Liam Byrne's Speech to Labour Party Conference

26 September 2011

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- CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY -Liam Byrne

 

When you hear the voices of those we’ve had on stage today, don’t you think it beggars belief that George Osborne has the audacity to say we live in some kind of safe haven. 

I wish we were safe. 

From him. 

Tell the parent, who I met in my constituency a couple of Saturdays ago, Patricia, that we’re a safe haven. 

She’s the proud parent of a teenage daughter in who she has invested so much hope. 
A daughter who’s now fighting for a chance to work in a constituency with the highest youth unemployment in Britain. 

Her story is now the story of one of a million of our young people. 

Six and a half thousand of them here in this city of Liverpool. 

This country is such a safe haven that we have unemployment rising faster than in America, in Japan, in Europe. 

This country is such a safe haven, do you know how many jobs they have created in the last year? 

66 a day. 

At that pace, it is going to be another 17 years before we get unemployment back to where it was before the crash.

And I tell you now, this country does not have 17 years to wait. 

We need this country firing on all cylinders - now 

We need new jobs – and we need them - now. 

All over Britain, wherever we hold power; 

Wherever we run councils or national governments; 

Wherever we organise and campaign 

We have to be a party thinking, helping, acting, rolling up our sleeves to get our country back to work. 

JOBS FOR BRITAIN

In America today, unemployment is higher, but it is falling faster than here. 

The President, he isn’t closing his eyes waiting for the clouds to miraculously clear 

He isn’t indifferent like the Tories; 

Or ineffectual like the Liberals. 

He’s taking action with a Jobs Act to get America moving. 

Well, when I look at our country today with unemployment rising 

When I go to work in my constituency, where 30 people chase every job 

When I see this city, where unemployment is up over a 1000 since Labour left government

I can tell you, now is the time for action here. 

This government should start putting our ideas in action. 

That’s why Ed Balls’ Budget for Jobs is right. 

We know the banks caused the crash. 

Well, those who did so much to destroy hope should now do more to rebuild hope.

We should say, let them help us put the pieces back together. 

That is why we say we need sensible tax on bankers’ bonuses, and a sensible cut to VAT

- To get 90,000 young people back to work. 

- To get 20 000 construction workers - back to work. 

- To bring back business back to the High Street where our shop-keepers and shop workers go to work.

But jobs are not enough. 

We have to worry about the pay packet too. 

We know, families up and down the country are struggling to make ends meet.

And we know right now, families, especially woman are cutting back their hours because they can no longer afford the childcare. 

So we should say, this government must call off its unthinking attack. 
When you are struggling to pay the bills; when you need extra hours at work, you should not have to be worried sick about what is happening to your children. 

30,000 women in the last year alone have already given up work because they can no longer afford the childcare. 

And worse is yet to come; 

Let me warn you. 

There’s nothing Universal about Universal Credit: 

It is a smokescreen for cutting childcare and it could lock parents into poverty.

That has to change. 

Today we learn the promised system is in trouble.

Our message to the Chancellor is simple: don’t you dare gamble with our families’ tax credits.

And one thing more must change. 

To employers – business and public sector alike - we must insist on a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. 

When we live in a country, 35 years on from Labour’s Single Pay Act, where my daughter risks wages 40% lower than my son, for no other reason than the fact that she is a woman, then I tell you our country’s employers need to act – and we need to act to hold them to account. 

If we want to lift the working poor out of poverty, then we have to end the gap between a man and woman’s pay. 

That is unfinished business for the Labour movement. 

PROTECTING THOSE IN NEED

So, this is the Labour way. 

A responsibility on government to get our country back to work

A responsibility on business to pay a fair day’s pay

And a responsibility on all of us to care for those in need. 

The welfare state at its best is compassion in action. 

So to those in genuine need, who need extra help to live and live a full life; we say we will be your voice. 

And we oppose the disgraceful spectacle of a government 

Sending letters to people recovering from cancer 

Telling them their benefits will be cut

Before they are better

Before they are well 

And before the law is even passed. 

I tell you, this is a government that will not even wait for the legal cover to kick you when you’re down. 

RESPONSIBILTY TO WORK

But there is one responsibility more that we will not ignore. 

A renewed responsibility on everyone to take a job if they can. 

Let’s face the tough truth – that many people on the doorstep at the last election, felt that too often we were for shirkers not workers. 

We’ve got to deal with that if we want to get re-elected. 

And we’ve got to deal with it, because it is the right thing to do. 

We are the party, born in factories, and mills, and mines. 

Our founders, they didn’t debate the nuances of old Labour and new Labour. It was hard Labour they knew all about. 

They were the men and women who founded the Labour Party. 

Labour. 

The clue is in the name. 

This is and always will be the party of work. 

Of working people. 

Working people who came together to make sure there were good jobs, good wages – and yes a responsibility to work as well. 

This is the party that said idleness was an evil. 

So that is why if you cannot work, we will look after you. 

But if you can work, you must. 

We won’t take lectures from these Tories: 

They have a Work Programme. 

A third smaller than Labour’s 

The Government itself admits three-quarters of people could pass right through and back onto the dole. 

It’s all programme. And no work

It does nothing for the responsibility to take a job. These ministers are standing easy, while millions are standing idle.

So our approach is different. 

Our philosophy is the philosophy we set out in our last manifesto

If you can work, and won’t - we have to say, we will ban a life on welfare. 

REFOUNDING THE WELFARE STATE

Let me conclude with one word about the future

Fifty years ago, our party built the welfare state by getting people back to work. 

But the truth is that our country is a very different place to post-war Britain. 

The job for life is gone. 

Families don’t have one working parent, but two. 

We’ve sold off the council houses, built for working people, and we didn’t build enough to fill the gap. 

We’re a nation getting older – where people look ahead to many years in retirement. 

All this means the risks, the worries, the anxieties, they’re different to the days when we first founded the welfare state to create a country where working people lived free from fear. 

Now people live in fear once again. 

Long term unemployment. It’s doubled under this government. People worry about how to reskill. 

Childcare is cut back to the bone. Families worry about how to work their hours. 

New social housing is all but gone. Parents worry about whether they’ll ever move on. 

The NHS is being torn to shreds. And 500,000 women have had their pension age advanced with no time to prepare. They worry about just what retirement is going to bring. 

So, we have to be the party that gets people back to work. 

But we have to be the party that refounds the welfare state for working people 

The lives they fear today and the lives they want tomorrow. 

We have to be the party that puts back together the something-for-something bargain that was the genesis of the way we came together to create a country free from fear. 

That’s why we have to look again at childcare, at benefits when you lose your job, at new social housing, at social care, at fairer ways to encourage the majority to save for their retirement. 

As Ed Balls made clear earlier today, we have to be fiscal realists in this work. 

There are welfare cuts that we will have to accept. 

And welfare waste we will need to bring down. 

But the right policy for the future starts with the right politics for the future – and the right politics starts with what working people need. 

CONCLUSION

Throughout our history, we have been called upon to renew our country for new times. 

You know as well as I do that this country is not looking for the politics of small manoeuvres; 

For incremental change; 

For a timidity of vision. 

They are looking for Labour at its best. 

Bold. 

Transformative. 

And on their side. 

And that is what we must give them.