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Speech Archive

Chancellor's speech, Bournemouth 2003

Gordon Brown (Labour)

Location: Bournemouth

Gordon Brown – Chancellor’s speech to conference, 29 September 2003, Bournemouth

Conference I can report to you today that with a Labour Government led by Tony Blair, with Labour policies, there are now more than 1.6 million men and women who did not have jobs under the Tories who are in work with Labour - and I can tell you that even in one of the worst world downturns, there are today in Britain more people in work 28 million - than at any time in our history.

A future fair for all is the theme not just of this conference, but of our government because whatever the success of the New Deal we cannot relax or rest or be satisfied. For today in Britain in 2003 too many of our citizens are still denied work, too many are low paid in their work, too many face poverty in retirement and our promise must be that for them too there will be social justice.

And today and in the Pre Budget Report I will set out a plan for full employment not just for one region of the country but full employment for every region and nation of Britain -- regional and local plans for full employment, with £3 billion to be invested in science and technology a strategy for building in our regions modern manufacturing strength, and this Labour Government this week raising the national minimum wage we introduced from £4.20 to £4.85 next year and after that above £5 - a legal national minimum wage, our memorial to the work of the late John Smith.

And as I set out our economic plans for a future fair for all - a full employment, high productivity Britain, a Britain of world class public services, a Britain where child and pensioner poverty can be eradicated - my message to this conference today is that where we have succeeded in our first six years of government, where we have built a bond of trust with the British people, and where we will succeed in the future, it is by demonstrating the strength to take the long term decisions, it is by being honest with the British people about the direction and challenges ahead, and it is by taking the Labour road - often the hard road - being true to our Labour values:

Never losing sight of Labour's vision for Britain

Not stability just for stability's sake

Never power for power's sake

But stability and power for a purpose -- to be on the side of hard working families.

Our vision for Britain, never more relevant:

That no one be locked out of opportunity

That opportunity and social justice in Britain in 2003 should not depend on class or connexions, on birth or background, on where you come from or who you know but opportunity and social justice should be the promise of Britain not just to some but to everyone.

And it is because we have taken not the old Tory road but this new Labour road - on the side of hard working families - and will continue to do so that, while America and Japan have been in recession - while half of Europe is still in recession, Britain with a Labour Government pursuing Labour policies has achieved economic growth in every year, indeed in every quarter of every year, for the whole six and a half years of this Labour Government - making this the longest period of continuous and sustained economic growth in the last fifty years - and under a Labour Government.

While America has lost 3 million jobs, Japan and Germany have each lost 1.5 million jobs, look around the industrial world and it is only Britain with a Labour Government and Labour policies that has managed to combine rising employment with rising investment in schools and hospitals - 25,000 more doctors, 80,000 more nurses, 90,000 classroom assistants - the fastest rising investment in education and health this country has seen - showing that with a Labour Government economic progress and social justice are not in conflict. With a Labour Government economic progress and social justice can advance together.

And while in world recessions in the Tory years Britain was first in, worst off, and last out - 10 per cent inflation, 15 per cent interest rates, 1.5 million in negative equity and 250,000 mortgage repossessions, Britain with a Labour Government and Labour policies has - even in a world downturn - the lowest inflation for thirty years, the lowest interest rates for nearly fifty years, there are 1 million new homeowners and standards of living have risen far faster than under the last Tory administration and we are closer to full employment now than at any time for a generation.

Was this by accident?

Was it just by chance?

Could the Tories ever have achieved this?

Could the Liberals even contemplate this?


Our Labour reforms :

Bank of England independence A symmetrical inflation target Long term fiscal rules The obligations of the New Deal

Long term fundamental Labour reforms. Opposed by the Tories.

These reforms show that our economic strength didn't just happen, we made it happen. Labour values made it happen.

Don't ever let people tell you this happened because we were lucky, it happened because we are Labour.

It's because we understood a Labour truth, that recessions hit pensioners, the low paid, small businesses; it's because we recognised a Labour reality, that high and volatile inflation may help the speculator but hurts the poor; it's because we were driven forward by a Labour cause, rooted in our beliefs, that economic stability matters most to hard working families; it's because we never forgot where we come from and where we want to take Britain.

