Speeches recovered from the Conservative party’s online archive More…

Chris Grayling: It's time to take action. You can't trust Gordon Brown on pensions

At Party Conference today, the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, Chris Grayling, said:

"You can't trust Gordon Brown. He says he wants open government but he twists the truth and he buries bad news in the small print. He says he wants honest politics but he gives friends plum jobs and then he takes campaign contributions from them. He says he wants a fairer society but he has crippled our pensions system and he has abandoned the vulnerable. And he does this all by stealth. And don't forget that Gordon Brown and Tony Blair together brought a culture of spin and cronyism to Government. As we saw in Bournemouth last week, having a new Prime Minister hasn't changed that one bit. In fact Gordon has shipped hundreds of new civil servants into the Cabinet Office so he can take even more control of Government than Tony Blair did. He's filled Number Ten with his cronies, he's making promises he won't keep, and he's making claims which aren't true. That's Gordon. And he will stop at nothing.

The Prime Minister wants voters to trust his government. He's got lots of ideas to show off how trustworthy he is. He's come up with schemes for Citizen's Juries, a Speakers' Conference, and yet more consultations. But you don't need committees to build trust. Trust is about saying you're going to do something, doing it and then being honest about whether it worked. This Government doesn't do that. Sometimes they're downright dishonest - just ask those fighting for a vote on the European constitution. Sometimes what they do is to create disasters - just ask all the people whose lives have been turned upside down by the tax credits fiasco. And sometimes they just can't admit when they've got it wrong - Just ask the thousands of junior doctors caught up in this summer's recruitment shambles.

We must not and we will not let them get away with it. It's time for us to get across a very simple message. You can't trust Gordon Brown. We will stand up for all of those people whose trust Gordon has broken: the pensioners, the hard working families, and the unemployed. It is for these people that this summer we started the battle to expose Gordon for what he is. A hypocrite who makes grand announcements but buries the bad news in the small print. Here are some of the headlines from what we have been working on…there will be more to come.

Last week we took the fight to Gordon in Bournemouth over one of his biggest failings - the destruction of our pensions system. We did something no Conservative has done before, we held our own fringe meeting at Labour's conference. Don't worry - we didn't go into the official area and we certainly kept well away from Gordon's big tent!

But we have a battle to fight and a battle to win for all the pensioners who have lost out under Gordon Brown. Of course he still denies there's anything wrong with our pensions system but I tell you, his fingerprints are all over the scene of the crime. What he has done to our pensions system is nothing short of criminal. It wasn't just his £5 billion a year tax raid. He interfered so much in running pensions that many trustees decided it was easier to close down. I've met many of Gordon's pensions victims.

Can you imagine working for forty years, saving for forty years, looking forward to retirement, and then suddenly, one day, without warning, your dreams and future are shattered. There are people now working beyond retirement, some with serious illnesses like cancer or heart disease, some being forced to sell their homes.

Like Andrew Parr, who spoke at our fringe meeting in Bournemouth. He's had to work on beyond retirement even though he has a serious heart condition. He certainly doesn't trust Gordon anymore. A huge crowd of the pensioners who have lost out came to Bournemouth to join the protests. But Gordon wasn't listening. We proposed a pensions Life-boat to help bail out those who are struggling. MPs from all parties backed the idea. Gordon didn't. He used the 1911 Parliament Act to sink that Life-boat. Well today I give this commitment to all pensioners who've lost their pensions under Gordon Brown. We will refloat the Life-boat and we will make the first compensation payments to pensioners within three months of taking office.

But isn't the incompetent and uncaring management of our pensions system just what we've come to expect from both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown? We've all paid more and more in tax. So why are the poorest pensioners getting poorer? The budget for health has trebled. So why is Gordon Brown trying to close my local maternity department and dozens like it around the country? The cost of our welfare state has rocketed.

Millions have come to work in Britain but youth unemployment is higher than it was ten years ago. So what a farce for Gordon Brown, of all people, to talk about British jobs for British workers and New Labour dogma has left millions of people on benefits. For those people Gordon Brown's welfare state has become the unfair state. They can't trust Gordon Brown.

