Tobacco firms, tax avoiders and “mansion” owners will be targeted to pay for a £2.5 billion NHS recruitment drive if Labour takes power, Ed Miliband said.
In his final party conference speech before the general election, the Opposition leader said creating a “world class” health and social care system was one of the six main goals in his 10-year plan to restore the UK’s fortunes.
A “Time to Care” fund would be created to tackle shortages that have left wards and surgeries dangerously understaffed, and transform a “creaking” home care system, he pledged.
Its first priority will be the recruitment of 20,000 nurses, 8,000 GPs, 3,000 midwives and 5,000 care workers, as part of a wider shift to a more integrated health and care system proposed by the party.
The cash will come from a new annual “mansion tax” on £2 million-plus homes, a US-style levy on cigarette manufacturers and a promise to find ways to close tax loopholes that the party says cost the Treasury £1.1 billion.
“We won’t borrow a penny to do it,” he told the gathering in Manchester where shadow chancellor Ed Balls yesterday warned activists that austerity would continue under Labour - including a fresh squeeze on child benefit.
“And we won’t do it by raising taxes on everyday working people.”
Instead those paying for the improvement would be tax-dodging hedge funds, tobacco giants “who make soaring profit on the back of ill health” and those wealthy enough to own large homes, he said.
“Doing it together means everyone playing their part to help fund our NHS.
“The stakes are incredibly high in this election. But nowhere more than on the NHS.
“The NHS is sliding backwards under this Government. They are privatising and fragmenting it. Just think what it would look like after five more years.
“It is not safe in their hands.
“We built the NHS. We saved the NHS. We will repeal their Health and Social Care Bill and we will transform the NHS for the future.”
Mr Miliband stressed the party’s commitment to fiscal discipline, insisting a “world class” country can be achieved without “big spending”.
Mr Balls received a muted reaction to his own speech as he set out plans to extend real-terms cuts to child benefit until at least 2017.
The Labour pair continue to trail David Cameron and George Osborne by some distance over the key election issue of who can be trusted to run the economy.
But Mr Miliband sought to paint a brighter longer-term picture - suggesting Britain was so damaged it will take Labour a decade to fix it and laid out a series of goals the party would aim to achieve by the end of a second term.
Doubling the number of first-time buyers to 400,000 a year, boosting apprenticeship take-up until it matches the number going to university, halving the number of low-paid workers and creating a million new “green” technology jobs also form part of his “national mission”.
In a direct riposte to the Government’s much-vaunted “long-term economic plan”, Mr Miliband said he wanted to “restore people’s faith in the future” with his own “plan for Britain’s future”.
“’Can anyone build a better future for the working people of Britain?’ That is the general election question,” he said.
“Our task is to restore people’s faith in the future.
“I’m not talking about changing a policy, or simply a different programme.
“But something that is bigger: transforming the idea, the ethic, of how our country is run.
“Strip away all of the sound and fury and what people across England, Scotland and Wales, across every part of the UK, are saying is this country doesn’t care about me. Politics doesn’t listen. The economy doesn’t work.
“And they are not wrong. They are right. But this Labour Party has a plan to put it right.
“For Labour, this election is about you. You have made the sacrifices, you have taken home lower wages year after year, you have paid higher taxes, you have seen your energy bills rise, you have seen your NHS decline, you know this country doesn’t work for you.
“We can build that better future for you and your family, wherever you live in the United Kingdom, and this speech is about Labour’s plan to do it: Labour’s plan for Britain’s future.”
He hailed his conference-opening pledge to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour by 2020 as the best way of “rewarding the talents of all”.
Setting out the plans to double the numbers getting on the housing ladder - partly through a pledge to be building 200,000 new homes a year by 2020 - he said property ownership is “that most British of dreams” but that it had “faded” for too many young people priced out of the market.
He called for a “revolution in apprenticeships” to ensure as many school leavers go into one as now go on to study for a degree.
At present four times as many go to university, “leaving both young people and businesses without the skills they need to succeed for the future”, he will add.
There would be action to tackle the “ modern injustice” of self-employed people lacking pensions and being refused mortgages, he said.
And ensuring the UK caught up with countries such as Germany, Japan, the United States, India and China in creating jobs in green technology was “ the most important thing I can do in politics for the future of my kids and their generation,” he said.
