Monday, 25 April 2016

Forced Academisation of Our Local Schools

Photo by Daniel Eden

Forced Academisation of Our Local Schools

By Councillor Joanne Platt and Andy Burnham MP

The Government’s recent announcement on schools and the plan to force all schools into academy status has nothing to do education standards.

Across the Wigan borough 94% of our primary schools are classed as good or outstanding and 74% of our secondary schools are good or outstanding by OFSTED.  Our children and young people continue to outperform their peers nationally at both key stage 2 (end of primary) and key stage 4 (GCSE). 

Our school leaders, regardless of the status of the school, are bound together in partnership, and with the Council, to raise achievement and aspiration.  What will forcing these good or outstanding schools to acadamise actually do to improve the experience and outcomes for children and families?

We have a very proud track record of educational excellence in Wigan Borough.  Our primary school position is ranked, 3rd in the North West behind Cheshire and Trafford and 2nd in Greater Manchester. How will forcing our schools to academise improve this position?

As Cabinet Member for Children’s Services in Wigan Borough, and as Member of Parliament for Leigh, we know what the pressures and priorities facing schools and our young people are because of our close links with educators across the borough.

The LGA study, carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research, found no evidence of short-term benefits in improved performance that could be associated with a school’s conversion to an academy. There was also very little evidence that pupils eligible for free school meals, or with low prior ability, made more progress in academies than they would have done in similar, maintained schools.

We are seeking answers to these important challenges from the Education Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who announced fundamental changes to the education system in this country that were not in the Tory Manifesto or part of his budget.

1.    What will forcing our schools to acadamise do to help children and families with special and complex needs to have choice and access to the right support?

2.    There is a teacher shortage crisis in the country.  How will forcing our schools to acadamise ensure highly qualified teachers are trained and retained?

3.    The current curriculum and testing changes are in chaos.  What is the forced acadamisation process going to do to give clear and guidance to teacher’s students’ parents and the future employers of our young people?

4.    This Government seem intent on ended the role of communities in education. The message of giving control back to local communities that is being given by Government could be further from the truth. If this plan is pushed through Multi Academy Trust are run as small business with accountability only to the Governing Board which no longer require parent representatives. Local elected councillors and parent governors bring local community accountability to schools.  Why are the Government forcing schools to lose this local accountability and hand power to non-elected and non-accountable regional schools commissioners and to Whitehall bureaucrats?  Local people know what is in the best interest of their children and communities, and local people need someone to turn to when they need help and support with the education of their children.

The Government’s policy does nothing to resolve these key challenges, other than to divert much needed resources and focus away from these issues and into a pointless, imposed re-organisation.  We continue to be proud of all our schools and to work with them in the best interests of our children and families – community schools, faith schools and academies.

We are calling on all educators across the Wigan Borough to join our campaign opposing these changes.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Letter to the Home Secretary on the Investigatory Powers Bill

Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP
Home Secretary
Home Office
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

4th April 2016

Dear Theresa

Investigatory Powers Bill

Following the Second Reading, I thought it would help if I set out clearly the issues on which Labour will need to see significant movement if we are to achieve our shared aim of a Bill which gives the authorities the capabilities they need in the digital age whilst providing strong privacy safeguards for the public. The current Bill is an improvement on earlier iterations but is still some way from achieving that essential balance.

1. Privacy

As the Intelligence and Security Committee said in its report on the draft Bill, privacy protections should form the backbone of this legislation. We strongly agree. A presumption of people's right to privacy at the start of the Bill would set the right context for the rest of the Bill and provide the basis from which the exceptional powers may be drawn. We consider this to be essential and ask that an amendment to this effect is accepted.

2. Internet Connection Records (ICRs)

I believe significant work is needed before this powerful new capability will be acceptable to the public. In light of the recent evidence to the Bill Committee, it would seem that the Bill goes beyond what is required by the Police and NCA. It is important that the capability created does not exceed that required by the Police and security services.

