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Speech Archive

Leader's speech, Blackpool 1990

Neil Kinnock (Labour)

Location: Blackpool


Kinnock began his speech by contrasting Labour’s success in the local elections with the divisions in the Conservative Party, which saw the resignations of four Cabinet ministers in less than 12 months. Moreover, their economic policies had failed, and Britain was now in recession. Kinnock pledged that a Labour government would increase investment in the public services, science and technology, and transport, which in turn would boost Britain’s competitiveness. This was particularly important because the European Community was due to become a single market in 1992. Other key issues were the Gulf crisis, the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, and the reunification of Germany.

David, comrades, we meet in this conference in strength and in the confidence that progress and advance bring to us. When we met last year we had over 8,600 Labour councillors in. Britain and had control in 164 councils. That was a record. Now, this year, we have well over 8,900 councillors in Britain and control of a higher record of 175 councils. (Applause) When we met last year, Mid Staffordshire was a Conservative parliamentary seat with a Tory majority of 14,000. Now it is a Labour seat with a majority of 9,000. (Applause)         

When we met last year, you will remember that the Tory Party was loudly proclaiming that they had what they called ‘the right team for the future.’ You will remember Kenneth - not Kenneth Branagh, but Kenneth Baker – playing Prince Hal: ‘He which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart.’ Three weeks later Nigel Lawson went. (Applause) Two months later Norman Fowler went. Three months later Peter Walker went, and then two months after that off went Nicholas Ridley, kaput, as they say. (Applause) They were billed as ‘the right team for the future.’ Comrades, I have seen the future and it is nearly all resigned. (Laughter)

Much else of course has changed in this last year, not all for the better. A year ago at their annual conference the Tories were promising that they would make the economy stronger. It is now in recession. They promised to get inflation down. Then it was 7.4 per cent, now it is 10.6 per cent. They promised to get interest rates down, and on the Thursday of their conference interest rates went up from 14 per cent to 15 per cent. It has been a further year of Tory failure.

But the real problem is not just that things are worse now than they were last year. The real problem is that in so many vital respects things are worse now than they were 11 long years ago. (Applause) When Mrs Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, Britain, like every other country, was suffering the effects of major increases in oil prices. Britain’s inflation was too high: it was at the European Community average. Now, after 11 years, it is nearly double the European Community average. In 1979, unemployment was 1.25 million and falling; now it is 1.6 million, even by the new accounting system, and rising. Then - 11 years ago - the balance of payments was roughly in balance; now we are heading for a £17 billion deficit this year, following a £20 billion deficit last year, following a £15 billion deficit the year before. They are definitely going for the Triple Crown this year: three deficits above £10 billion. (Applause) In terms of inflation, unemployment, balance of payments, economic growth, interest rates, manufacturing investment, housing starts, tax burden, world trade share, domestic trade share and so many other measures of performance, the Tories are not even back at square one after 11 years.

Confronted by all of that, Mrs Thatcher could only say, with a sob in her voice, when she was interviewed last week by a newspaper, that it was likely that no income tax cuts could be made next year ‘because of the Gulf crisis.’ Even by her standards that was a pretty lame excuse. No one believes that the current economic nose-dive began with the invasion of Kuwait.

Everyone knows that it is the direct result of Tory policies that long pre-date the aggression of Saddam Hussein. But in any case, whatever desperate excuse the Prime Minister thinks up for not cutting income tax, I have to say that I do not think that income taxes should be cut next year. (Applause) I think that the children and the pensioners and the sick people of Britain come a long way before income tax cuts next year or for many years to come. (Applause)

Of course, tax bands can be changed to increase fairness, savings and investment can be encouraged through the tax system to increase efficiency, and there is one tax that can be cut - the poll tax. We are going to cut it out of existence altogether. (Applause)

The Tory idea that general cuts in income can be justified in a country where the schools are under-funded, the wards are being closed, the land, the water and the air are dirty and the streets are not safe is rejected not only by me, but by the great majority of the British people. Such ideas deserve to be rejected, not because no one likes to pay tax, but because anyone with any sense at all knows that further general reductions in income taxation mean further general decline in the standards of provision that are essential to life in a civilised, secure community.

