Leader's speech, Scarborough 1967
Harold Wilson (Labour)
Commentary:In this address, Wilson outlined some of Labour’s achievements since it came to office. Despite the economic crisis, the government had increased spending on social security, education, health and welfare, and housing. Moreover, the July measures had led to increased productivity, lower costs and the elimination of waste, and the number of available jobs was starting to rise. In the long term, economic success depended on the restructuring and reorganisation of industry, notably through the application of technology and scientific research. However, Wilson warned, these developments must be tempered with a concern for human values and dignity, which was essential if the technological revolution were to bring social justice as well as economic prosperity.
I move, Mr. Chairman, the acceptance of the Parliamentary Report.
We are now nearing the end of the first Parliamentary session following the 1966 General Election, and the very full Report which has been circulated to delegates has got to be seen not only as a long list of Acts of Parliament but as a record of Government action. And far more, it is a spelling out in terms of Government action of the basic social and economic priorities of this Labour Government.
What we have had to do in dealing with the economic crisis is the cause of the deep anxieties which fill the hearts of every one of us here at this Conference, and I am going to deal with those anxieties. But it is vital that our concern about them should not blind us to what we have done in these three years, and the enormous progress we have made towards achieving the goals that we together set ourselves here at Scarborough four years ago.
Today I am going to give you the facts. In the three years we have been in office we have ended the slide to social inequalities and public neglect. We have put in hand a dramatic deployment of resources in favour of those in greatest need, in favour of the under-privileged, on all fronts of social action - social security, health and welfare, the housing of our people, the education of our children and our young people - the most massive ever carried through. We have set out to make good the damage done to our society by a system of Tory Government, a Tory Government which upheld a two-standard system that in another country won recognition in the phrase ‘private affluence and public squalor.’
And remember what we have done is so far only three years' work. We are still less than half way from the Election of October, 1964, to the statutory end of this Parliament. Already our plans, our plans for further expansion, have been laid for the next three years and beyond against the background of the resources which will be available.
Remember, too, that we have carried through this programme of social advance against a background of inherited economic difficulties. When they were faced with economic crises, the Tories cut the social services again and again. When economic crisis overtook them, as it did every four years, they placed new burdens on those least able to bear them. Twice they increased the weight of the prescription charges. They cut school building, they cut the building of houses to rent. To be fair to them, they did not cut the hospital building programme. They had hardly any hospital building programme to cut.
Now my colleagues from the platform this week are giving the facts about the social provision we have made for bettering the lives of our people, and let me this morning draw these facts together.
Provision for the old, the sick and the disabled. In 1963/64, the Tories’ last financial year - and remember this was a peak year for them because they deliberately pushed up their social services spending as the Election drew nearer - in 1963/64, the total they provided for social security was £1,970 millions. This year we are providing £2,831 millions, an increase of £861 millions. (Applause) For every £100 they were spending, we are spending £144.
Provision for the young - education. Their last full year, £1,363 millions: this year, £1,936 millions - an increase of £573 millions. For every £100 they provided on education, we are providing £142. Nor is our provision confined to school hours. On sport and other youth activities we are spending exactly twice as much as the figure they had worked up to in their pre-Election programme.
Provision for health and welfare services. Their last full year, £1,118 millions: this year £1,619 millions, an increase of £501 millions. Again, for every £100 they provided in their peak year, we are providing £145.
Housing and slum clearance. Their last full year, £657 millions: this year £1,018 millions, an increase of £361 millions. Again, for every £100 they provided in their peak year we are providing £155. I am giving you these figures, and I do not apologise because these are facts. (Applause)
Now let us take the total spent on all the social services, on health and welfare, the social security and education of our people - and here I am excluding the massive help that we are giving to local authorities with their rates and the provision we are making for redundancy payments.
I once said in those Opposition years, ‘Among civilised men greatness amongst nations is judged not by a country’s battleships, its supersonic bombers, its arms or its H-bombs, or by the speed and efficiency by which it can mount an imperialist military excursion. It is judged by its treatment of the least privileged of its citizens, its young children, its old folk, its war disabled and those injured in factories or in the mines.’ Fine words, always easy in Opposition?
Now the achievement. Our total provision for social services of all kinds for which, again, they allotted £5,144 millions in their last full year, their peak year, we are now providing £7,457 millions, an increase of over £2,300 millions over their last full year in office. (Applause) Fine words, then proud facts, facts achieved by your Labour Government.
In a fortnight’s time at the Conference of the Conservative and Opportunionist Party at Brighton (applause), they will promise slashing cuts in taxation. Let them at Brighton say which of these items of expenditure I have outlined they will cut. Pensions? Health? Hospitals? Housing? I remember that before the 1964 Election they boasted that they had costed everything. We doubted it then, but now that Mr. Marples has brought in a computer to grind out Party policies at the press of a button, it should be easy for them now to give us the answer. So let them give the facts and figures at Brighton of which of these items I have outlined they would cut in the interests of reduced taxation.
Because the figures I have given you represent social priorities against an economic background which would have driven a Tory Government into social retreat and panic demolition. I have no doubt that some of you will feel like asking, ‘Yes, but what about defence spending?’ Quite right. In 1951, when there was a great debate about the rearmament programme, I expressed my doubts, as many of us did, about the priority between defence expenditure and social expenditure. We had then committed ourselves to a defence programme of £1,700 millions, and that had to be set against a total expenditure in 1951 on the social services of £2,069 millions. In other words, for every £100 allocated for defence, £122 were being spent on the social services. Now today, for every £100 we are spending on defence we are spending £340 on the social services, and in 1970/71 our planning provides that for every £100 we shall be spending on defence we shall be spending £390 on the social services. And in real terms, that is allowing for increased prices, defence expenditure this year has already been cut by one third, more than one third, compared with that 1951 defence plan.
I doubt if there is a delegate here this morning who, in 1964 or 1963 when we were last in Scarborough, even though the gravity of the economic position was at that time deliberately concealed from us by the then Government, I doubt if there is a delegate here who then would have thought that three years later we would be able to report an increase of £2,300 millions, or nearly a half, in our provision for the social services.
And for those who say we could spend more on the social services if we spent less on defence, let me remind them of this. The increase in our total provision for the social services - I am not talking about the total spending, I am talking about the increase since we came to office - that increase is considerably more than the total amount we are now spending on defence, a defence programme which we have cut. We have switched resources from defence to the social services - the right priority for a Socialist Government. (Applause)
Now let us see what these Socialist priorities mean in human terms. Let us go into the home of an old-age pensioner. Of course, we have not abolished poverty yet. But for everyone in receipt of the basic pension, in three years we have raised the benefit paid by 22s. 6d. per week for a single person - 22s. 6d. a week over three years. In 13 years they only managed 37s. 6d. And, on top of this, now the social security supplement as of right to those who need it.
Or suppose we take the case of a newly bereaved widow. Her husband was 55, he, had worked 40 years; he was earning, let us say, the average wage in British industry. In 1964 his widow would have had £4 15s. for the first 13 weeks. Now, that newly-bereaved widow would receive £10 8s. for 26 weeks. And after that she gets the Labour Government’s increased rate of benefit, and she also gets everything she can gain from our abolition of the earnings rule for widows. (Applause)
Or take housing subsidies. On a typical house, the subsidy is now over £85 a year against £24 when we came into office. Or a typical flat, a flat in many of our cities costing £5,000, the subsidy for this is now £112 as against £24 three years ago.
Take our housing record which Tony Greenwood presented to Conference on Monday. Record completions, record starts, an all-time record in nearly half a million houses now under construction. Houses built to let: in a year of Tory squeeze, 1963, after 12 years in office, they built 124,000 houses to let. This year, despite economic difficulties, we shall complete not 124,000, but getting on for 200,000: 16 houses for every 10 they were building four years ago.
Schools: they averaged 475 new schools a year. We are building well over 600 and we have just allocated more in the areas of greatest need. Primary schools, our first need: they averaged 295 a year, we are building 500.
Hospitals. New hospital building: in their 13 years they spent £22.6 million a year. This year, we are spending £97.3 million. For every £100 they spent each year in their term of office, we are spending £431.
So I could go on. All these achievements are a part of our Parliamentary Report to you, the victories won against bitter, sour, sullen opposition, won after weeks of weary committee stages and long all-night sittings: the fruit of three years’ clash between the Socialist way and the Tory way.
But let us pause a moment now, in reverent remembrance of clashes and controversies which are no longer with us: a long list of bitter controversies which not long ago took the centre of the political stage and did that because the Conservatives put them in the centre of the political stage.
The 1957 Rent Act, the proud creation of Duncan Sandys and Henry Brooke, now as irrelevant as the one and as forgotten as the other. There lies that Rent Act, dead, un-mourned, even by the party for which so long it was a living symbol of their eternal articles of faith. And in its place security of tenure for our people and a right to a fair rent.
Or another forgotten controversy, Rachmanism, which right up to the end they tried to argue did not exist, or, if it did exist, it was all exaggerated, and, even if it wasn’t, nothing could be done about it. That was what they said. In one quick, clean surgical operation our Rent Act has cut out, almost to its last vestiges, from London and our other big cities, this malignant growth which flourished and festered under Tory housing policy. (Applause)
Prescription charges, the last refuge of every bankrupt Tory Chancellor, abolished in one short, sharp Act a few weeks after Labour came to office.
Land racketeering, which the Tories defended as essential to a free market economy, essential even to the British way of life, and which right up to the last hour in October, 1964, they refused even to restrain - and now, because of Labour’s Land Commission Act, another lost and almost forgotten controversy.
Leasehold. How many resolutions have we had over the years, how many hours have we spent at Conference after Conference attacking this social blight which Tory landlordism insisted on retaining in our older towns and cities? We shall not have much to debate in future. The Leasehold Reform Bill is now in its very last stages. The Tories carried out their pledge to fight it every inch of the way. Legalised robbery, they called it. When our measure becomes law later this month, it will guarantee to a million British families security in their homes. (Applause)
The other controversy, steel, so recently the ark of the Tory Covenant - and the key to the Tory treasure chest? Now, an issue settled, and settled for all time, in the interests of a great industry and the workers in that industry, and the nation that depends on that industry.
These were some of the problems and controversies forced on the nation by a Tory Government. And they are dead. The problems we are facing today, problems we debated yesterday, are problems of adjustment, of transition, deep economic and human problems of change arising from the restructuring and modernisation of our industrial fabric.
We here do not look at these problems as technical problems. The issues raised - this was true yesterday, and it is true today - go right to the very heart of this movement. We are meeting at a time of deep concern and debate about the economic situation, and particularly about the effects of the measures the Government had to take, on production and, above all, on employment. This concern is not only inevitable: it is right. For if any of us, however beset by the need to put Britain’s international economic position right, were ever to forget for one moment the human realities, the realities for every family in this country, then none of us would have the right to bear the responsibilities that you have entrusted to us.
For us unemployment is not a matter of social, still less economic, statistics. It is a human problem, and for very many people in this hall it has human - and bitter - memories.
No-one who was brought up in one of our older industrial areas in the years of the depression - as I was in the West Riding, or Wales, Lancashire, the north-east or Scotland, or Cumberland or the Black Country - could ever erase those memories from his mind: what unemployment meant for his neighbours, his friends – one’s own family - not in terms of living standards only, but the deeper psychological effects that loss of work, loss of status, loss of dignity, loss of security and, perhaps above all, loss of hope brought to a family
For many of us here, certainly for most of us who remember those days, this was the issue which brought us into politics, what we saw, what we lived through and our determination that these things should be no more. And we are still, all of us, the same people.
We reject as an instrument of economic policy the creation of a permanent pool - as they call it - of unemployment. Our aim, our whole policy, is to secure full employment, but to secure it on a permanent basis. (Applause)
What else was the purpose of our controls over capital investment overseas; our insistence on keeping Britain competitive through a prices and incomes policy; of controlling office and factory building in the Midlands and the south and offering grants and premiums to help the Development Areas? What was the purpose of all this if not to end unemployment? And when these measures proved insufficiently powerful we took the July measures of 1966, to prevent the economic disaster which threatened us with a deeper and more lasting unemployment problem. We have paid a heavy price for those measures, but those measures were necessary. There was no alternative.
One consequence at least of those measures has been that over a wide sector of British industry, productivity has increased, costs have been reduced and waste eliminated. We have had a remarkable rise in productivity, in output per man, over this past year. But it has been increased productivity so far only in a negative sense. We have been producing the same amount as last year with less employment. This is one of the tragedies we face because of its contribution to the unemployment problem although equally it is one of our main reasons of hope for the future.
Because we are now able to look forward to the rising production which Jim has told us more than once this summer will be coming this autumn, and the rising employment which this increased productivity has made possible. And we have it in our power now - as never happened in the old stop-go cycle - to go forward to increased production and increased employment if and only if we remain competitive in the markets of the world.
Production has already begun to increase. The latest figures show that the increase in our basic unemployment figures month by month in the earlier part of this year is now corning to an end. For the first time for nearly eighteen months the number of jobs available has started to increase. Let me ask you to take your minds back to last year, we remember the anxieties of the motor car workers who demonstrated at our conference last year. They are not here this year. The industry is moving, its leaders tell us, into a record boom, and it is a new opportunity that industry is fading, having now streamlined its costs, that makes so tragic the repeated unofficial strikes of the past few weeks. Add if next month’s unemployment figures against the background of this developing boom were to show significant unemployment among car workers, let it be clear that will be due to strikes and not due, as we were told a year ago, to Government policy.
I warned about the problems we face this winter because of weather and other factors which every winter temporarily raise the unemployment figure. But basically now there is an upturn in the economy. Last week, I warned, too that we will resist pressures to embark on an irresponsible reflationary policy which would undo all that has been achieved, and make meaningless the sacrifices for which we have had to ask. And yesterday Jim made clear why.
The break-out that is now open to us must be industrial, technological, regional, because however necessary, monetary policy, credit squeezes and the rest, however essential to deal with a short-term critical situation, these things do not of themselves provide the answer. The answer lies in industrial restructuring and reorganisation. Above all, it lies in the application of technology to our industrial processes and in speeding the process of industrial change.
This was the message of Scarborough 1963. Let me remind you what that message was. It was first a demand for more purposive policies in education, to strengthen our educational system and above all to widen the gates of educational opportunity including higher education, including too, adequate facilities in every part of our educational structure for the training of scientists, technologists and engineers.
And that Scarborough message; secondly, was a demand for the mobilisation of our scientific talent, on the job of creating new opportunities far our industry - and in that mobilisation to carry through a massive redeployment of scientists, from defence projects to the needs of industry and peaceful reconstruction.
That Scarborough message, thirdly, was the long neglected need to apply the results of science to British industry whether in modernising our older industries or in creating new industriies bated on science.
And fourthly, the message of Scarborough was the message of technological change, a second industrial revolution, yes, but the message was a revolution which by this time would be humanised, would be tempered with a humanity and a care for social values; a care for human values which was lacking in the first industrial revolution. And I remember with what insistence the need to relate this revolution to human values was pressed, in the debate, in speech after speech from the floor, and in Dick Crossman’s reply from the platform.
I said here at Scarborough that if socialism had never existed the challenge and opportunities of the new scientific revolution would have brought it into being, and if I believed that four years ago, I believe it more than ever now in the light of the last three years through which we have lived.
The traditional socialism of this country was created out of the squalor and the inhumanity and the exploitation of that first industrial revolution.
And today in some of our older industries and in the environment of some of our older industrial areas, we still have the problems of economic and social change resulting from that industrial age of brass and iron, muck and money. The delegate from the Rhondda spelt out that inheritance yesterday in, for me, one of the most moving speeches of this Conference. (Applause) And socialism today, the socialism of the future, means translating into human terms the immeasurable possibilities which science and technology, freely encouraged and harnessed to social needs and national needs, can create.
That was the message of Scarborough four years ago, and today, after four years - three of them in government - we look at that Scarborough message against the harsh test of reality - but also against a proud record of achievement.
First, and I take the first part of that message, what we have achieved in education - education at all levels. We have increased teacher training, the first guarantee of smaller classes. We have stepped up primary school building. Our determination to end the vicious system under which the educational future of a child can be determined by an arbitrary and unscientific test at the incredible age of 11. (Applause) This battle is now on. We are deeply engaged in it all over the country. We intend to win it - all of us here together. (Applause) But this is not all. The message of Scarborough was that if neither humanity nor the long-term needs of the nation could afford segregation, educational apartheid at 11 plus, equally we could not afford an unfair process of segregation at 18 plus. We called for a rapid expansion in higher education, the widening of the gates of opportunity, to every kind of higher education. There were 22 universities in Britain when we were last in Scarborough. Today there are 44. (Applause) And this is partly because all the former Colleges of Advanced Technology have achieved or are achieving university status in a very real sense. And as we then demanded, here is one place where an end has been put to the educational snobbery which stood in the way.
When we were last in Scarborough, there were 203,000 students in our universities and our other institutions of higher education. Today, there are 325,000, an increase of 60 per cent; 105,000 of these are in science and technology, an increase of 32,000 over four years ago. We are now spending £470 millions on higher education, 88 per cent more than four years ago. Capital spending on universities is now double what it was four years ago. The number of teachers in training has risen from 54,000 to 95,000 this year. We are spending £124 millions, nearly 75 per cent more than four years ago, on scientific research at our universities and research councils. We are linking the work of these universities more and more, and of the Colleges of Further Education and the new Polytechnics more and more with industry and with the regions where they are situated. So that was the first message of Scarborough.
And the second theme of Scarborough - scientific and technological research. This year Government spending on all civil scientific research and development will be about £266 millions compared with £158 millions four years ago. And this includes as we then demanded, a massive redeployment from defence research to civil research.
And we are getting priorities into our scientific research - priorities not only between civil and defence research, priorities within civil research, because we cannot afford at once all the research - and all the equipment - all our scientists would want.
Now I come to the third theme, the application of all this scientific research in technological application to British industry. You have had our reports to Conference about what Frank Cousins and now Tony Benn have achieved in carrying out the Scarborough mandate at the Ministry of Technology. I am not going to go over this whole story, it is too long, but when you have heard about the emergency action taken to save the British computer industry - and how it is now going from strength to strength - the establishment of a completely computerised publicly-owned banking service through the giro system, and now about the new national data processing service, based on seven giant British computers, which come into operation this week, the reorganisation of the British machine tool industry, and the massive help the Ministry is giving to its most forward-looking designers in producing more and more modern instruments backed by Government guarantee - when you heard from the Minister how Aldermaston scientists and the miniature servo-mechanisms originally built for missiles are now being redeployed on the production of artificial limbs for the industrially disabled and for thalidomide children - you can see that Scarborough mandate working in applications which none of us could have seen four years ago. But you can see the emergence in practice - now not prospect - of the themes we then endorsed. The theme of making the commanding heights of British technology independent of American domination. The theme of transferring human resources and physical resources from military research to the blitz on our economic and social problems.
And the theme of reducing our humiliating inherited dependence on industry overseas for the supply of advanced modern machinery - machinery which, given the right lead and the right stimulus, we have always known could and should be pioneered and produced in this country.
And the fourth theme, Mr. Chairman, of Scarborough, was the humanising of the technological revolution. We said that the industrial pattern of the future and the pace of industrial change would not only call for vastly expanded programmes of training young people in industry. It would mean that very many of our industrial workers would have to be given facilities for retraining, for learning new skills, once and perhaps twice during their working lives.
Yesterday Jim announced further actions we are taking in order to encourage training; Government Training Centres, training in the factory and the rest, and because of what we are doing we have the right to demand a similar sense of urgency from many in industry.
After the T.U.C. at Brighton I asked the Economic Committee of the General Council to come to see me. What I said to them then I want to say to some of the powerful industrial delegations here this morning. You have expressed your concern about unemployment - and, you know, my colleagues and I feel that concern as deeply as any who spoke at the rostrum either in Brighton or here in Scarborough.
Here is one practical thing you can do, you can remove the restrictions on employment of men when they have been trained (Applause) - and this applies equally to men trained in Government Training Centres and to men trained up to semi-skilled level in the Development Areas. Because already there have been too many cases where Government training, and industrial training at Government expense, has been frustrated and negatived by a veto from the shop stewards and others on their being employed in jobs which make use of their new skill (Applause) It is right in Congress and in Conference for all of us to make speeches about unemployment, but those speeches must be backed by action in the unions especially at local level. (Applause)
And equally important with many is the need to bring new work to the areas affected. One of the big differences between us and the Tories has always been that we recognise that Britain’s industrial problems – Britain’s employment problem - above all the ability to expand without lurching into balance of payments difficulties - is dependent on mobilising the full productive power of the regions which were neglected for so long; the recognition that our problems could not be solved on a two-nations policy. Yes, they were ready to talk about the two nations, but they were never prepared to make them one. They were never ready to apply with sufficient vigour the policy of restraining excessive growth in the prosperous regions that was needed to create full employment in the areas which for so long they left depressed.
We acted. Our decision to schedule large areas - nearly the whole of Scotland, large parts of Wales, the south west, north east and elsewhere, as Development Areas, this replaced their policy of narrow growth points which would have left whole areas to decay. Our advance factory building programme - more than twice as large in three years, as they achieved in 13 years - our boosting of Government expenditure for factory development in these areas - fourfold compared with the last Tory year. Our tighter grip on factory development in congested areas - our extension of this control to office building, the sharply discriminating investment grants for Development Areas; the regional employment premiums started last month - £100 millions a year for the Development Areas. This is what we have so far done. Now in the period of industrial expansion which lies ahead there will be further clear and deliberate discrimination in favour of the Development Areas.
Four years ago we talked of science-based industries in the Development Areas. The enlargement of scientific research facilities, the time required for that research to bear fruit and the still longer time required to apply it to industry, meant that very little could be achieved in a period of three years - or longer. No one expected it.
But let me tell you this morning of a new proposal for the establishment of new science-based industries in Development Areas.
As a result of great advances in nuclear generation, where Britain now leads the world and here let us not be backward in again proclaiming another triumph of public enterprise (applause) - as a result of these advances the new generating stations of the 70’s will be able to produce electricity for industrial use far cheaper than electricity costs today. Thank God for that. (Laughter and Applause)
This will mean that it will be economic to establish big new industries in this country which we have not had before because our power costs were not competitive with hydroelectric power overseas. And it will mean the opportunity, in Development Areas, for new industries which we have not previously had in this country. Industries which will help to make us less dependent on overseas production.
