The reason why many are seeking the answers to the question I posted is simple the three main political parties make certain claims in regards to our economy and they don’t seem to be listening to the public who lives in the real world which sends out confusing messages which they urgently need to clarify if they want voters to vote for a political party to be in government.
George Osborne states that the economy is turning a corner which he alleges that plan A is working and there is no place for plan B and the long-term unemployed will have to undertake work placements in return for their benefits, under changes being unveiled by Chancellor George Osborne. From April, people who are jobless after being on the work programme will face three options, including community work, or face losing benefits.
“Conference, it’s great to have you here in Scotland. In Glasgow or, as we like to call it in Inverness, ‘the deep south.’
This great city has many claims to fame: its industrial heritage, culture, football, it’s even the home of the new Doctor Who. So, let take me you back in time. It’s spring 2010. We’re in the depths of the economic storm. Greeks rioting on our TV screens.
Labour had dug a gigantic hole of debt – the bankers had pushed us in. We were forecast to have the largest deficit in the EU. The polls had closed; we were in the uncharted waters of a hung Parliament. Action was needed. And as a Party, we stepped up.
Colleagues, just think if we’d acted differently. A minority government. Weak. Unstable. Unable to take decisions. And at the mercy of factions and extremists.
We would likely have seen another General Election within months.
A toxic mix of political and economic uncertainty. The hardships inflicted on other economies could so easily have happened here.
Yes, it has been tough, but those nightmare scenarios did not happen. They did not happen for one reason only.
Because of us. The Liberal Democrats. Because of our decision to ensure we had a stable government with a strong Liberal voice,
Able to act decisively. We didn’t duck the challenge.
We rose to it. There were plenty of people who didn’t think we were up to it. When I first became the Chief Secretary, there were even some people who questioned my, how should I put this, my employment record.
Clearly they hadn’t looked closely enough at my CV. You see, as a teenager I worked in the Tomdoun hotel in Glengarry. I washed plates in the kitchen, I polished pint glasses in the bar, I even cleaned the toilets. I basically spent most of my teenage years cleaning up other peoples’ mess. Perfect work experience for an aspiring Chief Secretary.
But with every step towards economic recovery we take, the party that caused the mess, the Labour Party, become even less credible.
Ed Balls bet the house on a failing economy. He banked on a double dip that never happened. He predicted a triple dip that never came.
And now even his closest colleagues admit he is a busted flush.
The Labour Party has opposed every single decision we’ve made.
That was until Ed Balls declared that the Labour party would adopt a new found “iron discipline” in public spending.
In fact, so strong is that commitment that the two Eds have managed to limit themselves to a meagre £45bn of extra spending commitments. To be fair, once you’ve left the next generation with a debt of £828bn to pay off. Rising at the rate of £3 billion a week,
Without any plan to deal with it, what’s another £45bn between friends? They derailed the economy. And if they had the chance, they’d do it all over again. The last thing Britain needs is a Labour majority. Conference, I was going to read you a list of barmy right wing Tory ideas that we’ve stopped in government.
But it’s so long I don’t have time, and after Nick’s appearance yesterday, I’m worried about Justine McGuiness cutting me off.
But I can’t resist just two. Two Tory ideas that put jobs at risk.
First, some Tories believe that the best way to help businesses hire someone is to make it easier to fire someone.
They believe that people that work hard, do their job day in day out,
Let’s call them ‘strivers’. Should be allowed to be fired at the will of the employer. Well conference, let me tell you this – it will never happen. Not while there are Liberal Democrats around the Cabinet table.
And then there’s Europe. For many Conservatives, the EU is the bogeyman responsible for every wrong. But for 3.5m people in Britain, it’s the reason they have a job. That’s 3.5m jobs that some Tories want to put at risk by leaving the European Union.
They should know, you can’t win the global race, unless you’re part of a strong team.
The last thing Britain needs is a Conservative majority. But the Conservatives aren’t the only ones wanting to break up a union, whatever the costs.
As a Scot, I believe that being part of the United Kingdom offers Scotland huge advantages in the 21st century. I believe the best choice is for us to stick with a family of nations in which we have thrived and prospered. To grow together, not break apart.
In the end, nationalism is all about building barriers between peoples, whatever the cost. Liberalism is about knocking those barriers down.
Today’s National Institute report shows that with Scotland as part of the UK, interest rates are lower and taxes are lower. That’s the value of the United Kingdom.
Another credible, independent, factual analysis that backs the case for our United Kingdom. So our job, from now until the day of the referendum, is to prove that “Better Together” isn’t just a slogan. It’s the truth. Tens of thousands of jobs in Scotland depend on us winning that fight. For the sake of our country, our children, and our grandchildren, we cannot, must not and will not lose.
We’ve seen the economy through its darkest hour, by ensuring that the Coalition’s economic plan is pragmatic. When the eurozone crisis was raging. When our growth forecasts were going backwards
Siren voices on the right called for us to respond by cutting further and faster. It was the Liberal Democrats who ensured the coalition remained anchored in the centre ground.
There is still a long way to go, but our stronger economy in a fairer society is beginning to take shape. We are rebuilding an economy that is sustainable, balanced and resilient. And we are making progress. Activity in the manufacturing sector has reached a two-and-a-half-year high, in construction a five-year high and in the services industry a six-year high.
Business confidence is at its highest level in six years. British businesses have created an extra 1.4m jobs in the private sector, supported by the decisions this Government has taken.
We have the lowest number of people claiming unemployment benefit in four years. A record number of women in work. A higher rate of employment than the US.
The highest number of people in work. Ever. Labour’s failure to regulate the banks meant that they had to spend billions of pounds of your money to bail them out. We’re fixing the banks and the economy is on the mend. So last night following advice from the Treasury we decided to start to get your money back.
The first sale of Lloyds’ shares, at above the price Labour paid, is an important milestone. And in future sales we will look for ways in which the British public to get involved. Because we are mending the economy, the tax payer is at last getting their money back.
The recovery is under way. Much more needs to be done to secure it.
And we won’t flinch from our task. Anyone who claims the better economic news is all down to the Conservatives is just plain wrong. The decisions we have implemented in government, decisions you have taken in this hall. The brighter future that lies ahead – it’s only there because of us. And we should shout it from the rooftops.
We still have work to do to finish the job. That’s not a task than can be entrusted to either of the other two parties. I say to the British people, if you want that job finished right – with balance, fairness, and resolve – you need the Liberal Democrats to do it.
We’ve taken tough decisions to get the deficit under control. And, yes, there will be more in the next Parliament. It will be another five years shaped by the necessity of fiscal restraint. But by the middle of the next Parliament we will have eliminated the structural deficit.
