Leader's speech, Brighton 1966
Harold Wilson (Labour)
Commentary:This conference was the first since the 1966 general election, when Labour increased its majority to 96. In his speech, Wilson emphasised the need for rapid change in industry, social relations and Britain’s relationships with other nations, which was vital if Britain were to meet the challenges that lay ahead. On this basis, he denounced conservatism and pledged to eradicate it from Britain’s national life. For Wilson, the vision of a ‘New Britain’ was dependent upon economic success, and to this end his government was making fundamental reforms in the areas of industry and education. Central to these reforms were the ‘July measures,’ which were introduced to deflate the economy and end the current crisis. In world affairs, meanwhile, the key issues were nuclear disarmament and the conflict in Rhodesia.
Mr. Chairman, fellow delegates, I move the adoption of the Parliamentary Report.
A year ago when I presented the Parliamentary Report for the first session of the Labour Government elected in 1964, there were many who doubted whether we should still be in power today. We had a Parliamentary majority of three.
For weeks - and it is healthy to say this to those who daily foreshadow our early demise - publicity and public comment on the political situation had revolved around the question whether the death of the late Speaker would mean that our majority would disappear altogether. For a whole week before we met at Blackpool all comment on the Labour Conference was in terms of the Liberal Conference which had met at Scarborough; whether our Party’s Conference at Blackpool would see the acceptance of the terms for survival which had been so seductively offered us at Scarborough. This Conference, this Movement gave the answer. That tail was never going, to wag this dog.
Now, a year afterwards, we face the future in a vastly different situation. For the first time in the history of this Movement we have a Government in power which has increased its majority. After two years in office we now have a majority over the chief Opposition Party greater than anything achieved by the Tories, over us, in thirteen years of Conservative rule. And I want to pay my warmest tribute on behalf of this Executive and of the Parliamentary Party to those who achieved that great victory last March - the workers of this Party on the doorstep, those who sustained us in the difficult days after we had first taken office, those who thronged the Committee Rooms when the Election was announced, those who cheered increased majorities and particularly Labour gains when the votes were counted. I repeat what I said here in Brighton after the 1964 victory - what I said at Blackpool last year - we shall not break faith.
I am not going to spend a lot of time outlining the legislative programme of the Government in the short 1964-66 Parliament and in the six months since the General Election. The Parliamentary Report, in the possession of every delegate here, speaks for itself, and you, Mr. Chairman, outlined its salient achievements. I am not going to outline the 107 bills which since October, 1964, have received the Royal Assent, or the 25 more which are at present going through Parliament, or the further 12 which will be introduced before Christmas. It is not merely that we are maintaining a record level of legislative activity, what is more important is what these Bills are enacting and what they will achieve.
A year ago, I said that by the time this Conference met, we should have enacted 90 per cent of the measures foreshadowed in the 1964 manifesto, measures repeated and confirmed with all the authority of a Government in a manifesto which we put before the electorate last March. That pledge has been honoured. But to what has been achieved must be added the Bills now before the House. The Steel Bill has received its Second Reading; and my colleagues and I are deeply touched by the vote of confidence given to us by further revelations about the investment policy of the unit trust presided over by the Chairman of the Conservative Party.
In 1964, too, we promised urgent action to deal with the land racket, urgent action to take urban building land into public ownership, to stop the rocketing prices, to provide the means of effective town and country planning, to ensure that land values created by the community should accrue to the community which created them. Last March we asked for a vote of confidence in that policy. And now the Land Commission Bill has completed its Committee Stage in the House and is approaching the stage when it becomes the law of the land. The Conservative and Liberal Parties, who denounced the Land Bill by bell, book and candle, in the event failed to put up any effective opposition and let it through. By next spring, we shall have the powers we promised. Other Bills are going through or are shortly to be introduced - the Housing Subsidies Bill, the Industrial Reorganisation Bill, the Companies Bill, the Leasehold Bill, designed to end half a century of social injustice.
This Government, this Party, this Parliament, are working on a clear and decisive mandate from the British people. For the decision last March was a decision to reaffirm beyond all doubt the break that the British people had made with the past in 1964.
That was not all it decided. For it proved that the British people accepted that Labour could govern, that we had the men and the measures that the country knew were necessary. It proved that Labour could give national leadership; that we rejected the Conservative concept of cynical conflict between class and class.
