cameron will be judged by what he does, not what he says. As John Cridland, DG of the CBI, put it in response to Cameron’s words: ‘Where’s the beef?’

I look around this room and see people I’ve been on trade missions with all around the world to Africa, China, India, Russia, Mexico, Brazil. It’s great to see Aggreko here – we were in Africa together and I’m glad you’ve sealed that deal in Cote d’Ivoire and are selling in one hundred countries today. Diageo are here – we drank some whiskey in India and they liked it so much they bought the company and now with that huge United Spirits deal they’re the biggest premium drinks company in the world.

We’ve got Ian King here – just a couple of weeks ago I was in the Gulf with him and BAE Systems and we’re stepping up our efforts with the Emiratis, the Omanis and the Saudis to keep on proving that the best fighter jets are made right here in the UK. And of course, Roger – I am delighted that we were able to help Centrica get those deals done with Qatar and Norway. Britain is selling to the world again that is a vital part of my job – and what this economy needs.

I am also determined we make the most of the Olympics and Paralympics too. In Sochi, in Russia, we’ve won 60 contracts ahead of their winter Games designing the stadium, building the roof for the ice-skating rink, providing legal services and a lot more. In Rio, in Brazil, we’ve already got over £70 million in deals done ahead of 2016.

Next year we’re planning more trips to India and China – and I hope we’ll have a lot of you there too. Because frankly, we need this buccaneering, deal-making, hungry spirit now more than ever. Britain is in a global race to succeed today and you don’t need me to tell you that. Every day the people in this room are fighting to win contracts in Indonesia, India, Nigeria. Every week you step off aeroplanes in the South and East and feel the pace of change there. You know what the global race means because you’re living it.

And I’m here today to tell you this Government gets it. We get that the world is breathing down our neck. And we get what British business needs. You need us to deal with our deficit. To cut business taxes so we can compete. To have a proper industrial strategy to get behind the growth engines of the future. To reform education so we turn out the brightest graduates and school leavers. To reform welfare so it pays to work.

These are the key steps to Britain thriving in this global race. But it’s not just about policies: it’s about attitude. You need us to be tough. To be radical. To be fast. I’m going to tell you what that means.

First, you need a Government that is tough; that can take the big, difficult decisions where they really matter and nowhere does that matter more than on sorting out the deficit. Never forget – we inherited a deficit bigger than Spain’s. Bigger even than Greece. This has meant taking decisions no other government had dreamed of taking before. Capping welfare. Freezing child benefit. Raising the state retirement age. Like I said – incredibly tough decisions. But here’s the thing. Being tough on the deficit doesn’t mean being simplistic – salami slicing budgets and taking an axe to everything. It’s got to mean prioritising the right things: backing enterprise, growth and business, even in the teeth of fierce opposition. That’s what we’ve done.

Yes, we’ve made significant cuts to some budgets, like the business department, but at the same time we’ve protected the science budget and funded record numbers of Apprenticeships. Yes, we’ve had to put up some taxes, but we’ve cut taxes on business and entrepreneurs. Corporation tax – coming down to the lowest rate in the G7 – and yes, the top rate of tax has been cut too because you cannot on the one hand say ‘Britain’s open for business’ and on the other have the highest top rate of tax in the G20.

So this is what being tough means. Doing what’s right for our future; taking on all the noisy lobby groups that want to pour money into today and forget about tomorrow. And this approach is working. The deficit cut by 25 per cent. Interest rates at record lows. A million new private sector jobs created in two years. Exports up dramatically.

That’s what tough government has helped deliver. You needed government to be radical too, to shake up the status quo, especially in education. As the CBI says in its report today, this is critical to thriving in the global race. We took the view that massive structural change was needed. Why? Because there were three big problems failing schools; coasting schools; and that long-running failure in Britain on technical and vocational education. Our changes are dealing with all three.

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Instead of a monolithic state system with no real competition we’ve introduced free schools and created more than 2000 Academies, free to innovate and teach how they want. This is having a massive effect already. Inner-city Academies backed by sponsors, including business, in some of the poorest areas are getting extraordinary results better than they’re getting in the leafy, well-off suburbs.

We’ve been utterly intolerant of failure too, raising the bar on what we expect, and when a school falls below that bar, getting an Academy sponsor to take over as a matter of urgency. We said we’d turn the 200 worst primary schools into Academies by the end of this year, we’re on track to achieve it – and next year we’re going to double that to 400. As for technical education, new University Technical Colleges are opening and we are clearing up the baffling array of qualifications and insisting on rigour.