That doesn’t mean the country can then go back to bad old habits. There’s no spending bonanza round the corner. Our nation’s debt will need to be reduced. It wouldn’t be fair to pass it on to future generations. The pressures of an ageing and growing population will have to be paid for. Conference, when those difficult decisions need to be made, the British people now know that they can trust the Liberal Democrats to make them.
We’ve delivered long-held commitments too. This year, for the first time, the UK will deliver our long-held commitment to spend 0.7% of our nation’s wealth on international aid. Making a real difference to lives all over the world. Four weeks ago I met a young girl who told me how much she was enjoying school, and about her ambition to be a lawyer. Nothing extraordinary about that, you might think, but I met this girl in Kabul.
She is one of around 2m Afghan girls who, thanks to the bravery of our armed forces and our international aid commitment, is now attending school on a regular basis. I also had the privilege of meeting an extraordinary group of serving men and women in our armed forces in Helmand, whose skill and bravery is making that change possible.
So, I hope you will join me in paying tribute to our armed forces in Afghanistan and across the rest of the world. As we look to the next Parliament, the tax policy we agreed yesterday puts us in a strong position to tackle the remaining deficit fairly. By committing to raise taxes on the very wealthy, through the mansion tax, through restricting pension tax relief, through increasing capital gains tax rates further, Liberal Democrats will ensure that those who have the most will continue to contribute the most.
These taxes on the very wealthy will be one of our central promises for the next Parliament. Making sure they can’t avoid their taxes is a job we are getting on with right now.
Benjamin Franklin said: “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.
And a conference announcement from Danny Alexander on tax avoidance”.
Ok, maybe he didn’t say that last bit. But conference, I make no apology for going after tax dodgers. Thanks to our efforts, by 2015 we will be clawing back an extra £10bn a year.
New investment, new specialist units, new tax rules announced from this podium are now closing the net on the immoral minority who believe paying the proper amount of tax just isn’t for them. But we must do more. We are cutting corporation tax to encourage firms to invest, not to give the wealthy a way to avoid the 45p tax rate.
So when the vast majority of people in an industry are finding ways to exploit that difference, and that industry is the preserve of the very wealthy, I have no hesitation in acting. So I can announce today that following a brief consultation we will be closing the loophole that allows private equity shareholders to siphon money out of their firms while dodging the intended income tax.
And it’s why I can also announce that we will also be closing the loophole that allows partners in partnership firms to structure their staff arrangements so that they avoid paying the correct amount of income tax. It’s wrong, it’s unfair, and it’s got to stop and with Liberal Democrats in government, it will.
Conference, the pressures on household budgets in this country are real. Liberal Democrats are doing all we can to help. We have introduced 15 hours of free childcare for all three- and four-year-olds, and this month introduced it for the poorest 40% of two-year-olds too.
Next year we will legislate for tax free childcare worth £1,200 for every eligible child. Unlike tax breaks for marriage, that’s a fair way to help families. We have frozen council tax for every year of this Parliament. Our triple lock is protecting the value of the basic state pension.
We have scrapped Labour’s fuel duty rises. So thanks to us petrol is now 13p a litre cheaper than it would have been. 18p a litre if you live on a remote island. Saving every business and family in the country money. And helping literally to keep the wheels of the economy turning. But there is more to be done.
In January we will launch the next phase of Help to Buy. Too many young people aspiring to get on in life are stuck. They earn enough to repay a mortgage, but don’t have the funds for a large deposit. It is right that the government should step in to help them. And it is also right that we need to build more homes, including affordable homes.
Over the last decade rents have risen twice as fast as wages, stretching family budgets. But some landlords still failed to pay the right tax due on the rents they receive. I’m talking about landlords who own more than one property, who rent to students, people with holiday lets and those who let houses in multiple occupations.
And it adds up to a staggering £500m owing to the taxman. And we want it back. So we’re launching a campaign with a simple message for the rogue minority of landlords. Pay up or face the consequences.
In my three-and-a-half years in the Treasury, tackling avoidance has been one of my obsessions. But my true passion has been delivering our tax promise to Britain’s working people.
It was Mr Gladstone, whose portrait hangs on the wall of my office, who said; “The idea of abolishing Income Tax is highly attractive.”
Now, conference, we don’t go that far. But we have abolished it for nearly 3m low income workers.
What’s more, we have given 25m working people the biggest tax cut in a generation. This would have been a big deal in times of plenty.
To have achieved it now, in these difficult times is extraordinary. Practical help for millions of working people – Liberal Democrats, we made it happen. And conference, yesterday, we committed to cutting the tax paid by ordinary workers even further.
So you don’t pay any income tax until you earn more than a full time salary on the minimum wage. £700 a year back in the pockets of 25m working people – that’s our record of action. Our promise of more – another £500 off your tax bill, if you put the Liberal Democrats back in government next time.
Conference, Liberal Democrats in Government has already helped businesses create more than 1m jobs, and now we’re working to help them to create a million more. That’s why this April, every business and charity will have their National Insurance cut through our £2,000 Employment Allowance. That’s enough money for a small business to employ four adults.
Or 10 18-20-year-olds on the National Minimum Wage. Without paying any employer national insurance at all. Real, tangible help for every small business in the country. At its heart, the next general election will be about who the British public trust to deliver a stronger economy. And who they trust to deliver a fairer society.
Because the benefits of a stronger economy must be shared. Shared in every corner of the United Kingdom. Shared across all the people of Britain. ‘The economy’ is not some abstract concept. It’s about people. It’s about their jobs, their aspirations and their hopes.
Only the Liberal Democrats can deliver a stronger economy in a fairer society so that everyone can get on in life. The last thing Britain needs is a Labour or Conservative majority. Labour can’t be trusted with the economy. The Tories can’t be trusted to create a fair society.
So if you’re looking for work and want a Government that will help you, if you have a job, but want security in your job, if you want to expand your business and employ more people, then there is one party that is on your side, The Liberal Democrats.
Conference, we meet here in Brighton with the General Election now just nineteen months away.
Determined to defeat this out of touch Tory-led Government. Knowing that we have more work to do to win back the trust of the British people.
And fully aware that no party since the 1920s has gone from losing office to a working majority at the next general election.
So Conference, this is our task. To show we are ready for the great challenges we will face on spending control and the deficit.
To set out Labour’s alternative plan to create jobs, make work pay and tackle the rising cost of living.
And to secure a mandate to build a One Nation Britain: A strong recovery that is built to last.
An economy that works for the many and not just a few at the top.
Conference, not just for the few, but for all working families in every part of Britain.
And Conference, three and a half years after the General Election defeat, we have learned from that experience and our time in government. And where we got things wrong – on immigration control, bank regulation and the 10p tax rate – the next Labour government will be different from the last.
