Can I start by saying how pleased I am to have the chance to address this conference of the NCVO, how grateful I am for the opportunity to set out some ideas about the future relationship between the individual, voluntary work and government, and to thank you for the work you do, the service you give, the dedication you show, and most of all the difference you make.
Your efforts represent society at work, compassion in action, community at its best - as someone once said, making the word neighbour not just a geographical term but an ethical term as well.
Last month - on one day alone - in Britain, thirty new charities were formed. Every year 7,000 new charities are registered.
Today, Britain has more voluntary organisations at work for our communities than ever before - 200,000 registered charities, 200,000 non-charitable voluntary organisations, around 400,000 in total - one for every hundred adults.
Every month 22 million men and women give of their time
Indeed, every year half the adult population undertake some voluntary work - totalling more than four billion hours. And they do so because they believe in a caring society, because as they rightly say volunteering provides something the state could never provide.
Someone once said that the hundred oldest organisations in Britain are voluntary organisations.
And we know that voluntary organisations have a long and proud history of identifying new needs, pioneering fresh solutions, often cajoling governments into action, often long before government has admitted that there is a problem.
We know that last century we saw voluntary action pioneer work in settlements and in community development, among children, the disabled and the poor.
But we know also that a hundred years on, new voluntary organisations are today also pioneering and leading the way in new directions: the hospice movement, the anti-aids campaigns, environmental organisations, the playgroup movement, the pioneering advocates for the disabled, the worldwide movement against debt.
And we know that the innovation voluntary organisations show in meeting new needs is matched by innovation in the way they do so - voluntary organisations making the connections that others cannot - such as Comic Relief, Children's Promise, First Cheque, Streetsmart, and doing so independently and without fear or favour, free of government.
So I start from a view of the future of Britain I will develop as
I speak - a Britain becoming a strong and vibrant society, a Britain
where our willingness to assist our neighbours is indeed both the
strength and the potential of Britain. The best of Britain, which
has always resisted the excesses of selfish individualism, just as
it has always resisted the excesses of state control.
Some say Britain is home to a selfish culture, that today British people place far less value on personal and social responsibility as a moral good, less importance on what we owe others as a matter of moral obligation and more weight on personal self gratification and individual advancement at the expense of duty to others.
Indeed some write of a middle England whose comforts make it forget a poor Britain of places and peoples left behind.
I believe that the opposite is true: that one of our great British qualities has always been - and is today - our strong sense of personal and civic responsibility and reciprocity - an understanding that those who benefit from citizenship have also an obligation to give something back in return.
This is what defines us at our best.
Indeed, there are in every street, every neighbourhood, every community of Britain forces of care and compassion at work today and every day - throughout great Britain a million centres of energy, initiative and care that, woven together into a fabric of community, allow us to talk about a great British society.
Volunteering, falling elsewhere as traditional associations and organisations fade, is - according to a recent study by Peter Hall - not falling in Britain, as new organisations like the playgroup and child care movement strengthen Britain's social capital.
But we know that despite the imagination and creativity - as well as the hard work - of charitable and voluntary organisations, donations to charities has fallen in the nineties, well under one percent of our national income, while an even more disappointing figure of 0.2 per cent of profits, one fifth of the USA, can be reported for corporate giving.
And we know from your survey today that among the young, voluntary work has been falling out of fashion, with the result that last year less - 22 million - volunteered than the 23 million active in the early nineties.
So, today, I want to chart new territory for this Government.
I want to give new reasons why for us, voluntary work and voluntary giving is more important than it ever was.
I want to outline the case for a new and stronger relationship between individual, community and Government - for the renewal of British civic society - a great British society which not only defines anew the importance of voluntary organisations, but engenders a civic patriotism.
I want to propose a new financial foundation for this civic renewal
- a modern financial foundation for charitable, voluntary and community
It is too often forgotten today that the Labour Party itself grew out of voluntary organisations, friendly societies and mutual aid organisations, and that the inspiration of many of its leaders comes from an involvement in the voluntary sector. One of those people was a great Labour leader : Clement Atlee.
