Speeches sourced from the Labour party’s online archive More…

Ed Miliband remarks in Rochester and Strood

It’s great to be here in Rochester and Strood but I want to start by saying my thoughts are with our parliamentary colleagues in Canada, who faced a terrorist attack yesterday.

We stand in solidarity with the Canadian people.

I’m proud to be here to support our fantastic local candidate, Naushabah Khan with Yvette Cooper, my Shadow Home Secretary.

We all know by now that Naushabah likes to spend her spare time kickboxing.

Skills which will come in handy for a career in politics - and here in the Rochester & Strood by-election.

Because she - and we - are in a tough fight against not just one, but two Tory opponents: UKIP and the Conservatives.

One candidate was the Tory MP for this constituency for four-and-a-half years and a Tory policy adviser before that.

That candidate is standing for a party that offers tax cuts for millionaires and threatens the future of our NHS.

The other one will be the official Conservative candidate.

Labour’s candidate, Naushabah Khan, represents the only real alternative to this pair of Tories.

And I am proud to say she, and we, are going to be fighting for every single vote in Rochester & Strood between now and November 20.

The choice facing voters here in this by-election reflects the choice the whole country will face at the General Election: who should Britain be run for - a few people at the top or everyday working people?

At stake is our NHS, our country, our living standards, and our children’s future.

That is why we have a plan to make our country work again for everyday, working people.

An £8 minimum wage.

Jobs for our young people.

An end to exploitative zero hours contracts.

25 hours free childcare for three and four year-olds of working parents.

And to build homes again for first time buyers in this area.

And if you need another reason to vote Labour, just look at what is happening to our NHS under this Government.

Only Labour has a plan to raise from the richest in our country the money needed for 3,000 more midwives, 5,000 homecare workers, 8,000 more GPs and 20,000 more nurses.

But I am also asking you to vote Labour because our plan to make this country work for your family also includes addressing immigration.

Like Naushabah, I am the child of immigrants and I am proud of the contribution that so many people, including our parents, have made to this country.

In addressing these issues, I will always be true to that, true to my party’s traditions and the values of the British people.

Because I believe the British people also know that so many people who come here make an important contribution to our national life, from our economy to the NHS.

And they also want an immigration system that reflects their values of fairness and responsibility.

And it’s only Labour that understands both of those things.

That means we should seek to tackle the concerns that people have.

About the impact on wages when large numbers of low skilled workers come here.

About the pace of change in communities, including the pressure on scarce resources in public services.

And about the security of our borders.

Ever since I became Labour leader I have said we must understand these are real issues and show that we are ready to act on them.

That is why I have changed Labour’s approach on immigration.

We will be saying more about our plans for immigration in the months to come.

But in this by-election I want to lay out the clear, credible and concrete change that is on offer from Labour and will be in our first Queen’s Speech.

Our plan starts with strong borders.

First, action to ensure that when people cross our borders they are counted - in and out – so we know who is here, who has gone home and who has stayed so we can deal with illegal immigration.

But Labour’s immigration plan won’t stop at the border. Tackling the level of dependence on low skilled migration means reforming the way our economy works.

It’s unfair when some employers exploit migrant workers to undercut the terms and conditions of workers here.

So second, we will introduce a law to make it a criminal offence to exploit workers, wherever they come from, with the aim of illegally undercutting wages or conditions here.

And third we will tackle specific problems, for example, introducing laws preventing recruitment agencies hiring only from abroad and those that allow them to exploit loopholes to undercut directly employed staff.

Fourth, we will make sure opportunities are available for our young people here.

So a Labour government will require any large employer who hires a skilled worker from outside the EU to train apprentices here.

People also want to know that when people come here, they will play a full part in our society.

It’s good for all of us.

So fifth, a Labour government would ensure that public sector workers in public-facing roles have minimum standards of English.

These are just some of the changes that will be included within our Immigration Reform Bill.

And we also know that Europe needs to change if we are to deal with the problems of immigration.

We will seek change in Europe for:

Longer transitional controls when new countries join the EU.

Stopping child benefit and child tax credits being paid to kids living abroad.

Doubling the period before people would be entitled to benefits.

And stronger rules to deal with foreign criminals.

All these changes are about controls, about tackling undercutting of wages by rogue employers and about people earning their entitlements.

But just as I want to be straight about what I will do, I also want to tell you what I will not do.

False promises on immigration just make people more cynical about politics.

I won’t be part of that.

I will not make promises I can’t keep.

David Cameron promised to cut net migration into this country to tens of thousands.

“No ifs or buts,” he said, “If we don’t deliver our side of the bargain, vote us out in five years’ time.”

But far from cutting net migration to tens of thousands, it is now 243,000.

I am not going to make undeliverable promises.

And I tell you something else I will not do.

I will never propose a policy or a course of action which would damage our country.

Nigel Farage wants to leave the European Union on which three million British jobs and thousands of businesses in our country depend.

Those jobs and businesses include many here in Rochester & Strood which has always traded with the world beyond.

And Nigel Farage is not alone anymore.

Now David Cameron is also saying he is ready to leave the European Union and have Britain turn its back on the rest of the world.

In doing so he is creating fear and uncertainty for British businesses which may be already losing out on crucial investment because of political games being played with our national interest.

I will not be a Prime Minister that puts either those jobs and businesses or our national interest at risk.

Labour offers real change right away, not damage to our country.

Reforming Europe, not leaving Europe.

In this by-election and in the General Election to come, we will expose the Tories for their failure and their false promises.

And I have a simple message for people considering voting UKIP.

We don’t need to risk three million jobs or the NHS to deliver credible change on immigration.

Labour will do it, whilst putting living standards and the NHS first.

If you want a party for working people, then vote Labour in this by-election:

For clear, credible, and concrete change.

Change which a Labour government will deliver to improve lives for everyday working people in Rochester & Strood.

And right across Britain.

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech