Gordon Brown's TUC speech in full

Brown makes first speech as PM
Brown makes first speech as PM

The prime minister's speech to the 2007 TUC Congress.

Can I, first of all, at this the 139th Congress of the TUC, thank you, Alison, as President of the Congress, and Brendan and the General Council for your leadership week in and week out of the trade union Movement of this country. I will never forget that the trade union Movement of this country was built over two centuries by hard work and by the struggles and sacrifices of men and women who had a vision of a better and fairer future, free of poverty and free of injustice.

Today the work of the trades unions of this country is possible only because of men and women who year in, year out, give their energy, devotion and commitment to sustain and in every generation to revitalise the trade union Movement.

As they step down from service to the General Council this year, let me this morning on your behalf and on behalf of unions around the country thank all those who have served the General Council and who are now stepping down: Paul Mackney, Sofi Taylor, Pauline Foulkes, Barry Camfield and Jimmy Kelly. Thank you for the work you have done not just for the trade union Movement but for our country.

Let me thank Ed Sweeney, who is also stepping down from the General Council, and congratulate him on his appointment, which I believe will be warmly welcomed around the Movement and across industry when it is announced today, as the new Chair of ACAS. I know you will want to wish Ed the best in his new role.

Before I had this job and actually before I was a Member of Parliament, I worked in education. I was for some time part-time as a Workers Education Association tutor, and with the Open University and as a tutor in trade union learning. When I and others taught trades union education at Loader College in Scotland and when, as a result of numbers signing up, the Department of Employment under Norman Tebbit cut back the trade union learning budget, I do not think he had any idea of the unstoppable momentum of trade union learning in Britain which has grown from strength to strength.

So you will understand why I am pleased to offer my personal congratulations to all those TUC award winners today for their work in trade union learning and in trade union organisation -- Lorene, Patrick, Irene, Lisa, Linda, Peter and Russell -- and the struggles that they have had and their aspirations and commitment show how graphically we in Britain can respond and are responding to all the new challenges of the restructuring of today's global economy. Thousands of people are now obtaining new skills needed to succeed in the future.

For all its two centuries, the trade union Movement of this country has been about enhancing the dignity and the work of labour. Today we are finding a new role which makes the task we undertake more relevant, more urgent and more demanding than ever. To enhance the dignity and value of labour in the 21st Century it is undeniable that we need to enhance the skills of every worker in this country.

So the new role for trade unions is to bargain for skills, to campaign for skills, to invest for skills and for the fair rewards of skills. It is this challenge how all of us in Britain raise our game, to meet and master the new forces of globalisation in the interests of working people in this country, and that is what I want to speak about this morning: the task of the future.
As I have believed all my life, from part-time trades union tutor to MP, by enhancing the dignity and value of labour we will make Britain the best educated, best trained and best skilled country in the world and the most prosperous as a result.

This is my central message today. All of us must prepare and equip ourselves for this global era. We must maximise its opportunities for working people and seek to minimise its insecurities. Nothing should stand in the way of us building jobs and prosperity not just for some but for all British working people. If we do so and mobilise the talents of all our people, then I believe that Great Britain can be the great success story of this new global age.

When the Leader of the Labour Party comes to the TUC he always brings with him the greetings of the Labour Party and of Labour Members of Parliament. This year I have a particularly joyous task additional to that, which is to offer not just the good wishes of Labour MPs but to pass on to you the words of the man whose statute I had the privilege of unveiling a few days ago in Parliament Square - Nelson Mandela.

He asked to send his heartfelt thanks to the labour Movement in Britain as a whole, for the ceaseless commitment and the shared support sustained over many years in the struggle that defeated the evil of apartheid. I hope from here that we can send him our best wishes as he prepares for his 90th birthday next year.

I said at that ceremony in Parliament Square, and I know many of you here were there that day, that Nelson Mandela's statue is not a monument to the past but a beacon of hope for the future. It sends a signal that no injustice can last for ever, that suffering in the cause of liberty is never in vain, that there is nothing that those in the cause of justice cannot achieve if they stand together and work for common purposes.

