Peter Hain – 1994 Speech on Regulators

peterhain

Below is the text of the speech made by Peter Hain in the House of Commons on 20 April 1994.

A big thank you, Madam Speaker. I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to reform the accountability and other objectives of the privatised utility regulators.

Without any serious debate, the regulation of the privatised utilities has been hived off to autocratic unaccountable directors general. The invisible hand of Ofman the regulator now guides policy for every light switched on, every bath run and every telephone call made. Regulators are independent and all-powerful, and they have extensive discretion, which has often been exercised in a highly personalised fashion.

Oftel, Ofgas, Ofwat and OFFER cover vital services.

Telecommunications, gas, water and electricity affect major areas of public policy and every citizen in the land.

However, the regulators were largely afterthoughts. Regulation has evolved in an ad hoc fashion, becoming complex, over-technical, rambling and fundamentally flawed. The main beneficiaries are shareholders, whose dividends have soared–dividends had increased by 85 per cent. for water by 1992, and by a massive 63 per cent. in the first year of electricity privatisation. Industry chiefs have also enjoyed a pay and shares bonanza.

By contrast, job losses in the privatised utilities will soon total a staggering 200,000. The National Consumer Council reports at best a mixed record on prices, with anomalies such as a £9,000 charge for a 4 ft water connection to a residential home in my constituency of Neath.

The right-wing assumption that individual shareholder interest necessarily equates with the public interest is nonsense. Individual shareholder or consumer interests, compartmentalised from each other, do not inevitably aggregate into the general public interest. Indeed, selfishly pursued with the support of the regulator, they often thwart achievement of the general interest in such matters as the ability of strategic national companies to compete in world markets, environmental protection and the preservation of precious natural resources.

In 1993 the electricity regulator–a public servant, not an elected representative–insisted that forcing the electricity generators to maintain existing coal volumes would infringe competition rules. He thereby vetoed an alternative energy policy, which led to the closing of dozens of pits. That public servant’s encouragement of the dash for gas for electricity power station base load is depleting North sea oil reserves by more than 15 years’ usage, and causing a most inefficient use of a critical fuel. Coal is sentenced to death, while coal imports soar and nuclear power has a £1 billion-plus subsidy. The driving objective of the regulators to promote competition almost at all costs invites foreign companies to enter the United Kingdom market on advantageous terms, while British companies are barred from reciprocal rights abroad. That is most striking in gas and telecommunications, where American-owned television companies are capturing important local markets. British Telecom cannot enter the United States market on equivalent terms, and is further penalised by being barred from offering broadcast services, such as cable television, over its lines.

Britain’s industrial interests in that vital area of information technology are being undermined, as BT is forced to concentrate on pigmy competition in its backyard at the expense of international competition, where we are now threatened with an American takeover. Competition dogma is also tending to force the privatised utilities to concentrate on the most lucrative, fastest growing markets, where competition from new entrants is fiercest, at the expense of low- income communities. That so-called “cherry picking” means that the most profitable users get the cheapest and most sophisticated services. Telecommunications in the City of London is a good example. By contrast, there is social dumping of rural areas and poor inner city areas, where competition is limited or non-existent. Installation charges for telephones are high, well beyond the reach of many people on low incomes.
Water disconnections trebled after privatisation, and charges soared almost as high as executive salaries and perks in the water industry. Low-income households face discrimination, with higher deposits and pre-payment systems.

Privatised British Gas is refusing to extend the main supply an extra few miles to supply villagers–in Neath’s Dulais and Swansea valleys, for example. The new competition regime will also increase gas charges for the poor and reduce charges, relatively, for the rich, while gas showrooms are closed.

Competition is not value free, nor is regulation a value-free, non- political exercise carried out in an objective, technical fashion. Each regulator has enormous discretion to determine public policy as he sees fit for his own industry without regard to the knock-on effect. We need to put democratic politics back in charge. The Government should take a small stake in each industry and should appoint a Government director, thus securing considerable influence at minimal cost.

New regulators should be appointed with different objectives to ensure that policies to advance strategic national and social interests always take precedence over promoting domestic competition or shareholders’ profits. The regulators should have new performance targets, such as universal tariffs, protection of supplies to the elderly and the disabled, research and development, levels of investment and international competition. Those, rather than competition for its own sake, should be the driving objectives of the regulators.

Democratic accountability could also be improved by establishing a parliamentary Select Committee to scrutinise the utilities, with annual debates on the Floor of the House. A utilities commission should be established to bring the regulators under one roof. That would promote policy consistency between the different regulators housed within it. We do not see that at the moment, especially in gas and electricity.

The commission would be a quasi-judicial body, akin to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, but with powers of scrutiny and subpoena similar to those of a Select Committee. It could be governed by a board of representatives from all sectors–from consumers, senior managers, trade unions, shareholders and academics appointed by the Secretary of State.

Enabling the different regulators to share common resources would also bring economies. Each regulator would still be proactive and would still have considerable operational autonomy, but each would be supervised by the commission’s board. It would have an advisory role for Government on policy and strategy, and it would help to resolve disputes between the regulators in industries. Such disputes have sometimes dragged on for months.