Mr Miliband made a point of thanking former Prime Minister Gordon Brown for his role in securing a No vote in the Scottish referendum - after leaving him out of a list of thank-yous on stage yesterday.
He also delivered a pledge to Scotland: “This Labour party will show you over the coming years that you made the right choice, because we are better together.
“All political leaders, all of us in this hall have a responsibility to try to explain why 45% of people voted yes - 45% wanted to break up our country.”
Mr Miliband said he had met a cleaner called Josephine during the campaign. “I don’t know how Josephine voted in the referendum, but I do know that the question that she was asking - is anyone going to make life better for me and my family - it isn’t just Josephine’s question, it is the question that people are asking right across Britain ...
“That wasn’t just the referendum question, that is the general election question.”
Mr Miliband said he was not talking about the wealthy who “do well whatever the weather” but families who are “treading water, working harder and harder just to stay afloat”.
The Labour leader said: “For Labour this election is about you.
“You have made the sacrifices. You have taken home lower wages year after year. You have paid higher taxes. You have seen your energy bills rise and your NHS decline.
“You know this country does not work. My answer is we can build a better future for you and your family and this speech is about Labour’s plan to do it - Labour’s plan for Britain’s future.”
Mr Miliband said a silent majority has said they wanted Britain to endure but that things needed to change.
He recounted an anecdote with a young woman in a pub near where he lived, who did not go to college but worked her way from cleaning dishes to becoming a chef.
Mr Miliband said: “Her life is incredibly tough - and by the way, she thinks politics is rubbish.
“What does she see in politics? She sees drifts. She doesn’t think we can solve her problems and we have got to prove her wrong.”
The Labour leader added: “I think there is something almost even more important about country - people have lost faith in the future.”
Mr Miliband recounted a further anecdote about two young women in a park he met near his home.
“One of them said something which really stuck with me,” he said.
“She said this, she said ‘my generation is falling into a black hole’.
“She said about her parents’ generation, ‘they have had it so good and now there is nothing left for us’.
“She was not just speaking for herself, she was speaking for millions of people across our country, millions of people who have lost faith in the future.”
Mr Miliband added: “So many people, friends, across our country feel this way. They feel the country doesn’t work for them and they have lost that faith in the future.
“Our task is to restore people’s faith in the future - not by breaking up our country but by breaking with the old way of doing things.
“By breaking with the past. I’m not talking about a different policy or a different programme, I’m talking about something much bigger - I’m talking about a different idea, a different ethic for the way our country succeeds.
“You might think in England, Scotland, Wales, across the United Kingdom what people are actually saying to us is this country doesn’t care about me, our politics doesn’t listen, our economy doesn’t work, and they are not wrong they are right.
“This Labour Party is going to put it right.”
Mr Miliband said Britain could no longer carry on with just a “tiny minority at the top doing well” where a “circle that is closed to most” is blind to the concerns of the majority.
The Labour leader said it sent a message to people that they were on their own.
“It’s working people who are made to bear the burden of anxiety, precariousness and insecurity, he said. “ They’ve been told ‘you’re on your own’.
“So many young people who don’t have the privileges think their life is going to be worse than their parents’. They’ve been told ‘you’re on your own’.
“So many small businesses are struggling against forces more powerful than themselves. They’ve been told ‘you’re on your own’.”
Mr Miliband said people had lost faith in the system and that is why so many people had voted in favour of independence in the Scottish referendum.
He added: “Is it any wonder? The deck is stacked. The game is rigged in favour of those who have all the power.
“In eight months’ time, we are going to call time on this way of running the country because ‘you’re on your own’ doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for your family, it doesn’t work for Britain.
“Together we can restore faith in the future, together we can build a better future for the working people of Britain. Together we can rebuild Britain. Together we can.”
Mr Miliband said teamwork was “the ethic of the 21st century”.
“If the ethic of the 20th century was hierarchy, order, planning, control, the talents of a few, the ethic of the 21st century is cooperation, everybody playing their part, sharing the rewards, the talents of all.
“It is time we ran the country like we know it can be run.”
But, in an attack on the Conservatives, he said David Cameron’s party was “the best example of the ‘you’re on your own’, ‘rig the system for the powerful’ insecure throwback dogma”.