If the Tories cannot cut income tax, what are they going to do? They have only ever got one answer to that. ‘Keep interest rates up, keep on squeezing the economy, keep on the pressures of recession and eventually,’ they say, ‘inflation will come down and all will be well.’ That is their plan. It will not work; it never works. Kenneth Baker said as much last week. ‘We’ve dealt with inflation twice before,’ he said. That rather begs the question, doesn’t it? If you have dealt with inflation twice, why have you got to do it three times? (Applause) If they dealt with inflation in 1980, why did it come back in 1985? If they dealt with it in 1985, why is it back now? The answer is that they did not ‘deal with’ inflation. Their single response of very high interest rates can of course bring the inflationary temperature down. It can cool the fever. But high interest rates cannot by themselves combat the virus of inflation. On the contrary, high interest rates inflict such wounds on the economy that the higher investment costs, the higher production and living costs that they leave behind, even after the rates have been temporarily cut, make the economy yet more prone to weakness and the return of inflation. That has happened twice in the last Tory decade. That is what will happen again unless they radically change their policies. Sadly, there is not too much of a chance of that.

So what should they be doing now in the circumstances that they have created by their own incompetence and irresponsibility? I will tell them, not from some academic sideline or as the leader of a minority party with no prospect of power or even years away from a general election where events may intervene. I. will tell them what they should do to help our country now, and do it from the standpoint of someone who knows that within the next 12 or 18 months, whenever the Tories choose to call a general, election, we shall win that election and face the problems, the legacy and the mess that they leave. (Applause)

What should they do? First, they should cut the very high interest rates and so reduce industrial and housing costs. That is what we would do. That is what we will do if interest rates are at their current level. Secondly and simultaneously, in. order not to release a consumer credit spree that would suck in imports, they should introduce controls on the supply of credit, restraints in what the banking system is allowed to lend. Several other mixed economies do it successfully. That is what we would do. That is what we will do.

Thirdly, they should be negotiating entry into the exchange rate mechanism of the European Monetary System, not as a short term anti-inflationary measure, a wing and a prayer, not as an electoral expedient, which is how they now see it, but as a strategic means of providing stability to the British economy and to British producers. That is what we would do. That is what we will do: interest rate cuts, credit controls, negotiated entry to the exchange rate mechanism. They are not what the Prime Minister calls ‘soft options.’ There are no soft options anywhere at any time for anybody. But there are sensible options. They are the changes necessary to bring the beginnings of cost reductions and stability that are vital to the productive economy. They are not easy, but they are certainly better than continuing to squash whole areas of the industrial economy with insupportable interest rates. They are the sensible options. Crushing industry is the suicide option. That is what they are doing. (Applause)

Of course, when people speak in such terms, the Prime Minister describes them as the voices of gloom. She does not like that. So, ever the gentleman, permit me to be the voice of optimism. Let me set aside the gloom and say that in this country of ours there is enterprise and innovation; there is initiative. There are many managements and workforces with shared objectives. There are great skills of design and adaptation. There is a widespread desire to compete effectively, because everybody knows that ultimately their prosperity and security depend upon it, and when companies and workforces call for change in the government’s economic policies, they are not engaging in special pleading, they do not want featherbedding; all they want is a context in which they can properly prove themselves. That context, that environment for success, is simply not being provided by a government that hits them with very high interest rates 60 to 70 per cent above those that have to be paid by their competitors in the same trade. It is not being provided by a government that refuses to make the commitment to research and training that is common amongst our competitors.

Even as I describe the conditions that disadvantage our producers, as they are very frequently put to me by people on both sides of industry, I can already hear the Tories saying ‘These aren’t the responsibilities of government. Industries should stand on their own feet. All these matters should be left to the market.’ That is the constant mantra of the last 11 years.

Other governments do not think like that. Even if in public they say they think like that, in private they certainly do not act like that. When governments in Japan, France, Germany and other countries provide the long term support to industry and ours does not, it really is no good for the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer or Nicholas Ridley to cry ‘Foul.’ They have to understand that we are not involved in cricket but in ruthless competition, and they have to give our people a fair chance, as other countries give their people a fair chance. (Applause)

That competition is hotting up. Just 27 months from now the European Community will be a completed single market. If the government here does not do what must be done to help to strengthen the performance of British industry, inflation will remain a recurrent plague and the slide into deficit and debt, unemployment and insecurity will continue. It is to stop that slide, to provide the realistic alternative, that our Labour policies give the highest possible priority to the long term measures that will increase productive and competitive strength in Britain. Nothing supersedes that.

We have got to employ science. We have got to mobilise the skills of women and men on equal terms. We have got to modernise our transport system and diffuse new technologies throughout industry. Above all, we have got to raise the standards of training and education to levels that at least compare with those of our main competitors. So much is obvious; yet ours is the only major industrial country which is spending less on research and development as a share of national wealth than it did 10 years ago. The under-funding of research and development, the shortage of qualified science teachers in our schools, the brain-drain of scientists and technologists to other countries, the crisis of morale that is reported from so many parts of the science community, are not isolated features. They are the results of a bias against science, the disregard of the importance of research and development, the refusal to invest in ideas in an age when that investment is critical to any possibility of success. That attitude must be reversed. We will do that.

We will shift spending from military to civil research and development in order to get better economic value for public investment. We will increase basic research, bring it together with industrial needs and achieve the successful technology transfer that is increasingly common in the economies of our competitors. Like those competitors, we will provide security and continuity in research and development by using takeover regulations and tax policies to see that firms that are making the research and development commitment are not targeted by takeover predators, which too often is the case. With those and other changes we will be developing a long term infrastructure for science in Britain.

We need to do the same with transport. Amongst the most vital components of the modern, integrated transport system that Britain needs to succeed there must be modern, high speed rail links running from Scotland and Wales through the length and breadth of England to the Channel tunnel and on to the European mainland beyond. (Applause) We will build those rail links. We will do it through a financial partnership between public and private sectors. That is how the TGV has been financed in France, and now, 10 years after it was embarked upon, the TGV network is not only spreading prosperity to the regions of France, stimulating investment and creating jobs, but repaying its capital costs and earning a healthy return for public and private investors alike. That would never have happened without the French socialist government making exactly the long term commitment that the British Tory government over the same period has categorically refused to make. Nothing could more clearly express the great gap in the attitudes, between a government that has an active partnership with the private sector in strengthening the economy and a government whose perverse ideology will not allow such a productive relationship.

Every commuter, every driver, every business - and therefore every citizen in Britain - is paying dearly for that dogma. It is inefficient, it is anti-social, it neglects the environment, it disables the economy. That dogma is a barrier across the road to national progress. Everyone now knows that the only way to clear away that block is to get rid of the government that forms the block across the road to progress. (Applause) We will use the combination of public ­and private funding to the benefit of the public and the private interest in Britain.

A strategic policy for science and technology and a modern transport system are essential components of a long term economic strategy. But without doubt the most fundamental requirement of future success is improvement in the British education system. Parents know it. Employers, teachers and students themselves know it. The general public knows it. They also know that there is a crisis in British education. Everybody realises that with the exception of the government. Only the government denies it. They deny it not only because they are completely out of touch with the realities of the state schooling system in our country, but because they are also out of sympathy with the state schooling system that provides for a huge majority of the parents and children of this country. (Applause)

They have got to be replaced by a government that is in touch, a government committed to improvement, a government of people who do not favour the maintained schools in any abstract sense, but who support them because those schools educate their own children. The only government of that character, as Jack Straw brilliantly demonstrated yesterday; will be the Labour government. (Applause)

The Conservative government’s practice of treating schools as if they are laboratories to test out the latest Tory social engineering theories has got to stop. They disrupt, divide and demoralise children, parents, teachers and communities. They do nothing for general standards in results or in conduct. They have little to do with learning and everything to do with political meddling.

In this party and, I believe, in this country people want improved education, not perpetual experimentation with the lives and futures of their children. (Applause) We regard it, first, to be essential to improve the provision of the equipment of education: the supply of qualified teachers, the essential, books and learning materials, the buildings and facilities which are vital ingredients of an up-to-date education system. Teachers, books, materials, buildings - it is called getting back to basics, the basics that will ensure that teachers are able to give more attention to individual children, the basics that foster achievement in reading, writing, number - yes, and in cultural and sporting activities, because they too are essential to the rounding and good grounding of every youngster. No youngster should be denied the chance of access to music, literature and sport. None should be denied that; too many are now. (Applause)

The basics include those fundamental requirements of actively encouraging parents to be involved in and informed about the education of their children, partners with the schools instead of being continually regarded as being an alternative source of funding because the government will not provide the resources. (Applause)

Secondly, as a feature of our approach to education we will get rid of the concept that education for the majority is something that begins round about five and ends round about 16. That is why we aim to provide nursery education for every three and four-year-old whose parents wish to exercise that choice. (Applause) It is vital not only for the advantage of the child and its social and educational development, but for the liberty and the choice of men and women parents who want to sustain careers, who need frequently to get jobs and should not, as was said from this platform yesterday, perpetually face the dilemma of making a choice between a reasonable standard of living and caring in the way that they want to for their children.

