John Healey – 2011 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by John Healey to Labour Party conference on 28th September 2011.


We’ve heard powerful testimonies today in defence of our NHS from our panel, and in our debate. Thank you.

Today we reject the Tories’ plans.

We back the founding principles of our NHS.

And we dedicate ourselves to winning a Labour government to protect the NHS.

It has been a real privilege to work with an outstanding shadow health team; with many of you in our health unions; and with Norma Stephenson and the Party’s policy commission.

But the greatest privilege has been meeting the men and women of the NHS, and hearing patients’ experiences.

Last week I was with Margaret Pritchard – a long-time community campaigner for Whiston hospital.

She’s never forgotten the NHS under the Tories: ”People were waiting hours on trolleys in the corridor. I know”, she told me, “I was one of them”.

Or Anne McCormack, who I met at Conference this week. Doctors found breast cancer and she said “Thanks to the NHS and what Labour did, I’m here today and not an obituary”.


We take great Labour pride in the creation of the NHS. And in the great improvements people saw during the last 13 years of Labour investment and reform.

Hundreds of new hospitals and health centres.

Thousands more doctors, nurses and specialist staff.

Millions of patients with the shortest ever waits for tests and treatment.


But the NHS was not built by governments.

The NHS was built by nurses and doctors, radiographers and pharmacists, porters and clerks and cleaners.

Built over decades by people from across Britain and the world – committed to curing and caring; sharing their humanity and the high ideal of public service in our NHS.

It was built by working people, through their taxes, willing in the knowledge that care will be there if they need it, free and equal for all.

The NHS – the proudest, greatest Promise of Britain.


Even David Cameron declares he loves the NHS. But he’s never been straight with people.

He’s breaking each and every one of his personal NHS promises:

“Protect the NHS”. Broken.

“Give the NHS a real rise in funding”. Broken

“Stop top-down reorganisations”. Broken. Big time.

That’s why people are starting to see the NHS go backwards again with the Tories. Services cut; treatments denied; long waiting times up.

We’ve seen over a million patients suffer long waits for treatment under David Cameron, breaking Labour’s guarantees to patients.


The Prime Minister is in denial about the damage his Government is doing.

The chaos of the biggest reorganisation in NHS history.

The waste of billions of pounds on new bureaucracy.

The betrayal of our NHS in a health bill which will break up the NHS as a “national” health service and set it up as a full-scale market, ruled for the first time by the full force of competition law.

No one wants this. No one voted for this.

I am proud that it’s Labour that has led the campaign to defend the NHS.

The first to expose and oppose the Tories’ plans last autumn.

Then the long, slow haul of opposition: building alliances behind the scenes; making arguments that others come to accept, then make as well; and – yes – allowing others to claim credit to get results.

David Cameron claimed last month: “The whole health profession is on board for what is now being done”.

Conference, he’s in denial!

He thinks he’s right. Doctors’, nurses’, patients’ groups say he’s wrong.

So this summer we called on the people to help save the NHS.

From the south coast of England, to the northern cities. Labour and union members, together, took to the high streets and the town squares with our campaign.

It’s been a while since many of us can remember people queuing – queuing – to sign up to a Labour petition.


The Tories and the Lib Dems are throwing away Labour’s golden legacy to NHS patients.

Destroying the goodwill of NHS staff to support further reform.

Piling extra pressure on the NHS to make short term cuts, rather than long-term change.

And our health and care services do require reform.

Yesterday Ed Miliband set out our Labour values. He said the rules for care services must change.

People’s confidence in care was shaken by the crisis at Southern Cross. Care for some of the most vulnerable in our society, traded by predatory fund managers who saw elderly people as commodities. Dementia as a high-profit market.

We did not act before but we will in future. So we will regulate for the best business practices as well as the best care standards.

And let us learn lessons for the NHS. The health bill opens up all parts of the NHS to private companies, backed for the first time by a competition regulator and competition courts.

Ministers in private conferences talk about “huge opportunities for the private sector”.

Their civil servants hold secret talks on handing over 22 NHS hospitals to a foreign multinational.

Privatising NHS hospitals will drive a wedge between hospitals and the wider health service.

Companies whose bottom line depends on bringing more patients, more business into their own hospitals, will not collaborate with others to cut admissions, when the treatment for patients can be better and better value elsewhere.

The huge challenge of changing health needs, tighter finances and a more elderly population can only be met through more reform – more say for clinicians; more control for patients; more prevention; more integration of services across hospital, primary and community care.

Let me be clear. There has always been and will be in the future an important contribution for non-NHS providers – including private providers – towards better health care, to supplement not substitute for the NHS.

But let me say now, hospitals are at the heart of our NHS; they should be in public not private hands; dedicated totally to patients, not profits.

So we will oppose any government move to privatise NHS hospitals.

We will guarantee under Labour that NHS hospitals remain in the NHS.

Labour will look instead to develop integrated care organisations to allow primary, secondary and social care to work together. And because our values demand we’re not neutral on who provides care, we will look to promote those that share a true social ethos over those driven by narrow commercial interests.

We make this pledge not because we want no change in the NHS but because we need greater change.

Because our health and care system must reform, and must retain the faith of all who need and use it.


I had an email from a mental health nurse the other day.

He said “you and your Labour colleagues are the last bastion of the NHS; don’t let us and future generations down”.

Conference, the health bill has been through the Commons but the battle is not over.

The NHS was built by the people. It is cherished by the people. It belongs to the people.

Let us tell David Cameron today:

We will give voice to the dissent of people who heard your promises, saw your posters; people who wanted to believe you before the election but are now seeing the truth. You can’t trust the Tories with our NHS.

Bevan said “the NHS will last as long as there are folk with the faith to fight for it”.

Conference, this is our faith. Our fight.

John Healey – 2011 Speech to National Housing Federation


Below is the text of the speech made by John Healey to the National Housing Federation on 8th July 2011.


Thank you … I am glad to join you again at a NHF conference.

A couple of years ago I spoke at the Federation’s national conference in Birmingham.

That was almost 9 weeks to the day into my job as Housing Minister; this is now 9 months since I became Labour’s shadow health secretary.

As before, this invitation has been a welcome spur to reflect on how we see and meet important policy challenges.

Then I was able to set out plans for the extra £1.5 billion I’d negotiated for our Labour Housing Pledge to kick start 10 000 new homes on commercial sites stalled in recession and build an extra 20 000 new affordable homes, including the largest council house building programme for two decades.

Now I’m no longer in Government; and no longer in a position to make things happen.

It was Tony Blair who said there’s one essential difference between government and opposition: “In government you wake up each morning and say ‘what can I do today?’ In opposition, you wake up and ask yourself ‘what can I say today?’

But one thing after government in opposition that’s imperative, is to learn the lessons of what worked, what didn’t and why.

You are all housing service and policy experts. More so than I am, or will ever become. So I wanted to contribute to your conference discussion by offering my reflections less on policy debate and more on policy decisions as they are taken in Westminster and Whitehall, as well as reflections on overcoming the flaws.

Health and housing

You’ve brought health and housing together for debate at this conference.

But do you know … in my 10 months as housing minister, I don’t recall a single meeting with health ministers to discuss the essential policy and delivery links.

And in 9 months as shadow health secretary, no doctor, nurse, NHS manager or health policy expert has said to me …’we must do more to get better housing if we want better health’.

It is an evident truth.

You know it as housing experts from the way you run your housing and tenant services. I know it as constituency MP for part of Rotherham and Barnsley.

Poorly heated or insulated homes can lead to hypothermia and preventable deaths.

Overcrowded homes can lead to strains on relationships and infectious diseases spreading more rapidly.

Badly adapted homes can lead to trips, falls, avoidable pain and hospital admissions.

Pressure with rent payments or anti-social behaviour can lead to mental stress and ill health.

So housing does directly affect health. Just as health affects housing.

Addiction or mental health problems can lead to loss or work, financial problems, arrears and eviction.

Physical disability or injury can make an existing home impossible to live in.