Like I said, big structural changes. By the end of this Parliament we’re going to have thousands of new Academies, scores of new free schools, a system that is diverse, that welcomes competition and encourages innovation.

And we’re having an all-out war on dumbing down too. When we came to office primary school pupils went into their maths exam with a calculator, we’re ending that. We had GCSEs based largely on course-work and modules, no we’re moving to more final exams. And we inherited a system where just 15 per cent of pupils got good GCCEs in English, Maths, Science, a language and a humanity.

This is crazy. Employers like you are crying out for these skills. There’s not a job in the world where you don’t need a good grasp of English and maths, so with the new English Baccalaureate we’re putting them right back at the heart of education.

And all this isn’t about looking back to the 1950s, it’s about looking forward to help our children compete in this world, and we’ll do whatever it takes to help them do that and help you get the bright, skilled workers you need.

So this government has been tough and we’ve been radical. But there’s something else you desperately need from us – and that’s speed, because in this global race you are quick or you’re dead.

Let me be clear: we have made some massive steps towards leaner, faster government. Today the civil service is smaller than at any time since the Second World War. Some departments have had central overheads cut by 30 per cent. We’ve cut the number of quangos by nearly 200. Last year, we cut wasteful spend by more than £5 billion; this year we’re on track to save more than £8 billion.

And this goes all the way to the top. The Cabinet I chair is now a Growth Cabinet. I go around that table and hold people to account for progress on everything from superfast broadband to house-building, in a way that has never happened before. But we need to do more, because government can still be far too slow at getting stuff done.

You know the story. The Minister stands on a platform like this and announces a plan, then that plan goes through a three month consultation period – there are impact assessments along the way and probably some judicial reviews to clog things up further. By the time the machinery of government has finally wheezed into action, the moment’s probably passed. Government has been like someone endlessly writing a ‘pros and cons’ list as an excuse not to do anything at all.

Consultations, impact assessments, audits, reviews, stakeholder management, securing professional buy-in, complying with EU procurement rules, assessing sector feedback – this is not how we became one of the most powerful, prosperous nations on earth. It’s not how you get things done. As someone once said, if Christopher Columbus had an advisory committee he would probably still be stuck in the dock. So I am determined to change this. Here’s how:

Cutting back on judicial reviews. Reducing government consultations. Streamlining European legislation. Stopping the gold-plating of legislation at home. And quite simply: getting our roads and railways built more quickly.

Let me say a quick word on each. First, judicial reviews. This is a massive growth industry in Britain today. Back in 1998 there were four and a half thousand applications for review and that number almost tripled in a decade. Of course some are well-founded – as we saw with the West Coast mainline decision. But let’s face it: so many are completely pointless. Last year, an application was around 5 times more likely to be refused than granted. We urgently needed to get a grip on this. So here’s what we’re going to do. Reduce the time limit when people can bring cases. Charge more for reviews, so people think twice about time-wasting. And instead of giving hopeless cases up to four bites of the cherry to appeal a decision, we will halve that to two.

Next, government consultations. When we came to power there had to be a three month consultation on everything – and I mean everything, no matter how big or small. So we are saying to Ministers: here’s a revolutionary idea, you decide how long a consultation period this actually needs.  If you can get it done properly in a fortnight – great, indeed the Department for Education has already had a consultation done and dusted in two weeks. And we are going further, saying: if there is no need for a consultation, then don’t have one.

The next hurdle is excessive European legislation. It holds us back. It clogs things up. So we are fighting back hard. We’re having EU accounting rules reduced and micro-enterprises exempted. Last month I worked with Angela Merkel to stop a new torrent of rules and regulations reaching the in-tray. So now – for the very first time in Brussels – we have a commitment to look at existing regulations as well as new ones coming in. This is about finally getting that ratchet of European legislation to start going in the opposite direction, and every summit I go to, every meeting I have with other leaders I am making that happen.

But the problem isn’t always the legislation itself, it’s how we interpret it. You get laws gold-plated with reams of pointless reports. Take the Equality Act. It’s not a bad piece of legislation. But in government we have taken the letter of this law and gone way beyond it, with Equality Impact Assessments for every decision we make. Let me be very clear. I care about making sure that government policy never marginalises or discriminates. I care about making sure we treat people equally. But let’s have the courage to say it: caring about these things does not have to mean churning out reams of bureaucratic nonsense. We have smart people in Whitehall who consider equalities issues while they’re making the policy. We don’t need all this extra tick-box stuff. So I can tell you today we are calling time on Equality Impact Assessments. You no longer have to do them if these issues have been properly considered. That way policy-makers are free to use their judgement and do the right thing to meet the equalities duty rather than wasting their own time and taxpayers’ money.

