LABOUR IN BRIGHTON: Brown warns left against 'shopping lists'

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Gordon Brown yesterday warned the Brighton conference that there would be "no pay explosions" under a Labour government and no "shopping lists" of irresponsible commitments.

"We will not build the new Jerusalem on a mountain of debt," the shadow chancellor said at the start of a day-long debate on the economy. However, he balanced the stern message with an aim to cut VAT on gas and electricity, a commitment to a publicly run railway network and a promise to spend pounds 1bn on getting young people into work.

Some 600,000 young people were out of work today, Mr Brown said. Many of them were rootless, some homeless and all of them poor. "If this betrayed generation - the generation of Thatcher's children, now Major's young forgotten unemployed - cannot be rescued from years, perhaps a lifetime, of unemployment and the risk of eventual unemployability, then the lifetime costs of hundreds and thousands of wasted lives will weigh down our economy and divide our society for another 40 years."

Mr Brown said a Labour government would introduce a pounds 75-a-week incentive to help the long-term unemployed back to work, release capital from council house sales, improve childcare provision, and give small businesses VAT relief on taking on workers.

Under Labour, no young person would spend years without a job, he insisted. "Our plan is nothing less than to abolish youth unemployment."

Mr Brown said he would not make promises he could not keep or plans he could not pay for. The programme for young people would cost pounds 1bn in the first year, paid for by a levy on the windfall profits of privatised utilities.

It would include an environmental task force and the abolition for 18- to 24-year olds of the "iniquitous" 16-hour rule which limits the time they can spend on training courses while receiving benefit.

In a well-received attack on the Conservatives and their "crude and wasteful dogma of the free-for-all", Mr Brown said mass poverty could not be privatised away nor urban squalor deregulated away.

"It is the same flawed ideology and bankrupt morality - greed, waste and short-termism - which has brought us everything from the disgrace of the pounds 1,000-a-question Tory MPs, the squalid procession of Tory ex-ministers on the make in the City, and the scandal of lottery money going to Eton when it should go to every school."

Promising the party would try to stop rail privatisation, Mr Brown said that behind the carve-up of BR into some 70 companies was the search for directorships by retiring Tory MPs. "Boardroom seats are the last seats they'll ever be selected for," he said.

Cautioning on the need for prudence, Mr Brown said thatthe 1945 Labour government was remembered not for how much it spent but for the wisdom of its investment in Britain's future. "I want our Labour government remembered not as a big spender but as a wise spender."