It proved that the electorate was an adult electorate, that they would not be brainwashed by the soapy ad-men, that the people wanted policies, and leaders prepared to see those policies through. The electorate showed little interest in those who entered the Election hoping that by the end of it they would have learnt from their public relations people what kind of men they were - they wanted people who knew where they were going and where the country was going.
The Election proved that the people of Britain were characterised by a common interest. The Conservative Party was defeated in 1966 by the new realisation of a common interest between those who wished to use their skills - managerial, professional, technical, industrial - to help solve Britain’s problems: by the realisation that 13 years of Conservative policy and Conservative abdication had brought Britain to the brink of economic disaster: by the realisation that all of us, members one of another as we are, were affected by the social injustices of the Tory affluent society; by the impact of technological change on occupational structure, blurring as it has blurred the old divisions between industrial and non-industrial workers.
It was all these things. Above all it was a clear decision that there was no going back.
The Parliamentary programme of which this report represents one year’s progress is part of a continuing, consistent and conscious policy. Within that continuing policy we each have our own special personal priorities. These subjective priorities find general expression in a consensus acceptable to the entire Movement.
Today I want to relate the measures we have taken, including the economic measures of this summer, to the path which this Party chose three years ago in Scarborough, and which the country chose a year later.
The Scarborough programme was a programme which laid emphasis on change but made change an instrument of policy. It was a programme which called on Britain to mobilise the forces of change which lay still unrealised in the scientific and technological abilities of our people. But it was a programme which demanded that this process of change, in what is and must be the most rapid and fundamental industrial revolution of all our history, must be tempered by a spirit of humanity and social concern which the nineteenth century industrial revolution never knew - indeed which it consciously rejected.
For we are the Party of change. We seek not to conserve, but to transform society.
Industrial change to realise the vast potential abundance which has so long been denied; social change to redress the distorted balance between private self-seeking and social compassion. Structural change which recognises the challenge to our society brought about by uneven regional development and by the great challenge which is presented by the urban explosion in terms of the problems of transportation and social environment; change in the relationships within our society in an age which rejects the feudal and class relationships which others seek, in conserving, to perpetuate. Change, too, in Britain’s relationships with the world, which itself is changing on a scale which outpaces the modes of thought of an effete establishment.
Because the greatest enemy that lies in our path in creating the kind of Britain we want to create is conservatism. We cannot afford Tory conservatism, with its smug preoccupation, complacently looking on while the rest of the world passed us by.
The full implications of the impossibility of returning to conservatism in any form may not have been fully realised by a minority both in the industrial and political Labour Movements. But even more it is manifest that the Tory Party, and their allies in the Press, and their disillusioned supporters in industry, have not yet begun to realise what has hit them.
This is why the Tory Party has been reduced to a pathetic irrelevance, capable only of disporting themselves on the sidelines of the New Britain, contenting themselves at their social and political gatherings with ritual abuse of the men and ideas of a society which has rejected them. Incapable themselves of influencing events, all they can do now is to incite others to act as a surrogate opposition. For opposition in this country has reached an all-time low when their Leader can address an appeal to the Trades Union Congress to sabotage the policy of the elected Government by negative action. Or when a member of their Shadow Cabinet last week could address to the leaders of industry, who had been called to the National Conference on Productivity, a factional demand that they should use the occasion, not to promote the national productivity drive, but to sabotage the Conference by futile ideological attacks on the Government. It is characteristic that both these appeals were rejected with contempt by those to whom they were addressed, and that even the more sycophantic Tory supporters in the national. Press greeted these sleazy initiatives with ashamed silence. Enough of them.
You will probably feel that the fact that I have spent two minutes dealing with the Tories exaggerates their importance - maybe so. No doubt it will be reversed next week at Blackpool; two minutes of Tory policy for every hour they devote to us.
Our task now is to go forward from last March. It is not enough to reject the organised conservatism of the Tory Party. We cannot afford to perpetuate any form of dinosaur-type thinking in our own Party. If we are to consolidate our Election victory, we have to reject the, thinking which goes with closed minds and complacent attitudes, whether in the political or the industrial labour movements. We cannot afford to fight the problems of the sixties with the attitudes of the Social Democratic Federation, nor, in looking for a solution to those problems, seek vainly to find the answer in Highgate cemetery. Still less shall we find that solution if we listen to the siren voices of those who see it as their role in this Party to advocate, in the columns of Conservative daily and weekly papers, right-wing doctrines which have been rejected not only by this Movement but by the mass of the British people.