And I tell you honestly that if we had built our policies on the shifting sands of Tory short-termism and not on the solid rock of Labour responsibility and long term planning, if we had followed the Tory road - the Tories against Bank independence, the Tories against our fiscal rules; even today Tories demanding public spending cuts and then vouchers and charges - let us tell the British people that under the Tories Britain would again be in recession today - where, instead, Britain with Labour is growing and I can tell you today with Labour that our economy will grow even stronger in the months to come.

And what our economic policy is proving is that you do not defeat the Tories by imitation or just by better presentation but by Labour policies and Labour reforms grounded in Labour values.

And as long as I am Chancellor I will never ask you to abandon fiscal responsibility, never to set aside economic discipline, never to abandon long term reform for quick fixes, never to succumb to Tory short termism.

And when I ask you to support in the Pre Budget Report the next stage of our economic reforms - employment service reform, planning reform, labour market reform, competition policy reform, regional reform to help us create full employment including our plan to relocate 20,000 civil service jobs out of Whitehall into the regions.

When I ask you to affirm with me that a future fair for all has also to be a future where we open up enterprise to all, breaking down old barriers so that instead of enterprise being the preserve of the old privileged elite, more and more people from all backgrounds can work their way up, start a business -- Labour the party of opportunity supporting small business job creation, Labour the party of small business and enterprise.

I ask you to support our economic reforms not because I'm asking you to do so, right or wrong. Not because of reform for reform’s sake but reform for this purpose. I'm asking you to support reforms for stability, prudence, responsibility and long term planning because they are at the core of our mission: central to our determination to deliver full employment - always to be on the side of hard working families and opportunity for all.

And I say to our friends in Amicus and right round this conference rightly concerned about manufacturing: with exchange rates more favourable and world trade growing again, working with Patricia Hewitt, Alistair Darling and Andrew Smith, the Pre Budget Report will put, at the service of manufacturing in Britain, the best incentives for science, for research, for development, for investment, for infrastructure, for technology transfer, and for exports and trade and the best help for skills, workplace learning and trade union learning - we will review procurement so that British manufacturers and British workers do not lose out from European and international rules unfairly applied to British firms - and, as we take on all those Tories who talk down manufacturing, we will prove that Britain the first industrial power in the world can, in this generation, build modern manufacturing strength.

And we will show the British national economic interest is best advanced as active partners in Europe - not Britain versus Europe but Britain part of Europe - promoting economic reform in opposition to tax harmonisation and reform in the stability pact.

And rather than allowing Europe and America to look inwards and stand apart we will promote a new transatlantic economic partnership as we seek a strong pro-European pro-Atlantic consensus in Britain.

And we will demonstrate to the public the benefits of the euro if we can achieve sustainable and durable convergence with the euro area and as we campaign on Europe throughout Britain we will take on Tory anti-European myths and prejudices.

And most urgently, following the bitter disappointment at Cancun, Margaret Beckett, Patricia Hewitt and I are convinced we must do more - for world trade and for the developing countries - to tackle the waste of the CAP, the scandal of agricultural protectionism around the world.

We do all this not because it is easy but because our values demand it.

Just as it is right to back our leader Tony Blair in his efforts today to bring security and reconstruction to Iraq - and I want to praise the professionalism and dedication of our armed forces - and to bring a settlement that ensures peace and justice in the Middle East; and it is right to seek international agreement as Tony Blair and John Prescott are doing to tackle climate change and global environmental damage.

Friends, just as on the economy the decisions we have taken have not ignored Labour values but honoured them, so too in the times ahead - as we meet and master the next wave of global economic change - the future will belong to those countries that by flexibly opening the doors of opportunity, nurture the full potential not just of a few - as in the industrial age - but of the many.

