My speech to Labour Party Conference

Twenty years ago, starting at this Labour conference, we together took the historic step of reforming our party’s constitution.

The result is on the back of our membership cards today.

Our goal: ‘a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few.’

Our conviction, that: ‘By the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone’.

Twenty years on, that Labour vision – our Labour values – are more relevant than they have ever been.

Because, while our economy is growing again, taxes are up, wages are down, NHS waiting times are rising, and most working people are still not seeing any benefit from the recovery.

It’s no wonder the country is crying out for change.

But at a time when trust in politicians is at an all-time low – and when even after deep spending cuts and tax rises for working people, our deficit is still high – this is our task.

Not to flinch from the tough decisions we must make. But to show the country that there is a better way forward.

Labour’s plan for Britain’s future. Our common endeavour: to build an economy that works for the many, and not just a few, for all working people in every part of our United Kingdom.

And Conference, when we think of those words – ’by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone’ – don’t they resonate more loudly after the events of the last few days?

Because Conference, we meet here in Manchester, a united party in our still United Kingdom.

And let us pay tribute to Johan Lamont and Margaret Curran, Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown, Anas Sawar, Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander, in my team Cathy Jamieson, all the MPs and MSPs, party workers and volunteers, many more beyond our own party too, who have worked so tirelessly to win last week’s vote. Conference, we thank them all.

But let us never forget, after all the campaigning and brilliant barnstorming speeches, the decision to stay together and shape Scotland’s future within our United Kingdom was not made by politicians or pundits but by the people of Scotland.

They voted to retain the shared prosperity, and security, and solidarity that our union delivers. But the people of Scotland did not vote for the status quo. They voted for the opportunity to shape Scotland’s future with greater devolution. And it is our duty to deliver on that promise – and for Wales and for the cities and regions of England too.

Yes, we do need to change our constitution and reform and strengthen our union in a fair way – a process which should start from the people, not politicians. But we know too that people in Scotland and across the rest of the United Kingdom want bigger change than that.

Change which goes beyond powers and processes, parliaments and constitutions. Radical change to build an economy that works for all working people.

Conference, knocking on doors in my constituency a few Sundays ago, I spoke to a mum in Outwood.

She told me her teenage son had finished college and had been looking for a job for ages.

She was so relieved when he finally got one, but worried he’s on a zero-hours contract.

Every morning he has to ring in at 7 o’clock to see if they want him.

And when they say no, and he can do nothing else until the next morning, she said it breaks her heart.

Because he deserves better than this. And she’s right. And that story is not the exception.

It’s one of thousands and thousands of doorstep stories all of us hear across our country every week.

Parents worried about whether their children will get a job or an apprenticeship and whether the next generation will be worse off than their own.

Relying on us – Labour – to make things better.

Families and pensioners seeing prices in the shops and heating bills going up and up.

Millions of people – in the private and public sectors – struggling without a pay rise or unable to get the hours they need, still not feeling the benefit of this recovery.

And relying on us – Labour – to make things better.

Young people struggling to save to get on and buy a house.

Disabled people and family carers forced to pay the government’s Bedroom Tax.

Thousands of people working in our NHS, millions more who depend upon it, worried about rising waiting times and creeping privatisation.

All relying on us – Labour – to make things better.

And Conference, we must not let them down.

And that is why it is our job to go on and win the General Election so we can change Britain and deliver our country from this unfair, out of touch and failing Tory Government.

Conference, we all know the great weight of responsibility we carry on our shoulders.

And that is why our party is so united and determined and fired up to get Ed into Downing Street.

Over the last four years, Ed has led us from the front.

Reforming our party and leading a Shadow Cabinet with more women than ever before and more BME candidates than ever before.

Modernising our relationship with the trade unions.

Standing up for the victims of phone-hacking.

Speaking up for the British people on the cost of living crisis.

Demanding the reforms we need to change our economy.

At every turn, he has led this party with courage, strength, principle and vision, and he will do the same for our country.

Our leader, Britain’s next Prime Minister, Ed Miliband.

And as for David Cameron and George Osborne, going round the country saying they’ve fixed the economy, telling people they’ve never had it so good.

How out of touch can you get?

