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Speech

Sayeeda Warsi: Labour's Legacy of waste

Rt Hon Baroness Warsi , Wednesday, August 11 2010

Sayeeda Warsi

Thank you Chris for laying out the political challenge we face as a coalition government in repairing the damage left by the last Labour government.

And we all now know that the last Labour government wasted public money.

A lot of public money.

That much was pretty obvious before the election.

And as Liam Byrne, the then Chief Secretary to the Treasury,  said himself, there is no money left. 

But what we didn't know - what we couldn't know - was just how massively wasteful Labour were.

Labour's legacy to Britain was the biggest budget deficit in our peacetime history.

IRRESPONSIBILITY

During the last decade there was sadly a culture of wild and reckless spending by government departments and quangos.

Everything from £12 billion wasted on an NHS computer system that doesn't work properly.

To kitting out regional fire offices with luxury Espresso coffee-making machines at £6,000 a time. 

I'm a lawyer I can tell you that if an individual had run up debts so irresponsibly they would face legal consequences.

Labour went on a spending spree with no thought for the cost.

No thought for the consequences.

No thought for the future generations who would have to pick up the bills. 

Quite frankly, they didn't give a damn.

Because after all, it wasn't their money.

It was yours.

Since coming to power and looking at the books, Coalition ministers have asked each other "Why did they behave so badly.  Why did Labour do it?"

I think the answer is really simple.

Because they could.

We know that some attempts were made to curb the excesses.

We know that, on a number of occasions, senior civil servants refused to sign off particularly shocking items of expenditure.

They were simply over-ruled by ministers who were too arrogant to listen.

And therefore when it comes to Britain's debt, Labour is in the dock.

DENIAL

By running up colossal debts on the nation's credit card...

Debts so huge that we have been borrowing one pound for every four we spend and increasing our national debt by £3 billion a week...

What Labour did to the British people is frankly criminal.

Do they regret it?  Have they apologised?  Will they promise not to do it again?

Not at all.

The fact is that Labour is in complete denial about their legacy.

They are scraping around for someone else to blame.

They blame the bankers.

And yes we know bankers share some of the blame.

But it was Labour that created the regulatory framework that let them get away with it for so long.

They blame the recession.

But they grew the deficit during the good years.  

They blame the global downturn.

But under Labour Britain had the longest recession in the G20.

They are blaming everyone and anyone - except themselves.

Just listen to the contenders for Labour's leadership.

David Miliband says: "We need to remember...it was falling tax receipts - not rising spending - that primarily caused the deficit to rise."

And this from his brother Ed (not to be outdone): "I don't think we should accept responsibility that we spent too much".

Or this from Ed Balls: "I think it is important to understand what has happened - and to blame the deficit on too much spending...is wrong.'

These men are simply in denial. 

They absolutely refuse to face up to the harm they have caused.

And surely until they admit their guilt they can never be trusted.

The fact is that Labour is not fit to be criticise the necessary steps we are having to take until it comes to terms with its role in what went wrong.

The first thing Labour should do is apologise to the British people.

Say sorry to the nation for the way they wasted our money. 

Because their incompetence is going to hit everyone's pocket.

Their imprudence is the reason why some public sector jobs will go.

Their irresponsibility is the cause of the spending cuts.

If and when they apologise, it's only fair that the people directly responsible for the cuts that are coming, Labour's cuts, should share some of the pain.

That's why today, I have written to each of the candidates in the Labour leadership contest and asked them to confirm that they, and other former ministers supporting them, intend to renounce their ministerial severance pay.

At a time when people across the country are being asked to tighten their belts to deal with Labour's economic mess, it is unacceptable that the very people responsible, walk away with upto £20,000 each.
 
Forfeiting this pay would be the first step towards accepting their responsibility, and the first sign that they had come to terms with the mistakes of their past.

POSITIVE ACTION

This Government knows there is much to do.

Sadly, much still to find out.

We, the Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats will be making our own contributions to exposing the truth.

Today is just the start of a summer of scrutiny into Labour's legacy.

We are going to let ordinary people see Labour's total lack of respect for taxpayers' money.

That's why as Conservative Party Chairman I'm releasing a video highlighting Labour's great failure.

Chris and the Lib Dems will be doing their bit.

In government we're determined to work together to rescue our economy and put this country back on a strong footing.

As Chris has said

One party made this mess.

And our two parties will sort it out.

Rt Hon Baroness Warsi

Sayeeda is Senior Minister of State, Foreign Office, & Minister for Faith & Communities. She is a leading campaigner for racial justice.

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Warsi Sayeeda

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