I have to say that I read in a report this morning that Mrs Thatcher, speaking in the wake of the meeting that she attended of the United Nations this weekend, spoke of the need for mothers to give attention to nurture and provide wisdom. Nobody in their right mind could disagree with that. But I wish the Prime Minister comprehended the advantage - the wonder - of being able to do that with your children and would do something to ensure that many more parents could do it with their children too, because they love their children as much as she ever loved hers. (Applause)

We shall implement our policies to reform education and training after 16 and provide access to vocational and. academic courses through which people can earn qualifications appropriate to their needs and abilities.

Thirdly, the cuts in central government funding for education have got to stop. Huge losses have been inflicted on education in Britain over these years. This year the Tory government will be allocating 4.8 per cent of gross national product to all forms of central expenditure on education. If they had maintained the commitment of the last Labour government – 5.5 per cent of GNP – Britain’s primary and secondary schools, colleges, polytechnics, and universities would this year be £3.6 billion better off than they are now. Figures and percentages of GNP are immensely boring. Figures of £3.6 billion are immensely boring. But translate that in terms of teachers, books, decent classrooms, access to university and higher education, and all of a sudden they become immensely exciting, the greatest adventure that people can have, the fulfilment of their own desire to find their education liberation. That is denied when the GNP is cut back on that scale. (Applause)     

No one expects that we shall be able immediately or even in years to make up fully this huge shortfall. We will strive to do it, naturally, but such is the position from which we shall have to start after the years of Toryism that we are going to have to build up to those levels. That is what our neighbours and competitors did. They did not achieve their educational and economic success by borrowing wildly or by taxing fiercely. We shall not be doing either of those. They did it by committing the public expenditure that they could afford and, above all, by keeping on doing it year after year. We must do the same.

I will give you an example of what I mean. France, like every other country, is today under economic pressure as a. result of the Gulf crisis. Unlike Britain, they have no oil of their own, and in their budget published a fortnight ago the government has tightened expenditure in many areas in order to cope with the present and projected costs arising from the emergency. But there is an exception to that budgetary restraint - indeed, there is an exemption. Their education budget has not been reduced at all. Their education budget for this financial year is increased by 9 per cent. That is what you mean when you say that socialism is the religion of priorities, a 9 per cent increase in the education budget, even in straitened circumstances.

They have been following those policies for 10 years through thick and thin. They have done it because they know that if they want strength, they must have skill, and if they are to have skill, they must have more people educated to a higher level in smaller classes with sufficient teachers. That is the only way in which it adds up. They are not just talking about it or wishing for it, they are getting on with it. They are investing in it.

The French education is obviously not without its blemishes, but what is not in doubt is the superiority of their levels of participation, access and opportunity. Participation, access and opportunity are the keys to unlock the door to achievement - not just economic advance, but cultural and spiritual fulfilment, for that also – indeed mainly - is what education is about too. We are not in the business of seeking to produce a computer age version of hewers of wood and drawers of water. We want capable people, confident people, demanding citizens, people who are adaptable and applicable. Education is the key to giving people all of that opportunity. It has advanced in France. We have got to catch up with that with the next Labour .government. We must provide those keys. In education, as in so many other fields, our country can only get out what it puts in. If we want to get out of education the skills of the future for the people of the future, we have to put in now and keep on putting in.

Obviously, it will not be enough to do it only in education. It must be done in training too. The reason for that is obvious. Eight out of 10 people who will be in our workforce in the year 2000 are already of working age and they need training for work and in. work. Over two‑thirds of the working people in Italy, Germany, France and Spain are getting some skilled vocational training. But in Britain, after 11 years of Conservative government, only a little over one-third of our working people get any training at all. That is hardly surprising when the government seems to regard training not as a key to economic success, but as a branch of social security - and a pretty flimsy branch at that.

Now, after a decade of de-skilling, the government is cutting more millions from the training budget. When there are no incentives to train, no advice on how to train, no targets for quantity or quality that compare with those of our competitor countries, it is not surprising that so many companies do not make the proper training commitment.

