Yvette Cooper's speech to Labour Annual Conference in Brighton 2013

Published at: September 25, 2013 12:44 PM



In a shopping mall in Nairobi, 67 people have now died in a brutal terrorist attack.

British citizens are among the dead

Our thoughts are with all the victims and their families.

And we show our solidarity with the people of Kenya today because we will always stand against vile, cowardly attacks and support democracy and civilisation across the globe 

Just as we stood strong together at home this summer

When we witnessed the awful murder of Drummer Lee Rigby – killed because he was a British soldier.

And when West Midland mosques faced bomb threats and Mohammad Saleem was murdered – killed because he was a British Muslim.

But we remember the mothers who confronted the attackers on the streets of Woolwich

The local neighbourhood police officers who knew their community so well they could track the bomb suspect down

People doing their normal job, going about their normal lives, doing extraordinary things to keep the rest of us safe.

We will always take a stand –

against the Islamist extremists who do not represent their religion

against the right wing racists who do not speak for Britain

We will never let extremists divide our nation

 And I want to pay tribute to someone today who has shown such remarkable strength since her son Stephen Lawrence was murdered twenty years ago.

Someone who has fought for truth and against racism and injustice

Whose determination changed the face of policing

Whose community work through the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust is helping new generations of young people overcome prejudice

We support her campaign to go further and we are privileged she will join the Labour benches in the House of Lords to continue her work

And we are very proud that she is here today, and will speak to our Conference this afternoon.

Conference, please join me in welcoming and paying tribute to Doreen Lawrence



Doreen joins us in Parliament, where Labour’s Home Affairs team are working tirelessly to hold the Government to account.

Just as Labour councils and Labour police and crime commissioners are working hard across the country in difficult circumstances to prevent crime and support communities, and keep police on the streets. 

And here’s why it matters

Last week I was contacted about a family helped by the local council and police

Julia was harassed, beaten and raped by her ex-partner.

She and her ten year old son have been helped by a sanctuary scheme.

The council have reinforced doors and windows, special alarms.

One room has extra security with a hotline direct to the police.

It’s one of over a hundred sanctuary schemes operating across the country – championed by the Labour Government, but something the coalition say they believe in too.

But there’s a catch

Julia is on low income.

And this is Tory Britain

The Tories say she has too many bedrooms.

Conference she is being forced to pay the bedroom tax

An extra tax to stay in the home that protects her and her son

She has nowhere safe to move to

But is worried she can’t afford to stay

This is the disgraceful face of Tory and Liberal Democrat Britain.

And one more reason why we need a Labour Government to abolish the bedroom tax.

And after his fantastic speech yesterday – inspiring us to believe in a better Britain, exposing the unfairness at the heart of this government, and the changes we can make – Conference we need a Leader in Downing Street who will listen to Britain and deliver for Britain.

We need our Leader, Ed Miliband, as Britain’s next Prime Minister.


Because Conference, it’s not just about one unfair tax

It’s much worse than that.

This Government is failing victims of crime

Undermining the police

Dividing communities

Failing to deal with the challenges of the future – be it on crime or immigration

Turning their backs

Walking away

And looking for someone to blame

Remember their promise that cutting counter terror powers would still keep track of terror suspects?

They brought in weaker powers

One suspect, was allowed back to London

He promptly ran off.

In fact he didn’t run, he just hailed a black cab

He hasn’t been seen since.

Remember their promise that their big flagship reform Police and Crime Commissioner elections would deliver a “democratic mandate.”

Just 15% of voters turned out.

Remember how they promised stronger border control. Then we had the passport fiasco, the queues fiasco and now we learn customs checks have been cut

But where is Theresa May when the terror suspect goes missing? Or the border controls collapse?

Quick to claim credit when things go right, strangely absent when things go wrong.


Fewer criminals caught?

-           Blame the police

Fewer police on the streets?

-          Blame the crime commissioners

Few votes for crime commissioners?

-          Blame the public

Fewer foreign criminals deported?

-          Blame the civil servants

-          Blame Labour

-          Blame Europe

Or most frequently of all

-          Blame Nick Clegg


Yes, Theresa May blames her failure on communications data, counter terror, Europe and immigration all on a fight with Nick Clegg. 

Conference this is the man who rolled over on tuition fees, top rate of tax, Syria, the bedroom tax….

The man couldn’t fight his way out of a plastic bag 

No wonder he wants to tax them.

Conference, decisions by Theresa May, Nick Clegg and David Cameron are undermining our police and letting victims down.

We said from the start 20% policing cuts went too far and too fast.

£2bn rather than the £1bn we and experts supported

15,000 officers cut

999 response times have increased

Taking up to 30% longer to reach night time emergency calls, so victims are waiting longer when they are most afraid.

And victims denied justice too

Nearly 30,000 fewer crimes a year are being solved.

That’s more criminals getting away with it in Tory Britain.