He spoke to you at your first conference in 1920 - as a London Mayor, the Mayor of Stepney - and wrote a book on voluntary action whose principles remain as valid today as they were back in the 1920s:
"The social service movement of modern times is not confined to
any one class, nor is it the preserve of dull and respectable people.
It has arisen out of a deep discontent with society as at present
Now today, 80 years on in the year 2000, there is a real debate about the relationship between individual, community and state. Not least because in the 70s as I will suggest, we reached the limits of big government practically and intellectually and, in the 80s, we found we reached the limits of free market dogma.
Let me describe how I see the changing history of the relationship between individual initiative, voluntary and community action and the state.
Few would disagree about the benefits that came from the creation of the welfare state and the National Health Service, replacing an untidy patchwork of local municipal voluntary provision and providing comprehensive services at a scale previously unknown.
For millions, the welfare state was a deliverance from evil, taking the shame out of need, giving British citizens rights they would otherwise not have to education, social security, employment and health care, rights that cannot be guaranteed other than by the state.
So a new relationship after 1945 emerged between the state, the individual and community, where the individual was increasingly empowered by the state acting on behalf of the community. But unintentionally, particularly as the welfare state grew in size over the following decades, that state increasingly became a substitute for communities. This was not what the architect of the welfare state, William Beveridge, had intended.
In 1948, as I am sure you know, he published the report entitled a "Voluntary Action" which was intended as a complement to his earlier work on the welfare state. At that time he said:
"We must continue to use to the full the spirit that made our great
organisations for mutual aid and that fired the philanthropists of
"There is no such thing as society."
Added to that, contract financing, where the contracts are written in Whitehall without proper consultation, tended to discourage one great source of charities strength - innovation - and left charities often with responsibility where once government acted, but with no influence for change.
So while in the 1970s we had reached the acceptable limits of big government, in the 1980s and 1990s we saw just as clearly the practical limits in our society of a market free-for-all.
Arthur Schlesinger has described a cycle in social history that runs from individualism to collectivism and back.
So we have seen the revolt from the right against over powerful government, hence the emphasis on personal and civic responsibility.
And, in turn, the response of the left to the consequences of over-powerful markets, hence recent ideas for reinventing government.
And just as the right belatedly recognised that personal responsibility alone cannot ever in itself constitute social policy while structural injustices persist, so the left are coming to recognise the importance of personal responsibility.
In other words the left have accepted that personal responsibility is necessary to social progress, the right have accepted that in itself it is not sufficient.
Out of the reaction against the Left's over emphasis on government and the Right's blind faith in markets, a new more balanced approach has emerged, one that sees the individual enhanced by a supportive community and envisions a strong and effective civic society in what we might think of as the middle ground between markets and state.
And it is in this middle ground that we are seeing a new partnership develop between the individual, voluntary action and government.
Where does it start?
These developments are rooted, as I see it, in a positive and optimistic view of human nature, seeing people not just as self-centred but also sociable and co-operative; or to put it another way, seeing ourselves as inter-dependent as much as we are independent.
So I think of Britain not just as a marketplace where people are in competition with each other, but as a community of citizens with common needs, mutual interests, shared objectives, related goals, and most of all, linked destinies; a Britain not of strangers who merely compete with each other, but a Britain of neighbours who recognise each other and recognise we depend upon each other.
As the American James Stockinger wrote, society depends on the hands of others. It is the hands of others who grow the food we eat, sew the clothes we wear, and build the homes we inhabit.
It is the hands of others who tend us when we are sick, and who raise us up when we fall. And it is the hands of others who lift us first from the cradle and lower us finally into the grave.
