Neil Kinnock – 1986 Speech on Westland

Below is the text of the speech made by Neil Kinnock, the then Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Commons on 27 January 1986.

For all of the people in the Westland company, the affairs of that company are obviously vital. For most of us outside the company, the affairs of the company have become increasingly important in recent months. But no one inside or outside the Westland company would have considered four weeks ago that this matter could become one of such current critical significance.

As the Prime Minister said yesterday, it was a comparatively small thing. Now it is palpably a very big thing. It has grown in size because of the actions and the attitudes of the right hon. Lady and Members of her Administration. Of course, the Prime Minister says that it would never have assumed this proportion but for the fact that one member of the team was not playing like a member of the team. It is plainly true that we and the country would not have known what we know now but for the fact that the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) kicked over the bucket of worms by resigning earlier this month. All the dishonesty, duplicity, conniving and manoeuvring would still have been taking place. We would not have known about it quite so quickly and quite so clearly.

Evasions, manoeuvrings and deceits nurtured this comparatively small thing until it became a very big thing. It was turned from an issue into a crisis by the dishonesty of people in this Administration. That dishonesty infected the Government’s whole approach to the affairs of Westland plc. There was a basic duplicity of their public dispassion about the affairs of that company and their private partisanship in the bids that were being made for Heseltine—[Laughter.]—for Westland. I think that may be the last occasion on which Conservative Members of Parliament have cause to be amused in this debate. Clearly, they hold a cavalier attitude towards dishonesty, which may explain the attitude of many of them—

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Leader of the Opposition to accuse hon. Members of this House of dishonesty?

Mr. Speaker

I think the Leader of the Opposition would wish to withdraw any allegation of dishonesty against Members of this House.

Mr. Kinnock

I only withdraw allegations if the cap does not fit—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a debate in which the House is taking a great interest. I ask the House to keep it on a level which is in keeping with our conventions. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition, at the beginning of his speech, would wish to get us off to a good start.

Mr. Kinnock

You have that guarantee, Mr. Speaker, and it will continue like that—

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw any allegations of dishonesty.

Mr. Kinnock

I said that hon. Members opposite have a cavalier attitude towards dishonesty. [HON. MEMBERS: “Withdraw.”] On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. On the basis of the view that you take of affairs, I will certainly withdraw what I said earlier. I said that the Government’s attitude was one of public dispassion and private partisanship. There are also the standing charges that still exist about moved meetings and minutes that were incomplete, and now we have the differing versions still existing of the meeting between Sir Raymond Lygo and the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. We know enough of the truth about the connivings of 6 January to understand that the dishonesty has run right through this whole episode. [Interruption.]

All dishonesty has to stop. We have had two dress rehearsals from the Prime Minister full of half-truths and concealments. Today the Prime Minister must come clean. That is not only my view; it is the view expressed throughout the country and expressed by the Home Secretary in the course of his interview yesterday. Today, the Prime Minister must answer the questions that she signally and significantly failed to answer six times last Thursday.

First, when did the Prime Minister find out about the decision to leak, how it was to be done and who was to do it? Secondly, how can the Prime Minister explain her claim that she did not know what action was being taken? Thirdly, did the Prime Minister establish an inquiry in response to the justifiable outrage of two Law Officers who felt that their integrity was being abused and compromised—

Mr. Churchill (Davyhulme) rose—

Mr. Kinnock

—or was there an additional reason for that? After seven days delay, did the Prime Minister establish an inquiry whose conclusions would not in the normal course of events be published, simply because she knew that demands for such an investigation would most certainly be made? Was that inquiry established for detection or was it established for deception? Was it set up to obscure the issues and to provide an excuse for silence? Was it set up by a Prime Minister who knew very well who had leaked, why they had leaked, when they leaked and what they did it for?

The Prime Minister must give clear and truthful answers to all of these questions. She must make no mistake. Today the Prime Minister is on trial. [HON. MEMBERS: “Rubbish.”] The main testimony against the Prime Minister is provided by herself. It is provided by her own words to this House last Thursday, and testimony is further provided by the whole nature of her style of governing. How could it be that a Prime Minister who prides herself so earnestly on her involvement in detail; who prides herself so much on her knowledge of the minutiae of her Government; who has such a deep engagement historically in the Westland affair did not know of a supremely important decision, taken by those so very close to her, to manipulate events on 6 January?

How can it be—

Mr. Churchill

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, but before he accuses others ​ of deceit, will he explain whether it was deceit that led him to falsify his age when he first put himself forward for political candidature or did he just forget how old he was?

Hon. Members

Oh, no.

Mr. Kinnock

I think that that may be the best that Conservative Members will be able to do in the course of this afternoon. That was certainly the last time that I inadvertently added a year to my age.

On the testimony against the Prime Minister, provided by herself, we have to ask how it could be that seven days could pass before she recognised that the issue of the leak was so important that it warranted an inquiry. Who would expect us or the country to believe that 16 days could pass between the corrupt practice of that leak and the Prime Minister’s discovery of the details when the plotters were her closest confidants—her most frequent companions?

Who would expect the House or the country to accept that in all that time the Prime Minister never asked her associates to venture even a guess about the identity of those involved in the leak? Who can expect us to believe that in all those endless hours of contact, through all those days of discussion and debate and questions, and statements in the House and in the even closer quarters of No. 10 Downing street, the Prime Minister was really blundering around in blissful ignorance of the actions of 2 January? Who would expect us to believe any of that?

Well, obviously the Prime Minister expects us to believe that. It is clear that the Prime Minister expects the House, her party and her fellow citizens to suspend all normal standards of belief and to accept that it is strange but true.

“Truth,” she said on television yesterday, “is often stranger than fiction.” When we heard that, as when we heard her last Thursday, many of us wondered whether the Prime Minister had lost the ability to tell the difference between truth and fiction.

We want to know truthfully now exactly when the Prime Minister first knew of the decision to send the Solicitor-General’s letter. We want to know truthfully now exactly when she first knew of the decision to leak the Solicitor-General’s letter. We want to know now exactly when she first knew of the involvement of the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and her office in the conspiracy. When did she first know that he had given his authority, as she put it, and when they had given their cover, as she put it, to act in good faith—act in good faith by making a furtive phone call to the Press Association for the specific and carefully contrived purpose of discrediting another member of her Cabinet?

We know that the right hon. Lady has not answered those questions. She has admitted that herself. Any statement, she said yesterday, is almost always a basis for further questions. That may be the understatement of the Prime Minister’s lifetime. [Interruption.] But all we have had so far are excuses for the omissions and evasions of last week—no apologies for not answering questions with meticulous accuracy; just attempted excuses. All we have had is the propaganda about “toughing it out”—a phrase, Mr. Speaker, which you will recall first entered the British vocabulary when it came out of Richard Nixon’s office.

We are told that last Thursday the Prime Minister was sheltering the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The Home Secretary told Mr. Brian Walden yesterday—[Interruption.] They are going to hear it all, Mr. ​ Speaker—that he could feel the courage going through the Prime Minister when she made her statement, as the Home Secretary put it, “protecting Mr. Leon Brittan”. That excuse has palpably gone because the late Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has gone, although, interestingly, he went not without resistance. Even when the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) wanted to do the right honourable thing and resign, the Prime Minister tried to talk him out of it and even invited him to apply for the next vacancy for “high office”, as she put it.

But what of the Prime Minister’s excuses for the omissions from last Thursday’s statement and questions? [Interruption.] The Prime Minister said that the majority of the inquiry report—[Interruption.] Even the deliberate efforts, that will be heard by the nation, by Conservative Members to interrupt the House and to prevent someone from getting a fair hearing, will not stop the truth being heard. [Interruption.]

The Prime Minister said that the majority of the inquiry report was new to her. She said that, until the report was available, she did not have the full facts—what she called an “enormous number” of facts. As I listened to her then and to the Home Secretary yesterday, saying how much they wanted to be able to give the full facts, I began to think that it was the Government, not the Opposition, who had got the emergency debate today. [Interruption.]

The protest that there were just too many facts to be absorbed does not carry any weight at all. Of course, it is handy to have the full details for the historians—the dates, the times, the places, the footnotes. But only one fact was absolutely essential for the Prime Minister; one fact really mattered, and that was the fact that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and her office had conceived, organised and executed the leak. That was the fact which mattered and it was the fact which the right hon. Lady was forced to admit last Thursday. It was also the fact—the single salient fact—that the right hon. Lady was denied for over a fortnight.

Who were these people who decided to keep the right hon. Lady in the dark?

Who were these merciless people who made the Prime Minister, in her innocent ignorance, go through the charade of the inquiry into the leak? [Interruption.]

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

Do something about the giggling schoolgirls opposite.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I did not see anything going on.

Mr. Kinnock

Whatever anyone sees, the whole country will be able to hear what has been going on. Once again, Conservative Back Benchers have decided that, because they cannot take the truth, they will try to bury it. [Interruption.]

We want to know who were the people who prevented the Prime Minister from being able to gain access to the single fact about the involvement of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and her office in the decision to leak. Who were the cynics who let the Prime Minister be in the dark for 16 days? Who let her come here to tell truths so partial, so incomplete, that they began to look like untruths and who let her come to make a whole speech in this House on 15 January without telling her that they ​ knew who had leaked, how they had leaked and why they had leaked? Who were these callous people who caused the Prime Minister so many problems over the weeks?

Why, they were the Prime Minister’s own Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and, strangest of all, her own office—the Prime Minister’s very own office, her closest, most senior staff; her office which, in her own words, did not seek her agreement; her office, which, in her words,

“considered—and they were right—that I should agree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry”.—[Official Report, 23 January 1986; Vol. 90, c. 450.]

That begs the question. If her office did not tell the Prime Minister, why did her office not tell the Prime Minister? There can be only two reasons. It was either because they did not want to tell the Prime Minister or because they did not think that there was a need to tell the Prime Minister. If they did not want her to be involved, that could be for only one reason—the simple, straightforward reason that they were doing wrong, that they knew that they were doing wrong and that they did not want the Prime Minister to be contaminated by the guilt.

Of course, it may be that they thought that the Prime Minister did not need to know about what was going on. They might have said to themselves, “There is no need to tell the Prime Minister. We know what her attitude is to Westland. We know her attitude to the turbulent Secretary of State for Defence. We know what her attitude is to his campaign and we know what her attitude would be to us using dirty tricks to defame and undermine the Secretary of State for Defence.”

Were the people in the Prime Minister’s office actually right about that? Do they really know the Prime Minister? Either they do know the Prime Minister and they think of her as a woman who would stoop to conquer, no matter how low, or they are totally mistaken and she is not the woman that they think.

From the Prime Minister’s statement last Thursday it appears that they do not know the Prime Minister. We have the Prime Minister’s own word for it. She told us that her office did know her well enough to guess accurately that she would agree to the attitude taken by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and that she did not and would not have consented, if she had been consulted, because she felt that there was a different way, a better way, to make the relevant details known.

Despite their years of close proximity and despite the deep mutual trust that has to exist between the Prime Minister and her office, it appears that they did not know the Prime Minister at all. There they were taking important decisions in her name—[Interruption.]

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. May I say to the House that backchat does no credit to the House.

Hon. Members

It is deliberate.

Mr. Kinnock

Either they knew the Prime Minister or they did not know the Prime Minister. She says that they knew her well enough to understand that she agreed with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, but that, had she been consulted, she would have told them that there was a different way and a better way that must be found to make the relevant facts known. ​ That is all despite those years of close proximity and all that close contact. Despite all of that, there they were, taking important decisions for the Prime Minister as she busied herself yards away in Downing street.

They did not tell the Prime Minister, so we are told. All the time, they were outrageously miscalculating the Prime Minister’s attitude towards the correct method of putting matters into the public domain. Having made that miscalculation, they then apparently compounded the fault by allowing her to set up an inquiry into a leak which they themselves had perpetrated.