And where America is enterprising but not today seen as fair, the rest of Europe more socially cohesive but not today seen as enterprising, I believe that we in Britain can - even amidst the pressures and insecurities of globalisation - become the first country of this era to combine enterprise and economic strength with a strong public realm where public services are based not on vouchers or charges but are universal - and we eradicate child and pensioner poverty.

And by standing up for these British ideas - and with our outward looking internationalism - Britain can be more than a bridge between Europe and America: our British values - what we say and do marrying enterprise and fairness, and about public services and the need to relieve poverty, can and should, in time, make Britain a model, a beacon for Europe, America and the rest of the world.

So, friends, proud about our success in moving people from welfare to work but honest about what we still have to do, let us be even more ambitious - our opportunity, indeed our obligation should be to transform the welfare state from the old safety net that offered just minimum standards to a modern enabling state maximising opportunity, and - whether it be in pre-school care or lifelong learning, services to the disabled or the elderly or universities and colleges where we must reform the structure and funding of higher education - enlarging peoples options and choices, and meeting peoples individual aspirations at every stage of their lives.

And we must reject the Tory road - choice without equity: that is no equity, the illusion of choice, the inevitable road to two tier provision -- but follow the Labour road of enlarging opportunity and choice with equity so that there is provision not just for some but for all.

So the issue is not whether we reform - we must do so - the status quo is never an option for the Labour Party - but ensuring that the reforms we pursue are reforms that genuinely extend opportunity and equity, long term lasting reforms that promote Labour values.

So when mothers and fathers ask why it is that only the better off appear to have the resources, the support, and the time to balance work and family life, let us say that we understand that what matters is not just the work you do but the life you lead and with one quarter of a million more child care places, the child care tax credit, more help for time off for fathers, more incentives for employers, we must and will fulfill our pledge of high quality childcare so that childcare is not just the good fortune of some but available for all who need it.

And because it is also time that with a Labour Government all and not just a few have a stake in the wealth of the nation, we are introducing the new Child Trust Fund - starting with £250 for every new born child, £500 for the poorest child - because we believe that power, opportunity and wealth should be in the hands of the many not the few.

But for us, a Labour Government, opportunity must be matched with security. And I ask this Conference to tell pensioners in every constituency that from next Monday the new pension credit - with a £2 billion investment - there will be the biggest single rise in pension payments - to help the very pensioners, those with small savings, small occupational pensions, who have lost out for too long: 4 million pensioner households who will gain an average of £8 a week - a new policy to tackle two longstanding problems - to remedy the unfairness of small works pensions and to abolish pensioner poverty in this generation.

And as we welcome the debate on compulsion, a debate which our new pension commission is charged to examine, I know the whole conference will support us -- when we start by ending the injustice of workers who when their company goes bust lose not only their jobs but are cheated of their pensions.

So I tell Conference today, Andrew Smith will legislate for a new statutory pension protection fund, in future every worker contributing to a pension will have their pension protected and be guaranteed their pension rights.

And let me add: it is because these very same employees can find themselves sacked by text message without explanation or justification, that we will introduce for the first time, in discussion with the trades unions, the rights of workers to information and consultation.

And let me also say we want to work with you to end two tierism in the labour force and I say today: as we continue to reform PFI we are ready to examine directly with union memberships the way forward so we can deliver rising investment and justice for every employee.

Friends, past Labour Chancellors have had to come to Labour Conferences and explain why short term bursts of spending had to be reined back and why their promise of long term and sustained improvements in our public services could not we met - even though we all know it is consistent and continuous investment that is needed if we are to secure world class public services.

But I can tell you today that it is by cutting back central bureaucracy, by implementing wide ranging efficiency reforms; by focusing rigorously on Labour priorities; by requiring reform before resources; backing up past measures to cut debt; that we will be able in the next spending round to deliver new resources to our front line public services.

And I can tell you that by continuing this discipline as a Labour Chancellor, the next spending round will not only lock in the higher spending we have been delivering - meeting our commitments to all the public services from policing to transport, meeting our fiscal rules - but do more: with further increases in spending and investment for our priorities in the years to come.