And it is because we live not in markets or in governments, but live in families and in neighbourhoods and social networks - because we live in a world of connections, loyalties and friendships - that we should encourage not only respect for others as individuals, but involvement with them in cooperation and mutual support as neighbours helping neighbours - what someone called the countless acts of friendship, kindness and courage that I believe are all the greater because they are carried out without hope of any reward
Our society is rich in such acts of kindness and can become richer because there are millions of people - people like you and people in organisations like yours - millions of people who believe in something bigger than themselves, and in causes greater than the maximisation of self-interest.
And our society is so enriched not just because of our interdependence, but because of shared values that have developed and strengthened over time.
Jonathan Sacks had made the distinction between two kinds of political and social settlement. One is a contract, the other is a covenant. The first is a set of political institutions that nations establish out of nothing grander than mutual self interest. But I believe that Britain has developed from contract to covenant - because it is a society based on common values that have taken root through a shared history.
And these values which we share include a commitment to fair play, tolerance, decency and reciprocity in our relationships with each other.
I was brought up in Kirkcaldy - the home of Adam Smith who described in his Wealth of Nations the economic benefits of markets - "the invisible hand"- but the same Adam Smith in his theory of moral sentiments extolled the virtues of co-operation and altruism - that is the helping hand.
And growing up as I did in a town with strong community and voluntary organisations at its heart I saw how individuals were encouraged and strengthened, made to feel they belonged and, in turn, contributed as part of an intricate network of trust, recognition and obligation, encompassing family friends, school, church, local associations, and voluntary organisations.
So at the centre of my vision of society is a simple truth. Not the individual glorying in isolation, sufficient unto himself, stranded or striving on his own, but of the individual literally at home in society, and feeling at home because he is part not only of a family, but of a neighbourhood, a community and a social network.
And in this vision of society there is a sense of belonging that expands outwards as we grow - from family, out to friends and neighbourhood - play groups and after school groups, children's and youth organisations, trade unions, sports, community, voluntary organisations - a sense of belonging that then ripples outwards again from work, school church and local community - and eventually outwards to far beyond our home town and region - to define our nation, our state and our country as a society.
This is my idea of Britain - because there is such a thing as society - a community of communities. Tens of thousands of local neighbourhood civic associations, unions, charity and voluntary organisations, each one unique and every one special.
A Britain energised by a million centres of action and compassion, of concern and initiative that together embody a very British idea - that of civic society.
There is a strong case for saying that in the age of enlightenment ,Britain invented the modern idea of civic society-rooted in what the Scottish philosopher Adam Fergusson called our 'civil responsibilities', eventually incorporating what Edmund Burke defined as little platoons: two ideas we would today recognise as being at the heart not only of the voluntary sector but of a strong society.
Call it community, call it civic patriotism call it the giving age, or call it the new active citizenship, call it the great British society - it is Britain becoming Britain again.
And my vision is of communities, old and new, acknowledging each others strengths and contributions. Communities no longer inward-looking and exclusive, but looking outwards, recognising that when the strong help the weak we are all stronger.
So this is a different Britain.
Initiative, responsibility and power kept close to the people.
Government doing what it needs to do but only what it needs to do and doing it better.
The state in Neil Kinnock's words:
"Not above our heads but below our feet."
Government less directing and controlling than enabling and empowering.
We politicians no longer looking for the opportunity to expand government but government looking always to expand opportunity.
All this is humbling for government because it forces government to recognise its limitations and your strengths.
But that is why there is a new interest in the voluntary sector and the role of voluntary organisations - and why the relationship between individual, state and community is best seen more as a covenant of shared values than as a contract.
The civic society we believe will work best in the new century draws on the strengths of co-operation and altruism and self fulfilment as well as self interest.
This is not an attempt to recreate an old world we have lost, but rather to look forward to a new world that together we are creating.
So here the civic society we talk about is not a rejection of modernity but its practical fulfilment, to the advantage of all of us.
So voluntary action has a central role to play.
This is voluntary action not doing things for people - and creating a dependency inducing relationship - but doing things with people, working for the common good.
