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Harriet Harman: Inequality is still a problem – but the Tories would make it worse

Since 1997, we have stopped the trend of rising inequality and have made good progress on tackling inequality and improving people's lives through focussed Government intervention. But we inherited a vast legacy of inequality which dated back to a Conservative right-wing government in the 1980's and the legacy is still there in people's lives today.

We want to continue tackling the inequality that remains in today's Britain and this will be an important issue in the next general election.

And the big choice for people will be: who will they trust to make sure their children get a decent chance to make the most of themselves? Who will they trust to make sure that we don't return to the days when inequality was spiralling; where a tiny minority of the population got all the rewards and where the majority were left struggling on their own? Who will they trust to return the economy to growth and to make sure that everyone will get a share of future prosperity?

Labour's decision was to be an active government during the recession and help those who were most vulnerable; those who faced the greatest struggle, and we helped make the downturn less painful than previous recessions. Though we are not complacent, we are encouraged by yesterday's news about the fall in unemployment.

Not only would the Tories put the economy at risk, they would turn back the tide on making Britain fairer. More people would unfairly be held back in life while a small proportion of the population would enjoy opportunities to get ahead.

And the gap would only grow with policies such as the married man's tax allowance and the proposed £200,000 tax cut to the 3,000 wealthiest estates. The question of tackling inequality will remain very much at the heart of the argument about what makes for a good society and will influence the major political debates that are taking place here and across the whole of Europe right now.

So the big choice at the next election for people in the UK to make is between an unchanged, right-wing Tory party that denies inequality exists and Labour which recognises the challenge of inequality and has the commitment, the values and the policies to tackle it.

Taken from a speech given by the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Equalities Minister to Compass yesterday