John Healey – 2009 Speech to Labour Party Conference


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

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

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

Help for firms to stay in business.

Help for people to stay in work.

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

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

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

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

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

But we’re Labour.

We’re different.

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

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

We believe in the progressive power of public investment.

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

“John – we must do more”

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

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

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

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

But Conference we can do more.

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

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

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

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

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

And I will require the same of councils.

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

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

And what of the Tories?

They don’t believe in building affordable homes.

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

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

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

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

I quote:

“The priorities identified were:

Equalise rents between sectors

Create one form of rented tenure using the assured shorthold tenancy

The private rented sector needs to be cultivated.”

Conference, these are the conclusions of:

4 Tory council leaders

2 Deputies to the London Mayor

and The Shadow Housing Minister.

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

If I am wrong, David Cameron can say so.

But he won’t.

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

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

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

There are two faces of the Tory Party.

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

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

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

It’s where we are warm.

It’s where we’re safe.

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

It’s where our children sleep at night.

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

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

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