And where change is needed in our party, we will reconnect with our members and working people across the country.
But Conference, let us also be proud of what the last Labour government achieved.
The national minimum wage. Our schools and hospitals rebuilt.
NHS waiting times down from 18 months to 18 weeks. More apprenticeships.
Bank of England independence. Not joining the Euro. One million more small businesses.
Crime down. Child poverty down. And 3,500 Sure Start children’s centres – one of the most important reforms any Labour government has ever delivered.
And Conference, replacing the Tory abomination that was Section 28 with civil partnerships.
Paving the way for a landmark reform, something which would not have happened without Labour votes in Parliament, the progressive triumph of gay marriage.
And Conference, as we look forward to the General Election to come, determined to win a Labour majority, I want you all to know:
As the Labour and Co-operative MP for Morley & Outwood – majority just one thousand, one hundred and one – the seat David Cameron needed to win to get a Tory majority in 2010 and, because of our hard work and determination, the seat he failed to win… Conference, I am up for the battle to come.
And as Chair of our Economic Policy Commission, I know this whole party is up for the battle to come. And Conference, please join me in thanking my co-Chair, Margaret Beckett, for her continuing hard work and service to this party not just over the past year but over four decades in Parliament.
And Conference, as a proud member of the Unite and Unison trade unions, I know this whole movement is up for the battle to come.
So in the coming months let us lay the foundations for the General Election.
Selecting the best Parliamentary Candidates we have ever had, with more women candidates in key seats than ever before.
Winning council seats and by-elections up and down the country with the toughest and best generation of local government leaders we have ever had.
Winning more seats in the European elections. And let us end the stain on our country’s reputation by kicking the BNP out of the European Parliament.
And Conference, in next September’s Scottish referendum.
With Alistair Darling, Johann Lamont and Margaret Curran now showing so powerfully that the arguments for separation are falling apart.
With Alex Salmond in a state of total confusion on the single most important economic decision a country can take – which currency to have: first he wanted the Euro – saying sterling was a “millstone around our neck” and now he wants independence but to keep the pound all the same.
Let us win the argument that we are Better Together in next year’s Scottish referendum.
Demonstrating, as Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour have done so brilliantly, that it is our Labour values of co-operation, solidarity and social justice that best secure our union.
And Conference, it is Labour whose leader is facing up to the need for reform in our party and in our country.
Leading from the front – on phone-hacking, banking reform, putting the crisis of the ‘squeezed middle’ on the political agenda before anyone else.
And who on Syria had the courage to stand up and say that if the case was sound and the United Nations was properly engaged, Labour would support military action, but that Labour would not support a gung-ho Prime Minister, putting decision before evidence in a reckless dash to conflict.
Conference, Ed was right – and he prevailed. My friend, our leader, Britain’s next Prime Minister, Ed Miliband.
And Conference, when David Cameron and William Hague now have the nerve to go round saying that Parliament’s refusal to be bounced into military action in Syria has ‘diminished’ Britain, let us reply: no Labour government will ever stand aside when terrible atrocities are committed and international law is broken.
But Conference, we know what has diminished Britain.
Flouncing out of a European summit, leaving Britain isolated and without influence. That’s what has diminished Britain.
Absurdly comparing Britain to Greece and choking off business confidence and our recovery as a result. That’s what has diminished Britain.
Stigmatising the unemployed and the low paid and calling them shirkers, driving vans round out streets telling immigrants to ‘go home’, attacking our police and teachers and social workers, peddling the lie that ‘Britain is broken’. That’s what has diminished Britain.
Conference, we know who diminishes Britain.
David Cameron has diminished Britain. Conference, we all remember what David Cameron and George Osborne said three years ago on the economy.
They claimed in 2010 that faster tax rises and deeper spending cuts would secure the economic recovery and make it stronger…
They said their plan would make people better off and get the deficit down.
And on every test they set themselves, this Prime Minister and Chancellor have failed.
They didn’t secure the recovery, they choked it off – as we warned – and flatlined our economy for three wasted and damaging years.
They claimed living standards would rise – but they’ve fallen year on year.
They made the number one test of their economic credibility keeping the triple A credit rating – but on their watch Britain has been downgraded, not once but twice.
They promised to balance the books in 2015 – but the deficit is now set to be over £90 billion.
And now after three wasted years, David Cameron and George Osborne now try to claim their plan has worked after all.
Worked? It may have worked for a privileged few at the top, but for the million young people trapped out of work, this Tory plan isn’t working.
For millions of ordinary families, worried about how to make ends meet when wages are falling, and prices are going up.
For the young couples struggling to get on the housing ladder because the chronic shortage of homes is forcing up prices.
For ordinary working families – the aspirational majority – who work hard, pay their taxes, who want to get on and not just get by, but who are working harder for less as the cost of living keeps on rising.
This Tory plan isn’t working.
And for the 400,000 disabled adults forced to pay the Government’s perverse and deeply unfair bedroom tax, this Tory plan has failed them absolutely. And that is why in our first Budget the next Labour government will repeal the bedroom tax.
So when David Cameron and George Osborne say that everything that is happening in the economy is down to them.
Let us remind them:
Prices rising faster than wages for 38 out of the 39 months since David Cameron entered Downing Street.
3 years of flatlining. The slowest recovery for over 100 years. A million young people out of work. Welfare spending soaring. More borrowing to pay for their economic failure.
That is their economic record. And we will not let them forget it.
I say to David Cameron and George Osborne: you can’t just air-brush away three wasted years, you can’t just air-brush away your economic failure.
And as for their claim that “we’re all in this together’, we don’t hear that line much anymore.
Conference, with the deficit still high and ordinary families struggling with a cost of living crisis, how can it be right or fair for David Cameron and George Osborne to have chosen this year to give the richest people in the country, earning over £150,000 a year, a £3 billion tax cut?
And isn’t it now clear whose side David Cameron and George Osborne are really on?
Cutting taxes for hedge funds. Trying to bribe working people to give up their rights. Country suppers at Chequers for Tory party fund-raising.
Protecting the privileges of the few, while the many work hard and don’t see the benefit.
For all their claims to be modernisers, with Cameron and Osborne, it’s not been “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” it’s “Who Wants to Help a Millionaire?”
Not “phone a friend”, but “cut taxes for your friends.” Not “50-50” but “winner takes all”.
Conference, isn’t it about time they “asked the audience”?
Because we know the truth. The country knows the truth.
David Cameron and George Osborne. For the few, not the many.
More of the same, from the same old Tories.
Conference, after three years of stagnation, it’s good news that our economy has finally started to grow again.
It was growing three years ago before they choked it off.