There must be transparency in the regulators’ decisions and the regulators’ right to silence should be abolished. They should be required to explain the reasons for their decisions, either publicly or at least privately to the industries concerned. It would also make sense for the regulators to be merged and reorganised so that we had one regulator covering communications ; telecommunications and broadcasting are increasingly converging. There should be one regulator for energy, including coal, one regulator for transport and one regulator for water.

The customer is crying out for change and the companies themselves want consistency. Opinion-formers and utilities experts, and even some of the regulators themselves, are casting around for alternatives. The Bill would introduce regulation for the common good.

Peter Hain – 1991 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Peter Hain in the House of Commons on 17 April 1991.

Entering the House after the high profile of a by-election is rather like having been head prefect in primary school, only to be plunged into the obscure anonymity of a secondary school new boy. I am confident that that fate awaits me when I sit down today.

It is an honour and a privilege to represent Neath, or Castell Nedd, whose importance dates from Roman and Norman times, and which has the cosiest town centre in Britain, surrounded by scenic valleys and majestic waterfalls, with, to the west, the a spectacular night-time view of Pontardawe’s unusually tall and striking church spire.

There is a strong sense of community, an immense network of voluntary activity, and a rich culture of amateur opera, music, and male voice and ladies’ choirs. On the eastern tip of the constituency is Richard Burton’s home village of Pontrhydyfen. Amateur sport is widespread—football, athletics and, of course, the best rugby team in country. Recently I was introduced to a class of nine-year-old children at Godrergraig primary school. The teacher said, “Here is a very important person.” One of the nine-year-olds got up and asked, “Do you play rugby for Neath?” That, I thought, was a man who had his priorities right.

I have enjoyed renewing my interests in the game at Neath’s home ground, the Gnoll. In my youth, that interest involved running on rugby pitches, both as a player and, later, in another capacity, which I shall refrain from describing, as this speech is made with your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I am privileged in another way: I follow two Members, both survived by wives still living in Neath. Margaret Coleman is a highly respected figure in her own right in the community. Jenny Williams, now in her nineties, was a much-loved Labour party activist, and wife of D. J. Williams, who hailed from the close-knit village of Tairgwaith in the north-west of the constituency. In 1925, D. J. Williams wrote of the destructive impact of capitalism in the coal industry in terms that remain true today.

Donald Coleman’s tragically premature death was not just a bitter blow to his family; it deprived Neath of a favourite son, and this House of its finest tenor. Although I will do my best to follow in his footsteps as a diligent constituency MP, I am afraid I cannot hope to match his talent for music and song. The exuberance with which he sang and preached his love for Neath reflects the intense civic pride in the town and in the villages of the Dulais, Swansea, Amman, Neath and Pelenna valleys.

But local residents cannot survive on civic pride, mutual aid and mutual co-operation alone. They take great pride in educational achievement. I have met nobody in Neath who cannot remember how many O-levels he or she has. There is a great tradition of skill and hard work in Neath and its valleys. Much has been done in the face of Government indifference and neglect, but so much more could be done if the publicly sponsored investment in industry, infrastructure and initiative for which the people of Neath and its valleys are crying out were provided.

Surely Neath is entitled to the seedcorn investment, decent training provision and long-term loan finance that only national Government or the Welsh Office is able to provide. The old Blaenant colliery site —headgear still erect as a monument to the last pit in Neath; one of over 30 to close in the constituency in the last 30 years —nestles beneath the village of Crynant in the picturesque Dulais valley. The old Aberpergwm washery and pit site is just below the little village of Cwmgwrach in the Vale of Neath. Both are prime industrial sites, yet both stand idle, black and gaunt, their potential wasting away as 11 people chase every job vacancy, training places are cut to the bone, and businesses go bust. Nobody in Neath wants a free ride. People want simply the opportunity to build a new future.

That future must include high-quality health and community care provision. With its history of mining and heavy industry, the people of Neath suffer disproportionately from ill health. With a higher than average proportion of citizens of pensionable age—22 per cent. compared to 17.7 per cent. for Great Britain —there is a particular need for a properly funded health and community care network. Yet the Welsh Office and the Treasury have still not given the go-ahead for the new hospital that Neath so desperately needs, and West Glamorgan county council has been forced, under pain of poll tax capping, to close one of its old people’s homes.

Neath borough council, meanwhile, has had to spend an extra £523,000 on collecting the poll tax, compared with the cost of collecting the rates. On top of this, the borough had to install a new computer system for processsing the poll tax, at a cost of £300,000. Neath’s 16,000 pensioners are entitled to question the priorities of a society and a Government that waste such colossal sums of money while hospital waiting lists grow, and responsibility for community care is unceremoniously dumped on local authorities without the necessary resources to finance it.

How can we claim to be caring for citizens in need when the iniquity of the poll tax continues to penalise them so savagely? Even after the recent £140 reduction in the poll tax, residents in the Blaenhonddan area of Neath will be paying £113.66 a head. This is £85 more, incidentally, than I pay as a resident in Resolven, a few miles up the Neath valley, even though we are paying for the same local authority services, because of the discriminatory way the Welsh Office operates the transitional relief scheme.