And let me tell you it is only this Labour Party that will have as a priority for our spending review tackling the greatest unfairness in our society -- the unfairness to a child born into poverty.

Because that child's deprivation is a daily erosion of life chances, that poverty a reproach to the whole of Britain, the fairness we seek as Labour is much, much more than just being fairer than the Tories. Let us be clear: the only Britain that can genuinely be considered fair for all is a Britain where we have once and for all lifted the shame of child poverty from future generations.

Children do not have votes, and their voices are not often heard in our politics, but our Labour values demand that we invest not in some of the potential of some of our children but in all the potential of all of our children.

It is not the job of government to bring up children. But government must help parents by removing the barriers that stand in their way. Our commitment as a party is social justice from the cradle to the grave but we know that the months that do most to determine life chances are the months from the cradle to the nursery school.

And I tell you - with the Child Trust Fund twice as much for the poorest child, with the Child Tax Credit worth four times as much for the poorest child, and five times as much for the poorest infant - our anti-poverty commitment is based on a progressive principle that all decent minded people can and should support: more for every child, even more help for those who need it most and at the time they need it most.

Conference, there are now 500 sure start children's centres transforming young lives across Britain and that is our shared success.

That sure start is still today Britain's best kept secret is our shared failure. So let us - all of us - tell the British people the difference to the life chances this public investment can make - and that the victors in the war against child poverty will be not just poor children but the whole of Britain.

But Conference, sure start, our children's centres, tell us something even more profound about Britain and about Labour values: that while markets are the engine of prosperity, there is and must always be a public realm upholding the non-material values - reciprocity, care and concern - that are the soul of our society.

It is because we the Labour party understand what the Tories do not - that the town square is more than a marketplace, the city centre more than where people buy and sell, community more than a collection of individuals. And it is because we owe obligations to each other that go beyond calculation contract and exchange that we are proud of this Labour Party's unique and special contribution to British society - the National Health Service, health care determined not by your individual ability to pay in the marketplace but by something more than the material - your shared citizenship and your need.

Indeed it is because neither you nor I, none of us, ever know in advance whether we will suffer acute or chronic illness; it is because the cost of today's expensive treatments and technologies, from chemotherapy to heart transplants, are way beyond those of 1948 and way beyond what even the most comfortably off family can afford; it is because the best insurance policy is therefore not the ifs, buts and small print of private insurance, but an insurance policy that covers not just some of the people some of the time but all of the people all of the time, that the argument for a publicly funded NHS is stronger now than even in 1948, and the 25,000 extra doctors, the 80,000 more nurses, the 100 new hospitals units, and the lower waiting times we are now able to fund, demonstrate why we have been right to be open and honest with the British people about taxation: it was right to raise National Insurance for a purpose - to pay for the NHS.

But conference it is also our duty to tell every family every pensioner in Britain of the fundamental decision of the Tory party not just to cut NHS funding but to plan the destruction of the NHS - their plan to import American vouchers, charges and private medicine funded by public money taken from the NHS.

Conference it is the measure of the Tory retreat from the NHS that to subsidise private health insurance they would take billions from NHS hospitals. And then for vouchers for those already able to afford private medicine, billions more taken from the NHS.

Their model is not as they once claimed social insurance as in France or Germany but private medicine as in the USA.

So the dividing line at the next election is clear - between Labour which will invest and modernise the NHS - yes with reformed hospitals where as in local government so in the NHS there is tough inspection and earned autonomy - and the Tories who would tear the NHS down.

So let us explain to every pensioner and family in Britain that when the Tories offer you a voucher to use a private hospital for a hip joint operation, you can have a private operation but only if you can afford to pay £5,000 upfront from your own money. You can have a knee replacement done privately under the Tories but only if you can afford an entrance fee of £7,000.

Under the Tories you can have a heart bypass but your poll tax for health is £9,000 you must pay up front. So who will receive treatment under the Tory plan?

Not those whose medical need is greatest but those whose bank balance is largest.

So Tory values are the values of the NHS in reverse: when it should be need that determines your healthcare - under the Tories, it would be ability to pay.