So don’t listen to the Tory propaganda that says Labour doesn’t want the economy to grow.
What nonsense. Because when the economy is in recession we know which communities lose out. When unemployment becomes entrenched, we know which constituencies suffer most. When the cost of living is rising, we know which families are hardest hit.
We know that three years of flat lining – far longer than any of us expected – have caused long-term damage: businesses bankrupt, investment and capacity lost, long-term unemployment entrenched.
And now even as growth finally returns, with prices still rising faster than wages, with business investment still weak, with unemployment still rising in half the country, with bank lending to business still falling, we can’t be satisfied.
For millions of families this is no recovery at all.
And when around the world emerging markets are jittery, China is slowing, oil prices are rising and the Eurozone is still stuck with chronic low growth, I say this is no time for complacency, to sit back with fingers crossed.
And that is why we have urged George Osborne to act to secure a strong recovery.
Because what Britain needs is strong enough growth so that we can catch up the ground we have lost and so that everyone can feel the benefit.
Not a recovery that only works for some, not early hikes in interest and mortgage rates as a weak British economy hits the inflationary buffers, but a recovery that works for all and is built to last.
That is why, along with voices from the Bank of England and the IMF, we are right to be concerned that the Government is boosting housing demand – with a taxpayer mortgage guarantee on houses of up to £600,000 – while doing nothing about the supply of housing which has fallen to its lowest level since the 1920s.
George, it’s basic economics. If you push up housing demand, but don’t act to boost housing supply, all that happens is that you push house prices up and up. And the end result is that the very people your policy should be helping – young first time buyers – will find it even harder to get on the housing ladder.
And Conference, I have to ask, when we need to secure stronger growth and invest for the future, how can it make sense for George Osborne to be planning to cut infrastructure investment in 2015?
That is why we have consistently said, it is why the IMF have said, bring forward £10billion of infrastructure investment right now, build 400,000 affordable houses over the next two years, create half a million jobs and thousands of apprenticeships. That is the way to secure an economy that works for all and is built to last.
But Conference, we can’t rely on George Osborne to do the right thing.
And we stand to inherit a very difficult situation.
After three wasted years of lost growth, far from balancing the books, in 2015 there is now set to be a deficit of over £90 billion.
David Cameron and George Osborne’s failure on the economy has led to their failure to get the deficit down, and it will be up to the next Labour government to finish the job.
And I need to be straight with this Conference and the country about what that means.
The government’s day to day spending totals for 2015/16 will have to be our starting point. Any changes to the current spending plans for that year will be fully funded and set out in advance in our manifesto. There will be no more borrowing for day to day spending. And we will set out tough fiscal rules – to balance the current budget and get the national debt on a downward path.
Of course Labour will always make different choices.
We will combine iron discipline on spending control with a fairer approach to deficit reduction.
And with our zero-based review – a review of every pound spent by government from the bottom up – Rachel Reeves and my Shadow Cabinet colleagues have begun the work of identifying savings so that we can switch resources to Labour’s priorities.
But we won’t be able to reverse all the spending cuts and tax rises the Tories have pushed through.
And we will have to govern with less money around. The next Labour government will have to make cuts too. Because while jobs and growth are vital to getting the deficit down – something this government has never understood – they cannot magic the whole deficit away at a stroke.
So delivering our Labour goals will be harder than at any time in living memory.
But it can be done – if we get people back to work and strengthen our economy, cut out waste and focus relentlessly on our priorities, and make sure difficult choices are not ducked, but are rooted in our values, in fairness and in common sense.
So Conference, at a time when the public services that pensioners rely on are under such pressure, we cannot continue paying the winter fuel allowance to the richest five per cent of pensioners.
We won’t be able to reverse the Government’s cuts to child benefit for the highest earners.
We will keep the benefits cap, but make sure it properly reflects local housing costs.
We will have a cap on structural social security spending.
And yes, over the long-term, as our population ages, there will need to be increases in the retirement age.
But a fairer approach to deficit reduction means we will also crack down on tax avoidance , scrap the shares for rights scheme and reverse the tax cut for hedge funds.
And we will insist that all the proceeds from the sale of our stakes in Lloyds and RBS are used not for a one-off pre-election tax giveaway – but instead every penny of profit used to repay the national debt.
Conference, fiscal responsibility in the national interest.
And with our zero-based review, we will make different choices.
So we will ask: can we improve care and save money, as Andy Burnham has proposed, by pooling health and social care as a single service, with a single budget and joint management?
And Conference, we will repeal the damaging and costly Tory privatisation of the NHS.
And we will ask: does it really make sense to have separate costly management and bureaucracy for so many separate government departments, agencies, fire services and police forces?
And Conference, we won’t pay for new free schools in areas where there are excess school places, while parents in other areas are struggling to get their children into a local school,
And on infrastructure, we need more long-term investment – and we will assess the case for capital investment as we prepare our Manifesto – but we must also set the right priorities and get value for money.
Conference, we support investment in better transport links for the future. And we continue to back the idea of a new North-South rail link.
But under this government the High Speed 2 project has been totally mismanaged and the costs have shot up to £50 billion.
David Cameron and George Osborne have made clear they will go full steam ahead with this project – no matter how much the costs spiral up and up. They seem willing to put their own pride and vanity above best value for money for the taxpayer.
Labour will not take this irresponsible approach. So let me be clear, in tough times – when there is less money around and a big deficit to get down – there will be no blank cheque from me as a Labour Chancellor for this project or for any project.
Because the question is – not just whether a new High Speed line is a good idea or a bad idea, but whether it is the best way to spend £50 billion for the future of our country.
And Conference, in tough times it’s even more important that all our policies and commitments are properly costed and funded.
The British people rightly want to know that the sums add up.
So we will go one step further and ask the independent Office for Budget Responsibility – the watchdog set up by this government – to independently audit the costings of every individual spending and tax measure in Labour’s manifesto at the next election.
This is the first time a Shadow Chancellor – the first time any political party in Britain – has ever said it wants this kind of independent audit.
It’s a radical change from what’s gone before, but the right thing to do to help restore trust in politics.
Conference, you know we need economic responsibility and fiscal rigour.
And we can’t write all the details of our first Budget today – when we don’t know the state of the economy and public finances that we will inherit.
But after three wasted years of Tory failure, people are rightly now asking what will Labour do differently.
So now, with nineteen months to go to the election, this week is the right time to begin setting out Labour ‘s alternative.
Conference, as Liam Byrne has said, Labour won’t stand aside when there are almost one million young people out of work, and when long-term unemployment is so high.
And we know we can’t make our economy grow more strongly, get the costs of welfare down and deal with the deficit if we are squandering the talents of so many
So building on the success of Labour’s Future Jobs Fund – so short-sightedly scrapped by this government – we will introduce a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee for young people and the long-term unemployed.
