John Major – 1991 Commons Statement on Maastricht

Below is the text of the statement made by John Major, the then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 18 December 1991.

I beg to move,

That this House congratulates the Prime Minister on achieving all the negotiating objectives set out in the motion that was supported by the House on 21st November; and warmly endorses the agreement secured by the Government at Maastricht.

In no other country of the Community have the issues that were decided at Maastricht been as hotly debated as they have been in this country. I have found in discussions with fellow Heads of Government that they have been frankly astonished by the amount of coverage in our media and by the intensity of the debate that we have had in this country over many months. I think that that coverage is not just a reflection of the measure of controversy ; it reflects also the Government’s determination to ensure that the fullest information was available to the House and the country before the European Council. It is perhaps also a reflection of a national characteristic–it is by no means a new one.

After meeting Macmillan in Bermuda in 1957, Eisenhower wrote : “Any conference with the British requires the most detailed discussion. They do not like to sign any generalisations in a hurry, no matter how plausible or attractive they may be, but once their signature is appended to a document, complete confidence can be placed in their performance.”

He went on, rather unkindly the House may think, to say : “French negotiators sometimes seem to prefer to sign first and then to begin discussion.”

In this country, every detail of the negotiations has been pored over both by hon. Members and by the press, and not only by them. I have had letters in recent weeks from the public–from schoolchildren, very well informed– on the pros and cons of a single currency, but I suspect that in a number of other Community countries the real debate is only just beginning.

Last month, I set out the issues that would be argued over at Maastricht. No one here or elsewhere in Europe could have been unaware of what we were arguing for. I explicitly said that we would not change our position at the very end of the negotiations. We did not, but we did achieve our objectives.

A full text of the treaty on European union is in the Library of the House. Jurists and linguists will ensure that the text is ready for signature at the beginning of February, but the treaty will enter into force only once all 12 member states have ratified it. The Luxembourg European Council last June agreed that this process should take place during 1992 so that the treaty can enter into force on 1 January 1993.

Before we shall be able to ratify the treaty, it will need to be incorporated into United Kingdom law by amending the European Communities Act 1972. As I assured the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) last week, it would not be right to carry through that legislation in the remainder of this Parliament. It will properly be a matter for the next Parliament.

This afternoon, I should like to set out what the agreement means and how I see the future development of the European Community. The misleading and controversial word “federal” has now been removed from the text of the treaty. Our partners agreed to return to the words of the original treaty of Rome–

“ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”.

That has a different connotation. It means that the interests of the Community’s citizens must come first and foremost.

That has always been the Government’s approach. That is why Britain drove the creation of a single European market to the top of the Community agenda. It is why we have argued for reform of the common agricultural policy, and it is why my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) fought for and won a fair budget settlement for this country.

I believe that the Community has made a unique contribution to the development of post-war Europe. Our future is as a European power, albeit as one with continuing responsibilities in many parts of the world. The balance of national interests lies clearly in making a success of our membership of the Community, so we must work with the Community to make sure that the Community works for the whole of Europe, and especially in the interests of the people of Britain. The Community can fulfil its role properly only if it responds to the needs of its European citizens. It must respect national identity and national traditions. It must not, in the name of some wider European ambition, override the democratic wishes of the people of any one of its member states.

That is why the treaties now agreed at Maastricht were so hard-fought. Real British national interests were at stake in those discussions. The Government’s job was to safeguard and to advance those interests. It was not to sign up, without critical examination, to anything that was presented to us with a European label. I set out to the House a month ago exactly what our goals would be and what we could and could not accept. The outcome matches up to those goals and commitments in every respect. The most significant agreement of the Maastricht treaties is the agreement to co-operate in a legally binding but intergovernmental framework in the three key areas of law and order, foreign policy, and defence policy. Many of our partners would have preferred to conduct that co-operation through the institutions of the Community. That was not acceptable to us; nor, in my judgment, would it have worked. We have been able to draw a crucial distinction between those areas, such as the single market, where the Community institutions are the best tools for the job, and other areas, such as foreign policy and the fight against crime, where direct co-operation between national capitals is likely to produce the best result.

However, despite that satisfactory outcome, no one in the House should assume that that argument has been settled for all time. Some Community member states will go on pressing for a united states of Europe, with all co-operation within one institutional framework. We shall continue to argue forcefully against that proposition, and I believe that we will win the argument in the future as we have thus far.

The treaty on political union was a challenge as well as an opportunity. The challenge was to ensure that we checked the encroachment of the Community’s institutions. The opportunity was to make the Community work better. In the event, a large number of the agreements that were reached stemmed specifically from proposals that were put forward by the United Kingdom. It is worth stating the extent of those proposals. Our proposals were for stronger European security and defence co-operation, making the Western European Union the defence pillar of the European union, while preserving the primacy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. For us, the prime importance of NATO was a vital national interest, and that has been secured.

Our proposals were also for a common foreign and security policy going beyond the Single European Act, but remaining outside the treaty of Rome and beyond the reach of the European Court. They were for co-operation on interior and justice matters, but also for co-operation outside the treaty of Rome and the jurisdiction of the European Court. They were also for co-operation for greater financial accountability, for a treaty article on subsidiarity–an article that specifically enshrines the crucial concept that the Community should undertake only those measures that could not be achieved at a national level–and for the right of the European Court of Justice to impose fines on those member states that fail to comply with its judgments, or with Community law, having previously signed up to it. We won agreement to all those proposals, and it was vital to the interests of this country that we did.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield) : Will the Prime Minister help with this paradox concerning the future of Europe? The west is moving towards union; the east is moving towards a looser association–a commonwealth idea. Is it not possible that the harmonisation of the interests of individual member states along commonwealth lines rather than by means of a union would offer a more durable future, given that the break-up in the east came about because centralisation occurred without the consent of the peoples of the countries involved?

The Prime Minister : I have much sympathy with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. It is for that reason that I regard the innovation of the pillared structure operating on a co-operative basis outside the Community institutions as a very desirable development in the negotiations at Maastricht. I believe that it opens up new opportunities in the future for a European co-operation, which I believe is in all our interests–but outside the centralising institutions of the Commission, and outside the influence of the European Court of Justice. It is because of the extent of my sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman–although I would not, I believe, go as far as he would in that regard–that I believe that the agreement at Maastricht is so important.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : I am grateful to the Prime Minister for allowing me to intervene on the subject of centralised institutions. He mentioned subsidiarity, and article 3b of the treaty of union. Does he not agree that that unclear principle, on which it is very difficult to adjudicate, is totally limited by a phrase in the article? It applies to the Community only when the Community does not have matters “within its exclusive jurisdiction”.

Given that, by virtue of its powers of regulation, the Community has a very wide area of exclusive jurisdiction, does not that limit subsidiarity, whatever it be, to a very narrow range of topics?

The Prime Minister : Any action taken by the Community must not reach the level necessary to infringe the principle of subsidiarity. In essence, if it can better be done at national level, it ought not to be done at Community level. That is the principle that we have enshrined in the treaty. I shall return to that point in a few moments.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland) : Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister : I will make a little progress. I shall return to that point; I ask the hon. Gentleman to be patient. Had it not been for Britain’s arguments, we would have had last week a treaty which brought foreign policy and interior and justice matters within the treaty of Rome. We would have had a Community setting itself up as a rival defence organisation to NATO. We would have lost our independent right to decide foreign policy. The European Parliament would have had equal rights with the Governments of member states to decide on the policies and laws of the Community, and the Community’s competence would have extended into virtually every area of our national life.

I do not believe that it would have been right to agree to all that. It would not have been acceptable to this House or this country, and it would have been a betrayal of our national interests. Let me turn to social issues, and set out in detail the reasons why we could not agree to the social chapter in the treaty. Let me first remove a misunderstanding. The issue with the Community is not the quality of social provision in the countries of the Community. In Britain, we have a national health service free at the point of use– [Interruption.] It is free at the point of use, and it is the envy of Europe. Only one other European country is in a position to say that.

We have a benefits safety net that puts many European socialist Governments to shame, and the issue before us is whether social policy should be dictated by Brussels or determined in this country. We have long accepted that there should be a social dimension to the activities of the Community. It makes sense, for example, to ensure that common standards of health and safety at work are observed. There are already agreed Community measures in the social area covering freedom of movement, collective redundancy arrangements and equal treatment for men and women in pay and social security.

Ms. Dawn Primarolo (Bristol, South) : Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

The Prime Minister : Not at the moment, if the hon. Lady will forgive me.

They all help to make a reality of people’s freedom to seek a job anywhere in the Community, widening the opportunities open to all our citizens.

We have not only agreed those measures; unlike some of our partners, we have implemented them. With Germany, we are the only member state that has implemented all the 18 directives so far adopted by the Community. We have made it clear that we will adopt and implement the majority of the proposals in the Community’s existing social action programme. Nineteen of the 33 measures so far published have been agreed by the Council of Ministers, and the United Kingdom has not blocked a single one of them. We have played a full part in the social dimensions of the Community, and no one has gone further.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : Will the Prime Minister make clear to the House and, perhaps therefore, the country something that is not understood? How is it that countries such as Greece, Portugal and Spain could put their names to the social chapter but the United Kingdom could not? Does the Prime Minister really want to be the leader of the “little boys up chimneys” party?

The Prime Minister : If the hon. Gentleman had been patient, I would have turned from the social dimension to the social chapter about which he is talking.

The social dimension exists under present Community competence. It is a matter in which we have been fully involved, and I have listed many of the areas of legislation that we have accepted, with a better record than anyone else in the Community. The social chapter covers the point raised by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), and the point that others may have wished to raise. We have refused to accept that, in addition, the Community should intrude into aspects of social policy best decided nationally.

The Government will not support proposals that would destroy jobs by imposing damaging costs on British industry. Companies know best how much they can afford in relation to their competitors, not the social affairs directorate in Brussels. That is why we are resisting the proposed working time directive, which would cost British employers up to £5 billion in the first year alone. There is also the part-time working directive, which would require up to 1.75 million part-time workers to pay national insurance contributions. The effect of that directive would be to impose extra costs on those workers at modest levels of earnings whose contributions burden the House lightened as recently as 1989.

That single illustration gives the lie to the absurd notion that all proposals from Brussels are socially enlightened, and all resistance to them is from the dark ages. Who in this House wants higher national insurance contributions on low-paid workers? That is what the directive proposes. If the Opposition support that, let them say so. If they do not want to do so, let them support us in resisting its imposition.

Those are directives that the European Commission is endeavouring to make, even under its existing competence. That makes it abundantly clear why I was not prepared to accept a further massive extension of competence in this field.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough) : The Prime Minister is telling the House that he totally misunderstands the social charter and the social chapter. Europeans regard the social dimension, the social chapter and the social charter as one and the same. Will the Prime Minister tell me and the House how he will feel when he signs the treaty, and the protocol that deals with the social charter? He will not sign, but will exclude Britain from the institutions of the Community, from all its mechanisms and from every aspect of this policy. How will he feel when he does not sign that page?

The Prime Minister : The protocol is not in the treaty; it is adjacent to the treaty, but it is not in it. The protocol will not apply to us. It will not impose damaging costs on British industry and workers. I feel, as so many employers in this country and abroad feel, that it will give a competitive advantage to this country, not a competitive disadvantage. The social chapter would have implied that laws could have been imposed on the United Kingdom, by a qualified majority vote of member states, on working conditions, rights of information and consultation–including that of unions to block essential business decisions–and any action related to the provision of jobs for unemployed people. These would have ceased to be a matter for decision by this House and by British employers and employees, according to the needs of this country.

The Community’s ambitions would not have ended with those matters : social security and protection, union rights to representation of workers, union involvement in company management and the conditions of employment of non-resident workers from outside the Community would all have been explicit Community responsibilities. That, without a shred of doubt, would have been a recipe for a centralised Community social policy, which could not possibly have taken account of wide variations in traditional practice, culture and experience. It is clear that it would have enabled costly laws to be imposed, irrespective of the needs of our economy and our jobs, and I was not prepared to accept that.

Ms. Ruddock : Will the Prime Minister confirm that Britain has the lowest maternity pay of any country in the Community and, in the context of the remarks that he has just made, is he satisfied with that state of affairs?

The Prime Minister : Britain has the longest maternity leave, as the hon. Lady may know, of any country in Europe : this House decided that, and the hon. Lady has to recognise that point. It is for the House to determine that.

Let me turn to article 118b in the agreement of the 11, of which the Opposition are so fond. Let me explain to the House what the agreement that I rejected says about the role of collective agreements at Community level, rather than what some have led us to believe in recent days. It provides for such agreements between Community-level representatives of management and labour. That means, principally, the Union of Industrial and Employers Confederations of Europe and the European Trades Union Congress–a body whose combined membership is no more than one in four employees in the Community. It provides that such agreements shall be implemented in member states in one of two ways.