So never let it be said by anyone the political parties are all the same; that there is no difference; that voting is a waste of time; that there are no big choices left; that politics is no longer a clash of ideals; that there are no causes for which to struggle.

A health service free at the point of need and not based on ability to pay

Full employment not Tory unemployment

Family and pensioner prosperity not child and pensioner poverty

Opportunity for all - not just for the privileged

These are the great causes worth fighting for, and worth campaigning for

Showing why if a Labour Party did not exist it would have to be created today to fight for justice, dignity and fairness in Britain

But today I want to share with you another reason, another Labour reason, why given our long tradition of tackling global poverty we must work to uphold the principles of the NHS.

For publicly funded health care not private medicine is the only hope for caring for the sick and curing disease in Africa and the developing world.

Today 2 million round the world die each year from tuberculosis - a curable disease

1 million die from malaria - a preventable disease

3 million die from aids - a treatable disease

We should be ashamed that in the absence of free health care 30,000 children in Africa are dying each day from avoidable disease

Yet all the world's development aid amounts to just 5 pence a week for the health of each sick African child

That is why I want to tell you of and ask you the Labour Party to campaign for our new plan we as a Labour Government will now propose to the IMF and World Bank to end this avoidable suffering, the next step building on debt relief, an International Finance Facility, £50 billion extra a year to double aid and halve poverty - and one of the first priorities for that money would be to provide free health care free for every child.

But if we allow the Tories to undermine and destroy the principles of free health care in Britain, if the only working model of health care available to governments and people round the world is not our British model but private medicine, private charges and private payments, what hope is there for Africa?

What hope is there for the 2 million dying from TB

What chance is there for the 1 million with malaria

What comfort is there for the 40 million suffering from HIV/AIDS

What can ever remove the fears of a mother bringing a sick child into this world if the only health care on offer is private health care and health care is based not on need but ability to pay?

I believe that it has been the historic role of our party to inspire hope where hope does not exist; to bring optimism where pessimism alone flourishes; to stand for justice where injustice stalks the land.

And if inspired by our Labour ideals, we, here from Britain, can show the world a model of a health service based on need not ability to pay

If the poorest of the world know that hospitals need not be centres for profit but are for service and compassion

If Africa knows that health care need not be a commodity but can be a right

Then whatever the distance that separates us

Whatever the diversity of needs and experience

However different the languages we speak

However varied the cultures

We will have created a chain of hope, a great fundamental and universal cause, that starts with the frailest pensioner in each of our communities who needs a free health service and extends to the poorest new born child in the poorest country who needs that free health care too: the richest of the world saying to the poorest: need will come before ability to pay - and by the strong helping the weak we will all be stronger.

So sometimes when things look difficult

Times seem hard

Pressures are great

When some may feel that complacency has crept in, momentum has been lost, or the vision dimmed

Then take inspiration from the unyielding determination of our pioneers: tough times did not diminish their idealism but made them even more determined that to transform lives you have to transform society.

After six years of Government I believe more than ever that the Labour Party does not exist for itself but for larger and noble purposes.

I believe that at every point in our history Labour needs not just a programme but a soul.

I believe that men and women are not simply selfish individualists thinking only of themselves.

That there are millions of us who share, however distantly, the pain of others.

Millions of us with a belief in something bigger than ourselves. So long after this conference is over

Long after the headlines have faded in the memory

Long after the choices have been taken and the direction set

Let it be said of this Government and this Party by people who were not here and never knew the detail of our deliberations, that we kept faith with the hard working families of Britain.

That we were honest with the British people about the scale of the decisions to be made and the great opportunities and victories to be gained if we had the resolve to hold to our guiding purpose.

That by doing so we created a Britain of enterprise, opportunity and social justice.

Let it be said above all else by the people of Britain

That this Government

This Labour Government

Was a Government on their side.

So have confidence in our principles.

Have confidence that these principles can be advanced in Labour policies for our time.

Have confidence that Labour values are the values of the British people.

This Labour Party - best when we are boldest, best when we are united, best when we are Labour.

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