For this Movement exists not merely to win Election victories, nor to repeat in the twentieth century the stately minuet of ins and outs which characterised the nineteenth century. We exist to change Britain, to change the form of our society, to eradicate from every part of our national life the conservatism which economically and socially was denying to the British people their full opportunity to realise what is in them. And we have to carry through this great revolution of change by consent and this means that we must have the faith and enthusiasm to change the hearts and minds of men.
For a political rejection of conservatism is not enough. It is the stifling weight of establishment thinking we have to challenge, wherever it is found, and then to prise loose. In economic and industrial life, in Government, central and local, in Parliament itself, and in the inhibiting social framework within which our society still operates, we have to question, to challenge and to change.
And it is because over these past two years and in the years immediately ahead, success or failure in all our objectives home and abroad will depend on economic success, we have first to challenge conservatism wherever it may be found in British industry.
Tomorrow we shall be debating the July measures - and the necessity for them. And we shall be looking at them, not as a backward reversion to Tory stop-go policies, but as a necessary condition for national advance to economic strength and independence, to industrial expansion and rising living standards. We have to look on them as measures which represent not a return to the tired measures of the past, but as a necessary step towards the future. At Scarborough I called this Movement to a programme of change which meant that thousands of our people would have to change jobs, that for thousands more the skills they learnt would become outdated - perhaps once, perhaps twice in the working life of those involved.
For industrial change without labour redeployment is a meaningless concept. We made this clear. But there were two speeches from the platform in that Scarborough debate and the second laid down the social conditions in which redeployment could be made tolerable. That is why, in the social programme of this Government since October, 1964, we have concentrated not only on the urgent measures needed to provide help to the old, age pensioners, the disabled, the sick and the widows, we have given priority to the social infrastructure required for industrial change and redeployment. The Redundancy Payments Act, the vast expansion of industrial training, the measures coming into force this very week for earnings-related benefits, not only for the sick and widows, but for those made redundant while changing jobs.
We always recognised that the Balance of Payments crisis we foresaw in 1964 would have to be met with the weapons they left us with. For in those two years it would have been impossible to achieve either the changes in industrial structure or the changes in industrial attitude that were needed.
And we shall not go forward to sustained expansion except on the basis of eradicating conservatism in all its forms.
The conservatism that has to be eradicated from Trade Union thinking and outdated working practices I dealt with in my speech to the Trades Union Congress a month ago. And we must be on our guard to ensure that conservative thinking and conservative practices are not strengthened by the understandable reflex action of Trade Unions and their members to ill-considered provocative actions taken by some industrialists using as their pretext the measures the Government have had to take, in some cases using these measures as a means of escaping from the consequences of their own past mismanagement and lack of foresight.
We have made it clear that we shall not tolerate a return to mass unemployment and purposeless industrial stagnation. I pledge my colleagues and myself to that determination. But in that determination we should not cling to protective practices and attitudes because words are being used which, because of past associations, arouse understandable emotional reactions within our own Movement.
Equally, on the management side, the reappraisal of industrial policies which these measures have forced must not be used as an excuse for timidity, for cancelling or retarding essential programmes of capital investment and modernisation, still less as an excuse for retiring into a feudal industrial shell. If this is a time for labour redeployment, these measures should be taken even more as a signal for a shakeout from the country’s boardrooms. As every firm has to reconsider its costs, its expenses, as every firm is forced to prepare its programme for cutting down waste, this is a unique opportunity to accelerate the elimination at all levels of management from the boardroom downwards of those who hold their position not on merit or professional qualification, but on social, family or financial connections, which provide no basis for selection in this ruthlessly competitive age.
But the attack on industrial conservatism is already going beyond that. The drive for productivity, on which I had the privilege of listening to some of the most progressive minds on both sides of industry at the National Productivity Conference last week, requires a new approach to scientific management, to the use of technological expertise and the concepts of cost-effectiveness and value-analysis, in which today our best firms are as good as any in the world, but in which so many of our medium and small firms, and some big ones, still lag behind.