People - over the life cycle from the cradle to the grave - helped in childhood, helping in youth and adulthood, helping again - and helped in old age - reciprocity across the generations - making a reality of Burke's definition of society as "a partnership extended over time".
Now we know the limits of charity - that what is begged can also be refused, that what is given can be withheld, that what is granted can be taken away.
But we know too the real strengths of voluntary action, doing things at a local level that the state - sometimes remote, often inflexible - cannot.
The first great strength of voluntary action is that it is local rather than remote , close to home rather than impersonal, involving volunteers who are not only more able to see a problem that can be solved and take action to solve it, but can do so with advantage, because local action minimises the space between the problem and the answer.
Put it this way - once we thought the man in Whitehall knew best - that was a long time ago - now we know the woman from the WRVS - or the playgroup movement - might know better.
The second real strength of voluntary action is its ability to innovate where often the state is inflexible.
Some say of the rules governing the public sector - if it isn't explicitly permitted, it is illegal. But for the voluntary sector there is greater flexibility - that what is not prevented is permitted.
So new initiatives can flourish.
You can more easily innovate.
You can lead governments to new ways of thinking about problems and indeed new ways of solving them.
And from your new ideas of yesterday has come today's established way of doing things.
And let me give just two examples.
At home, the voluntary sector has transformed the way we think about the care of the dying.
Abroad, the voluntary sector has revolutionised the way the developed world now works alongside the developing world.
And both these strengths underlines the third great strength of voluntary action:
- its capacity for the individual rather than impersonal approach;
As one Jewish saying puts it: "if you have saved one life, you are saving the world".
The fourth great strength of voluntary action is that by participating in our community, we learn about the world beyond our front doors and garden gates, and our citizenship is stronger as a result.
Citizenship is, as someone said, "the quality of our response to membership of a community", not just the obligations we accept because of our dependence upon each other but the duty to actively participate in making our society better. And voluntary action trains us in and strengthens our citizenship because people are engaged at the heart of their community, making their contribution not just through their taxes but through their time, not just through four yearly voting but through the act of volunteering, citizenship becoming, as a result, not passive membership but active engagement.
So let me summarise.
In the past, voluntary organisations have been caught in the middle of an unnecessary political fight.
Parts of the left saw the voluntary sector as a threat to the things government should be doing. Old Labour accused of seeking to substitute state for charitable action.
The Right, for its part, used the voluntary sector to relieve Government of Government's proper responsibilities. The new Right seeking to substitute charitable action for the state.
So both old Labour and the new Right got it wrong.
We have learnt from the mistakes of the past.
Democratically elected government does have a responsibility to ensure the public interest is advanced, to ensure basic rights are upheld for everyone, to guarantee that where people vote democratically that a service must be provided.
But government must recognise that it does not have the solution to every problem, that it must work with the grain of people, and that the advancement of the public interest does not always require public control.
The New Deal between voluntary organisations and government that we started to construct with our compact is a partnership that can no longer be caricatured as the state directing and charities responding, nor is it based on the state walking away - and charities left to plug the gaps, or vice versa.
The way forward is not, either, a constant war of attrition to decide the proper demarcation between charities and government as if the success of government meant less charity and the success of charity meant less government.
The way forward is government and charities, working in partnership based on mutual respect, a recognition that the voluntary sector is not a cut-price alternative to statutory provision, nor a way of ducking the responsibilities of families, including the extended family or society.
New financial foundation for charities
For too long the voluntary sector has been held back by archaic rules, bad laws, poor tax legislation.
The Government agrees it needs a fair and sympathetic legal and economic framework and one in which financial or tax reliefs are more directly dependent on the extent to which it can deliver social benefit.
So first, to back local initiatives by exploiting the new tax regime, we are planning to boost charitable giving by individuals.
Our aim: millions more giving so that by the end of the year 2002 we, as a people, are giving a billion more.
To achieve this aim, let me list the reforms we are ready to make.
For direct cash donations to charities, we will give tax relief all round - for all donations, large or small, regular or one off.