As you heard from Tony Blair yesterday, the Labour government’s national training strategy will be used to overcome that great strategic weakness. It will be built on a practical national and local partnership between employers, trade unions and the providers and users of education and training. We will concentrate on the quantity and quality of training and qualifications from training that will be adaptable in the service of women and men throughout their working lives in order to meet and master the changes that they will encounter with great rapidity. That is why we shall be giving strong encouragement to the industries and employers who do make a proper commitment to training. It is also the reason why we shall require employers who do not train, but who ‘pirate’ from the responsible firms, either to change their ways or to make a financial contribution so that training can be provided.

At the level of the national economy, the industry, the firm and the individual, we shall be working to enable Britain to become a capable, country. We shall do it not only to ensure that individuals have greater control over their lives and their futures, but also because we know that in the 1990s the technological revolution and the advance of our country’s fortunes depends upon success in the training revolution.

Those policies for the strengthening of Britain’s productive and competitive performance have obvious purposes. They are essential if our country is to pay its way. They are essential if our producers are to generate the wealth necessary for future investment. They are essential too if we are to generate the wealth that is necessary to provide high and rising standards of social justice, welfare support and opportunity in our country. They are policies that will mean, not simply demand, ends.

That is essential if we want to pay - and keep on paying - proper pensions. It is essential if we want to fund fully - and go on funding fully - the National Health Service., That is what we will do. We will start to do it by bringing the opted-out hospitals back into the NHS. (Applause) By next April hospitals are supposed to clear their debts and their books to prepare for what the Tories call ‘reforms.’ Once again we are on the brink of a winter of cuts and closures and distress and pain, but this time it is all being made deliberately worse by a government intent on wrecking the national health service. That is the real price of Tory health care. That is why no one in this, country can afford another Tory government.

Certainly, even outside the hospitals and the formal structure of the NHS, there are millions of people, who are chronically ill and being cared for in their own homes, who cannot afford another Tory government. In this country there are 6 million people looking after others, usually relatives, who are young, long-term sick, disabled, elderly or fragile - 6 million carers. The overwhelming majority of them are women. The government has praised their selflessness to the skies, dripping with braid, knobs on and bands playing. But only 110,000 out of the 6 million carers get invalid care allowance. That same praising government has cut carers’ benefits. They have forced cuts in carers’ services. They have taken away carers’ rights to unemployment benefit. This year, to cap it all, the government postponed community care in order to save a few pennies on the poll tax. (Applause) The government that claims to have produced economic miracles and tries to tell us that the economy has underlying strength broke its pledge to provide the package of nursing and home care, daycare and respite care that should have been available through community care. Next week the Tory Party conference will meet under the slogan ‘The Strength to Succeed.’ I just wonder what sort of strength it takes to inflict blow after blow on people who are trying to care for their desperately sick loved ones in their own homes. (Applause) I would say it was brutal strength, wouldn’t you?

No wonder caring families feel cheated. They are not asking for much help. They are not asking to be relieved of their obligations. They would do what they do in any case in the cause of love and duty. Often they do it in circumstances of dire poverty and isolation, at risk to their own physical and mental health. If these 6 million people did not do it - or even a large proportion of them - the rest of us would have to find the funds to pay for beds in long stay residential care for elderly people at a cost of over £200 a bed per week. The costs would be vast.

As well as being humane, it makes sense therefore to operate a comprehensive system of community care with earmarked, local government funds. It makes sense to develop a carers’ benefit, as we are doing. It makes sense to allocate responsibility for this major part of the nation’s services to the sick to a new Department of Health and Community Care. A Labour government will do all of that. We owe it to the sick, and as a society we most certainly owe it to those who care for them:

The government’s desertion of their promise to introduce community care is, sadly, far from unique. Indeed, it is the stock-in-trade of the government, especially when they have given undertakings to support social progress or to improve the quality of life and eventually find themselves faced with the demand to deliver. They have a Prime Minister who tried to present herself as the .guardian of the earth. They have a Secretary of State for the Environment, who I thought at one time was so green that he was inhaling carbon dioxide and inhaling oxygen. (Laughter and applause) The Tories have had 11 years in power, huge resources and inexhaustible supplies of high quality information and advice on every part of the battle to save the national and global environment. But last week they drew themselves up to their full height and produced an environment White Paper which has something to say about practically everything and something to do about practically nothing at all. (Applause)

They are not a pressure group; they are not an opposition; they are not a think tank. They are a government that has been in power for 11 years and can exercise power. Even while no one with any sense - certainly none of the leading environmental groups - thinks that everything can be done at once, it is reasonable to ask that there should be some specific commitments to specific action. Why do they not at the very least go with our European neighbours and act as they have done against global warming, make the commitment to stabilise carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2000 and make substantial cuts in the early years of the next century? That is what we shall be doing.        