The change must be not only in the quantity and quality of industrial equipment and modernisation, it must be in industrial structure. I have referred to the change which our Parliamentary programme is forcing through - the public ownership of steel, and the mobilisation of our resources of building land in the interests of the nation. But this is only a part of what we are doing. Sector by sector, industry by industry, our national economy is coming under the searchlight of public enquiry. And we regard an enquiry not as they did, as a road block to change, but as a means of forcing change. For them a Royal Commission was a means of burying an embarrassing problem in the pigeon-holes of Whitehall. For us every enquiry is a means to action. There are three stages. One, get the facts. Two, challenge every established assumption in a mood of constructive irreverence; everything is subject to challenge, with no sacred cows. And three, having got the facts, having challenged the assumptions, then we must act.
This is the basis of our enquiry into Trade Unions and Employers’ Associations.
There are those who would prejudge these issues and prejudge them indeed on class grounds. The Royal Commission we established should have been sitting years ago. But now it must be allowed to do its work of getting the facts, of challenging the established assumptions, and of providing a blue-print for action.
This has been our attitude to industry after industry in the two years we have been in office; the docks and the Devlin Report, dealing first with the abuses in the field of the employment of labour, leading in the Government's thinking to fundamental changes in the structure of the dock industry on the basis of public ownership. Shipbuilding - the searching Geddes Enquiry which has already led to fundamental changes ending restrictive practices and demarcation disputes on a scale of which the Unions concerned have every right to be proud. This will now be followed by fundamental changes in the structure and re-equipment of the industry. Plowden on aircraft; the Cameron Enquiry into indefensible practices in the printing industry; and the enquiry about to start into the structure and the organisation of the shipping industry. The enquiries - conducted by the Government itself - which have led to the White Paper on Transport Policy, which we discussed yesterday, leading to future Parliamentary action to remove the shackles so that the productive activities of nationalised industries can be given freedom to compete. And over a wide sector of industries, whose structure still reflects the conservatism of the past, and in particular the proliferation of small firms - family concerns and others which by their scale of operations are inadequate to meet the needs of this technological age - here we shall soon have the activities of the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation backed by £150 million of national finance. Parliament will be asked to vote for the establishment of I.R.C. later this month, and we have already heard that the Conservatives and Liberals characteristically intend to oppose it.
And we have to use - we are using - the same irreverent process of challenge and reform in attacking conservatism in the structure of our social services. The new Ministry of Social Security represents the first fruits of our reappraisal, ending once and for all the National Assistance Board, with its last lingering inheritance from the age of the Public Assistance Committees.
But above all, in the field of education. As we all recognise, investment in plant, equipment and machinery is more essential now than ever. But our future investment in the nation’s children represents a programme which not only expresses our confidence in the future of Britain, but will mean wide and unrestricted opportunities in life for all our children. We had to cut back in July. We have had to impose painful cuts in public expenditure. But the programmes for housing, for hospital building and for schools go on unimpeded as our first priority in the creation of social capital. Yesterday Jennie spoke for the Executive and the Government about provision for primary education, about the Government’s determination to create equality of opportunity in secondary education.
Where the failure to move one motion rather inhibited what she was going to say to you.
In higher education, too - we cannot justify the ending of the 11-plus if we are to perpetuate and intensify a system of educational apartheid at 17-plus and 18-plus.
The Secretary of State for Education is pressing on with the Public Schools Commission; but perhaps less public attention has been given to fundamental reforms he is making in the field of further and technical education, as well as in the creation of our new technological universities. Industrial training, too, is moving ahead as never in our history. Industrial re-training is being stepped up as we reopen the centres the Tories closed, and push ahead with the creation of new ones. For far more of our young men and women we are combining industrial and educational training. And to set the seal on this new revolution in education, our plans for a new University of the Air, the first open university in the world, open in the sense that it throws wide the doors of university education to those who for any reason have been denied the opportunity of formal higher education.
Again relevant equally to the widening of opportunity and to the attack on Britain’s industrial problems are the new institutes, departments and centres for management studies, the National Computer Centre, and our unprecedented programme for providing computers for advanced research in our universities.
And we are attacking conservatism in the Machinery of Government. In the first twenty-four hours of Labour Government in 1964, we carried through the biggest peacetime revolution in machinery of Government for half a century. That was how we began. Now, as the follow-through, every institution concerned with the machinery of Government is under review. Parliament itself, reflecting the insistent demands of an irreverent new intake of Members, is going through the first throes of modernisation. The Civil Service is the subject of an inquiry which is the most important attack on Civil Service problems since the Northcote-Trevelyan reforms of a century ago. Local Government is being examined by two Royal Commissions, for we cannot approach the problems created by the new urban explosion, the transportation explosion, the problems of regional growth, and the techniques of regional government, on the basis of legislation deriving from the 1880s. I cannot anticipate the findings of these Royal Commissions, but the reforms that will stem from them will be a challenge. And it may well be that when they have reported, your Government will have to challenge and fight inbuilt, ingrained conservatism in local authority attitudes, not least in the attitudes of some shellbacks among our own Labour councillors.