One resident in the Blaenhonddan area—a woman from Bryncoch—is caring for her 83-year-old mother who has Parkinson’s disease. The mother has a tiny widow’s pension and has to pay the full £113. Their combined household poll tax bill is £339, yet both she and her husband are on tiny incomes which are so widespread in the Neath area. The hypocrisy of preaching community care while practising such a pernicious policy is not lost on that woman or her neighbours in Neath. Conservative Members who turn a blind eye to her predicament call to mind Thomas Paine’s summer soldier and sunshine patriot who in a crisis shrink from the service of their country.

How can the House claim to be safeguarding the interests of individuals such as a 72-year-old man from the village of Gwaun-cae-Gurwen, where the Welsh language is spoken with pride, whose eyesight deteriorates daily? He has waited 18 months for a cataract operation—a simple, cheap operation. Yet waiting lists for ophthalmic surgery at Singleton hospital have doubled since 1987, and there are now 1,400 local people like him awaiting in-patient treatment. Perhaps most outrageous of all, he was told that he could have the operation next week if he could go private at a cost of £3,000. He might as well have been invited to go to the moon, for that is a sum quite out of the question for someone living on the pittance that pensioners get today. He can be forgiven for noting with anger the grotesque fact that 200 people, just 0.0004 per cent. of the population, now monopolise 9.3 per cent. of the country’s economic wealth—some classless society indeed.

Meanwhile, the quality of the environment and the standard of living continue to deteriorate, especially for our elderly. Local bus services in the Neath valleys have been cut ruthlessly. Fares are exorbitant. Yet who can afford a car on a basic retirement income, perhaps topped up by a miner’s tiny pension? It is difficult enough for senior citizens to pay their colour television licence and the standing charges on their phone, electricity or gas. It is difficult enough for them to find the money to eat properly as food bills rise remorselessly while the real value of pensions declines compared with wage earners.

If Neath’s senior citizens had free bus passes, if standing charges on basic utility services were reduced or abolished for pensioners, if those on low incomes were entitled, like their colleagues in sheltered housing, to television licences for £5 rather than £77, if Neath and Lliw borough councils were not banned by the Government from using their combined housing capital receipts of £7.6 million to build new homes and hit by cuts in housing funding from installing universal central heating and upgrading their existing housing stock, if communities like Cwmllynfell at the heads of the four main valleys in the constituency were not choked by coal dust, disruption and heavy lorry traffic from existing and threatened opencast mines—if all those vital factors were addressed, the standard and quality of life of my constituents would be dramatically improved and, with it, there would be less need to depend upon health and community care provision.

Furthermore, if the curse of “London knows best” were removed, local people would of their own volition radically recast their priorities. That is why decentralisation of power through newly invigorated local councils and an elected assembly for Wales are so vital. That is why a freedom of information Act and an elected second Chamber are so essential. The voice of the people must be heard, not smothered by anachronistic and elitist institutions of Government.

During the last 12 years especially, Britain has become an “I’m all right, Jack” society, putting instant consumption before long-term investment, selfish “mefirstism” before community care, and private greed before the public good. The result is ugly to behold: the tawdry tinsel of decadence camouflaging a society rotten at the roots.

I thank the House for its indulgence or, as we say in Neath, “Diolch Yn Fawr.”

Peter Hain – 2011 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Peter Hain to the Labour Party conference on 25th September 2011.

Conference, we’ve heard today from Margaret Hodge about the magnificent campaign in Barking where she kicked out Nick Griffin and the BNP.

A great victory for us, and a great victory for democracy.

We’ve also heard today about the fantastic wins in Birmingham Edgbaston and Oxford East. Seats the pundits had written off, seats we should have lost.

Suppose we had replicated their success right across all of our 100 most marginal seats.

What would have happened?

We could still have been in power.

Maybe not with a majority.

But at least as the biggest party.

Able to protect the country from the dogma inflicted by this right wing Tory-led Government.

Because, although on paper each of those constituencies should have been lost, they defied the massive national swing against Labour.

They won against the tide because – through years of patient work in the community – they mobilised hundreds of supporters, and not just members, to campaign for Labour.

They were at the heart of their communities and so people who would never have joined the Party delivered leaflets, persuaded neighbours, friends and relatives.

They were Labour’s invisible army in these constituencies.

They went under the radar of ferocious attacks on our Party, and Labour won.

This is what Refounding Labour is about, and this is why it’s so important.

It’s not just about creating a party fit for the digital era, and rooted in community organising, linked like an umbilical cord to voters.

It is also about winning.

Those and another dozen constituencies demonstrated what can be achieved by being in tune with the new politics.

They denied David Cameron his majority.

If – and only if – voters trust local Labour parties, trust our MPs, trust our candidates, and trust our councillors, they don’t necessarily go with national trends in the way they used to.

In an age of 24-hour news and the internet, politics may have become more global and national.

But it has also become more local.

And that is where our opportunity lies.

To build a vibrant movement capable of winning the next General Election, Labour also needs to transform our policy making, because that is essential to rebuilding trust and support from members, trade unionists and voters. We want to open up our process of making policy, both to give party members a greater say and to enable supporters and voters to feed in their ideas, so that the party leadership keeps in much closer touch with them.

