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Shadow Chancellor's speech, Blackpool 1994

Gordon Brown (Labour)

Location: Blackpool

Chair, comrades and friends. At this Conference today this Labour Party, with more Labour councillors than ever before, with more Labour European MPs than ever before, soon to have more Labour MPs, yes, and more women Labour MPs than ever before, is now setting down a new economic policy for Britain. Our new economic approach is founded on socialist principle, that the community must accept its responsibilities for the goals of sustained growth and full employment. Our economic approach is born out of an understanding of what is wrong. That our economy is too small, it is too weak, investment is too little, our skills too few. Our economics has a prescription: that we must end the neglect of investment in people, in industry and in our social and economic fabric. At its centre is the promise that I make to you today, that the Labour government will use every instrument of government economic policy to end mass unemployment in our country. Our programme will match the British people's instinct for fairness. Our plan is economic: education and employment opportunities for all, unfair privileges for no-one. That is why the Labour government will not only introduce a national minimum wage, but we will set it at a level that for the first time in our history brings decency and dignity to every man and woman in the workplace. Exploitation in the workplace is immoral. The next Labour government will make it illegal too. Let me say, because this is something John Smith and I discussed more than almost any other issue, the national minimum wage will be a memorial to the work of John Smith. To secure justice for pensioners I have asked the Social Justice Commission to consider integrating tax and benefits, because I want the next Labour government to achieve what in 50 years of the welfare state has never yet been achieved, the elimination of the massive means testing now imposed on the elderly, so that we can remove pensioner poverty in Britain. There is one other measure that John Major could take tomorrow to help pensioners facing winter fuel bills and that is to scrap the VAT rise to 17.5 per cent on domestic fuel. Real equality for women. The next Labour government will introduce a national system of child care. For part-time workers the same rights and the same opportunities as full-time workers, and we will immediately sign the Social Chapter. When people ask: "What would a Labour government do now?" let us tell them clearly we will begin by releasing the capital receipts so that local authorities can start building houses again. We will introduce the windfall tax on the excess profits of the privatised utilities, fund an emergency employment programme and get Britain fully working again. We will create regional development agencies and defence conversion agencies, to help workers in Swan Hunter, British Aerospace and elsewhere who need the help of the Labour Party today, and we will get Britain investing and manufacturing again. We would halt the railways and Post Office privatisations so that Britain can take pride in our public services again, and instead of the vicious circle of economic failure, unemployment, more taxes to pay for failure, Labour will create the virtuous circle of investment, growth and improvements in our health and public services. That is the real divide at the next election. Unfair taxation under the Conservatives: fair taxation under Labour, based on the progressive principle, the solid rock upon which social justice is founded. When people ask how our government will run our public services better, let us tell them, instead of the divisive ideology that squanders millions on bureaucrats in opt-out hospitals and schools, instead of the dogma that privatises prisons and takes police off the beat to sit at desks filling in forms, instead of costly and unnecessary quangos and privatisations that appear to benefit only firms with strong Tory connections, let us put an end to these false priorities. Let us put an end to the phoney markets, the administrative chaos, the paper-pushing. I say to this Conference today, let us put an end to the divisive waste and the false priorities. Let the nurses nurse, let the teachers teach, let the doctors care, let the public services once again serve the public and let us be a community again. What we have seen over these last 15 years is nothing less than the systematic degradation of our public services in the narrowest of Conservative private interests. Unjustifiable privilege, unwarranted patronage and quango after quango, ever-increasing abuse of power. Today it is time to call a halt to the sliding scale of Tory morality in politics. You know what I mean. Backbenchers who take backhanders. It is time to remove the £1,000 a question Tory Party MP. It is time to remove the £10,000 a year quango place for a failed Tory Party candidate. The Tory Party ex-cabinet minister on £100,000 in the board rooms of the utilities he privatised and of course the all-time Tory jackpot winner, Lord Young, on almost £1 million a year, chairing the company he used to regulate on our behalf. These people do not need a national lottery, they have already awarded themselves all the biggest prizes already. It is not a national