John Major – 1993 Speech to Conservative Central Council

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to the 1993 Conservative Central Council meeting, held in Harrogate on 6th March 1993.


Yesterday this Conference paid its tribute to Nick Ridley.

He was an original. A one-off. And whatever he did he faced the world square on and never once flinched.

The Commons was the poorer when he left it. And the Party is the poorer for his loss.

Mr Chairman, in the last two years events have thrown at this country everything they could.

Abroad – we’ve had the Gulf War, the Yugoslav war, a world recession that gets worse abroad as it gets better here. There have been plans from Europe that we’ve had to water down or reject. At home we have had our share of world recession, a difficult general election, and conflicts on Europe that strike deep at the instincts of many in our Party.

Mr Chairman, on these issues it’s right that we should have vigorous debate. When people feel strongly they should express their views. Argue their case. Fight their corner.

But once we have taken our decisions on how to proceed, then I believe we should all support those decisions. The British people put us back in power to carry on with the full range of our policies. They gave us five years to beat inflation, create growth and jobs, improve choice, fight crime and maintain the unity of the United Kingdom.

Mr Chairman, that is what I want to see this Party and this Government do. And I want to see us do it now – and I want to see us do it together. It is in difficult times like these that the Conservative Party most needs to be united – and to stay united.

At the last election we had one of the biggest leads in votes ever recorded. But only a 21 seat majority – now, sadly, for the moment only 20. So these are difficult days. We no longer have a cushion of 100 seats, and those who want us to be successful know what that means. Let me say it bluntly – disunity is a luxury we cannot afford.

Mr Chairman, none of us should forget the scale of the responsibility placed upon us. On April 9th last year, 14 1/4 million people turned to us – people of all ages, all walks of life, from all corners of Britain. Every one different. Each with their own personal hopes and fears. They all trusted us with the hard job that lay ahead.

We must live up to that trust. That does not mean responding to every short-term whim. It does not mean avoiding difficult decisions. It does mean holding fast to the long-term course that will bring us prosperity, growth, and jobs, even in the teeth of short-term difficulties.

Those short-term problems have often caught the headlines. But they have not prevented progress towards our long-term objectives. So let me put it all in perspective. Let me remind you of what we have done in the last eleven months – smack in the middle of a world recession.

I’ll start with the Health Service. Remember what Labour said about health. They said if we won it would be the end of the Health Service. One year on, we have more National Health Service Trust hospitals and more GP fundholders providing better care to more patients than ever before.

The end of the Health Service? One year on, it’s not the NHS that’s falling apart; it is Labour’s scares that have fallen apart. Remember that truly disgraceful election broadcast? That was the one in which Robin Cook predicted the end of the NHS. Well today the Health Service is moving on – and Robin Cook has been moved on. Out on his Jennifer’s ear – and deservedly so.

As hospitals have become self-governing – running their own affairs – so have schools. Over 500 have chosen the new freedom to become Grant Maintained. They have moved out of the hands of local authorities and into the care of governors and parents.

And we’re promoting subject teaching in primary schools – so much more important than vague topic work and generalised themes. So it’s maths, geography, science and history lessons. And putting emphasis right from the start on standard English and on the 3Rs.

That, Mr Chairman, is the right Tory agenda – and we have put it in place in the first year. We’re supporting good teachers and putting the spotlight on the bad. Publishing the exam results of every school.

Mr Chairman, those results should never have been hidden in the first place. Now we’ve brought them into the open. And they will never be hidden again.

And, one more thing, Mr Chairman. When we talk of publishing the facts, I must say this to those teacher unions that are threatening to boycott tests – you are wrong. Life is a test. You do pupils no good by hiding them from reality.

To teach children what they need to know, we must find out what they don’t know. Tests are an essential part of good schooling. Tests are here to stay. And I hope the teacher union leaders get that message loud and clear from this Conference. And, before I leave education, here’s something for the history books.

By 1996 nearly a quarter of a million extra students will be in college – the biggest expansion ever. And when they are there they won’t have to join the activities of the National Union of Students – because we are ending the NUS closed shop.

That’s the right Tory agenda – and all in the first year. And it is not only the NUS monopoly that is going – remember Neddy, that hangover from the 1960s, that corporatist relic?

Well, that’s gone, too. Unlamented. We have scrapped it. And not before time. We are giving new freedoms to members of Trades Unions. And new powers for every individual to act in court to stop wildcat strikes. All part of the right Tory agenda – and in hand in the first year.

And the Tory programme to promote ownership is rolling forward, too. We have introduced a new incentive for personal pensions. One that will help millions enjoy their retirement in comfort and security.

In housing, we are back on course for the home-owning democracy. We have a new scheme to help tenants become homeowners by treating rents as mortgage payments. We’re giving leaseholders the right to buy their freeholds. And later this spring Michael Howard and his team will launch a new campaign to spread the Right to Buy.

That’s the right Tory agenda – this Government’s agenda. Never mind the news – that’s the reality.

All that sounds like a full menu for a full Parliament. Yet all I have done is to give you a selection of starters. Your starters for 5, 10, 20 years, years in which we will indeed – build a stronger and better Britain.

