Speech by Rt Hon Caroline Flint MP to the Labour Party Yorkshire and Humber regional conference 28 February 2015
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We meet, today, with less than 10 weeks to go until the General Election.
10 weeks to set out the choice facing the country:
A choice between two futures.
Five more Tory years.
Or Labour’s plan for Britian’s future.
I was asked on Question Time recently “So, recovering economy, low unemployment, controlled inflation …why aren’t the Conservatives heading for a landslide victory?”
The answer, about why this election is still there to win, lies in the real lives of ordinary families.
The lives of the half of the country that does not feel there has been a recovery at all.
The millions who see a future only of working at minimum wage and still relying on the state to support them.
The two million who have only insecure work... on zero hours contracts.
The millions for whom Osborne’s £30billion of cuts hangs like a sword of Damoclese, a blight on their future.
And the many millions of households who simply feel worse off.
On average, £1,600 a year worse off.
Unlike the Tories, we know that a recovery that people do not feel, is no recovery at all.
And we know that when working people do well, the country does well.
The sad truth of the Tories’ so-called recovery is that it hasn’t reached the kitchen tables of working families.
Talk to any family and they’ll tell you that one of the main reasons they’re finding it harder and harder to make ends meet is because of their electricity and gas bills.
Energy bills today are £300 a year more than they were when David Cameron became Prime Minister.
Since 2010, Britain’s energy bills have risen twice as fast as inflation, four times faster than wages and faster than almost any other country in the developed world.
Britain’s hardworking families cannot afford another five years of this.
And with Labour’s plan they won’t have to.
Because the first part of my plan is to make sure people pay a fair price for their energy.
With days of taking office, one of the first steps of our Labour Government will be to freeze energy prices until 2017, so that bills can fall but not rise.
And during our freeze we will change the energy market for good.
- A tough new regulator with new powers to protect consumers.
- New powers to protect off-grid households and small businesses.
- New powers to force energy companies to cut their prices when wholesale costs fall, if they don’t do it first.
- And, ultimately, new powers to strip energy companies of their licences if they repeatedly mistreat customers.
But, friends, the other side of energy bills, is fuel poverty and injustice
In truth, the cheapest energy is the energy you never use.
You may know our pledge to build 200,000 more homes each year, to double the number of homes for first time buyers and build more council houses.
But our plan is more than a numbers game.
We will transform the quality of Britain’s homes, from among the least energy efficient households anywhere in Europe – to some of the best insulated.
We will declare war on cold homes.
With a comprehensive, long-term plan to upgrade Britain’s housing stock and help households insulate themselves from rising energy prices.
- Free personalised home energy reports for half a million homes a year – because two thirds of households have never had one.
- Help for at least 200,000 households a year to upgrade their homes, saving them, on average, over £270 each and every year from their energy bills.
- A million interest-free loans for home improvements to households that are able to help make a contribution, in the next Parliament.
- New standards for landlords to get cold and leaky properties up to a decent standard.
And energy efficiency will become a national infrastructure priority.
Yes, our vision is to tackle the cost of living, to lead on climate change, but to show that tackling climate change is also about social justice.
Our ambition must be to change the political consensus… to force the other parties to follow in our footsteps.
Do you recall in 2008, we passed the Climate Change Act – ground breaking, the first of its kind in the world, but since followed by 66 other countries.
But Ed Miliband’s great achievement was that only 5 Tory Mps voted against it.
That, resounding consensus, tied the hands of David Cameron.
He couldn’t repeal it. He had to hug huskies and put a tree on his party logo. He had to try to pretend the Tories were a modern, forward looking party.
Well we know where that ended, within a few years of taking office, the tree was being chopped down, as they tried to sell off the nation’s forests; and the ‘greenest government ever’ became ‘green crap’ as Cameron tried to appease Tory backbenchers vehemently opposed to wind energy.
But they haven’t managed to undo Labour’s achievement on climate change; just as they can never scrap the national minimum wage; civil partnerships or the right to be represented by a trade union.
The lesson is simple. Our energy policy can address unfair prices; lead on climate change; transform our housing and tackle the social injustice of fuel poverty.
And do so in a way that changes Britain for good.
That is social change worth fighting for.
But there is one more part to our plan, which goes to the heart of who owns the future.
Our country is on the verge of a new, great industrial revolution.
Like the railways of the nineteenth century.
The highways of the twentieth century.
The superhighway of the twenty first century.
A clean energy industrial revolution will transform our society, from a high-carbon nation to a low-carbon economy.
Creating new jobs and industries to underpin our prosperity in the future.
There are those that think that tackling climate change will be a burden on our economy.
They are wrong.
As the world faces up to the challenge of climate change, the race to create and sell solutions to make our economy cleaner and leaner will intensify.
Across energy generation, energy efficiency, housing, infrastructure and transport, the right framework and direction will increase the chance of British firms succeeding and British workers gaining new opportunities.
Government cannot create these jobs. Businesses must.
But government is critical to set the policy to support the sectors, and types of businesses to underpin our future success as a country.
That's why the next Labour Government is committed to setting a target to make our power supply carbon-free by 2030, giving firms the certainty to invest in our future energy supply, and strengthening the Green Investment Bank, with proper borrowing powers.
A Labour ambition for Britain not as an assembly point for other nation’s products and inventions, but a hub for manufacturing and innovation – with the turbines, engines and reactors that will power our country, stamped “Made in Britain”.
We cannot miss this opportunity and repeat the mistakes of the 1980s.
Countries like Germany and Denmark saw the potential of wind power and created world-beating firms. Britain missed out.
If we get it right - the prize is real.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Productive. Skilled. Secure.
Well-paid jobs at every level, and opportunities for all, across our nation.
And a generation of young British people gaining apprenticeships for the 21st century, changing the fabric and skyline of our great country.
When we talk about creating jobs, this is a vision with aspiration, innovation, good business, and new skills written all over it.
An economy where hard work pays, responsibility and enterprise are rewarded, and everyone plays by the same rules.
This is our plan for Britain's future.
Building on our strengths as a country.
Drawing on the talents of all.
The best path to Britain's prosperity.
The only path to secure our future.
A future worth the fight.
A fight we are going to win.
Speech by Rt Hon Caroline Flint MP to the Labour Party Yorkshire and Humber regional conference 28 February 2015 *Check against delivery* We meet, today, with less than 10 weeks to...