The reform of our ancient system of laws and legal procedures.
Already the Law Commission we promised in 1964 is at work. Indeed it has produced far-reaching and devastating reports on which we shall act. But the defence of the liberties of the individual goes beyond the modernisation of the law, for in the modern world, under any Government and any system of economic and social administration, bureaucracy - governmental but going far beyond government - can inflict injustice on the individual. Later this month Parliament will be asked to agree to the appointment of a Parliamentary Commissioner, an Ombudsman, whose duty will be to enquire into alleged injustices affecting the lives, happiness and welfare of the individual.
In two short years, when economic and social and international priorities rightly demanded our attention, we have not perhaps been able to attack the more peripheral problems of the William Hickey society. On the Honours System we have made a start. Since October 1964, as I said last year, no hereditary peerages have been created, no baronetcies either. We have, however, recommended the institution of a new order for firms who make significant progress in exports and in industrial technology. Shortly, as I recently told Parliament, I shall be announcing new and far-reaching changes in the Honours System.
This is justification by challenge. Every established institution and doctrine in our domestic national life is going through a searching enquiry. But this process of enquiry is not confined to home affairs. In the past two years, we have carried through the most searching review of defence policy in Britain’s peacetime history - a policy designed to restrict the uncontrolled escalation of defence expenditure to figures within our economic capability.
So with nuclear disarmament, where our internal controversies of yesteryear seem strangely outdated by new and more fearsome challenges. Challenges where the immediate danger is not so much the nuclear armament of America, Russia, still less of Britain, France or even China, but of proliferation of nuclear military power to the sixth, seventh, and even tenth and twelfth degrees with all the dangers that holds for world nuclear conflict.
Here again the new approach, the challenge to the prevailing assessments of even two years ago, mean that Britain now has the opportunity to take the initiatives which for so long have been lacking.
Again, in the fight against racialism which is now far more a divisive and explosive factor in world affairs even than thermo-nuclear power. It is Britain’s insistence on standing by principles in the Rhodesian conflict which has kept the Commonwealth together - the Commonwealth which our opponents in their introverted jockeying for Party position were prepared to see destroyed. It is that same insistence on principles which proclaims to the world that in Britain’s long and not inglorious history of granting freedom to previously dependent territories, we are determined to see that the last chapter shall not be allowed to tarnish those that have gone before. To those principles we shall adhere. For while we have shown, in the Commonwealth Conference, and since, our willingness to go to the limit in securing an acceptable agreement, we shall not be prepared to abandon the principles that have inspired two successive Governments in this country, principles which are essential, not only to preserve the Commonwealth on which so much depends Britain’s standing, in the world, but principles which in their moral inspiration represent the very basis of our democracy and everything which this movement stands for.
We shall defend those principles and we have the right to ask the Conservative Opposition whether they will at their Conference continue to insist that there must be guaranteed and unimpeded progress to majority rule, proof against gerrymandering or any racially inspired braking mechanism; whether they will continue to insist, as we are insisting, that any settlement reached is acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole, to all the people; whether they will insist, as we are insisting, on a real return to legality as a condition for negotiations.
In these, recent weeks nothing has been more depressing to me than to read the statements of Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Mr. Duncan Sandys, who must be regarded as the two authoritative voices of their Party on this question, saying not only that the integrity of the Commonwealth for which they once worked has ceased to have any meaning for them, making clear, too, that their message to Rhodesia is that they are willing, even anxious to surrender the principles which they so stoutly upheld when they had the responsibilities of office.
Before we were called to the responsibilities of Government, I said - in challenge to established conservative thinking - that defence must be the handmaid to foreign policy and never its master. But both foreign policy and defence policy will be dependent on our economic strength and therefore on the whole process of challenge to entrenched conservatism in British industry.
Speakers on this rostrum on Thursday will rightly express themselves in strong terms. But for their speeches to be more than mere words, they have got to recognise the realities we shall be debating on Wednesday. Because whether we are talking about the future of our own country, or whether we are debating our ability to raise the standards not only of our own people but of peoples living at far lower standards of life than ours, or whether we are debating our strength and influence in the counsels of the nations and the way in which that strength and influence should be used, all this is sounding brass and tinkling cymbal if we fail to assert our full economic strength.
There are many here who can bear witness to the fact that I daily receive letters and resolutions from Constituency Parties and Trade Unions - they can bear witness because they send them - asking sometimes in peremptory terms that Britain’s influence and Britain’s weight be thrown behind some great cause, some great issue, some great concern. But I say to this Conference - as I said to the T.U.C. - that that influence, that weight, that power to intervene, perhaps decisively, the power to lead, all these depend not only on our moral strength. They depend neither on resolutions nor on demonstrations. They depend on our material strength, on the mobilisation of our economic power and vigour. For I have never ceased in Opposition or in Government to proclaim the doctrine that in the last resort no one will listen to a Britain in pawn.
Economic independence means more than this. It means that we must be to plan our social policies, our policies of economic reconstruction, with the assurance that we shall not be blown off course by adverse winds, whether here in Britain or abroad. We have been living on too narrow margins. For ten years and more we have not been in a situation when this country could engage on bold programmes of expansion and social advance with the assurance of the home capacity, and overseas trading surplus to give us the security we require. The economic problem has overshadowed our every act since we took office in October, 1964. And some of the short-term measures we have had to take to secure our base for further advance have not always been understood even among those, such as the delegates here today; whose loyalty has never been in question.
On platform after platform, before and during the 1964 Election, and during the 1966 Election, we said that paying our way must be our first priority. We warned the country of the type of measures that would have to betaken to deal with any crisis, while our long-term structural and technological reforms were taking effect. We appealed to neither cupidity nor complacency - the twin pillars of Conservative electioneering over 13 years. And because we told the people the facts, and because we have taken the measures that were needed, since our last Conference we have seen our overseas payments deficit cut from £760 million in 1964 to £320 million last year.
We have seen a record rise in our 1965 exports followed by increases this year which, compared with last year’s, were double the average increase over the past 10 years.
But the events of this summer, which my colleagues will be explaining in greater detail, tomorrow, created a situation where even our rapidly rising exports provided insufficient margins to see us through. That was why the July measures were introduced. And without anticipating tomorrow's debate I would just say this.
The July measures were required to deal with a crisis. But, however rough and painful their immediate effects, we must regard them not as a backward reversion to stop-go, but as a necessary condition for the nation’s advance to economic strength and independence, to industrial expansion and rising living standards. We reject Tory stop-go methods. The Government is continuing with every weapon in the Government’s armoury to stimulate industrial development in the areas the Tories neglected. It is to be seen again in our categorical exemption from the restrictions of the priority programmes of house-building, school-building and hospital building. Thirdly, our rejection - never found in the Tory stop-go - of the proposition that the burdens of retrenchment should be placed on those least able to bear them. For we have matched economic retrenchment with social advance.
This is not all. The real difference lies in the use we shall make of the release of resources we have so painfully brought about. For them, crisis measures led to years of stagnation, to be followed by a feverish pre-Election boom which plunged the country once again into a balance of payments crisis - each crisis graver than its predecessor, each set of measures to deal with that crisis more devastating in its effect on industrial activity and employment. We have not cut back the consumer boom only to follow it with years of stagnation leading to a recrudescence of the uncontrolled consumer boom, with all that would cost the nation’s economy. As I made clear to the National Productivity Conference, while we cannot contemplate any general easement of the deflationary measures until Britain is paying her way, and seen to be paying her way, we are prepared even in this period of restraint and restriction to use at any rate some of the resources which have been released to reinforce the measures we have taken for industrial reconstruction and re-equipment.
The July measures, in fact, must now provide us with a once-for-all opportunity to break the whole miserable cycle we inherited. So far from being a rejection of expansion, they create an opportunity to continued expansion, provided - but only provided - that we use this breathing space well, provided that we use it to strengthen our industrial base. So far from threatening the nation with continuing unemployment, by creating the opportunity for a new breakthrough in export production they hold out the surest guarantee we have of full employment for a generation. And by the measures we hope we have shocked the nation into accepting, we have provided the means to more efficient management, and to an elimination of costly and wasteful working practices.