Fine words, you say. But fine words butter no parsnips. What about jobs? I know that the main thing so many people seek above all is a worthwhile job. That is why, from April, we will have in place the most comprehensive package to help people back to work that we have ever seen in Britain: youth training, Training for Work, Restart, Job interview guarantees, business start up schemes. Schemes that will help up to 1 1/2 million of our fellow citizens keep in touch with the world of work.

And those schemes all have one thing in common. Every one was opposed by the Labour Party. How can they defend that? They call for help for unemployed people and then vote against it.

We want our training schemes to lead to full-time jobs. It’s permanent jobs that people want. The only way to get people permanently back to work is to help the economy grow. To improve our skills. To promote our exports. To widen our manufacturing base. And to make it worthwhile to start new companies.

That’s the road back to jobs. Permanent jobs. Jobs with prospects. And that’s the road we are travelling. The outlook for our economy is good. Interest rates down. Inflation down. Strikes down. Manufacturing productivity up. Retail sales up. Exports up. That’s what’s happening. And that’s the way back to work for Britain. The only way.

The prospects for the Nineties are good. It’s been slow, frustratingly slow. But we are on our way. And don’t just take it from me. Over the next two years Britain is forecast to have the highest rate of growth in Western Europe.

If we have confidence in ourselves others will have confidence in us. And when confidence grows jobs must follow. Some people still haven’t quite grasped the progress we’ve made.

So let me put this way. 1954 – that’s 39 years ago, the year Roger Bannister ran the 4 minute mile – that was the last time the January inflation rate fell to 1.7%.

And 1956 – 37 years ago, the year Jim Laker took 10 Australian wickets for 88 at the Oval and, no, drat it, I wasn’t there! – that was the last time mortgage rates for first time buyers were as low as they are, now.

So, for goodness sake, let’s not belittle what we’ve done. Let’s not run our prospects down. Let’s leave that to the Labour Party. Day after day they attack us for ‘talking the economy up’. What a crime. What a dreadful thing to do. Trying to instill confidence.

Well, it’s about time we got after them for talking the economy down. When did you last hear John Smith say a good word about Britain?

And another thing, is there anyone here who’s ever seen Gordon Brown smile? No one. I thought not. Is there anyone anywhere who’s ever seen Gordon Brown smile? Is there anyone who wants to see Gordon Brown smile? And by the way, has anyone yet seen Gerald?

Mr Chairman, there’s something else that is absolutely crucial to business confidence – the certainty that Britain will help determine policy in Europe, and not be dragged along behind a policy made by others. We should remember what we have achieved for Britain in Europe this year. We have every right to be proud of it.

We have completed the biggest free trade area the world has ever seen. We have reformed the Common Agricultural Policy after years of squabbling. We have put a ceiling on EC spending right until the end of the century. We have opened up the Community to new members. And we are changing the course of Europe – away from centralism and returning powers to member states.

That is the classic British agenda for Europe. It is not the federalist agenda. On crucial issues we are making sure the final say sits where it should be – right here in Britain. So let’s not fear the future in Europe. Let’s go out and shape the future of Europe. Shape a market of 340 million, where businesses can compete, export and invest wherever they like – where future generations will have opportunities we never dreamed of to work and to travel.

And we must shape a wider Europe. That’s what we decided at Edinburgh – to bring in new member nations, first from Scandinavia and later from central Europe. And we won agreement – against all expectations – that our old friends, the Poles, the Hungarians, and the Czechs would eventually join us.

Do you remember how as the Iron Curtain fell we welcomed them to our Party Conference two years ago? Well, we are still working on their side. And now – in time – we look forward to them joining the European Community, too – as a result of our influence.

The present Community is but a fragment of Europe. Our long- term vision is a Europe without trade barriers, a vast continent of free democracies, from the Urals to the Atlantic and from the Baltic to the Mediterranean.

A Europe full of trade and free of war. We won’t achieve that speedily – but isn’t that what we should work for for future generations? So let me tell you what’s at stake. I know the concerns and passions aroused by arguments over our future in Europe. I see them in the House of Commons whenever we debate the Treaty of Maastricht.

I understand the instincts and the patriotic feelings that motivate many in our Party who have doubts about the Treaty. I understand, and share, their pride in Britain’s great past. But we have to build a great future. So let me tell you, clearly and frankly, that I believe the fears of those who resist our European policy are mistaken.

Mistaken because they underestimate what we have achieved in our negotiations in Europe.

Mistaken because they have failed to focus on our wider vision of Europe.

Mistaken because if we step aside from what we have agreed there would be an enormous economic price to pay.

There would be an immediate blow to economic recovery. International investors, who have poured money into Britain, £100,000 million in the last five years, would turn their backs on us.

Those investors want access to the European market. And if we sidelined ourselves they would no longer be certain that that would be the case. That is why the price of standing aside from the agreement we freely made would be heavy. As Douglas Hurd told you yesterday, it would be £50 billion off our national production over the next five years. I wonder how many jobs that would cost?

And then there is that Social Chapter – another threat to jobs. Surely no-one in this Party – for any reason – would give houseroom to that. Where we want to be is on the inside track to prosperity, and outside the grasp of bureaucracy and socialism. Inside Europe and outside the Social Chapter.

I know our Party. I cannot believe that anyone, when they have considered all the facts, could want to let slip those opportunities before us.

Let me tell you what I believe. To do so would be to take a conscious decision to become irrelevant in Europe. That would be a decision not only for our time, but for our children’s also. It would be the surest possible way to impoverish our country and damage our standing in the world – almost beyond repair.