Prices still rising faster than wages.

And the Tories say they’ve fixed the economy.

The slowest recovery for 100 years.

Business investment still lagging behind .

The lowest level of house building since the ‘20s.

One in six young people out of work.

The gender pay gap widening again.

Over a million zero hours contracts.

Working people £1,600 a year worse off.

And the Tories say they’ve fixed the economy?

What planet are they on?

Conference, working people can’t afford five more years of the Tories.

We know what the Tories really mean when they say they’ve fixed the economy.

The millionaires who got a massive tax cut.

That’s who the Tories have fixed it for.

The hedge funds funding the Tory party.

That’s who the Tories have fixed it for.

The big investors buying the Royal Mail on the cheap.

Russian oligarchs buying tennis matches with Boris and Dave.

That’s who the Tories have fixed it for.

Conference, it’s the same old Tories.

And it’s the same old Tory economics.

Cutting taxes at the top and hoping wealth will somehow trickle down.

Standing up for a privileged few, while everyone else is left behind

For the few not the many.

David Cameron, George Osborne, and Nick Clegg.

And now David Cameron thinks a grateful and devoted nation will give him another five years in Downing Street.

You know what – even his own party don’t believe him anymore

Remember Cameron’s A list?

Nine Tories elected in 2010 already standing down.

From the A List to the Exit Door in just four years.

Nine Tories leaving.

Another scurrying off to UKIP.

And Boris scrambling back to Westminster, preparing to elbow David Cameron out of the way.

That’s today’s Tories.

Giving up on Cameron.

Giving up on the General Election.

Starting to fight the next Tory leadership election instead.

Conference, we know working people can’t afford five more years of the Tories.

But this is no time for complacency.

Because this is the hard truth that we learn – not just from events in Scotland – but also from the local and European elections, the rise of UKIP and from the conversations we all have on the doorstep and in our workplaces week after week.

Yes, the Tories are deeply unpopular.

And yes, the country is crying out for change.

But, even after the progress and successes of our last four years, we have more work to do to show Labour can deliver the change that people want to see.

To show that we have learned from our time in government, that we will make the tough decisions we need to get the deficit down, and that we can change our economy and make it work for working people.

So Conference it’s more important than ever that we – the Labour Party – are honest with the country about what the last Labour government got right and what we got wrong.

Like you, I’m proud of many of the things we did.

Conference, we – Labour – introduced the first ever national minimum wage – and we will raise it if we win the election next year.

We – Labour – introduced free nursery places for the first time – and we will expand free childcare for working parents if we win the election.

We – Labour – introduced civil partnerships and paved the way this year for our country’s first ever same-sex marriages.

We opened 3,500 Sure Start children’s centres.

We made the right call on not joining the Euro.

And most important of all, starting in 1997, after 18 years of neglect, we reformed the NHS, we invested in the NHS, we reduced waiting times from 18 months to 18 weeks in the NHS.

Conference, we saved our National Health Service from the Tories.

And next year, after just five years of David Cameron – with waiting times rising, fewer nurses and a crisis in A&E – we will have to save the NHS from the Tories once again. And we will do what it takes.

Because Conference, it’s the oldest truth in British politics: you can never ever trust the Tories with our NHS.

So we can be proud of many things we did.

But where we made mistakes – like all governments do – we should be grown up about it.

We should put our hands up, learn from the past and explain how we will do things differently in the future.

So Conference, we should have had tougher rules on immigration from Eastern Europe – it was a mistake not to have transitional controls in 2004.

And we must change the rules in the future.

Longer transitional controls for new countries.

A longer time people have to work before they can get unemployment benefit.

Stopping people claiming child benefit and tax credits for families abroad.

Cracking down on employers who exploit migrant workers and undercut wages by avoiding the minimum wage and proper rights at work.

Tough controls, fair rules.

That is what we mean by fair movement not free movement.

And Conference, while it was the banks which caused the global recession, and it was the global recession which caused deficits to rise here in Britain and around the world, the truth is we should have regulated those banks in a tougher way.

It was a mistake. We should apologise for it. And I do.

And so as we get the deficit down, we must reform our banks for the future so that can never happen again.

And Conference, and we didn’t do enough to tackle the underlying causes of rising spending on housing benefit and in-work poverty.

So the next Labour government will raise the minimum wage, build more homes to get the housing benefit bill down and cap overall spending on social security.

And Conference, we should not have scrapped the 10p starting rate of income tax.

But we don’t just need to learn from our mistakes.

We also need to put right the mistakes this Government has made.

So we won’t pay for new free schools in areas where there are excess school places.

We will repeal the NHS Bill and stop the creeping privatisation of the National Health Service.

And yes, Conference, in our first Budget, the next Labour government will scrap the Bedroom Tax too.

Building on our record.

Learning from the mistakes of the last Labour government.

And putting right the mistakes of this Tory Government.

A changed Labour Party to change Britain.

But we will face great challenges.

Working people are already paying more taxes.

Our public services are under great pressure.

We know there would have been tough decisions on tax, spending and pay restraint in this parliament whoever was in government.

But three years of lost growth at the start of this parliament means we will have to deal with a deficit of £75 billion – not the balanced budget George Osborne promised by 2015.

And that will make the task of governing hugely difficult.

And this goes to the heart of the political challenge we face.

People know we are the party of jobs, living standards and fairness for working people.

But they also need to know that we will balance the books and make the sums add up and that we won’t duck the difficult decisions we will face if they return us to government.

Working people have had to balance their own books.

And they are clear that the government needs to balance its books too.

So Labour will balance the books in the next parliament.

These will be our tough fiscal rules. We will get the current budget into surplus and the national debt falling as soon as possible in the next parliament.

Tough fiscal rules that our National Policy Forum endorsed in July, demonstrating that, however difficult, our party can unite in tough times to agree a radical, credible and fully costed programme for government.

And we will legislate for these tough fiscal rules in the first year after the election and they will be independently monitored by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

So in our manifesto there will be no proposals for any new spending paid for by additional borrowing.

No spending commitments without saying where the money is coming from.

Because we will not make promises we cannot keep and cannot afford.

And because we will need an iron commitment to fiscal discipline, we want the Office for Budget Responsibility to be allowed to independently audit the costing of every spending and tax measure in Labour’s manifesto – and those of the other main parties too.

A bold reform which the Tories are desperate to block. Because they are running scared from having their own manifesto subject to independent scrutiny.

And because David Cameron and George Osborne want to carry on peddling untruths and smears about Labour’s plans.

Conference, the next Labour government will get the deficit down.

And Ed Miliband and all my Shadow Cabinet colleagues are clear it will mean cuts and tough decisions and we will take the lead.

So I can announce today that if we win the election, on day one of the next Labour government, the pay of every government Minister will immediately be cut by five per cent.

Ministerial pay will then be frozen each year until we have achieved our promise to balance the nation’s books

Because we are all clear that everybody in the next Labour government will be fully focused on that vital task of getting the deficit down.

And Conference, our Zero-Based Review of public spending is examining every pound spent by government to cut out waste and make different choices.

Andy Burnham is setting out how we can save money, and improve care by pooling health and social care with a single budget and joint management.

Yvette Cooper has set out how police forces will work more closely together to make savings. And we will scrap Police and Crime Commissioners so that we can do more to protect frontline policing.

Hilary Benn is working with the toughest and best generation of local government leaders we have ever had to make savings and free up resources for the front-line.

We will look to prioritise early intervention now which can save billions of pounds in the future.

And we will insist that all the proceeds from the sale of our stakes in Lloyds and RBS are used not for a frivolous pre-election giveaway – but instead that every penny of profit will be used to repay the national debt.

Conference, fiscal responsibility in the national interest.

And we will have to make other decisions which I know will not be popular with everyone.

At a time when the public services that pensioners rely on are under such pressure, we will stop paying the winter fuel allowance to the richest five per cent of pensioners.

Over the long-term, as life expectancy rises, we will need to continue to raise the retirement age to keep our pensions system affordable.

We will cap structural social security spending and keep the benefits cap, but we will make sure it properly reflects local housing costs.