We will fund this by a repeat of the tax on bank bonuses and by restricting pension tax relief for the very highest earners to the same rate as the average taxpayer.
And we will work with employers to make sure there will be a paid job for all young people out of work for more than 12 months and adults out of work for two years or more, which people will have to take up or lose benefits.
That is welfare reform that works. Matching rights with responsibilities.
Getting young people into work and ending the scourge of long-term unemployment once and for all.
Conference, when people get into work they should always be better off – it should always pay more to be in work than on benefits.
So we must do more to make work pay.
The national minimum wage is one of Labour’s proudest achievements. It was opposed by the Tories every step of the way.
Even now some Conservatives say the minimum wage should be suspended. And its value has fallen by 5 per cent in real terms since 2010.
So Labour must now fight to protect and strengthen the national minimum wage.
Increasing the fines for those who exploit workers. Strengthening the national minimum wage, restoring its value and catching up the ground lost over the last three years.
And encouraging employers to go further and pay the Living Wage.
And Conference, to move Labour on from the past and put Labour where it should always be – on the side of working people – we will introduce a lower 10p starting rate of tax.
Conference, a tax cut for 25 million hard-working people on middle and lower incomes.
And we will pay for it by introducing a mansion tax on properties worth over £2m, introduced in a fair way, so that foreign investors who buy up property in London to make a profit will finally pay a proper tax contribution to our country.
But for many families high child care costs are a real problem and can mean that it doesn’t even add up to go to work.
Childcare is a vital part of our economic infrastructure that, alongside family support and flexible working, should give parents the choice to stay at home with their children when they are very small and to balance work and family as they grow older.
So to make work pay for families, we must act.
Stephen Twigg set out yesterday how we will guarantee childcare available for all primary school children from 8am to 6pm.
But we need to do more for families with nursery age children too.
Conference, after the financial crisis, it is right that the banks make a greater contribution.
And here is how we can.
In the last financial year, the banks paid a staggering £2.7bn less in overall tax than they did in 2010.
Over the last two years the government’s bank levy has raised £1.6 billion less than even they said it would.
At a time when resources are tight and families are under pressure that cannot be right.
So I can announce today, the next Labour government will increase the bank levy rate to raise an extra £800m a year.
And we will use the money, for families where all parents are in work, to increase free childcare places for 3 and 4 years olds from 15 hours to 25 hours a week.
For the first time, parents will be able to work part-time without having to worry about the cost of childcare.
Making work pay. Tackling the cost of living crisis. A radical transformation in the provision of childcare in our country.
And we need a radical transformation in our economy too.
Because in the twenty-first century, the companies and countries that will succeed will be those who can exploit the huge opportunities the new digital age and the era of big data are bringing – in high-value manufacturing, digital media, education and medical technology.
And the question is whether we will seize this opportunity or squander it?
Because we and British business know we have no future trying to undercut emerging market economies like India, China and Brazil on cost and wages.
And that is why so many companies look at this Government’s record on industrial policy with increasing dismay:
The RDAs abolished.The Heseltine growth review neutered.
The Business Bank a damp squib. Apprenticeships for young people falling.
Energy policy in chaos. Borrowing powers for the Green Investment Bank postponed.
And on infrastructure, dither, delay and inaction.
Conference, we cannot succeed as a country with this ‘race to the bottom’, deregulation, laissez-faire and old-style ‘trickle-down economics’.
It’s a narrow and defeatist vision. Doomed to fail. And we have seen it fail before.
Just look at the British car industry in the 1970s and 1980s. Trying to compete on cost. Cutting back on innovation, quality and skills. Plagued by terrible industrial relations.
And now look at the renaissance of Jaguar Land Rover – creating thousands more jobs and exporting round the world.
Not by cutting corners, but based on world-class, long-term investment in innovation, skills and supply-chains.
Chuka Umunna and I are determined to learn from this success. And I can announce that Mike Wright, Executive Director at Jaguar Land Rover, will now lead a review for us on how we can help strengthen our manufacturing supply-chains and deliver the skills and innovation Britain needs to succeed.
Following Sir George Cox’s review on short-termism, we will change takeover rules, and corporate incentives and reform our tax system to stop short-term asset-stripping and support long-term investment.
And why not use any revenues from the planned increase in the licence fees for the mobile phone spectrum, expected to be over £1billion in the next parliament, to capitalise the British Investment Bank so that, region by region, we can get small and growing businesses the finance they need to grow and create jobs?
And Conference, we will set up an the independent Infrastructure Commission, as recommended to us by the Chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority, Sir John Armitt, to end dither and delay in infrastructure planning.
We will legislate for a statutory banking code of conduct and demand real reform and cultural change from the banks.
We will legislate for a decarbonisation target for 2030 and unlock billions of pounds in new investment in renewables, nuclear and clean gas and coal technology.
And we will give the Green Investment Bank the borrowing powers it needs to do its job.
Conference, that is what the next Labour government will do.
So Conference, even in difficult times, even as we face a huge deficit, we will rise to the challenge and build an economy that works for the many and not just a few at the top.
And we know it can be done. Because we have done it before.
Conference, we are not the first Labour generation to face a huge deficit and the need for spending restraint and a country crying out for change.
We are not the first generation to be awed by the scale of what needs to be done to transform our country.
And as we prepare for the 2015 General Election, to be held in the seventieth anniversary year of the end of the second world war, let us take our inspiration from the great reforming Labour government of 1945.
That past Labour generation faced huge economic and fiscal challenges. But they did not flinch. And they built lasting change: new homes for returning heroes, a universal welfare state, and a National Health Service which, sixty-five years on, is still a beacon of British values, Labour values – for all and not just a privileged few.
So Conference let us not be the Labour generation that flinched in the face of hardship.
Let us show we will not duck the great challenges we will face on spending and the deficit.
And let us build an economy that works for all working families in every part of Britain.
So in the coming weeks and months, when people ask what would a Labour government do, let’s go out and tell them:
Jobs for young people guaranteed. Expanding free childcare. A British Investment Bank. Infrastructure delivered. Green investment unlocked.
The deficit down fairly. Tax cuts for millions – not millionaires. Reforming our banks. The minimum wage raised. Our NHS saved.
Tackling tax avoidance. Rail fares capped. The bedroom tax scrapped. Building the homes we need.
This what a Labour government could do. Let us together make it happen.
In a speech which was given to party members in London, the UK Independence Party’s (UKIP) energy spokesman Roger Helmer is set to label those rallying against the controversial extraction technique as “eco-freaks” and say they are killing off “the greatest new economic opportunity for our country in our lifetimes”.