So for every pound a British citizen donates to charity, the Government will contribute to that charity an additional 28 pence.
And we are making it even more advantageous to use payroll giving.
First, we are abolishing the ceiling on how much money employees can give through the pay packet - so payroll giving can now be any sum an employee chooses.
And second, for the next three years, we are offering a special 10 per cent supplement on all payroll donations to charities.
So for every pound contributed through payroll-giving, the Government will contribute up to 50 pence worth of tax relief.
And we are ready to go further to help encourage the donations charities need.
There will now be a new income tax relief not just for cash donations to charities, but for gifts of quoted shares.
This means that people and companies can donate their shares to charity, without having to pay any capital gains tax, and get extra tax relief for the full value of the shares. In other words, if a person gives £1000 worth of shares, an extra £1000 of their income will not be assessed for tax.
These are major financial reforms designed to simplify and to multiply giving in our country.
And the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has estimated that our reforms could provide an extra 350 million pounds a year for charities.
Incentives to encourage individual giving are the start of the new financial foundation for charities.
But we want Britain also to start a new chapter in corporate giving.
At present in the USA around 1 per cent of company profits are given to charity.
But in Britain it is only 0.2 per cent of company profits
It is time for a new start here too.
I want to encourage more local companies to be active in civic life in their areas and I want to see more of our international companies becoming giving companies too.
So we propose a new tax regime for companies to give more - so that they become companies not just working in the community but working for the community
In the last two years, we have made it possible for companies to set against tax gifts of computers and equipment to charities and to schools.
From April we are introducing a major innovation.
Like individuals, companies can give any amount to charity - no matter how large or small - and get tax relief for the full amount.
But in the past, any charitable giving required companies to deduct tax from the gift - and the charities had to claim this back.
From April, free of red tape, companies can now give the full amount to charity - no tax to deduct from the gift, no paperwork, no bureaucracy. It has never been simpler.
Because we want to make this, the first decade of the new millennium, a decade of giving, we will take special measures as a government to inform, advise on and publicise the new financial measures.
To make our new scheme easily understood and easy for companies and individuals to introduce and easy for charities to apply, we are setting up a new telephone help-line. Charities will only need to ring one number to get the advice they need.
To make advice simple and readily available in one place we will publish a new directory for charities and new tax guidance.
But we want to promote the giving of time as well as money
When the active community working group published its report it suggested that:
by 2005 two-thirds of adults should be able to undertake
at least two hours voluntary activity a week;
Our next task is to encourage new volunteers, create new volunteering opportunities, and to build networks that match those who can give help to those which need help.
So how can this be achieved.
We are already working with charities and the voluntary sector on key initiatives:
first, setting up an Internet-based database - "The Site"
- providing individuals with free and direct access to volunteering
opportunities throughout Britain - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year;
I have elsewhere talked about a new kind of Britain, one of growing civic strength where, by defending the individual against the abuse of power and seeking ourselves as citizens of the state and not its subjects, a new sense of community develops. And I have written of a new Britain where there is genuine devolution of power, not centralisation and respect for localism and self governing communities.
Indeed, in future people will not wait for Whitehall to solve our problems. Instead of people looking upwards to Whitehall for their solutions, from region to region, locality to locality, more and more people will themselves be in charge of the decisions that affect their lives.
But this new Britain of growing civic strength will also be a Britain which evolves that richer and stronger relationship between individual, community and state - the individual empowered in a supportive community.
And so the British way - to champion civic life and enhance local initiative and local responsibility - means we should do far more to support voluntary charitable and community action - and empower the forces of compassion and care in our communities that are at the heart of a successful society.
Let me give two examples of the new relationship between individuals, communities, and state - and the new role for voluntary work that follows.
Sure Start brings a principle into action for the first time for many years - that services for the under-fives not only involve private, voluntary and charitable activities, but can be run through and by them.
Sure Start, allowing partnerships to be responsible not only for a defined service but for all services for an area.