I want to see child benefit rising again in line with inflation in the next parliament, but we will not spend money we cannot afford. So for the first two years of the next parliament, we will cap the rise in child benefit at one per cent. It will save £400 million in the next Parliament. And all the savings will go towards reducing the deficit.

But unlike the Tories we will always ask those who have the most to make the biggest contribution.

That is why, with the deficit still high and working people already paying more, we opposed David Cameron cutting the 50p top rate of tax. Now cannot be the right time to give the richest 1 per cent of people in the country a £3 billion tax cut.

So as we get the deficit down in the next parliament, the next Labour government will reverse this Tory tax cut for millionaires.

Because Labour will balance the books in a fairer way.

In the next parliament, when we will continue to face tough spending constraints, I want to see pay settlements that are both affordable and fair.

Public and private sector workers should all share fairly in rising prosperity.

So Labour will not undermine fairness and the independent Pay Review Bodies by rejecting their advice out of hand.

Instead, we will work with the Pay Review Bodies, employers and employees, to ensure that pay settlements are affordable and fair, doing more for those on lower pay with tougher settlements at the top.

Conference, we will also scrap the shares for rights scheme, reverse the tax cut for hedge funds, crack down hard on tax avoidance and close tax loopholes.

And we will levy a tax on the highest value properties – a mansion tax on houses worth over £2 million.

But we will do it in a fair, sensible and proportionate way. Raising the limit each year in line with average rises in house prices. Putting in place protections for those who are asset rich but cash poor. And ensuring those with properties worth tens of millions of pounds make a significantly bigger contribution than those in houses just above the limit.

Because how can it be right that the billionaire overseas buyer this year of a £140 million penthouse in Westminster will pay just £26 a week in property tax — the same as the average-value property in that area?

Different choices for fairer deficit reduction and to safeguard our vital public services.

Labour’s plan to balance the books in a fairer way.

Labour’s economic plan will balance the books.

But an economic plan must do much more than that.

We also need to change the way our economy works.

Restoring the broken link between the wealth of the nation and family finances and delivering rising prosperity for all.

Across the developed world, rapid technological change is replacing traditional skilled jobs too – in banking and offices as well as on production lines.

The result is a ‘hollowing out’ of our labour market: medium-wage, skilled jobs on the slide. Low-wage, insecure employment on the rise.

Conference in this new world, we know we cannot succeed the Tory way through a race to the bottom – with British companies simply trying to compete on cost as people see their job security eroded and living standards decline.

We can only succeed and create the number of good jobs we need

through a race to the top.

So Labour’s economic plan will transform vocational education.

We will work with employers to introduce a gold standard technical qualification and radically expand apprenticeships.

And we will get young people back to work.

Rachel Reeves will introduce a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee, a paid job for young people and the long-term unemployed, which people will have to take up or lose benefits.

Paid for by repeating the tax on bank bonuses.

Ending the scourge of long-term unemployment once and for all.

Making work pay

And because a modern economy depends not just on traditional infrastructure, but on the most important modern infrastructure of all childcare.

So we will increase the bank levy to expand free childcare for working parents to 25 hours a week to help Mums and Dads balance work and family life.

We will give tax breaks to firms that pay the living wage and end the exploitative use of zero-hours contracts.

And by the end of the next parliament, Labour will increase the national minimum wage to £8 an hour.

But what’s the Tory plan for the next Parliament? They want to spend £3 billion on a tax break for a minority of married couples.

People who are separated, widowed or divorced won’t get it.

Women who’ve fled and divorced an abusive partner won’t get it.

Read the small print and you see that two thirds of married couples won’t get it.

And 5 out of 6 families with children won’t get it either.

And the Tories call it their flagship policy for families.

So in our first Budget, we will scrap this unfair policy and instead use the money to introduce a lower 10p starting rate of income tax.

A tax cut for 24 million people on middle and low incomes. More working people benefiting. More women benefitting. More married couples. More families with children.

A fairer way to help hard working people in tough times.

And Conference, Labour’s economic plan means a modern industrial policy to back growth sectors like advanced manufacturing, clean technology and the creative industries.

Proper competition in banking and energy markets.

New takeover rules to support long-term investment, not short-term asset-stripping.

A proper British Investment Bank so businesses can get the finance they need.