So let us put aside the fears and hesitations that hold our Party back. We may have our differences. But they are as nothing to the things that unite us.

So let us take the chance we have today – to mould Europe in our own image. Don’t let us shirk that challenge. In a thousand years of history we never have. And we must not now.

Mr Chairman, I want British industry to win not just in Europe, but around the world. I want a different attitude to industry at every level in this country. I want people to see that making things matters. I want more that matters to be made in Britain.

Our exporters need to know that the Government supports them. And where we can help to open doors and free up markets we will always do so. That’s why in the Autumn Statement we committed £700 million extra to help British companies win new orders. And when our businessmen travel abroad I expect all our embassies to work with them. Cultural exchanges are fine – but I want export deals as well.

Mr Chairman, exports are booming. Leaving the factories faster than journalists leaving the Daily Mirror. Mirror, mirror, on the wall – are there any journalists left there at all? In the battle for exports I want Government out there in the field foursquare behind our businesses.

A few weeks ago, I spent the morning in India, lunched in the desert in Oman, and had dinner in a palace in Saudi Arabia. And that day, as a result of months of effort by business and Government working together, we won orders for British goods worth billions and safeguarded thousands of jobs. These days there are no easy exports. The world is too competitive for that. More competitive than ever before.

Those countries that once were captive markets are now manufacturing themselves or challenging us as rivals. The countries on the Pacific Rim have developed massive industries of their own. China is set to become a huge manufacturing power in the century to come. Against that background, we need to help British companies carve out a bigger place for Britain. But before we export, we have to manufacture. And we have to manufacture quality.

That’s why we need to build up craft skills and practical training in every part of Britain. End once and for all that senseless prejudice against the best of our brains going into commerce and industry. That prejudice is damaging – and we can no longer accept it.

Mr Chairman, by helping business I don’t mean artificial subsidies to industries. I mean setting the right economic structure for business. I mean pursuing the right policies for business. I mean having the right curriculum in our schools. I mean reforming vocational training. I mean lifting burdens from the back of businesses.

Of course, we need some regulations. But there are people in Brussels, in local councils and, yes, in Whitehall who seem to have a mania to hold back the future in a mesh of pettifogging detail.

So I have told every Department of State: scrap unnecessary regulation. It’s a simple message. Red tape means lost jobs. And that doesn’t only apply to large companies like ICI. It applies to the smallest businesses and local services too.

You know what I mean. Health and safety enthusiasts bent on eliminating every conceivable – and inconceivable – risk. Local councils badgering good nursery schools when they’d be better employed helping them.

The food safety people who tell us that what we’ve been eating for generations will certainly kill us if we don’t stop instantly. Well we’ll certainly die a good deal sooner if we do stop eating instantly. Mr Chairman, it’s all gone way over the top. Well, I’d rather it went in the bin.

Isn’t it barmy? Would Drake have been in time to meet the Armada, and would Nelson have made Trafalgar, if an inspector had been on hand to say ‘Hold everything – we haven’t checked the ship’s biscuits!”

Mr Chairman, I said earlier that one of the reasons we were elected was to keep up the fight against crime. Vandalism; burglary; car theft. Crimes against property; crimes of violence; crimes involving drugs.

The fear of crime lies deep in the instincts of law-abiding people. They find it hard to understand how others move outside the law, careless of the interests of their neighbours, preying on the property of others, even threatening their lives. I said last week that we need to understand less and to condemn a little more. That was not a simple cry for retribution.

My point was this. Unless society sets rules and standards and enforces them, we cannot be surprised if others flout them. It’s true we mustn’t exaggerate the problem. Compared to many others in the world, Britain is still a safe country.

But those who point to that and say ‘do nothing’ are wrong. I say to those people: even if the problem here is smaller, it’s still far too big. And every single victim of crime in this country will agree with that.

That’s why this Government has done so much to step up crime prevention and crack down on crime. There are too many violent offences – that’s why we have increased penalties against them, especially for those thugs who go out carrying firearms.

There is too much drug dealing – that’s why we’ve taken powers to confiscate the assets of those who sell drugs and wreck the lives of young people. There have been too many lenient sentences – that’s why we’ve given the Attorney General power to refer sentences to the Court of Appeal. And one final example – it is intolerable that some offenders charged with a crime go out and commit another while they’re on bail. I want to see those further offences reflected in the sentences they receive.

Mr Chairman, there can be no doubt about where this Party stands in the fight against crime. And no doubt about the support we have given to those who fight it. We have given our police forces better pay and more resources than any Government in history. Now we must help them get even better results in everything they do. That is why we are now reviewing the effectiveness and the organisation of British police. I want our police to the most modern and the most efficient crime-fighting force in the world.

Mr Chairman, the issue of crime runs deep. To catch and to punish is to deter. But we want to prevent crime too. So we must go to the roots of why some young people do what they do. Too many children have been denied the proper guidance they need in their own homes and schools. Of course, the authority of the family comes in here.

And, yes, the churches – they may have a legitimate role to criticise, but they certainly have a role to play. And there’s another factor that goes right home in every sense. And that’s too much violence in videos and on television. What we watch is the single biggest influence on many people’s thinking.

