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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 16:36 GMT
'Back Blair' Brown tells Labour
Gordon Brown
Brown's speech may precede anti-war protests
Gordon Brown has urged the Labour Party to back Tony Blair in his efforts to resolve the Iraq crisis.

The chancellor - delivering a keynote speech at Labour's spring conference in Glasgow - insisted that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction had to be dealt with.

We should all give Tony Blair, the leader of our party, our full support as he seeks to find an international way forward for the necessary disarmament of Saddam Hussein

Gordon Brown
The "fortunate generation" that had been brought up after 1945 now had an obligation to tackle the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

"So I want to start by saying that in the difficult decisions he has to make for our country, we should all give Tony Blair, the leader of our party, our full support as he seeks to find an international way forward for the necessary disarmament of Saddam Hussein," he said.

Mr Brown was speaking at about the same time that UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix delivered his long awaited verdict on Iraq.

The prime minister and other top Labour politicians know that they face a struggle to convince much of their grass roots support for US policy on Iraq.

Mr Brown gave a bullish account of the state of the UK economy in the context of international economic and political uncertainty.

Emergency motions?

The backdrop of possible war in Iraq will be reinforced by demonstrations in Glasgow, and an anti-war fringe meeting is also expected.

The Labour Local Government, Youth and Women's Conference has a tight timetable, which is focused away from the international crisis.

The next stage is to work with business to strengthen competition, enterprise, investment and markets

Gordon Brown
Chancellor
But some delegates may try to use emergency resolutions to register their disquiet with the government's stance in the stand-off.

Business leaders are putting the chancellor under pressure to help manufacturing industry out of its recession.

The Confederation of British Industry wants all companies, not just small firms, to receive allowances for capital investment.

It also wants more research and development tax credits and has expressed concern about rising red tape.

No complacency

Mr Brown's response was to insist that he was not being complacent.

"This is the time as we prepare for the upturn in the world economy, to accelerate our efforts," he said.

"We know that the modern route to full employment starts with stability, is built on skills and training, requires responsibility in pay and demands an economy with the highest levels of competition, enterprise and investment.

"The next stage of our programme - one of the themes of the Budget - is to work with business to strengthen competition, enterprise, investment and markets in our economy."

That would include cutting the costs of starting businesses, of investment and of recruiting staff, he will suggest.

The business tax regime will also be reformed to help entrepreneurs, Mr Brown will say.

'Long-term platform'

Companies are worried about the effect of the 1p rise in National Insurance contributions, which starts in April.

In the week he came under fire from opposition parties for being "in denial" about the UK's economic prospects, the chancellor will also defend his financial stewardship.

He will argue Labour has built a platform to withstand difficult times and that its long-term decisions are bringing record spending on public services.

"Whilst there are always risks internationally and whilst we are at all times vigilant against complacency, we are the first Labour government with the strength to be able to plan for the long term on the basis of stability."

See also:

03 Feb 03 | Business
29 Jan 03 | Business
09 Dec 02 | Business
28 Nov 02 | Politics
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