Revitalising our policy-making in this way will help ensure that lessons learned on the doorstep, in meetings with community groups and through discussion with our supporters, can genuinely and easily make their way from local party activists to the National Policy Forum and Annual Conference – and from there into manifestos which reflect the needs of the squeezed middle who are finding life tougher and tougher right across Britain.

As the NEC Statement says, in the next few months we will consult on the detail.

On how exactly we make a reformed policy making system more accessible and responsive to members, on how exactly we make a freshly empowered Annual Conference more democratic.

We will also make it easier for members to be involved in the party.

We will introduce clear lines of accountability to the membership and the wider public for all Labour candidates and elected representatives – from local councillors to Shadow Cabinet members.

We will insist that every Labour candidate and elected representative signs a contract committing to probity, active service to the public and leadership in party campaigning.

This is what we mean by Refounding Labour.

And we will reach out to potentially hundreds of thousands of Labour supporters – people who wouldn’t join, but who could be registered as supporters.

That’s what Barack Obama did to win in 2008 – created a peoples’ movement amongst those who never saw themselves as party animals but were with him and were vital to his victory.

That’s what Ken is doing in London.

This is what we mean by Refounding Labour.

Registering thousands of new supporters is a huge opportunity, not a threat.  Members, not supporters, will still choose our MPs and councillors, still choose delegates to Conference, still make policy. Members and trade unionists will still have a much, much bigger say than supporters in leadership elections.

But we want to open up our Party to those who won’t join but will support.

We have to build a peoples’ movement for Labour; in our neighbourhoods, in our workplaces.

This is what we mean by Refounding Labour.

And let me say this to Nick Clegg who last week attacked our Party’s link with 3 million trade unionists just as his Tory master David Cameron will do next week.

Ten days ago who was there at the very start for the trapped Welsh miners?

The South Wales National Union of Mineworkers.

Who is now looking after their traumatised families?

The NUM.

Trade unionism is vital in any society and we are proud of our union link.

Whatever attacks come from Tories, Liberals, or next month the independent Standards Committee, we say from this conference: we will not weaken, but strengthen our links with individual trade unionists.

But agreement on these reforms is only the beginning.

We have to implement them so that we genuinely do ‘Refound Labour’.

And this cannot be achieved from above, even with an Annual Conference mandate.

It can only be delivered from below, at the grassroots of our movement, in every constituency party.

That is the challenge for each and every one of us: to build a quite different type of party in tune with the new politics rather than remaining with the old. If we achieve this – and last year’s General Election successes in constituencies like Barking, Edgbaston and Oxford East demonstrate that we can – then we will have leapfrogged the other major parties, and left them stuck behind.

Now let’s go out and together get on with the job of Refounding Labour to win.

Peter Hain – 2010 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Peter Hain, the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, to Labour Party conference in 2010.

Remember last year; the media and the Tories had all written us off, and the fight back started at this conference.

Across Britain, we deprived the Tories of an outright victory when they thought they had it in the bag.

In Wales we stopped them winning the ‘rugby 15′ seats they were boasting about – they only managed four. We stopped the Liberal Democrats in Wales taking any of the three Labour seats they had targeted relentlessly. Plaid Cymru had a truly dreadful election, they came fourth in two of their target seats, and lost their deposit in a quarter of Welsh seats.

And we won back the old Labour stronghold of Nye Bevan and Michael Foot in style with a thumping majority. Nick Smith MP and the local Labour team did a fantastic job. And next year Alun Davies is going to take Blaenau Gwent back for Labour in the Welsh Assembly.

You showed our opponents they can never, ever right off the Labour Party. Our ideas, our vision, our values will never be defeated. Yes – we lost the election and there’s no pretending that wasn’t a terrible result.

But we stopped the Tories winning. And we have immediately bounced back, with council by-election victories right across the land, tens of thousands of new party members flooding in and more support in the opinion polls.

This is not a beaten party. This is a party ready to fight and to win again.

To fight the cruel and callous cuts being rammed through by the Tory Liberal Government.

To stand shoulder to shoulder with our local communities, with trade unionists, with faith groups, with charities, with voluntary organisations, to lead a great peoples movement for change against this right wing government .

We will support pensioners under attack.

We will support disabled people being targeted.

We will support workers faced with the sack.

We will support citizens losing vital public services.

Because the Government’s policies are not only harsh and unjust. They are plain wrong. Of course the deficit has to be cut. But not like this, not so fast or so deep. The Tory Lib Dem government is not cutting like this because it needs to. It is cutting like this because it wants to. Instead of using the power of government to protect our citizens, Cameron and Clegg are deliberately off loading government and leaving citizens to fend for themselves.

And, after a Budget that was unfair to the poor, unfair to pensioners and most unfair to the poorest parts of Britain – Wales and the North East of England – now the Government are also destroying the fairness at the heart of our parliamentary democracy.

Their new legislation changes every constituency in the land in a way that is fair only to the Conservative party. Its grossly unfair to Labour, and especially, and blatantly unfair to Wales. It is also grotesquely unfair to local communities, abolishing independent pubic inquiries: Whitehall just imposing new constituencies from the centre and depriving communities of their traditional rights.

Over the generations, boundary commissions have worked impartially, taking proper account of local views, of community identity, of rurality and sparsity.