We are now prepared to build publicly-owned power stations to work in partnership with private enterprise smelter industries - the electricity to be supplied at a price based on the stations’ own generating costs. And the construction can start now. We are ready to start today to discuss with the aluminium industry the provision of one or more giant smelters, competitively powered with nuclear electricity, and this need not mean any further erosion into the coal industry because these stations, and the industries they will bring in their train, will be additional projects, additional consumers of electricity which do not exist today.
Indeed, there is a possibility - which I am now discussing with the Chairman of the Coal Board - of associating the coal industry with this type of project in the Development Areas. (Applause)
The Secretary of State for Economic Affairs will be announcing more details about our proposals later today. This is one more contribution to the problem of the regions and to the strengthening of our national industrial base to add to those which Jim outlined yesterday. This is right on social grounds; it is right on human grounds; and it is right because of the special problems caused by the rundown of older industries in those areas.
But it makes hard economic sense, too. The essence of the Tory stop-go policy was that industrial expansion was halted after a brief period because of overheating in the prosperous areas of the Midlands and the south and because of the crippling shortages of labour, skilled and unskilled, leading to a loss of potential exports and an increase in imports. That was the essence of the stop-go cycle.
Then, because of this overheating in the Midlands and the south, the nation as a whole was plunged back into a freeze which rapidly spread to the very areas which had barely emerged from the previous chill and where unemployment was still too high. It is the purpose of this Government, by every means in our power, including those the Chancellor described yesterday, to narrow and ultimately to eliminate the differential between the Development Areas and the rest of the country. There is no surer prescription for continued industrial advance without launching into localised inflation and overheating.
But there is more than this. Historically, American development was based on an advancing frontier in the West; that of Russia on an advancing frontier in the East. In this crowded island the new industrial frontier for the next generation depends on opening up again the areas of the first industrial revolution which the Tories allowed to decline into grime and decay - the areas where industry was born. We accept this frontier as a challenge to the Government, but it is a challenge, too, you know, to our young people.
Mr. Chairman, we have already got under way a vast programme of urban renewal and modernisation which is literally changing the face of Britain. All over the country, but perhaps most strikingly in the older industrial areas of the north, the grime and muddle and decay of our Victorian heritage is being replaced. The new city centres with their university precincts, their light, clean and well-spaced civic buildings, will not merely brighten the physical environment of our people, they will change the very quality of urban life in Britain.
If this is true of old areas, old industries are coming to life as well. There is the work of the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation, hard at work in the modernisation and restructuring of our industries. There is the decisive and timely help given by the Ministry of Technology to an ailing shipbuilding industry to help it to break through into the new age of shipbuilding created by the container revolution and also to enable it to enter on a competitive basis the age of the giant tanker.
One of our troubles is we cannot always tell you what is coming next in the field of new encouraging development. Last week I was on television answering some very grave anxieties on development areas. There were many people in development areas wondering whether the shipbuilding industry had a future. I could not tell them that night - I did not want any last-minute hitch - that the next day we should be announcing the biggest tanker order in the history of this country (applause) - which would not have been possible but for the work of Tony Benn and his Ministry in seeing that order through.
Mr. Chairman, I have talked about the road to economic success. As Jim made clear yesterday and as I have to make clear again today, there is no easy road. What we can put before this Conference is what we must do if we are to solve our problems, including the establishment of full employment. First, the increase in productivity we have achieved over this year in such heavy cost in human terms must not be dissipated. As production and employment increase, there must be no return to waste, whether in the use of labour or in any other element that enters into the cost.
Secondly, expansion must proceed through investment in industry, through exports and import saving, and through imaginative regional policies, and through developing unused resources in the Development Areas.
Thirdly, expansion must be based on an unremitting insistence on the application of new technologies in British industry, embracing research and design and marketing and management. But we have the right, as I have said, to insist that technological advance must be tempered by human considerations.
Fourthly, there can be no success for our policies, for exports, or the breakthrough to full employment, except on the basis of a fully effective policy for prices and incomes, in partnership, with the T.U.C. and in partnership with industry.
Fifthly, we must proceed on a basis of partnership between Government and industry, not only on a basis of full consultation, of full partnership in decision, but on the basis also that the Government cannot submit to dictation by any industrial interest about the course it is necessary to pursue.
This is the prescription for a strong economy, strong at home and abroad; for firmly based expansion, for rising and assured employment, for social justice. This is the message of Scarborough 1967. This is the New Britain.
