It is a pleasure to be here to address such a wide range of businesses. Many thanks to all who have turned up early in the morning for this. One of the problems about addressing people at the start of a conference is having to do the ‘housekeeping announcements’ - what to do in the event of a fire and so on. Well, I used to be a fireman, so if there is a fire, follow me!
The main message I wish to give today (3 March 2011) is that it is vitally important that you see government as a friend rather than as a hindrance. We don’t want to prevent you carrying out business and developing new industry; rather, we want to support you.
The brief given to me today (3 March 2011) (which, to the delight of my civil servants, I am not going to follow completely), mentions safer roads, safer technology, and greener technology. What I will also lay particular stress on is the issue of growth. You don’t need me to lecture you about this country’s financial situation. But no matter how many cuts we make - and I think that this department has done relatively well out of the recent spending decisions - we cannot get out of the financial situation we are in without growth. Growth necessarily involves better transport. And better transport means sweating our assets, and using them in a better, greener, way.
Introducing new technology is very important to this. However, even if, tomorrow, every single car on the road were to be an electric one, we’d still have the issues of road safety and road infrastructure to deal with. My department is already looking at ways to improve both areas; you will hear a lot about managed motorways and average speed cameras, and we are very keen to continue on this. But the question for today (3 March 2011) is: what else can be done? What can be done now, and in the mid-term, and then in the long-term?
I should mention that in this part of the world, a lot of what we are thinking about is a novelty. Countries such as Japan have already made significant progress, and Europe will have to catch up, and catch up fast.
I hope that, today (3 March 2011), we will learn something from you and that you will learn something from us. In front of you, you have a new team, both in terms of the ministers in the Department for Transport, and, more widely, in the new coalition government. Therefore, please consider this the first stage of a new relationship with a new team, a relationship using new processes. Come to us with your ideas and your inventions, for today, tomorrow, and the future, and we will listen. Together, let’s get this country going!