Owen Smith MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, in a speech to Labour Party Annual Conference in Brighton, said:
“Conference, It’s a proud man who stands before you today as your Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, responding to this passionate debate, and leading our brilliant new DWP team of Emily Thornberry, Debbie Abrahams, Nick Thomas-Symonds, Maeve Sherlock and Margaret Greenwood.
It’s a privilege for all of us to lead for Labour on Work and Pensions.
Work and Pensions.
Two simple words that remind me every day what my politics and our Party is all about. Two words that can lead us back to power.
Because I tell you, conference, I am heartily sick of hearing in the media that Labour’s lost its way. Or that we’re out of power for a generation.
Don’t come to me with that sort of defeatism, because I will give you short shrift.
Don’t tell me that Labour’s values – the values that powered Jeremy’s amazing victory and John’s powerful speech this morning – can’t win in Britain.
The country can’t wait a generation for fairness, kindness and decency to return to Downing Street.
And the country needs a passionate – Labour – opposition to light the way.
So let’s roll up our sleeves and take the fight to the true enemy within: The Tories.
Because, at the end of this week, I want us to leave this conference – and leave the country – with no doubt about what we stand for:
We’re the party of work, conference – and the Party of the Workers – and we are proud of it.
For blue collar workers and their white collar colleagues.
The party for builders and doctors, teachers and technicians, shop workers and small businesses.
The party for enterprise and the party of the trade unions.
And conference, I won’t ever stand by and let these Tories paint our unions as part of the problem.
Because, as the 1,700 Teeside Steelworkers – who face the prospect of job losses today – could tell us all, partnership between business and the unions is where the solutions lie.
Conference, I want to send a message from us all today to those steelworkers on Teeside.
We know that your jobs and our steel industry hang in the balance and we will demand that this government gets up off its knees and acts to save an industry that our communities and our economy so desperately needs.
Ours must always be the party of unity and solidarity – between people and generations.
Now that solidarity has been shaken in recent years with divisive, Tory talk of ‘strivers versus scroungers’, public v. private, young v. old and it falls now to our generation of Labour men and women to rebuild it.
And Work and Pensions is a good place to start.
Because what is Labour’s core aim, if not to give an equal opportunity for every woman and man in our country to get a decent job.
A job that is safe and secure.
A job to enjoy and be proud of.
That might well be hard, physically or mentally, but which makes us feel valued and useful.
That we are doing our bit for Britain.
A job that pays a wage you can live on.
An honest, Living Wage, not the counterfeit version on offer from George Osborne.
Conference, these Tories practice deception on a grand scale:
Abolishing Child Poverty… by fiddling the figures.
‘Dealing with the deficit’… by doubling national debt.
Masquerading – now – as the Workers’ Party… while cutting the tax credits that keep people in work.
Calling themselves compassionate – while driving disabled people to the brink.
And now flogging us a rebranded minimum wage as the Living Wage we need.
It’s a pig in a poke, conference, and unlike some, I’m not into that.
You don’t even get Osborne’s bogus Living Wage if you’re under 25.
How is it right to ask a 24 year old – perhaps with a family at home – to work the same job alongside a 25 year old on better money?
And how does it help older workers to get a job or stay in work if employers know it’s cheaper to take on younger staff?
Conference, it’s wrong, and Labour will continue to campaign for a proper Living Wage for all.
Not least because that’s part of how we will get the benefit bill down – in a fair, compassionate, Labour way:
• Getting people in to jobs that pay properly
• Growing the economy
• And building the housing we desperately need – so we can stop bunging money to private landlords hand over fist and get people into decent, secure homes they can afford.
It’s not rocket science conference – it’s politics, Labour politics.
And we need a bit more of it.
We also need a bit more protection for our pensioners, conference.
Over a million of them were lifted out of poverty by the last Labour Government.
But at the election, we had too little to say to some of our most loyal voters, the back-bone of our communities.
Rest assured that won’t happen on my watch.
So let’s start by asking some tougher questions about this so-called pensions freedom – and about the risks that it might pose.
Now I know many will welcome the chance of accessing their pension savings, and some may do better at managing the money.
But I worry that friends and neighbours will be preyed upon by the financial sharks that are already circling.
We’ve seen too many mis-selling scandals in recent years and we can’t afford another.
So, on that, as on the incompetent roll out of Universal Credit, or the scandalous impact of the Work Capability Assessment, or the ongoing crisis of Youth Unemployment, you can rest assured I will be up and after Iain Duncan Smith like our animal-loving Prime Minister after an Oxfordshire Fox.
Because he deserves to be hounded for the way he has treated so many disabled people in our communities:
• With his demeaning fit for work tests
• His cuts to mobility allowances – lifelines for so many
• His desperate – awful – Bedroom Tax.
And conference, don’t think for a moment we’ve forgotten about that.
Under Jeremy’s leadership we’ll be fighting harder than ever to put an end to it.
For Iain Duncan Smith, none of these measures are really about saving money, they’re about being seen as tough, cutting the role of the state and playing politics.
But he’s got to learn that you can’t play politics with people’s lives conference.
And I won’t let him.
Finally, conference, let me state in the plainest terms that we need to change the debate on Social Security in Britain.
For too long the Tories have set the terms of engagement, undermining the basic case of support and security for individuals through the collective pooling of risk.
The risk of job loss or sickness, bereavement or retirement – that faces us all at some point.
We can’t let their divisive rhetoric of shirkers and workers stop us make the case for fair-minded reform of the system, with controls on costs, but compassion for all who need it.
But there is no progress to be made, or votes to be won, by defending the status quo or aping Tory language – and you won’t find me doing either.
Britain’s Social Security System, like our NHS, should be something we are proud of, a national asset that is there for us all if ever we need it.
Instead it’s become seen as a broken system, resented by some, and failing too many.
Well it’s our job to fix it, conference, and remake the case for an efficient and compassionate Welfare State.
That’s the job I am setting myself, conference.
We have to smash the Tory Welfare Trap with the clarity of our argument and the strength of our values.
And we will start straight away with Duncan Smith’s pernicious Welfare Bill.
It penalises children.
It takes money from the poorest workers.
It drives families from their homes.
And we will oppose it, line by cruel line.
That’s my promise, conference.
Hold me to it.”