Before I sit down, I think it is right that against this realistic policy - and all of us here know it is realistic - the policy which will be the policy of this nation for the next three years, and beyond: it is against this that we must, I think, spend a few moments - I so rarely do this; I am going to do it this morning - testing the specious claims of those who from time to time press themselves upon the attention of the nation.
We have now had three years to judge the record of the Conservative Party in their role as Her Majesty’s Opposition. Not I believe in our lifetime, certainly not in 1945-51, have we had an Opposition which so clearly rejected from the outset any pretence to be an alternative Government - (applause) - and which chose instead the more pleasant role, perhaps - the negative role - of the opportunist reacting to events.
I want to make it clear that I have got every sympathy for them. (Laughter) Their motivating force is a sense of deprivation, a sense that men ordained by a benevolent Providence to rule our affairs should have had power so rudely wrested from them by democratic electoral process. (Applause)
In Parliament they are ineffective, apart from occasional sparks emitted by one or two of their leading shadow ex-Ministers now without even shadow portfolios. (Laughter) They fail as an Opposition, precisely because they have not realised that you cannot oppose unless you have a coherent and constructive alternative to offer to the policies of the Government. (Applause) For three years they have opposed practically every measure we have introduced, even some which they introduced and which we have re-introduced. They had to get on the pop radio bandwagon, after they were pledged to abolish pirate radio. The test they have applied - at least they have been consistent in this - has not been, ‘Will this measure help Britain?’, but will it win votes, will it call into being some potentially powerful lobby which will help them on the road back to office and power.
They have opposed every measure proposed by the Government to secure economy in expenditure, whether on costly prestige aircraft, or on any other single item. In this Parliamentary Session alone - I do not want to inflict an all-night sitting on you - they have opposed defence economies in Malta and Aden - and, of course, further east - they have demanded more spending on pay for doctors and dentists in the Forces, and pressed it to a Division, more money on university students, on drugs legislation, on pensioners, on S.E.T. refunds, on aid for Barbados, and a lot more besides. All this, and transport, too, where they have put forward a programme which on the best authoritative costing would increase Government expenditure by £10,000 million.
Yet at the same time they promise to cut taxation. (Laughter) On taxation they proclaim the fiscal dreams of a Gladstone, and on expenditure they speak the language of the pork barrel. When the news is good for Britain they pass by in silent embarrassment (laughter) - too small to proclaim the achievements of a Britain in which they are remote from power. And when the going is hard they are quick for party advantage to provide aid and comfort to those at home and abroad, the sell-Britain-short brigade who scrutinise every cloud over Britain in the hope of a speculative silver lining for themselves. (Applause)
This is a proud country, a country which has no time for those who knock Britain when we are up against it and no time for a party who could boast of a Britain which, when they were in charge, ran into a gaping deficit, and a party who now indulge in petulant pronouncements to denigrate a Britain which is paying her way. This is our country and this is their country too. You know, I may have views - and I think it is safe to express them in Scarborough - about the action of the M.C.C. in dismissing the captain I would have wanted to see in the West Indies (applause) - I cannot tell you what those views are, because they are unprintable (laughter) - but however that may be it will not stop me cheering from afar for every run, every wicket our cricketers get on to the scorecard. (Applause)
Not the Tories, so they look for other consolation. Deprived of national power, they seek to instruct local councils from their Central Office - this is a party that fought local election after local election on the high principle of keeping politics out of local government. (Applause)
Now, I read in the Daily Telegraph - and I believe it (laughter) - of their leader, and I quote, ‘instructing’ local Conservative councillors. I do not try to instruct local Labour councillors, I know what I would get if I did. (Laughter) And I read in The Times - and I believe that too - an elaborate account of how the G.L.C. now is to be run not from County Hall but from Tory Central Office. This is what they voted for, or what they abstained about. (Laughter) Equally, you know, we have every right to expose the Tory successive attempts to seduce for factional purposes great industrial organisations into resisting Government policy on clearly defined national objectives.
Consider their record: on the eve of the 1966 Trades Union Congress, they took time off from their reiterated desire to constrict our free trade union movement within the legalistic shackles of a corporative state to instruct Congress to reject the Government’s appeal for an effective prices and incomes policy, even though this was an end for which Tory Chancellor after Tory Chancellor, and even Chairman Hogg, had striven. (Laughter) Striven they had, though not one of them was ever prepared to will the means. The Trades Union Congress treated this appeal with the contempt it deserved.
A year ago, too, in a hastily prepared nocturnal statement (laughter) Conservative leaders appealed to British industry to convert the National Productivity Conference, representing all sections of industry, which was meeting under my chairmanship, into a forum for the dissemination of Conservative irrelevancies. The Conference refused. But more recently, when a policy of partnership between the Government and industry requires a new approach to the problem of Government participation and help in essential industrial projects, including projects which in these past few weeks have been proved to be necessary to save essential British industries from bankruptcy, at this moment of time their leaders issued the instruction - again an instruction, and I quote, ‘private enterprise must fight,’ and this at a moment when private firms have been approaching the Government as never before for help. (Applause)
On this occasion, because of certain announcements made last week, the Tory leadership may think they would have had more success. On the forthcoming Industrial Expansion Bill, an essential instrument in the fight for economic expansion and full employment, they may be feeling from the most recent decisions of the Confederation of British Industry that they have at last chalked up a success in instructing somebody to do something. It is my duty to tell them that they misjudge the situation, that the Grand Council of the C.B.I. may share their ignorance of what our proposals mean; they do not share their malice. (‘Hear, Hear’)
Mr. Chairman, the Government must govern and if it is our duty to resist demands from the Trades Union Congress to repeal legislation we consider essential, it is certainly no less our duty to resist a demand from others in industry that we drop proposed legislation which we believe to be in the interests of the country. (Applause) But all this apart, this Conference - I say this now before I sit down - has the right to ask the Opposition two questions. The first: What is their policy on prices and incomes? Mr. Maudling considers it essential; Mr. Powell indicts it as nonsense, then, as that is not good enough, condemns it as a ‘silly nonsense,’ and then he sentences it to perdition as ‘transparent nonsense.’
Now, where do they stand? Actually, I believe from their own words that they have now come to believe in the need for some sort of a prices and incomes policy, but I believe too that here at least they have a policy, a policy which on one or two occasions they have inadvertently and indiscreetly blurted out and which they would like really to keep a dark secret. You know, I think this should be very carefully studied. Their official spokesmen have made it clear that there would be no problem of rising incomes, no pressure for higher wages, if the level of demand in this country were cut to and were kept at a lower level than it has been. We have the right to ask them, to what level? Even today, with unemployment at a figure none of us here is prepared to tolerate, industry after industry is demanding higher wages. The Tory prescription, then, must be for a still higher level of unemployment, but at what figure? I think the trade unions and I think the nation are entitled to know.
At least let them recall this, that their official spokesman earlier this year used these ominous words: ‘It is easy now to see our mistakes. We made life at once too easy and too hard for private enterprise; too easy because to keep unemployment far lower than it is now we kept demand too high and businessmen therefore had full order books whether they were efficient or not.’
For us, today’s figure of 555,000 unemployed, with whatever seasonal variation up and down may occur, that figure is too high. (Applause) For the Tories, on the other hand, on their own arguments, that figure is too low, because it does not achieve such a balance between demand and supply as to deter trade unions from formulating wage claims.
But secondly we are entitled to demand a clear statement about their policy for the social services and about the extension of means testing. I believe what they say on this is serious, I believe this has been thought through. What they seek now to do is to restore to our people all the indignities of a public assistance society. Since our last Conference your Government has abolished the stigma which many people felt attached to the old national assistance. They want to go right back now, and this in a year in which we have seen the publication of a report showing that up to half a million of our fellow citizens were too proud to claim National Assistance when they had the right to it and when they needed it.
Now, thanks to Peggy Herbison’s historic measure, those 500,000 are getting the help they need and getting it of right. Whatever the Brighton Conference may proclaim, we here are dedicated to the maintenance of human dignity. We reject the means test society and we reject those who demand that we put the clock back 30 years to restore it. (Applause)
So, Mr. Chairman, let us leave to them their vision of Britain, the Britain they seek to restore, a class-ridden Britain, a Britain of privilege, of social privilege, of educational privilege, a Britain based on the right of that privileged class to lord it over all the rest of Britain’s citizens whom we represent. That Tory Britain which before we next meet in Scarborough will have been consigned beyond recall to the social history of a bygone age. (Applause)
That was their Britain.
The Britain we are creating is the one which we, all of us, set out from Scarborough four years ago to create.
The Government, the Parliamentary Party, whose Report I am commending to Conference, could have no being except for the work and devotion, the support and understanding, not only of the delegates here but of those whom they represent, the people of Britain. I have given you a progress report of what at this half-way stage, after three years, we have accomplished with the mandate you entrusted to us, a record of social advance, but a record, too, of an indomitable fight for the future of Britain against the constraints imposed upon us by the economic situation we inherited.
We have asked our people for great sacrifices and we know how deeply those sacrifices have cut into the lives of our own people. We are determined, with your continued support to see that those sacrifices will not have been in vain. Your support has carried us through days - through years - of unprecedented difficulty. We honour that trust. We are determined to be worthy of it.