Brown vision on world of work: Labour leadership contenders lay out agendas for the future of the party

Nicholas Timmins
Tuesday 24 May 1994 23:02

PLEDGES that a future Labour government will offer 'full and fulfilling employment', a national minimum wage, immediate implementation of the Social Chapter and a revitalised welfare state came from Gordon Brown, Labour's shadow Chancellor, at the weekend.

In a speech that appealed heavily to the traditional trade union values of full employment and work-based rights, Mr Brown also promised a 'permanent industrial revolution' in education and skills which would benefit everyone from the unqualified school leaver to the long-term unemployed and those stuck in dead-end jobs.

He told the Welsh Labour Party conference in Swansea that the package would include a legal obligation on companies to train and a new 'university of industry' using cable and satellite to provide continuous upgrading of skills and knowledge.

Mr Brown's speech emphasised the need to modernise Britain's economy and skills, but he did so stressing Labour's 'enduring values - values handed down from one socialist generation to another'.

Labour, he said, would provide 'the justice of a national minimum wage', 'new opportunities for full and fulfilling employment' and the same rights for part-time women workers that full-timers now enjoyed.

To ensure the economy succeeded, Britain would have to take advantage of 'the limitless possibilities of a continuous education revolution' which would provide the skills needed to run a 'permanent industrial revolution'. In a fast-changing global economy, 'the skills of labour are the most important means of production'.

In this new world, Britain also needed a welfare state 'fully equipped for the 1990s and beyond' - one that was more accessible, flexible and sensitive, but which remained 'inspired by the values for our grandparents'. In such a world, 'there should be no need for any woman to choose between the work they need and the care of the children they love' and the next Labour government 'will make child care accessible to all'.

When a working career could encompass 10 jobs not just one, national insurance should be re-examined to see if employees in work as well as out of it could draw on training rights. Equally, 'no pensioner should be subject to the indignity of continuous means-tests', which was why Labour's Social Justice commission had been asked to consider integrating taxes and benefits for the elderly to provide 'a new minimum pension'.

Britain needed a welfare state which 'lifts people up towards independence, rather than casting them down to helplessness', one that was 'not just a safety net against failure, but becomes a springboard for success'.

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