The Government have abandoned this fair, practical and sensible system for a new one that is unfair, impractical and arrogant.

Wales will lose three times the proportion of MPs as the average for the rest of the United Kingdom – a reduction in Wales’ voice in Parliament of fully a quarter from 40 to 30.

In the vast rural areas of mid and west Wales, four constituencies – none Labour-he ld, incidentally – covering hundreds of square miles will become two monster ones, each thousands of square miles in size. It could take MPs most of a day to travel from one end to the other – they’ll be needing second homes IN their constituencies at this rate!

It’s obvious the Tories want to fix the boundaries to benefit them at the next election.

But most outrageous, totally unforgivable and totally unjustifiable, is that the new boundaries will be drawn up on a register excluding more than 3.5 million eligible voters, predominantly the young, poor and black and minority ethnic social groups.

And at the same time Nick Clegg says he wants to give prisoners the vote. So some of the most vulnerable, law abiding people in society will be deprived of a vote at the same time as the Deputy Prime Minister wants convicted murderers, rapists and paedophiles to get one.

Today let this conference say loud and clear to the Government: stop trying to rig democr acy and stop riding roughshod over local community views

And now, with Ed Miliband, our new leader, we will rebuild the Labour Party for a new era. To rebuild trust and to rebuild our appeal to voters.

In Wales next spring we will be fighting for outright victory to run the Welsh Assembly Government.

And we will do so not for ourselves, not for our Party, not even just for our new leader! But for the people of Wales and Britain as a whole. Because their values are Labour’s values: the values of caring, community, solidarity, social justice, equality, fairness, liberty, democracy.

These are the values that have always inspired this great Party of ours and these are the values that will inspire Wales to deliver a great Labour victory next year, as we begin the long march back to power in Westminster.

And now the leader of the only Labour Government in Britain today – the man who will be leading Welsh Labour to victory in the Assembly elections next May – the leader to beat the Welsh Tories, the leader to beat the Welsh Liberal Democrats, the leader to beat Plaid Cymru.

Give a rousing welcome to the First Minister of Wales… Carwyn Jones.

Peter Hain – 2009 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Peter Hain, the then Welsh Secretary, to the 2009 Labour Party conference in October 2009.

In the past four weeks I have travelled the length and breadth of Wales joining with local party members at a series of fight back meetings. I have been asking everyone a simple, solitary question and I repeat it here:  do we want to win?

Not – ‘Yes, of course we do. Or OK, why not?

No I mean do we really, really want to win? Do we really, really want our Labour Government back in power?

I ask because unless we do, unless you do, then we all might as well wrap conference up now, go home, put our feet up and wait for David Cameron to give that smarmy smile of his from the steps of Number 10 next year.

We must not behave as if a Tory win is inevitable.

Seemingly ready to throw away thirteen years of Labour investment in schools and hospitals, to hand over everything we have achieved – minimum wage, tax credits, massive public spending increases, trebling our overseas aid budget doubling the Welsh budget, devolution for Wales, the Northern Ireland settlement – hundreds and hundreds of concrete Labour achievements – absolutely everything, to those callous, right wing Tories.

The opinion polls have killed us already. The media have written us off, some licking their lips at their Tory mates being back in power again. Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrat leaders are preparing to work with the Tories.

But, they have all forgotten something. Not a single vote has been cast yet.  Nobody knows what will happen on election day.

They have forgotten something else:  this labour and trade union movement never gives up: we never have, we never will. Because the Tories have not been winning with the kind of huge leads Labour achieved before 1997.  On June 4th they won Wales – shockingly – with just six out of a hundred people registered to vote. Labour voters have simply stayed at home – by the millions.

So, if we get under the radar – underneath the ferocious media attack on us and speak to voters directly – we can still beat them.  And nobody else can do that except us – each and every one of us.  Because in this general election campaign, more than any election I can remember, direct contact with voters on the doorstep or the telephone will be vital – absolutely critical.

I think it will be decided at the very last moment. If we do our job as a Labour leadership, if you do your jobs at the grass roots, whatever the polls say, when people get into the privacy of the polling booth, then I think the next election will be more like in 1992 when everyone expected the Government to lose but in the end voters considered the Opposition too much of a risk. I think voters might set aside their dissatisfaction with our Government and ask themselves a much more fundamental question: do they really, really trust the Tories?  Trust the Tories with their jobs, their mortgages, their families, their pensions.

Everyone is worried about debt, but do they trust the Tories to manage the crisis when their policies of savage cuts would make debt worse?

Everyone is worried about rising unemployment, but they know savage Tory cuts mean millions more could lose their jobs in future.

Everyone would prefer that the recession hadn’t driven up government borrowing, but everyone also knows if we were not investing now the economy would be much, much worse.

What I find really offensive is how David Cameron and George Osborne so transparently relish chance to make cuts, to exploit this global crisis to do what even Thatcher could not do. Slash and burn local government.  Introduce regional benefit levels, meaning lower pensions, disability and unemployment payments for low income areas like Wales. Also in Wales ending free prescriptions, abolishing free bus travel for pensioners, and abolishing European funding programmes.

And now, we have the extraordinary spectacle of the Liberals trying to out-do the Tories in savagery on cuts!