Reports of domestic violence and rape are going up

Yet 13% fewer cases of domestic violence are being referred for prosecution

And 33% fewer cases of rape are being referred for prosecution

Those prosecutions and convictions were increasing for years – as a result of our hard work

But since police cuts started and this Government took charge, the clock has been turned back

More criminals and abusers are getting off

Fewer victims are getting protection

Never forget that 2 women a week are killed by a partner or ex

Yet still no sign of the action, the national standards, or the Commissioner we called for.

Ministers are just blaming others and turning their backs

It’s about time Theresa May took action and got it sorted out


Corners are being cut too because the police are so stretched.

Serious and violent crimes are going for community resolution instead of going to court.

That’s when the police take someone round to see the victim to say sorry and make amends.

That can make sense for a bit of graffiti, or digging up someone’s flower bed.

But for 30,000 serious or violent offences – including domestic abuse?

All they have to do is say sorry and the police will say that’s alright then?

Sorry. That’s not alright at all.

In domestic violence part of the problem is that abusers apologise, make amends, and then get violent all over again.

There is no way the police should be taking abusers back to their victims and sanctioning a cycle of apology and abuse.

Conference, that’s why a Labour Government will legislate to stop the police using community resolutions for crimes like domestic and sexual violence.

Because serious crimes need serious penalties and protection for victims too.

Of course the Government says none of this is a problem because crime statistics are still falling

Home Office Ministers called it “spectacular”

Nick Clegg called it a “triumph”.

I don’t think they get it

Everyone welcomes the 20 year drop in recorded crime and we want it to go further

But there is nothing spectacular about 8 and a half million crimes last year

When millions of victims want justice - not to see more criminals let off

And Ministers should be troubled not triumphant about growing problems

Police reports from Devon, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire about increases in shoplifting for basics – like meat for a family meal.

And in one area, baby food and nappies.

Or about the growing number of mental health cases taking up police time?

Or the fear of crime increasing again after falling for several years?


And what do they say to the national police chief for cyber crime?

He says “Crime is not coming down… crime is changing”

Fraud is up 30% - but that’s the tip of the iceberg.

Because most online crime – like credit card and identity fraud - goes unreported

Which?, the consumer watchdog, say half of us have been targeted by online scams

The pensioner who lost his savings wiring help to a friend he thought was stuck abroad in distress

The family who lost hundreds of pounds on a holiday which never existed

We live our lives online now – but organised criminals know that too, and that is where they are heading

It’s a big cost for business

And a big cost for all of us when money is tight

When banks are forced to write off fraud we all lose out from higher charges.

The police say it’s growing exponentially

Yet the Government hasn’t got a grip


So we will act

We’ll change the law to make it easier to prosecute identity theft.

A new Police First programme - modelled on Teach First – to get the brightest IT graduates into policing

And Peter Neyroud, former top Chief Constable has agreed to work with us, consumer watchdog Which? and business to build an organisation to challenge online fraud, modelled on the successful Internet Watch Foundation which is tackling online child abuse worldwide.

In the face of 21st Century crime, what we need is leadership

If the Tories won’t provide it, we will.


Nor has the Government faced up to the 21st century pressures on our children

Not just the need for more action against online child abuse

But also to tackle the growing exposure of teenagers to violent pornographic images

And the growing violence in teenage relationships.

Safeguards on computers such as parental controls are sensible

But let’s be honest

Many of us parents have to ask our children how to set up the parental controls in the first place

We need better prevention and education

Yet Michael Gove is refusing to allow sex and relationship education guidance even to be updated to mention the internet

Michael this is the 21st century – not the 19th

That is why a Labour Government will make sure there is updated sex and relationship education, for boys and girls, with zero tolerance of violence at its core. And we will make it compulsory too

And conference we need to make sure our police are equipped for the 21st century too.

Under great pressure now, the police officers and police staff are working immensely hard to target crime, support victims and reassure communities – rarely valued by Government for the determined public service they show.

Every day, the police face great risks to keep us safe

Running towards the crisis or the threat when everyone else can run away

This week PC Andrew Duncan was killed just doing his every day job

This weekend the police will remember the officers who have lost their lives this year including the Manchester constables shot down answering a 999 call exactly 12 months ago. Just doing their every day job.

Conference we pay tribute and say thank to police officers and staff for their daily public service to keep us safe


But conference, it is because our party believes in the importance of public services working with strong communities we won’t just walk away

We will support the police

But we know that is harder when money is so tight

So we need reform.

We should raise more money from the proceeds of crime. We will change the law to make criminals pay more and prevent them hiding their assets away.

And we will drive down Tory waste

Remember they wasted £100m on November elections which could have kept 3,000 police on the streets

£30m is going on extra CCTV bureaucracy, hundreds of millions on chaotic police procurement they failed to tackle, and privatised forensics are forcing costs up.


