Jack Straw – 2008 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, at Labour Party conference on 21st September 2008.

Conference, at the 1997 election, we promised that a Labour government would convict more criminals, fast-track the punishment of persistent young offenders; crackdown on neighbourhood disorder.

We’ve not just met these promises but done much more besides.

We never promised in 1997 to be the first government since the war to cut crime, and to do so by a third, to increase police numbers by 14,000, to reduce household burglary by 50% and car crime by almost 60%.

But we’ve done them all – and more.

And this record of delivery has been no accident, no lucky fluke.

We’ve delivered because our values are the ones most likely to create safer communities.

Fair rules, firm punishments. Rights, but also responsibilities. Deterrent, and reform.

Tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime.

Our approach works.

Crime denies the most fundamental of  rights. The right to feel safe; the very right to life.

When there are high levels of crime it’s those with the least who suffer the most.

And never forget that when someone is the victim of a crime, they are 100% victim – and no blizzard of statistics from people like me will take that away.

Yesterday we saw the determination of those affected by knife crime as they marched through London. We stand firm with all those who know too well the devastating impact these crimes have and as Jacqui will be spelling out  later, all of us pledge that we will relentlessly keep up our efforts to tackle it.

Labour will always put victims and their families first.

That’s why we are transforming criminal justice from a bureaucratic system to the public’s service.

It’s about a change of culture, of attitude, about lifting the veil which sometimes keeps justice from view: explaining more, hiding less.

So I’ve abolished the fees which newspapers had to pay for court lists.

And I’m going to open up the justice system through the power of the internet, with online court records so anyone can see for themselves what happened when someone appears in the dock.

In the very sensitive area of the family courts, I think we can shed more light whilst preserving the imperative of the welfare of the child.

And when people receive community punishments, the public must literally be able to see them working – so we are introducing high visibility jackets for all those on such sentences.

Prisons are obviously part of this service. Since 1997, we have increased prison places by 23,000 – a third, twice the rate of the Tories, and there’ll be another 13,000 places by 2014.

Conference, I am passionate about getting the correct balance between the rights of the accused and the rights of the victim.

That’s why I said last year that we would change the law so that those who are brave enough to have-a-go against burglars or street robbers do not find themselves unfairly in the dock.

Some were sceptical that it would happen, but we’ve done it.

In 1997 we began a quiet revolution to transform services for victims and witnesses. In the autumn we’ll continue that with a new bill before parliament.

Legal aid is one of Labour’s many great post war social reforms and it’s grown dramatically.

Legal aid spending per head in England and Wales is the highest in the world. It’s as much as we spend on prisons.

There are now three times as many lawyers in private practice but paid for by the taxpayer as there were three decades ago; the budget has grown faster than the health and education services.

The challenge now is how better to spend these huge sums in the interests of the public and justice; something I want to do with the legal profession and local government.

Conference, I am concerned about another element of legal services – “No win, no fee” arrangements.

It’s claimed they have provided greater access to justice, but the behaviour of some lawyers in ramping up their fees in these cases is nothing short of scandalous.

So I am going to address this and consider whether to cap more tightly the level of success fees that lawyers can charge.

Conference, this autumn, building on the Human Rights Act, we will be publishing proposals for a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

This is a further step in our programme of constitutional reform which includes giving Parliament control over war powers and treaties. And it is also achieving something that few thought possible – broad agreement across the political divide on turning the House of Lords into an elected second chamber: at long last.

These changes are not as important as a family’s shopping bill or a community ravaged by crime.

But they are needed. Globalisation can greatly diminish an individual’s sense of their own power to affect their and their family’s own future.

So ensuring that citizens are better able to exercise their rights is critical to the creation of more fairness and equality.

Fairness: it is at the heart of the Labour approach.

I can understand why the Tories try to appropriate our language, to sugar- coat their wafer-thin agenda with the fallacy that they care about social justice.

But we must not let them get away with it.

What happened – or didn’t happen – between 1979 and 1997 exposes the hollowness of the protestations of today’s Tories to be the party of fairness.

When these same people had the chance to act, to show their commitment to those things they profess today to care about, they allowed crime to double.

They could have acted on racial hatred, they could have set up an inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence.

They didn’t. We did.

They could have introduced new laws to deal with anti-social behaviour.

They didn’t. We did.

Now, contrary to all the evidence, the Tories accuse us of creating a “broken Britain”. It shows how little they’ve changed.

Running the country down when they were in power.