Over recent months the soft Cameron mask has slipped and the real Tories have emerged blinking into the sunlight.  Tory pin-up, their European MP Daniel Hannan, revealed their true colours: “You would be better off being ill in America than in Britain.” Why on earth does he think President Obama is fighting to reform a health system that leaves nearly 50 million Americans without any health protection whatsoever?

On Europe David Cameron has now joined up with the far right leaders:- one says homosexuality is a disease another called for global ‘chemotherapy’ against muslims.

– one described climate change as a global myth’ another insisted the Holocaust was a myth

– yet another celebrated his city’s local connection to Hitler’s notorious SS

Lets remind ourselves why we want to beat the Tories. Because we all share the same Labour values, and the really encouraging thing is that the vast majority of the British people share these values too. The same values of caring, community, solidarity, social justice, equality, fairness, liberty, democracy.

The same values that brought me into politics through the anti-apartheid struggle – opposed by the Tories.

The same values which motivated the great Nelson Mandela – denounced as a ‘terrorist’ by the Tories.

The same values of the trade unionists who banded together to protect working people – opposed by the Tories.

The same values of the Chartists who struggled for working people to get the vote – opposed by the Tories.

The same values of the Suffragettes who fought for women to get the vote – opposed by the Tories.

And – yes – the same values of mutual care and mutual support that inspired that great Welsh Labour leader Nye Bevan to create the NHS – also opposed by the Tories.

Labour values that today stand for fair taxation. Not greedy Tory values that will reward 3,000 of the very richest people in Britain with inheritance tax cuts of £200,000 each. £200,000 each. Whilst they plan to give nurses, doctors, teachers and police officers the sack.

That’s the threat we face, that’s what we must all stand up and fight against.

I’m proud of what we have achieved as a Labour Government. Yes – we have made mistakes; everyone makes mistakes.

But nobody can take away the fact that, even after the global financial crisis, after all the problems people face, there are still 2.4 million more jobs in Britain under your Labour Government than under the Tories.

Nobody can dispute that under Labour there are still over 800,000 more public sector workers, especially doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers to ensure waiting times for hospital operations are now down from years to weeks,  that school standards are up, and crime is down.

All of these and many, many more concrete and tangible Labour achievements.

We should be much more confident about our policies. This should be our era. After the terrible failures of financial capitalism, this is an era for active not passive government, an era for hands-on not hands-off government, for getting stuck in and helping people, not leaving them on their own prey to the banking blizzards. An era for Labour not Tory Government.

So let’s be proud of our Party, proud of our Labour traditions, proud of our socialist heritage.

And let’s do everything – absolutely everything – in our power to stop the Tories destroying all our achievements and wrecking Britain again.

Peter Hain – 2001 Speech at the Africa Educational Trust

Below is the text of the speech made by Peter Hain, the then Foreign Office Minister, to the Africa Educational Trust on 23rd January 2001 in London.

It is a great honour for me to be delivering this speech this evening in memory of the Reverend Michael Scott. He was a great inspiration to me and many others who campaigned against the evils of apartheid. He left an indelible mark in southern Africa, particularly in Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Education is vital to the British Government, here and in Africa: education for all not just an elite few. And I am therefore a great admirer of the Africa Educational Trust, which for 40 years has helped educate young Africans who have escaped from oppression and conflict. A galaxy of stars have returned home to play major roles in the transformation to majority rule in southern Africa. Many of the southern African politicians, officials, teachers and businessmen I meet have benefited in some way from your work.

I was born in Nairobi. I am a son of Africa. As an African born British Minister for Africa, I have a personal commitment to the African continent. I want to help build a genuine partnership between the continent of my birth and my adopted homeland. The future of the United Kingdom is inexorably linked to the future of Africa. We have much in common. Britain cannot afford to ignore the plight of our African brothers and sisters.

Our policy is straightforward. We back success in Africa. We are work in partnership with Africans to overcome past failures: African and western. We support Africans who stand up for democracy. We help those who want economic reform. And we encourage and support those who strive for peace.

THE YEAR 2000 IN AFRICA

On the eve of the new millennium, there was an air of optimism. Much was made about the 21st century being Africa’s century. The future looked bright. Africa had finally broken free from the shackles of colonialism. From the divisive politics of the Cold War. It was ready to decide its own future. Talk was of an ‘African Renaissance’.

But, if we are to believe national and international media, the year 2000 was a disaster for Africa. Afro?pessimism ruled supreme. Commentators called Africa ‘the hopeless continent’, riven by conflict, bad leadership and economic failure. Journalists queued up in their attempts to put Africa down. And in doing so, one could almost sense an air of relief. Why? Because African failure lets the international community off the hook. If Africa is ‘hopeless’, then there is no point in even trying to help. With a shrug of the shoulders, attention can turn away.

Can we blame the Afro-pessimists? At times, last year tested even my faith in Africa’s future. Pictures of Ethiopian and Eritrean armies slaughtering each other across barren and inconsequential land in scenes reminiscent of 1914 Europe. Brutal conflict in Sierra Leone, caused by rebels backed by a neighbouring state and destabilising the region. Seemingly never-ending conflicts in the DRC and Angola fuelled and sustained by the illegal trade in diamonds. Civil war in Burundi. Successive coups and counter coups in Cote d’Ivoire. And government-motivated political intimidation and violence in Zimbabwe.