Our specific concerns in this area are as follows:

a) Definition

I remain of the opinion that the definition of “internet connection records” in Clause 54 is much too vague. What I would like to see in the Bill is a clear and consistent definition - in particular, a specification that ICRs can include domains but not URLs. Technology will change over time and, if ICRs are not clearly defined in law, they could evolve into something much more intrusive. It is essential, therefore, that the parameters of what can and cannot be included in an ICR are explicitly specified on the face of the Bill.

b) Thresholds

I believe the threshold at which ICRs can be accessed must be higher. At present, the Bill sets it at any crime. I do not think it is necessary or proportionate for information held in ICRs to be accessed in connection with lower-level offences. Instead, I think this threshold should be set at serious

crime and that this should be defined in the Bill as an offence that attracts a maximum sentence of not less than three years in prison.

c) Access

Schedule 4 of the Bill sets out too wide a range of public bodies that will be able to access ICRs. I will want to see a much reduced list before this part of the Bill becomes acceptable to us.

3. Independent assessment of bulk powers

Whilst I accept the broad argument advanced by the authorities that powers to extract information in bulk form may provide the only way of identifying those who pose a risk to the public, the operational case for bulk powers which accompanied the Bill’s publication has significant gaps. This was clear from contributions made at Second Reading from both sides of the House.

Therefore, the simplest way to proceed would be, firstly, to produce a more detailed operational case and, secondly, to accept the recommendation of the Joint Committee and commission an independent review of all the bulk powers. That review should conclude in time to inform Report and Third Reading.

I would be open to a discussion about the various forms this independent review could take but it is imperative that we get it up and running. I will consider carefully the nature and extent of the bulk powers in this Bill in light of the review.

4. Definitions of “national security” and “economic well-being”

The justification for using the most intrusive powers within the Bill is on grounds of “national security” and “the economic well-being of the United Kingdom so far as those interests are also relevant to the interests of national security”.

As I said at Second Reading, I understand the need for operational flexibility. But I consider these tests to be far too broad.

I am therefore asking you to accept the Joint Committee's invitation to define "national security" more explicitly. Alongside terrorism and serious crime, it could include attacks on the country's critical and commercial infrastructure. If you were to do that, the "economic well-being" test could be then dropped altogether. That would build reassurance that, in future, there could be no targeting of law-abiding trades unionists as we have seen in the past. As the Rt Hon Ken Clarke QC said during Second Reading:

“It is true that there is a vast amount of activity under the general title of economic well-being. I have known some very odd things to happen under that heading. National security can easily be conflated with the policy of the Government of the day. I do not know quite how we get the definition right, but it is no good just dismissing that point.”

The best way to address this point would be to define "national security" more precisely and drop "economic well-being" altogether.

5. Meaningful judicial authorisation and oversight

I welcomed your comment during the Second Reading debate that a “judicial commissioner will look not just at the process, but at the necessity and proportionality of the proposed warrant”. In view of this, I

would ask that you bring forward amendments in Committee to remove references to a judicial commissioner applying “the same principles as would a court on an application for judicial review”. If the 'double-lock' is to command trust, it needs to be an 'equal-lock'. That means a judicial commissioner having the same ability to look at the merits of the case and not just the process. Removal of the JR test would clear up any potential for confusion. In addition, the 'double-lock' is dependent on the judicial commissioner approving the decision of the Home Secretary to issue a warrant as set out in part 17 of the Bill.

6. Overarching criminal offence of deliberate misuse

Whilst I welcome the fact that the Bill contains a new offence of misusing communications data, it should be clearer that a criminal offence is created for the deliberate misuse of any of the Bill’s powers. This should relate to both the obtaining of data without due cause and any improper use to which obtained data is put.

7. Effective protections for sensitive professions

The Law Society is right to say that legal privilege must be more adequately protected than in the current Bill. In addition, the National Union of Journalists is concerned that the Bill weakens existing provisions for journalists to challenge intrusion into their work. Such concerns must be adequately addressed in Committee with appropriate amendments if we are to create legislation that commands the trust of the professions.

Regarding the work of elected representatives, I welcome your moves to codify the Wilson Doctrine but I question whether the Bill goes far enough. We believe the Prime Minister must authorise any warrants that target elected representatives, not simply consulted about them.