And still trying to run it down now just to gain power.

That’s the last thing we need at a time of global uncertainty.

Conference, since ’97 Labour’s approach, Gordon’s approach, helped the country stride forward when conditions across the world were more placid.

But what about now, when we face more turmoil internationally than for decades, more worry domestically than for many years?

Does Britain need these values, our values now?

Solidarity and support. Opportunity for all. Protection for those who are weakest.

Conference, Britain needs these values, our values, more than ever before.

And we will deliver.

Alistair Darling – 2008 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Alistair Darling, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the 2008 Labour Party conference on 22nd September 2008.

The true test of mettle comes when life is tough, not easy.

And the economic challenges we have faced in recent months – and recent days – are unprecedented in decades.

These are very uncertain times.  But one thing I am certain about is that we have the right Prime Minister, the right team and the right policies to help the country through them.

A Prime Minister with experience and judgement who has helped deliver a decade of rising living standards.

These qualities are going to be needed here and across the world.

These are extraordinary, turbulent times. A crisis which has rocked the financial institutions around the world on top of huge rises in oil, food and commodity prices.

A twin shock to the global economy which has hit every country in the world. A financial system which will never be the same.

And it has left families concerned about their jobs, their houses, and how they are going to meet their household bills.

So I want to use this speech today to explain what is happening and why.

And to set out the steps the Government, at home and with our partners abroad, is taking to help families to guide the global economy into calmer waters.

I also want to offer reassurance.

To explain why, despite the problems facing us now, the strength of our economy and the talent and resilience of this country means we can be confident about the future.

That we are ready to grab the opportunities which globalisation brings as well as cope with its risks.

I will never be complacent. But Britain is in much better shape now than in the past to weather these global storms.

Our economy is strong. We have historically low levels of inflation and high levels of employment.

Achievements which owe a great deal to this party’s vision and values.

Values of fairness, of partnership and a belief in the role of Government which is more important than ever after the events of the last few months.

So I want to explain and re-assure. To be realistic but also optimistic.

Over the last few weeks, we have experienced a period of unprecedented turmoil in the financial markets.

Stock markets have fallen sharply. Some of the world’s biggest financial institutions have been brought to their knees.

If you want one symbol of how the world has changed, it is a Republican Administration in America nationalising two of their biggest mortgage banks.

The reasons for this turmoil are complex.

But they demonstrate the fundamental changes that have taken place in the world economy which sets challenges for all Governments.

Now it’s easy to blame globalisation. But don’t forget, it has brought – and will bring – many benefits. More jobs in this country, cheaper goods in the shops.

As an outward looking trading nation, we’ve benefited more than most.

But with these big benefits come increased risks. Problems in one part of the world can quickly infect everywhere and everything else.

And we’ve seen this, in the past year. Mistakes and problems in the mortgages markets in the United States have spread right across the world, weakening financial institutions and the financial system, spreading into the wider economy.

It’s clear we have to put in place measures to stop problems being repeated. It is clearer than ever that markets can’t do this on their own.

Nor can individual Governments.

In the past it was sufficient to ensure effective domestic regulation.

That’s not enough today.

And we need to strengthen global supervision.

The first priority is to stabilise the banking system. If we don’t the whole world economy is at risk.

At the time of last year’s conference, the credit crunch was already tightening its grip on the world economy.

When I spoke to you, we had already intervened to stop the problems of Northern Rock spreading further and protect savers.

As conditions deteriorated further, we brought Northern Rock into public ownership to help contain problems.

It was controversial at the time and opposed by many. But now it is seen by everyone but the Tories as the right thing to do.

We introduced legislation to make it easier to intervene if other banks got into trouble. Again fought every inch of the way by the Tories.

They may claim to be committed to financial stability but people should be judged on what they do not what they say.

Only last week, George Osborne claimed the causes of the problems were not the financial markets.

That’s come as news to everyone else.

And a year ago, the Tories were calling for complete deregulation of mortgage finance.

When the whole world sees that there must be a role for Government, the Tories still appear to want to walk away.

We believe there is a role for government.

To help stabilise the banking system, we have gone further by authorising the Bank of England to inject in excess of £100 billion.

Essential to enable the banking system to function properly.  Essential for our economy, for business, for mortgage payers, for jobs.

All this will take time to work its way through. We are on a difficult road and there will, I am afraid, be bumps along the way.

But I will continue to do whatever it takes to maintain financial stability and I remain confident we will do so.