The Marmot review into health inequalities, which Labour commissioned and published in government, nailed the problem of separating health and housing policy into the silos of different Whitehall departments: “Many of the difficulties in addressing the issue of cold homes is that the effects of the problem are the responsibility of one government department – the DH – while the responsibility for solutions lies with the CLG and DECC”.

Government has not always been organised or operated like this.


When Bevan led the legislation to set up the NHS through Parliament in 1946, he was secretary of state for health and housing.

When he launched the post-war council house building programme in the same year he said: “We must not only build quickly, we must build well. In the next year or so we will be judged by the number of houses we have put up. But in ten years we will be judged by the quality of those homes.”

The twin responsibilities were separated by the new Conservative Government in 1951 into two different departments. And they’ve remained separated at the national level since then.

Housing and public health remained twin responsibilities of local government, however, until 1974 when public health was taken into the NHS as a national responsibility.

We can see both changes, I think, as part of the process of the British state centralising to expand its domestic role as its foreign responsibilities diminished post-empire.

Flaws in system

This is not just a feature of recent years in Whitehall. It is reflected directly in Westminster and in the way policy debate and scrutiny takes place.

Neither the Commons health select committee nor the CLG committee has done a report on health and housing, though from time to time the essential links are raised with both and referenced in their published evidence.

The Marmot report recommended greater integration of policy and delivery: “An important step in tackling the social determinants of health at a local level would be greater integration of health, planning, transport, environment and housing departments and personnel.”

Even when Parliament legislates for the broader view and delivery links, this is no guarantee that it happens in practice.

Directors of Public Health have a statutory duty to assess the health needs of their area. But the Chief Executive of St Mungo’s – London’s largest provider for homeless people – told me recently in the 30 years he’s worked for the charity, not once has a public health director approached them about the health needs of London’s homeless.

The personal consequences of this mean only 1 in 6 homeless people come away with a treatment plan when they are discharged from hospital.

And even when the financial evidence also underlines the imperative to overcome policy and service separations, this is no guarantee that it happens in practice.

The Audit Commission confirm “Every £1 spent on providing housing support for vulnerable people can save nearly £2 in reduced costs of health services, tenancy failure, crime and residential care”.

The Chartered Institute for Environmental Health report health costs of £600 million a year from poor housing; and health, crime and education costs totalling £1.5 billion.

Reflecting on five years as a minister at the Treasury, and two spending reviews, we tried joint PSA targets and jointly-held dual-key budgets between departments in some policy areas.

These worked only up to a point. Neither were strong enough to overcome the force of the single department culture. And neither were underpinned with strong enough financial metrics to support one department spending money that reduced costs or lifted burdens for another.

The row this week over the Government’s cap on and cuts to housing benefit offers an interesting illustration. In this case the DWP wants to cut the benefit bill and, even though the consequences and costs to local government were serious and obvious, they played no part in the decision to press ahead with the policy.

Labour steps 

So the separation of health and housing responsibilities makes sound, sensible policy making much harder.

We took some steps in Government to bridge the gap over the last decade. These were necessary, but not sufficient to overcome the significant policy separation between housing and health.

We started and completed 90% of the massive Decent Homes programme, fitting new boilers, insulation, doors, windows and kitchens for council and housing association tenants in more than 1.4 million homes by last May.

We introduced the supporting people grant specifically to help people stay in their own homes; people who are vulnerable and with complex needs for housing support.

And we encouraged closer local working between housing and health providers. The recent ‘Healthy Homes’ initiative launched jointly by Liverpool Council and Liverpool PCT is an excellent example of integrated, locality based, whole population commissioning.

It targets assessment of the health and the housing needs of families living in 25,000 homes across the city. Where needed they improve properties, make appropriate health referrals and expect to prevent at least 100 premature deaths a year.

One year on – the balance sheet

One year on – where are we now with the new government?

The Liverpool Healthy Homes programme is exactly the type of integrated long-term commissioning at risk in the huge NHS reorganisation.

They – like almost everyone else – are beset by uncertainty, confusion and extra cost as more bodies and bureaucracy are being created by the  upheaval in the health service.

Within the Government’s NHS legislation however, the move to return public health to local authorities is sound in principle, although there are important unanswered questions in practice about the powers and funding that councils will have to do the job; about the retention of skilled public health staff; and about the continuing commitment of the NHS to work on public health improvements.