These are the conditions, the only conditions for further and sustained advance. But they require a national response. A response in terms of productivity and a rejection of the industrial conservatism to which too many on both sides of industry still timidly cling. Equally, they demand a response in terms of an acceptance of, first the standstill, then the period of severe restraint in prices and incomes.
We know what we are asking. We know and understand the anxieties, the fears, the suspicions, the sacrifices, not only of immediate transitory gain, but of long deeply held built-in industrial attitudes. We know how much has been done to try and make the voluntary system work. We know, too, the factors which have been operating against the success of the voluntary system.
And now, with a month’s further experience in these matters, I make clear again today, as I did at the T.U.C., that at the end of the day the Government must take the final decision in the interests of the nation as a whole. We shall not shrink from that decision.
For what is at stake is whether we can have economic planning for full employment, if prices and incomes are governed by a free-for-all. What is at stake is whether in conditions of full employment price stability at home and abroad can ever be achieved, except through a conscious assertion of social responsibility in the matter of incomes of all kinds.
The fact that incomes - wages, salaries and all other incomes - cannot be allowed to rise at a rate faster than national productivity, has been asserted by Trades Union Congresses and Labour Party Conferences for nearly 10 years. The planned expansion of wages based on productivity was one of the great declarations that came out of the Scarborough Conference three years ago.
The Tories failed and they failed because they were not prepared to create the climate of social justice for which we had called. After Scarborough I said that, precisely because we would be prepared to contribute the necessary conditions, we would have the right to ask the people of Britain for a prices and incomes policy. And it is precisely because we insist that an incomes policy must cover all incomes and not just wages, it is precisely because Labour Budgets have attacked the system of fiscal privilege in expense accounts and tax-free capital gains, while a new system of industrial taxation favours investment as against dividends, it is precisely because we are ending the free-for-all for the speculator, the land profiteer and the landlord, it is for all these reasons, that we have the right to say now – ‘We have delivered; and we have the right now to ask that, not only this movement, but the nation should give their assent to what the national interest requires.’
Years ago we demanded a change in Government attitudes - and we had to have a change in Government to secure it. We have now the right to ask for a corresponding change in the attitudes of all in industry.
I have stressed this aspect of the call your Government is making to the nation, not because it is the central issue or the be all and end all of economic and social policy. It is not. Equally it is not the central issue in all we were elected to do; it is simply one essential precondition to everything I have painted on to the far wider canvas I have tried to show this morning.
And those issues are first and foremost independence, with all it means in terms of social advance at home, the lead we must be able to take in the war on world poverty and the fight for peace. For Britain, above all a socialist Britain, the Britain you and I want can never opt out of world history.
The productivity, industrial modernisation, the sense of self-discipline and restraint for which we ask will provide the industrial base for social advance, for the assertion of a new system of privilege in this country, based on need and not birth, based, too, on a fair and equal chance in life for all Britain’s children - everything that makes up our whole new vision of society.
But above all, we are fighting to give a new meaning to democracy, a militant, participating, progressive, socialist democracy that will release and mobilise the energies and skills of all our people. In seeking a total and conscious rejection of conservatism in all its forms, we are aiming to transform our society by consent, to build a new Britain and to show a world wherein far too many countries socialism exists without democracy and democracy without socialism, that we can succeed where others have failed in meeting the challenge of our times.
These are the inestimable gifts which this Government and this people can give to Britain for this generation, and every generation to come.
In October,1964, on the day when, for the first time for 13 years, a Parliament assembled with a Labour majority in the House of Commons, my colleagues and I, all the members of the new Administration, were called to a service in the Crypt Chapel of St. Stephen’s, St. Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster, a service of dedication before we embarked on the tasks ahead of us. Last April, with our mandate renewed, I asked my colleagues to meet once again in a service of re-dedication. One of those who joined in conducting the service, a member of our Party, Donald Soper, expressed the aims of this Government in this short prayer:
O God, grant us a vision of our land, fair as it might be;
A land of righteousness where none shall wrong his neighbour;
A land of plenty where evil and poverty shall; be done away;
A land of brotherhood where all success shall be founded on service, and honour shall be given to excellence alone;
A land of peace, where order shall not rest on force, but on the love of all for the common life and weal;
Bless our efforts to make the vision a living reality;
Inspire and strengthen each one of us that we may give time, thought and sacrifice to speed the day of its coming.
When the time comes, I would want this Government, this Movement, to be judged not only by the British nation, but by history, by our success or failure in turning this prayer into a reality. (Standing ovation.)