But we also need a long term vision of policing for the future - that makes savings but delivers better public services too.

That’s why we asked Lord Stevens former Commissioner of the Met to set up an independent commission - with experts from across Britain, Europe, Australia, Canada – to draw up a radical and positive plan for policing in the 21st century

-          Raising police standards – and increasing diversity

-          Giving local neighbourhoods a stronger say

-          Shaking up the bureaucracy and saving money to keep police officers on the beat

-          Looking at Police and Crime Commissioners

And conference, delivering swifter stronger action when things go wrong – as they did so badly over Hillsborough, so that families never again have to wait over 20 years for the truth


At the heart of those reforms must be neighbourhood policing.

Local officers and PCSOs based in every community.

-          who know their town, their estate, their street

-          who are known by their town, their estate, their street

Working in partnership with the public. Making our communities more confidence and more resilient.

Yet in too many neighbourhoods now they are disappearing. Being put back in their cars, merged with response teams, given extra duties that keep them off the streets.

Conference this was Labour’s most important policing reform. We must never let the Tories destroy it.

We will put it back at the heart of British policing


And just as we need a police service fit for the 21st century

We need an immigration system fit for the 21st century too

When people want to travel and trade more than ever before

When businesses are global

But when working people feel more insecure

And our immigration system isn’t keeping up


Ed Miliband talked yesterday about the worries people have on immigration

Some people say Labour shouldn’t talk about immigration

That it is pandering to prejudice or to the right

I disagree

Conference we don’t have a mature and honest debate about immigration

We leave it to the divisive politics of the right

That’s why we have set out practical policies

But I will not join an arms race of rhetoric on immigration.

And this party will never use immigration to play divide and rule.

Britain has benefited from those welcomed to our shores across the generations – building our biggest companies, working in our NHS, winning us Nobel prizes and Olympic medals.

And immigration will be important in future too as we compete in a global market

But that makes it even more important that the system is controlled with proper limits and fair rules in place

The free market right wants wide open borders – in the interests of free trade and cheap labour

The conservative right wants the drawbridge closed – to keep away outsiders and shun change

Neither of these right wing positions will ever work for Britain or ever be accepted by Labour.


We’ve said before we got things wrong in Government – including transitional controls on Eastern European migration

The pace was too fast. We support measures to bring immigration down

As long as the evidence supports it we will keep the cap

But the Tories are getting things wrong too.

Border controls have been reduced. Electronic checks delayed. Searches for stowaways stopped. Fewer foreign criminals sent home.

The number of people refused entry at the border has halved

Yet top business visas are being delayed

And university students – bringing billions of investment in – have been put off

While human trafficking is going up

And it is a disgrace that two thirds of children rescued from trafficking in Britain simply go missing again - back into the arms of the traffickers, the brothels or the cannabis farms

Conference it’s time to end the shame and stain that is modern day slavery


At a time of economic insecurity, many people’s greatest concern is whether immigration is being exploited to keep wages down or jobs scarce.

That’s why we called for changes to the law to stop people getting round the minimum wage, with stronger enforcement and increased fines

Stronger requirements for companies recruiting from abroad to take on apprenticeships and guaranteed jobs for the young unemployed here at home

And we support stronger requirements for EU citizens to be able to support themselves and contribute to this country if they come here.

That’s the fair way to stop a race to the bottom between countries on social security and labour market standards

And conference the number of prosecutions for employing illegal migrants has halved since the election.

And even when people are caught abusing the system the penalties are a disgrace

In one case where several dairy farms used gangmasters with illegal migrants housed in cow sheds paid up to £500 a month less than the minimum wage – they were only fined £300 per worker. Less than the money they took from each worker, every single month.

That’s why we should change the law. With minimum fines in place when people abuse illegal immigration for profit in this way.


That’s what we’d do.

But here’s what we won’t do.

Unlike the Tories, we won’t do checks at London tube stations, asking British people to prove their immigration status, targeted at people for the colour of their skin

Unlike the Tories, we won’t do Ad vans sent to the areas with the highest black and minority ethnic British communities

Borrowing the language of the 1970s national front

And conference, just consider

Those Ad Vans were driving past the homes and offices of families whose parents and grandparents had to endure those same slogans scrawled high in graffiti forty years ago. Whose children now run local businesses, work in hospitals and schools, serve their country in our armed forces

Conference it really comes to something when even Nigel Farage says you’ve gone too far.

Those ad vans weren’t about illegal immigration

I say enough of these divisive gimmicks they are an utter disgrace

But that’s what we get from this Government




Letting down victims

Dividing communities

Undermining public services

Failing to face up to the challenges of the future

And too often just turning their backs and walking away

A decade ago, Theresa May was a moderniser, warning the Tories that they had become the “nasty party”

Conference, the nasty party is back

They will divide

We must unite

They will play the politics of fear

We, the Labour Party, must build the politics of hope

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