They must have been wrong—practically wrong and terribly wrong; too wrong to enable them to endure in their present positions. At least that is what we would think. How can they continue to carry out the immense responsibilities and be the object of the Prime Minister’s trust when they could be so terribly wrong, so we are told, about her attitude towards the way in which that information should be released.

If they are so wrong, why have they not gone? They have not gone, and they are not going. They are not going because the Prime Minister says that she has complete confidence in them. Why has she that confidence in them? Is it because the Prime Minister, who has the reputation for. being ruthless with those who fail her, has suddenly gone soft? It cannot be that. It must not be because of charity. Can it be because of complicity by the Prime Minister? Can it possibly be that the Prime Minister is not innocent but that she is implicated and involved?

For the moment, we withhold our judgment while we wait for the Prime Minister to give her account. Last Thursday, in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), the Prime Minister said that she hoped that we would have the decency to accept her version of events. We have the decency; what we lack is the gullibility to accept the Prime Minister’s version of events.

We want the facts. We want them now. We want only the one version that will be believed—the truth, the whole truth and absolutely nothing but the truth. If the Prime Minister cannot tell that truth, she cannot stay. If she will not tell that truth, she must go.

Neil Kinnock – 1986 Speech on Westland

Below is the text of the speech made by Neil Kinnock, the then Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Commons on 23 January 1986.

After persistent efforts, we have managed to pull a statement from the right hon. Lady. It had a detail produced not by frankness but by guilt—unerasable guilt. That stain will stay with the right hon. Lady for as long as she endures in politics. Her excuses are completely implausible. She cannot justify or excuse the conduct of her Government in any one respect.

In this squalid story, we have been told that the leaking of the Solicitor-General’s letter was authorised —authorised by the right hon. Lady’s office and connived in by her office, all, says the Prime Minister, with her subsequent endorsement. We must ask the Prime Minister, especially given her personalised and centralised style of government, where she was on 6 January so that she could not be contacted on a matter as basic and essential as this. She has a duty to tell the House what she was doing when her office, as she says, was getting on with the business by itself.

We have been told that the matter was authorised. What was actually authorised was a conspiracy by people in the Department of Trade and Industry and people from the right hon. Lady’s office to disclose certain parts of a letter written by a Law Officer to another member of the Cabinet about a matter of important public business. That was their way, we are told, of putting it into the public domain. That was the route chosen — not by open means, but by subterfuge and dishonest means.

We have been told that there was an inquiry. Indeed, there have been answers in the House from Ministers, including the Prime Minister, saying that an earnest inquiry was being undertaken in the normal fashion. We have to ask: why was there an inquiry when everybody knew what had happened? Why was there an inquiry when everybody knew that there would be no prosecution because the dispensation had been given? The only precedent comparable with this act of contrived insincerity is the way in which Macbeth so fiercely looked around for Duncan’s murderers.

We hear from the Prime Minister that an immunity was offered. Why was that the case when it was plain that there was to be no prosecution?

We have heard a shabby story—an effort to defraud the public. The fact is that the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and everyone else involved would have got away with it were it not for the fact that in this democracy ultimately the Prime Minister had to make a statement. They would have dealt with the former Member of the Cabinet, the Secretary of State for Defence, not by the means available to the Prime Minister, if she believed that he was acting contrary to the national interest—not by sacking him—but by trying dishonestly and covertly to subvert him. That is a profound dishonesty. For the Government to leak in order to inform and influence public opinion is normal. For a Government to leak in order to discredit anyone is shameful. For a Government to leak in order to subvert a member of that Government is the action of a Government who are rotten not just to the core but from the core, and they should go.

Neil Kinnock – 1985 Speech on the Anglo-Irish Agreement

Below is the text of the speech made by Neil Kinnock, the then Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Commons on 26 November 1985.

Today, as at all times when we discuss the affairs of Northern Ireland both inside and outside the House, we do so against a background of tragedy and atrocity. We think of those who have lost their lives, as the Prime Minister said, and we think of their loved ones and those whose lives have been devastated by sectarian killings and attacks. We remember those families who, when they felt the forces of violence, no matter what the status of those killed—soldiers, policemen, adults, relations or children—have always ended with a despairing question—”Why did it happen to us?” Many hon. Members have heard that question from grieving relations much too often, and, tragically those who represent Northern Ireland seats have heard it more often than the rest of us.

As we debate the accord, we remember too the courage and the fortitude of those who have lived and worked with ​ and within the tortured community of Northern Ireland. We know that the problem of Northern Ireland, plainly, has spilled across the water and scarred Britain. We acknowledge the debt that we owe, both on the mainland and in Northern Ireland, to the civil servants, the police, Members of the House and so many ordinary men and women in Northern Ireland who have been willing to help in the search for peace and a way out of the sterile sectarian divisions.

As we think of these things, we have to remind ourselves yet again that there are matters other than security that are of importance to the people of Northern Ireland, and that there are issues worthy of report and debate other than the constant plague of conflict.

We are sometimes told that there is no solution to the historic problems of Northern Ireland, but, however difficult it may be, and however long it may take, we must never give up the search for a solution. That would be defeatism paid for in blood. If we give up the search for peace, we say to the people of Northern Ireland, “Your agony must endure for ever”. In all conscience, we cannot and must not do that.

This House has a special duty to recall that the problems of Northern Ireland are a matter not just for the Province or for the Republic but, most definitely, for Britain as well. In addition to the tragedies and their irreparable costs, there is the price of conflict which the New Ireland Forum research team has reasonably estimated to be over £9,000 million between 1969 and 1982 and a further £1,500 million or so a year with the addition of the £120 million or so a year that we spend out of public coffers in maintaining the armed forces in Northern Ireland. It is not fitting for this House remorselessly to consign such sums to Northern Ireland without at least being able to demonstrate to the people of Wales, Scotland and England that we deliberately pursue all means of achieving an end to the conflict and the massive costs that go with it.

We must also recognise that many of the legislative and other changes that have come about as a result of our inability to find a political solution in Northern Ireland disfigure the democracy of our entire country. Courts without juries, strip searches in prisons, internment without trial and many other things can be said to have arisen from the circumstances of their time, but no democracy can or should bear such changes lightly or for long, because if it does it puts at risk the very liberty that it seeks to defend.

For all those reasons, the Opposition will do whatever they can to promote the chances of peace, and the prosperity that depends on that peace, in Northern Ireland.

The status quo offers absolutely no solution to anyone at all. For that reason, we shall approve the Anglo-Irish agreement, which for reasons of accuracy and not affectation I wish had been called the British-Irish agreement.

The agreement is clearly a development from the New Ireland Forum set up in Dublin in 1983. That was a bold and visionary step taken by the major political parties in the Republic, together with the Social Democratic and Labour party.

I pay tribute to those parties and their leaders, one of whom we are fortunate enough to have in this House. None of those leaders has given up his legitimate commitment to constitutional nationalism or his commitment to the reunification of Ireland. They have recognised that, just as they cannot be forced to relinquish their aspirations of getting rid of the border, neither can ​ the unionists be forced to relinquish their desire to keep that border between the north and the south. The constitutional nationalists have decided that, while retaining their historic ambition of unity, they will now give pre-eminence to reconciliation and a formal and binding acknowledgement of the fact that they have long recognised—that unification cannot be achieved without consent.

In the Dail last Tuesday, the Taoiseach, Dr. FitzGerald, said:

“No sane person would wish to attempt to change the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority of its people. That would be a recipe for disaster and could, I believe, lead only to a civil war that would be destructive of the life of people throughout our island.”

As well as speaking for the Irish people, Dr. FitzGerald recorded the sentiments of all the British people.

That is the reward that the gunmen got for their violence. They have engendered such revulsion against insecurity, fear and brutality that they have made nationalists seek change even at the cost of indefinitely postponing their own nationalist aspirations.

The terrorists can and will treat the matter with complete cynicism. They will undoubtedly deride the action of the Irish Government and Irish political parties, and they will rely on their sworn enemies in the unionist groupings to erode and erase the agreement. No doubt that is what the Provisional IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army seek. Since they know that the most critical test of the credibility and acceptability of the agreement is its effect on security in Northern Ireland, they will continue with their terrorism and the noxious insincerity of their bullet and ballot strategy to sustain insecurity throughout the Province and in the Republic. Those terrorists, like every hon. Member, must know that the success of the agreement will be difficult to build and prove, but that its failure will be easy to contrive.

The gunmen alone cannot make the agreement fail. That outcome would need the most unholy, unsigned, unspoken alliance with those whom they most despise. Will that alliance be forged? Some hon. Members can make a major contribution to providing the answer to that. They do not belong to the Government or a future Government. They are not men of violence, and not even people who tolerate violence—to their eternal credit. They belong to the unionist parties of Northern Ireland. I recognise their fears, I know that they feel beleaguered, and excluded from designing their own destiny, that they live in constant anxiety about a sell-out, and that any failure by a British Government to explain their intentions heightens those feelings of fear. I know that they feel that deals have been done behind their back, and some will feel deep and genuine resentment at that. However modest the agreement, and however cautious and conditional the change, those feelings run deep, and in many quarters of the unionist community those feelings are absolutely genuine.

However, I cannot help thinking that there is a minority in the unionist community who quite enjoy the opportunity that is afforded by anxiety, and who will mobilise fear and bigotry in Northern Ireland. Zephaniah Williams, the Welsh Chartist, said:

“When prejudice blinds the eye of the mind the brightest truth shines in vain.”

I do not address the bigots or the wallies on either side of the sectarian divide, when I plead with the majority of non-nationalists not to be blinded by prejudice. I ask them to ​ see that the sole beneficiaries of a breakdown would be the terrorists, that the objectives of the constitutional nationalists for the foreseeable future are limited to reconciliation and stability, and to see their acceptance of consent as the absolute precondition of any change. I ask them to see that the common cause of peace is a greater cause than the preservation of this miserable murderous status quo, and that in the agreement there is no loss of sovereignty by either Government or Parliament—certainly nothing that can begin to compare with the concessions of sovereignty that come as a natural consequence of our membership of the European Community.

I also plead with the non-nationalists to see that, if sovereignty is to be meaningful, it must involve the power to live effectively in peace under the law. Sovereignty cannot be an expression of vanity that covers the inability to rule with those conditions, like clothing on a skeleton. I ask them to see that the role of the Irish Government is consultative, and no more, that even that role can be transferred by progress with devolution, and that the basic reason for the involvement of the Irish Government, even in this capacity, is to be found in the refusal or inability of constitutional Northern Ireland unionists and constitutional Northern Ireland nationalists to share power, despite the opportunities afforded to them to do so.

I plead with them to see that the feelings of slight and suspicion, which are manifested, do not overwhelm them and leave them isolated as unionists from all those people, north and south of the border and on both sides of the water, who want to use their common longing for peace as the means of defeating violence. I ask them to recognise that the motives that led the constitutional nationalists, south and north of the border, to make the agreement are a convincing mixture of material self-interest and moral duty, not a cunning strategem for unification by stealth with the agreement of the British Prime Minister. That is the truth about the agreement.

The Irish state suffers from the contagion of violence—arms, robberies, killings, casualties, the waste of resources and the degeneration of its whole society which comes from a climate of conflict. The Republic cannot and does not want to afford that constant drain on its meagre fortunes, or the risk from it to the fabric of its society. Those are some of the pressing realities that brought Garret FitzGerald, Dick Spring and their colleagues first to the Forum and then to the agreement.

The other motivation, which is less tangible but no less forceful, of those men, whom I am happy to count among my friends, is their moral obligation towards the communities of Northern Ireland—the nationalist community, which is alienated and prey to either the temptations or the intimidation of terrorism, and the unionist community which is impaled, like its neighbours, on insecurity and estrangement.