I hope you will accept that the seven points I have outlined are legitimate concerns and that you will work with us to address them properly.

If I determine that our concerns are not satisfactorily dealt with during the passage of the Bill, then we will be unable to support a timetable that puts the Bill on the Statute Book by December this year.

I hope that is not necessary and that we can together produce a Bill that commands a high degree of confidence and trust.

Yours sincerely

Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP
Shadow Home Secretary

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Response to the Home Secretary on the Brussels attacks

On this side of the House, we support everything the Home Secretary has said today and assure her of our continued full support in confronting this threat.

Today our thoughts are with the families of those killed or injured, the British person who is missing and with the people of Brussels. 

We think of all the people who have suffered in the attacks the Home Secretary has mentioned, including the recent attacks in Istanbul and Ankara.

But Mr Speaker, this was more than an attack on Belgium.

It was an attack on the heart of Europe and on all of Europe.

A statement of intent from the terrorists which must now be met with a raised and renewed determination to defeat them.

Let me start with immediate advice to UK citizens.

We welcome the support being provided to those caught up in the chaos.

But as we approach Easter, many families may have travel plans that include travelling to or through Belgium.

Will the Government consider issuing more detailed travel guidance to them so people can make decisions based on the best available information?

Second, let me turn to international collaboration.

Can she say more about the nature of the immediate support that has been provided to Belgium?

People will have seen reports suggesting that the suspects were linked to the attacks in Paris and known to Belgian Police.

This does raise the question of whether the Belgian authorities have sufficient capability to deal with the extent of this problem.

Is there more that can be done to support them on a longer-term basis?

More broadly, can I say that given the global nature of this threat, she is entirely right to talk about deepening our collaboration with all European partners?

Third, Mr Speaker, let me turn to border security.

We are learning more about the extent of terror networks in Belgium.

And, as we do, this raises questions about travel between the UK and Belgium.

Britain has extensive air, sea and rail borders with Belgium.

We welcome the immediate steps taken yesterday to strengthen the presence at our borders with Belgium, but is there now a case for a longer-term review?

Border Force operates juxtaposed controls at six locations in France. However, in respect of Belgium, juxtaposed controls apply only in respect of Eurostar and not at ferry terminals.

Will the Home Secretary immediately initiate a review of our borders with Belgium with a view to strengthening them?

She knows of the concerns I have raised before about UK terror suspects on police bail who have fled the country.

We are proposing an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill to close this loophole.

Will she today give a commitment to work with us on that?

More broadly on borders, Mr Speaker, I have serious concerns about the further cuts that are coming following the spending review.

The Border Force has faced years of cuts and is already stretched to the limit.

The new financial year starts in a week's time but I notice that the Home Office is still to publish a 2016/17 budget for the Border Force.

Will the Home Secretary correct that today so that there can be a debate about whether it is enough and whether further border cuts are wise in the wake of Paris and Brussels?

Surely now is the time to strengthen our borders, not cut them?

Fourthly, Mr Speaker, let me turn to UK preparedness.

We know that seven terror plots have been foiled here in the last 12 months and we thank all those in the police and security services who are working to keep us safe.

But we must keep our own arrangements under review. 

The public will want reassurance about our ability to cope with a Paris or Brussels style attack - multiple, simultaneous incidents designed to cause maximum fear and confusion.

We know plans are in hand to improve firearms capability in London, and we welcome those, but there is a concern about the ability of cities outside London to cope, given cuts to police and fire services.

A Home Office report on Police firearms capability - published in July 2015 - found the number of armed officers had fallen by 15 per cent since 2008, from nearly 7,000 to 5,875, including a 27% fall in Greater Manchester and 25% in Merseyside.

There was a report in the Observer late last year that Scotland Yard has briefed the Home Secretary about their fears of the lack of capacity in regional forces to respond to terror attacks.

Is this true and can she say more about it?

Has she reviewed the ability of all major cities to respond and can she provide reassurance today that if there were to be a Paris- or Brussels-style attack outside of London that our police and fire services have the necessary capability to respond?

