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Full transcript | Harriet Harman | Speech On International Development | Labour Party Conference, Liverpool | 26 September 2011

"We are in the Labour Party because we hate injustice and inequality and together we will fight agai

Thank you, Maryan, for coming to our conference. There can be no end to the suffering in Somalia without an end to the conflict.

And thanks to Islamic Relief and all the aid agencies who are doing such heroic work.

No one listening to Maryan and seeing the work of Islamic Relief can be in any doubt about the terrible suffering in the famine.

And no-one should be in any doubt that our aid is alleviating suffering and saving lives.

Everyone in this country who contributed so generously to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal should be really proud of what the money they have given is doing.

Everyone is entitled to be proud of what our Department for International Development is doing.

And we should also pay tribute, too, to the massive support that comes from the communities of African origin in this country who are working hard here and sending money back home.

Our aid matters.

It matters to the girls in Afghanistan - who go to school now.

It matters to the villagers in Pakistan whose homes were swept away by the flood - who are getting shelter now.

It matters to the Sierra Leonean women I met in the slums of Freetown - who can get free health care for their children now.

It is harder to make the case for international aid when in this country the government are cutting the police and putting up tuition fees.

We must not make the world's poorest pay the price of a global financial crisis precipitated by the greed and irresponsibility of the world's banking system.

But when people are dying unnecessarily and - we can help - that is what we must do.

That is Labour's longstanding commitment to international development - and why Tony Blair and Gordon Brown made it a huge priority every single day of our Labour government -
- We set up the Department for International Development
- We trebled our aid budget and
- We led, internationally, to drop the debt which hung like a millstone round the neck of people in the poorest countries.

Development helps this country too, by growing the market for world trade and reducing the poverty which ferments instability and conflict.

In their election manifesto, the Tories promised to stick to Labour's commitment of aid growing to 0.7 per cent by 2013.

We want them to do that.

But while Andrew Mitchell is - to his credit - fighting to live up to our 0.7 per cent promise, most of the Tories are against it - including his fellow cabinet ministers who're blocking the legislation they promised to put it into law.

We mustn't let aid be just the next Tory broken promise.

That is why - with the Labour Campaign for International Development - we launched the Keep the Promise campaign.

But there are crucial things on development which no Tory government will ever do.

They'll never tackle the unfair trade which sees rich countries get richer and the poor get poorer.

They will never tackle the obscene global speculation on food and land that sees profits soar while the poor go hungry.

They will never tackle climate change - which hits first and hardest at the poorest countries. That's what Ed Miliband did when we were in government. We hear nothing of that now.

The Tories' team of men only development ministers will never be able to lead the way internationally in empowering women and girls in the developing world.

The Tories will never lead internationally. This government is not doing what Tony and Gordon did - making sure this was raised at every summit and that other countries play their part. We're doing our bit, but it can't just be left to us.

Ed Miliband has rightly talked about responsibility. From the top to the bottom. And it's the same with international development.

We, in the developed world, are responsible for doing what we can to save lives

Governments in developing countries are responsible for spending that aid carefully and fairly. That is their responsibility to us - who give the aid - and above all it is their responsibility to their people - who need that aid.

And there is responsibility - too - on global companies not to rip off developing countries.

Africa has huge reserves of oil, gold, iron, diamonds. The biggest companies make billions of profit. They must publish what they get in profits from each country and what they pay in taxes to each country. Global companies all say they are committed to transparency - but they are not doing it.

No-one can accept the situation where we have to give money to poor countries but those countries - which are rich in natural resources - don't get their fair share of the profits from their mines.

The truth is, more is lost to people in poor countries from tax dodging by global companies than is paid in aid.

We need to be able to see global companies acting as a force for good - not undermining development as an engine of exploitation.

The government have said they want this to happen - but they are doing nothing about it. That must change.

Conference, international development is not about charity, it's about rights.

It's not just about philanthropy, it's about justice.

We are in the Labour Party because we hate injustice and inequality and together we will fight against it.

Our fantastic DFID front bench team - Glenys Kinnock, Mark Lazarowicz, and Rushanara Ali - together with faith groups, aid agencies, diaspora communities and Labour members will fight for a fair and equal world.

Photo: Getty Images
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How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.