The suspicious will understandably ask what is in the agreement for FitzGerald’s Fine Gael, Spring’s Irish Labour party and Hume’s SDLP. There are three things that are in it for them. First, there is the possibility of promoting reconciliation. Secondly, there is the practical demonstration that they are trying to fulfil their moral obligations to the whole of Ireland—the Ireland that they love with a special passion. Thirdly, there is the chance of combating the terrorists by intensified joint security measures, and by achieving extra credibility ​ within Northern Ireland for constitutional nationalism to throw back the tide of terrorist nationalism that comes with various pretences.

All those people and parties take great risks, and bring great credit on themselves. They are earnestly trying, against all the odds piled up by history, to put the purpose of securing peace above the easier course of indulging prejudice and courting popularity. Some people in every land are paralysed by history. Others are provoked by it, and they are such people. They have decided to try to be makers of history, rather than observers of it. They took that decision in modesty and responsibility, not in vanity or ambition. They want the history of conflict and waste to be changed to a future of conciliation. They are certainly Irish nationalists, but they are front-door agents for peace, not back-door fixers of unification. Unlike many others, they have decided to be part of the answer, rather than part of the problem. For that, my colleagues and I will support them in their aims and the practical application of them.

In doing so, I wish to acknowledge the contribution made by the Prime Minister to the agreement. I do not underestimate the effort that she has made, and I say without any taunt that it has involved a significant and welcome adjustment in her position during the past six years. I say further that the change is all the more credible because those six years have not only been marked by the continuing pressures of tragedy that come from Northern Ireland; they have also for her been punctuated by personal losses with the killing of Airey Neave and with the death and destruction of the Brighton bombing. I recognise her contribution freely, and I recognise it fully.

It is not, therefore, in any spirit of recrimination that I put this consideration to the right hon. Lady. The cause of this agreement would have been better served if she had taken the advice of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) last year when they asked her to try to spell out to the unionist communities what her intentions were in developing the relationships with the Dublin Government. That might not have assuaged all fears, it might not have silenced all the shouts, but it would have been evidence of trust and consultation which could have provided an essential credential for the agreement now.

I have to say, too, that the right hon. Lady’s response to the report of the New Ireland Forum was, as I said at the time, precipitate and peremptory. Subsequent events, including the signature of the Hillsborough agreement, have demonstrated that. My party was the only party in Britain which gave the Forum the interest which it deserved, although I acknowledge the contribution made by a section of the unionist community in providing a coherent and cogent alternative review and set of proposals. That provided an opportunity for an informed debate, but unfortunately that debate was killed before it got started. But had we proceeded along those lines the atmosphere of accord may have been more literal and the atmosphere in which the agreement has been made may have been more propitious.

We gave evidence to the Forum on 19 January 1984. We said then that the way forward lay in the joint British-Irish initiative that could not easily be vetoed by either side of the entrenched communities of the North. We are glad ​ that the agreement recognises that. We further suggested major innovative attempts to cross-border co-operation which could lead to the closer operation of the economic and social policies of the North and South. That is also recognised in the agreement.

We suggested ways of creating links between the criminal justice system in the North and in the South and we note that the Government are at least going to consider such links at meetings of the intergovernmental conference. We endorsed the view of the report that the crisis in Northern Ireland and the relationship between Britain and Ireland required new structures that could accommodate the rights of unionists to effective political, symbolic and administrative expression of their identity, their ethos and their way of life, and the rights of nationalists to effective political, symbolic and administrative expression of their identity. The agreement establishes and defines such structural change and the accommodation of rights, and we welcome that.
That is all to the good, and I draw attention to these matters simply to show that there has been for some time a course which could have been navigated, as we recommended, in a different way and at a different speed, which might have made the circumstances of this agreement more propitious.

In addition to the matters of consultation with unionists and recognition of the validity of the report from constitutional nationalists, there is another point that I must put to the Prime Minister. It is not in any way retrospective and it has a direct bearing on the conduct of affairs and the potential of the agreement. It concerns the economic condition of Northern Ireland. As everyone knows only too well, Northern Ireland is a poverty-stricken place. It has the lowest male wages, the highest shop prices and the highest energy charges of any economic region in the United Kingdom.

The poverty is manifested in many ways, not least the high morbidity and hospital admission rates. It is also manifested among the young in the fact that a high proportion of them leave school without any form of qualification.

Most of all, Northern Ireland has a 21·4 per cent. unemployment rate, and that has increased from 9·7 per cent. in 1979. Those rates do not respect religious or political demarcations. In Craigavon and Armagh, unemployment is more than 20 per cent. In Coleraine and Enniskillen, it is more than 25 per cent. In Dungannon, Derry and Magherafelt, it is more than 28 per cent. In Newry, it is 32 per cent. In Cookstown and Strabane, 35 per cent. of the registered workers are unemployed.

Against that background, it is obvious that the agreement between Governments for the purpose of promoting common objectives of reconciliation is a fine thing and the effort at popular consent is a creditable activity. But both need a crucial further element—the prospect, at the very least, of economic development and security.

In addition to the usual arguments for fighting unemployment and sponsoring recovery, Northern Ireland has its own special and unenviable case. It is that violence cannot be excused by poverty, idleness or unemployment, but it clearly cannot be said to be unconnected with those evils. Violence, support for violence, toleration of violence may come from political fanaticism or plain gangsterism, but it can thrive on the scale of Northern Ireland only in conditions of economic insecurity and the ​ alienation which that breeds.


I am telling the truth. I know that the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) is never very keen on that.

Therefore, I say to the Prime Minister that it is essential in Northern Ireland, as elsewhere, for her to adopt new policies of expansion and employment in order to stimulate recovery, to increase opportunity and to generate jobs.


Those hon. Members who are groaning now must answer the question: Do they think that an increase in employment, a reduction in unemployment and the generating of prosperity in that community would have the effect of increasing or decreasing the alienation in that community? Common sense of today, not some imagined history of which the hon. Gentleman speaks, tells us that such alienation, especially among the young, is rooted in the poverty, ugliness and strife that comes out of continual levels of economic deprivation.

We want that kind of economic development and recovery for the United Kingdom and will continue to work for it. Meanwhile, in Ireland, steps could be taken through the provisions and procedures of the Hillsborough accord, to promote the possibilities of economic development. Transport and tourism, as the Secretary of State and, indeed, his predecessors have previously recognised, have obvious possibilities for joint economic strategies, and so, too, does energy, as we have heard from many Northern Ireland Members.

What an absurdity it is that Britain can exchange electricity supplies with continental Europe but that Northern Ireland and the Republic cannot. Why do the Government refuse to put money into the Kinsale gas link when it appears that they are going to accept EEC and even American money for projects?

What proposals will the Government make for bringing the agricultural systems of North and South together so that the whole island can secure the advantages that would accompany that? Will the Government make proposals to fill the surplus college places in Northern Ireland with the students who encounter a shortage of places in the Republic?

Those are areas of action which can all give life to the words of the accord and meaning to the work of the Intergovernmental Conference. But the most useful source of reassurance and stability—I repeat it in order to emphasise it—would come from the promotion of economic recovery, deliberately and systematically by Her Majesty’s Government.

There are other areas, of course, in which the Government could work in order to mobilise support for the accord. We expect the Government to take deliberate steps to go beyond the current strategy of sending out letters and circulars in order to ensure clear understanding among the unionist and nationalist communities in Northern Ireland of the nature, purpose, potential and limitations of the agreement.

Exaggeration, either of hopes or fears, will be of no practical help to anyone. That will not impress the bullies or the bigots on either side of the sectarian divide. In any case, they are beyond communication. That still leaves a huge majority in both communities to be talked with and not talked at. There are opportunities for Parliament to communicate with the majorities in both communities, too.

We note that the Intergovernmental Conference shall be a vehicle through which initiatives regarding the wellbeing of Northern Ireland are being channelled. However, that should not obviate the role of the United Kingdom ​ Parliament also to come forward with its own initiatives—for instance, the initiative to put into effect the recommendations of the Baker report which was debated in the House last year concerning the operation of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978. In addition, we need not wait upon the Intergovernmental Conference before demanding a review of the procedures for strip searching at Armagh prison, to get prompt action on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland and secure an early repeal of the Flags and Emblems (Display) Act 1954 that has long been sought by the Opposition.

[HON. MEMBERS: “Too long.”]

Conservative Members should be acquainted with the fact that too many people in Northern Ireland say with justification that democracy is what happens in Westminster after 10.30 pm. When we have the opportunity for a two-day debate on those matters, they can expect the debate to be exhaustive and comprehensive, covering matters that concern our fellow citizens in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood)

We are exhausted now.

Mr. Kinnock

The hon. Gentleman should go to bed earlier.

The agreement of Her Majesty’s Government and the Government of the Republic of Ireland to give appropriate support to the development of a British-Irish interparliamentary body is worthy of further consideration, and we shall be seeking additional details from Ministers. In that area and in many others, there are obvious obligations for everyone in the House to demonstrate interest and commitment in communicating the opportunities that can arise from the agreement.

As a matter of policy and of commitment, the Labour party wants to see Ireland united by consent, and we are committed to working actively to secure that consent. However, that is not the reason for our action in approving the Hillsborough accord. We recognise that the priority is reconciliation in the communities of Northern Ireland and between the communities of Northern Ireland. It is that objective which brings our agreement.

I do not honestly know whether at some time in the future unity will come out of that reconciliation. That can be determined only by a majority which, in future decades, will probably have different components, be in different conditions and have different leadership. However, that peace will come only out of reconciliation and the normality and confidence that reconciliation brings. Further, any unity or development towards community between north and south will come only out of that peace. As an effort for that reconciliation and for that peace, the Labour party approves the agreement.

Neil Kinnock – 1985 Speech on the Loyal Address

Below is the text of the speech made by Neil Kinnock, the then Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Commons on 6 November 1985.

I have long admired your perspicacity, Mr. Speaker, but never more than now.

I warmly compliment the hon. Members for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre) and for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Malone), who moved and seconded the Loyal Address. I do so without reservation but with the merest twinge of anxiety. On this occasion last year I offered compliments to the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Loyal Address, and appealed to the Prime Minister that the hon. Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham) be given a job. For once, the Prime Minister ​ agreed with me and the hon. Gentleman is now Under-Secretary of State for a part of the United Kingdom for which I know he has immense affection and strong commitment—Northern Ireland. I shall not be making recommendations this year—but who knows, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South might end up on some bed of thistles in the Scottish Office, and I know that he would find that very difficult.

The hon. Member for Hall Green is well known and respected as a senior Member of this House. Indeed, he will not take it amiss if I say that he even provokes affection in this place—something that has not a little to do with his personal appearance. He is one of the cherubs of the Conservative party, along with the seraphims, the hon. Members for Wokingham (Sir W. van Straubenzee) and for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels), who I am glad to see in his place.

One mystery has been dispelled for me this afternoon. Having discovered the connection between the hon. Member for Hall Green and J. R. Tolkien, through Camp Hill school, I now realise on whom the eminent author modelled Bilbo Baggins. That is a compliment to the hon. Gentleman, which I am sure he will accept.

As the hon. Gentleman reminded us, he has been in this place for 20 years, and there is not the merest blot on his escutcheon, nor on any other part of his apparel or weaponry. There has been not an intemperate word, not so much as an admonition from Mr. Speaker, not a bogus point of order, and not a single rebellion to his name in all those years.

The hon. Gentleman is a model to us all, and to some more than to others. He has a record of concern, of which we heard again this afternoon, for the inner cities. He has been a campaigner for open government and freedom of information, he is committed to the improvement and development of small businesses, and, unlike the Prime Minister, he does not wish to manifest that objective by seeing that all businesses are made small businesses.

Here, indeed, is a paragon, a blameless man—so blameless that that can be the only reason why he is not still a member of Her Majesty’s Government. His speech delighted us. We compliment him strongly on it, and I am sure that the whole House is united in that sentiment.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, the junior member of the Loyal Address partnership today, also delighted us. After hearing of the attention that Mr. Edward Pearce—a rose by any other name—has drawn to the hon. Gentleman’s oracular opportunism, I shall continue to think of him from now on as “Ayes to the right.”