In conclusion, Mr Speaker.                                                         

While we think of the Belgian people today, we also think those harmed by last week's attacks on Ankara and Istanbul.

We remember today that many victims of attacks around the world are Muslims, suggesting this terror is not about Islam.

We also know that, at moments like this, great anxiety will be felt in the British Muslim community, with fears of reprisal attacks, rising Islamophobia and hate crime.

Does she recognise that concern and will she today send an unequivocal message that anyone who seeks to promote division or hate on the back of these attacks will be dealt with severely?

Will she condemn the ill-informed comments on UK television today from Donald Trump and take this opportunity to distance the UK government from them?

They play into the hands of the terrorists.

They want to drive a wedge between the Muslim community and society – who in fact are united in revulsion at what happened yesterday.

Da'esh called the innocent people who died and were injured crusaders. They are nothing of the sort. They were ordinary, innocent people of all faiths and none, living side by side in one of Europe's great cities.

This is the moment for maximum unity amongst peoples of all faiths and none.

A moment to reject those who preach Islamophobia, anti-semitism and all forms of extremism.

Let this unanimous message go from this House today: that we stand together across it as a united country; that we stand with our neighbour Belgium in their hour of need; and that whatever it takes, and however long it takes, we will face and defeat this threat to our way of life together.



Friday, 18 March 2016

Roscoe Lecture on the patriotic case for remaining in the EU

My subject for this lecture tonight is the European Referendum and I want to do something that may sound counter-intuitive: I want to make the patriotic case for remaining in the EU.

The way this debate is being presented you might be led to think that the true British patriots are all on the other side. I want to put it to you that it is a vote to Remain that is true to Britain's roots, its traditions, its identity.

Now you may remember that I have given speeches in Liverpool before that have ended up in me being booed and heckled by thousands. 

And I know that, in choosing this topic, I am potentially risking a repeat.

You may take a different view from the one that I am about to express. You may already be fed up of hearing about the EU.
But, to be honest, we need to start talking more about it. We will never cast a more important vote.

That's because it will shape what kind of country Britain is, and how we are seen by the rest of the world, for the remainder of the 21st century.

It is an appropriate topic for a lecture in honour of the great William Roscoe.

He was both a great internationalist and never one to shy away from taking up the controversial topics of the day.

In 1807, in his long polemical poem about the slave trade, "The Wrongs of Africa", Roscoe warns:

"Forget not, Britain, higher still than thee, sits the great Judge of Nations, who can weigh the wrong, and who can repay."

It caused a ferment amongst the angry merchants of Liverpool who, in that year, made £17 million from the slave trade - when you think about it, an obscene amount of money back then.

So, true to that controversial spirit, I want to start by asking you to imagine that it's the evening of Friday 24th June and you are at home watching the reaction to the Referendum result.

Pictures of Boris Johnson hugging Michael Gove are filling our TV screens. I think that entitles you to go and open a bottle of something.

What would you be thinking?

If you work in Liverpool John Moores University or any other academic institution, you might immediately be worrying about the future of your research funding.

If you work for a company that does a lot of business abroad, you might be wondering whether your European customers will be a little distant with you on the phone come Monday morning.

If you are an older person who has a property in Europe, you would instantly feel uncertain about your retirement plans.

If you are a younger person at university, you will begin to wonder how this will affect your career opportunities.

If you are an EU national living here, like my wife, you will probably feel slightly less welcome than you did.

Britain will instantly feel like a different place. More insular, more uncertain.

It's worrying, but it is where we may well be heading.

Why is that? 

In part, I think it is down to the style of the different campaigns.

The Remain campaign is an appeal to the head. 

The Leave campaign is an appeal to the heart.

The Remain campaign has put forward a formidable and unanswerable statistical case setting out the risks to our economy, rightly amplified yesterday by the Chancellor.  It has an appeal to the heart too but it isn't being heard.

It is the messages of the Leave campaignthat hit home more directly.

I think they are getting away with too much. That's why, tonight, I want to take on the Leave campaign on their own turf.