The first is to require such agreements to be implemented directly in member states according to their own procedures. Such agreements could cover any matter, including pay, the right to join a union and the right to strike. The only exclusions from those provisions are what Community-led employers and unions fail to agree on. The second way is to require the Council, at the request of these employers and unions, to implement these agreements through Community law, enforceable through the European Court. In this case all the matters within the huge range of Community competence that I have described could come within the scope of such agreements. Only pay, the right to join a union and the right to strike would be excluded.

The Opposition told us the exclusions, but they failed to mention the list of inclusions. The matters included run to union law as well as the laws affecting individuals–rights of recognition and negotiation, the right to block company decisions–and nowhere in the proposals tabled are collective rights excluded from action, and laws could be imposed on this country without the agreement not only of its Government but without the agreement of its Government, its employers and its employees. That is not acceptable.

The Opposition cannot credibly claim that such extraordinary provisions would not recreate precisely the kind of national bargaining–but now at a Community level–which created what was called the “British disease” of the 1960s and 1970s, so I rejected those proposals. I shall not turn back the clock to the failure of the corporatism of the 1960s and 1970s. I do not believe that the British people want to see Europe trying as national Governments tried in the 1960s and 1970s–

Mr. Tony Blair (Sedgefield) : Will the Prime Minister confirm that, in relation to the first way that he mentioned, the declaration attached to article 118 states that none of the agreements can impose

“any obligation to amend national legislation in order to facilitate their implementation.” ?

Will he also confirm that, in relation to the second way, they are all covered by article 118b, which specifically exempts the right to strike and union legislation?

The Prime Minister : The hon Gentleman is wrong on his second point. There is the possibility, the probability and even the certainty of supranational agreements being imposed on this country as a result of these agreements. I am not prepared to accept that on behalf of this country. Neither–on the basis of the experience of what is happening under the existing social provisions–was I prepared to trust the Commission not to stretch the new definitions of the proposed social chapter. We have seen what the Commission is doing with the working time directive under the health and safety article– [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. I ask the House to settle down.

The Prime Minister : We have seen what the Commission is doing in terms of the present health and safety article, and I am not prepared to take the risk of that happening again, with the Commission stretching its responsibilities.

Finally, I am not prepared to envisage a situation in which labour regulation, I am not prepared to envisage a situation in which labour regulation could be imposed on the United Kingdom even if the Government of the United Kingdom, the Confederation of British Industry in the United Kingdom and the Trades Union Congress in the United Kingdom had all voted against it, yet that is what the Opposition wish to support.

Mr. Rees rose–

The Prime Minister : I told the House on 20 November– [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. There are many people outside the House who are very interested in the debate and who want to know what the Prime Minister has to say. I ask the House to settle down.

Mr. Rees : On such an important issue, on which the Prime Minister went three ways, would it not be a good idea if he were to ask the learned Attorney-General to give his view to the House?

The Prime Minister : The learned Attorney-General’s view is that which I have expressed to the House.

The proposal is unacceptable, and that is why we rejected it. It is also the view of British industry and commerce and of other people all around Europe that we have made the right decision. Perhaps the Opposition would be interested to hear what the rest of the world says. The Environment Commissioner, Mr. Carlo Ripa di Meana, said that the agreements that we have reached would make Britain “the most attractive country for foreign investment.”

The Japanese equivalent of the CBI has expressed concern about the consequences of the social chapter on labour flexibility and wage costs–we know how proud the Leader of the Opposition is of the Japanese investment in his constituency.

The director general of the CBI has said that the agreement has achieved “exactly what business needs”. The director general of the Institute of Directors has described the outcome as

“a triumph for British business”.

The chairman of British Petroleum has said that he is “delighted”, and the chairman of ICI that this is probably as good an outcome as could have been hoped for.

All those people with direct experience of industry are right, and the Opposition are wrong.

I told the House on 20 November that, on economic and monetary union, there must be a provision to allow this country to decide whether–not just when–to join a single currency. That is what we have achieved–precisely, and in legally binding form. As a result, we are uniquely well placed to make a sensible judgment on this important question at the right time. If we do not wish to join, we are in no way obliged to do so. If we wish to join a single currency, it will be open to Parliament to decide to do so at exactly the same time as any of our partners.

Let there be no doubt : Britain is among those who will meet the strict convergence conditions. We took the lead in setting them and will continue to be involved at every stage leading up to the decision whether to launch a single currency.

Mr. Frank Cook rose —

The Prime Minister : There are some who argue that the treaty creates such a strong momentum towards a single currency that, whatever our doubts, we shall be compelled by economic pressure to join when the time comes. I do not believe that. The balance of economic advantage will depend heavily on the circumstances in which a single currency is created–how many member states are involved, and whether the Community has met the convergence conditions. No one can judge now what the situation will be in five or six years’ time. No economic pressure could compel this country to join a single currency if Parliament judged the political disadvantages to be too great.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) : Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister : I believe that it has been right for this country to maintain, as we have done, a two-way option–to go in if we judge it right to do so, but to stay out if we judge it right to do so. The debate about the European Community is littered…

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : Does the Prime Minister believe that the existence of the two-way option will help Britain to attract the central bank to the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister : I think that it will do no harm whatever to our prospects. Many other countries believe that we are wise to have this option. We have all the advantages of determining the conditions up to entry and–uniquely–the right to go in or not, depending on whether it is right for our country. The debate about the European Community is littered with labels for people- -anti-European, pro-European, Euro-fanatic, Euro-sceptic or Europhobe. Those labels are echoes of a healthy debate, but they should not destroy our sense of purpose.

No country has a greater capacity than ours to commit itself to a cause that it believes to be right–the history of this century clearly shows that. Many people in this country have committed themselves to membership of the Community with a similar sense of dedication. They made a commitment to an organisation which they believed would be a powerful force for good. I believe that they were right to do so.

It was right to join, not just for the opportunities that the Community offers as a common market, not even for the economic strength of the Community collectively, but for the collective power of the European democracies to improve the general weight, politically and economically, of European opinion throughout the world. Nothing that has happened in the almost 20 years of our membership causes me to doubt the rightness of the original decision to join the Community.

Mr. Frank Cook : Will the Prime Minister please, please, please give way?

Mr. Speaker : Order. Will the hon. Gentleman please sit down?

The Prime Minister : I have given way on nine or possibly even 10 occasions. I suspect that there are more than 600 hon. Members to whom I have not given way, and the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) is one of them.

As I said earlier, we attach great importance to the principle of subsidiarity. It is not only a defence of our national freedom of action but a statement of our willingness to co-operate. Such co-operation does not mean compromising our national traditions or institutions–far from it. It means not allowing sentiment to stand in the way of real interests. It is right to be hard-headed in our dealings with Europe, and that was our approach in the negotiations. At Maastricht, we ensured a safer Europe, and we reaffirmed the primacy of NATO. We set the framework of a stronger and more coherent European foreign policy, in which our national independence of action is assured. We strengthened the rule of law in the Community. We established more efficient and more effective institutions, with stronger arrangements for budgetary control.

We gave the European Parliament a greater role in monitoring the Commission. We obliged the Community to respond more directly to the needs of the citizen. We equipped ourselves to fight international crime, terrorism and drug trafficking. We secured provisions that will be good for British industry, and a Community that will be open to the rest of the world.

Our role consistently has been to ensure that the Community does not become self-regarding, inward-looking and over-regulatory. Brussels is a means to an end; it is not the end itself– [Interruption.] From their policies and comments, Opposition Members clearly feel differently. In their view, if Brussels says it, it must be right irrespective of the national interest.

There is one critical agreement among the Twelve, which is outside the treaty but in the presidency conclusions, and which I believe is vital for the future of Europe. As we reach the end of the century, it becomes even clearer that the Community does not end with the Twelve. I do not accept– [Laughter.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. These are not matters of hilarity, as many people outside would agree.

The Prime Minister : I do not accept the conflict, which is often referred to, between deepening the Community and widening it. If the Community ignores what is happening beyond its boundaries and simply concentrates on internal development, it will not become deeper; it will just become shallower. We must broaden it and open its doors. It would be a tragedy if historians could look back and say that the Community had been sleepwalking through a year of revolutions elsewhere. That tragedy would be compounded if historians were to look back and say that, if only the Community had reached out to the fragile democracies of the east, disasters in those democracies could have been averted.

At Maastricht, the Community committed itself to further enlargement. It did so at Britain’s initiative. That commitment will be seen as one of the most significant of the agreements to which we signed up last week. In six months’ time, Britain will hold the presidency of the Community. In that six months, we hope to start negotiations leading to membership of the Community for Austria and Sweden, and other European Free Trade Association countries. We shall start to pave the way for the eventual membership of the countries of eastern Europe. We shall put in place the last measures needed to complete the single market–a single market that will extend way beyond the borders of the Twelve, even before the new member states join.

In the treaty of Rome, the free countries of Europe wove their own lifeline. We now have a responsibility to the other countries of Europe to throw that same lifeline to those countries now embarking on a perilous journey towards stability and democracy. If we were to fail in that endeavour, we should put at risk all the achievements of post-war Europe. The prize if we succeed in that endeavour is enormous.

I see the main task of our presidency next year as being to ensure that the Community matches up to this, its greatest challenge and opportunity–the achievement of a Community open to all the democratic countries of Europe and reducing, perhaps even eliminating, the risk of conflict within the whole of our continent from one end to the other.

That was the kind of Community that we fought for at Maastricht. That is the kind of Community that we wish to build. We can take pride in achieving our goals in this negotiation, and I commend the outcome to the House.

John Major – 1991 Commons Statement on Gulf War

Below is the text of the statement made by John Major, the then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 17 January 1991.

The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major) With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement on the start of hostilities in the Gulf in the small hours of this morning.

Aircraft of the multinational force began attacks on military targets in Iraq from around midnight Greenwich mean time. Several hundred aircraft were involved in the action, including a substantial number of RAF aircraft. The action was taken under the authority of United Nations Security Council resolution 678 which authorises use of all necessary means, including force, after 15 January to bring about Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait.

The action was taken after extensive consultation with the principal Governments represented in the multinational force and following direct discussions between President Bush and myself over a period of weeks. It was taken only after exhaustive diplomatic efforts through the UN, the European Community, Arab Governments and others to persuade Saddam Hussein to withdraw peacefully.

The action is continuing. Attacks have been directed at Iraq’s military capability, in particular airfields, aircraft, missile sites, nuclear and chemical facilities and other military targets. Reports so far received suggest that they have been successful. Allied aircraft losses have been low. I regret to inform the House that one RAF Tornado from later raids is reported missing.

The instructions issued to our pilots and those of other forces are to avoid causing civilian casualties so far as possible.

Our aims are clear and limited. They are those set out in the United Nations Security Council resolutions: to get Iraq out of Kuwait-all of Kuwait; to restore the legitimate Government; to re-establish peace and security in the area; and to uphold the authority of the United Nations.

As I explained in the debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday, it is only with the greatest reluctance that we have come to the point of using force as authorised by the Security Council. We did so only after all peaceful means had failed and Saddam Hussein’s intransigence left us no other course. We have no quarrel with the people of Iraq. We hope very much for a speedy end to hostilities. That will come about when Saddam Hussein withdraws totally and unconditionally from Kuwait. Our military action will continue until he comes to his senses and does so.

Most of all, our thoughts go to the men and women of our forces and their families who wait anxiously at home. [HON. MEMBERS: “Hear, hear.”] They have our wholehearted support and our prayers for a safe return home.

Queen Elizabeth II – 1991 Queen’s Speech


Below is the text of the speech made by HM Queen Elizabeth II in the House of Lords on 31 October 1991.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

I look forward to visiting Australia in February, the European Parliament and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and Malta next May, France in June and Germany in October.

My Government attach the highest importance to maintaining our security. For nearly half a century NATO has formed the cornerstone of our defences. It will continue to be the principal focus, but the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the other welcome developments in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe permit changes to NATO’s strategy and will enable us to maintain our security with smaller forces. Nevertheless instability and other risks remain in Europe and elsewhere, and substantial and effective nuclear and conventional forces will be maintained.

The United Kingdom will work for balanced and verifiable arms control agreements including early ratification of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. Efforts will continue to control the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to encourage greater international responsibility in the transfer of conventional weapons. The completion of multilateral negotiations on the abolition of chemical weapons will be pursued.

My Government will require full, unconditional compliance by Iraq with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions, including the disposal of its missiles and weapons of mass destruction. They will press for long-term peace in the Middle East, including a settlement of the Palestinian problem. They will continue their efforts to secure the release of hostages in the Middle East.