Hon. Members may recall that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South first became a household name, not as the Member for his present constituency, but as the Conservative candidate for Glasgow, Hillhead in 1982. There he gained fame, if not exactly fortune, and, through the medium of The Times, was able to tell us and an unsuspecting public:

“I have always wanted to be a Member of Parliament, the way that some people have always wanted to be engine drivers.”

In view of what the Government have done to engine drivers, I can only hope that, for the sake of us all, they do not have the same intentions for Members of Parliament.

It was a remarkable by-election, as hon. Members will recall. The hon. Gentleman was not, as we have been reminded, elected to represent Glasgow, Hillhead. That ​ seat was won by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), a Welshman, as everybody knows from his accent—[Interruption.] I do not know whether you heard, Mr. Speaker, but I heard an hon. Member comment, “Cheap.” One thing that the accent certainly is not is cheap.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, meanwhile, was obliged to find another locomotive, and off he went to his present constituency. It was unexpected—indeed, some would say that it was even gallant—that he should have gone to Aberdeen, South and climbed aboard there, the then Member having decided that there were more comfortable and possibly safer political pastures.

The House will recall that that Member was Mr. Iain Sproat, affectionately known here sometimes as “Cutya” Sproat. He went off to seek his political fortune elsewhere—in Roxburgh and Berwickshire—and, as we know, he proved to be as good a judge of safe political pastures as he was of social security needs. He was defeated. I am informed by reliable witnesses that on the night of the general election, as Aberdeen, South’s Conservatives joined together in the New Marcliffe hotel in celebratory mood to watch the results coming in, they naturally gave particular attention to the verdict of the electors of Roxburgh and Berwickshire. When the news of Mr. Sproat’s defeat came through, the new Member for Aberdeen, South was observed in a corner to be whooping with uncontrollable grief. That is a testament, indeed, to his human nature, and we heard a testament to his considerable talent during his speech.

We feel some rather more genuine grief when we contemplate the Queen’s Speech which the Government have offered us today. Parts of it will gain some support from the Opposition, although we shall want to scrutinise the details. The reference to Northern Ireland,

“to improve further their co-operation with the Government of the Irish Republic”

is to be commended, but we shall want methods and measures in Northern Ireland which will positively help people in both communities and improve the social environment and the political climate.

The proposals to combat the awful rise in drug selling, drug taking and drug-related crimes will gain support in principle and, depending upon the precise proposals, I suspect support in practice during their progress through the House.

We also welcome the proposals outlined to protect animals used for experiments and other scientific purposes.

A similar welcome cannot be extended to many of the other proposals in the Queen’s Speech—proposals for further privatisation, the demolition of the wages councils and, most of all, for what the Government glibly and euphemistically describe as the reform of social security. They will receive no welcome for that from the Opposition. The Government are not interested in improving protection for the poor, the disabled and the old. They are intent upon removing that protection.

The Government are not reforming the social security system. They are intent upon deforming it. In the course of doing that, they will cause great chaos and cost, as well as greater injustice in our society as they take a lot from the needy, to give very little to the destitute. That will be the result of their income support scheme, their social ​ fund, their cuts in housing benefit and the abolition, or at least, as we are now led to expect, their grievous bodily harm to the state earnings-related pension scheme.

The measures that I have mentioned, and others, will meet with the strongest hostility from my right hon. and hon. Friends. Most of all, we shall be condemning the Government for their complete failure, yet again, to offer in this Queen’s Speech any policies that will help the economy and the people to get work and get on.

On this occasion last year the Prime Minister opened her speech with the triumphant news:

“While the right hon. Gentleman”—

that is me—

“was speaking, Barclays bank decided to cut by half a percentage point, from 10·5 per cent., the basic bank rate. That is a great tribute to my right hon. Friend”—

the Chancellor of the Exchequer—

“for the firmness with which he has controlled the money supply. The money supply figures were published at 2.30 this afternoon, and the cut in interest rates came shortly thereafter.”—[Official Report, 6 November 1984; Vol. 67, c. 21.]

A year later, what do we find? Interest rates have, on average, been 3 per cent. higher this year than they were last, and at the moment interest rates are 1 per cent. higher than they were at this time last year. An average £21,000 mortgage now costs £40 a month more than it did at this time last year. Every business man and home buyer knows only too well what that means. Is that a testimony to the Chancellor’s firmness in controlling the money supply? Of course it is not. It is a continuing record of flop and failure, so much so that the Chancellor had to go to the Mansion House last month and announce that the money supply figures, which have defined all that is good and bad in our economy for the past six years, suddenly do not matter any more.

There is no more talk about firmness in controlling, the money supply. No more claims will be made this afternoon that the Chancellor of the Exchequer—the Maginot of the money supply—can pull interest rates down. Graven images have gone and sacred cows are to be butchered. The sacred cows are now turning out to be old bull, as they were all the time. Everything now is ruled by interest rate rises and public expenditure cuts.

In a country where interest rate rises cripple small, medium and large businesses, where public expenditure cuts deprive communities and people of vital services, the Government’s continuing strategy consists entirely of using higher interest rates and public spending cuts as the main weapons of economic policy. That is what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his Mansion House speech:

“Should it at any time become desirable to tighten monetary conditions, that would be achieved—and let there be no doubt about this—by bringing about a rise in short-term interest rates”.

The trouble is that hardly any of the Government’s interest rate rises, on short-term money or long-term money, ever turn out to be short term, because the ending point of the interest rate cycle is always higher than the starting point of the cycle.

The strategy of shrinking our economy is obvious, too, in the Queen’s Speech. Stripped of virile phrases about firm policies, we are left with a vacuous combination of higher interest rates and more public spending cuts. It is a sure recipe for a further rundown of our economy. I am not alone in knowing that, and neither are the Labour party and the Trades Union Congress. The Confederation of ​ British Industry, together with many others, acknowledges the rundown—and continuing rundown—without significant changes in policy. Indeed, many Conservative Members know it. There are members of the Cabinet who realise it.

I am not speaking only about the Secretary of State for Energy, who said at the Conservative party conference, in the understatement of the year:

“Many now find the Government remote, perhaps uncaring, about what concerns them”.

I am speaking much more of the Secretary of State for the Environment, who, we are repeatedly told, wants more money for housing, of the Secretary of State for Social Services, who wants more money to maintain the real value of child benefit, and of the Foreign Secretary, who wants more money to stop the lethal cuts that have been made in overseas aid to the Third world in recent years. They are the people who are looking for additional resources, and from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister, they meet resistance.
If the Prime Minister is asked whose side she is on—on the side of her Secretaries of State or on the side of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—the reply is that she is on the side of the taxpayers. That takes some cheek when, in six years of the right hon. Lady’s Government, the tax burden has gone up from 38 per cent. to 44·5 per cent. of the gross national product—an extra £18,000 million on the tax burden. It takes some nerve, too, when the taxpayers are all to pay higher charges for water and for gas than even the boards have been asking for, and when the taxpayers, as mortgage payers and rent payers, are all paying higher charges as a consequence of the Government’s policies.

Audacity laced with mendacity is now the right hon. Lady’s stock in trade. When the Prime Minister talks of taxpayers, she talks as if there are taxpayers who do nothing but pay, and old people, poor people, sick people, disabled people and homeless people who do nothing but make claims. There is, of course, no such division in our society. She talks as if starving people abroad want to sponge on the British taxpayers.

The truth is that the Prime Minister is getting the British taxpayers absolutely wrong. Does she not realise that the taxpayers are also the parents who are worried about the cuts in child benefit, and worried about the rundown in schools which Her Majesty’s inspectors refer to as being inadequate, shabby, dilapidated and outdated? Does the Prime Minister not realise that the taxpayers are the same people who make up the families that are worried about the cuts in house building and the virtual abolition of house improvement grants? Does the Prime Minister not know that the taxpayers, in the most direct and practical way, have been telling the Government that they want their contributions to be used more generously to relieve suffering in the Third world? British taxpayers repeatedly demonstrate those views in every measure of opinion that is made.

It is not only the poor who want the relief of poverty in this decent country, the homeless who want the Government to commence a new house building programme or the jobless who want the Government to combat unemployment. Those are now national demands, and are the products of care, conscience and constructive attitudes. That is not bleeding-heart do-gooding, but the ​ realistic response of millions, who know that division and decay impoverish, demean and endanger the whole of our society. Yet the Prime Minister ignores them and tells the Conservative party conference:

“One thing we will not do. We will not reflate.”

The conference cheered that—the turkeys cheered for Christmas.

In reality, the Prime Minister was saying that the Government would not repair homes, hospitals, railways or roads, invest in modernising Britain’s industries, educate and train our young people, retrain our adult workers, or expand research and development to give British industry an extra cutting edge in competitiveness. Most of all, the Prime Minister was saying that the Government would do nothing to build a strong, modern manufacturing base, which will be even more vital when the oil runs out. As the Government know. British chambers of commerce, the House of Lords Select Committee on Overseas Trade, and just about everyone outside this torpid Government, incessantly say that the Government have provided no answer to the question of what happens “when the oil runs out.”

There is another question which the Government never answer. What will they do about unemployment? There are certainly no answers to that in the Queen’s Speech. Perhaps we should follow Black Rod back up the corridor to the House of Peers and find the Secretary of State for Employment. Even on the Government’s fiddled figures, 3·3 million people are unemployed, 1·25 million have been out of work for more than a year, and 1·5 million under 25 are unemployed. When we ask where the future lies and where jobs will come from, the Secretary of State for Employment says that the real hope for the future lies in tourism. [Interruption.] Only a few weeks ago that was in the newspapers, written in his own fair hand. [Interruption.]

If that spellbinding answer does not convince people, as it plainly does not convince Tory Members, the Secretary of State tries to take a second trick. He gets the statisticians and samplers of the Department of Employment to tell us that there is hardly any unemployment. Last week a headline in The Times read:

“940,000 on dole are not seeking work”.

The story that it headed began:

“Nearly one million—about a third—of the unemployed claiming benefit are not looking for work, according to the Department of Employment.”

Of those 940,000, 200,000 were in part-time, low-paid employment or had just commenced work, and the remaining 740,000 were described as “discouraged workers” who had given up—defeated people. Last Saturday night I met one of them after a meeting in my constituency. He came up to me and said, “Do you want to shake hands with a man in a million?” I asked what he meant, and he said, “I am one of those that the newspapers were writing about last week. I am one of the unemployed who has given up looking for work.” He went on, “I have been looking for work since the factory closed in February 1983. I have been everywhere looking for work. I would do anything to get work, but in June this year I decided that I was going to stop. I have even stopped looking at the ‘Jobs Vacant’ pages in the newspapers.”

There are hundreds of thousands of people like that in our country. They have been on courses, they have waited in queues, they have written scores of letters, and made dozens of phone calls. Eventually the day comes when ​ they just stop looking because they do not want the rising burden of repeated failure and refusal to be added to the basic misery of being without a job, without money, without independence and—this is what is beloved of the Prime Minister—without any choices.

Without any self-pity, the man said to me, “Fifty-four and finished.” Then he said, “I saw herself on the telly telling the Tory party conference, ‘Come to the 1990s when people can look forward to their retirement.'” He said, “She just doesn’t know anything, does she?”

Minutes after meeting that fellow at that meeting in my constituency, I met a youngster who told me that he had stopped looking for work when the board and lodging regulations changed. [HON. MEMBERS: “Oh!”] Yes. That youngster came home to certain unemployment in an area where there is more than 20 per cent. male unemployment. Why? Because he was afraid of being stranded.

He said, “I came home because I thought that it would be better to be unemployed at home than without a roof over my head. Of course, if they ask me, I shall say that I am looking for work, just like I am panning for gold and prospecting for oil as well.” He reminded me of a friend of my father’s, Mog Miles. Fifty years ago, when he went before the commissioners and was asked whether he was seeking work, he said, “Seeking work? See this whippet by the side of me? It was a racehorse when I started.” The one thing that can save people from total despair is such an attitude.