It is why last week, we acted decisively to help bring together two of the biggest banks in the country.

HBOS and Lloyds TSB – a merged bank which to gether will be stronger.

We changed the competition rules to make the merger possible in the interest of financial stability. Again a difficult decision. But also the right one.

And it was right, too, that we were the first major economy to ban the speculative practice of short selling to help bring calm back to the markets.

Short selling is not the prime cause of the present financial turmoil.

But it has made it far worse in recent weeks by undermining confidence in financial companies.

And working with other countries, we want to improve ways in which credit rating agencies work, ending conflict of interests and opening up the way they work.

We are putting in place, both here in the UK and internationally, the tougher financial regulation no one can doubt we need.

It is why I will introduce a new banking reform bill in the Commons in a fortnight.

Strengthening the supervision of the banking system. Making it easier to intervene if a bank gets into trouble. Giving new powers to the regulators.

We are also going to put in place measures to give added protection to savers.

I have asked the new chairman of the FSA to review urgently what we need to do to improve the system.

And to ensure that we play a full role in international decision making to design and implement more effective prudent system.

It’s not a question of light-touch regulation against heavy-handed regulation.  It’s about effective regulation.

I can promise that wherever weaknesses are found in the financial system – whether in the powers of Government, the Bank of England or the FSA,  I will take steps to deal with it.

We need to look as well at the culture of huge bonuses which have distorted the way decisions are made.

It’s essential that bonuses don’t result in people being encouraged to take on more and more risk without understanding the damage that might be done, not just to their bank, but to the rest of us in the wider economy.

When I made this point at the TUC, I was accused of pandering to the unions.

This is not an accusation many of you may think is often made against me.

But I don’t think the millions of families or businesses forced to pay more for the loans will think I was pandering.

Bonuses should encourage good long-term decisions, not short-term reckless ones.

But the problems we face are also global – and will require global solutions.

Just as no government on its own can combat global terrorism or tackle climate change, so no Government alone can put in place the right supervisory safeguards in this global economy.

In the next few weeks Gordon and I will be in the US and Europe working with our counterparts to put in place the measures internationally needed to prevent the mistakes and misjudgements which caused this crisis.

The credit crunch, of course, has not been th e only shock to have battered the world economy and hit business and families.

We have also had to contend in this country and around the world with an extraordinary surge in food, oil and other commodity prices.

Caused in part by short-term problems like bad harvests but largely by the growing demand of countries such as China and India.

It has led, in the last two years, to rises in oil prices of 60% even after the latest falls.

World agricultural prices up by 40%.

Wholesale gas prices by 160%.

It’s pushed inflation up here and across the world.

It’s increased the cost of filling your car and household bills.

It’s causing real difficulties for families – which is why I am so determined to make sure inflation does not become entrenched here in our economy.

Inflation is too high. But over the last ten years, thanks to the decisions, we have made, it has been much lower than in the past.

And the Bank of England beli eves it will peak soon and should fall over the next year.

The price of oil is down from its summer high. There are signs too that crop prices are falling which should eventually be reflected in the shops.

I believe families recognise – with inflation as well as the financial crisis – that these are global problems

But they also want us rightly to do what we can to help families now.

So to help with living costs, this month 22 million people on low and middle incomes will receive a £60 rebate – with an extra £10 each month until April.

To help with housing, we’ve brought in a stamp duty holiday. We’ve also announced we would spend an £1 billion now to help people facing repossession and speed up the delivery of social homes.

And nothing better illustrates how little the modern Tory party has changed.

Than when we announced £1 billion to help the many over housing, they unveiled &p ound;1 billion to help a few thousand avoid inheritance tax.

On energy costs, we’ve frozen petrol duty this year and increased the Winter Fuel Allowance.

We’re introducing measures to reduce heating bills not just this winter but every winter through energy efficiency.

Measures which will also help us tackle climate change. Measures, too, which will help us grab the opportunities of the switch to a low carbon economy.

For the global economy brings not only threats, but also opportunities. And we should be confident we can seize them.

The British economy has been a real success story in recent years.

We are world leaders in many sectors: biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and our creative industries.

Half of all British exports are manufacturing.

Globalisation means more markets for our goods and services.

And if you want reasons to be confident about our future, look no further than right here in Manchester.

Over the last decade this city has been transformed.

There are thousands more jobs and homes in a magnificent rebuilt city centre.

A credit to the vision of Manchester City Council to the efforts of the private sector and the energy of the local community.