They will continue to work for a stronger, more effective United Nations.

My Government will, with our Community partners, pursue the successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations. Within the Community, they will continue to play a constructive role in the two Inter-Governmental Conferences on Political Union and Economic and Monetary Union; and will work to complete the Single European Market, to promote budgetary discipline, and to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. They will prepare for the United Kingdom’s Presidency of the Community beginning on 1st July 1992.

The United Kingdom will continue to develop our good relations with the Soviet Union and its republics, and to encourage their integration into the world economy; and will work to help Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania re-establish themselves in the international community.

My Government will further encourage the development of democratic institutions and market economies in central and eastern Europe; and pursue the completion of Association Agreements with Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. They hope for a peaceful settlement in Yugoslavia. They will contribute constructively to the Helsinki Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.

My Government will encourage all sides in South Africa to pursue peaceful means of constructing a democratic, non-racial society.

A substantial aid programme aimed at promoting sustainable economic and social progress and good government in developing countries will be maintained.

My Government will continue to support the Commonwealth.

My Government will continue to administer Hong Kong in the interests of its people and to co-operate with China in implementing the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

My Government will continue their fight against terrorism in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. They will vigorously pursue their policies to combat drug trafficking and misuse of drugs, nationally and internationally.

The United Kingdom will work for a successful United Nations Conference on Environment and Development next June.

Members of the House of Commons,

Estimates for the Public Service will be laid before you.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

My Government will pursue, within the framework of the Exchange Rate Mechanism, firm financial policies designed to reduce inflation further and maintain the conditions necessary for sustained growth. They will promote enterprise and training and improve the working of the economy. They will continue to prepare for the privatisation of the British Railways Board and the British Coal Corporation.

They will maintain firm control of public spending with the aim of keeping its share of national income on a downward trend over time.

My Government attach the highest priority to improving public services. They will implement the programme of reform in the White Paper on the Citizen’s Charter. including bringing forward Charters for individual public services.

Legislation will be introduced to reinforce the regulation of privatised utilities.

Legislation will be introduced to provide for a new council tax, to establish a review of local government structure in England, and to enhance competitive tendering for local authority services.

Action will be taken to improve quality and choice in education. Legislation will be introduced to reform funding of further education and sixth form colleges and to reform higher education in England and Wales, and to make information available about the performance of individual schools.

My Government will continue to develop policies to enhance the nation’s health and to improve the effectiveness of the health and social services, and the social security system.

Work for the regeneration of our cities will continue.

A Bill will he introduced to enable applications for asylum in the United Kingdom to be dealt with quickly and effectively.

A Bill will be presented to create an offence of prison mutiny and to increase the maximum penalty for aiding prisoners to escape.

Legislation will be introduced to revise health and safety arrangements for offshore installations.

A Bill will be introduced to replace private legislation as the means for authorising transport development schemes.

A Bill will be introduced to provide for a Cardiff Bay Barrage.

For Scotland, legislation will be introduced to reform further and higher education.

In Northern Ireland, My Government will resolutely seek to defeat terrorism through the even-handed and energetic enforcement of the law; to promote political progress; to strengthen the economy; and to create equality of opportunity and equity of treatment for all sections of the community. They will maintain positive relations with the Republic of Ireland.

Legislation will be introduced to improve the supervision of charities.

Other measures will be laid before you.

Mr Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

John Major – 1991 Statement on the 1991 European Council Meeting at Maastricht


Below is the text of the speech made by John Major, the then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 11 December 1991.

The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the European Council in Maastricht which I attended with my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The European Council has reached agreement on a treaty on European union. The relevant texts have been deposited along with the presidency conclusions. The House will be invited to debate the outcome next week.

Let me set out the main provisions of the agreements we reached. The treaty covers economic and monetary union and political union. It follows the structure for which the United Kingdom has consistently argued.

The treaty creates a new legal framework for co-operation between member states in foreign and security policy and in the fight against international crime. That co-operation will take place on an intergovernmental basis outside the treaty of Rome. That means that the Commission will not have the sole right of initiative and the European Court will have no jurisdiction.

On defence, we have agreed a framework for co-operation in which the primacy of the Atlantic alliance has been confirmed and the role of the Western European Union has been enhanced.

As the House knows, there was strong pressure over many months for all aspects of co-operation to come within European Community competence. That was not acceptable to this country. Instead, an alternative route to European co-operation has been opened up. I believe that this will be seen as an increasingly significant development as the Community opens its doors to new members, and more flexible structures are required.

I turn now to the main features of the text. The treaty provides for the possibility that member states will wish to adopt a single currency later this decade, but they can do so only if they meet strict convergence conditions-conditions for which the British Government have pressed from the outset. These cover inflation, budget deficits, exchange rate stability and long-term interest rates.

A single currency may come into being in 1997, but only if a minimum of seven countries meet the convergence conditions, and eight of the Twelve vote in favour. The treaty lays down that a single currency will come into being by 1999, but only if those convergence conditions are met and only for those countries which meet them. It is therefore highly uncertain when such a currency will be created and which countries it will cover.

In the House on 20 November, I said that there must be a provision giving the United Kingdom the right to decide for ourselves whether or not to move to stage 3. That requirement has been secured. It is set out in a legally binding protocol which forms an integral part of the treaty. The protocol was drafted by the United Kingdom and fully protects the position of this House. The effect of the protocol is as follows. We have exactly the same option to join a single currency at the same time as other member states if we wish. We shall be involved in all the decisions. But, unlike other Governments, we have not bound ourselves to join regardless of whether it makes economic or political sense.

The treaty text on political union provides for enhanced intergovernmental co-operation on foreign and security policy, on defence policy and in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and other crimes.

International crime knows no frontiers. Terrorists and other criminals must not be allowed to escape justice or to retire abroad with the proceeds of their crime. This text gives us a new basis for co-operation with our partners in bringing these criminals to justice.

The text provides for joint action in foreign policy, building on what was already agreed in the Single European Act. But, as I told the House on 20 November, if Britain needs to act on its own, it must be free to do so. The treaty meets that requirement. Joint action can take place only if we agree. Where there is no joint action, each member state is entirely free to act on its own. If, after joint action has been agreed, a member state needs to take its own measures to meet changed circumstances, it may do so.

There was pressure from other member states to take foreign policy decisions by majority voting. I was not prepared to agree that Britain could be outvoted on any substantive issue of foreign policy. Some of our partners also sought to draw a distinction between decisions of principle, where unanimity would apply, and implementing decisions which could be subject to majority voting. No one was able to explain how that distinction would work. I told the European Council that, if such occasions did arise, we should consider the case for majority voting on its merits. The treaty reflects our view. It provides that the Council may, but only by unanimity, designate certain decisions to be taken by qualified majority voting. But we cannot be forced to subject our foreign policy to the will of other member states. We have, in fact, preserved unanimity for all decisions where we decide that we need it.

We are agreed that Europe must do more for its own defence. We should build up the Western European Union as the defence pillar of the European union, but the treaty embodies the view set out in the Anglo-Italian proposal two months ago, and endorsed at last month’s summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation that whatever we do at European level must be compatible with NATO. The WEU must in no way be subordinate to the European Council. It is not. We have avoided the danger of setting up defence structures which would compete with NATO. We have created a framework in which Europe can develop its defence role in a way which complements the American presence in Europe and does not put it at risk.

In these negotiations, we put forward a series of proposals designed to be of direct benefit to the European citizen. All of them were accepted. The Community has agreed to increase the accountability of European Community institutions; to strengthen the European Parliament’s financial control over the Commission; to allow the European Parliament to investigate maladministration and to appoint a Community ombudsman accessible to all Community citizens; to build up the role of the Court of Auditors, which becomes an institution of the Community; and to ensure compliance with Community obligations by giving the European Court of Justice power to impose fines on Governments who sign directives but subsequently do not implement them.

We wanted-and secured-a sensible enhancement of the role of the European Parliament. We did not accept the proposal made by other member states for a power of co-decision between the Parliament and the Council. As I told the House on 20 November, the Council of Ministers must be the body that ultimately determines the Community’s laws and policies.

I also said then that we were prepared to consider some blocking power for the European Parliament. That has now been agreed. The treaty sets up, in a limited number of areas, a conciliation procedure where there is disagreement between the Council and Parliament. In the last analysis, the Parliament would be able to block a decision in those areas, but only if an absolute majority of its members turned out to vote the proposal down.

The House has been rightly concerned at the creeping extension of Community competence over the last few years. The Commission has often brought forward proposals using a dubious legal base, and the Council has found it difficult to halt that practice in the European Court. We have taken significant steps to deal with that problem. First, the structure of the treaty puts the issues of foreign and security policy, interior and justice matters and defence policy beyond the reach of the Commission and the European Court. Secondly, the treaty itself embodies the vital principle of “subsidiarity”, making it clear that the Community should only be involved in decisions which cannot more effectively be taken at national level. Thirdly, in some areas-notably health protection, educational exchanges, vocational training and culture-we have defined Community competence clearly for the first time. Fourthly, there will be no extension of Community competence in employer-employee relations-the so-called social area. We have a high standard of social protection in this country. Our national health service, free at the point of use, is the envy of many in Europe, but we recognise the Community’s social dimension. Also-unlike some of our European partners-we have implemented that dimension too ; 19 out of the 33 measures in the social action programme have been agreed. But there is no reason for the Community to get involved in employment legislation, which must be for each country to decide for itself.

Over the past 12 years, we have transformed labour relations. In 1979, 29 million working days were lost in strikes. Last year the figure was less than 2 million. I was not prepared to see that record put in jeopardy. Nor was I prepared to risk Britain’s competitive position as the European magnet for inward investment. I was not prepared to put British jobs on the line. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. A great many people outside the House are interested in what the Prime Minister has to say.

The Prime Minister : Many of our partners have a wholly different tradition of employment practice which is reflected in the separate arrangements which they have agreed, which will affect only their countries and for which only they will pay. But even among these member states there are many who fear the effect of Community measures on their jobs and their ability to compete. Our arguments are based not only on our national interest but on the risks we perceive to the competitive position of the Community as a whole. This week’s events in the Soviet Union were a salutary reminder that reform in the Community is not an end in itself. The Community’s primary task must be to extend its own advantages of democracy, stability and prosperity to eastern Europe. At British initiative, we committed ourselves at Maastricht to the further enlargement of the Community, starting with the EFTA countries. When they and, in due course, the new democracies of eastern Europe are ready to join the Community, we shall be ready to welcome them. With this in mind, the Commission will report on enlargement to next June’s European Council in Lisbon. Thereafter, it will be for the British presidency to carry that work forward. I look forward to doing so.

We agreed a number of statements on foreign policy issues. I will single out two of them. On the Soviet Union, the European Council calls on the republics to respect the rights of minorities, to implement international agreements on arms control and nuclear non-proliferation, to control and secure their nuclear weapons, and to honour their obligations in respect of the Soviet Union’s external debt.

The European Council has endorsed the demands which we, France and the United States have made to the Libyan Government requiring them to abandon their support of terrorism and to hand over the alleged perpetrators of the Lockerbie bombing.

The founders of the Community knew that they could not create a viable organisation if they established goals that could never be achieved. In talking about European union, we are talking about concepts that have to be cast in the reality of national legislation and everyday life. The Single European Act started as a grandiose design and ended up as a workmanlike blueprint for a free market. Those treaties have followed the same course.

Our role has been to put forward practical suggestions-and sometimes to rein in the larger ambitions of our partners. Where we believed their ideas would not work, we have put forward our own alternatives.

Those can be found throughout this treaty. As with all international negotiations, there has been give and take between all 12 member states. But the process was one in which Britain has played a leading role, and the result is one in which we can clearly see the imprint of our views.

This is a treaty which safeguards and advances our national interests. It advances the interests of Europe as a whole. It opens up new ways of co-operating in Europe. It clarifies and contains the powers of the Commission. It will allow the Community to develop in depth. It reaches out to other Europeans-the new democracies who want to share the benefits we already enjoy. It is a good agreement for Europe, and a good agreement for the United Kingdom. I commend it to the House.

Peter Hain – 1991 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Peter Hain in the House of Commons on 17 April 1991.

Entering the House after the high profile of a by-election is rather like having been head prefect in primary school, only to be plunged into the obscure anonymity of a secondary school new boy. I am confident that that fate awaits me when I sit down today.

It is an honour and a privilege to represent Neath, or Castell Nedd, whose importance dates from Roman and Norman times, and which has the cosiest town centre in Britain, surrounded by scenic valleys and majestic waterfalls, with, to the west, the a spectacular night-time view of Pontardawe’s unusually tall and striking church spire.