lottery, it is a national scandal. Today I have a message for the Conservative party. After 15 years of this the party is almost over. Next week, when the Tory faithful less of them than ever before gather at Bournemouth, needing rallying as never before, who in Bournemouth is going to rally the troops when Lord Archer is unavoidably detained elsewhere and so he should be? Who in Bournemouth is going to appeal for funds, now that Lord Archer has lost his appeal to the Tory hierarchy? What are we to think of a public figure who collects thousands of pounds for a friend from a TV station, hands out thousands of pounds to a friend at a railway station and has no credible explanation for either? Lord Archer, clearly a man for all stations, but not this year Bournemouth Central. I have some sympathy for Lord Archer. Since when has an acquaintance with the wilder shores of finance and an inside knowledge of City deals ever been a disqualification for Chair of the Conservative party? Now, having lost any reputation for competence or integrity, having lost billions on Black Wednesday, billions more with the poll tax, having wasted billions of North Sea oil revenues, having lost almost half a Cabinet in 15 years by scandal and resignation, having lost the respect of the whole country, the Tories have nothing left to lose but the general election. So today, friends, on behalf of Wae overwhelming majority who worfishard, who pay their taxes, I am serving VioticeSon the privatisation handouts and th§ executive share options. The Labour government will tax these as they should be taxed. I am serving notice also on the Tory Party's friends in far-off places. No more come and go as you please, pay as you like residency rules. Labour will re-write these tax rules. I am serving notice on the Tory's something-for-nothing elite; the insider dealers, the undeserving rich, the enemies of opportunity in our country who in the pursuit of short-term gain, largely for themselves, have starved the country of long-term investment. That is the Tory Party today. Mediocrity, propped up by sleaze in the service of privilege. I will tell you what the next Labour government will be like. We will not take money from the Asil Nadirs of this world but introduce new rules to prevent foreigners donating to British political parties. I will tell you what the next Labour government will be like. We will not abuse foreign aid to fund Pergau Dam contracts for companies that fund the Tory Party. Under Labour overseas aid will go direct to the poor of this world. I will tell you something else, we will not lie to the disabled or cheat the blind. We will introduce a new disabled rights bill to help six million people. Fifty years ago next year a Labour government took tough economic decisions to launch a bold assault on the evils of an unjust and inefficient society. Today, facing new challenges, the next Labour government must take equally tough and bold economic decisionsto achieve economic success and social justice. A new industry policy. No longer government abandoning its responsibilities to industry but government and industry working together in a new partnership economy. Long-term investment agreements, a small business development bank, new technology trusts, so that we have investment in this country not for speculation but for industrial regeneration bringing the jobs we need. No longer setting public against private but mobilising the resources of both public and private, so that our new public-private task force can build homes, repair hospitals, rebuild schools, improve our railways and clean up our environment. Because our greatest national resource is the sadly untapped potential of millions of British people, we will create as a Labour government, a new British university for industry that will offer workplace learning opportunities to all men and women in this country. The big idea, the key to economic success, is people's potential. The big idea is that people have big ideas, huge talents, great and greatly overlooked abilities, and it is by liberating people's potential that we build the dynamic market economy we need. I will tell you the Britain I want to see, the Britain we are working towards. It is doors opening for millions of people where they used to be closed. It is barriers of privilege broken down where they used to impede. It is choices expanding for men and women, where once they were restricted. It is potential liberated where once it was frustrated and blocked. A Britain alive with opportunity for all and vibrant with a new dynamism. I will tell you what socialism means to me, it is the ideals of 1945 applied to the realities today. It is a great British society in which the strong help the weak and by doing so it makes us all stronger. It is a redistribution of wealth and power in Britain in favour of work and opportunity and against privilege and the Tory abuse of power. It is a Labour Britain, built on the strong foundations of 100 years of socialist endeavour. A Labour Britain ending the waste in efficiency and injustices of the last 15 years. It is a Labour Britain where social justice and economic efficiency go hand in hand. A Labour Britain where meeting needs comes before pandering to greed. It is a Labour Britain, a Britain proud of itself once more. (Applause)

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