Another man who was looking for work said to me, “Of course I want work. Of course I need work, and I am prepared to go anywhere, if only there is some work.” There is no work to be had. This is the insecure society. This is the climate of caution and fear, of anxiety and aggression. Misery can produce tenacity, neighbourliness and humour, but it also spawns great evils, illness, despair and desperation. In some cases it pushes people into resigned aimlessness, and in others it pushes people into dumb resentment. In a few cases misery brings hatred, and that hatred generates its own greed and brutality. I am not saying, nor would I ever say, that unemployment, poverty or hopelessness is the sole cause of crime in our country, still less would I say that those things are excuses for crime. There can be no excuse for the pain, terror and loss that are inflicted increasingly on victims, whoever they are and wherever they live.

This question is asked repeatedly of every Member of the House. I am simply asking, can any rational person believe that a 40 per cent. rise in crime in six years at the same time as the obvious increase in hopelessness brought about by unemployment, deprivation, division and decay, is an accident? Is that a pure coincidence? I do not think that it is an accident. There have always been crimes for gain. Now we have crime for kicks. There has always been crime as an occupation. Now, in our times, we have crime as a brutal, vicious entertainment. That has been the awful change in our times.

The roots of crime have always been in malice and in greed, but a 40 per cent. increase in six years, especially in crimes of robbery and brutality, cannot be explained as a sudden surge of evil and depravity in our generation. It cannot be explained on such irrational grounds.

We want drug sellers to feel the full rigour and the heaviest penalties of the law. We want the law to embrace solvents, gases and all the other awful substances that are used. We want an orderly society, a just society and a secure society. That is fundamental to freedom. The ​ brutishness of crime makes us, like all other decent citizens, angry and vengeful. But anger is not enough. We need action. We need action to help the police to prevent and detect crime. We need action to make their task much easier in many ways. [Interruption.] Conservative Members can help in that, too. We want action to assist the police in catching and punishing criminals.

The orderly society, however, cannot and will not be gained merely by policing the problems or punishing the results of crime. The police know that. A fairly senior young officer recently said—[Interruption.] The whole country will note the amusement with which the Conservatives treat the dreadful problem of rising crime in their period of office. They should have the sense to listen to what the police say. That officer pointed out to me that society could not put all its problems in a dustbin and then ask the police to try to keep the lid on. He was absolutely right. We cannot treat the people or the problems with simplistic answers. We cannot go on making an ever bigger dustbin of decay and unemployment and asking the police to clean it up or to contain it. That is neither reasonable nor realistic. It simply ensures more crime, more criminals, more cruelty and more young people completely alienated and estranged from what the vast majority of our fellow citizens, including the great majority of young people, understand to be tolerable conduct in society.

Clearly, dealing with that problem is not just a matter for the Government. It is also a matter for teachers, for parents and for every responsible citizen in society, but the problem cannot be dealt with unless the Government try to meet it with methods that get at the roots of behaviour, rather than just trying to deal with the results. That is the Government’s duty. A Government who destroy jobs, divide people and deny them homes and hope are not doing their duty by the people of this country. In trying to evade the truth that crime is logically, inevitably, historically and obviously rooted in part in social and economic conditions, the Government are deserting their duty.

It is obvious that the Government wish to dodge the obligations which stem from that truth about the roots of much, though not all, of the crime in our society, but that attempt to dodge will not work. The Government will not be acquitted of the guilt for deliberately worsening economic and social conditions in this country and for dividing and depressing both the economy and society. The Government cannot acquit themselves, and they will not be acquitted by the British people, who, when they get the chance, will throw this Government out.

Neil Kinnock – 1985 Speech on the Heysel Stadium Tragedy

Below is the text of the speech made by Neil Kinnock, the then Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Commons on 3 June 1985.

First, I should like to repeat my complete condemnation of the violence that led to the deaths and injuries at Heysel stadium last Wednesday. Naturally, we in the official Opposition join all others in offering our deepest condolences to the relatives of all those who died and of those who were injured. As I have already said, we agree with the Government’s decision to give £250,000 to the relief fund set up by the Italian Government. I welcome the assistance being given, and announced in the Prime Minister’s statement, in bringing to justice the criminals of any nationality and of any affiliation who were responsible for the tragedy in Brussels.

As to today’s statement by the Prime Minister, I should like to tell the right hon. Lady that the Opposition support the Government’s decision to bring in legislation similar to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. However, we are frankly surprised at the rather restricted action proposed by the Government, and disappointed at the decision to extend Mr. Justice Popplewell’s inquiry beyond its already stretched limits. Does the Prime Minister really consider that the learned judge, with all his vigour and undoubted thoroughness, has the resources and facilities necessary for yet another major area of inquiry?

Surely it is not enough to hope, as the right hon. Lady said in her statement, that Mr. Justice Popplewell will produce an interim report in time for proposals to be implemented before the beginning of the next football season. We need a firm assurance now that the report will come in time for proposals to be implemented before the season begins, and that any necessary resources will be available for practical implementation.

I refer to the problems of football and football hooliganism. May I specifically ask the right hon. Lady whether she will bring forward proposals to ensure that some of the revenue taken out of the game is returned in the form of improved safety and security at football grounds? That is clearly necessary to assist with the cost of better accommodation and effective policing. Frankly, the proposals that we have heard so far do not begin to match the scale of the crisis in British football, both in and near to British football grounds. When we consider that it is now 12 weeks since the awful scenes at the Luton ground in the Cup match against Millwall, and that it is exactly the same period—12 weeks—until 24 August, the beginning of the new football season, that shows how ​ much speed and effectiveness is necessary to tackle the problem directly before we are afflicted again next season by the scenes that we have witnessed in this and previous seasons.

In the official Opposition and, I think, in the House generally, we are and must be intent on securing arrangements by both the Government and other relevant authorities, which will help football clubs and genuine football supporters, who are in the vast majority, and the police, to defeat the criminals who are destroying the game, terrorising spectators and inflicting misery on people who live near football grounds or who travel when football games are taking place. In the Opposition, as a basic principle, we seek properly to maintain the civil liberties of the decent and innocent majority to go to games in safety, and to live in peace. To that end, I say to the Prime Minister that our responses to this matter cannot relate simply or solely to punishment or to policing; neither can they relate only to a period of probation for English football.

On 14 March, I asked:

“Will the right hon. Lady agree that we need action to identify and deal with the causes of these afflictions and the breakdown of behaviour in society?”—[Official Report, 14 March 1985; Vol. 75, c. 431.]

We want the thugs caught and punished, but does the Prime Minister agree that in addition it is essential to discover not only those who commit the crimes but why they commit such crimes? Therefore, can we look forward to a quick and thorough investigation with that in view, which would involve the police, youth and social workers and others with direct practical experience from week to week of dealing with the issues posed by the spread of thuggery? [Interruption.] If it is the case, as Mr. John Smith and hon. Members have suggested and as others have noted in years gone by, that any of this thuggery is related in any way to political organisation by racists, Fascists or anyone else, that must be among the areas to be inquired into so that the menace to democracy is taken out.

We have witnessed a terrible tragedy in Brussels, and we now know UEFA’s response. The thuggish minority, who are a stain on British football and British society, are the cause of both. It must be our determined purpose now to ensure that they have had their day once and for all. On football grounds and anywhere else in society we shall never permit them to show their ugly and thuggish face again.

Neil Kinnock – 1985 Labour Party Conference Speech

Below is the text of a speech made by the then Leader of the Labour Party, Neil Kinnock, at the Labour Party Conference in Bournemouth in 1985.

Thank you. Comrades, Alan, I think you must be all Welsh to give a welcome like that. But wherever you come from, I do thank you and I think movement, the country, will have got that message that you gave them there and then very loud and very clear. There is no mistaking that.

Comrades, before I present my parliamentary report this year, I want to mark the fact that at this Conference we see the retirement of an unusual number of our senior comrades in the trade union movement and also, of course, we have seen this year the retirement of our General Secretary, Jim Mortimer. I want to take this opportunity of paying tribute to all of those people, together with those who are perhaps not so distinguished, for their lifetime of service to this working class movement.

Today, however, we learn with deep sadness that one of those retired friends died this morning. Terry Duffy was blunt, irascible, not always easy to agree with, but as honest as the day was long, and we mourn his death and the fact that he had to endure with immense courage months of a dreadful illness. We send our sincere condolences to his family, and to Terry and to the many others who have made such a contribution to our movement we say thanks for all that they have done.

Comrades, this week in which our Conference meets is the 333rd week of Mrs Thatcher’s government. In this average week in Tory Britain 6,000 people will lose their jobs, 225 businesses will go bankrupt, £400 million will be spent on paying the bills of unemployment, 6,000 more people will be driven by poverty into supplementary benefit; and in this week in the world at large over $10,000 million will be spent on armaments and less than $1,000 million will be spent on official aid; and in this week over 300,000 children will die in the Third World. These are the real challenges that we have to face, at home and abroad. These are the concerns of our nation; they are the crises of our world. These are the problems which we in our party address and must address this week and every other week. Only we will address them this week and every other week, because that is what our party is for.

The Tories do not see things like that. They do not believe that these are great problems of substance at all.  They think that all of the woes are simply a matter of ‘presentation’, as they put it.  Presentation – that is what their ministers tell each other, that is what their Conference will tell itself next week, that is what the Prime Minister uses to explain everything: it is all a matter of presentation. The unemployment does not really exist, the training centres have not been shut down, the Health Service is safe in their hands: it is all just a matter of presentation. Indeed, they are so convinced of that that they have now got rid of Mr John Selwyn Gummer. He has been sent off to the Ministry of Agriculture, where doubtlessly the expertise that he gained as Chairman of the Tory Party in handling natural fertiliser will come in very handy.

In little Selwyn’s place we have Mr Norman Tebbit, charged with the task, so the newspapers tell us, of explaining the government to the country. The last person to have that commission was Dr Goebbels.  Whilst Lord Willie Whitelaw, so the newspapers tell us, retains responsibility for co-ordinating the presentation of government policy. Norman and Willie – surely arsenic and old lace! Still, to give the devil his due, Mr Tebbit has been very frank about his whole function. A few days ago he said: ‘I don’t mind being blackguarded for what we’ve done, but I don’t want to be blackguarded for what we haven’t done.’

He will not mind then if I ask him to take a little time off from commissioning young Tories to litter the streets of Bournemouth and give us a few explanations.  Ask him to explain, for instance, how the self-acclaimed party of law and order comes to preside over a record 40 per cent rise in crime in our country in the last six years. How does the declared party of school standards contrive a situation in which Her Majesty’s inspectors can describe the schooling system as ‘inadequate, shabby, dilapidated, outdated’, and then on top of that the Government goads the most temperate of professions – the teachers – into taking prolonged sanctions in the schools they work in? How does the party of the family cut child benefit, cut housing benefit, reduce nursery schooling, turn hundreds of women into immigration widows? How does the party of the family hit the old and the sick by cutting funds in the health and social services?  How does the party of the family, indeed of the country and the suburbs, isolate the villages and the suburbs by destroying public transport services? How does the party of the family, above all, so arrange things that this year there is the lowest number of public housing starts in the whole of modern history, the same year in which a Prime Minister makes provision for her retirement with a £450,000 fortress in Dulwich? Is that the mark of the family party?

How is it that the party that promised to roll back the state has arrived at the situation where 1,700,000 more people are entirely dependent on the state because of their poverty during the time the Tories have been in government? How can the party of freedom, the friends of freedom, illegalise trade unionism in GCHQ Cheltenham? How can the party of freedom abolish the right to vote in the Greater London and metropolitan county councils? How can the party of freedom prosecute Sarah Tisdall and Clive Ponting? How can the party of freedom make secret plans to surrender completely the sovereignty of the British people in the event of war?  How can the party of freedom do that? That did not happen when the Panzer divisions were at the French coast, when this country was in its most dire jeopardy. The institutions of freedom in this country were maintained. We insist that at tall times of national gravity, at any time of public jeopardy, there is all the more reason for us to sustain the values and the institutions of our democracy in this country.  That is what we tell the party of freedom.