There is a strong sense of community, an immense network of voluntary activity, and a rich culture of amateur opera, music, and male voice and ladies’ choirs. On the eastern tip of the constituency is Richard Burton’s home village of Pontrhydyfen. Amateur sport is widespread—football, athletics and, of course, the best rugby team in country. Recently I was introduced to a class of nine-year-old children at Godrergraig primary school. The teacher said, “Here is a very important person.” One of the nine-year-olds got up and asked, “Do you play rugby for Neath?” That, I thought, was a man who had his priorities right.

I have enjoyed renewing my interests in the game at Neath’s home ground, the Gnoll. In my youth, that interest involved running on rugby pitches, both as a player and, later, in another capacity, which I shall refrain from describing, as this speech is made with your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I am privileged in another way: I follow two Members, both survived by wives still living in Neath. Margaret Coleman is a highly respected figure in her own right in the community. Jenny Williams, now in her nineties, was a much-loved Labour party activist, and wife of D. J. Williams, who hailed from the close-knit village of Tairgwaith in the north-west of the constituency. In 1925, D. J. Williams wrote of the destructive impact of capitalism in the coal industry in terms that remain true today.

Donald Coleman’s tragically premature death was not just a bitter blow to his family; it deprived Neath of a favourite son, and this House of its finest tenor. Although I will do my best to follow in his footsteps as a diligent constituency MP, I am afraid I cannot hope to match his talent for music and song. The exuberance with which he sang and preached his love for Neath reflects the intense civic pride in the town and in the villages of the Dulais, Swansea, Amman, Neath and Pelenna valleys.

But local residents cannot survive on civic pride, mutual aid and mutual co-operation alone. They take great pride in educational achievement. I have met nobody in Neath who cannot remember how many O-levels he or she has. There is a great tradition of skill and hard work in Neath and its valleys. Much has been done in the face of Government indifference and neglect, but so much more could be done if the publicly sponsored investment in industry, infrastructure and initiative for which the people of Neath and its valleys are crying out were provided.

Surely Neath is entitled to the seedcorn investment, decent training provision and long-term loan finance that only national Government or the Welsh Office is able to provide. The old Blaenant colliery site —headgear still erect as a monument to the last pit in Neath; one of over 30 to close in the constituency in the last 30 years —nestles beneath the village of Crynant in the picturesque Dulais valley. The old Aberpergwm washery and pit site is just below the little village of Cwmgwrach in the Vale of Neath. Both are prime industrial sites, yet both stand idle, black and gaunt, their potential wasting away as 11 people chase every job vacancy, training places are cut to the bone, and businesses go bust. Nobody in Neath wants a free ride. People want simply the opportunity to build a new future.

That future must include high-quality health and community care provision. With its history of mining and heavy industry, the people of Neath suffer disproportionately from ill health. With a higher than average proportion of citizens of pensionable age—22 per cent. compared to 17.7 per cent. for Great Britain —there is a particular need for a properly funded health and community care network. Yet the Welsh Office and the Treasury have still not given the go-ahead for the new hospital that Neath so desperately needs, and West Glamorgan county council has been forced, under pain of poll tax capping, to close one of its old people’s homes.

Neath borough council, meanwhile, has had to spend an extra £523,000 on collecting the poll tax, compared with the cost of collecting the rates. On top of this, the borough had to install a new computer system for processsing the poll tax, at a cost of £300,000. Neath’s 16,000 pensioners are entitled to question the priorities of a society and a Government that waste such colossal sums of money while hospital waiting lists grow, and responsibility for community care is unceremoniously dumped on local authorities without the necessary resources to finance it.

How can we claim to be caring for citizens in need when the iniquity of the poll tax continues to penalise them so savagely? Even after the recent £140 reduction in the poll tax, residents in the Blaenhonddan area of Neath will be paying £113.66 a head. This is £85 more, incidentally, than I pay as a resident in Resolven, a few miles up the Neath valley, even though we are paying for the same local authority services, because of the discriminatory way the Welsh Office operates the transitional relief scheme.

One resident in the Blaenhonddan area—a woman from Bryncoch—is caring for her 83-year-old mother who has Parkinson’s disease. The mother has a tiny widow’s pension and has to pay the full £113. Their combined household poll tax bill is £339, yet both she and her husband are on tiny incomes which are so widespread in the Neath area. The hypocrisy of preaching community care while practising such a pernicious policy is not lost on that woman or her neighbours in Neath. Conservative Members who turn a blind eye to her predicament call to mind Thomas Paine’s summer soldier and sunshine patriot who in a crisis shrink from the service of their country.

How can the House claim to be safeguarding the interests of individuals such as a 72-year-old man from the village of Gwaun-cae-Gurwen, where the Welsh language is spoken with pride, whose eyesight deteriorates daily? He has waited 18 months for a cataract operation—a simple, cheap operation. Yet waiting lists for ophthalmic surgery at Singleton hospital have doubled since 1987, and there are now 1,400 local people like him awaiting in-patient treatment. Perhaps most outrageous of all, he was told that he could have the operation next week if he could go private at a cost of £3,000. He might as well have been invited to go to the moon, for that is a sum quite out of the question for someone living on the pittance that pensioners get today. He can be forgiven for noting with anger the grotesque fact that 200 people, just 0.0004 per cent. of the population, now monopolise 9.3 per cent. of the country’s economic wealth—some classless society indeed.

Meanwhile, the quality of the environment and the standard of living continue to deteriorate, especially for our elderly. Local bus services in the Neath valleys have been cut ruthlessly. Fares are exorbitant. Yet who can afford a car on a basic retirement income, perhaps topped up by a miner’s tiny pension? It is difficult enough for senior citizens to pay their colour television licence and the standing charges on their phone, electricity or gas. It is difficult enough for them to find the money to eat properly as food bills rise remorselessly while the real value of pensions declines compared with wage earners.

If Neath’s senior citizens had free bus passes, if standing charges on basic utility services were reduced or abolished for pensioners, if those on low incomes were entitled, like their colleagues in sheltered housing, to television licences for £5 rather than £77, if Neath and Lliw borough councils were not banned by the Government from using their combined housing capital receipts of £7.6 million to build new homes and hit by cuts in housing funding from installing universal central heating and upgrading their existing housing stock, if communities like Cwmllynfell at the heads of the four main valleys in the constituency were not choked by coal dust, disruption and heavy lorry traffic from existing and threatened opencast mines—if all those vital factors were addressed, the standard and quality of life of my constituents would be dramatically improved and, with it, there would be less need to depend upon health and community care provision.

Furthermore, if the curse of “London knows best” were removed, local people would of their own volition radically recast their priorities. That is why decentralisation of power through newly invigorated local councils and an elected assembly for Wales are so vital. That is why a freedom of information Act and an elected second Chamber are so essential. The voice of the people must be heard, not smothered by anachronistic and elitist institutions of Government.

During the last 12 years especially, Britain has become an “I’m all right, Jack” society, putting instant consumption before long-term investment, selfish “mefirstism” before community care, and private greed before the public good. The result is ugly to behold: the tawdry tinsel of decadence camouflaging a society rotten at the roots.

I thank the House for its indulgence or, as we say in Neath, “Diolch Yn Fawr.”

John Major – 2001 Speech to Young Conservatives Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by John Major, the then Prime Minister, to the Young Conservatives Conference held in Scarborough on 9 February 1991.

In each of the last three General Elections well over a million young people voted Conservative – three times as many first time voters supported us for every two who voted Labour in 1987.

That is good, but not good enough.

Why did we enjoy that support? It was because young people shared the values that we care about. I believe we want to strengthen and deepen that commitment.

I want them to know that the Conservative Party is open to them and to their ideas.

They will be welcome – and we need them.

Their idealism.

Their willingness to challenge accepted wisdom.

Their readiness to try new ways. And we must respond to their hopes as well.

To their concern for the sort of life they want to build for themselves.

Today the world is changing at an unprecedented rate. We cannot be immune from that.

Our principles and our philosophy are firm. But we must still adapt in order to thrive.

We must be open to originality, to innovation, and to change. And so long as I am able to ensure it, we will.

In a few moments I want to share with you some of my thoughts about our priorities for the future.

But first I want to speak of one group who are uppermost in our minds at present – those in our armed forces in the Gulf.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting many of them. They made a lasting impression.

They had no doubt that the task they had been set was just. And they left me in no doubt that they were wholly equal to that task.

And since then – night after night and day after day – we have seen them prove that with a skill and courage we can only admire.

They deserve all the support they can get – and they will get from us all the support they need.

And when they have done their job we will bring them back home – as soon as we can.

For here, at home, there are deep anxieties faced by their families.

I have received in recent weeks many letters from them.

Some are worried. Some emotional. All proud.

I believe the whole nation shares those feelings.

We did not want this war.

But we have it.

And we face a difficult period ahead.

But Saddam Hussein must know what he faces.

He faces defeat.

The timing maybe uncertain.

But the outcome is absolutely certain.

Because we intend to complete the job they have begun.

The British people understand very well the key principle underlying the Gulf conflict.

Throughout history the instinct of Britain has always been to defend freedom.

To uphold the rule of law.

That above all is why our troops are in the Gulf.

For our troops back home and all over it is not enough simply to protect the rights and freedoms that we have inherited. We must look beyond the present.

We must extend them.

In the last ten years tremendous advances have been made. Now we must move forward again.

We must look now at the opportunities that should be there and are not.

At the choices we do not yet have.

And at the people who have not yet benefited from change. The success of our Party since 1979 has sprung from our readiness to reform – our willingness to make the changes necessary to produce a better quality of life.

And I promise you today that great programme of reform will continue in the years ahead

In our Party we know you have to produce wealth before you can use it.

Like many other nations, Britain faces economic difficulties at present.

The next few months will be uncomfortable.

I regret that.

But short term expedients won’t do.

They will only lengthen and worsen the problems themselves.

We must follow a policy that will cure those problems, not simply mask them.

That is precisely what people expect of us.

Every time we have faced economic difficulties we have brought the country out of them.

We have a good track record.

And we will come through our problems yet again.

The centre piece of any strong economy is low inflation. And in that there are good signs for Britain.

Inflation is coming down, and will continue to fall throughout the year.

It will halve from its peak.

And we will still be driving it down.

There are some who that say inflation doesn’t matter so very much.

What that shows is that to them people don’t matter so very much.

Well, people matter to me.

I know that inflation is the enemy of personal security and peace of mind – for people of all ages.

It gnaws away at the hard won savings of the pensioner. It disrupts business and destroys jobs.

It betrays the basic trust in the value of money that lies behind every transaction in our daily lives.

That is why we must and will defeat inflation as our first priority

But, you know, when we talk of efficiency, of competition, and of economic success, we do it not for its own sake.

Not for material reasons only.

But for what we can achieve with the resources we create.

In the year ahead we will set out our ideas for the 1990s and beyond.

We have an agenda to work through.

Some of those ideas will be tried and tested.

Some will be new.

Some will involve novel concepts.

But all of them will have one thing in common – the long-term needs of this country and the people that live in it.

Our Party exists to give more people more choice, more independence, more control over their daily lives.

We know that the role of government should be limited. At present it is still too big.

But let there be no question about one thing.

We must never accept the contention that limited Government means lower standards.

That state services must be second-best.

I want to see an unending search for better quality in all our public services. When we deprive people of their money in never taxes, they have a right to ensure that it is never wasted in government.

So I want to see new ideas flowing into public service. More privatisation, yes, of course.

But also more partnership with the voluntary and private sectors.

More use of the best private skills.

For far too long we have tolerated public services that are just not good enough.

Council house repairs that are shoddy and slow.

Hospital appointments that take all day.

Trains that run late and buses that travel in packs. Children refused admission to the schools to which their parents wanted them to go.

In all of these areas we have been investing enormous sums – in health, in transport, and in education.

But are we getting proper value?

We must make those services operate better for the people who use them.

And operate with the same efficiency within the public sector as we would expect outside the public sector.

At the top of my personal agenda for the 1990s is education.

Education is the key to opening new paths for all sorts of people, not just the most gifted and for doing so at every stage of their lives. And it is also the key to the Tory ideal of a mobile, dynamic and diverse society.

So my objectives are straightforward – improving quality and standards.

More pupils staying on in education after 16.

Much more choice, and better training for all young people. I want to see more vocational options in schools of equal rigour and repute to the academic courses.

And this must go hand in hand with greater coherence and quality in post-school training.

There has been great progress over the last ten years. Some parts of our education system are unrivalled.

But others clearly are not.

Right back to the 60s and before, serious mistakes were made. Tried and tested methods were swept aside.

Unproven theories were foisted on our children.

And as a result, standards were lowered. And as a result of that the status of teachers was undermined.