We’re an open society. We can’t censor television. But we can say to parents – control what your children watch. And we can say to those who make and distribute films and videos – think whether a relentless diet of violence won’t have a serious effect on the young. And we can say to television programmers – don’t just be careful when you show it, be careful what you show.

Mr Chairman, Government alone cannot change behaviour. Concepts of right and wrong are something for all of us. But there are some things Government can do – and we will.

First, truancy. It is stark staring obvious to me that if children are staying out of school, they are not learning what they should be and they are probably learning what they shouldn’t. For too long the facts on truancy have been hidden by a conspiracy of silence. So from this autumn in our new league tables we will make all schools publish openly their levels of attendance.

We will find out where the problem is worst. We’ll target it and tackle it. I want our children in class. Not in trouble. And, Mr Chairman, we are taking another step. This morning Ken Clarke told you about his new proposals to set up secure centres for that hard core of youngsters who go on offending and reoffending, devoid, it seems, of any sense of fear or guilt about what they do.

Some say we shouldn’t respond. They say it’s a relatively minor concern. I don’t agree. I say that not to respond would be a double dereliction of duty. A dereliction of duty to the public at large. And, worse, a dereliction to those children. Because we let children down if we don’t set boundaries and enforce them. For their own good and for the good of their communities we must take those persistent young offenders off the streets.

It is a clear-cut idea, carefully worked up over these last few months, targeted directly at an obvious gap in the law. How strange – but how very revealing – that in a matter of minutes it was condemned out of hand by the new model Labour Party. When I heard that, it sounded just like the old unreconstructed Labour Party to me.

When the test came they failed it – so let’s give them another chance. We’ll set them another test. Eleven times in all Labour have voted against the Prevention of Terrorism Act. I find that unbelievable.

And so, I suspect, do the people in the battle against terrorism who are putting their lives on the line to protect the lives of others. Terrorism is the biggest crime of all. So for Labour let it be the biggest test of all. So no hedging, no weaving, no messing about. Let them vote with us next week – or pipe down about crime.

Mr Chairman, I’ve reminded you of some of the things we have done in these last few months – and set out some of our plans for the future. As always this Party is a reforming Party. And as a nation we need to reform. Because we live in a rapidly changing world. Change can be frightening. We must manage it carefully. Nurture it to our national advantage. Our watchword is – to hold on to the best of the past and to create the best for the future.

Mr Chairman, last March it was at this Central Council that we launched the General Election campaign – the election that no-one thought we could win. We took our message to every part of our country. It was the roughest, toughest campaign for years. But we won it.

And how did we win? By sticking to our principles. By keeping our nerve. By standing together. And, above all, by staying together. United. That’s how we won – and that’s a lesson we must never forget.

Teddy Taylor – 1993 Speech on the European Communities

Below is the text of the speech made by Teddy Taylor in the House of Commons on 9 December 1993.

It is a shame that we shall not be able to vote on amendment (c). It would have been helpful to the House and to the public in general if we could have simply recorded the fact that the debate is pointless, worthless and useless, and can have no influence on determining developments in the wide range of issues that are mentioned in the huge pile of documents. It is terribly important that people should realise that, in the House and outside.

I ask hon. Members, look at that huge pile of documents, dealing with vast expenditure! There is nothing that we can do and, no matter how we vote about anything, it is simply a waste of time. It might help the unemployed and those people who are suffering if we were to get across the simple message that no matter how they vote, no matter what they do, the power has gone. The second message that we have to get across—although it is sad to say so, when we have the always most courteous Foreign Secretary opening the debate—is that it is important that we start telling people the truth.

I heard, and all of us heard—and I am sure that he meant it—the Foreign Secretary say that we now have control of the funds; we are not going to have overspending; we cannot go across the budget. In Edinburgh, however—I have the letter here from the Agriculture Minister—even though there was a budget laid down for spending on agriculture which one could not exceed by a penny because the Foreign Secretary and civil servants would prevent us, in practice they agreed to exceed it by an extra £1 billion on the basis that that was a special reserve fund.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford) Does my hon. Friend agree that half the problem with the CAP is that, although it is aimed at farmers, to help to sustain their income—that may be a laudable aim—60 per cent. of the money goes to the administration and only 40 per cent. reaches the farmers?

Sir Teddy Taylor My hon. Friend is so right. The CAP is totally wasteful and damaging to almost every interest. I find in my constituency, and I am sure that Treasury Ministers find in theirs, that poor people have to pay more and more for their water rates because vast sums are being spent on huge machines for taking out of the water the nitrates, pesticides, and all the other things that are thrown into the ground in order to produce more and more food. We have to spend a fortune on destroying or dumping those substances.

I was at Hanningfield recently, and I wish you had been there, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to see how the Essex water company—now privatised and French-owned—is spending millions of pounds on a new procedure for taking out pesticides. I asked, “Wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t have all those nasty nitrates and things in the ground in the first place?” I was told, “Of course.” And it is the water rate payer who foots the bill.

The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) told people the facts of life, and he will accept that there is little point in saying to the voters. “Those nasty Tories are putting up your water rates; Labour will not do that,” when we know what is really going on. Poor people are suffering and their burdens are increasing.