And even where Governments were trying to make positive changes, disaster struck. Devastating floods in Mozambique. Drought in Kenya. Forest fires in South Africa all set back development efforts. The collapse in cocoa and gold prices and the rise of oil prices undermined Ghanaian economic success. The terrifying plague of AIDS continued to engulf and ravage the continent. And malaria kept killing thousands of Africans.

So, it is easy to see why Afro?pessimism dominated the headlines. In the words of President Mbeki, what happens in one part of Africa affects the continent’s image as a whole. Unfair, but it is a fact.

And yet, as so often, the headlines betrayed the superficiality of journalism. I travelled extensively in Africa throughout last year. During my travels and my many discussions with Africans and Africa watchers, I picked up a common theme. Yes, Africa does face enormous challenges in this new era of globalisation. But a new shared vision of Africa’s future is emerging. There is a growing consensus among African leaders that they must implement urgent economic, political and governance reforms. Leaders are defining more clearly the resource needs, and development priorities required to meet these challenges. A new generation of African leaders is coming to power. Democracy and political participation are growing. A new generation of African entrepreneurs is emerging.

The UN Millennium Assembly in September 2000 was a watershed for Africa. A succession of African leaders came to the podium and spoke about what they, not the rest of the world, but they needed to do to set Africa on the road to recovery and growth. And in response, Tony Blair led the way for the developed world. Let me remind you of a little of what he said. ‘…we need a new partnership for Africa, in which Africans lead but the rest of the world is committed; where all the problems are dealt with not separately but together in a coherent and unified plan. Britain stands ready to play our part with the rest of the world and the leaders of Africa in formulating such a plan.’ This is the cornerstone of our policy. We want to see a step change in the way that Africa and developed countries engage with each other. The future involves a modern, forward looking relationship, based on equality, respect, shared convictions, mutual interest and mutual obligations.

The OAU itself has recognised that the time is right for Africa to develop its own development strategy: entitled the ‘Millennium Africa Programme’. The Presidents of South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria have been mandated to develop it. We are working hard with these countries, across Whitehall and with the private and NGO sectors to ensure that we are ready to respond promptly, positively and productively to this African led strategy.

I have been saying since I began this job that democracy in Africa is growing rapidly. Last year we saw further evidence of this in Senegal, Tanzania, Mauritius, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. Yes there well publicised problems in Zimbabwe. But elections were held. And the world quickly learned of the terrible events surrounding them. Further proof that that African governments are becoming increasingly accountable. And Zimbabwe now has a functioning opposition party represented in Parliament. Earlier this month we saw the first peaceful, democratic change of government and President in Ghana. Throughout Africa, civil society has developed a voice. And that voice is increasingly being heard, loud and clear. In 1973, only three African Heads of State were democratically elected. Last year the figure was 32 – 10 times greater.

The decision by the OAU Summit in Lome in July to exclude the Presidents of Cote d’Ivoire and the Comoros sent a clear message of rejection of coup d’etats and military juntas. Africa’s leaders made clear that only leaders who come to power through accountable and transparent means would be welcome at their table. I believe this brave decision and other efforts by African leaders played some part in the removal of the military dictator General Guei by the people of Cote d’Ivoire.

The refrain of African solutions to African problems has been ringing for some years now. Too often, it has been used as an excuse for the rest of the world to abdicate responsibility for helping to resolve Africa’s disputes. We demonstrated through our efforts in Sierra Leone last year that we take seriously our responsibility as members of the UN Security Council and wider UN family. But we also saw renewed African efforts at conflict resolution. President Bouteflika of Algeria worked tirelessly to bring the warring parties in Ethiopia and Eritrea together. He personally, and the OAU as an organisation deserve great credit for the fact that Ethiopia and Eritrea have signed a peace deal and UN peacekeepers have been deployed. Nelson Mandela, even in retirement continues to work for peace. His efforts in Burundi following on from the work of the late Julius Nyerere – who gave this lecture in 1997 – appear to be bearing fruit. Largely through the efforts of President Guelleh of Djibouti, we are now seeing early positive signs that the largely forgotten tragedy of Somalia could be coming to an end. After more than 10 years of civil war and a failed state, reconciliation will not prove easy. But there is now hope.

So, I would describe the year 2000 as the year of African peacemaking. Africa’s leaders demonstrated that when given appropriate international support, they can resolve African disputes. Of course, problems remain. Africa’s ‘First World War’ in the Democratic Republic of the Congo drags on with unmitigated humanitarian suffering. Of course, I deplore the use of violence and I regret the assassination of President Kabila. But I hope that creation of a new government in Kinshasa will deliver fresh impetus for peace. But importantly, no new African conflicts erupted in 2000. This is a new trend on which we must build.