As a nation we cannot be proud of what has been done over the last thirty years for many of our children.

Too many of them have been allowed to expect too little of themselves and too many other people have expected too little of them.

Over a decade ago the Labour Party recognised all this to be true.

They launched what they called a “great debate” about education.

But of course it was not debate that was needed.

It was action.

As usual, it was left to a Conservative Government to take it up after 1979.

In 1979 we set ourselves to tackle those problems.

And since then, we have introduced a great range of reforms in our schools.

Given more choice and influence to parents.

More responsibility to governors.

Set out the building blocks of a new system with better education in the National Curriculum.

These policies are working.

More pupils are getting more out of their education.

There are now five 16 year olds staying on at school for every four just two years ago.

Ten years ago only one person in eight went on into higher education.

Now it is one in five.

And soon it will be one in four.

We have many more young people graduating from our universities than ever before in the past.

Those are the real tests of success. And the policies of the Conservative Government have passed them in the last ten years.

And we are passing them.

So the 1980s have seen an opening of freedom and choice.

But I for one have no intention of resting on the Government’s achievements.

I want to bring the benefits of the best possible education to all. We cannot accept a situation where in some places nearly 40 per cent of school leavers get at least five higher level GCSEs, while elsewhere, less than ten percent do so. The Conservative Party has never accepted the notion that excellence for the few excuses mediocrity for the many.

It is, of course, the teaching profession that must lead the drive to higher standards and aspirations in our schools. I want to see dedicated teachers rewarded fairly.

But I also want to see more effective scrutiny of performance in schools.

And I want the most rigorous standards applied in teacher training.

We must ensure that every subject is taught to a high standard.

Teachers may need to be better trained in the subjects they are going to teach.

It is no good having hours of study of the theory of education if you actually fall down in the practice of teaching it when you get into the classroom.

So we want to see an educational system that is the equal of anything abroad.

Doing the basic things well.

It is not only a question of reading and spelling.

Although it is most emphatically a question of every child having the right to be taught how to read fluently and spell accurately.

And it is also teaching to a good standard with the right combination of factual knowledge and critical understanding in every subject.

And of training people for worthwhile qualifications in job related skills when they choose a vocational course.

And so what is it we seek? In summary we seek a system of education and training able to equip the children of today for the twenty-first century.

That is the objective that we will be seeking in our education policy throughout the 1990s.

And we need that for a variety of reasons, we need it because we need that education, that excellence in education to maximise our success both domestically and in Europe. And also of course, because that education equips people so much better to enjoy all the aspects of life both in work and in leisure, that will be opening up before them in the years to come.

Above all in the 1990’s we will face a competitive future in a world that is becoming increasingly competitive and most especially in a European community that will become increasingly competitive. There will be no hiding place for inefficiency, no hiding place for the shoddy and the second-rate once we get into the Europe of the 1990’s. That will all change as the reforms of 1992 increasingly come to place. Those who are well equipped and do well, work well, think well, produce well, are efficient and effective will be the leaders of the Europe in the 1990’s. And we are, and will remain, an important and enthusiastic part of the European community. It is simply not enough for some people to say, ‘I don’t really like Europe, but I will tolerate it’, for if we take that view about Europe we will never be the centre of it and can not lead it in the direction which we wish it to go.

It may be true in some ways that we need Europe but by golly it is equally true that Europe needs us and we had better make sure we are a key part in it.

It is not only the opportunities in Europe, though I will return to those in a moment. Look at the opportunities opening up in other parts of the world, the increasing democratisation of so much of Eastern Europe, a part of the world that for a very long time indeed we have seen subjugated, and unable to open itself up to a free enterprise system and all the opportunities that will flow from that.

That is all changing and has been changing in the most dramatic fashion in recent years.

And then you see the extent to which throughout the whole of South East Asia and elsewhere there are growing industrial giants with whom we will have to compete in the future and then there is the increasingly growing and important market throughout the whole of Latin America. Those are the opportunities that lie there for British industry, British commerce, and British people in the future.

And to return to the central point, providing we have the education system, the skills and the enterprise we will be able to win in those markets and winning in those markets will mean a much higher standard of life and living for all people who live in this country in the future.

And nowhere will that competitiveness be more needed than within the European community itself.

And that is why I say again that we must remain an enthusiastic partner in Europe.

It is not for nothing that we led the way in the drive for the Single Market. It was not without good reason that we took sterling into the Exchange Rate Mechanism. We propose to play a leading part in Europe’s future and no-one should doubt that for a single second.

And Britain will have a strong voice in the new Europe. Strong because of our commitment.

Strong because we have hard heads as well as soft hearts. Strong because Britain under a Conservative Government has firm principles and a very clear idea of where it wants to go and what needs to be done to get there.

And we will also resist the unworkable.

Set realism in place of impractical dreams and protect the diversity of Europe while removing obstacles to partnership and enterprise.

Necessarily you in the Young Conservatives must look to the long-term, to the year 2000 and beyond.

And so you should.

It is your future for a good deal longer than it is mine. Your Government has the same instincts. We will set our sights on the same horizon and so we should because it is our responsibility to do so.

Mr Chairman, I have a total faith in Britain and in its future.

I don’t accept for a second the craven argument that we cannot compete with the Germans and the French.

I don’t agree with the pessimists who always believe we must devalue in order to remain competitive and I despise the defeatists who run down this country and write off its future. Defeatism is always an excuse for doing nothing. But we have no intention of doing nothing. In the months ahead our agenda will unfold. Throughout the last decade Conservative Governments have proved successful to an extent beyond most peoples’ imagination. I believe that will be increasingly recognised.

Throughout the past decade Conservative Government’s have shown very clearly what it is possible for the British economy and people in this country actually to achieve and do. That is a record that people will look back on, I believe, in years to come with some envy and with a considerable amount of pride.

Sir John Major – 1991 Conservative Party Conference Speech


Earlier this week this Conference welcomed Mrs Thatcher. You gave her the most tumultuous reception. She deserved it. She led our country for over 11 years, our Party for over 15. We owe Margaret a great debt.

The Britain she left us is immeasurably stronger than the Britain she found. Above all, she helped others to believe in us and us to believe in ourselves. And on those foundations she laid three great Election victories.

It’s good to applaud; it’s grand to cheer. But the greatest tribute we can pay her is to do as she did. To win, and win, and win again. At this Conference – and what a successful Conference it’s been – you have heard how the next Conservative Government will secure the best future for Britain.

We’ve heard some cracking speeches this week. From the right team. A young team – in fact the youngest Cabinet this century. A professional team.

Just think for a moment. When the going gets rough in international affairs, who would be the first person you would send for? Gerald Kaufman? No. He would be the second person. The first person would be anyone but Gerald Kaufman. But far and away the best person would be Douglas Hurd, one of the finest Foreign Secretaries this country has ever had.

Of course, Labour’s Captain tries to talk up his team. “A winning team” he calls them. After three election defeats? Well, it goes to show that there must be more than one way to look at history. Take waterloo. You thought Wellington won Waterloo? No, Waterloo was a smash hit for Napoleon. But we can help Labour to win one thing – the record for the longest run of election defeats. Played four. Lost four. And a probable vacancy for team captain.

Last week at Brighton we had speech after speech about a fairy-tale future for the British people. In Labour’s Never-Mind-the-Cost-Never-Never Land. Then there was singalongaleader. It was all good fun if you like that sort of thing.

But while this was happening out front, there was something thoroughly nasty seeping from under the platform. I refer, of course, to what Labour pretends to believe are the Government’s plans for the National Health Service. There’s only one way to deal with a lie: nail it to the wall of truth, as William Waldegrave so conclusively did yesterday. We have all been brought up with the Health Service. We use it. We cherish it. We are proud of it.

I know that for millions of people in this country the National Health Service means security. I understand that. Because I am – and always have been – one of those people. I know that even when you’re fit and well, it brings peace of mind – just to know it’s there. It is unthinkable that I, of all people, would try to take that security away. A genuine belief I can respect, even when I profoundly disagree with it. But deliberate lies – repeated, repeated and repeated – merely diminishes its authors.

The Health Service has been in existence for over 40 years. And who has been in Government for most of that period? We have. For 29 of those years it has been a Conservative Government. It has been under Conservative Governments that the National Health Service has been built up, enlarged and improved. And our reforms will carry that right through into the 1990s. So let me say now, once and for all, and without qualifications – under this Government the National Health Service will continue, to offer free hospital treatment to everyone.

And so that no-one can misunderstand the position – and I hope the whole country is listening – let me make it even clearer. There will be no charges for hospital treatment, no charges for visits to the doctor, no privatisation of health care, neither piecemeal, not in part, nor as a whole. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not after the next election. Not ever while I’m Prime Minister.

And if, after all I have said, there are still those who set out to frighten the vulnerable, the weak, and the old, with carefully calculated smears, then the public will know where to find them – in the gutters of public debate. Such people are not friends of the Health Service. They are the parasites that live on its back.

No Conservative need be defensive about the Health Service. On the contrary, every Conservative has the right to share my disgust at what is said. Go to your local hospital. What do you find? You’ll find Conservatives. In the hospital shop. Serving with the League of Friends. Working on the wards. They are not just friends of the Health Service. They are part of the Health Service.

The National Health Service doesn’t belong to the Labour Party. As its name makes clear, it belongs to the Nation. And – in both senses of the phrase – Labour isn’t going to get away with it. The Health Service is not a political football to be kicked around in the hope that, somehow or other, it will reopen the door of Downing Street to a Labour Government. It won’t. Neither by hook or by Cook.

This is the first Conference I have addressed as Leader of the Conservative Party. It is hard to explain how I feel about that. It is a long road from Coldharbour Lane to Downing Street. It is a tribute to the Conservative Party that that road can be travelled.

Perhaps at the back of this hall today there is another young man or woman who stands where I did 30 years ago. Who knows few people here. Who feels it is a long road to this platform, too.

They should remember the last two leaders were a builder’s son from Broadstairs and a grocer’s daughter from Grantham. We don’t need lectures in the Conservative Party about opportunity. We are the Party of opportunity.

This Party is open to all. And to all those who may be watching, wherever you come from, whatever your background, I say simply this, “Come and join us”. There are no barriers in our Party, just as there will be no barriers in the Britain we are building together.

Some people ask whether we will have a different sort of Conservatism in future. Of course we will. We all bring our own beliefs, our own instincts, and our own experiences to politics. And I am no exception.

But the fundamental beliefs of the Conservative Party, those beliefs that brought me into this Party, are the beliefs that Chris Patten expressed so brilliantly on Tuesday. They remain as strong today as ever. Old though our Party is, the values behind it are older still. They are rooted in the instincts of every individual. And it is through our policies that we make them come alive.

What is it that we offer? A strong Britain, confident of its position; secure in its defences, firm in its respect for the law. A strong economy, free from the threat of inflation, in which taxes can fall, savings can grow, and independence is assured.

I want to give individuals greater control over their own lives.

– Every mother, every father, a say over their child’s education.

– Every schoolchild, a choice of routes to the world of work.

– Every patient, the confidence that their doctors can secure the best treatment for them.

– Every business, every worker, freedom from the destructive dictatorship of union militants.

– Every family, the right to have and to hold their own private corner of life; their own home, their own savings, their own security for their future – and for their children’s future.

Building the self-respect that comes from ownership. Showing the responsibility that follows from self-respect. That is our programme for the 90s. I will put it in a single phrase: the power to choose – and the right to own.

Do you know what Labour believes? That choice is something for them. They just can’t accept that choice is something most of us can be trusted with. You might make mistakes, they say. What arrogance. As if the State have never made mistakes, in our name, with our money. Try telling that the tenants of the crumbling tower blocks that disfigures our cities.

And tell that to the citizens of Eastern Europe, who have risked their very lives for these freedoms, for the right to own, and for the power to choose. Ordinary values – for which ordinary people have, in our time, fought an extraordinary fight.

During the summer I did quite a bit of travelling – Headingley, Edgbaston, Trent Bridge, Lord’s, the Oval. Also Moscow, Peking, Hong Kong and Kennebunkport. Wherever I went abroad, I found the same story. Britain is respected again. We don’t always realise the admiration and affection for Britain abroad.

We’ve earned it, because when others have hesitated, we have always stood firm and given a lead. As we did again this year. In defence of freedom in Kuwait. We didn’t want that war, its waste, its suffering, its grief. But to achieve greater security in the world, we had to reverse the annexation of Kuwait. And to keep that security we must destroy Iraq’s nuclear weapons capacity. They are still trying to cling to it, still cheating, still lying.

