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EDITIONS
Monday, 30 September, 2002, 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK
Brown takes up private cash battle
Gordon Brown
Brown: Question of trust for voters
Chancellor Gordon Brown has mounted a pre-emptive strike at Labour's conference against potential revolts over Iraq and the use of private money in public services.

Labour delegates vote later on Monday afternoon on motions opposing any war with Iraq and calling for a review of private finance initiatives (PFI) for building schools and hospitals.

It has fallen to this generation to meet the challenge of preventing the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons

Gordon Brown
In an appeal to Labour's core supporters, Mr Brown used his speech to argue the government's stance on Iraq matched the party's historic determination to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

And as a rare conference defeat loomed for the leadership, the chancellor said backing down over PFI would mean breaking Labour's promises to the British public.

'Builders ready'

In a speech which received a two-minute standing ovation, he said: "Having promised at the election that we would put schools and hospitals first, we must keep our promise to the people.

"When the plans are drawn up, the building workers are there and the money provided, the public will not tolerate delays."

He said it was "a question of trust" between the government and voters.

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary was built with PFI funds
There was "a world of difference between using private money to rebuild the NHS for the long term interests of the many - and the agenda of our opponents designed to undermine the NHS in the short term private interests of the few".

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott also launched a vigorous defence of using private money to fund public services.

Unions have dropped their original demand for a temporary halt of new PFIs.

But in a motion that could bring Tony Blair defeat for only the second time at conference since he became Labour leader in 1994, they call for an independent review of the schemes.

Heading off revolt

Mr Prescott argued that stance amounted to a "freeze" on vital health and education improvements.

Critical unions argue that no detailed work has been done on the effectiveness of PFI and that an investigation would be a reasonable compromise.

With Mr Brown and Mr Prescott spearheading the defence of public-private projects, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will seek to fend off opposition to threatening military action against Iraq.

There is also widespread concern over the prime minister's apparent willingness to go to war with Iraq if the UN fails to deliver to Saddam Hussein the sort of ultimatum he and US President George Bush are demanding.

Iraq challenge

Mr Brown tried to ease those worries by emphasising the party's traditions.

"It has fallen to this generation to meet the challenge of preventing the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons," he said.

"Non-proliferation has been, for 50 years, of this Labour movement."

Labour figures had long argued that concerted international action could stop the spread of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, he argued.

Underline

"The strongest message must go out to Saddam Hussein from the international community, that his actions cannot continue unchecked and with impunity," added Mr Brown.

Delegates will vote on two motions on Iraq: one "supports the call from the Nelson Mandela not to follow President Bush into a war with Iraq".

The other backs the government line, saying any military action should meet international law and only be considered after political and diplomatic efforts are exhausted.

Mr Brown went on in his speech to underline the importance of working with the private sector.

"Let our party be the pro-enterprise as well as the pro-fairness party: Labour, the party of small businesses and the self employed in Britain just as much as we have always been and are the party of employees," he said.

Delight

He also underlined the government's position on the euro, saying the five economic tests he has set out are of "central importance" to the decision.

"And I give this commitment: nothing that is proposed will put our pro-European, pro-growth, pro-investment, pro-employment values at risk," he said.

Mr Brown delighted delegates by saying that during meetings in Washington at the weekend he had seen proposals for a further $1bn debt relief for the world's poorest nations.

He said it would help the world meet the objective of cancelling up to $100 billion dollars of debt.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Vicky Young reports from Blackpool
"A clear statement of intent from government: there will be no u-turn"
Chancellor Gordon Brown
"We must keep our promise to the people"

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28 Sep 02 | Politics
27 Sep 02 | Business
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