But it is impossible to ignore the scale of the Government’s cuts, which have gone too far, too fast.

I have mentioned housing benefit already. Age UK report average cuts this year of 8% – with councils reducing care hours and raising eligibility thresholds for help.

These are short-term, budget driven cuts which will have longer-term consequences for many people’s health and welfare, and will inevitably lead to greater cost in other parts of the system, especially for the NHS.

There are still 400,000 non-decent homes left, and the Government will not provide the funding to finish the programme. The benefits go wider even than health – for every one million pounds of public investment in housing refurbishment, 17 jobs are created and the Labour shadow housing team has calculated that completing the programme would support 54,000 jobs.

Finally, the supporting people grant is being squeezed and is set of a 12% real terms cut over the course of the Parliament.

The recommendations by Andrew Dilnot on the funding of social are provide an opportunity to reverse this trend of damaging policies. I have called for, and Ed Miliband has called for, cross-party talks at the highest levels to discuss and agree a new system of funding social care, and how to pay for it.

Opposition and alternatives – proposals

One of the very few advantages of Opposition that you are freer from the Departmental constraints of Government, and free to think more broadly.

So I want to use this period in opposition to look for solutions to the systematic separation of housing and health, solutions that we can push through from the word go when we are in Government.

And today I want to open up this work to you and the NHF.

I would like to invite you and your colleagues in the housing and health fields to let me know:

–    First, what are the best examples of work being done on health and housing together. I mentioned Liverpool – tell me more.

–    Second, where are the problems? Where do Government departments or the policy silos of health and housing get in the way of improving people’s health and their homes?

–    Third, if there are the problems, what are the solutions?

You can help shape this work which I will do alongside my colleagues Caroline Flint and Alison Seabeck in the autumn. We have a firm commitment to finding the housing and health policies that we can put in place once we’re in Government, and to give them the weight they will need to have a real impact to improve people’s health, housing and lives.


I wrote Labour’s housing manifesto for last year’s election. It was the first of the specialist policy manifestos we published.

The first line was: “Labour believes that everyone has the right to a secure, decent and affordable home in a safe community.”

There’s a strong social, moral and economic case for this commitment. What I didn’t properly appreciate then, but I do now, is that there is also a strong health case for that commitment too.

John Healey – 2011 Speech to Unison Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by John Healey to the 2011 Unison Health Conference.

It’s fully ten days since I was last amongst so many trade unionists.

Last Saturday, with 300 times as many of you marching in London alongside Mums campaigning against closure at their local surestart, kids campaigning to save their their youth club. Grandparents campaigning to stop cuts to their meals on wheels…and everyone, campaigning to safeguard the NHS.

Britain’s mainstream saying the Tories are taking Britain in the wrong direction.

Ed Miliband was right.  David Cameron would have seen the big society in Hyde Park last Saturday.

And he can see the big society everyday in the heart of our British trade unions, convenors and stewards and Health & Safety officers and learning reps and pensions trustees ready to represent and support their colleagues at work.

They put themselves out for others, unpaid and often under pressure because they believe in helping others, they believe no one should deal with the power of employers alone and they believe together we’re always stronger.

I’m proud to have been a trade unionist all my working life.

And as an MP I’m proud of my working links with trade unions, including and especially with UNISON.

So thank you for the work you do to support nearly half a million other UNISON members across every area of our NHS.

Thank you for the work you do to support the NHS and NHS patients.

Thank you for the work you do to support me and colleagues in the Labour Party.

And, to Dave Prentis, a special thanks, you made sure UNISON was out early in opposition to the Tories’ NHS plans with the Judicial Review, and you’ve not let up since.  I worked closely with UNISON as Housing Minister, and I’m glad to be doing the same now on health.

To Karen Jennings, as she moves on to be your AGS, you have been an outstanding advocate for NHS staff and for the NHS itself.  I know Christina McAnea will be just as strong and challenging as your new national officer for health.