They cannot be permitted to succeed. One way or another that nuclear capacity must go. I hope it will go peacefully. If not, it must go by force. But go it will. In January I flew by helicopter over our army in the Gulf. I can still see the scene below me. A great convoy of troops and heavy equipment moving forward across the sands. For mile after mile. You could only marvel at the organisation and planning involved.

But down on the ground, I had a different impression. Dug into position each unit seemed almost alone. Young men – mostly very young – thousands of miles from home in the wastes of the desert. Let me tell you what was in my mind when I met them. What would they think? Here was a new Prime Minister, unknown to them, untried, asking them to prepare for battle, perhaps not to return. How would they respond to that? And would they understand the reasons why they were there?

Whatever doubts I had soon disappeared. They knew why there were there. They knew the cause was right. And they knew that they could do the job. They asked only to be allowed to get on with it. And, when they did, my goodness, how they proved their point. They really were the best of British.

I learned something else from that extraordinary war and especially from that precision bombing that amazed the world. It’s this. If our troops are to do the job we ask, it is absolutely vital that their equipment and their training are the best.

That is why in the last few weeks we have bought the new anti-submarine helicopter from Westland – the best. Why we are moving ahead with the new Challenger tank from Vickers – the best. And that’s why we will keep our own independent nuclear deterrent, Trident. The best security for Britain.

And we will take with just a little pinch of salt the conversion of those who campaigned for CND for the past thirty years – and then suddenly let their principles ….what was the word? … lapse? What principles? First, peace at any price. Then power at any price. I know what this country will say to that. Never at any price. For a man who with no fixed view on the defence of Britain, there can be no fixed abode in Downing Street.

As we saw again in the aftermath of war, a confident Britain is a force for good in a troubled world. If we had not created those safe havens in Iraq, hundreds and thousands of Kurdish people would have died last winter in bitter, freezing mountains. We spoke out strongly for human rights in Peking and spoke out first against the return of tyranny in Moscow.

Alone among all the nations of the world we stand at the hub of three great interlocking alliances. Of NATO, which is and must remain the core of our defence. Of the European Community. And of the Commonwealth, which meets in conference next week. There we must persuade 50 nations, some – frankly – with a chequered political history, to a formal commitment to democracy and human rights.

And in the 1990s I hope to see one former member of the Commonwealth once more take its rightful place. We have always fought for an end to apartheid. But we have worked just as consistently for the long-term goal of a fully free and prosperous South Africa. I believe that both goals are now in sight. And when they are reached I want to see South Africa back where she belongs – as a fully-fledged member of our Commonwealth of nations.

A great debate is now underway in Europe. One in which the Conservative Party can speak with authority. Harold Macmillan first sought to take Britain into the Community, Ted Heath finally led us there, and Margaret Thatcher signed the Single European Act – with its vision of ever closer union between states. Closer union between states. Not a federal merger of states. That is still our policy.

I believe strongly in partnership in Europe. Britain, as a great European power, has gained from our membership of the Community. That is the verdict of those people in our country who live by business, banking and trade, the very people on whom our prosperity and jobs depend. But it must be the right Europe. Let me set out for you the objectives that I have in mind, the principles that I will fight for, and the propositions I will resist.

First we want a Community that will in time embrace the new democracies of the East. We have the chance to heal the scar that divided and disfigured Europe for two generations. The nations of Eastern Europe – Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Baltic States – need to know now that when their economies are ready for the Community, the Community will be ready for them.

Second, I want a genuine single market, open for business right across the Community. It must have common rules. And these rules must be obeyed. When we sign up to something, we put words into actions. Some of our partners, I fear, are keener on making new rules than on keeping them. We need a system that can deal effectively with those who call themselves good Europeans, but who hijack lorries or hold up free trade.

We are now negotiating new Treaties on political and economic union. I am always ready to listen to new ideas. But they must be workable ideas. Ideas that make sense for Europe, and for Britain. There are vital issues at stake. They involve hard judgments of where our true interests lie. The idea of a single European currency is one with enormous ramifications, both practical and political. At best it is an uncertain prospect. And treaty must provide for a separate decision to be taken – not now – but at a future date by the British Government and the British Parliament. It’s our decision. A single currency cannot be imposed upon us. And I would not accept, on behalf of Britain, any treaty which sought to impose a single currency – at however distant a date.

We already work closely with our European partners in financial affairs. So, too, in foreign policy and defence. When national interest and Community interest coincide, then common action is only common sense. But in no circumstances – not now, not at Maastricht – will a Conservative Government give up the right, our national right, to take the crucial decisions about our security, our foreign policy and our defence.

We are working to reach an agreement at Maastricht in December. But I cannot guarantee that our negotiations will succeed. For it is no easy task to get 12 nations to agree. And for my part, I shall put the interests of our country before any agreement. Not any agreement before the interests of our country.

I hope we can reach agreement. If we do, I will submit that agreement to parliament. For it is here in Britain that the crucial decisions must be taken. Not in the European Parliament. Not in the Council of Ministers. Not in the Commission – certainly not in the Commission. It will be for Parliament to decide on behalf of the people of Britain who elected it.

So far I have spoken of alliances. Of how much we can achieve if we work with other nations. But when it comes to the search for new markets, even our closest allies remain our competitors. I have never accepted the craven argument that Britain can’t compete with Germany or Japan. And I have contempt for the defeatists who run down our country and write of its future.

Those who said we couldn’t compete in Europe when we led Britain into the Exchange-Rate Mechanism.

Those who said that we would have to push up interest rates. And that our inflation was bound to stay far higher than the rest of the Continent.

All that was just a year ago this week. And look what has really happened since.

We have cut interests rates – eight times.

Our exports to the rest of the Community have shot up. Our imports have fallen. Our trade deficit with Europe has been almost wiped out. And in case you haven’t heard this morning’s news, our inflation rate has fallen to just 4.1%. For the first time in a generation we have brought inflation down to German levels.

They said we couldn’t do it. We did it. And in just one year. Let me remind the sell Britain short brigade of just a few facts. We attract more American investment than any other European country, and twice as much investment from Japan.

Only two years ago, this country had a 17,000 million pound deficit on manufactured trade. This summer, we had a surplus. Our manufacturers sold more abroad than ever before. They didn’t sell Britain short. They sold for Britain. And they had to fight for their markets when the going was hard.

I know times have been tough. Unemployment has risen. Many people have faced great difficulties. I know how they feel – what it’s like for a family when a business collapses. What it’s like when you’re unemployed and when you have to search for the next job.

I have not forgotten – and I never will.

It is because of that that I will never play fast and loose with the economy. Many have pressed us to do so this past year – siren voices, urging us on to the rocks of inflation, and off the course to recovery. The Chancellor and I ignored those voices. And, as he told you, we can now see the way ahead out of recession, to the recovery that will bring investment. To the investment that will bring jobs.

And the clearer the signs of recovery, the louder the Labour Party complains.

Look how they rounded on the Governor of the Bank of England. All because he dared to confirm what everyone else was saying. That recovery is on the way. When he said there was a recession – they cheered him. When he said it was coming to an end – they called for his head. What are they going to do with those hundreds of businessmen telling the CBI exactly the same thing? Will Labour threaten to sack them too? All of them?

Do Labour realise what their policies would do to business?

– Stab it in the back just when it’s winning the battle for trade

– Impose new levies

– Pile on new costs

– Bring back union power.

It may be true that a Labour Prime Minister would no longer get his marching orders over beer and sandwiches at No 10. In these days of designer socialism, he’d get them over a G&T – down at the Old T&G.

A minimum wage would create the very unemployment they claim to care about. New burdens would drive business out of markets. Higher taxes would drive business talent abroad. Above all, inflation would drive our economy out of the future and back to the past.

Remember who suffers from inflation.

– Infant businesses

– People on fixed incomes

– Pensioners

Inflation is a tax paid by those least able to protect themselves. It is Labour’s invisible tax. It wouldn’t come through the letter box, though there are plenty that would.

They have eight new taxes lined up already.

Well, that’s not surprising. We’ve costed Labour’s spending promises. 35 billion pounds extra and still rising. Of course, they say there would be hardly any more tax for hardly anyone. But that’s hardly credible.

The next Labour Manifesto will be the biggest tax demand in history. They love nationalisation. High taxes nationalise choice. It won’t be a case of ‘you pays your money, you takes your choice’. It will be – they take your money, they take your choice.

High taxes would enrich the businesses, the laboratories, the the universities of American and the rest of Europe at the expense of the businesses and universities of Britain. We’d be back with something we haven’t heard of for twelve years – the brain drain. Our low tax policies have built up a brain bank for Britain.

Our Party has always kept personal tax rates down. And in the next Parliament we will go on doing so.

Lower taxes don’t just mean richer people. They mean a richer life. A life with wider horizons, in which people can develop their interests. Support their favourite charity, pursue their hobbies. Go fishing or to a football match, the theatre or the cinema, or just save up for a holiday.

But lower taxes give people more powerful choices, too. The chance to save for the long-term, to invest in the future. Building up a pension. Starting a business. Giving their children a good start in life – and passing on to them the fruits of a lifetime’s work.

In the 1980s we began a great revolution. Our aim was a life enriched by ownership, in which homes, shares and pensions were not something for others, but something for everyone.

We can now see the lifeblood of ownership – of wealth – running through the veins of the country. Nearly four million more families now own homes. And eight million people more own shares. And four and a half million people now have personal pensions.

But this revolution is still not complete. In the 1990s we must carry it further. We must extend savings and ownership in every form. And we now have the chance to make enduring change. For people in their middle years are inheriting homes, businesses, farms on a scale never before seen. The pioneers of the property-owning democracy are the parents of the capital-owning democracy to come.

We Conservatives have always passed our values from generation to generation. I believe that personal prosperity should follow the same course. I want to see wealth cascading down the generations. We do not see each generation starting out anew, with the past cut off and the future ignored.

So, in the next Parliament, I believe that we must go much further in encouraging every family to save and to own. To extend every family’s ability to pass on something to their children, to build up something of their own – for their own.

Labour have their eyes on the money stored in the homes in which millions of people now live – and in the businesses they have created. But I believe that what people have worked to build up in life, the State should never destroy.

As Harold Macmillan once memorably put it, people walk in public gardens, but they tend their own. I want to build a pride in our common inheritance of town and city, coast and countryside. In the very fabric of our nation.

I want to foster ownership in its widest sense. In making people feel that public property belongs to them. Giving them more say – at the local level – in how things are run. Giving them a choice. Putting them in control.

That’s the idea behind our Citizen’s Charter – about which Francis Maude spoke so well yesterday. It will be a centrepiece of our policies for the 1990s. I want to see public services in which the passenger, the patient, the parent can have confidence. And in which public servants can have pride.

I see that Labour are now trying to copy my ideas. I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised at that. Even the Labour Party has to have some good ideas amongst all the bad. It’s just that they filch the good ideas from us. The bad ones of course they think up for themselves. They don’t even hide it when they steal some of my clothes. Did you see how many of them were wearing grey suits last week? Have they no shame?

The test for Labour will come in the next session of Parliament. We will be legislating on the Citizen’s Charter. We shall be giving parents a greater say in schools. Making the big utilities more responsive to customers. And as Michael Heseltine promised us yesterday, exposing incompetence in the council chamber.

And how do you imagine Labour will vote? With us? For the charter? And for the consumer? Or against us? For the trade unions? For the old ways? For the past? But it’s not just a matter of changing the way we run things. It’s a matter of breaking down the false and futile divisions, based on class and envy, that have been around for generations. They are wholly artificial. Labour fosters those divisions. It thrives on them. Our task is to end them for good.

I spoke of a classless society. I don’t shrink from that phrase. I don’t mean a society in which everyone is the same, or thinks the same, or earns the same. But a tapestry of talents in which everyone from child to adult respects achievement; where every promotion, every certificate is respected, and each person’s contribution is valued.

And where the greatest respect is reserved for the law. There can be no harmony in a lawless society. The recent outbreaks of violence in some of our council estates involved a brutal disrespect for other people and their property. Such behaviour cannot be excused and will not be tolerated. In the face of such violence, I know that this Party will give the police the support that we always have. We admire the bravery and the professionalism of those young policeman and women who have been the front line against violent attacks. This Conference must leave no shred of doubt. Rioting is a crime – a serious crime. And it will be dealt with as such.

But dealing with crime is not just something for other people – the police, or the courts, of the Government. It’s a challenge to everyone. And the way to fight crime is to change the attitudes that lie behind crime.

The attitudes of people who say that theft of vandalism are somehow less serious. They call it property crime. Property crime? Tell that to the widow who has been robbed of treasured mementoes of her past life. That’s not a property crime. It’s a personal wound which can never be healed.

