“The kind of revolution I’ll deliver” – Owen Smith’s speech on industry

27th July, 2016 12:17 pm

Owen Smith

Here is the full text of Owen Smith’s speech at the Knowledge Transfer Centre Advanced Manufacturing Park on the site of the old Orgreave coking works today:

This place is a symbol of what we can do at our best.

How Labour can build a fairer, more prosperous and contented country.

But, let me be clear, under the Tories, we have become an unhappy country.

A frustrated, divided and profoundly unequal country.

Where individuals and whole communities feel deeply that life is unfair.

That there’s little chance of progress or success for them and theirs, while others are doing very well for themselves.

A country where people think the system is rigged against them,

and they are angry about it.

And they are right to be angry

Right to be angry that eight years after the financial crisis – we’re still being asked to pay the price.

Right to be angry that a crash caused by greed and incompetence – not Labour spending on schools and hospitals – is still putting the squeeze on blameless families.

Right to be angry that not a single banker went to jail.

Angry that the bonus culture is booming again.

That Phillip Green has bought another yacht.

While working men and women, and especially the young, have endured the lowest wage growth for a century.

Remember Osborne claiming that austerity was the only way to stop Britain’s finances from looking like Greece.

Well, good job George. Pick up the paper this morning and read what you’ve accomplished.

Its official: British workers have had a bigger pay cut than anyone in Europe – apart from the Greeks.

No wonder people are cheesed off.

And they want a Labour Government that is angry for them. Angry alongside them.

A Labour Government that demands to know why workers aren’t getting a fair share
– not the pay they earn nor the rights they’ve fought for.

A Labour Government that asks why workers here in Sheffield, after they’ve paid their bills, have just a quarter of the pay left over compared to their counterparts in London.

Why almost a million workers have no security at work, and millions more have seen their terms and conditions deteriorate.

In a Britain like that, is it any surprise that people jump at a promise to take back control – no matter how hollow.

People are frustrated in their community.

At declining public services, at spending half an hour on the phone to the doctor to be told the next appointment is in three weeks’ time.

Frustrated at growing class sizes and shrinking leisure facilities.

At the local library being forced to close – not because it isn’t being used, but because there’s no money for books anymore.

Meanwhile, the buses take longer and the trains are more delayed than usual.

And Behind all of these frustrations is one cause:

Austerity.

The Tory nationalisation of private debt.

The Tory excuse for creating the meaner state they believe in.

Cutting back on the fabric of society, while shifting the blame for diminished public services onto local government or the devolved governments in Wales and Scotland.

That’s got to stop and it’s up to Labour to stop it.

It’s up to breathe life back into our communities and hope back into Britain.

It’s up to Labour to unite the country and heal the divisions that have surfaced under the Tories.

And to do that austerity must be defeated.

Because, perhaps more so than at any point in my life,

people are worried about what the future holds.

Worried about Brexit.

About their children’s future.

Whether it’s worth shelling out £9,000 a year on tuition fees when the only jobs around are low-paid, insecure and temporary.

Whether paying thousands in rent is a stepping stone towards buying a home or a subsidy for a wealthy landlord.

And for millions of young people, whether they’ll ever be able to buy a home of their own.

These angers, frustrations and worries don’t just come about of their own accord.

They fill the void created by a disinterested, disinvesting Government.

But, where Tory austerity has caused these divides, Labour prosperity can heal them.

That’s why, the Labour Government I lead will deliver on three key pledges:

Fair employment, fair taxes and fair funding.

Firstly, fair employment.

Our country is rapidly becoming the sick man of Europe when it comes to job security and workers’ rights.

Well I for one have had enough of that.

Instead, I want to make Britain the envy of the world when it comes to the rights of our workers.

To shift power back to employees.

Under my leadership, a Labour Government will deliver world-beating employment rights.

To start with, I’ll create a new post – Shadow Secretary of State for Labour.

He or she will be tasked with ensuring quality jobs and the best protection.

That means scrapping the Department for Work and Pensions – which has become a byword for cruelty and insecurity.

And replacing it with a muscular Ministry for Labour and a dedicated Department for Social Security.

The Ministry for Labour will deliver on my plans to introduce modern wage councils for hotel workers and shop workers.

To get bosses, unions and workers to sit around the table together and agree pay, terms and conditions.

But it will go further.

The workers that care for our elderly are chronically underpaid.

This is some of the most important work, yet the workforce – who are overwhelmingly women – are poorly rewarded.

They work for their poverty.

So I will introduce wage councils in the care sector to tackle poverty pay.

Beyond wage councils, we need to tackle unfair and unequal pay.

I was born the very same month the Equal Pay Act was passed by Labour Titan Barbara Castle.

Proof if it were ever needed of the importance of Labour in power.

Yet 46 long years later, women are still paid 20% less than men. This is morally unacceptable and economically unsustainable.

And Labour will end it.

In the coming weeks I will set out my plan to end once and for all the gender pay gap.

Through a modern Equal Pay Act to consign wage discrimination against women to history once and for all.

Of course, to listen to their rhetoric you’d think the Tories understood all this.

Theresa May even had the temerity last week to lecture Labour on the evils of social injustice and job security.

She says Britain needs a pay rise. And who could disagree?

But rhetoric is cheap.

The reality is that Mrs May is still squeezing her own workers til the pips squeak.

With her pay freeze for millions of public sector workers that has dragged on far too long.

So let me be clear.

The public sector pay freeze cannot continue while the costs – of housing and heating, transport and childcare – continue to rise.

The public sector pay freeze must end. And under me, it will.

We also need a radical but credible plan to tackle insecurity at work.
Let’s start with the obvious. Labour will ban zero hours contracts.