Secondly, it is sad to hear all the assurances being given to try to pacify us. For example, our courteous Foreign Secretary—with sincerity, doubtless—talked about all the things that were going wrong, with people breaking the rules, and told us that the Commission would now impose fines. I have been looking at the figures, and they are frightening. The Court of Auditors report is one of the big documents that I mentioned earlier, and it shows that, although millions of pounds have been levied in fines, only 10 per cent. of them have been collected. There is a great new mechanism to sort everything out, supported with enthusiasm by the Liberal Democrats and designed, once again, by those clever Foreign Office civil servants to ensure that people do not do nasty things. Yet the fines are still to be paid; only 10 per cent. have been paid over many years.

Thirdly, we must watch carefully what is happening on the continent today. It is frightening, and I hope that: the Economic Secretary to the Treasury will answer one simple question. I have been horrified to see that the other European countries have been borrowing vaster and vaster sums of money. All of us, even those who do not have degrees in economics, know that that simply cannot go on, because there is a limited amount of money to lend—unless we start printing.

The whole message of Maastricht and of the EC is that one should not print money. Even the Leader of the House would stop us if we tried to print money in this country. Continental countries are borrowing huge sums of money this year and next. Germany is borrowing £57 billion, and we are told that France is borrowing £30 billion—although we know that that sum has now increased. Italy is borrowing £70 billion; and Belgium is the worst of all. Where will the money come from?

The Treasury in Britain is in good condition, because the currency is strong, so we are ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, the European countries will not be able to do that. I understand that some money can be borrowed domestically. In Britain about £22 billion can be obtained from the institutions. But much of the money has to come from other sources. Where will it come from?

I have been told by my friends who advise the insurance and banking firms of which I am a director that, basically, it is the Arabs and the Japanese who provide the cash. But the poor old Arabs are having a difficult time these days, because the price of oil has dropped like a stone, so they do not have so much to lend. The Japanese, too, have plenty of problems of their own, and are holding on to their money. I hope that the Minister will comment on that, because I fear that early next year, because so much money is being borrowed and there is a limited amount of money available for loan, there will be a sharp rise in interest rates on the continent. I realise that that may not happen—although I believe that all the conditions are in place—but if it does, what the blazes will we do about it?

There are now 17 million unemployed people on the continent. That is a horrendous figure. We can see the instability in Europe; it is shown by what has happened in Germany. We have seen the uncertainty and the attacks on minority groups there. In Italy—a delightful country—people voted for fascism or communism in the local government elections, not because they especially like those things but as a way of saying, “Please let us have a strong Government.” With an unstable situation, and unemployment high and rising, if there is a sharp rise in interest rates, what on earth will we do about it? I fear that there is a horrible danger.

Our Ministers at the Treasury and the Foreign Office, or at least most of them—now that there has been one resignation things are much better—are decent, respectable, sincere people. But it worries me sick that we are deluding ourselves about what is happening. I have been worried about what happens to poor people and the unemployed in the EC ever since I came to the House. I have probably been considered a silly minority person, putting forward a minority view, but it makes me sick to see people made unemployed unnecessarily because of the stupid exchange rate mechanism and all that came with it.

The facts are there and we all know what they are. It makes me angry to see poor people suffering because they have not got the money to pay their electricity bills or even to buy a light bulb when I know that, even according to the Foreign Secretary, all those people are paying an extra £28 a week for the stupid CAP. Think what a boost it would be to poor people in Britain if we could say, “You can have £28 extra a week—and an extra £3 a week for the cost of membership of the EC.” I have been talking about such things for a long time.

I know that Britain is now more popular in the EC. That nice chap Boris Johnson, who writes for The Daily Telegraph, says that Britain is more accepted because the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been disclosing his personal support for the goal of a single Euro-currency. That may make him more popular in Brussels, but whether it does or not, please let us face up to the possibility that something nasty may happen. We must ask ourselves what we shall do if it does.

I am afraid that we British are comforting ourselves by saying that we are the best in Europe, but we all know that we are doing well economically not because we have a brilliant Government or a brilliant Opposition, but because we had the boost of getting out of the ERM. That made our currency and our interest rates drop like stones. It is rather like having an Australian uncle who sends one £1,000 to help with one’s financial hardship—it makes one feel good for a while. But that is not happening on the continent. It does not help us or the people there if we take the attitude, “We are the best in Europe and we are doing terribly well.”

Will the Minister say whether he thinks that I am right in any way to say that there may be a terrible problem with a sharp rise in interest rates on the continent next year? Will he tell me what we can do about that if it happens?

It is too late for Parliament to control the legislation. Maastricht has been passed, so to that extent our power is useless, but we must think, “What about the people?” What about the poor and the unemployed of Europe, who are now in a horrendous position? What shall we in Britain do if by chance things continue to get worse, and we have the social upheavals and misery that we have seen in Europe?

Conservatives must face the facts. We cannot go on kidding ourselves about the European People’s party, and saying that we are not linked with it, and have nothing to do with it. We may say that although we all sit together and work together, we do not agree on anything, but everyone knows the score. There was a meeting in Athens in 1992. The Conservative Members of the European Parliament and the members of the European People’s party were there, and a great document was drawn up to say that the EC should be given powers of taxation.

We should not bother about all the talk about federalism, because a federal Europe would be better than what we have now. I do not understand why Ministers keep saying that they will fight to the death to avoid a federal Europe. If we had a federal Europe, at least some things would belong to us. However, at some stage the Conservative party will have a real problem in deciding how to carry on with our stable mates—

Mr. Cash Would my hon. Friend care to know that the congress of that great European People’s party is meeting this afternoon? Furthermore, it appears that it may publish its manifesto tomorrow. It was not so long ago that Mr. Herman, the rapporteur of the Christian Democrats, published the European Parliament’s working document on a new constitution which said that if we did not go along with it all we would be expelled. Does my hon. Friend not think that that is becoming an increasingly reasonable proposition, from some people’s point of view?

Sir Teddy Taylor All I am saying is that the Government and my hon. Friends—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) does not agree. But he is a good guy. [Laughter.] I mean that sincerely; I am not trying to be funny.

It is crucial to stop pretending that people are stupid. We cannot go into the European elections and treat people as stupid by saying that we do not really have anything to do with the European People’s party; the names of the candidates simply happen to be in the same box. It will not wash. Similarly, we should not think that people are stupid when we talk about the EC. They know what is happening to unemployment on the continent. They are not daft. They know what is happening to prices which they must pay unnecessarily. They are not stupid. They can see the damage that is being inflicted by the mad EC system of everything being based on artificial prices and more money being spent.

I have been a Member for a long time. The same thing happens every time we debate a treaty. Ministers say, “Do not worry—we will get tough with the nasty Euro-guys. We will kick Mr. Delors down the stairs. Everything will be sorted out.” Sadly, it is continuing—more money, more power, more waste, more extravagance, less conservatism, less control for the people and more control for the bureaucrats.

This is a pointless, useless debate and all we can do is to express our views. The crucial point is that we must appreciate that something nasty will happen early next year. If we do not wake up to it, and if we do not treat people as adults and stop pretending that they are stupid, we will have a horrible democratic mess.

Nigel Lawson – 1993 Maiden Speech in the House of Lords

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Nigel Lawson in the House of Lords on 14 July 1993.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins—who has just sat down—for his expression of interest in what I am about to say. I shall try not to take too long in saying it. I suspect it is somewhat unusual, although I believe by no means unprecedented, to make one’s maiden speech during the course of the Report stage of a Bill. To those of your Lordships who feel affronted by my departure from custom, I can only apologise but perhaps plead in mitigation that this is no ordinary Bill and that this amendment is no ordinary amendment; not to mention the fact that, having had the privilege of being a Member of your Lordships’ House for a year, it was probably about time that I broke my cluck anyway.

It is a particular pleasure to speak in a debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Blake. My noble friend was my politics tutor when I was an undergraduate at Oxford some 40 years ago. I may say that he survived the experience remarkably well. As a result, I always pay particular heed to what he has to say.

It seems to me that at the heart of this debate lie two distinct questions. The first is whether a consultative referendum has any part in our constitution; the second is whether, if so, this Bill provides one of those rare occasions on which such a referendum is called for.

As to the first of those questions, I am happy to agree with my noble friend Lord Blake. The precedent that has to some extent inadvertently been set in recent years, that fundamental constitutional change be put to the people in a referendum, is one that I welcome. I welcome it because it buttresses a constitution that is badly in need of buttressing. But I have to agree with my noble friend the Leader of the House that those who advocate a referendum on Maastricht do not strengthen their case by praying in aid the fact that at the last general election all three political parties were in favour of Maastricht, thus depriving the electorate of the possibility of casting a vote against it. Even if that had not been so, a general election is not an occasion on which a single isolated issue can be put to the people, as Mr. Heath discovered in 1974.

But much more importantly, all-party agreement is not the only way in which the people can be deprived of the opportunity to vote against a proposal. It happens all the time. The people had no opportunity, for example, to vote against the Single European Act, which was ushered through Parliament under the leadership of my noble friend Lady Thatcher. As an issue it was not even in contemplation at the time of the 1983 general election and by the 1987 election it was already a fait accompli.

No, the question—it is an important question—is simply whether, unlike the Single European Act, the Maastricht Treaty involves such a fundamental change to our constitution and such a grave loss of national and parliamentary sovereignty that it should, on those grounds and those grounds alone, be put to the people in a referendum first before final ratification can be contemplated.

Those who claim that the objective of the architects of the Maastricht Treaty is to replace the European Community of nation states by a single European superstate are clearly right. There is nothing disreputable about such an objective, although for my part, as a longstanding proponent of European unity, I believe it to be profoundly mistaken and, if it were ever to be imposed on the peoples of Europe, a blueprint for disaster. But I repeat: there is nothing disreputable about it. All that might perhaps be considered disreputable would be to deny that that is the objective of the architects of the Maastricht Treaty, since it manifestly is so.

But the question to which we have to address ourselves is whether the Maastricht Treaty in fact achieves or can be expected to achieve that objective. The heart of the Maastricht Treaty and the means by which its federalist architects seek to achieve their political objective is monetary union, the replacement of the individual European currencies and central banks by a single European currency and a single European central bank. That is the heart of it.

I believe that there are two distinct constitutional dimensions to it. In the first place the loss of one’s national currency and of the ability to possess a national monetary policy is in itself a constitutional change and a loss of national autonomy of the first importance. But it does not stop there. It is envisaged that monetary policy ‘would be conducted by a European central bank which is politically independent.

The idea of central bank independence has aroused increasing interest in recent years. I myself have long made clear that I favour conferring independence, within an appropriate statutory framework, on the Bank of England. But what is agreed on all sides—and the Prime Minister recently made this point in another place—is that in a democracy independence must be accompanied, as indeed it is in all those countries that already possess an independent central bank, by accountability. That involves both co-operation with the elected government of the day and open accountability to Parliament. So long as there is no single European government and no genuine Single European Parliament, a European central bank, which would arguably be the most powerful entity in the entire Community, would be effectively unaccountable and thus democratically unacceptable.

As the architects of Maastricht are doubtless aware, the only way in which that dilemma could be resolved would be to create the European political institutions of a genuine European Parliament, a European finance ministry and a European government that democracy itself would then demand. Thus would the superstate be born. However, in regard to this country, none of that is in the treaty before us today, containing as it does a protocol specifying that the United Kingdom shall not be obliged or committed to move to the third stage of economic and monetary union without a separate decision to do so by its government and Parliament. It is of course only at the third stage that the single European currency and European central bank are planned to come into being.

It is clear that Her Majesty’s Government, by negotiating that protocol, recognised the special political and constitutional significance of monetary union. Without monetary union the Maastricht Treaty is not, in my judgment, of any greater constitutional importance than the Single European Act (in the preamble to which, incidentally, the objective of monetary union was for the first time brought back to life from the grave in which it had lain since the collapse of the Werner plan in the mid-1970s).

However, should there come a time when this or any future British Government are so unwise as to conclude that this country should participate in a European monetary union, with all its political consequences, that would be a decision of such momentous constitutional significance as to warrant not merely the separate approval of Parliament at a time as provided for in the treaty before us, but also a prior referendum of the British people. Unless and until that time arrives—and for a number of reasons I rather doubt that it ever will—I do not believe that the case for a referendum is made and I shall vote tonight accordingly.

David Rendel – 1993 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons


Below is the text of the speech made by David Rendel in the House of Commons on 19 May 1993.

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me this early opportunity to do what the Prime Minister would no doubt describe as “breaking my duck”.

As is traditional, I should like to begin by recalling the sad circumstances of my election to the House. In February of this year, my predecessor, Judith Chaplin, tragically and very suddenly died after what had appeared to be a routine and successful minor operation. Her death was a great loss not only to the House, and particularly to her many close friends here, but also to all of us in west Berkshire. I do not think that anyone doubted that she was a woman of immense ability. Indeed, she was believed on all sides to be destined for high office. For her parliamentary career to be cut short after only 10 months was indeed a tragedy.

Sadly, just one week after he had given the oration at Judith’s memorial service, her predecessor, Sir Michael McNair-Wilson, also died. He too will be long remembered with great affection by many in this House, as well as by all of us who knew him in west Berkshire. He had many friends and, so far as I know, not a single enemy, even among those who, like myself, were his political opponents. But, above all, we shall remember him for his immense courage after his health failed him. He not only remained a Member of the House while on kidney dialysis, but fought and won in a further general election. It is a great sadness that he enjoyed less than a year of retirement before he too died.

Both my predecessors were admired greatly as first-class, hard-working constituency MPs. As I said in my acceptance speech, they will be a very hard double act to follow. The constituency that they have passed on to me covers almost half of the area of Berkshire. Although it is dominated by the two largest towns—Newbury and Thatcham—nearly half the population live in the town of Hungerford, in the larger villages such as Lambourn, Compton, Mortimer and Burghfield Common, or in the smaller villages and outlying settlements spread across the rural area. With the M4 cutting across the constituency from west to east, we lie in the now somewhat tarnished silicon valley, with high-tech industries providing a large share of local employment. We are also, of course, famous for our racing stables, particularly in Lambourn and West Ilsley.

Many hon. Members will, for one reason or another, have had cause to visit our beautiful constituency during the past few weeks. Indeed, there was a time when we saw so much of the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Malone) that I began to wonder whether he was looking for a home in the area. It is, of course, no surprise to me that people should wish to visit west Berkshire, a very large proportion of which is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty, but I suppose that it is only fair to say that, of the two principal tourists who visited us from Somerset recently, one—the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), who often sits in the seat that I have temporarily occupied today—got a rather better reception than the other.

It is because so large a proportion of our population live in the rural area that I particularly wished to speak in this debate. Over the past few weeks, hon. Members on both sides of the House have found their mail bags full —as I have done—of letters pleading for the retention of rural sub-post offices. Indeed, if the Secretary of State has done anything for post offices recently, it is perhaps that many extra stamps have been sold to pensioners who have written to their Members of Parliament on this subject.

But it is not just a matter of letters. As I went round my constituency during the recent by-election, I was struck by how often this issue was raised on the doorstep. As we all know, rural sub-post offices are often housed in the village shop, and thousands upon thousands of our village shops are dependent on their post office income for survival.

Let me illustrate briefly how important these village shops are for life in rural areas by telling the House about what one village postmistress said to me only a week or two ago. She told me about the lady who comes into her shop almost every day, takes just one or two items off the shelves, and then waits to pay. After a while, the attendant at the till motions to the lady, to indicate that it is her turn to pay, but, in reply, the lady stands back and motions others to go ahead of her.