Struggling families, low-paid workers, people on zero-hours contracts, those worried about rail fares and payday lenders were all being told “you’re on your own” by a party which said “intervening would be like Venezuela”, he said.
“They say they don’t believe in Government intervention. Really?
“Of course they do because if you’re a millionaire seeking a tax cut you’re certainly not going to be on your own,” he told activists - along with bankers worried about bonuses and energy firms concerned about profits.
“And if you are a Conservative-supporting, gold-mining, luxury hotel-owning, Putin award-winning Russian oligarch and you have £160,000 to spare to bid in an auction, you won’t be on your own. You’ll be on the tennis court playing doubles with David Cameron. That’s all you need to know about this Government.”
Mr Miliband said the British public had endured five years of sacrifice under Mr Cameron’s Government and zero years of success.
He said its record was not just mediocre, but “one of the worst ever”.
The Labour leader went on: “A Tory economy is always an economy for the few because that is who they care about, that is the basis on which they think a country succeeds. So the past with this Government is a good guide to the future - your family worse-off.
“You can’t afford to take that risk. The British people can’t afford another five years of David Cameron.”
Mr Miliband told delegates he had an idea for Mr Cameron who, he sai,d liked surfing, playing the computer game Angry Birds and playing tennis with Russian oligarchs.
He said: “Why don’t we give him all the time in the world to do all these things come next May and let’s send him into opposition?”
Mr Miliband said he was putting forward a vision for “Britain 2025”, saying he wanted to be honest with the public that things could not be changed overnight.
He blamed Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg for breaking down trust between politicians and the public.
“People are fed-up of politicians who come along and say ‘Vote for me and things will be transformed’ ...
“People won’t believe it. It is what I call doing a Nick Clegg.
“When Nick Clegg broke that promise on tuition fees, he didn’t just destroy trust in himself and the Lib Dems.
“He destroyed trust in politics.”
Mr Miliband warned that people were getting “more and more cynical, more and more turned off”.
He said Labour was setting out a “route map for the country”, with the first goal being to halve the number of people in low pay in a decade.
Mr Cameron could never deliver that because his party represented the elite, Mr Miliband argued.
Labour, on the other hand, would not allow “vested interests” or orthodoxy to get in the way of fundamental reform.
“The Tories are the party of wealth and privilege. Labour is the party of hard work and fair pay,” he added.
Mr Miliband said a key part of his plan was to harness the green economy, and slammed Mr Cameron’s administration for letting opportunities escape abroad to Germany, the United States, India and China.
He told the conference one million jobs could be created in green technology and services.
And he said: “There are so many brilliant businesses who are desperate to do their bit but government is not playing its part.
“With our plan, we will. This is what we are going to do.
“We are going to commit to taking all of the carbon out of electricity by 2030. We are going to have a green investment bank with powers to borrow and attract new investment.
“We will devolve power and resources to communities so we can insulate five million homes over the next 10 years.”
Mr Miliband said Mr Cameron had made the environment unfashionable but warned: “There is no more important issue for me when I think about my children’s generation and what I can do in politics and tackling global climate change.”
Moving on to apprenticeships, Mr Miliband told the Manchester gathering he wanted by 2025 to see as many young people taking on the training jobs as went to university.
He recounted meeting Elizabeth, an apprentice auto electrician, and introduced her to the conference hall.
Mr Miliband said: “She is one of the lucky few, friends.... actually Elizabeth’s school helped her get an apprenticeship but so many other schools don’t do that.
“Lots of the young people I meet who are on apprenticeships say ‘my school said apprenticeships were rubbish and they wouldn’t help me but now I’m doing it it’s really great for me’.
“Frankly, there aren’t enough of them and they aren’t high quality enough.”
Mr Miliband warned this goal was a long way away and would require a “massive national effort” to achieve.
“It’s going to require young people to show the ambition to do well and to get on,” he said.
“It’s going to require schools to lead a dramatic change in education, with new gold standard technical qualifications.
“And it is going to need business and government to lead a revolution in apprenticeships.
“Government is very good at preaching to business about what it should be doing. But let me just tell you - government is absolutely useless when it comes to apprenticeships.
“It is true of governments of both parties.”
Mr Miliband added it was OK for companies to bring in European workers, but added: “You must provide apprenticeships for the next generation.”
Mr Miliband said the “confidence and security” of home ownership was now beyond many people in Britain today.