Don’t tell me some workers would prefer them to a guarantee of minimum hours.

Don’t tell me they’re not exploitative in their very essence.

They are the hallmark of insecurity at work.

They represent everything that is wrong about the inequality of power between employers and employees.

And I will outlaw them.

We need to strengthen rights at work. Both individual rights, and collective rights.

Rights from day one.

Rights for all workers, not just employees.

And we need to give working people a voice at work.
Employees should always be given a say over the big decisions in their workplace that affect them.

We saw with BHS how a British institution was asset stripped and steered onto the rocks while the staff who went on to lose their jobs were not even given a look-in.
So I would extend the right to information and consultation to cover all workplaces with more than 50 employees.

And I would guarantee a place for workers reps on remuneration committees.

Trade unions give people a voice at work.

That’s why the Tory Government hates them so much.

So if I was Prime Minister, on day one, I’d set to work on repealing the vicious and vindictive Trade Union Act.

It is undemocratic, unnecessary and unjust.

And I’d scrap it.

Second, fair taxes.

My plans will ensure the wealthiest in society and big businesses pay a much fairer share.

A fairer share to re-build our vital public services.

To re-open libraries, to reduce class sizes and to relieve hospitals of the immense pressure they’re under.

The Labour Party’s greatest ever achievement is a comprehensive, National Health Service, free at the point of use.

But it’s come under continued attack from Tory austerity.

We, as Labour, must spell out how to defeat austerity and protect our public services.

Because the experts are clear and I, for one, still believe in experts.

If we’re to have a properly functioning, well-serviced NHS that my hero Nye Bevan would be proud of, spending needs to rise by 4% every year for the foreseeable future.

Under the Tories, it’s only been 1%.

That’s unprecedented levels of low funding for our most important, our most cherished public services.

The lowest in history.

The Labour Government I hope to lead will right this wrong.

The Last Labour Government inherited spending on the NHS that was just 6.6% of GDP.

Miles behind the EU average.

We got it up to 9.9%, but under the Tories it is falling back again.

And, as usual, it will take a Labour Government to save our NHS.

So if I am leader of this party we will commit to increasing spending on the NHS by 4% in real-terms in every year of the next parliament.

To do that, we’ll ask the wealthiest in society to pay a fair share.

We’ll re-instate the 50p top rate of income tax – the Tories’ tax cut for millionaires – and put a stop to further reductions to Corporation Tax.

We’ll reverse Tory cuts to Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax.

And to tackle the historic inequality that is holding Britain back,

Labour on my watch will take the historic and necessary step of levying a Wealth Tax.

A surcharge on investment earnings by the wealthiest 1% in our country, raising £3Billion a year.

Theresa May can wring her hands at the inequality that scars our country.

Labour, under my leadership, will do something about it.

We will bring schools, hospitals and libraries back to life.

Re-vitalised by fairer taxes and rejuvenated by investment.

That investment sits at the heart of the third element of my plan for Britain’s future –

It is a pledge to reinstate fair funding across our country.

Through a British New Deal.

Two hundred billion pounds of needs-based investment over the next five years.

Investment in infrastructure, in housing and in people.

Investment to re-build confidence and re-balance the country.

Funded by government bonds.

Making the most of low borrowing costs to stimulate an economy that’s teetering on the brink of recession.

It’ll include massive investment in the North of England to close the North-South divide and to deliver High Speed 3.

HS2 and the capacity it brings, is greatly needed.

But we need to go further, we need to be bolder.

Our economy is far too London-centric.

And this is in part because both our existing transport infrastructure, and new investment, are all concentrated on London.

In the year that Osborne announced his vision for the Northern Powerhouse, transport investment was 24 times higher per person in London than it was in the North East.

It takes well over three hours and two trains to get between Liverpool and Hull, two capitals of culture, two great cities.

The journey is over an hour longer than it takes to get all the way from Liverpool to London, despite the greater distance.

HS3 will significantly increase capacity and dramatically reduce journey times across the North.

It’ll boost investment, growth and jobs, and it’s the right thing to do.

Labour’s New Deal will also free up councils across the country to borrow to build.

And end the housing crisis inflicted on millions by the Tories.

A crisis created by a Government that’s built fewer homes than any other since the 1920s.

And presided over the lowest levels of home ownership in a generation.

An utter failure.

A shameful failure.

So it will fall to Labour to end this crisis.

And, under my leadership, we will.

My New Deal will pave the way for 300,000 homes to be built every year.

One a half million homes over the next parliament.

Radical and credible policies to improve people’s lives and change the country.

That’s what the Labour Party I hope to lead will deliver.

Investment, not cuts.

Labour prosperity, not Tory austerity.

That’s how we can rebuild hope and ambition for families and communities, for the nations and regions of the UK and for the UK as a whole.

That’s how we rediscover a sense of national mission for Britain.

A faith that our country can have a future as bright as its past.

Where the fruits of our collective success are shared more equally between us.

Where outcomes can be equal, not just the opportunities we create.

That is why I am a politician.

And that is what Labour is for, as far as I am concerned.

Our job is to level the playing field for individuals and whole communities.

So that wherever you live, or whatever disadvantages you set out with, you can live a good life

With excellent education and healthcare in every community; dignity, opportunity and decent pay in every workplace; and a faith in fair play in every breast.

But to achieve that we need revolution not evolution.

Not some misty eyed romanticism about a revolution to overthrow capitalism.

But a cold eyed and practical revolution, through a radical Labour Government that puts in place the laws and the levers that can genuinely even things up.

That’s the kind of Government I dream about.

That’s the kind of revolution I’ll deliver.

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