This Government is going to crack down on crime, as Ken Baker made clear this week. Let me give you an example. What the irresponsible call joy-riding, we know as simple theft; dangerous driving, a disregard for human life, and the destruction of other people’s property. Some of these people are too young for a licence. We will ensure that when they reach driving age they can be banned from the road.

As for those parents who stand by and watch while their children commit crimes, they are going to be held responsible for their children’s actions. Those in authority – parents and teachers as well – should use their authority to teach a sense of respect for others, for their rights, not just your own; for their opinions, their welfare and their possessions. Without respect for others, there can be no proper respect for the law.

We don’t help our children by excusing bad behaviour, we betray them. And we lead them into worse behaviour. Sometimes it’s right to say no.

A great deal has been written about my education. Never has so much been written about so little. Perhaps that’s why I am so keen on the subject. I believe that Ken Clarke’s programme of reform is a turning-point in education. It will mean that parents and pupils come first, that the key subjects are studied properly, and that the status of teachers is restored.

Some have said that Ken Clarke and I are wrong to insist on simple pencil and paper tests for children in schools. Well, I’ll tell you what marks I would give to people like those. Nought out of ten for concern. Nought out of ten for interest in our children. Nought out of ten for commonsense. And, so long as there is a Conservative Government, they’ll get nought out of ten for influence in our schools.

What Labour Governments did, and what all too many Labour Councils are still doing, is unforgivable – the years of levelling down; the destruction of good schools; the harassment of good teachers; the kicking away of the ladder of opportunity by those who climbed up it themselves; the setting of the union rule book above all other text books; the neglect even of spelling. That is where the long march of the Left in education has led us. Well, we are now rooting these ideas out. We are giving parents more influence in schools. If we want them to exercise responsibility for their children, we must give them a say in the education of their children.

I will fight for my belief in a return to basics in education. The progressive theorists have had their say. And they’ve had their day.

In the last twelve months we have seen the Socialist philosophy collapsing in ruins. Who will ever forget those days of high drama in the Soviet Union last August? Or the three young men in Moscow who gave their lives for reform.

When I visited the place where they died, I was struck by the number of young people who pressed in around me. They had copied Western fashions, wore Western gear. For decades they and their parents had been taught that Socialism was the destiny of their future. That the Soviet Union would bury the West. But it wasn’t the West that the Socialist system had buried, it was the hopes and dreams of their own people.

Socialism has gone in Czechoslovakia, gone in Poland, gone in Hungary, gone even in Sweden. And here in Britain, I’ll tell you what you’ll see over the next few months. You’ll see the Red Flag dying here. It’s going. Going. Gone. Suddenly, it’s just so old fashioned, so irrelevant, so out of date.

What I owe to this country and to its people is difficult to put into words. My greatest wish now is to give back something of what I have been given.

I want to work for a Britain that is the best educated and the best governed.

Where schools and universities are the finest and accessible to all. Where inner cities don’t mean deprivation, but communities that bind and belong. And where no-one has to go in fear at night.

I should like to live in a world where opportunity is for everyone, where peace is truly universal, and where freedom is secure.

If that is what you believe in, then go back to your constituencies. tell them what we stand for. Tell them what we care for. And ask them to choose.

John Major – 1991 Speech to Conservative Central Council


Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech made to the Central Council meeting, held in Southport on 23rd March 1991.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I must begin by telling you how proud I am to be here today. Proud to be your Leader. Very proud to have been chosen to lead your Conservative Party in the 1990s. Proud to follow Margaret Thatcher and proud to build on her policies in the years to come.

And what I want to do today is to set out our agenda for the decade. A full agenda for a Conservative Government as we plan for the century that lies ahead.

It’s a good moment for us to be taking stock together. My first weeks at Number 10 were dominated by international tension and the demands placed on this country by a dangerous war. Now – together -we are resolving the great domestic issues facing this country. And it has been a remarkable week.

Seven days ago, Mr Kinnock accused us of not doing anything. Now he says we are doing too much. Just a week ago, he accused me of refusing to change our policies. Now he says I’m changing them all. He can’t seem to make his mind up. He’s very indecisive. I think the word is dithering.

But then – poor man – he doesn’t have the experience of the Conservative Party.

The Conservative Achievement

Ours is the oldest political party in the world. But in many ways it is also the freshest. We have never rested on success. Never clung to past positions when the time called for fresh ideas. We have always been the first to look ahead to find ways to meet the challenges that face our country.

That is why our party has lasted and grown. Our duty now is to press on with reform and to carry through the long-term changes this country wants and needs.

Whenever the British people have looked for a new lead it is to the Conservative Party that they have turned.

Rallying the country in the dark days of the last world war. Lifting post-war controls and creating wealth for the social improvements of the 1950s and 1960s. Leading Britain into the opportunities of Europe in the 1970s. And rolling back the tide of Socialism and opening up choice and freedom throughout the 1980s. All under Conservative leadership.

What then is our task for the 1990s? It is to prepare to meet the challenges of the 21st century. And it is to dedicate ourselves to the service of the British people. Of all the people – however they vote, wherever they live, whoever they are. There must be no barriers, no boundaries, no doors bolted in the Britain that we strive to create.

Guiding Principles for the 1990s

Governments have three fundamental responsibilities:

– to defend the security of the realm;

– to protect the value of the currency;

– and to raise the living standards of the people.

We will discharge those duties as no other party would or could.

And as we pursue them, five great principles will guide us;

1. That we are a national party.

2. That we give opportunity and power to the people.

3. That we need a strong and stable economy in which the wealth that is created is owned more widely.

4. That we want a citizen’s charter to deliver quality in every part of public service.

5. And that we work, not for short-term gain, but for the long-term good of the nation as a whole.

The National Party : uniting and leading the nation

When I say that we are a national party, I mean two things. Firstly, that we are a party that works for all the people. But secondly, that we will stand four-square for the union. There is something unique about the United Kingdom, a country which draws together in partnership the rich traditions of four great nations.

We have much to learn from each other and much to give. We must respect the particular needs of each of those nations. We must cherish the diversity that gives each of them its character. But above all we must stand together.

There is far more that binds us than divides. And the things that bind us are the deepest of all. Common principles. Centuries of partnership. The very interweaving of families. When young men and women from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales stood together in the Gulf, they were rightly proud of their roots. But no-one doubted that all fought together in the name of Britain. This Party must never let that spirit of union be lost.

I want to take our policies to every corner of our country. Our ambitions should not be limited. In the 1990s I want to see us once more the leading Party in Scotland and in Wales. And I want to see the spread of Conservative values in Northern Ireland as well. There must never be no-go areas for Conservatism and for the hope our policies bring.

Power to the people

In the 1990s Britain faces an historic choice. To retreat into Socialism, or to move forward again to spread independence and opportunity to all.

What is the difference between us and Labour?

Power over the people is Labour’s dream. Power to the people is ours. Giving power to the people will be our second guiding principle for the 1990s.

When we came to office, they said the people could not be trusted. We trusted them.

They said that big industries were best in state hands. We sold them to the people. And their performance was transformed.

They said public sector homes must not be sold. We sold them to the people. And one and a half million families have a security they only dreamed of before.

They said lower income tax meant more greed. We cut tax for the people. And what resulted was not greed but opportunity, personal choice, and record charitable giving. The people gave Labour the right answer to that.

So how right we were. Where Labour lectured the people, we listened. We understood their hopes. And we acted to make them reality.

Labour’s legacy

Perhaps some of you remember what used to happen under Socialism. How it used to feel for the ordinary man and woman. I do.

When if you didn’t join a union you could be shut out of a job.

When if you were a council tenant you had to beg to paint your own front door – and were lucky if you could.

When you had to ask permission to take money on holiday abroad. Do you remember? £50. And Britons abroad were the humiliated paupers of Europe.

When if you were a pensioner and put some savings aside for a rainy day, you saw their value halved in just five years.

Now Labour talk to us about “quality” and “freedom”. “Quality and Freedom”. The Party that gave us the closed shop, the shoddy estate, and the shattered pound. What right have they to talk of freedom? They don’t understand it. They don’t trust it. And they would never deliver it.

We are wholly different. Our aim is opportunity for all. And so long as I am privileged to lead this Party our Conservative revolution for the people will continue.

Extending Choice

I want no complacency in any quarter.

I want to see more privatisation. The sale of the rest of British Telecom, and the new plans for British Rail and British Coal. For privatisation means personal ownership and better services. It has been an outstanding success.

I want to see more competition, more contracting-out, less regulation and less government intervention. All that has been proved to be right. We will not change that winning formula.

And I want to see more choice. You know, whenever we have extended choice for the people, the Left have fought us all the way. But time and again we have won. And through us, the public have won.

Choice has improved the standard of services for all. It is a strange but telling truth. But if it’s bad for Labour it is almost certainly good for the people. And it is a safe, safe bet that if it’s good for Labour it is bound to be bad for the people.

We opened up the market in television. Labour opposed us. But every night millions of people have wider choice – not only Channel 4, but satellite channels as well.

We deregulated the sale of spectacles. I claim no special interest in that. Labour fought it tooth and nail. But the range of glasses was widened and better value ensued.

A fortnight ago we opened up air routes to new airlines. Labour criticised us. But within hours of our decision fares across the Atlantic were cut by 15%.

Last week we announced more competition in telephone services. Labour attacked us again. But as a result domestic and international call charges will be coming down.

Watching television. Seeing properly. Travelling abroad. Just chatting on the phone. Some of the basic building blocks of a satisfying life. All improved by Conservative policies. All opposed by Labour.

And, you know, when you look at Neil Kinnock’s so-called new policies, they don’t amount to much, do they? Yesterday’s mashed potatoes. Just contemplate them. Turn them round in your mind. And the more you think, the more he’ll shrink.

More choice in the 1990s

In the 1990s we will extend public choice yet wider. And the reason we do it will be to extend opportunity and improve family life for all.

We are giving parents more say in the running of schools and making more schools independent of council direction.

We will give those hospitals and those doctors who want it more control over the decisions that affect their patients.

We will extend bus deregulation, bringing to the cities the long-distance coach revolution that has seen more people travelling more cheaply than ever before.

And we will reform the market in housing bringing new opportunities to those now remaining under council control. Rents into mortgages. Giving life to empty council property. More use of homesteading. The aim is a new and better deal for those who are not yet home owners. They, too, deserve the opportunities that Conservative housing policies have given to millions. And they must not be locked out of receiving them.

Personal independence in a strong economy

This Government’s strongest commitment is to the long-term success of the economy. And to put more of the wealth that is created into the hands of the people. That is our third guiding principle for the 1990s.

Last Tuesday, Norman Lamont demonstrated our intentions. Circumstances were not easy. Every tax cut had to be paid for. But our guiding principles shone through.

To cut and simplify the burden of direct taxation on people and business.

To support families.

To nourish enterprise.

To create a tax system which is fair, restrained and free from distortion. A system which leaves as much as possible of your income in your hands.

That’s why we shifted more of the load of local taxation from people to spending – and why we will keep that local burden down under the new system that will replace the Community Charge.

That’s why we made the shift in tax in such a way that the money goes to people directly, through lower charges – not to the councils who have driven the Community Charge so high.

That’s why we used the Budget to strike more distortions out of the tax system.

And that’s why we cut the rate of tax on businesses and increased child benefit for all families.

Just compare our principles with Labour’s.

They believe that all the fruits of economic growth – growth created by your efforts – should be spent by them.

They believe none of it should be used to cut the burden of your tax.

They are against a simpler tax system. They want to introduce ever more distortions into the system to confuse and bemuse the taxpayer.

And they have one answer to every problem: spend more money. Taxpayers’ money. Your money.

But Labour has one big problem. But apart from him. One or two of its politicians – just one or two – are uneasily aware that people don’t want more taxes and less wealth. So they are shamelessly trying to con the British people.

Out of one side of their mouths, Labour tell you they would spend more on everything. Out of the other, they try to pretend they would spend almost nothing.

Which is it? Will they tell us?

Do they think the British people can’t add up?

Don’t they know that the British people can? And they will see that Labour doesn’t add up.

Local Government Reform

Now Labour have made another miscalculation. They’ve asked for a confidence debate on our policies.

And do you know what that means?

They’ll have to tell us what their policies are.

Take local government, just for a start. First, Norman Lamont dramatically reduced the burden of local taxation in the Budget. Then, on Thursday, Michael Heseltine revealed our plans to find the right role for local government in the future, so that we can work with it, not fight against it.

By making it more accountable to voters. By simplifying its structure. By clarifying its functions. By testing its efficiency. And by reforming its finance.

He set out the principles on which local taxation will be based in the future.

First, on the number of people in each household. For I believe it is right that contributions should reflect the numbers using local services.

Secondly, in part on the value of the property people live in. We will not allow high property prices in some parts of the country to feed through into excessive local taxes.

We understand those fears. A fair local tax is one which does not fall too heavily on any single group. Let me be clear.

We will not permit local authorities to impose penal taxes on the few -as they could and did under the old rating system – while the many bear no share of the costs of local government. And we will not allow the reform of local taxation to trigger a new spiral in local spending.

We have made these clear pledges. And we have demonstrated our commitment to them by reducing the burden of local tax immediately.

By contrast, what does Labour offer? A rag-bag of confused ideas dressed up as “fair rates”. How could rates ever be fair?

Labour will not answer even the most basic question: at what level  should local taxation be set? How much should be raised? They can’t say. They won’t say. Because they don’t know. Dithering again. But don’t worry. If they won’t answer these questions, we will. We will do the sums for Labour and publish them.

Beating inflation

The key message from this Budget was that the battle against inflation is being won. This year inflation will be down to just 4% and falling still further.

And as it falls, we will bring interest rates down as well. As we did yesterday – the fourth cut since we entered ERM. I disagree strongly with those who criticise our entry into the ERM. Does anyone seriously imagine that, against the background of the dramatic events of the last few months – a recession at home and abroad, a change of Prime Minister and even the fighting of a war – that interest rates could have been cut and the pound stayed strong outside the ERM? Of course not. And it is sheer folly to say so.

We took tough action when it was needed to bring inflation under control. Now we are seeing the results. Inflation is coming down in Britain, when others are seeing it rise. Interest rates are falling, when elsewhere they are rising. And when across the world the impact of the recession is being felt, Britain is coming through the worst and will soon be growing again.

And never forget how this country has progressed since 1979. In the 1980s our economy grew faster than Italy or France, faster even than Germany. The purchasing power of the average family is up by almost a third. Personal wealth has been spread wider than ever before.

We can beat our competitors. And, yes, we can even beat our competitors in Germany. There is no reason to be defeatist about our prospects. I believe in Britain and in the ability of the British people to win. And win we will.

Growing personal wealth; widening personal ownership

Over the decades ahead we shall see the fruits of our free market policies. The widening of ownership isn’t an index of greed, as Labour so shallowly claim.

Indeed, it is the very foundation of personal security, the keystone of independence, the gateway to opportunity and prosperity for generations to come.

People who own homes; people who own shares; people who have savings. That security adds to a sense of dignity and pride. And they have an independence of action denied to those without homes or shares or savings. We want more of such people. Our Right-to-Buy policies have achieved a property-owning democracy. We now want to extend and deepen the Right to Own.

Already – each year – some 10 billion pounds is inherited through home ownership. In a Conservative Britain, inheritance is no longer the privilege of the rich. It is already the prospect of the majority. And we must make it the birthright of all. We wish to see that money held by future generations for their own use.

How different it is with Labour. Clause Four Socialism they say is dead. I wish it was. It’s still there in the small print. And tax demand Socialism lives on. The single unifying principle of every Labour government is higher personal taxation. They can always agree on that. Not much else. But always that.

How characteristic that they now see family savings as a target for tax. You inherit, they take. You save, they tax. And this from the Party that says it wants investment. The only thing you can be sure of is that a Labour Chancellor will have his hands in your pockets, even more often than you do.

Labour’s threat to savings

Under Labour anyone inheriting a house or flat worth more than £30,000 and investing that money in savings would face a tax surcharge. That is their response to millions of people’s efforts to build their family’s security.

Labour fought to stop those people buying their homes. While we helped them. But now they are back again. When those hard-earned savings in bricks and mortar come down to children Labour’s plan is to tax them away. A tax surcharge on savings. Nothing could more clearly show the hostility of Labour to personal independence. And the ignorance of Labour of the opportunities the next century will bring.

And take pensions, too. Under Labour the opportunities to save for retirement independently of the state would be dashed away. Early next century there will be some three million more pensioners than there are today. Those working now want opportunities now to save money for old age in the way they want. Our Government has helped them to do just that. Some 4 1/2 million people now have personal pensions of their own.

But what is Labour’s response to this social revolution? Again hostile, ignorant, vindictive. Their spokesman boasts he will “turn the pensions market on its head”. Only last week they announced the latest step in their vendetta against personal choice. They warned they would act immediately to grab over £600 million a year from investors in personal pensions and strip them of the help a Conservative government has given them. So, if you’re young today, remember today. Labour are planning to destroy your prosperity tomorrow.

Safe in Labour’s hands?

You know, as over the years we debated the National Health Service, one phrase became famous. ‘Safe in our hands’. Margaret Thatcher said it. And how right she was. Under her Government the Health Service had more resources, took on more doctors and nurses, and provided more treatment than ever before.

Safe in our hands the Health Service was, is, and will be. It has served me and my family well over the years. And I can promise you this. It will be there in the future to serve every family well so long as a Conservative Government continues.

But can Mr Kinnock say the same to the families working to build their independence?

4 1/2 million personal pensions. Safe in your hands, Neil?

The shares that over 5 million people have in privatised companies. Safe in your hands, Neil?

The lower taxation that has raised living standards to record levels. Safe in your hands, Neil?

The right to go to work free from union interference. Safe in your hands, Neil?

The battle against inflation that means security for all. Safe in your hands, Neil?

Five questions which Mr Kinnock will never answer. He dare not. But we know the answer. Not safe. Not secure. In fact, doomed – under Labour. The Conservative Party has fought for those rights and given them to the people of this country. We must never allow Labour to steal them away.

And when we speak of safety there is one area above all that counts -the defence of the realm. Is that safe in Labour’s hands?

Where would our defence have been if Labour had been in power this last ten years?

Defence spending cut to ribbons. Our forces slashed.

Our nuclear capability going or gone. Going or gone. Just as Saddam Hussein was building his own.

We have seen this last two months how right we were to keep our forces strong and ready. And how superbly we were served.

It was all possible because Margaret Thatcher’s Government prepared for the unexpected.

Unlike Labour. Unprepared. Even for the expected.

Of course, we welcome the changes that have taken place in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. But great uncertainties remain. And secure defence is still our foremost duty.

For Labour defence is an embarrassment. Some of them hate it. Some resent it. Some just wish the need for it would go away. Those attitudes spell disaster.

In our Party we know that the unexpected does occur, and that when it comes to defence you err on the side of safety. You don’t take risks with defence.

The British people will never trust with office a Labour party they do not trust on defence.

Quality in public service

Mr Chairman; the fourth great challenge for us in the 1990s will be to take our Conservative revolution into the dustiest and darkest corners of public service. Too many people still have to feel the benefits of the changes we have made.


Getting it right in education is crucial.

Some people seem to think we have no right to insist on higher standards for our children. That it is a matter to be left to the “experts”. Well, people like that have some learning to do themselves. We do have that right. Every child in every classroom has a right to higher standards. And we intend to ensure that they receive them.

Ken Clarke has insisted that children should be taught to spell. What a revolutionary thought. I agree with him on that. So do parents. So do employers. But it seems not everyone does. There are those who defend something called “real books” – where young children are given books and expected to pick up reading, as the Schools’ Inspectors put it, by a “process of osmosis”. It sounds pretty odd to me.

It did occur to me that this “real books” method might explain Mr Kinnock’s grasp of economics. Because do you know what the Inspectors say about people taught by the “real books” method? I looked it up.

“They were able”, the Inspectors said, “to tell stories, but relied heavily on pictures…”

“They were ill-equipped to move on to unfamiliar material, for example non-fiction…” (They mean facts – unfamiliar indeed to him.)

“They were weak readers of instructions and questions in subjects such as maths.”

Adding up was never his strong point.

Yes, it does sound familiar, doesn’t it? I think it explains a lot.

But I have to say also that I have a suspicion, which I share with Ken Clarke, and millions of parents in this country today. And that is that there has been too much experimentation, too much theory, too little attention to the basics. Theories come and go. But children have just one opportunity to be taught. And that must not be lost.

That is why reform in education is top of our list.

– Pushing through the changes in our schools that give more say to parents and more freedom for schools themselves.

– Tackling the truanting that if unchecked allows vulnerable children to lose out on opportunity and which is a seedcorn for crime.

– Setting clear standards of what should be taught.

– And, yes, I say it to those who still seem to be fighting it, testing to see how children are doing.

Of course testing is right. How can you find out where teaching is going wrong unless you know whether it is going wrong?

The key people behind a good education are good teachers. That is why I am determined to see their status properly recognised and quality rewarded. Good schools. Good teachers. Good discipline. And good results. That is what parents demand and pupils deserve. And what this Government will deliver.

Ensuring quality : a citizen’s charter

Our changes in education are about raising quality. But quality applies elsewhere as well.

What we now aim to do is to put in place a comprehensive citizen’s charter. It will work for quality across the whole range of public services. It will give support to those who use the services in seeking better standards.

People who depend on public services – patients, passengers, parents, pupils, benefit claimants – all must know where they stand and what service they have a right to expect. All too often today the individual is unable to enforce better service from those who provide it. I know how powerless an individual can feel against the stone-walling of a town hall. How hopeless when he is bounced from phone to phone by some impersonal voice. How frustrated to be told yet again: “we regret the inconvenience this may cause”. And I see no reason why the public should have to tolerate that. Not just inconvenience. But often hardship. And all too often personal loss.

Most of those who work so hard and so well in our public services will agree with me when I say this situation must be brought to an end. And end it we will. By injecting competition, extending privatisation and widening competitive tendering. And alongside this by measures under a citizen’s charter to enforce accountability and achieve quality control. This will look systematically at every part of public service to see how higher standards can be achieved.

Some mechanisms are already in place. The Audit Commission, for example, does superb work on behalf of the citizen. How typical that it is lined up in Labour’s programme for the axe.

But we will define clear and appropriate mechanisms for enforcing standards right across the public service. Sometimes an audit function. Sometimes an ombudsman. Sometimes simply the separation of powers between those who provide services and those who check on them. Some other ideas, too.

We will enforce publication of results by public services, make inspectorates truly independent, and make properly accountable those in control. We will seek to extend the principle of performance-related pay. And, where necessary, look for ways of introducing financial sanctions, involving direct compensation to the public or direct loss to the budgets of those that fall down on the job.

We will also look to public bodies to publish clear contracts of service -contracts that mean something – against which performance can be judged. Our programme will mean that for the first time all those people who depend on public service will have strong support from within the public sector itself in enforcing quality control.

Quality in service is our aim for the 1990s. Second-class services cannot be excused by handing out third-class treatment to those who complain.

Building for the Long-term

The principles I have set out for the 1990s – building the unity of the nation, giving opportunity and power to the people, sustaining a stable economy and spreading wealth, striving for quality in public services -all these are essential to Britain’s future. Together they flow from our fifth guiding principle – to consider the interests not only of this generation but of those to come.

And as we build for the long-term, unlike our opponents, we will build on ideals, and on principle. Labour wouldn’t recognise principle if it gripped them by the windpipe. And the Liberal party is riddled with self-interest. We needn’t detain ourselves with Liberal policy. They would sign up to anything, so long as it means a seat at the table. That is Liberal policy. They say they want proportional representation. Note that. Their first and only policy objective. A policy that is in their own self-interest. Not on health. Not on the economy. Not on defence. On Liberal self-interest. And they will give anything for it. Defence cuts. Higher taxes. Even Labour Government. What they really want is not proportional representation but permanent  representation for the Liberal Party in Government whatever the policies. Well, there is a simple answer to Mr Ashdown. He can’t have it from us. And he won’t get it.

It is because we care for lasting principles that I want to place Britain at the heart of Europe.

But partnership in Europe will never mean passive acceptance of all that is put to us. No-one should fear we will lose our national identity. We will fight for Britain’s interest as hard as any Government that has gone before. I want Britain to inspire and to shape Europe as decisively as we have over the Single Market programme. Then we will fight for Europe’s interests, too. But not from the outside where we would lose. From the inside where we will win.

We are rightly proud of our national traditions, all of them, English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish. We are proud of Britain, of what it has meant and will mean to the world. I wish that all who wrote and taught and spoke in our country could share that pride. I wish that they could help to open the eyes of the whole nation to what that means. For in the history of our nation and in the towns and villages that form it lies a great part of our identity.

But that identity comes too from the values we share. And they are values that are shared by our friends abroad – personal freedom, opportunity, respect for one’s fellow citizens and their views, a fundamental belief that power should be with the people and not the state.

Idealism, yes. But practical idealism. Democracy. Plain common or garden decency. It is those values I believe in. And it is those values that Britain stands for. The world needs those values more than ever before. And it needs us to work with those who share them. They are values that spring from the very fibre of ordinary men and women. Lasting values. Commonsense values. Conservative values. The values which I and all of us in our Party will fight to uphold.