Giving the Green Investment Bank the borrowing powers it needs to do its job.

And Chuka Umunna and I have asked Graham Cole, Chair of AgustaWestland UK to review what more we can do more to back British exports.

We will keep Britain’s corporation tax rates at the lowest in the G7, but instead of another corporation tax cut next year, our economic plan will use the money to cut business rates for small firms – because it’s time we had a fairer deal for small businesses across Britain.

And Conference, why should decisions on what skills Manchester needs be made in Whitehall?

Why should a Transport Minister in Westminster make decisions about all the transport needs of Birmingham, Newcastle or Leeds?

So our economic plan will devolve power and resources not only to Scotland and Wales but to city and county regions in every part of England.

Our new, independent National Infrastructure Commission will end dither and delay on big infrastructure decisions we need for the future.

And whatever the outcome of the Howard Davies review into airport capacity, we must resolve to finally make a decision on airport capacity in London and the South East – expanding capacity while taking into account the environmental impact. No more kicking into the long-grass, but taking the right decisions for Britain’s long-term future.

And Conference, our country badly needs more homes.

Demand is outstripping supply, risking a premature rise in interest rates. The housing benefit bill is rising.

So, following the Lyons report, and by making housing a priority within the existing capital settlement for the next parliament, Labour’s economic plan will get at least 200,000 new homes a year built by 2020.

Creating jobs, helping first-time buyers and building the homes Britain needs for the future.

And Conference, Labour’s economic plan is based on the clear conviction that Britain has always succeeded, and can only succeed in the future, as an open and internationalist and outward-facing trading nation.

We need reform in Europe.

Cutting wasteful subsidies.

Getting the Euro area growing again.

Reforming immigration rules.

Ending the waste of two European Parliaments.

So let us build the alliances to secure reforms and change Europe so it works better for Britain.

Conference, as we heard so powerfully from the Chief Executive of Airbus this morning, we’re not going to earn our way to higher living standards by walking away from our biggest single market.

Let us say loud and clear, walking away from Europe would be a disaster for British jobs and investment.

Conference, on Europe this party will always put the national interest first.

Conference, that is Labour’s economic plan.

That is the kind of government we should be – ambitious, reforming, doing what it takes to deliver an economy that works for working people, in every part of Britain.

And that’s the kind of Chancellor I want to be too.

People rightly want to know who we are, what drives us on, what makes us tick.

So let me say this.

I’d always rather taxes were lower, but my first tax cuts would be for millions of hard working people – not millionaires.

I hate wasteful spending, but I also hate the waste of talent of one in six young people out of work.

I’m pro-business, but not business as usual.

I’m pro-Europe, but I’d never join the Euro.

I love the NHS – and I will do whatever it takes to save it.

And above all else, I want to build a better and fairer country for my children and all of our children

Because as someone who has grown up with a stammer, I have worked all my political life to break down barriers so that all children can succeed, and to get extra help and support to those children who need it. Because I don’t want to live in a society where children are held back by their special need or disability, by their parents’ income or by the colour of their skin.

That’s why I’m Labour.

Conference, I am a realist and an optimist.

I don’t believe in ducking difficult choices, unpopular decisions, hard truths.

But I do believe in the power of politics and public service to make a difference.

That’s who I am.

That’s who we are.

That’s what our Labour Party is for.

And that is why I am proud to be a member of this party and to serve in Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet.

So Conference.

We have learned from our past and our mistakes.

We are tough enough to make the difficult decisions.

And – with Ed Miliband’s leadership – by the strength of our common endeavour – we can make the change Britain needs.

Conference, this is what our first Labour Budget will do:

A British Investment Bank set up.

Business rates cut.

Tax avoidance tackled.

The deficit down fairly.

Infrastructure decisions made, not delayed.

The minimum wage raised.

Energy bills frozen.

A jobs guarantee for young people.

Tax cuts for millions – not millionaires.

Bank bonuses taxed.

The bedroom tax scrapped.

Our NHS saved.

That’s what Labour’s first Budget will do.

Fixing the economy for everyone.

A plan for the many not the few.

People relying on us to deliver.

We will not let them down

Thank you.

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Posted September 22nd, 2014 by Ed

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