This comes just days after former government Chief Scientific Advisor Sir David King said that fracking could have many environmental consequences which were not worth risking for shale gas. He added that the latter would only ever be a backup energy source.
The heated debates over fracking and the use of shale gas have come to the boil in recent weeks, with Prime Minister David Cameron claiming that it is a long-term solution that will lower the energy bills of British consumers. Helmer, however, will concede at the party conference that this may not be the case.
Protests against fracking have been common in recent times, with energy company Cuadrilla being targeted in for carrying out exploratory drilling in West Sussex.
Speaking of those who have opposed fracking, Helmer will tell the party conference in London: “I have absolutely no sympathy for the rent-a-mob protesters, the swampies and the Occupy Movement and the anti-capitalists and eco-freaks who have sought to hijack the Balcombe protest.”
Helmer is a climate change sceptic, who says he has no time for the hysteria surrounding the belief that the burning of fossil fuels is driving the change in the climate.
Helmer is also expected to go further, and will tell the conference that there is little truth behind the “scare stories” linked to fracking.
In terms of renewable energy, Helmer will also dismiss the use of wind farms to generate electricity, describing the offshore technology as a “non-solution to a non-problem.”
UKIP is also proposing that tax revenue from shale gas extraction should be used to invest in a sovereign wealth fund that will secure long-term benefits for the UK.
After reflecting on George Osborne full conference speech I have to stay he does not have a clue what the many want but instead panders to the right-wing press and to the fat cats donors urging them to return to the conservatives as some may recall some have cross over to UKIP which is hurting the Conservatives as they broadcast live on the media.
There is no doubt those who are on long-term benefits needs to be motivated and encouraged to help them to find full-time employment but to force them to do community work if they refuse they will face sanctions on their benefits.
Already sanctions have already started and why are many not surprised by this action. Granted those are far fewer that face sanctions but the reality is there are some do not want to work but the Marjory wants to work and are taking some form of action of retraining which the conservatives fail to mention that they have cut the funding to the bare bones.
See full speech enclosed:
At every Party Conference since the election, as we have gathered, the question for us, the question for me, the question for our country, has been: ‘is your economic plan working?’. They’re not asking that question now.
The deficit down by a third. Exports doubled to China. Taxpayers’ money back from the banks, not going in. 1.4 million new jobs created by businesses. 1,000 new jobs announced in this city today. Our plan is working.
We held our nerve in the face of huge pressure. Now Britain is turning a corner. That is down to the resolve and to the sacrifice of the people of this country. And for that support we owe the British people a huge heartfelt thank you. Thanks to you: Britain is on the right track.
So now families, working hard to get on, anxious about the future, are asking these questions: Can we make the recovery last? And will I feel it in my pocket?
My approach has always been to be straight with people. So let me answer these questions directly.
‘Yes’, we can make the recovery a lasting one. But it won’t happen by itself. Many risks remain. We have to deal with our debts and see our plan through. And ‘Yes’, if the recovery is sustained then families will start to feel better off. Because what matters most for living standards are jobs, and low mortgage rates, and lower taxes. But family finances will not be transformed overnight. Because Britain was made much poorer by the crash. That is what happens when you get a catastrophic failure of economic policy of the kind we saw under Labour. When no-one prepares in the boom for the bust. When banks get bailed out. And when government budgets spiral out of control. We are never going to let that happen to our country again.
I share none of the pessimism I saw from the Leader of the Opposition last week. For him the global free market equates to a race to the bottom with the gains being shared among a smaller and smaller group of people. That is essentially the argument Karl Marx made in Das Kapital. It is what socialists have always believed. But the irony is this: It is socialism that always brings it about. And it is the historic work of this Party to put that right. Because attempts to fix prices and confiscate wealth crush endeavour and blunt aspiration. And the people who suffer are not the rich, but the hundreds of thousands put out of work. The millions made poorer. The generation whose hopes are blighted. It is working people who always pay the price when the economy is ruined. That is what Labour did to the workers. And the British people are never going to let them forget it.
By contrast, I’m an optimist about the world. I am a believer in freedom and free markets. I see the global economy growing. I see hundreds of millions of people in places like India and China leaving grinding poverty to join it. That is something to celebrate.
It doesn’t have to be a threat to this country. It is a huge opportunity. But we have to understand that the wealth of nations depends on some basic truths. Jobs are only created when people build businesses that are successful and can expand. Exports only happen if those businesses are making things that others in the world want to buy. Investment only flows if your country is a more attractive place to do business than other countries. The wealth this creates can be spread widely across the nation.
But only when every child gets a good education; when each adult has the incentive to work; and every family gets to keep more of what they earn. To achieve all this you need to get the fundamentals right: economic stability, sound public finances, safe banks, excellent schools & colleges, competitive taxes, amazing science, welfare that works.
There’s no short cut to any of these things. Just the hard graft of putting right what went so badly wrong and forging a new attitude in this country that says: We are not afraid of the future because we intend to shape it.
So there’s no feeling at this Conference of a task completed or a victory won. We know it’s not over. Until we’ve fixed the addiction to debt that got this country into this mess in the first place. It’s not over. Until we can help hardworking people to own a home, to save, to start a business. It’s not over. Until we’ve helped the long term unemployed condemned to a life on the dole. It’s not over. Until there is real faith that our childrens’ lives will be better than our own. It is not over. This battle to turn Britain around – it is not even close to being over.
We are going to finish what we have started. What I offer is a serious plan for a grown-up country. An economic plan for hardworking people. That will create jobs. Keep mortgage rates low. Let people keep more of their income – tax free. It is the only route to better living standards. For without a credible economic plan, you simply don’t have a living standards plan. We understand that there can be no recovery for all – if there is no recovery at all.
The events in Italy and deadlock in Washington this week are a stark reminder that the debt crisis is not over. And yet the last fortnight has shown there’s no serious plan coming from any other party. The Liberal Democrats at their Conference were jostling for position. I have to tell you today, that Nick Clegg has informed us of his intention to form a new coalition. For the first time, he’s intending to create a full working relationship with Vince Cable. Mind you, at their conference Vince Cable did do something that was undeniably Tory. If I’d been there, I wouldn’t have turned up to the Lib Dem economic debate either. But at least they had an economic debate.
Labour’s economic announcements amounted to: Declaring war on enterprise; a tax rise on business; and an apprenticeship policy that turned out to be illegal.
And then there was the energy announcement that completely unraveled. Any politician would love to tell you that they can wave a magic wand and freeze your energy bill. Everyone wants cheaper energy. So we’re legislating to put everyone on the cheapest tariff.
But I’ll tell you what happens when you draw up policy on the back of a fag packet. Companies would just jack up their prices before the freeze so in the short term, prices go up. And companies would not invest in this country and build the power stations we need – so in the long term, prices go up.
So that’s Labour’s offer: Get hammered with high prices now. Get hammered with high prices later. Higher energy prices for all. But don’t worry, there’s a phony freeze on prices in between. How should I put it? Britain can do better than that. But perhaps with all this talk of blackouts we’ve been a bit unfair on Ed Miliband’s leadership. We used to think: lights on, but nobody’s home. It turns out we were only half right.
I remember when we were in opposition and we made uncosted commitments and unworkable promises to abolish things like student fees. We felt good at Conferences like these. Then we lost elections. David Cameron got us to face the truth about the way we had come to be seen. He forced us to be credible.To reach out to all parts of society.Last week, Labour didn’t do that. They retreated to the left.
Ed Miliband told delegates he could make all our problems disappear.That he could send everyone a cheque in the post.But it isn’t based on truth. More borrowing and more debt remains their economic policy.
But they no longer dare talk to the British people about it.Instead, they’d much rather just talk about the cost of living. As if the cost of living was somehow detached from the performance of the economy. Well you ask the citizens of Greece what happens to living standards when the economy fails. You ask someone with a mortgage what happens to their living standards when mortgage rates go up. Just a 1 percent rise means an extra £1000 on the average mortgage bill.
You ask the citizens of this country what would be an absolute disaster for living standards. They’ll tell you. Higher borrowing. Higher welfare costs. Higher taxes. Meaning: Higher mortgage rates, and higher unemployment.
These aren’t the solution to lower living standards. They are the cause of lower living standards. And this country is paying a very high price for that lesson.
If you want to know the consequences of an Ed Miliband premiership, just look at the plan of the man who knows him best: His brother. David Miliband. One: leave Parliament. Two: leave politics. Three: leave the country. Four: dedicate your life to International Rescue. David and Ed Miliband. The greatest sibling rivalry since the Bible. Cain and not very Abel.
Our own rescue mission for the British economy is far from complete. People know the difference between a quick fix con and a credible economic argument. Here’s our serious plan for a grown-up countr:
First, sound money. The bedrock of any sustained recovery and improved living standards is economic stability. That is what the hard work and sacrifice of the last three years has all been about. In that time we have brought the deficit down by a third. And the British public know that whoever is elected will face some very hard choices. Let me tell you the principles I bring to that task. Our country’s problem is not that it taxes too little. It is that its government spends too much.
So while no responsible Chancellor ever rules out tax changes, I think it can be done by reducing spending and capping welfare, not by raising taxes. That’s my plan.
And surely the lesson of the last decade is that it’s not enough to clean up the mess after it’s happened?You’ve got to take action before it happens. It should be obvious to anyone that in the years running up to the crash this country should have been running a budget surplus. That’s what we mean when we say they didn’t fix the roof when the sun was shining.
Let us never make that same mistake again. Never again should anyone doing my job be so foolish, so deluded, as to believe that they have abolished the age-old cycle of boom and bust. So I can tell you today that when we’ve dealt with Labour’s deficit, we will have a surplus in good times as insurance against difficult times ahead. Provided the recovery is sustained, our goal is to achieve that surplus in the next Parliament. That will bear down on our debts and prepare us for the next rainy day. That is going to require discipline and spending control. For if we want to protect those things we care about, like generous pensions and decent healthcare, and buy the best equipment for the brave men and women who fight in our armed forces, all of us are going to have confront the costs of modern government – and cap working age welfare bills. And only if we properly control public expenditure will we be able to keep lowering taxes for hardworking people in a way that lasts.
I’ve never been for tax cuts that are borrowed. I want low taxes that are paid for. We also want to go on investing in the essential infrastructure of our country – the roads and railways and science and communications that are the backbone of the future economy. So we should commit, alongside running a surplus and capping welfare, to grow our capital spending at least in line with our national income. These principles will form the foundation of our public finance policy and I will set out the details next year.
And for those who ask: Is this necessary? I say: What is the alternative? To run a deficit for ever? To leave our children with our debts? To leave Britain perilously exposed to the next storm that comes? This crisis took us to the brink. If we don’t reduce our debts, the next could push us over. Let us learn from the mistakes that got Britain into this mess. Let us vow: never again This time we’re going to run a surplus. This time we’re going to fix the roof when the sun is shining.
So first, our plan secures sound public finances. Second, it supports the aspirations of hard working people and lets them keep more of the money they earn. We are increasing to £10,000 the amount you can earn before you pay a penny of income tax. That is a real achievement, delivered in budget after budget by a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The Liberal Democrats like to point out that during the election David Cameron said he’d love to increase the tax allowance, but warned it’s not easy to afford. You know what? He did say that. And he was right. The difficult thing is not increasing the tax-free allowance. The difficult thing is paying for it. But we’ve done it. The result: an income tax cut for 25 million people. Equivalent to a rise of almost 10 percent in the minimum wage. Real money in peoples’ pockets.
For we are the party of hard working people. And to anyone who questions that I say: Go to the workplaces of Britain, like the huge Morrisons warehouse in Sittingbourne, and meet the fork lift truck drivers there. Go to the Warburton factory near Birmingham. Meet the people who work all hours or meet the night crews repairing the M6. Hardworking people better off because of Conservative tax cuts. These are the people we stand alongside.
And because we’re getting the public finances back under control, we’ve been able to help in other ways too. Freezing council tax. Cutting beer duty. Tax free childcare. And thanks to our Prime Minister, now a one thousand pound married couples allowance too. A Conservative promise made and a Conservative promise more than delivered.
We’ve cut fuel duty. Abolished Labour’s escalator. And I can tell you today that provided we can find the savings to pay for it, I want to freeze fuel duty for the rest of this Parliament. Conservatives don’t just talk about being on the side of hardworking people. We show it day in day out in the policies we deliver. People aspire to keep more of their income – tax free. And many aspire to run their own business and work for themselves. My parents planned carefully, took a risk, and set up a small manufacturing company more than forty years ago.
The company grew. Employed more people. And the life of the family business – the orders won, the first exports, the recessions and recoveries – these were the backdrop of my childhood. I’m hugely proud of my parents – of what my parents achieved. And I’m proud that they’re here in this hall today. You should know this about me:
I will always be on the side of those who use their savings, take a risk, and put everything on the line to set up their own company. Labour increased small business tax. I’ve cut it. Labour were extending business rates to the smallest firms. I’ve exempted them. Now, our new Employment Allowance is going to take a third of all the businesses out of paying national insurance altogether. We Conservatives are nothing if we’re not the party of small business, and that’s the way it’s going to stay.