THE CHALLENGES FOR AFRICA

But despite these positive signals, Africa still faces enormous challenges. Africa is poorer now than 30 years ago. Over 250 million, that is 40 per cent of the population of sub Saharan Africa live on less than one dollar a day. Average output per head in Africa is now lower than it was 30 years ago. GDP per head in the EU is more than 45 times greater than in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa’s share of world trade has fallen sharply, and investment has declined. Average real economic growth is currently two per cent a year. But as population growth is also around two per cent a year, GDP per head is stagnant. If Africa is to meet the international target of halving poverty by 2015, GDP will need to grow by an average of seven per cent a year. If the terms of trade continue to deteriorate, conflict proliferates or if international development assistance continues to decline, this growth requirement will be even higher.

At the dawn of the 21st century more than 250 million people in Africa do not have access to safe water. More than 200 million do not have access to health services. 533 million do not have access to electricity. Only 10 African countries have achieved Universal Primary Education. In most countries literacy rates have stagnated over the past twenty years.

So, while I recognise the early signs of positive change, I still have profound fears for Africa’s future. The list seems endless: HIV/AIDS, poor governance, conflict affecting half the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, economic marginalisation, deteriorating infrastructure, low levels of saving, capital flight and human migration, the continuing debt burden, deterioration of the terms of trade, declining incomes and worsening education. These all point to a continuing decline in economic and human development in Africa.

The statistics I have seen on the impact of HIV/AIDS in sub Saharan Africa are horrific. Ten times as many people in Africa died of AIDS in 1999 as died in conflict. In some countries, a quarter of the adult population will die in the next six years. Skills will be lost. The time and energy of the healthy will be diverted from economic and agricultural production to caring for the victims of AIDS. But in despair, there is hope. The Governments of Senegal and Uganda have made great strides towards bringing the AIDS pandemic under control. There are also early signs of success in Tanzania and Zambia.

But Malaria also offers a huge threat to Africa’s future. If it were possible to control malaria, this could translate into an additional 20 per cent growth in Africa over a 15 year period.

New drugs are urgently needed to combat the increasing problem of drug resistance, as well as new vaccines to prevent HIV, TB and Malaria. But there is inadequate research for most of these rampant diseases and it is regarded as unprofitable for drugs companies to develop drugs and vaccines to prevent or treat them.

The challenge is enormous, but we have examples of what can be done if there is a determination to make a difference. Polio was once a huge threat to Africa. But now Africa is well on the way towards eradicating it, even in the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. There are efforts underway to tackle the threat of communicable diseases. Across Whitehall we are working hard to assess what more we can do.

If we are to halt Africa’s economic marginalisation and decline in the global economy, international investment and flight capital must return. But international business sentiment is increasingly negative about Africa’s prospects. As Africa missed the industrial revolution, it now risks missing the knowledge revolution. Investment rating services list Africa as the highest risk region in the world. But Africa has huge economic potential. It has great strength in natural resources, and potential for processing and manufacturing. There is a new generation of entrepreneurs emerging in a number of countries. In Uganda, following debt relief, there are early signs that flight capital is starting to return. We must build on this and help our businessmen and women to discover and invest in those areas of potential. We must educate potential investors to look beyond the negative headlines.

For example, I mentioned earlier that only nine per cent of Africans outside South Africa have access to any form of electricity. That means over half a billion people are effectively cut off from the benefits of modern technology. And these numbers are growing as electrification fails to keep pace with population growth – and grid extension stalls due to high costs.

For Africa to catch up with the rest of the world, it may need to focus upon free-standing technology rather than fixed networks which require massive and prohibitively costly investment across huge geographical areas. A combination of mobile telecommunications and solar and renewable power could enable Africa to make the necessary leap forward.

Modern renewable energy – including solar, wind and micro hydro – could drastically improve communities’ livelihoods and quality of life: powering equipment, pumping clean water, cooling essential vaccines and providing light for remote schools. New public/private partnerships are beginning to take forward viable and profit making schemes.

CONCLUSION

I would like to end by answering a question I occasionally hear expressed: why does Africa matter to us? There are many reasons why Africa matters. Firstly we have a strong humanitarian imperative to end the misery of poverty. But there are also economic incentives. Africa is an essential provider of raw materials, from platinum to timber. There is huge potential for shared economic benefits from increased trade with over 700 million people in countries with valuable natural and human resources, and with whom we have many historical, cultural, family and business ties.

If we do not work to stop it, conflict and violence within and between African countries could grow to epidemic proportions. It could spread beyond Africa, as people become refugees and economic migrants.

Increasing levels of crime in Africa, particularly in the trafficking of drugs, damage lives and societies here and in other developed countries as well as in Africa. The continuing spread of disease, including but not only HIV/AIDS, increases the risks to the health of people throughout the world. Three quarters of all new British heterosexual HIV/AIDS victims last year were infected whilst travelling in Africa. The global environment is threatened by continuing environmental degradation, including deforestation, global warming, erosion of bio-diversity, and air and water pollution from environmentally unfriendly industrial and other production processes.

For all these reasons, the world shares a keen interest in halting the decline of social and economic conditions in Africa. Moreover, as the demonstrations in Seattle, Prague and Nice have shown, there will be increasing political tension if poor countries are left behind as the rest of the world moves ahead with globalisation. These are powerful self-interest reasons for action. But they merely supplement the most important motive: the human cost in Africa of lives lost and unfulfilled potential stands as an indictment against our common humanity. We have an opportunity to build a better future for Africa’s children; we must not miss it.