Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

Equalities Speech to Labour Party Conference

Equality Speech – Labour Party Conference Manchester


Sunday 21st September 2008


Check against delivery


Good debate


Covered important issues


Reflected our pride in what we have done


To improve childcare

To give parents more flexibility at work

To make tackling domestic violence a priority

To respect and acknowledge same sex relationships with civil partnerships

Strengthened the law to fight racism




This debate has shown that Equality is – as it always has been  - always will be -  a passionate issue for us in the Labour party


We don’t think that anyone should suffer the indignity of being told

  • Sorry you’re too old
  • you can’t do that because you’re disabled


  • and we are not prepared to believe that a woman working part-time is worth 40% less than a full time man
  • and while Labour does have 4 times more black and asian MPs than all the other parties put together – including our newest member of the Government – Dawn Butler MP -  parliament is still not representative of this country.


For us equality is about respect, basic fairness and human rights. 

It makes for a more peaceful society – one which is at ease with itself

And it makes for a stronger economy – one which includes the talents  of all


So that’s why  -

  • having worked with our Labour councillors, the trade unions and our MPs,
  • and through the important policy discussions in the party,
  • our  equality team of Vera Baird, Barbara Follet, Kathy Ashton and Barbara Keeley will be taking this forward.


Labour will press on with tackling unfairness and inequality


  • a tough new equality bill – a flagship bill which will
  • strengthen the laws to tackle unequal pay for women,
  • build on the work of trade union equality reps
  • bring in new rights to protect older people from discrimination

and we will strengthen the law to protect women who victims of human trafficking – the modern day slave trade.  And that is not just cracking down on the traffickers and protecting the women – its also holding responsible the men who pay for sex and fuel this evil trade


  • and we will make sure that the laws to outlaw discrimination against disabled people are fully respected.


Just a glimpse of what can happen when the talents of disabled people are allowed to flourish was shown to everyone by our brilliant Paralympic team in Beijing.



  • but we know that inequality is not just the gap between men and women, black and white, disabled and able bodied -  but also the gap between north and south and rich and poor. And that’s why this month work will begin by our new National Equality Panel.  It will analyse and report on how all the different elements of inequality weave in together to effect people’s life chances and chart – and tell us after 11 years in government –  where we have made progress and where we have further to go so we can make further progress in the future.


We’ve done a lot to tackle inequality  – and we’ve made progress.  But those who know that more needs to be done – you know you can count on Labour as the champions of equality.


The Tories are pretending they are the new  friends of equality.




The Tories never have and will never tackle inequality.


  • How can discrimination against gay and lesbian people be tackled by The Tories when their leader, David Cameron  voted in Parliament to keep clause 28 – and he can’t blame anyone else for that – it was a free vote.


  • How can the rights of older people be protected by the Tories when the Tories think that discrimination laws are a burden on business


  • How can the gap between rich and poor be tackled by the Tories when they would cut Sure Start, abolish tax credits and instead give tax cuts of £1b to the richest 3,000 millionaires in this country


  • How can inequality between North and South be tackled by the Tories who’s answer to the North/South divide is perfectly simple – just forget about the North.


  • How can anyone believe The Tories when they now say they respect women’s rights – when the delegates to next weeks Tory conference got in their conference pack not just an invitation to a lap dancing club. -  but  a discount!  That’s the Tories attitude to lap dancing – loud and clear.  But Labour women MPs – Roberta, Linda, Celia have been saying if local community don’t want it.  Council should be able to refuse license and that’s what we will do.  So thank you to Roberta, Linda and Celia.


The Tories are posing as the new friends of equality – but they are false friends.



Some people say that because the times are hard and the economy is under pressure we should drop the fairness agenda, that it’s a luxury that we just can’t afford.


We’re not going to do that.  Discrimination and prejudice is never acceptable but its even more objectionable when you feel your back is against the wall.


And our unflinching commitment to

  • respect for all,
  • fairness to all  
  • and opportunity to all


will be central to our work in Government and central to the mission of this Labour Party.


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