And we’re the party of home ownership too. I’m the first person to say we must be vigilant about avoiding the mistakes of the past. That’s why I gave powers to the Bank of England to stop dangerous housing bubbles emerging. But too many people are still being denied the dream of owning their own home.
So instead of starting the second phase of Help to Buy next year, we’re starting it next week.
There are some people – many living in the richest parts of London – who say we shouldn’t be doing these things. I have this to say: Take you arguments down the road to Nelson or Colne, where house prices have fallen for the past five years. Take your arguments to Bury, or Morecambe, where young working couples are still living at home with their parents. Take your arguments to our great towns and cities where there are families who have saved for years, earning decent salaries, who can afford the mortgage repayments but can’t possibly afford the deposit being asked by the banks these days.
Take your arguments to those families and say: ‘This policy is not right. You shouldn’t be allowed to get your home.’ I tell you what they’ll say back: ‘It’s alright for you. You’ve got your own home. We’ve been saving for years. What about us?’
I know whose side this Party is on. We are the party of aspiration. The housebuilding party of Macmillan. The party of Thatcher’s right to buy. And now the party of David Cameron’s Help to Buy. We are the party of home ownership and we’re going to let the country know it. We are also going make sure no one is left behind as our economy recovers. Our goal is nothing short of a recovery for all. That’s the third part of our economic plan.
Lectures from the Left on fairness, quite frankly, stick in the throat. Under their government: the richest paid lower tax rates than their cleaners; tax avoidance boomed; inequality increased; youth unemployment doubled; the gap between the north and the south grew; and the number of households where no one worked reached record levels.
Theirs was the unfairest government of them all.
And contrast this with what we have done. And when I say we, I mean we Conservatives. I sit at that Cabinet table and I know who has really put forward the policies that are delivering a fairer society. The pupil premium to support the most disadvantaged children: that was Michael Gove’s idea, front and centre of the last Conservative manifesto.
Our commitment on international aid. Delivered by Andrew Mitchell and Justine Greening. Action on domestic violence – that’s Theresa May The international campaign to get rape recognized as a war crime – led by William Hague. New care standards for the elderly – Jeremy Hunt. The anti avoidance measures in Budget after Budget: the painstaking work of our Conservative Treasury team Greg Clark, David Gauke, Sajid Javid, and Amber Rudd. Powers to the Cities, rights for gay people, the biggest ever rise in the state pension.
All delivered by Conservatives in Government.
And the overhaul of our entire welfare system, making sure work always pays. That’s Iain Duncan Smith’s life’s mission.
These are all achievements of the modern, reformed, Conservative party we have worked so hard to create. But as we change our party and govern our country, there is still more to do. I am part of the generation of Conservatives that came after the great struggles of the 1980s. That government rescued the country from a tail-spin of decline. It laid the foundations of the renewal of cities like Manchester. But we shouldn’t pretend we got everything right.
Old problems were solved. But some new problems emerged. In some parts of the country, worklessness took hold and we didn’t do enough to stop that. And as a local Member of Parliament here, I know that in some parts of the North of England we still have to work hard to overcome the long memories of people who thought we didn’t care.
Labour made that problem of welfare dependency worse. By the time they left office, five million people were on out of work benefits. What a waste of life and talent. A generation of people recycled through the job centres, collecting their dole cheques year in year out, and no one seemed to notice.
And an open-door immigration policy meant those running the economy didn’t care. There was always an uncontrolled supply of low-skilled labour from abroad. Well, never again.
We’ve capped benefits and our work programme is getting people into jobs. We’ve cut immigration by a third. But what about the long term unemployed? Let us pledge here: We will not abandon them, as previous governments did. Today I can tell you about a new approach we’re calling Help to Work. For the first time, all long term unemployed people who are capable of work will be required to do something in return for their benefits, and to help them find work.
They will do useful work putting something back into their community. Making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter, working for a local charity. Others will be made to attend the job centre every working day. And for those with underlying problems, like drug addiction and illiteracy, there will be an intensive regime of support. No one will be ignored or left without help. But no one will get something for nothing. Help to work – and in return work for the dole.
Because a fair welfare system is fair to those who need it and fair to those who pay for it too. Our economic plan. Sound finance. Backing aspiration. No-one left behind. Investing in the future.
At the end of next week, I’m travelling to China. And when you visit a metropolis like Guangzhou or Shenzhen, it’s hard not be awed by the scale of what is happening there, by the ambition and the drive. Some say we shouldn’t even try to compete against China because it’s the sweatshop of the world. But the world is changing. And China is now also a huge market for our exports and a home of innovation and technological advance. This is a huge challenge for our country. But if we get it right, it is the key to our future prosperity.
That is what the debate about living standards is really all about. I don’t want to see other nations pushing the frontiers of science and invention and commerce and explain to my children: that used to be us; that used to be our country. I don’t want to look back and say I was part of a generation that gave up and got poorer as a result. We don’t have to be.
The other day I went to meet the people building a car that will travel at a thousand miles an hour and break the land speed record. And it’s not being built in Boston by some huge American defence company. It’s not being built in Beijing by the Chinese Government. It’s called the Bloodhound. Built in Bristol by British engineers and British apprentices and British companies.
That’s why I say we are in charge of our own destiny.
And here in this great railway hall can you imagine the nation of Isambard Kingdom Brunel being unable to summon the will to join the north and the south with a high speed railway and bring more jobs and prosperity to great cities like this? We will complete this great work of engineering in the best tradition of our country. And should we accept that this nation that mined deep for coal, and took to the cold, stormy seas to search for oil, will turn its back on new sources of energy like shale gas?
No. We absolutely should not. Should we, the country that built the first civil nuclear power station, say: ‘we are never going to build any more – leave it to others?’ Not on my watch.
Should we, the nation of Newton and Crick, here in the city of Rutherford and Turing, should we say:’Let others in the world lead mankind’s scientific endeavour. It’s all too difficult for us?’ No. Let’s mass sequence the human genome, promote genetic research and pioneer the materials of the future like graphene.
Here in Manchester, where the industrial age began, the atom was first split, and the modern computer first built, we’re going to confront that tendency that says: ‘stop the world I want to get off.’
We say: ‘Not for us the comfort of the past’. Ours is the Britain of the future.
Earlier this year, the greatest of our peacetime prime ministers died. I was there in the Cathedral at that emotional farewell. And as I looked at the coffin in front of me, draped in the Union flag, I thought to myself: for what will Margaret Thatcher best be remembered? Her strength? Her conviction? The simple fact she was the first woman prime minister.
Yes, she’ll be remembered for all of those things. But for me, what she really had was: optimism. She refused to accept that Britain was in terminal decline. She believed Britain had a great future. That British people could lead better and more prosperous lives.
And so do we.