How does the party of enterprise preside over record bankruptcies?  How does the party of tax cuts arrange that the British people now carry the biggest ever burden of taxation in British history? And how, above all, does the party that got the power by complaining that ‘Labour isn’t working’ claim in the name of sanity that there is a recovery going on, when unemployment rises remorselessly to the point where this Thursday they will record 3.4 million British people registered unemployed even on their fiddle figures? That is an awful lot – 3.4 million – of moaning Minnies, even for the most malevolent Maggie to try and explain away.

They are the paradoxes, they are the inconsistencies, they are the hypocrisies that Norman Tebbit has got to try and explain. No wonder they have given him a professional fiction writer as deputy chairman. But even if Jeffrey Archer was a mixture of the inventive genius of Shakespeare and Houdini and Uri Geller all rolled up into one, he still would not be able to do the trick, because the British people have rumbled. They have rumbled the methods, the motives, the style of the Government. They now understand. The great majority of the British people, including very much those who are not disadvantaged, are now alarmed and ashamed by the way that this Government rules, the divisions it creates, the dangers that it creates in our country. Their concern is recorded in every opinion poll, it is obvious in the statements of clergymen, it is even apparent amongst the soggier elements of the Conservative Party; and the breadth of that concern is evidence of the breadth of decent values and attitudes amongst the British people.

The Government ignores those feelings. They propose no concessions, no changes. All we get is a fleeting visit to what the Prime Minister thinks of as ‘the North’ and we get a Secretary of State for Employment in quarantine in the House of Lords, and then the other response that the Government makes to national crisis is to preach continually that there will be some great miracle of prosperity in some great non-unionised, low wage, tax-dodging, low-tech privatised day that one time will come upon us. It is a myth, mirage, fantasy, and the British people now know that.

They want a government that changes those policies; they want a government that will lift the poor and the unemployed; they want jobs to be generated; and they have demonstrated in overwhelming majorities that they want unemployment and insecurity to be fought by the Government, not used by the Government as the main tool of its economic policies. That is what the British people want. They resent the Tory strategy of fear. They know that fear brings caution, insecurity breeds stagnation. It goes not bring the ‘get up and go’ society that Mrs Thatcher talks about; it brings the ‘keep your head down, hang on to what you’ve got, stay scared’ society. That is what it brings – anxiety. And the penalties of disadvantage do not make confidence or co-operation or strength or stability; they make deference, they make division, they make weakness, yes, and they make conflict too.  When tension, division, distrust, racism and idleness are ignited by hopelessness, all of those policies of fear and neglect create chaos in our society and on our streets.

I say that we cannot afford to be ruled by a government that does nothing to combat that lethal mixture of stagnation and strife. We could not afford it at any time, but least of all can we afford it now, when our society must change or decay. We are in that time now, and there must be a better way to face those challenges, those alternatives, than the way that is shown by the Government of Margaret Thatcher.

I believe I know that in this party we do have that better way. I believe we have it because we have the values, the perceptions and the policies that come from democratic socialism. We have the combination of idealism, which stops us throwing in the towel and giving in to he defeatism of toryism, and the realism which makes us buckle down to finding and implementing the answers. That is the essence of what we believe in. That is the combination of idealism and realism that this country needs now. I say to this movement and I say to the country: that combination is more necessary than ever before.

We live in a time of rapidly and radically changing technology. We live at a time of shifts in the whole structure of the world economy; we live at a time of new needs among the peoples of the world and new aspirations among young people and among women – late but welcome new aspirations among half of humankind.  In the light of those changes, we need governing policies in this country that can gain change by consent. That will not come from government that bullies and dictates. It will not come from a government that evades changed and dodges the real issues. Change by consent can only be fostered by a government that will deliberately help people to cope with, handle and manage that change. That is the task for us – to promote change in such a way that it advances the people, all of the people.

Change cannot be left to chance. If it is left to chance, it becomes malicious, it creates terrible victims. It has done so generation in, generation out. Change has to be organised. It has to be shaped to the benefit of a society, deliberately, by those who have democratic power in that society; and the democratic instrument of the people who exist for that purpose is the state – yes, the state. To us that means a particular kind of state – an opportunity state, which exists to assist in nourishing talent and rewarding merit; a productive state, which exists to encourage investment and to help expand output; an enabling state, which is at the disposal of the people instead of being dominant over the people. In a word, we want a servant state, which respects those who work for it and reminds them that they work for the people of the country, a state which will give support to the voluntary efforts of those who, in their own time and from their own inspiration, will help the old, the sick, the needy, the young, the ill-housed and the hopeless.

We are democratic socialists.  We want to put the state where it belongs in a democracy – under the feet of the people, not over the heads of the people. That is where the state belongs in a democracy. It means the collective contribution of the community for the purpose of individual liberty throughout the community; of individual freedom which is not nominal but real; of freedom which can be exercised in practice because school is good, because the hospital is there, because the training is accessible, because the alternative work is available, because the law is fair, because the streets are safe – real freedoms, real choices, real chances, and, going with them, the real opportunity to meet responsibilities.  It is not a state doing things instead of people who could do those things better; it is not a state replacing families or usurping enterprise or displacing initiative or smothering individualism. It is the absolute opposite: it is a servant state doing things that institutions – big institutions, rich institutions, corporate institutions, rich, strong people – will not do, have not done, with anything like the speed or in anything like the scale that is necessary to bring change with consent in our society.  That kind of state is the state that we seek under democratic control.

It cannot be done with brutality and it cannot be done with blandness either. That is why the Social Democrats and the Liberals are utterly useless for the purpose of securing change with consent. They are in Polo politics – smooth and firm on the outside and absolutely nothing on the inside. They do not really do anything or say anything to address the real problems. They have just had a fortnight of conferences, most of which they spent talking about themselves and having a sort of a seminar about which David was going to play second fiddle, because we all know which David is going to play first trumpet, don’t we? They cannot be the enablers, for while there are doubtlessly people in their ranks who seek the decent ends of opportunity and production, there is no one there who will commit the means to secure those ends of opportunity and production. That is in the nature of the attitude that they have.

On top of all that in any case all of their aims for the next election are geared to one objective – a permanent, vested interest in instability, a hung Parliament, in which they can be the self-important arbiters of power. That would be contemptible at any time, but at a time when the Government is going to have to get on immediately, urgently, emergently with the task of generating jobs and investment, a strategy which is intent upon horse trading, juggling, balancing and ego flattering is totally contemptible, and the British people should know that.

The Tories meanwhile do not desire enabling ends and plainly will not commit enabling means. In every policy of the Tory government they have shown that their objective is to reduce what we have of an enabling state, what we have of a welfare state, to a rubble of shabby services and lost jobs. Of course they tell us they are not real jobs. Teachers, doctors, nurses, home helps, ancillaries in the schools and in the hospitals, ambulance drivers – they are not real jobs, that is what the Tories tell us. We know they are real jobs. We know they are real jobs because if those jobs are not done, if people are not allowed to do them, the consequent is real pain, real loss of opportunity, real suffering, real misery, yes, and real costs too. That is why they are real jobs, as real as life and death.

We see the Tories’ attitude towards enabling people in the education cuts; we see it in the closure of skill centres and training boards; we see it in the reduction in apprenticeships; we see it in the attempted withdrawal of board and lodging allowances to unemployed youngsters and to the chronically sick who need residences. Above all, we now see the Government’s attitude towards enabling in the proposals made by Norman Fowler in his social security review, which you debated this morning; ‘social security review’ – it would more appropriately be called social insecurity for you and you and you and you. Everybody in this country is going to be disadvantaged if they ever get the chance to implement those policies fully.

In the Labour party we are fighting, and we will go on fighting, those poor law proposals, and as part of that fight early next year we will launch Labour’s freedom and fairness campaign to put the issues to the British people, to give them our alternatives and to show that once again we have real policies for hope to put in place of fear, which is the only Tory policy. Of course hope is cheap; attractive, delightful, but cheap. Help costs money. So in the course of that fight and in our policies for construction and care we have to take full account of the breadth and depth of the ruin made by the policies of eight or maybe even, by then, nine years of applied Thatcherism. The extent of that ruin is awful.  Last Wednesday the Association of British Chambers of Commerce reported: ‘Our shrinking manufacturing base and deteriorating trade performance raises a fundamental question about the future of the British economy. How do we pay our way in the world when the oil trade surplus, at present a huge £11.5 thousand million, begins to disappear in the late 1980s. Answers to these questions from economic ministers and senior civil servants have been unsatisfactory.’

Comrades, in the last six years, alone among the major industrial nations, manufacturing production in Britain has actually fallen by 8 per cent; investment in manufacturing production has fallen by 20 per cent; manufactured trade has moved from a surplus of £4,000 million in the last year of the Labour government to a deficit of £4,000 million in the sixth year of the Tory government. In the years since 1979 our economic strength has been eaten away just as surely as if we had been engaged in a war – I put it to this party, I put it to the country, not as a defence, not in any defensive sense whatsoever, but as a salutary fact of life. The Tories have been the party and the government of destruction. If we are to rebuild and recover in this country, this Labour Party must be the party of production. That is where our future lies. It is not a new role for us, but it does require a fresh and vigorous reassertion.

Over the years our enemies and critics – yes, and a few of our friends as well – have given us the reputation of being a party that is solely concerned with redistribution, of being a party much more concerned about the allocation of wealth than the creation of wealth. It was not true; it is not true; it never has been and all our history shows that – from the great industrial development and nationalisation Acts of the Attlee Government, which gave this country a post-war industrial basis, through to the Wilson Government’s investment schemes and initiatives that brought new life to where I come from, to South Wales, to Scotland, to the North-East, to Merseyside to the new towns of the South-East, right through to the actions of the last Labour Government, which ensured that at least we retained a British computer industry, a British motor industry, a machine tool industry, a shipbuilding industry.  We have a long record and need give no apology for being the party of production.

Now in the 1980s we face new challenges in our determination that our country shall produce its way out of slump. There is the challenge of the hi-tech industries, which six years ago had a surplus with the rest of the world and now run a £2.3 billion deficit with the rest of the world, as a result of deliberately depressed demand, withdrawal of research and development and expensive money – the policies of the Tory Government. We have challenges too from the traditional industries, those industries dismissed, written off, by a Tory government that calls them ‘smoke-stack’ industries and really think that Britain’s future is as a warehouse, a tourist trap, with nothing to export but our capital.  That is the vision they have of the future – totally impractical, ruinous, not only for our generation but for all those to come.

Through our ‘Jobs in Industry’ campaign, in all our policies, we in this party say to the British people: Britain has made it, Britain can make it and, provided that we give to the workers, the managers, the technicians, the people of Britain the means to make it, Britain will make it in the future if we have a Labour government. Those means that they must have at their disposal are training, research and development, and finance for investment over periods and at prices that producers can and will afford. That is absolutely crucial. Other countries do it, and nobody has yet explained satisfactorily to me how it can be, why it should be, that we have a government and a financial system that believe that Britain can’t do it, Britain can’ make it and in any case Britain shouldn’t make it in the future. We cannot afford that surrender mentality from government. We have got to have a government like those of Japan, Germany, Sweden, France and Italy, which put the real interests of their country first.  They don’t talk about competing in the world economy as if it is a game of cricket. They talk about competing and they mean it, so they put their money where their speeches are.

I am not saying that an economy can revive and thrive only with government; I am saying that it is a fact of life in a modern economy that there can’t be any real progress while the policies of a government lie like a great stone across the path of productive manufacturing advance. I am not saying that it can only be done with government; I am saying that the fact of life is that we will not revive and thrive without the active support, involvement, participation of government.

To all those defeatists, the real moaning Minnies of Britain, who say: ‘That’s all very well, but British workers won’t respond, British managers won’t respond’, I say: go to the industries in Britain where modernisation has taken place, some of them foreign-owned, and see how, when people have the means, they can stand their corner with any competing industry in the world. I say too to them: go to where, in Labour local authorities, enterprise boards have been established, bringing together public capital and private capital, bringing together people with common objectives, and see how they succeed in measurement by anybody’s terms. Go and see, where people get the chance, how they take that chance, how they use it, how they use money to make production, how they spend some to make some, how they are determined to make modern things for modern markets, and do it successfully – from handicrafts right across to the frontier technologies.

We won’t accept the defeatism, the surrender mentality. That is why the first priority as the next government of Britain will be to invest in Britain. It has been obvious for decades and disastrously clear since the Thatcher Government took away controls on the export of capital six years ago at Britain is a grossly under-invested country. There is less excuse for that now than ever. The Tories have had more oil money in every month that they have been in government than Jim Callaghan’s government had in a whole year of government. They have spent that money on sustaining unemployment, and even as the oil money poured out on that unemployment, even as it poured in to the Exchequer, the investment money poured out of the British economy altogether.

In the last six years, over £60,000 million of investment capital has left Britain. We need that money – not the Labour Party or the Labour Government: Britain needs that money, if we are to rebuild. That is why we are going to establish our scheme to bring the funds back home where they are needed, so that they can be used for generating employment, development and growth in our economy. We are going to use those funds for long-term loans for the purchase of modern machinery, for research and development, for training. We will ensure that the return paid is comparable to what can be got elsewhere, but the difference will be this: those resources will be here, for the process of investment, for the purpose of creating wealth, for the purpose most of all of generating jobs here in Britain.

We don’t make those arguments for getting and using that money out of any jingoistic or nationalistic motive. What we say is this: we need those policies for we simply cannot afford the level of charity shown by the moneyhandlers of Britain towards our advanced industrial competitors. That charity is too expensive for this country to tolerate any longer. We need that money. We need the money to be able to produce; we need the money to be able to generate those jobs, further development, new investment; we need that wealth to reward people for their effort, for their enterprise; and we need that money and the wealth that it generates to provide the means of properly funding the system of justice and opportunity and care which I call the enabling state.

We need that money to make our way in the world, but there are other ways too in which we must make our way in the world. We must make our way morally as well as economically. For us as democratic socialists there can be no retreat from our duties as citizens of the world. We don’t want to be the worlds policemen, we don’t want to pretend that we are the world’s pastor either, but we must be the friends of freedom; and as people who believe that the great privilege of strength, the great privilege of being strong, is the power which it gives to be able to help people who are not strong, we understand where our obligations are in this world.

If the morality won’t convince people, if the ethics won’t convince people, let the practicalities – the material practicalities – convince them. In this world now we either live together or we decay separately. It is in our material interest to ensure that the supplicants of the Third World are turned into customers and consumers by relieving them of the terrible burdens of interest, by the effectiveness of our aid policies and by assisting in their development. That is a clinical fact stripped of all emotion, and I use it to persuade the falterers. But even to them I say that if you had come with me this year to see the different levels of need in the barrios of Managua and the shambas of Tanzania, in the desert settlements of Kenya and, most of all, in the back streets of Addis Ababa – for I have never seen such destitution – I would not have to tickle you with profit. If you had seen and touched and felt and smelt, you would know where your duty as free people, as people with money, as people with power and strength, really lies in this world. I say to those people that they would want to do all they could to give life and to help people make a life for themselves. They would. That is what the British people showed just on the basis of television pictures, even without the touch on the skin of a starving child. The British people showed it and will go on showing that they feel that putting food in people’s stomachs and putting clothes on people’s backs and putting roofs over people’s heads is our place in the world; and, even more than that, they show they understand that helping people to provide the means to grow their food, to make their clothes, to find their freedom, is our place in the world in this democracy.

Just as it is the duty, the privilege, of the strong to help the weak, so it is the duty of the free to help those across this planet who are oppressed because of their beliefs, the colour of their skin, their sex, their poverty, their powerlessness, their principles. We reach out to them, for we must be the friends of those who are oppressed, those who are made captives in their own lands, in our efforts, right throughout this movement, some announced, some more subtle, to secure the release of refuseniks and so-called dissidents in the Soviet Union, in our support for Solidarnosc, in our aid for the democrats of Chile, in our backing, our solidarity, with the democratically elected government of the Republic of Nicaragua. We stand with them. In all those and in many other ways, in our support for the United Nations, we know that for us as free people freedom can have no boundaries.

Comrades, the Government doesn’t know that. Britain should not have to be dragged, fumbling, stumbling and mumbling, into imposing even the most nominal economic sanctions against apartheid South Africa. We should be leading opinion, out of pride in our own liberty and out of the practical knowledge, as we in this movement have counselled for years, that there is only one plausible way that stands the remotest chance of securing peaceful change in South Africa, and that is by the strong imposing of effective economic sanctions against apartheid. Now, when South African businessmen sensibly confer with leaders of the African National Congress, when the United Democratic Front grows bold in its demands for freedom in South Africa and when even the President of the United States of America is obliged to impose embargoes on the apartheid regime, the British government’s excuses and alibis become more lame, more pathetic, more contemptible by the day.

Next month is the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference. Britain will be stranded, isolated amongst that Commonwealth of nations – rich nations, poor nations, black nations, white nations, north and south – as the only nation that shows any degree of friendship towards apartheid South Africa. We should be taking our place in the world properly, with the Australians, the New Zealanders, the Canadians, and the Zambians, the Tanzanians and those who at the front line have made the most monstrous sacrifices in order to sustain what pressure they can on South Africa.

In taking our proper place in the modern world, rid of all the vanities, the nostalgia for a past whose glory missed most of our people, it is essential that we strip ourselves of illusions; most important, that we strip ourselves of the illusions of nuclear grandeur. Not my phrase – nuclear grandeur, the illusions. That phrase belongs to Field Marshall Lord Carver, former Chief of the Defence Staff. In June he said to the House of Lords: ‘Why do the Government obstinately persist in wasting money on a so-called British independent deterrent? … Our ballistic missiles submarines are not an essential element of NATO’s strategy. Whether they are regarded as an addition to the force assigned to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe or as an independent force, they are superfluous and a waste of money. The essential element is the stationing of United States conventional land and air forces on the Continent; and, in order to persuade the American people that it is right, proper and in their own interests that they should continue to [contribute to the defence of Western Europe], it is essential that we and our fellow-European members of NATO should convince them that we are using our money and manpower effectively to maintain … the capability of our conventional forces … That, my Lords, is the first priority of our defence policy, not illusions of nuclear grandeur.’

I don’t suppose I agree with Field Marshall Lord Carver about everything, but that was a very effective way, from a very effective spokesman, of demonstrating the insanity, the waste, the illusion of Tory Party policy, and demonstrating too the reality and necessity of our complete non-nuclear defence policy to maintain the proper security of our country and alliance. That is our policy, our commitment to the British people, and we will honour it in full.

We want to honour our undertakings in full in every area of policy.  We want to say what we mean and mean what we say.  We want to keep our promises, and because we want to do that it is essential that we don’t make false promises. That is why we must not casually make promises that are so fanciful, so self-indulgent, so exaggerated that they can be completely falsified by the realities in which we live and the realities that we know we shall encounter.  If we do not take that view, if we do make false promises, we shall lose integrity, we shall demonstrate immaturity, we will not convince the people.

Comrades, 463 resolutions have been submitted to this Conference on policy issues, committed honestly, earnestly, and a lot of thought has gone into them.  Of those 463, 300 refer to something called the next Labour Government and they refer to what they want that next Labour Government to do. I want to take on many of those commitments. I want to meet many of those demands. I want to respond to many of those calls, in practice – not in words, but in actions. But there is of course a pre-condition to honouring those or any other undertaking that we give.  That pre-condition is unavoidable, total and insurmountable, and it is a pre-condition that in this movement we do not want to surmount.  It is the pre-condition that we win a general election. There is absolutely no other way to put any of those policies into effect. The only way to restore, the only way to rebuild, the only way to reinstate, the only way to help the poor, to help the unemployed, to help the victimised, is to get the support of those who are not poor, not unemployed, not victimised who support our view. That means, comrades, reaching out to them and showing them that we are at one with their decent values and aims, that we are with their hopes for their children, with their needs, with their ideals of justice, improvement and prosperity in the future.

There are some in our movement who, when I say that we must reach out in that fashion, accuse me of an obsession with electoral politics; there are some who, when I say we must reach out and make a broader appeal to those who only have their labour to sell, who are part of the working classes – no doubt about their credentials – say that I am too preoccupied with winning; there are some who say, when I reach out like that and in the course of seeking that objective, that I am prepared to compromise values. I say to them and I say to everybody else, and I mean it from the depths of my soul: there is no need to compromise values, there is no need in this task to surrender our socialism, there is no need to abandon or even try to hide any of our principles, but there is an implacable need to win and there is an equal need for us to understand that we address an electorate which is sceptical, an electorate which needs convincing, a British public who want to know that our idealism is not lunacy, our realism is not timidity, our eagerness is not extremism, a British public who want to know that our carefulness too is not nervousness.

I speak to you, to this Conference. People say that leaders speak to the television cameras. All right, we have got some eavesdroppers. But my belief has always been this, and I act upon it and will always act upon it. I come here to this Conference primarily, above all, to speak to this movement at its Conference. I say to you at this Conference, the best place for me to say anything, that I will tell you what you already know, although some may need reminding. I remind you, every one of you, of something that every single one of you said in the desperate days before June 9, 1983. You said to each other on the streets, you said to each other in the cars rushing round, you said to each other in the committee rooms: elections are not won in weeks, they are won in years. That is what you said to each other. That is what you have got to remember: not in future weeks or future years; this year, this week, this Conference, now – this is where we start winning elections, not waiting until the returning officer is ready.

Secondly, something else you know. If Socialism is to be successful in this country, it must relate to the practical needs and the mental and moral traditions of the men and women of this country.  We must emphasise what we have in common with those people who are our neighbours, workmates and fellow countrymen and women – and we have everything in common with them – in a way we could not do if we were remote, if, like the Tories, we were in orbit around the realities of our society, if, like the Social Democrats and the Liberals, we stood off from those realities, retreated from them, deserted them.  But we are of, from, for the people. That is our identity, that is our commitment, that is how much we have in common with the people. Let us emphasise that, let us demonstrate it, let us not hide it away as if it was something extraordinary or evidence of reaction.  Let us emphasise what we have in common with the people of this country.

We must not dogmatise or browbeat. We have got to reason with people; we have got to persuade people. That is their due. We have voluntarily, every one of us, joined a political party. We wish a lot more people would come and join us, help us, give us their counsel, their energies, their advice, broaden our participation. But in making the choice to join a political party we took a decision, and it was that, by persuasion, we hoped that we could bring more people with us.  So that is the basis on which we have got to act, want to act.

Thirdly, something else you know. There is anger in this country at the devastation brought about by these last six years of Tory government, but strangely that anger is mixed with despair, a feeling that the problems are just too great, too complex, to be dealt with by any government or any policy. That feeling is abroad. We disagree with it, we contend it, we try to give people the rational alternatives, but it exists. If our response to that despair, anger and confusion amounts to little more than slogans, if we give the impression to the British people that we believe that we can just make a loud noise and the Tory walls of Jericho will fall down, they are not going to treat us very seriously at all – and we won’t deserve to be treated very seriously.

Fourthly, I shall tell you again what you know.  Because you are from the people, because you are of the people, because you live with the same realities as everybody else lives with, implausible promises don’t win victories. I’ll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, mis-placed, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end up in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council, a Labour council, hiring taxis to scuttle round a city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers.

I am telling you, no matter how entertaining, how fulfilling to short-term egos – I tell you and you’ll listen, I’m telling you that you can’t play politics with people’s jobs and with people’s services or with their homes. Comrades, the voice of the people – not the people here; the voice of the real people with real needs – is louder than all the boos that can be assembled. Understand that, please, comrades.  In your socialism, in your commitment to those people, understand it. The people will not, cannot, abide posturing. They cannot respect the gesture-generals or the tendency-tacticians.

Comrades, it seems to me lately that some of our number become like latter-day public school-boys. It seems it matters not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game. We cannot take that inspiration from Rudyard Kipling. Those game players get isolated, hammered, blocked off. They might try to blame others – workers, trade unions, some other leadership, the people of the city – for not showing sufficient revolutionary consciousness, always somebody else, and then they claim a rampant victory. Whose victory? Not victory for the people, not victory for them.  I see the casualties; we all see the casualties.  They are not to be found amongst the leaders and some of the enthusiasts; they are to be found amongst the people whose jobs are destroyed, whose services are crushed, whose living standards are pushed down to deeper depths of insecurity and misery. Comrades, these are vile times under this Tory Government for local democracy, and we have got to secure power to restore real local democracy.

But I look around this country and I see Labour councils, I see socialists, as good as any other socialists, who fought the good fight and who, at he point when they thought they might jeopardise people’s jobs and people’s services, had the intelligence, yes, and the courage to adopt a different course. They truly put jobs and services first before other considerations. They had to make hellish choices. I understand it. You must agonise with them in the choices they had to make – very unpalatable, totally undesirable, but they did it. They found ways. They used all their creativity to find ways that would best protect those whom they employed and those whom they were elected to defend. Those people are leaders prepared to take decisions, to meet obligations, to giver service. They know life is real, life is earnest – too real, too earnest to mistake a Conference Resolution for an accomplished fact; too real, too earnest to mistake a slogan for a strategy; too real, too earnest to allow them to mistake their own individual enthusiasm for mass movement; too real, too earnest to mistake barking for biting. I hope that becomes universal too.

Comrades, I offer you this counsel. The victory of socialism, said a great socialist, does not have to be complete to be convincing. I have no time, he went on, for those who appear to threaten the whole of private property but who in practice would threaten nothing; they are purists and therefore barren. Not the words of some hypnotised moderate, not some petrified pragmatist, but Aneurin Bevan in 1950 at the height of his socialist vision and his radical power and conviction. There are some who will say that power and principle are somehow in conflict. Those people who think that power and principle are in conflict only demonstrate the superficiality, the shallowness, of their own socialist convictions; for whilst they are bold enough to preach those convictions in little coteries, they do not have the depth of conviction to subject those convictions, those beliefs, that analysis, to the real test of putting them into operation in power.

There is no collision between principle and power.  For us as democratic socialists the two must go together, like a rich vein that passes through everything that we believe in, everything that we try to do, everything that we will implement. Principle and power, conviction and accomplishment, going together.  We know that power without principle is ruthless and vicious, and hollow and sour. We know that principle without power is naïve, idle sterility. That is useless – useless to us, useless to the British people to overcome their travails, useless for our purpose of changing society as democratic socialists. I tell you that now. It is what I have always said, it is what I shall go on saying, because it is what I said to you at the very moment that I was elected leader.

I say to you in complete honesty, because this is the movement that I belong to, that I owe this party everything I have got – not the job, not being leader of the Labour Party, but every life chance that I have had since the time I was a child: the life chance of a comfortable home, with working parents, people who had jobs; the life chance of moving out of a pest and damp-infested set of rooms into a decent home, built by a Labour council under a Labour Government; the life chance of an education that went on for as long as I wanted to take it. Me and millions of others of my generation got all their chances from this movement. That is why I say that this movement, its values, its policies, applied in power, gave me everything that I have got – me and millions like me of my generation and succeeding generations. That is why it is my duty to be honest and that is why it is our function, our mission, our duty – all of us – to see that those life chances exist and are enriched and extended to millions more, who without us will never get the chance of fulfilling themselves. That is why we have got to win, that is what I have always believed and that is what I put to you at the very moment that I was elected.

In 1983 I said to this Conference ‘We have to win. We must not permit any purpose to be superior for the Labour movement to that purpose.’ I still believe it. I will go on saying it until we achieve that victory and I shall live with the consequences, which I know, if this movement is with me, will be victory – victory with our policies intact, no sell-outs, provided that we put nothing before the objective of explaining ourselves and reasoning with the people of this country. We will get that victory with our policies, our principles, intact.  I know it can be done. Reason tells me it can be done. The people throughout this movement, who I know in huge majority share all these perceptions and visions and want to give all their energies, they know it can be done. Realism tells me it can be done, and the plain realities and needs of our country tell me it must be done. We have got to win, not for our sakes, but really, truly to deliver the British people from evil. Let’s do it.

Thank you, comrades.  Everybody has got the message: we’re not the Liberals or the Tories. Thank you very much.

Neil Kinnock – 1970 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Neil Kinnock in the House of Commons on 13th July 1970.

I rise to make my maiden speech. I am particularly happy to make it on the subject of health and social security because the House will know that Socialists in my part of the country, South Wales, have made a unique contribution to the design and development of our National Health Service. Though I cannot hope to rival the talents and vision of Jim Griffiths or Aneurin Bevan, I can bring to this House some zeal for social justice and provide a continuity of interest in this subject.

My predecessor, Mr. Harold Finch, also belonged to this generation of giants, was an expert not only in social welfare but also in miners’ compensation, and it earned him respect in this House, and, indeed throughout the country, and, so I am informed, throughout the world. Because of the way in which he applied his knowledge I can certainly testify to the genuine affection which it earned him in the constituency. I am sure that his dear wife is a familiar figure in this building and that the House will want to join with me in wishing them a long and active retirement. Mr. Finch’s retirement is likely to be marred by only one single fact, which is that, for the early years of it, at least, it will be under a Conservative régime, something which does not commend itself very easily to his palate.

We have a Tory Government, a Government which, on the basis of the pronouncements since 1st July, the election manifesto and even the compassionate speech of the Secretary of State for Social Services, not only economically but socially are prepared to stampede back to the barren prairie lands of laisser-faire. The Government, who are seeking to please all the people all the time and will succeed in pleasing only a tiny élite few have produced two glorious non sequiturs.

First, there has been a lot of talk about compassion, and this from a party whose very existence is an illustration of rapacity and selfishness. To me and to the people of South Wales that is what Conservatism means. I make no apology for giving their definition, because they are the people whom I represent.

Secondly, we have had the pious palava of creating “one nation”, and this from a Government that is prepared in the name of the god “choice” to encourage the development of private alternatives in education, welfare, insurance and health—[Interruption.] There is no order of the House that demands that I make a non-controversial speech. I am talking about a controversial subject, a matter of life and death, and nothing is more controversial than that. There will be the same old formula of privilege, selectivity take the hindmost, which will neither give success to the Conservatives nor, more important, ameliorate the distress of the people seeking assistance from the health services, national insurance and other benefits of the Welfare State.

Perhaps I have a suspicious mind, but the South Wales valleys breed suspicious minds, and I have reason to believe that the “one nation” party is conducting a survey of the Welfare State system and the National Health Service with a view to undertaking extensive mining operations. Doctors and nurses who are so desperately needed in the public health system will be sucked out of the pool of medical manpower into private medicine, where they will be available to few people. New developments in medical technology will become available in the first instance and for some time to come only to people who can afford to pay either through heavy insurance premiums or directly. Public confidence in the National Health Service will be eroded by governmental neglect and by the garish shop window of private health schemes. In the words of Aneurin Bevan, we shall have a nation divided by the salt, some above, some below. I am in this House, and I hope that other hon. Members on this side are, to knock the salt off the table so that there is universal provision of the best regardless of a person’s background or income. Only in this way can we afford to hold up our heads when we talk about a health service.

There are probably people on the other side of the House who are very nice—[Laughter.]—perhaps most of them are out of the Chamber at the moment, but there probably are some nice people. The nice, kind people have confused their niceness and kindness with the idea of compassion. I am not saying that there are no compassionate people, but what I have read in the Conservative Party manifesto, what I have heard so far today and suspect I shall hear for the rest of the day has little to do with compassion. Compassion is not a sloppy, sentimental feeling for people who are underprivileged or sick, to be used as a tearjerker or as an expedient at the time of an election. It is an absolutely practical belief that, regardless of a person’s background, ability or ability to pay, he should be provided with the best that society has to offer. That is compassion in practice; anything less than that is sheer sentimentality. It is impossible to be compassionate while at the same time promising to cut public consumption for the sake of buttressing-up private choice.

Illustrations of this non sequitur, this paradox, that runs right through the policy are many. The manifesto refers to the contribution made by voluntary services to the National Health Service. No one appreciates more than I do, as a member of a regional hospital board, that this is an excellent way of providing State care with a human face. I support the development of voluntary systems, but if increasing voluntary activity means going beyond youngsters and citizens being involved in the running of hospitals and caring for the aged, the sick and the weak, and results in transforming half the Health Service into dependence on voluntary donation and philanthropic management, that will be a different matter altogether. We did away with a “flag day” health service many years ago. The slightest step in that direction will earn the fury of the people of this country, and I shall be in the van of that fury.

We are told that the development of the Health Service will be financed only out of economic growth and not through the reallocation of resources from other Departments. That leads to two questions. Will the families who do not have immediate access to universally available health facilities feel secure and serene enough to bring about the increased productivity we require for economic growth? I do not think they will, not because they are selfish people, but because they cannot connect their standard of living with a vague and incomprehensible national growth target.

Secondly, if the Government are concerned about out-dated hospitals, the efficiency of community services and the lack of co-ordination between the three branches of the Health Service, why was so little done about it in the last Conservative Administration? We allegedly had the growth rate then, and we certainly had the problems, but little or nothing was done about them.

I am pleased to know that an undertaking has been given that there will be more health centres. We shall be particularly glad in Wales, because we understand what a blessing they are. We now have 13, and 14 are in process of construction. They are a novelty to us. All of them have been built since 1964. Before then for 13 years not one was built.

We are told that we have had a “programme for Parliament”. After all the answers I have heard during Question Time and the statements which have been made during debates, I am beginning to wonder which Parliament we have a programme for. We have been told nothing. We have not even had a gratuitous promise. We have had no statement about the Green Papers on reorganisation, and we have had no commitment to a reorganisation of the Health Service. There has been no mention whether the Government are now to extend the practice of screening which involves the application of modern medical technology and could save countless lives since it diagnoses disease at an early stage. It is a natural extension of the National Health Service and we should like to know whether the Government intend to adopt screening on a widespread basis.

What have the Government to say about giving universal application of dramatic technological advances so that they may be available to ordinary people? Suspicions are bound to arise when we read that the Conservatives believe that people should provide for themselves. Does this mean that people will have access to heart, lung and kidney machines only if they can afford to pay for them? One cannot blame people for being suspicious when they have no ground to believe otherwise.

My constituency of Bedwellty is situated in the coalfields and has a consciousness that is shared by people in similarly situated communities. In those communities we have a preoccupation with community help. We have more than our share of old people, we have a much higher than average rate of infant mortality and juvenile morbidity. These are the main problems to be tackled.

There is no major general hospital available to people in the constituency and we do not enjoy the immediate services of any of the primary specialists, such as gynaecologists and obstetricians. Access to the surrounding hospitals is limited by preposterously high bus fares. The cheapest fare to get to any hospital within my constituency is 5s. 2d. and the most expensive runs up to 12s. Looking at the party opposite, I cannot see that this situation will be bettered within the life of this Parliament.

The Secretary of State said in rather unkind terms that he likened the commitment of the Labour Party to social security to the worship of a sacred cow. My attitude and that of the people in my constituency, and indeed that of all hon. Members on this side of the House, to social security and health matters is that there should be an opportunity for fair treatment for everyone. This is not an attitude of the sacred cow but an elementary characteristic of our claim to be a civilized nation.