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FactCheck: Gordon Brown's speech to the Labour conference 2008

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 23 September 2008

Gordon Brown's Manchester performance weighed in at 57 minutes and 6,696 words. But how much passed the FactCheck test?

The claim

"Three million more people in work since 1997 - that's not just a number, that's a life that's been changed - three million times over."
Gordon Brown, Labour party conference, Manchester, 23 September 2008

The analysis

It's a familiar Brown claim - and it has echoes of the notorious three million unemployed under Thatcher. The number of jobs has increased by around three million under Labour, and at the last count, there were 29.54 million people in work. But as FactCheck has noted before, the number of people in the country has increased at the same time.

Although it's no mean feat to provide jobs for an increasing population, including a hefty number of migrant workers, it's not the case that - as Brown's statement might imply - every one of these three million was languishing on the dole before Labour came along and gave them jobs.

To be fair, the employment rate - arguably a more useful, if less sound-bite friendly, measure of the labour market - is now 74.7 per cent of working-age people, up by more than 15 percentage points on when Labour came to power.

Although the latest figures showed unemployment at its highest in 10 years, Brown's claim to have increased jobs dramatically stands up - at least for now.

The claim

"In the week that banks were collapsing the man who wants to run our economy not only said this is not a problem caused by the financial markets but went on to say and, I quote, 'that it's a function of financial markets that people make loads of money out of the misery of others.'"
Gordon Brown, Labour party conference, Manchester, 23 September 2008

The analysis

The chancellor, Alistair Darling, also pounced on part of this quote in his speech to conference yesterday. Let's check the full version.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne appeared on Newsnight last week, amid the chaos of the Lehman Brothers collapse and the plunge in HBOS shares, and the bank's merger with Lloyds TSB.

He did say the quote attributed to him, pretty much: "Well look, no one takes pleasure from people making money out of the misery of others, but that is a function of capitalist markets."

He did, also, say that the financial markets weren't to blame, but there was more to it than that. Osborne blamed a number of economic factors, including the uncontrolled economic boom of the past decades. Here's the full quote: "The causes of this problem are an economy built on debt, a housing boom that went on for ten years unchecked. "Now the boom has turned to bust and the Brown bubble has burst and we're having to pick up the pieces. So the causes of the problem are not the financial markets, the causes of the problem are the boom over the last, is the boom over the last 10 years that was uncontrolled."

Newsnight, BBC 2, 17 September 2008

The claim

"I pledge here today in Manchester starting in over 30 communities, and then over 60, we will, stage by stage, extend free nursery places for two year-olds for every parent who wants them in every part of the country backed by high quality, affordable childcare for all."
Gordon Brown, Labour party conference, Manchester, 23 September 2008

The analysis

"Brown pledges free nursery places for two year-olds", was the headline in this week's Sunday Telegraph.

But look at the small print, and there were no details of any imminent roll-out. Today, at least, Brown builds up more gradually, starting with just 30 communities, then 60, before getting up to the big promise.

More childcare for three and four year-olds has been one of Labour's proud priorities, but when might provision for two year-olds come into effect?

Today the Department for Children, Schools and Families said 20,000 free nursery places for two-year-olds from low income families are on the way, starting in 32 local areas, and expanding to 63 areas by 2010-11.

But what about the universal provision?

"In the childcare strategy to be published later in the autumn, we will set out the details of how we will deliver our aspiration to roll this provision out on the road to universal care for two year-olds."

So at present, it's an aspiration rather than anything that can be nailed down in hard, fast target terms.

Brown pledges free nursery places, Sunday Telegraph, 21 Sep 2008

The claim

"We have already made it easier for busy families to go to the doctor. Whilst a year ago only 1 in 10 patients had access to GPs at weekends and in the evening. Now almost half of all practices are open and by the end of next year the majority will be open even longer. ."
Gordon Brown, Labour party conference, Manchester, 23 September 2008

The analysis

As part of the GP contract negotiated this year, surgeries will be required to open an extra three hours a week in the evening and at weekends. But it was only four years ago, under the watch of the then health secretary Alan Milburn, that this responsibility was removed from them.

Extended opening hours have been gradually reducing for many years, but it was only when a GP contract, negotiated by the NHS Confederation on behalf of the government, was implemented in 2004 that the responsibility for providing this care was officially removed from them and given to primary care organisations (now primary care trusts, or PCTs).

Having had this responsibility removed, GPs were also offered the opportunity to opt-out of providing these and other out-of-hours services for a mere 6 per cent of their income.

Dr Simon Fradd, one of the British Medical Association GP negotiators, described this as "stunning" in an interview with BBC Radio 4.

"Nobody in my position had ever believed we could pull it off but to get it for 6 per cent was a bit of a laugh," he said.

So while the government can take credit for extending GP surgery hours in the last year, they bear some responsibility for the reduction in the first place.

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