But it’s also down to the stability we’ve built – and to the investment it allowed us to deliver here and up and down the country.

Investment to provide new schools, new hospitals, and new transport links, new skills, new hope.

Help for families through tax credits and increased child benefit.

Help for thousands in work through a minimum wage and guaranteed holidays.

Help in retirement through improved pensions – and, for the first time, every employer required to contribute to their employees pension fund.

Decisions to support families we’ve made and which the Tories never would.

Investment we provided and the Tories never would.

It doesn’t mean we have tackled every problem. There’s plenty more to do to spread opportunity to every corner of this city and our country.

But the economy is stronger and more stable, our public services improved, prosperity extended.

We have taken the right long-term decisions for our country. Just as we are doing now on energy, on planning, on transport.

Decisions which allowed us to triple public investment whilst at the same time reducing national debt to one of the lowest levels of any major developed country.

Enabling us now to let borrowing rise to support the economy and families now when they need it most.

Make no mistake, discipline in public finances is essential.  Being clear about our priorities.

In the medium term, governments everywhere have to live within their means – so I will set out this autumn how I will continue to deliver sound public finances.

A country fairer, stronger, changed for t he better. Not at the expense of economic stability, but because of it.

That is the result of eleven years of Labour in Government.

A stable economy, essential to building a fairer country.

And it’s these same principles and leadership which must guide us through the present economic turmoil. Taking the right decisions at the right time.

I’ve made headlines by saying just how tough times are.

I draw little comfort from the fact that many people now understand what I meant.

Yes we are facing real problems. Our economy, along with every other developed country, is bound to slow.

It’s my job to be realistic. And these problems will take time to work their way through.

But as I also said – and this got a lot fewer headlines – that I was confident that Britain will come through these difficult times.

I am just as confident today.

Britain is strong. Our economy is sound. Times are hard but we must keep things in perspective.

Unemployment rose last week. But we still have near record numbers of people in work.

Inflation is higher than we would like but nowhere near past levels – and should fall soon.

Interest rates are at 5%, not the double figures of two decades ago.

And remember, too, the many good things about our country.

Our resilience, our determination, our talents. Our world-class industries. Our ability to innovate and invent.

With a Government with the experience to make the right long-term decisions.

A party with the values essential to guide our country through this new changed world.

We should have confidence in ourselves. And confidence in the future.

Des Browne – 2008 Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne, at the 2008 Labour Party conference.

Conference, on Saturday afternoon while you were all here I was at Twickenham, one of over 50,000 people supporting the Help for Heroes Charity.

They were there in such numbers, and that charity has raised almost £12 million in one year to support our wounded service men and women, because of the love and admiration the people of this country have for our Armed Forces.

That love and admiration is rightly placed.

All that is best about being British is concentrated in our Armed Forces.

When we ask them to do the impossible, they respond positively and often they do it.

More importantly, when we ask them to risk their life and limb to protect our security or our national interest or to see our values of fairness spread across the world, they do not hesitate.

As Gordon Brown reminds them every time he meets them, those individual service men and wo men are THE most important instrument for the delivery of the progressive values at the heart of our modern defence policy.

Conference, we owe them a debt we can never fully repay.  But, we must try to repay it.  We must do the best we can for them.  And, the best we can for those they leave behind when they make the ultimate sacrifice.

This year, was the first time any Government has put their commitment to our service people in writing when we published a cross government Command Paper on support for forces and their families.

For the last two and a half years I, and my excellent Ministerial team, have been meeting our Armed Forces and their families, asking them what support they most want from us.

Let me tell you, those conversations are humbling.

For all their bravery.

For all that they risk for us.

What they want from us is modest.  They want their own lives and the lives of their families not to be disadvantaged by the fact of their service.

They tell me that they are worried that when they have to move around the country that they will have difficulty finding good school places for their kids.

And they worry about losing their place on an NHS waiting list.  They should not have to worry about such things.

Well, with the help of Alan Johnson, Hazel Blears, Ed Balls,…

Look, frankly, because of the leadership that Gordon Brown showed on this issue, with the help of the whole Government and the devolved administrations, we will live up to the guarantee that being in the armed forces will never again mean getting worse public services than others.

That is the least that our people can expect.

But, we should go further.

There are times when we should give special treatment to the armed forces and their families.

Special service deserves special treatment.

That is why we are going to radical ly improve the compensation scheme for injured personnel.

