14 Nov 2013

Tory archives deleted: the speeches they’d rather we forgot

The Conservative party has been caught removing a decade of speeches from the internet, but thanks to the British Library’s archives we bring you the statements they may prefer were forgotten.

A March 2010 speech by Francis Maude set out the Conservative party’s position on “data transparency” promising to make it easier for the public to scrutinise the government.

“Absolutely crucial to our vision for the new Britain is data transparency. We are passionate about the genuinely transformative powers of free data…The era of closed shop government is over.”

We are the only party committed to protecting NHS spending
David Cameron, 2010 speech

Call for transparency

While the government has increased the amount of raw data available, the speech itself is no longer available on the Conservative.com website.

The Google cache of the page is also now a dead link and the Internet Archive fails to retrieve the page declaring “Page cannot be crawled or displayed due torobots.txt“.

The only remaining source online for these speeches is the UK Web Archive and they will not show up in simple web searches, users will have to trawl through years of speeches to locate specific statements.

‘The next big scandal’

In February 2010 David Cameron declared lobbying to be the next big scandal waiting to happen; “We can’t go on like this. I believe it’s time we shone the light of transparency on lobbying in our country and forced our politics to come clean about who is buying power and influence.”

While he pledged to establish “the most transparent government eve” the list of guests invited to Chequers has not been published since July 2011, leading to Labour to query whether Tory donors have been entertained.

Three Tory figures have been caught up in press lobbying exposés since 2010, including then Defence Secretary Liam Fox, Tim Collins MP and Conservative Party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas.

NHS cuts pledge

Lost in the online purge is the January 2010 pledge by David Cameron to cut the deficit and not the NHS.

“We are the only party committed to protecting NHS spending. It’s there in black and white behind me. I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS.”

Last December the Tories conceded that NHS spending was cut in real terms for their first year in power 2010/11, when budgets are adjusted for inflation there is a drop of £800m in funding.

In the same speech Mr Cameron went on to declare; “Andrew Lansley and his team are going to give the NHS back to who it belongs – the people. To the doctors, nurses and professionals who work in it. To the patients who get their care from it. To the families who depend on it.”

But under the coalition the Health and Social Care Act 2012 was introduced transferring £60 to £80 billlion of health care funds to “clinical commissioning groups”.

This raised fears of NHS privatisation with the British Medical Journal warning that “privatisation is an inevitable consequence of many of the policies contained in the Health and Social Care Bill”.

Since April 2013 nearly 200 contracts worth £2.5billion have been offered to private contractors and this summer the NHS began the biggest outsourcing of services in its history, inviting bids for a contract worth almost £1bn to provide health services including end of life care.

Maternity services

In the same speech Mr Cameron went on to state: “The second policy we are announcing today deals with an area that desperately needs attention – NHS maternity services.

“It doesn’t matter that billions of women have given birth over the ages, for parents having a baby – especially your first baby – can be one of life’s most daunting experiences. And all of us want the same thing. As many mums as possible giving birth in a relaxed, non-emergency, maternity-led setting with all the facilities for intensive help there for those who need them.”

However, over the last year spending on maternity care dropped last year from £2.62bn to £2.58bn, with the amount of funding going to five of the NHS’s 10 English regions falling by 15 per cent for the year 2012 – 13. In London funding dropped by 6 per cent despite birth rates continuing to rise.

In the NHS south central region midwives are now handling an average 40 births a year, far more than the recommended target of just 28.

Surveillance state

Warning against attacks on personal freedom from a “surveillance state” in June 2009 Mr Cameron pledged; “The next Conservative government will revoke the unjustified and unreasonable powers that let people enter your home without your permission.

“If we want to stop the state controlling us, we must confront this surveillance state,” he added.

However, this year as part of their reports into leaked NSA files on spying the Guardian laid bare the UK’s Tempora programme, which taps into transatlantic cables carrying masses of communications data.

The Guardian reported that GCHQ had the biggest internet surveillance operation of the “five eyes” group. A classified decryption programme called Edgehill was used to eavesdrop on encrypted internet traffic.

Bill of rights

Another election promise now lost online was the “British Bill of Rights”, which would be established to strengthen democratic accountability and liberties.

“It should guide the judiciary and the Government in applying human rights law when the lack of responsibility of some individuals threatens the rights of others…And it should protect the fundamental rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights in clearer and more precise terms,” Mr Cameron declared.

However, last year a commission set up to resolve the issue failed to reach an agreement with two of the nine members saying there was nothing wrong with the current regime.

Dr Michael Pinto-Duschinsky quit the commission claiming it was a waste of time.

Labour and Lib Dems

In contrast a Liberal Democrats pledge to scrap university tuition fees remains on their website despite the coalition later raising tuition fees to up to £9000 per year.

The archive on the Labour party’s website only goes as far as when Ed Miliband took over as leader, although no efforts to block archiving of their speeches appears to have been made.

In a statement the Conservatives claimed the changes “allow people to quickly and easily access the most important information we provide”.