This Government just doesn't realise that throwing money at a problem won't make it go away. Its only solution is to spend more and more and more. This is a Government which, if you sent it to the shop with a pound for a loaf of bread, it would come back three days later with a Mars Bar that cost eight quid. But among all the failings of this Government, none is more important than its failure to get to grips with our broken society. Children killing children, gangs, knives and guns in our cities, cocaine dealers at the school gates, antisocial behaviour wrecking neighbourhoods, and hundreds of thousands of youngsters doing nothing of value.

Did you know that here in the North West alone there are enough 16-18 year olds not in education, employment or training to fill more than twenty high schools?

For my generation of Conservatives, mending our broken society is a key reason for being in politics. I want to pay particular tribute to the work of one man in our Party. Iain Duncan Smith. It would have been very easy for Iain to opt out of front-line politics. Instead he has become a thought-leader for us in how we address the challenge of a broken society. The work that he has done over the past two years has set a new agenda, not just for us, but for all progressive politicians. We are profoundly grateful to him. The challenge of mending our broken society is enormous. Take the family. As Conservatives we know the family must be the bedrock of our society. But the family is under pressure. Too many children are growing up with no concept or experience of a stable family. That's something we can't change easily. But change it we must.

So what kind of madness is it, to have a benefits system that makes parents split up because they can't afford to be together? Today, after ten years of Labour promises about unemployment, one household in five is entirely dependent on benefits. We have more children brought up in workless households than anywhere in Europe, and that includes Romania and Bulgaria. Children brought up in workless households are more likely to fail in school, they're more likely to end up workless themselves, they're more likely to end up sucked into crime and they're more likely to suffer from mental health problems.

In July Gordon Brown's Government claimed that it had solved youth unemployment. There is only one way of describing that claim. It was a lie. Of course Gordon Brown's New Deal was supposed to solve youth unemployment. Billions have been spent. And the result? There are now more sixteen to twenty-four year olds unemployed in Britain than there were ten years ago. He boasts that he has created two and a half million new jobs. Without mentioning that most have gone to people moving into the UK from overseas. Without mentioning that if a Job Centre gets someone a job behind a bar for a few weeks, then they are sacked, that still counts as a job created. Job Centres don't even test your skills until you have been unemployed for several months. No wonder so many young people are ending up on the employment scrapheap. More reasons why you shouldn't trust Gordon Brown.

Britain under Gordon Brown is like a house with termites in the basement. The foundations are crumbling but all he does is repaint the front door. We can't leave a broken society to stay broken. A country where the law abiding are in fear of their lives if they challenge trouble-makers in the street is a country that has to change. We can change our country without undermining our conservative values. Conservatives will always be tough on law and order. But we'll also support projects that tackle drug addiction. We will always champion marriage and the family. But we'll also work to help children in care. We'll champion smaller and smarter Government. But we'll also support charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises which can do so much to solve our social problems.

If we ignore Gordon's termites in the basement, if we ignore the things that are breaking our society, it will undermine so much of what makes this country great. When Gordon Brown talks about a new politics, it's not that he's changed, he's just repainting that door again!

In the past few years, you could be sure of one thing. When something has gone wrong in Government,

Gordon has never been anywhere to be found. When the going got tough, Gordon went into hiding. He can't do that any more. Unlike most new Prime Ministers, he can't blame the guy who came before. Because the failures are his as well. The surge in violent crime came on his watch. The rise in youth unemployment came on his watch. The increase in antisocial behaviour, came on his watch. The families broken up by the welfare system split up on his watch. And we will remind him, and every single person in this country, between now and the election about the things that this Government is getting wrong.

So, when you are back in your constituencies, when you open the paper in the morning, or when you turn on your television, and you see yet another glossy announcement from Gordon Brown, remember the spin, remember the cronies, remember the broken promises, remember the lies. Our society is broken because this Government is broken, and it's down to Gordon Brown. SAME LABOUR. SAME FAILURE. SAME BROWN."

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech