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My Lords, over the past three years, our national self-confidence and self-belief have taken one heck of a beating. We have been pummelled by a daily dosage of doom, doubt, division and despair. I believe that this time is, mercifully, drawing to a close, so the question before us now is: how do we rebuild and reunite? Some will argue for legislation, but I want to make the case for realising a much more powerful motivator of human endeavour: optimism and belief.
Here I must declare an interest. I am an incurable optimist. I always have been; even my blood group is B positive. This is a genetic trait which is shared by all who happen to follow Newcastle United Football Club; it is pretty essential. Great turnarounds, be they in businesses, schools or sports teams, are more often than not the result of leadership; reinstilling self-belief, self-confidence, an ambition or a vision, or giving new purpose. Those qualities are the need of the hour. The hugely successful GREAT campaign, launched in 2012 at the great Olympics and Paralympics, tells people in 140 countries around the world how great Britain truly is. It is time that we brought that campaign home and reminded ourselves what a great country we are privileged to live in and that our best days lie ahead of us, not behind us.
When Forbes does its annual survey, it ranks Britain as the number one place in the world to do business. The World Bank ranks Britain second only to the United States in the G7 for ease of doing business. For these reasons and more, the UK is the number one location in Europe for attracting foreign direct investment. It is third in the world, after the United States and China. The UK is home to two of the top-three universities in the world. One of those universities, Cambridge, has produced more Nobel Prize winners than the entire nation of France. The Royal College of Art and Design was the number one college for art and design in the world in 2019. In December last year, the UK overtook the United States as the top destination for overseas students in the world. English is the number one spoken language in the world. It is the language of international trade. London is a world-leading international financial centre. In 2017, an international survey ranked the NHS as the best healthcare system, with Sweden and Switzerland coming sixth. London is ranked second only to Tokyo as the most innovative city in the world. When it comes to technology, the UK has produced as many billion-dollar technology companies—or “unicorns”—as Germany, France, Israel and Sweden combined.
The Premier League is the most watched football league in the world, Edinburgh the largest arts festival, Glastonbury the largest outdoor festival. “Game of Thrones” is filmed in Belfast, “Doctor Who” is made in Cardiff, “Downton Abbey” is made in Hampshire and 007 is made in secret, of course. Of the 10 teams that compete in Formula 1 motor racing, seven of them are based in the UK. At the Rio Olympics, Team GB ranked second in the medals table, behind the United States. In the Rio Paralympic Games—founded at Stoke Mandeville, Team GB ranked second, behind China. Both teams can both go one better in Tokyo later this year.
Internationally and politically, the UK is a significant player. It is a P5 member of the UN Security Council, a G7 country, a member of the Commonwealth—a unique family of 53 nations and 2 billion people—and the only country that meets both its 2% military NATO commitment and its 0.7% development aid commitment. It was the first to enshrine the net-zero commitment in law, while reducing its carbon emissions by 42% since 1990, which is more than any other industrialised country.
No other country can present such a list of credentials. Britain is indeed a great country, with its best days ahead of us, not behind us. Overseas investors, businesses and students believe in Britain, and we should believe in ourselves. We should unfetter the voices of hope, optimism and ambition, to inspire us to even greater heights, powered by the boundless renewable energy, resolve and creativity of all its great British people.