To listen to them, you would think that only they are the torch-bearers for British patriotism. The only true Brits. If you want to save the country, you must vote Brexit.

This, as I will show, is profoundly misleading. 

They a peddling a fraudulent form of British patriotism that does not offer a return to Britain's past but a decisive break from it.

So I want to tell you where true patriotism lies in this debate and St George's Hall seems a pretty apt place to do it.

I'm going to start by saying something that I think people don't hear anything like enough from people on the Left of politics.

I love this country, our country. I feel proud to be British. I don't subscribe to the current fashion of putting more narrow loyalties first - I am British before I am English.

I love what Britain has always stood up for as a country - for the underdog against the bully. I love the fact that our ancestors on this small island managed to punch well above its weight.

And this brings me to the first of my three arguments which form my patriotic case for remaining in Europe. 

If we vote to leave, Britain would be instantly diminished as a nation. We would lose influence on the world stage and in the eyes of other countries. Britain would be a lesser force.

Let me explain why.

In 1948, Winston Churchill gave a speech in Llandudno in which he said Britain drew its strength as a nation from its position at the heart of what he called "three majestic circles": the Commonwealth; the English-speaking world; and a United Europe.

He said: "We are the only country which has a great part in every one of them. We stand, in fact, at the very point of junction, and here in this island at the centre of the seaways and perhaps of the airways also, we have the opportunity of joining them all together."

And we seized that opportunity. We have always been an outward-looking nation, highly-engaged in world affairs. We carved out for ourselves that unique and powerful place in the world that Churchill foresaw - a bridgehead between the US and Europe, explaining Europe to the US and the US back to Europe. 

It is from that crucial strategic position that Britain has drawn great strength and boosted the national interest.

If we vote to leave the EU, we would be surrendering that role. We would be instantly weaker, less influential. Why would any true patriot vote for that?

In the inevitable disputes that would follow divorce, the US would be left in an awkward position. They would have to choose between siding with their old friend out of sympathy or not falling out of favour with the powerful partner.

This wouldn't just diminish Britain, it would destabilise the world. The strong alliance between Europe and the US, the shared values and outlook, helps keep our world steady and broadly sane. Any cracks that appeared in it would be exploited by our enemies.

This brings me to my second argument as to why I think that it would be unpatriotic to vote for Britain to leave the EU: it would leave Britain more vulnerable to external aggression and attack.

To make my point, I pose a simple question: who would be happier if we left the EU - President Obama or President Putin? 

I don't think there's any doubt about it: there would be weeping in the White House and whooping in the Kremlin.

That feels to me like a clinching argument for Remain on its own.

All of a sudden, Russia would be next door to a weaker EU but an even weaker Britain.

In recent times, Russia has been making incursions into UK airspace on a regular basis. If we left the EU, would that provocation be likely to get better or worse?

The truth is that the EU has shown itself capable of standing up to Russian aggression.

In the aftermath of the annexation of Crimea, sanctions were imposed that have had a real impact. 

And that's the point - the economic sanctions that the world's largest market can impose don't just protect each Member State from external aggression, they have the potential to be so feared that they make military action less likely to be needed. And that in turn makes the world safer.

If Britain was to leave the collective protection of the EU, the economic sanctions we could muster alone would have much less impact, which in turn would mean that military measures would be turned to more frequentlyThat wouldn't make us or the world safer.

And how would isolation from Europe help in the fight against the greatest and most urgent threat we face - international terrorism?

The simple answer is it wouldn't. It would make it more difficult. 

I can remember vividly being in the Home Office on 7/7 as the bombs went off in London and on 21/7 when there was a failed bombing attempt. It was a frightening time.

I can remember Home Office officials coming in to my office and telling me that they thought one of the failed bombers had left the country through the Eurostar terminal at Waterloo. Intelligence suggested he was in Italy. They asked me to approve an urgent application for one of the new European Arrest Warrants.

Within a matter of weeks, he was back in Britain to face justice. 

The former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Keir Starmer, has told me that, if we had still had the old system, we would be lucky if he was touching down about now.