Nothing can ever compensate fully for the most severe injuries – but our people deserve the best that we can give them.

For the most seriously injured, we are going to double the lump-sum payment.

Together with the extra pension for their injury, guaranteed for life, that change will deliver up to one and a half million pounds.

Many of those who do so much for us in the armed forces left school at 16 or 17. They didn’t take up the chance of further or higher education.

In the future, together with John Denham, I want to offer a second chance to service leavers.

Those who have served for six years or more, when they leave will be entitled to free education – up to degree level.

My priority as the Secretary of State for Defence is to invest in our people and in the equipment they need to carry out the difficult tasks that they are undertaking today.

The promise of our Command Paper builds on the billions of pounds of investment we have made in equipment:

* armoured vehicles

* helicopters

* body armour

That job is not yet complete.  But, it allows our Commanders to describe the Brigade in Afghanistan as the best equipped ever to be sent into operations.

The promise of our Command White Paper builds upon all of this and our investment in health, expanding mental health services, and improving accommodation.

It builds upon all of this and the increases we have made in pay. For the last two years our service personnel received the highest pay increases in the public sector.

All of this has allowed the Royal British Legion to say that the Military Covenant is back in balance.

But, there is one more thing that they want.

They want you to understand what they have achieved, and are achieving.

The 15,000 troops that we have working across the world, 12,000 of them between Iraq and Afghanistan, are making a positive difference.

They deserve your recognition and thanks.

Conference, we have reached a turning point in our involvement in Iraq.

The Iraqi armed forces, supported by British and US Forces, have taken on – and defeated – the militia in Basrah.

In Basrah, there has been a transformation in the quality of life for ordinary Iraqis.

Free from thuggery and intimidation, normal life is returning.

Cafes and restaurants are re-opening.

Shops and markets are bustling.

Women are able to walk the streets unveiled.

As important, improved security means that economic reconstruction can start.

Investors are prepared to modernise the oil and gas and steel industries.

Security has improved right across Iraq and similar opportunities are opening up.

There are many reasons for this.

British troops have made a substantial contribution to the fact that next year there can be a “fundamental change of mission” in Iraq.

By any standard, thi s is a hugely important milestone.

At conference this week we have Iraqi politicians, government officials and trade unionists showing the growing confidence of politics and civil society.

A democratically elected Iraqi government with the ability to control its own security, the support of its own people and the resources to grow its own economy.

That is the legacy of our Armed Forces in Iraq.

Conference, in Afghanistan, although we face a longer haul, and the task of reconstruction is so much greater, our brave troops are making a positive difference too.

Afghanistan is a country, for 30 years torn apart by war.

Oppressed by the Taliban.

Two generations were lost to education.

Al-Qaeda trained for and launched terrorist attacks across the world from its ungoverned territory.

Only 1 in 10 Afghans had access to health care.

Girls were banned from school.

Thanks to our British troops – along with allies from 40 countries – the Taliban have been beaten back.

Where once they boasted they would drive us from the country, they now know they cannot and rely on cowardly terrorist attacks, mostly on their own people.

Improved security in the major towns has allowed the rebuilding of physical infrastructure to begin.

4000 km of roads.

2000 schools repaired or reconstructed.

Just three weeks ago, British soldiers transported a new turbine to the Kajaki dam.

When up and running this hydro-electric scheme will provide electricity to 1.8m people.

Over 8 in 10 Afghans have access to health care now.

And six million children attend school – two million of them girls. For each of these children this is potentially a life-changing event, a huge liberation.

I have always been clear that while progress has been made we still have long uphill task. It is difficult and dangerous and it will take us years to achieve.

The challenge of nation building in Afghanistan is a long-term commitment and the terrorists will continue to try and prevent progress.

But we have a duty to recognise not just the difficulties but what has actually been achieved and to celebrate it.

Conference, no Defence Secretary takes lightly the responsibility of sending our people into conflict.

However, sometimes, it is simply not possible to avoid military intervention.  Sometimes, the defence of our national interest or the defence of the helpless demands it.

We should not sign up to the responsibility to protect without signing up to the means to deliver that protection.

A 21st century progressive foreign policy requires us to have armed forces who can intervene if necessary far from home.

There is no-one in this conference hall who does not believe that, though many of us do so with great reluctance, knowing the reality of conflict.

But none of us can avoid the implications for our armed forces of our ambitions.

Those fine words and ambitions bring with them an obligation to those people whom we ask to do this difficult and dangerous work.

We must never forget that.