I say to you today, from the Make Poverty History Campaign internationally to campaigning for justice as you have been talking about in the last debate on child poverty at home, that as long as there is poverty and unfairness, wherever discrimination and injustice exists, there we must be also working for change.

Of the great struggles of the last century, against the dark night of fascism, Nazi-ism and anti-semitism, against the shame of apartheid and for the victory of democracy and equal rights at home and abroad, British working people have always played a decisive role. In this century, the 21st Century, we have injustice to fight, too. I promise you that our voice as a Labour Government will be heard, demanding an end to the denial of democracy and human rights in Burma, supporting a ceasefire with justice for the two million displaced in Darfur and supporting peace with justice in the Middle East.

We have terrorist extremism to fight whether in Afghanistan or in the twenty countries, including Iraq, in which Al Qaeda have bombed and maimed innocent people. It is important to say today that we will do our duty and keep our promises and honour and discharge our obligations to the international community and to the new democracy of peoples in Iraq.

Also we have just to build in Africa, so just as we stood side by side with Nelson Mandela to defeat apartheid, I now join Nelson Mandela in asking you to be part of the Education for All Campaign so that the day will dawn soon when 80 million children who do not go to school today because there are no schools for them to go to, will have the basic human right of education.

Like people here, I have been in Africa. I have met children who, if given the chance, could be the next Mandela, or the doctor who saves lives, or a teacher who inspires children or a public service worker who cares for people in need. Let us by raising international development aid and by mobilising the world's resources work together not only to eradicate illiteracy in the coming decade but use the medical knowledge and science that we have to eradicate the killer diseases.

And even as we together face the forces of globalisation, let us make it our mission to ensure that in rich and poor countries alike, all children and all families are not the victims but the beneficiaries of globalisation, not the losers but the winners from global change.

In the last 20 years with a trebling of world trade, with two billion workers joining the industrial economy in Asia, this global economy has been transformed as everybody here knows at a speed and on a scale which has not been seen since the industrial revolution.
Let us face the facts: soon 25% of the world's output could come from just two countries - China and India.

Europe is now exporting less manufactured goods than Asia. In Britain famous household names from GEC to BTR have virtually disappeared. Already an Indian company has bought British Steel, an Egyptian company has taken over the third largest Italian telecommunications firm and a Brazilian company is now the second largest mining enterprise in the world.

We cannot dismiss these changes, as it is sometimes said as China and India take over the low tech industries, as a race to the bottom where the answer is simply protecting home industries, shutting foreign goods out and sheltering from change. Already India's biggest export earnings are not tea or clothing but computer software and management services. China is today producing half the world's textiles, half the world's computers, 60% of all mobile phones, 60% of digital cameras and 80% of some of the most sophisticated electronic goods that we use every day. Already China and India are turning out more engineers, more computer scientists and more university graduates than the whole of Europe and America combined.

When it comes to our members' jobs, the most important fact is that the world has seen a 400% rise in the numbers of unskilled workers. Just think about what that means about our need for our workers to acquire skills. In Asia a worker is doing a week's unskilled work for £20 a week rather than the average £300 here. So the answer is clear. It is a new role for trade unionism in Britain and in the world - our workers given the power to acquire the skills that give us the bargaining power, the higher wages and then the prosperity.

It is a point of principle for me as it will be for you: the answer is not to compete on low skills with ever lowering standards but to compete on ever higher skills - most of all ensuring that our children and our young people have the training, the skills and the qualifications to get secure, well paid, high quality jobs in Britain in the future.

So the sheer scale, scope and size of the global change is a wake-up call to all of us. We all must rise to the challenges of global change: businesses, teachers, politicians, trade unionists, all of us. We will only meet the new challenges ahead which are to finance education for all our children, provide the best work life balance with more child care for all, ensuring dignity and security for all in retirement, creating the best of standards for people in the workplace, if we can meet and master the huge global challenges ahead.

Some people think that the 21st Century will be China's century. But I think that if we show the skills, the inventiveness, the creativity and the spirit of enterprise, we can make it a British century. Some people argue that in this fast moving world of change we have to sacrifice our enduring values and give up on full employment and universal public services.