One of the things that I find interesting in this debate is the change in the attitude of the Home Secretary, Theresa May.

When she took office in 2010, she began by striking a decidedly Eurosceptic note and opted out of a huge number of measures on European cooperation. She cast doubt on the need for the European Arrest Warrant.

But look at what has happened since. She has slowly but surely been opting back into many EU measures, most recently on the sharing of fingerprint and vehicle registration data.

Confronted with the reality of the office she holds, she has seen how European cooperation speeds things up and makes us safer.

Her political journey is itself a powerful advert to stay in and evidence that a vote to leave would weaken our national defences. Again, I ask, how could any true patriot vote for that?

But the third argument in this patriotic case to remain is arguably the most powerful: Brexit would not prefigure a return to Britain's past but would signal a break from it. It would be a denial of who we are.  It would make us a different country to the one we have been.

Let me explain.

It didn't surprise me when Boris Johnson and Michael Gove signed up for Brexit. I'm tempted to say it's because they have never understood the value and power of unions.

But, thankfully, unlike them, Britain always has.

Perhaps because of our geography and size, Brits have always been bridge-builders, not isolationists.

We have spent centuries painstakingly building unions between countries, not breaking them up.

We started by putting our own house in order.

For centuries, England and Scotland were at each other throats. 
Then came the Act of Union in 1707 and, in the three hundred years since, the only thing that got broken were the goalposts at Wembley.

From that stability at home, Britain sought to build its influence aboard. The British Empire may leave people with decidedly mixed feelings to say the least but by 1949 it had developed into a union of 53 free and equal States called the Commonwealth with the aim of spreading human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

In the post-war period, we were the instigators of those powerful unions that still persist today - NATO and the United Nations.

But here's the point that I think clinches my argument: the person who most people would look to as the father of our own nation was also the founding father of the European Union.

On 19 September 1946, Winston Churchill made an extraordinary speech called the Tragedy of Europe at the University of Zurich.

Let me quote from it.

"If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance, there would be no limit to the happiness, prosperity and glory which its 300 million or 400 million people would enjoy. Yet it is from Europe that has sprung a series of frightful nationalistic quarrels which in this 20th century wreck the peace and mar the prospects of all mankind.

"Yet all the while there is a remedy which would as by a miracle transform the whole scene and would in a few years make all Europe, or the greater part of it, as free and happy as Switzerland is today. What is this sovereign remedy? It is to recreate the European fabric and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, safety and freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe. In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living."

Churchill's incredible and inspiring vision came to pass and freed the ordinary people of Europe from conflict.
The EU isn't some alien anti-British creation, as Boris Johnson claimed this week, but a British achievement - even, dare I say it, a Conservative success story.

It is what our country has been about. It is what we have built.

What true patriot would turn his or her back on all that and deny our past?

Whatever our frustrations with it - and, yes, I have many - the European Union has spectacularly achieved the goals that Churchill set for it - peace and prosperity.

And this is the point about Brexit.

It is to start down a road that doesn't end with leaving Europe.

It would create a domino effect that could end up knocking over those other unions that Britain has spent 300 years patiently building.

This week, the Head of the United StatesArmy Europe, Lt-Gen Ben Hodges, said that a British vote to leave the EU could have a negative impact on the NATO alliance. "The UK is such an important member of the alliance. It is a leader of the alliance. It is a leader in Europe. If the EU begins to unravel, there can't help but be a knock-on effect for the alliance also."

And let's be clear - Brexit would threaten the future of our own 300 year Union.

The First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has openly said that a vote to leave would "almost certainly" trigger a second independence referendum.

If there is a feeling that England has dragged Scotland out of the EU against its will, then it would surely follow that the likelihood of a vote for independence would be greatly increased.

So the unions start to fall like dominos, one by one - built by Britain over centuries but broken in an instant.

And where would this leave us?

On a one-way ticket to inglorious isolation for England.

This is why I say the Brexiters are peddling a fraudulent form of British patriotism.

In fact, if they get their way, it won't be patriotism but nationalism that wins the day.

Brexit would boost the nascent nationalism that we see here and across Europe.