He said: “So many people don’t have that today, that very British dream of home ownership is fading for so many people.
“Under this government we are building fewer homes than at any time since the 1920s.”
He said Labour’s goal was to ensure that by 2025 as many homes as are needed are being built in Britain and the number of first time buyers is doubled.
Mr Miliband added: “It’s going to require a massive national effort.”
Land-banking will be stopped and a new generation of towns and garden cities will be be built, creating an extra 500,000 new homes.
“We will also make housing the top priority for additional capital investment in the next parliament. This party will get Britain building again.”
Mr Miliband said it was his “duty” to protect the National Health Service and “make sure it is there when we need it”.
Activists twice stood to applaud Mr Miliband when he set out his plans to recruit more “doctors, nurses, midwives, care workers, who are able to spend proper time with us, not rushed off their feet” with the proceeds from the squeeze on tobacco firms, hedge funds and expensive homes.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham will set out tomorrow an “integrated plan for physical health, mental health and care for the elderly”, he said.
“An NHS with time to care. Truly a 21st century National Health Service.”
Concluding his 65-minute address, Mr Miliband said: “I say to every person in our country who believes that tomorrow can be better than today: we need you.
“Together we bring up our families, together we look out for our neighbours, together we care for our communities, together we create great businesses - the best in the world - together we teach the young, together we heal the sick, together we care for the old, together we invent cures for the most terrible of diseases.
“So of course, friends, together we can rebuild our country, together we can reward hard work, together we can ensure the next generation better than the last, together we can make our NHS greater than it’s ever been before.
“Together we can make Britain prouder, stronger in the world.
“Together we can restore faith in the future. On our own we can’t but together we can.
“In the next eight months the British people face one of the biggest choices in generations.
“A choice between carrying on as we are, on your own, for the privileged few or a different, better future for our country.
“We are ready. Labour’s plan for Britain’s future. Let’s make it happen, together.”
As he finished speaking he was joined on the stage by his wife Justine who he kissed before they left the hall together.
Mr Milband told activists that he knew the next eight months were effectively a job interview for the job of prime minister but he insisted he was the man to stand up to vested interests.
“That’s why I stood up to Rupert Murdoch over phone hacking, that’s why I stood up to the banks over bonuses, that’s why I stood up to the payday lenders over their exploitation of the poorest people in our country, that’s why I stood up to the energy companies over their profits and prices and, yes, it’s why I stood up to the Daily Mail when they said my dad hated Britain, because I know my dad loved Britain.”
Mr Miliband said David Cameron “stands up for the privileged few”.
“Here’s the thing that gets me the most about him perhaps, he really thinks a good photo opportunity will fool people into thinking that he doesn’t really stand up for the rich and privileged, he stands up for you and your family.
“In this day and age, when people are so cynical about politics, I just think it adds to that cynicism.”
Mr Miliband insisted that the Prime Minister had “been found out” because he made pledges before the election that he had turned his back on, including on climate change and health.
“He’s been found out because stood outside an NHS hospital before the election with a placard saying ‘No hospital closures’ and he closed that very same A&E department after the election,” he said.
“He’s been found out because he changed his logo to a tree before an election, then tried to sell off the forests after an election.
“And he’s been found out because he said he was a compassionate Conservative before the election and he imposed the cruel, the vindictive, the unfair bedroom tax after the election.”
Mr Miliband said voters were facing a choice at the polling booths next May.
“A real stark choice of leadership. Leadership that stands up for the privileged few or leadership that fights for you and your family .”
Mr Burnham insisted the funding plans “stacked up” despite being unable to give details of how the “mansion tax” would be implemented.
Asked how it would be possible to identify properties valued above £2 million, Mr Burnham said it would be based on Land Registry records.
Told those valuations reflect when the house was last sold, he said: “It’s as house prices increase, the valuation on properties, that is what we will use to construct the mansion tax.”
Pressed further, he said simply: “This is not my area ... I’m not going to say to you that I’ve worked out all the details because that’s not what I’ve been doing.
“Have you not noticed, I’m not actually a treasurer, I’m the shadow health secretary and I’m putting together a plan for the National Health Service.”
“We’ve gone cautious. We’ve said the money is there to at least give us £1.2 billion from a mansion tax on properties worth more than £2 million and actually raising far more on the most expensive properties.”