Last on my list – and it overlaps with some of the above – is getting our roads and railways built more quickly. In the 50s it took us 8 years to design and build the first 50 miles of the M1. Today it can take that long just to widen one section of a motorway. So we are speeding things up. Since we came to office we haven’t just announced a load of road and railways schemes – yes, we have actually got diggers on the ground on the A23, the M62, the M4, M5 and M6. What’s more it’s our ambition to cut the time it takes to upgrade our roads in half.

So we are determined to dismantle some of the procedures that have been slowing us down – and slowing you down. But none of this will mean much unless we have a change of culture in Whitehall too. Now let me be clear: over the past two and a half years I’ve worked with exceptional civil servants who are as creative and enterprising as any entrepreneur, and they are as frustrated with a lot of this bureaucratic rubbish as I am. But the truth is, Whitehall has become too risk-averse too willing to say ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’.

There are understandable reasons for that. When you have lobby groups lined up to criticise every action you take and Parliamentary Select Committees ready to jump on every bump in the road then the rational choice is to be cautious – even over-cautious. But for the sake of our country’s progress we have got to cut through this. I want every Department in Whitehall to be a growth department. I’ve insisted that every Permanent Secretary has growth as a key objective. And I want every Minister and every official to understand that the dangers are not just in what you do but what you don’t do that the costs of delay are felt in businesses going bust, jobs being lost, livelihoods being destroyed.

When this country was at war in the 40s, Whitehall underwent a revolution. Normal rules were circumvented. Convention was thrown out. As one historian put it, everything was thrown at – the overriding purpose – of beating Hitler. Well, this country is in the economic equivalent of war today – and we need the same spirit. We need to forget about crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’ and we need to throw everything we’ve got at winning in this global race.

And I’ll tell you why.  Not for our country to climb the ranks on some global leader-board for the sake of it, but for the sake of our people and their aspirations. When we talk about re-industrialising Britain, about hi-tech industry and high-value manufacturing this is about getting decent well-paying jobs for our people; opportunities to be had, a sense that everyone can get on if they try. This is what it’s all about.

Getting Britain on the rise. Helping our people thrive. Building an economy that’s not just worth something but worthwhile. And we’ll build it together.

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Show comments
  • Rahul Kamath

    Regulation is now the “tax avoidance” of the right wing, a general bogeyman to blame all economic ills on, without a shred of evidence. There is even less evidence that any govt can change regulation, there are just too many interest groups out there. The only thing notable abt Cameron’s speech is restrictions on judicial reviews of govt decisions, ie restricting review of the govts power to regulate.

  • Ian

    “Diageo are here – we drank some whiskey in India”

    Did Cameron actually drink Irish whiskey in India? Why not Scotch whisky?

    I think we should be told!

  • Olaf

    Caesar fiddled

  • Hexhamgeezer


  • barbie

    Well his message is clear, we have to move forward and quickly and take no prisoners. That means if Brussels want to go ahead and spend money it does not have don’t expect the UK to help with the bills. We are in an economic war, he’s right on that score. Miliband is trying to get onto the EU bandwagon, but his stance so far is not in tune with the nation at all; so he needs to rethink, or shut up.
    When a nation has to ask to seek trade with another nation, as one does within the EU, something is very wrong; just in case they disaprove. Cameron is right we need to seek all options and take no prisioners, push them to the wayside and be tough and take them on. His sticking point will be next Thursday when he meets them over the Channel they will not agree to his veto, and will not let us have a reduction in their budget. They will of course attempt to have a budget by the back door, we could then still refuse to pay their demands, or walk away completely, I believe they will eventually force the question believing they will win by force. Of course with well over half the nation wanting out, that would be ideal. Go on make the UK’s day!

  • Alefrith

    What I still do not understand is why in the name of god did Cameron prevent Harman’s equality legislation becoing Law when he took over.It was obvious that this was Harman’s contribution to Gordon’s scorched earth agenda.

  • FrankS

    The equivalent of war? Who does CMD propose as the equivalent of Churchill? No doubt he’ll soon be rehearsing his own role in Brussells – the part of Chamberlain.

  • Daniel Maris

    Translation: These plebs are getting above themselves using procedures such as Judicial Review which are meant to be the preserve of big business and the super-rich. Something has to be done.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Ok, but how does get this message across to the electorate? The CBI is all well and good but they are not going to be voting. It is one thing to have high-minded aspirations and what he believes is a track record and to articulate it in a lobby speech but there is no visibility the “message” in the broader public narrative. And he was a PR man?

  • Bluesman

    “a speech full of intent and energy”

    Or rather,

    “It is a tale,
    Told by an idiot,
    Full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.”

    The man from Stratford has it, I think.

  • Magnolia

    That speech is appallingly written, “bureaucratic rubbish”?
    It sounds like he’s flailing around trying to make some sense of his command and control economy, while showing no recognition that it’s clogged up by the regulatory burden from previous legislation, and there is no clear message of truly freeing the economy to follow a path of its own making.
    He’s starting to reap what he’s sown, viz., Cable and Osborne.
    He sounds very frustrated to me, perhaps he needs a holiday in the jungle?

  • Heartless etc.,

    Does this mark the start of the H2B’s ‘Churchillian’ phase?

    If so, he’d better be very aware that shamelessly aping The Great Man, – or any other wonderful person, – is fraught with danger, especially for one so lacking in integrity as the H2B.’

    • Magnolia

      Do you remember when Ed Miliband likened himself to the suffragettes and the civil rights protesters? He doesn’t go there much nowadays.

  • Simon

    We know that David Cameron delivers a speech well, but what else can he do? I could read the speech, and no doubt it is a good speech as speeches go, but what is the point if that is all that we can expect of it?

    • Matthew Whitehouse

      However hard it may seem, take the positives. A very Business friendly speech at the very least. Labour have never been Pro-Business like this.

      • Vulture

        Please get your head around the truth that Cameron and his dwindling band of brothers are liars: everyone else has.
        Of course he SOUNDS pro-business, Matthew – what else would you expect when he’s addressing an audience of ….er…business men and women??

        But the point is that he’s in hock to the EU who are anti-business, pro-bureaucratic and crooked into the bargain. Therefore his fine words will float away on the wind, leaving nothing behind.

  • Vulture

    Where’s the beef? asks Cridland You won’t find any beef in David Cameron. He’s more of a rubber chicken man.
    Empty words, broken promises, a tidal wave of waffle. No-one believes him anymore.
    Ain’t it sad?

    • Matthew Whitehouse

      What would you say if your audience was 60 million individuals? At the very least I can say that the Tories are Pro-Business, low-tax, low-spend… We are moving forward…

      • Cassandra1963

        The Tories are pro corporate, high tax for plebs and low tax for the rich, high spending high borrowing big state, high regulation, pro busy body and pro minority interests at the expense of the majority.

        That is the reality of the Tory party today, a total perversion of right wing values to serve a social democrat centre agenda. The very least you can say about the Tories under Cameroid? I got two words for you, ABU QATADA.

      • Ian Walker

        The Tories are pro-Europe. Any other policy after that is irrelevant, since our parliament, courts and civil services are subservient to Brussels.

    • barbie

      He may have more beef than you think. Cameron is playing a waiting game, not rushing into giving in or overly fighting his corner. He’s pushed trade for the UK and got more jobs within the private sector as he comments on; he’s trying to do more. His hands are tied within the EU as one does have to ask whom you can trade with. This is one area he wants repatriation from. You have to have dialogue before you strike your last blow, or show your final strike. Withdrawal is the last stroke, or a referendum. The nation has to decide this not Cameron in the final analysis. He knows it, we know it, you don’t throw all your cards onto the table in one go, it needs negociation and patience. Or would you have Labour in the chair capitualiting with every order?

      • Colonel Mustard

        Labour are going to be back in the chair soon enough if Cameron’s “waiting game” doesn’t get a bloody move on..

      • Vulture

        Well, each to their own Barbie. You appear to think that Cameron is a canny, far-sighted statesman.
        On the evidence of the seven years since he became Tory leader I prefer to believe that he’s an arrogant, unprincipled, lightweight, cowardly, lying creep who’d sell his own granny – let alone his party & country – out for sixpence.

  • @PhilKean1


    I can hardly be bothered to criticise him any more.

    My only solace is knowing that it is less than 30 months before he is kicked out of Downing Street and cast into the dustbin of history.


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