Patriotism is to love who we are and what we have been as a country. Nationalism is to think we are better than everyone else. 

And that in the end is what I think the Leave campaign is about.

Far from being about patriotism, Brexit is in fact a recipe for nationalism.

This brings me to a final more personal reflection.

The idea for this lecture grew out of a visit I made to Ypres with my children during the February half-term. 

We visited the trenches, the farmland that was once the battlegrounds. We went to the main museum and saw the display of the recruitment posters used by the British Army.
What was so striking about them was the appeal they made to the volunteers - not a call to arms to defend Britain, but to help Belgium.

Doesn't that say something truly marvellous about us? 

Such an inspiring internationalist spirit feels a far cry from the narrow, nationalistic mood of our times.

But I also have to say that the immaculately-kept cemeteries and the sounding of the Last Post at the Menin Gate every single day says something marvellous about the Belgian people too.

These are our friends and neighbours, not our enemies. We have been through a lot together. With the 21st Century looking increasingly unstable and unpredictable, why choose now to go it alone?

One of the reasons for the visit was because I want my own children to know their own history.

My great-grandfather, Edmund Burke was a Private in the King's Liverpool Regiment. He was descended from Irish immigrants who came to this city to work on the docks and lived less than a mile from here on Commercial Road.
I am very proud to say he was an early Evertonian. My grandmother's only memory of him was him coming home from Goodison Park on his last visit home from the Western Front and performing Irish dancing for him with her sisters.

That was 100 years ago this year. He returned to the Front and, in September 1916, was taken a prisoner of war at the battle of Guillemont. He died in a concentration camp on October 28 1918 - two weeks before the end of the war.

I want to read a passage from his last letter home to his brother Walter. 

"Well Walter I am in touch with Irish Division, Dublin & Connaughts and I had a good talk over Old Ireland. Walter, there's thousands of Irish boys here and I may tell you it is God help the Boche if they come across them and then they say Ireland is not doing her share in this war."

Ned’s words are a reminder that so many of us Brits have immigrant roots.  

If he were alive today I wonder what he would say to me – apart from go and have a few Guinesses to celebrate Paddy’s day.

He would undoubtedly have been worried that a vote to leave would separate usmore from Ireland.  And I'm certain he would have hated that.

But the main thing he would say to me would surely be not to forget the lessons of his past - and not to let the history of the last century repeat itself in this.

Peace in Europe seems now to be taken for granted. It is asserted there will never be a return to the tension and the conflict of the past. But how can we be so sure?

Breaking away from any group is always a recipe for confrontation and conflict. It never makes you safer.

If Ned was fighting for anything, it was against nationalistic aggression and for peace in Europe.

In the first half of the last century, Europe was wracked by conflict and war. In the second half of the 20th century, Europe became peaceful, stable, prosperous.

That was Britain’s momentous achievement.

If I think now about how I honour my great-grandfather's sacrifice, I am in no doubt it is to carry on fighting for a more united, less nationalistic Europe.

But I am worried that I am letting him down. I am worried that we are going down without a fight.

You may remember how a former colleague of mine, Jim Murphy, took to the streets to make the case for Scotland staying in Britain. 

The Remain campaign needs a bit of the same spirit and that is why I intend to start a tour of my own street meetings in the month after the local elections.

Now is the time to stand up and be counted.

Your country could be about to be taken off you.

I realise that not everyone will feel the same way as I do. And, to those who don't, I thank you for giving me the courtesy of letting me make my argument tonight.

But, to those of you who do, I say this - let's take this fight on.

And I say in particular to the young people here, this debate should be yours, take hold of it, don’t let an older generation who have enjoyed all the benefits of post-war Europe deny them to you.
I say to everyone - don't diminish this great country of ours.

Don't let them define how we are seen by the rest of the world.

Don't let them make us something we're not and have never been - a country which turns it back.

Let's fight them on the beaches of what it means to be British and reclaim that ground.

Let's be true to what we've always stood for and always should.

Let's honour the memory of those who fought to bring peace to Europe.

Vote IN for the Britain we know and love.