But when people ask me about this world of fast moving change, of greater opportunity and yet greater unsecurity, and they ask: can we, the British people, in this generation, meet and master the new challenges and still achieve our goals of full employment, defending and strengthening public services, ensuring hard working people in Britain are better off in living standards, in pensions and in services, my answer is that if we work together and raise our game, if we do not resist change but embrace it as a force for progress and if we equip ourselves with investment, science, enterprise and flexibility, and most of all if we upgrade our education and skills, then we can not only meet and master these realities of global change but also ensure more British jobs, higher standards of living, and better public services, including an NHS that improves every year, free at the point of need.

That means to achieve it we must embrace a new mission for this generation: to unlock all the talent of all the people of this country of Britain.

In the next few days as a Government we will announce plans to make us world class in science, in innovation and in the creative industries, and we want to make sure that inventions created here are developed here, produced and manufactured here and provide jobs to men and women in Britain.

In the next two weeks, too, we will show with our announcements in the Spending Review that we will invest in the infrastructure, the transport of the future, and we will show how the issue for the British economy moving forward is not manufacturing giving way to services, but building modern manufacturing strength and service strength in all regions of our country.

I tell all those who, like me, have faith in the future of British manufacturing from aerospace and vehicles, to IT and pharmaceuticals, that Britain can and we will lead in the high technology, high value, high quality, manufacturing and services of the future.

And while demanding a level playing field in Europe and demanding also right through the negotiations on the amended European Treaty that the red lines that we have set are guaranteed, we will at all times continue to stand up for British interests in Europe.

In the next few days we will also show how as we prepare for a low carbon future for our environment thousands of jobs will come for investing in energy efficiency and in environmental technology products and processes, from carbon capture to innovative low-carbon fuels, where Britain can be a world leader creating new jobs for the future, and with the conclusion of our spending review in the Autumn we will show British people how we will expand the National Health Service, free when you need it, access founded not on wealth but on need, and with the same ethic of public services that is important to all of us, we will also build more houses to buy and to let with a 50% increase in social housing.

Now today I want to show you how we can respond to globalisation by creating more jobs for British men and women and young people throughout our economy. After I took over this job a few months ago I asked for a study to be done on where the jobs are going to come from in future years. I found that while in the next decade we will need less unskilled jobs, we will need 5 million more skilled jobs.

I want us to be ready and prepared for what is the biggest economic transformation in employment our country will have seen for a 100 years.

Even now today there are greater opportunities. In addition to 29 million jobs in our economy, which is already the highest level of employment in our history, there are even today two-thirds of a million vacancies waiting to be filled, 654,000 in all.

Because the vacancies go right across the board in manufacturing, finance, hospitality, healthcare, because the vacancies exist in every region and nation of the country, and because they range across all our skills, our task in the coming months and years is to rapidly match workers needing jobs to the jobs that need workers.

One of the benefits of globalisation is, of course, the benefits we receive in many industries from the skills of workers from around the world, but it is absolutely essential also that British workers receive all the support, the training, and the skills, so that they can share in the benefits of globalisation too.

The new jobs that are coming and the vacancies that exist represent a great new opportunity for not just British adults but for British young people as never before. It is a huge opportunity for British trades unions to recruit, to expand union membership, expand union learning, and grow your numbers in the years to come.

Now, I want to thank all of you because I was there with you as you campaigned in the 1980s and the 1990s for jobs, when you lobbied for jobs, demonstrated for jobs, petitioned for jobs on these marches for jobs, and as a result of what was achieved by your campaigns the number of jobs in our economy has risen by almost 3 million in the last 10 years, that is 3 million men and women who otherwise would have been without work, who thanks to the campaigns that have been mounted are in work today.

We are now ready to take the next big step forward as a country. There are jobs available today for in total 30 million men and women for the first time in our history. If we make the right decisions, we can advance even further and faster to full employment than ever before, with a British job on offer for every British worker.

Today I am proposing, and I have written to Brendan, the General Secretary, about this, that we work together to fast-track British workers into jobs we know exist and we work together to implement radically five practical changes that between them will yield half a million jobs.
The first is for decades, as you know, the barrier to work was the lack of jobs. Today with two-thirds of a million vacancies the biggest barrier is not lack of jobs but lack of skills and lack of links between employers who need workers and workers who need jobs.