And to your President, Angela Lynes, and health chair, Lilian Macer, as you look at what the Tories plan for the NHS in England, I suspect the case for devolution has never seemed stronger, especially this week in Scotland, where Labour’s backing has led to the end of prescription charges on the same day as the Tories in England put them up.

With over 450,000 health members, UNISON has a strength and breadth of membership unmatched in other unions or other parts of the public sector.

Andrew Lansley dismisses trade unions as vested interests fighting the loss of power.  And the Prime Minister dismisses the BMA as just another union.

Of course unions in the NHS have a vested interest what the Tories fail to understand is that it’s precisely because trade unions represent their members, that they believe so passionately in the NHS.

To those of us who care most about the NHS – Labour, unions, patients groups, NHS professionals – falls the heaviest duty.  The duty both to safeguard the NHS, and the duty to change and continuously improve the NHS.

Ed Miliband described this yesterday as part of the British promise, that each generation makes and leaves the NHS better than the last.

Labour is the Party of the NHS.  We are also the Party of NHS reform.  The status quo has never been good enough for Labour.  We have always championed change for patients.

That’s why we set up the NHS, why we led the case for raising National Insurance to invest in the NHS, why we required reform – often in the face of resistance – getting GPs to open out of office hours or introducing the challenge of competition from new providers to help clear waiting lists and improve NHS hospitals for patients.

But don’t fall for propaganda that what the Tories are doing now is an extension of what Labour was doing before.

If the biggest reorganisation in NHS history was simply the evolution of Labour’s policies, the Tories would not need legislation more than three times longer than the Act that set up for NHS in 1948.

We were ready to use competition, we were ready to use private providers.  But always properly planned, managed and publicly accountable, to supplement not substitute for the NHS.  By the Election last year, fewer than one in twenty treatments were carried out by independent health providers.

We are proud of our Labour achievements in the NHS.

Many of you here will remember the NHS of the 80s and 90s.

Trolleys in corridors.  Chronic staff shortages and annual winter crises.

100 hour weeks with exhausted overstretched staff.

The NHS was a service whose staff remained true to its values let down by a government that did not share them.

1997 we set out together – to save the NHS; then to review it.

NHS funding doubled in real terms.

Most NHS buildings have been updated with modern equipment.

Staffing numbers are up by 200,000 extra clinical and support staff.

You have training and development through Agenda for Change. And your national NHS pensions protected under Labour – the country’s recognition of the years of commitment to caring for your community.

Some of the changes I know have not been popular, but looking back I believe that we made many of the right choices for the NHS.

Giving well run hospitals more freedom was challenging for many of us.  But Foundation Trusts are today among the best public sector employers in the country, providing world class services to the public.

Bringing in commercial partners to finance and build new public hospitals helped us achieve the biggest hospital building programme in our country’s history.

Allowing patients to choose to have their operation in independent treatment centres was popular and meant patients waiting less time in pain.

We did make mistakes – every government does.

As I have said, we did not always get the best deals and there were times when we should have been tougher in our negotiations.  We had too many reorganisations and we should have done more to relieve the paperwork and release time to care.

Our Labour – investment and reform – plus the hard work, collaboration and commitment of staff meant real improvements for patients.

MRSA and CDiff – tested the collaborative effort of cleaning staff, healthcare assistants, nurses, managers and pathologists but together we cut the rates three quarters and 30%.

Cancer deaths are down by 20% and improving faster than the rest of Europe.

Heart deaths are down by 50% thanks to paramedics and crash team nurses collaborating to provide life saving treatment after stroke or heart attack.

In 1997 more than a third of a million people were waiting over six months for operations they needed.

Together, by 2010 we were doing 2.5 million more operations and the average waiting time was 4.5 weeks.

The lowest waiting lists in NHS history, alongside the highest patient satisfaction ever.

After the Election, we were ready for further changes.  We were ready to remove back office and bureaucratic costs.  Integrate services and see a significant shift of care, especially for elderly people and those with long term health conditions, from hospitals closer to patients at home and in their community.

We have started fresh work on Labour’s health and care policies for the long term.  And I’m proud to chair our Labour health commission jointly with your UNISON ex President and our current Labour Party chair Norma Stephenson.

And as we listen to the public, to staff and to experts, we’re open to criticism as well as compliments, and above all we’re open to new ideas, so Norma and I invite you, as active members of UNISON, to play your part in shaping the alternative future for the NHS through the union and through the Labour Party.

For now our main job is to oppose reckless and ideological plans.

We’ve been making strong arguments against the NHS reorganisation since the early Autumn, and moving amendments to the legislation since it was introduced in January.

Our arguments are hitting home.  Our criticisms about the Tories NHS plans are now coming from doctors, nurses, patients groups, the health select committee, NHS experts, Lib Dems, Peers on all sides of the House of Lords, and I have to hand it to Andrew Lansley, it takes a special talent to unite opposition from Norman Tebbit and MC NXT GEN.

The Prime Minister is increasingly isolated on his NHS plans.

Only 1 in 4 of the public back him in wanting profit making companies given free access across the NHS.

Two thirds of doctors think the reorganisation will lead to worse – not better – patient care.

And nearly 9 in 10 believe it will lead to the fragmentation of services.

Yesterday, in the middle of confusion, chaos and incompetence, the Prime Minister has pushed the Health Secretary out of the bunker to try and tell people what on earth the Tories are doing with the NHS.

He didn’t want to be there, he had nothing to say.

But he was in the House of Commons, because there’s a growing crisis of confidence over the far reaching changes the Government are making to the NHS.

Because there’s confusion at the heart of Government, with briefings and counter briefings on all sides.

And because patients are starting to see the NHS go backwards again under the Tories, with waiting times rising, frontline staff cut, and services cut back.

That’s why Labour has been saying the reorganisation requires a root and branch rethink and the legislation needs radical surgery.

This Bill is not just about getting GPs to lead commissioning or looking to cut layers of management, one third of the long legislation sets up the NHS as a full scale market ruled by the power of a competition regulator and the force of competition law.

It is designed to:

– break up the NHS

– open up all areas of the NHS to private health companies

– remove all requirements for proper openness, scrutiny and accountability – to the public  and to Parliament

– and to expose the NHS to the full force of both UK and European competition law.

Tories are driving free market political ideology into the heart of the NHS.

Helpfully, the government’s new chair for the new market regulator Monitor confirmed – before he was banned from doing more interviews.

We did it in gas, we did it in power, we did it in telecoms, we’ve done it in rail, we’ve done it in water, so there’s actually 20 years of experience in taking monopolistic, monolithic markets and providers and exposing them to economic regulation.

So what the Tories did to public utilities in the 1980s, they’re doing now to public services, including the NHS.

Whilst I don’t want the power companies collaborating on their services and prices, I certainly do want hospitals, GPs and other parts of the NHS to do so – it’s in the best interests of patients and in the NHS DNA.

They are making fundamental and far reaching changes to our NHS and to its ethos.

So there are fundamental flaws in what the Government is doing, not just what it is saying on the NHS.

The test is whether the Prime Minister will deal with these flaws.

Tests for the Tories on NHS

I have five tests for David Cameron; major changes that must be made to his legislation.

These tests reflect the concerns I have heard from patients groups, experts and NHS staff criticisms.

These tests also reflect Labour’s deeply held concerns.

So, Prime Minister, here’s your starter for five…..

– Keep NHS protections against the full force of UK and competiton law, drop your plan for a free market NHS and delete part 3 of the bill

– Keep the waiting time guarantees for patients, so they’re seen and treated quickly

– Drop plans to break up commissioning into so many small GP consortia, make them involve wider expertise and require them to be open and accountable to local patients and the public.

– Ban GP bonuses, stop conflicts of interest where they can commission from themselves and close the loophole that lets them outsource the commissioning job to the private sector

– Keep the cap on NHS hospitals treating private patients, so they don’t jump the queue on NHS patients and strengthen the safeguards on closing down hospital services.

When the Health Secretary was forced to the House of Commons yesterday.

He said Ministers would now “pause, listen, engage” on the Tories’ NHS plans

Andrew Lansley has not been listening for nine months.  The test is now whether David Cameron will recognise the very wide concerns and respond with radical surgery to his health bill.

They’ve failed to listen to criticisms in 6000 responses to their consultation.

They’ve failed to listen to the same concerns in rejecting 100 Labour amendments to the bill.

So this ‘pause’ looks suspiciously like a PR stunt to quell the coalition of critics.

Labour will look to turn this Tory pause into a problem for David Cameron.

We will encourage patients, staff and the public to challenge the changes, wherever and whenever the Prime Minister, deputy Prime Minister and Health Secretary go through the motions of “listening” in the weeks ahead.


For those of us who care most about the NHS – our job, our duty must be to help people see more clearly and more quickly what the consequences of these changes will be.

This means explaining and exposing the truth at the heart of the Tory plans.

We must together make it impossible for the Prime Minister or Health Secretary to dismiss criticisms as the concerns of vested interests or complaints of the minority.

Nye Bevan:  The NHS “will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”

It’s our NHS.  It’s our duty to fight for it now.  And it’s our mission to see the NHS changed and improved in the future.

John Healey – 2010 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by John Healey, the then Shadow Housing and Planning Minister, to the 2010 Labour Party conference.

Conference, John Healey, Shadow Housing Minister responding to the housing motion, backed first by 28 CLPs and the Labour Housing Group, now, clearly, with every speaker and the whole Conference behind it.

The motion calls on the Shadow Cabinet and Parliamentary Labour Party to campaign with other groups against the new government’s housing cuts and policy changes.

We will.

We will campaign with other groups and we will campaign together with you in your constituencies, your Labour council groups and your trade unions.

We will campa ign together because what we see from the Tories and Lib Dems offends our basic Labour belief in a decent, secure and affordable home for all.

And our job is to help people see more clearly, more quickly not just what this Tory-led government is doing, but also why.

Make no mistake Conference, we must be most concerned about many of the cuts; but if we only talk of spending cuts we miss something more fundamental.

They want a smaller deficit, of course, we all do.

They want a smaller state, of course, they’re Tories.

But they also want a state which sheds its duty to its people on housing.

You can see this in their:

Cuts to national housing investment, which means thousands fewer affordable homes built this year, and the end of our new council house building;

Changes to the planning system which remove any national requirement on local councils to plan or agree new homes for their area;

Cutbacks in the national sy stem of help, which leaves people with less support on housing costs and more local variation;

Plans to remove the right to long-term tenancies in public housing, which means local landlords setting their own tenancy terms;

Questions over the national cap on rent rises for social housing tenants and over the nationally-set homelessness duty on councils.

On every front they are looking to withdraw national government with Tory and Lib Dem ministers washing their hands of any national role or responsibility for meeting people’s housing needs and aspirations.

Meanwhile, local councils – increasingly Labour local councils – will be left to pick up the pieces, and, if we don’t help people see clearly what’s happening and why – local councils will also be left to pick up the blame.

Conference, what difference a year makes, what a differe nce a Labour government makes.

Last year, I reported to you as Labour’s Housing Minister.

Last year, as a Labour government, we didn’t cutback housing investment, despite and because of the deep recession, we stepped it up.

Last year, we:

Kept Britain building through recession, starting more new affordable homes than before the downturn;

Launched the largest council house building programme for nearly 20 years;

Made apprenticeships a compulsory condition of getting any government contract;

Set up special help on mortgages, so repossessions have been half the rate of the last recession;

Gave councils new powers to clamp down on the worst private landlords and control the spread of bedsit-barons.

Ed Miliband told us on Tuesday to be proud of what we did well in government.

I am.

He also said he’d back the new government when they’re right.

So will I.

But Conference, I have to tell you that in five months I’ve not found a single change I can support.

Their latest plan is a “new homes bonus”, matching the council tax on any new home built with extra funding for the local council for six years.

They’re right to want to a strong incentive system for councils and communities ready to see new homes built in their area.

But this isn’t it.

There’s no new money. And the government will take a top-slice cut across the grant to all local government to cover the cost.

This scheme robs some councils to pay the rest.

So I’m publishing a detailed analysis of their plans today, which shows:

It will cause chaos in the council tax system, and more cuts to many hard-pressed council budgets.

It blows a huge hole in George Osborne’s promise to freeze council tax.

And our big towns and cities will be hardest hit, as they will have to see many more new homes built every year in their area to “break even” under the new system.

This is the latest in the long line of damaging cuts and policy changes.

This motion and this Conference is right to say we must campaign harder on housing.

Our debate today is a start.

Our duty tomorrow is to fight to stop the worst of what’s to come, and to show there is an alternative, a Labour alternative, a better way, the Labour way.

With you, we will do that, every day until the last day of this Tory-Lib Dem government.

John Healey – 2009 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by John Healey, the then Minister of State for Housing, to the 2009 Labour Party conference.

So Conference, we’ve heard from the people on the panel.

Powerful words about the ways that we – your Labour government – are acting to offer real help through tough times in recession.

Help for firms to stay in business.

Help for people to stay in work.

Help for families to stay – where they should be – in their own homes.

And today Conference, I can announce that we are tightening the rules to help protect those struggling with their mortgage.

From this week lenders will have to tell local councils, as they file for repossession action in the courts. Councils can the offer advice, or help with our special rescue schemes.

If the Tories had their way, there would be no special help on mortgages, no extra jobs and apprenticeships, no boost for building affordable homes.

If they’d had their way, the recession would be deeper and longer.

But we’re Labour.

We’re different.

We believe we have a duty to help when people are struggling.

We believe in using the power of government to protect the poorest and discipline the market.

We believe in the progressive power of public investment.

You know when Gordon Brown asked me to do this job in June,  the first thing he said was:

“John – we must do more”

He backed me as I put together the deal for an extra £1.5 billion in our Housing Pledge – a centrepiece of our Building Britain’s Future plans.

So this year and next we’re backing developers to kickstart housebuilding sites which have stalled in recession.

We’re backing housing associations to build more affordable homes.

And we’re backing councils to build new council homes again – more new council homes starting this year than in any year for nearly two decades.

But Conference we can do more.

So today, I am launching a second round of funding for councils that are ready to help build the new affordable homes we need in this country.

I’m inviting bids by the end of next month.

And before Christmas I aim to give the go ahead to at least 1200 extra council homes.

At this time of all times, with pressure on the public finances, I want to make sure we use the power of public investment to the full.

So I’ve told all private developers and all housing associations that we will now require apprenticeships and local jobs as a condition of public funding.

And I will require the same of councils.

A total of 3000 extra apprenticeships over the next two years.

This is what it means to get the most for every taxpayers’ pound, as we – your Labour government – invest now to help the country through recession; invest now in the homes and jobs and skills the country needs for the future.

And what of the Tories?

They don’t believe in building affordable homes.

Their council leaders describe them as “barracks for the poor”.

Their shadow minister tells Tory councils to block planning for new homes.

This is what they say now, in public before the election. What they plan in secret is even more serious.

Forced by FoI, we now have the record and names from these discussions.

I quote:

“The priorities identified were:

Equalise rents between sectors

Create one form of rented tenure using the assured shorthold tenancy

The private rented sector needs to be cultivated.”

Conference, these are the conclusions of:

4 Tory council leaders

2 Deputies to the London Mayor

and The Shadow Housing Minister.

Secret plans that would double or triple rents for 8 million people in council or housing association homes, and put their homes on the line with two months notice.

If I am wrong, David Cameron can say so.

But he won’t.

I challenged him two months ago, and two weeks ago.

I’m now publishing my letters, and I challenge him again today to come clean.

He owes council or housing association tenants the truth about the Tories plans.

There are two faces of the Tory Party.

The spin, the smiles, the soft words of the Leader, frontman for a fresh Conservative brand.

The harsh ideas and harsh ideology of those behind him; uncompromising, uncaring, unchanging.

Conference, nothing is more important to all of us than our home.

It’s where we are warm.

It’s where we’re safe.

It’s where we eat, laugh and cry with our family and our friends.

It’s where our children sleep at night.

This is why decent, secure and affordable homes for all has always been at Labour’s heart.

It’s what Ben Tillett stood for 100 years ago. It’s what we stand for now.

Proud of our action. Proud of our values. Proud to be Labour.