Why, when traffic congestion and vehicle pollution are the fastest growing threat to our environment, do they not make the commitment to build a high speed rail network to link every part of Britain with the rest of Europe? That is what we shall be doing. Why don’t they make the commitment to establish strong, independent agencies to set and secure environmental standards for food, air and water with the health and safety of children as the benchmark for acceptable standards? That is what we shall be doing. Why do they not in a number of other areas such as the trade in toxic waste, the cleaning up of the North Sea and targets for development aid, act as if they really meant it when they said that they were guardians of the earth? We would accept it and support them. (Applause)

All of what I list are practical, achievable targets. Indeed, they might be regarded as modest for a government that says that it wants to promote the cleaning of the environment ‘from the street corner to the stratosphere,’ but then they will not commit the resources to clean the street corner. (Laughter and applause) If you do it, you get poll tax capped. So it is not really surprising that while they will sign on the dotted line of just about any international environment conventions, they will take little action to honour such conventions in practice. They will make any commitment as long as it does not commit them to anything.

In many ways this last year has been the fastest year in history. A year ago when this conference met, Hungary and. Poland had just had their first free elections and still faced what they thought would be a journey of some years to full democracy and independence. Czechoslovakia was still ruled by Husak and the dictatorship re-established in 1968. Romania was still ruled by Ceausescu’s barbarism. In East Germany the people were just starting to come out onto the streets, but Honecker was still in power and the Stasi in authority. The Warsaw Pact, so far as anyone knew, was still a cohesive military alliance which faced NATO. The Western Alliance was still confined to its 45-year-old military role. Now here we are in October 1990. Poland and Hungary are independent. Czechoslovakia is a free country under - glory of glory - the presidency of a playwright. Romania has freedom, but it seems it has yet to achieve the same confident liberty of Czechoslovakia. The Warsaw Pact has effectively ceased to exist. NATO has considered specific proposals for increasing its political role, and resolved upon the establishment of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in a permanent institution. At midnight tonight there will be no more East Germany or West Germany. That country will be united as a parliamentary democracy. We send from here through the West German ambassador - from tomorrow, I hope, the German ambassador - Herr von Richthofen, who is here this afternoon, our best, wishes and solidarity to the people of Germany for a great and prosperous future in freedom. (Applause)

These marvellous changes bring of course their own problems and dangers; but they are capable of being surmounted. These changes, which some of us thought to be a very desirable though very distant prospect and many more thought to be utterly inconceivable, are now a reality. The impossible has become possible. Hope has become fact.

On both sides of what was the East-West divide, people who had become resigned to the idea of no change have become impatient for more change. The end of the Cold War has opened the possibility for the first time in history that by negotiation, by verification, by co-operation in a new security community, all prospect of war can be banished from Europe, the continent that has been the bloodiest battlefield of all human history. Because for decades the East-West deadlock has dominated the political shape of the world, the changes being made across this continent make wider and greater change possible across the rest of the world. The task - the hope - of building a new world order, so long the mission of idealists out of power, has now become the frankly and publicly stated objective of those who hold superpower. That is the great change of our age. That is why it is bliss to be alive now, when the possibilities of these great alterations in the fate of humankind are opening up.

By great irony, the conditions which produced the declarations of purpose to work for that new world order by the Presidents of the United States of America and the USSR came as a result of military aggression by a tyrant. The invasion and occupation of .Kuwait by Saddam Hussein has nothing to commend it, obviously. But in the reaction to it, the community of nations has quickly formed bonds and taken joint action in a way that would have been unthinkable two years ago, or even a year ago. God knows what would have happened in those circumstances, without that possibility of immediate and strong international solidarity against such aggression.