I want you to work with us as we talk to the 200 largest companies in Britain and 64 of the best known - from Sainsburys in retail, HBOS, and RBS in banking and finance, Travelodge, Compass in hospitality, Corillian, Mowlem, Diagio in manufacturing and construction - have already committed to take on, train up, and offer jobs opportunity to men and women who today are inactive or unemployed. Between now and 2010 by this measure alone a total of 250,000 extra job opportunities will come to British workers.

Just take one big national project, as we build the Olympic facilities we should train up local young people in our construction industry. Our plan is to start by helping 5,000 young people into jobs in London and ensure that jobs in the Olympics should and can go to local young men and women.

Let me say also that we can only create thousands more jobs and move faster to full employment if having defeated inflation in the last 10 years we continue to defeat inflation in the next 10.

This week will see the 15th anniversary of the most humiliating day for British economic policy in modern history, the Black Wednesday, of 15 per cent interest rates, the exit from the ERM, the mortgage misery, the record repossessions, the negative equity, the 3 million unemployed, all the disasters that befell us 15 years ago.

The current Conservative leader was the principal economic adviser to the Chancellor of Black Wednesday and he stood alongside Norman Lamont as he announced the shame of the ERM exit and 15 per cent interest rates.

If we were again to allow, as they did, inflation to get out of control by repeating as some would the same mistakes of 15 years ago, we would be back to Britain's same old familiar Conservative pattern of spiralling prices, high unemployment, a mortgage crisis, and public spending cuts.

It is because we must never return again to those days when reckless promises that you could simultaneously cut taxes, raise spending, cut borrowing, were made and then inflation was allowed to get out of control causing 3 million unemployed, £16 billion public spending cuts, half a million repossessions, that we the Labour Government will always put stability first; no loss of discipline, no resort to the easy options, no unaffordable promises, no taking risks with inflation.

So let me be straightforward with you, pay discipline is essential to prevent inflation, to maintain growth and to create more jobs, so that we never return to the Conservative pattern of boom and bust ever again, and because this Government will take no risk with the economy we will only make promises we can afford.

For me it will be stability first, now and into the future, and that is stability not just yesterday but today, and tomorrow, and in my view that will bring us more jobs.

I can also announce further measures to fast-track thousands more into jobs that are vacant, to guarantee for the first time in our country's history a job interview for every lone parent who is looking for work and ready for work, a new deal whereby prospective employees are invited into the workplace for onsite discussions, a new financial offer guaranteeing up to six weeks benefits during a work trial for lone parents, where training is required a training allowance of up to £400, for the lone parent taking a job for the first year £40 a week extra, £60 a week in London, ensuring that work always pays.

Let me add for those who come to Britain to do skilled work we will first require you to learn English, a requirement we are prepared to extend to lower skilled workers as well.
Fast-track means more jobs by offering better routes for young people. There are 85,000 more young people in college than in 1997, there are 340,000 more young people in work, but we know there are still too many teenagers after 16 who are not in education, training, or work at all.

Let me also announce a fast-track for out of work teenagers: all this summer's school leavers guaranteed a place on a pre-apprenticeship course or at college, a pathway to jobs for hundreds and thousands of young men and women who too often in the past would have fallen through the net. Let all of us work together to improve what are the keys we know to our future, the apprenticeships.

I am announcing today also that we will create a new all round the country service that is to match the apprentices who need training to the companies and the organisations who want young people to train.

I say to our trades unions in the public sector, we are ready to work with you now to expand apprenticeships into local government, the NHS, the Civil Service itself, as well as into all sectors of the youth labour market.

Our target is to move apprenticeships in this country from today's 250,000, which is more than three times the 70,000 it was in 1997, to expand from 250,000 to 500,000 over the next 10 years to 2020.

This is why your work in trade union learning becomes central. It is central to the future not just of your unions but to the country. You understand that to build for the future we must enhance the value of labour and skills.

Fifty unions are now engaged in what I believe is the biggest transformation since the growth of the shop steward movement, a total of 18,000 trades union learning representatives in workplaces all round the country. Today your learning representatives, and I have congratulated some of them here today, are working in 700 separate workplaces, and they are helping 100,000 of our fellow colleagues at work.

To expand union learning in the workplace and to meet our ambition, which is one million adults in learning, we are going to raise the money available from the Union Learning Fund from £12.5 million this year to £15.5 million next, and I call on all employers to join you in signing up to our skills pledge that every employee should have the right to gain basic skills, every employee the right, and I repeat, if we do not make sufficient progress over the next three years we will consider for employees in England who lack a good vocational qualification a legal entitlement to workplace training.

We want to stand with you not just to create jobs but to create good jobs, decent jobs, where employees are at all times fairly treated. I am today also talking to the General Secretary about how we work effectively to make sure that today's vulnerable workers are tomorrow's secure workers.

Let us be clear, no employer anywhere should be allowed to avoid the minimum wage. No employer should be allowed to impose unsafe or unacceptable conditions. I will stand with you to enforce all the conditions of the minimum wage.

Let me say also, it is wrong that in any place, at any time, pizza staff or farm workers could ever take home less than £5 a week because of deductions for their transport, or for loans, practices which I know anger the overwhelming and vast majority of the British people, and the price of a job should never be a substandard wage or a dangerous workplace.

We are taking new enforcement powers against people traffickers who buy and sell illegal migrant labour. We remember the tragedy of the cockle-pickers of Morecambe Bay and we have responded to your calls for controls on gangmasters. Let me say we are not only introducing the Gangmaster Licensing Authority, but this winter we will legislate to tighten agency regulation.

I applaud also the work that unions here have done to help migrant workers and to combat racism and any bigotry against those who are here perfectly legally but who live in fear from unscrupulous employers who profit from fear, and we will at all times stand up to and expose and seek to eliminate from every council hall in Britain the bigotry of the BNP.

We will also continue to support the Portuguese presidency of the European Union as they are pushing this month for an Agency Workers Directive in Europe. At the same time we in Britain will ensure four weeks annual holiday as of a right.

Thanks to your campaigning and the Warwick Agreement this will be in addition to bank holidays.

For parents of young children and carers there are new rights to seek flexible working hours and, of course, not only the right in law to be represented by your union but after years of campaigning and the dialogue, and after laying the foundation and tackling pensioner poverty, introducing the Pension Protection Fund, there is a new pensions settlement for the future where employers will now contribute by law to the pension of their employee and Britain is now on track to again link the basic pension to earnings.

We also want to work with you in every area where workers are vulnerable. We want to reach out to those who are too unaware or too intimidated to complain, we want to increase awareness of their rights among school leavers, and we will now examine with you how by bringing the power of all the enforcement agencies together they can be more effective in advancing basic rights.

Let me announce today that we will now increase the maximum penalties for violation of the minimum wage, we will raise the amount of compensation paid to workers who are owed arrears, and we will in future target resources to projects aimed at the safety and security of vulnerable workers who are at risk.

Congress, today I am issuing to you an invitation to work side-by-side in a national effort to raise our skills and raise the standards so that together we can meet and master the forces of globalisation.

Britain can succeed and lead in the new global economy and achieve full employment. I will settle for nothing less, neither will you, and neither will the British people.

Let us in conclusion remember what we can achieve by working together.

Two hundred years ago it was the British people who came together and with the biggest mass petition that had ever been mounted in the history of our country the British people brought the trade in slavery to an end. Now in this century working internationally and at home this generation can record proud achievements too.

Following the leadership of Nelson Mandela, I strongly believe that we could be the first generation to ensure that every single child in every country in every continent has the basic right to go to school.

Let us also be the generation that ensures another fundamental right, that every mother and every child is protected and we eliminate the scourges of tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, malaria, and then HIV/AIDS from this world.

Here at home let us also be the first generation able to show the world that instead of a globalisation which benefits just a few our country is a beacon for justice and fairness to all, the first country that can genuinely say that because of our efforts together we liberate not just some of the talents of some of the people but we liberate all of the talents of all of the people and so together we ensure the objective we all seek, dignity, security, and prosperity for all.


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