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Rachel Reeves MP's speech to Labour Party Annual Conference 2013
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Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, speaking to Labour Party Annual Conference 2013 in Brighton, said:
Conference, three weeks ago I returned from maternity leave.
It’s been wonderful to have that time to spend with my new baby daughter.
But it’s also great to be back.
The time I’ve spent away from Westminster, chatting with other new mums and dads thinking about the future we all want for our children has made me more determined than ever.
Determined to get this rotten government out of office, and determined to put Ed Miliband in Number Ten Downing Street.
Conference, I know you are as angry as I am about what this government is doing to our country.
A million young people on the dole.
The longest wage squeeze in history.
More people trapped in insecure, low paid jobs.
And, after three wasted years of economic flat lining, their promise to deal with the deficit in tatters.
This is the legacy that Cameron will leave us.
This inheritance will mean difficult decisions.
It means not making promises we can’t keep.
But it does not mean we leave our values at the door.
It means they matter more than ever.
Because we in the Labour Party know that when money is tight, you get your priorities straight:
You help ordinary families before cutting taxes for millionaires;
You expand free childcare before cutting taxes for banks;
You get unemployed people back to work, before letting bank bonuses get back t o business as usual;
You make sure energy companies lower the bills, before walking away with record profits;
You make sure there’s a primary school place for every child, wherever they live, before spending money in areas where there’s already enough;
You make sure we’ve got enough nurses, before wasting billions on a bungled NHS reorganisation;
You put a stop to payday loan companies charging exorbitant interest rates, before more people sink into unmanageable debt;
And you get serious about tackling tax evasion and avoidance, before clobbering vulnerable families and disabled people with the bedroom tax.
Different parties - different values - different choices.
So, Conference, the fiscal challenge we face will make us bolder and braver in driving through the reforms we need.
Because in the end it’s the taxpayer that picks up the bill when people can’t earn enough to live on, and their children grow up in pover ty, and vested interests can force up the cost of fuel, transport, credit, or housing.
Today we’ve been hearing about how Labour will change all this.
A compulsory jobs guarantee to end the scourge of youth unemployment.
Proper apprenticeships a condition for winning big government contracts.
A bank in every region dedicated to funding small businesses.
Childcare that means mums and dads who want to work and earn can do so.
Everyone taking their responsibility, and given a chance to play their part.
A One Nation economy will be more successful and sustainable, and it will be an economy in which those who put in the work share in the prosperity they help to create.
For me, the proudest achievement of the last Labour government was the National Minimum Wage.
It lifted millions out of working poverty, the majority of them women.
But in recent years its value has fallen behind prices, and while we know some employer s may try to get around it there hasn’t been a single successful prosecution in the past two years.
So I’m delighted that Ed Balls told us this morning that a Labour government will strengthen the minimum wage:
Doing more to enforce it, increasing fines for those who break the rules;
Expanding the role of the Low Pay Commission;
And ensuring that its value is restored in real terms.
And while the National Minimum Wage should always provide a robust legal minimum, it should not be the summit of our ambitions.
A year ago, in Manchester I was proud to share the platform with another mum, Fran, who works at Manchester College who told us what winning the right to the Living Wage had meant to her and her family.
Fran’s children are both fantastic basketball players.
Before, money was so tight, she couldn't afford to go to the matches or get the boots they needed to compete.
Now she’s had the pay rise, she can help he r children realise their dreams.
The campaign for a living wage is about so much more than money, it’s about the dignity of work and the sanctity of family life.
That’s why I’m so proud that it’s Labour councils, working with trade unions and community organisations, from Islington to Preston, Oxford to Newcastle, Cardiff to Glasgow leading the way, paying the living wage.
And it’s why I’m so pleased to be working with Alan Buckle, Deputy Chair of KPMG, one of the earliest adopters of the living wage, to see how a Labour government can get more firms paying the living wage.
Because we know that better pay isn’t just good for workers and their families, it also means better businesses.
And an economy that is creating more jobs, paying good wages, with real security and opportunity, means we are less reliant on public spending to secure fairness and a decent standard of living for all.
Conference, families know David Cameron has made lives harder for them.
He's presided over a cost of living crisis and he’s not bringing the deficit down either.
Labour’s task is to deal with both.
But that will make us more radical, not less in pursuit of our priorities.
So let no one tell you that there is no alternative, let no one tell you a Labour government can’t make any difference.
Today’s debate, the brilliant contributions we’ve heard, have proved that we have the ideas and the energy to deliver.
So let’s take the message from conference floor to every corner of the United Kingdom.
Labour will deal with the cost of living crisis.
We'll deal with the deficit.
And we will ensure that every child in our country can look forward to a better future.