The action taken, firm and universal sanctions and the deployment of force in defence of Saudi Arabia and its neighbours, was absolutely correct. There is no possibility of an aggressor with the nature of Saddam Hussein being prevented from further attempts at conquest by any other means. That is why the action taken has won and kept the active consent of the world community in the United Nations. The scale and solidarity of that consent clearly means that the longest possible time must be given for sanctions to be used to secure the submission of Saddam Hussein to the will of the United Nations. (Applause)

The pressure must be sustained. It must be made clear to the Iraqi dictator that not only does he not have any friends anywhere now; but he can look forward to no accommodation from any part of the world unless and until he withdraws unconditionally from Kuwait. The solidarity of nations must continue to be so implacable that even in his Iraqi fortress Saddam Hussein understands that the shutters of the world are up against him and will stay up against him for as long as he illegally occupies another country. (Applause)

Saddam Hussein must be made to succumb to international law. It must be done in such a way as to deny him the fruits of aggression, the means of further aggression, any gain to reputation, any status of martyrdom. In the course of resolving this crisis, every possible effort must be made to avoid creating the conditions for further and even worse turmoil. If that is not done, then Saddam Hussein could so easily, in the eyes of so many people in the Arab countries, be turned from being an aggressor, so scornful of Arab unity that he attacked the neighbouring Arab country and slaughtered its people, into being the greatest Arab resistance leader of a generation.

The world community, having imposed the rule of law, must then keep the peace. It is an unending obligation, and one that can only be discharged if, in the wake of the withdrawal from Kuwait, there is a firm and sustained embargo on the sale of all weapons and weapons manufacturing machinery to the country of Iraq. It can only be sustained if Iraq’s chemical weapons and chemical weapon-making equipment is totally dismantled and if Iraq is thoroughly monitored to establish whether there is any nuclear weapon-making capacity and, if there is, that it be utterly removed and never returned. That is what must happen after Kuwait is cleared. (Applause)

These purposes can, and must, be fulfilled. But let everyone heed the fact that if they are to be, then the world community must also, first, spread and exert its authority to see that similar actions are taken in the case of other nations with possible chemical and nuclear weapons capacity. Secondly, international action to control and reduce the world arms and arms manufacturing trade will have to be taken with a breadth and thoroughness never previously known in history. (Applause) We must learn the lesson of where Saddam Hussein got his weapons.

The whole world now has a vested interest in trying to see that Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait is achieved, if possible by peaceful means. The reasons for that go far beyond the need to remove any threat to the security of much of the world’s oil reserves, important though that is to every nation, rich and poor.           

In the weeks since the United Nations first responded to the Iraqi invasion, it has become clear that there is a real ambition to forge a new and effective structure for world security. If such a structure could be given strength, it would have boundless potential for co-ordinated international action, not just to prevent or push back aggression, but even to combat poverty, to protect the environment and to become an agency, if not for democracy, then at least for recognisable freedoms.

None of that is certain. None of it is guaranteed. There is no straight path leading from the Security Council and its specific resolutions towards a new, golden age of liberty, prosperity and safety for the whole of the planet. But it is important to know that the objective is now within the realms of possibility and not smothered by Cold War or excluded by hopelessness. Such a development offers a prospect of stable peace unknown in history. It is, in the words of President Bush in Congress very recently, a ‘new world struggling to be born.’

No one should found all their hopes - even less all their policies - upon that effort. It could yet be a house built on sand. But what everybody should do is to open up their minds to the possibility that it can be a firmly based and enduring global security structure and that it is worth striving for. The watchword must be ‘Don’t dream of what may be; work for what can be.’ The understanding must be that it is worth working for.

There are countless reasons for that. This afternoon I give you one: children - the children of the earth. Of the world’s children under the age of five, 40,000 die every day, mainly from hunger and preventable diseases of hunger. Of the world’s children, 20 million suffer severe malnutrition, 150 million are chronically underfed and 100 million children never have any schooling. The statistics of childhood misery and early death in this world are horrifying.

The cause of most of the countries’ tragedies is poverty. The poverty is brought about not by natural disasters, but by exploitation, under-development and war. Those evils can be stopped. They are man-made. They can be man-prevented. It is within the power of the adults of the world to do that.

That power could be multiplied beyond measure if the structures of security which are now amongst the ambitions of world leaders were established to promote aid, to protect the environment, to relieve debt burdens, to establish fair trade, to spread education, health care and. housing in place of ignorance, disease and squalor.

In this party we will not be dreaming of that, we will be working for it. We are democratic socialists. Our cause is the welfare of the community. We recognise no boundaries in that cause between countries or continents. (Applause) We shall work for the new security structures. We shall work for the new world order, because it is natural to us and necessary for our country and for our world.

We shall go on doing it in opposition and we shall do it with full effect in government. That day is coming. We are fit and ready not just to win, but to govern the people of this country. Let us fulfil that purpose, not for our own advantage, but out of our duty to the people of our country and of our world. (Standing ovation)

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