All the latest evidence is that the first three years are critical to a child's brain development and can have a lifelong impact on a child's intellectual and emotional well being.
So we must do more to counteract disadvantages that arise from poverty and lack of support at birth and beyond.
Sure Start was allocated 450 million pounds for the next three years. 250 local programmes will be established by 2001. And we are tackling the cause for poverty - lack of educational opportunity, lack of parental support, lack of health advice.
What opportunity is there for young children if they are left hobbled/crippled and 100 yards behind in the race of life.
We do not want winners and losers, but winners and winners as we broaden the circle of opportunity to include everyone.
5-7 per cent of the child population will benefit directly from Sure Start.
Sixty trailblazer areas have been selected and 47 are now up and running.
They are based on real communities. Some cover just 85 children, others 4,000, the average 500-800. So this is work in a small area to help those most in need.
And we are proposing to spend on average 3,000 pounds more per child per year.
But let us be clear about the radicalism of the new principle.
Sure Start allows the voluntary sector to be responsible and in charge, not only of a defined service, but all services for under fours in an area.
Instead of the state - local or national - running these programmes, these can be run by volunteers, charities, community organisations.
Indeed, we should be prepared to pass over the responsibility for services in these geographical areas to the voluntary partnership.
And by learning from what works and from each other, spread the best good practice as we extend the project.
The proposed New Children's Fund extends this principle.
It offers Government money to back non-Government initiatives to tackle child poverty.
Again it is a partnership in which the voluntary community and charitable organisations take the lead, using their initiative local knowledge and skill to put their ideas and projects to work.
So the new relationship between individual community and Government involves real devolution of power from Government - local and national - to self-governing communities.
And as it moves into the next phase, as I will announce in the Budget, the New Deal will seek to work even more closely with voluntary organisations as we both increase the opportunities for the hard to employ young unemployed and adults - with not just training but advice coaching and encouragement.
But these are not all the new initiatives where we want to encourage your ideas, your energies, your action, and will support it.
We are happy to work with you in developing new ideas.
In for example education where I can see how we can do more to extend the helping hand to school children - a new enhanced local network of mentors for children to help them read. Perhaps 100,000 mentors in all parts of the country.
In improving the environment, where to avoid what some call the threat of a drawbridge Britain-of walled private communities hidden from each other - we need to look at the better use of public space.
In communications, new and better community uses for local tv, radio, media and the Internet.
In the classroom better civic education courses and from school more opportunities for young people to do voluntary work.
In business extending into a national network the use of mentors that will encourage local small businesses.
In the Internet, new computer learning centres engaging public, private and voluntary sectors at the hub of the community.
In service overseas, a new boost to working in the developing world.
And voluntary action extends to community economic regeneration.
In the Pre-Budget Report I announced the 30 million pound Phoenix Fund, part of which will promote community finance initiatives. These provide finance for projects where there are high social returns. So this aims to promote the type of organisations that we have been talking about today. We aim to have this element of the Phoenix Fund up and running in the Spring. So soon local communities will be directly benefiting.
We want to do more. So I can announce today the setting up of a Social Investment Task Force. I want to see more investment in the UK in social enterprises - projects which have social objectives, and are not simply profit orientated. This Task Force will look into how this can be achieved, looking at:
the case for social investment and a social investment fund;
Far from being eclipsed by the consumer economy and global markets, care and compassion are with us still and poised to flourish.
Indeed together in the new century we will realise a new greatness in Britain not in high politics but in the millions of quiet often uncelebrated deeds and acts of kindness courage and humanity of people all over our country
Let us work for a future where Britain's goodness and its greatness are as one
Your efforts, initiative and pioneering work -the work of voluntary organisations you represent and advance- are at the heart of Britain's civic renewal and represent the better Britain we want to build in the twenty first century.
So let us resolve to use the millennium to realise and celebrate our enduring values.
Let us build a new civic patriotism together.
Let us have confidence that together we can build a great British society.