At first the postmistress could not understand why the lady should act in this way, but eventually it dawned on her that the lady comes into the shop not merely to buy her daily rations but also because the shop is her sole meeting point for contact with her fellow human beings. She lives on her own—a lonely existence, without relatives around her—and her contact with humanity consists of her daily visit to her village shop-cum-post office, where she always waits at the end, of the queue, listening to the village gossip.

For all too many people, the village shop is now the only escape from their well of loneliness. If we lose such shops, we shall lose a vital ingredient of the quality of life in rural areas.

Let there be no doubt that the sub-post office system is vital to the survival of village shops. I have long since lost count of the number of letters that I have received, mainly from elderly people, but also from those in receipt of various other benefits as well. They have all stated that their local post office is now the only remaining place in the village where they can obtain cash. The banks have mostly long since closed their village branches.

If the post offices close as well, the only option will be a trip into town. It may sound easy, but it is not when people have to rely on public transport because they are too old or too disabled to have a car of their own. Public transport has more or less disappeared from most rural villages. Even when a bus is available, many people have written of how a trip into town to draw their pension will cost them more in bus fares than the total increase in their pensions this year.

Of course I understand that the Secretary of State intends to leave it to the individual to choose between payment through a bank and payment through a post office, but that is not the choice that people want—a real choice for them means choosing between paying through a bank in the town or paying through the post office in their local village. That choice is under threat today.

I understand that the Secretary of State wishes to reduce the taxpayers’ subsidy to rural post offices, but surely hon. Members should take a wider view. Yes, we can save the taxpayer money by reducing the subsidy to rural post offices, but what about the far greater cost to the taxpayer of the extra traffic on the roads as more and more people have to drive their cars into towns? What about the cost of car parks, petrol and environmental pollution?

The overall cost to the community caused by the loss of the sub-post office system will be far greater than any possible savings. Let all hon. Members join to save village sub-post offices, not by merely giving a vague pledge—such as the Secretary of State gave about some national network—but by giving a specific pledge that the number of sub-post offices will not be further reduced. A small, but important, aspect of our country is in danger. It is our duty to save it before it is gone for ever. I therefore urge hon. Members to vote for the motion, not for the Government’s amendment.

Queen Elizabeth II – 1993 Queen’s Speech


Below is the text of the speech made by HM Queen Elizabeth II in the House of Lords on 18 November 1993.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

The Duke of Edinburgh and I look forward to our tour of Caribbean countries next spring. We shall visit France to inaugurate, with the President of the French Republic, the Channel Tunnel in May; and to attend the ceremonies to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings, in June. We shall visit Canada to attend the Commonwealth Games in August.

My Government attach the highest importance to national security. They will maintain full support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. They will work to secure NATO’s adaptation to the changing security environment, and to continue developing the operational role of the Western European Union. My Government will work for full implementation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, and for the entry into force of the Open Skies Treaty. Britain’s minimum independent nuclear deterrent will be maintained.

My Government will work for the effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to promote the indefinite and unconditional extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to encourage international responsibility in conventional arms transfers. They will take part constructively in negotiations on a verifiable and comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban. They will continue to help with the safe and secure transport of nuclear weapons for dismantling in the former Soviet Union.

Now that the Treaty of Maastricht has entered into force, My Government will attach particular importance to implementing the new common foreign and security policy and intergovernmental co-operation in the fields of justice and home affairs. They will work to ensure that the principle of subsidiarity is applied to European Community legislation. My Government will promote financial and budgetary discipline in the Community. They will work within the Community for a successful conclusion to the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations.

My Government will work for a rapid conclusion of accession agreements with Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden, and will continue to put forward the case for European countries which are ready and wish to join the European Community.

My Government will strive for a peaceful settlement in the former Yugoslavia. They will provide help for political and economic reform in the states of the former Soviet Union, and their integration into the international community.

My Government will play a constructive role in strengthening the United Nations’ capacity to undertake peacekeeping and preventive action. They will work for full Iraqi compliance with Security Council Resolutions.

My Government welcome the recent breakthrough in the Middle East peace process. They will continue to support efforts to bring lasting peace to the region.

My Government will work for the long-term stability and prosperity of Hong Kong and to co-operate with China to implement the Sino-British Joint Declaration in the best interests of the Hong Kong people.

My Government will play an active part in the Commonwealth. They will support construction of a democratic society in South Africa.

My Government will maintain a substantial aid programme to promote sustainable development and good government.

My Government will introduce legislation to place the Secret Intelligence Service and Government Communications Headquarters on a statutory basis; and to make further provisions for the oversight and accountability of them and the Security Service.

In Northern Ireland My Government will continue their efforts to defeat terrorism through impartial and resolute enforcement of the law, to uphold the democratic wishes of its people and seek political progress by broadly based agreement, to strengthen economic progress and to create equality of opportunity for all sections of the community. They will maintain positive relations with the Republic of Ireland.

My Government will maintain their fight against terrorism, throughout the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

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 continue with firm financial policies designed to support continuing economic growth and rising employment, based on permanently low inflation.

My Government will bring together tax and expenditure decisions in a unified Budget. Fiscal policy will be set to bring the budget deficit back towards balance over the medium term. My Government will reduce the share of national income taken by the public sector. They will continue to promote enterprise and improve the supply performance of the economy.

The Citizen’s Charter will remain central to My Government’s programme for improving public services.

Legislation will be introduced to give force to the changes in the European Community’s system of own resources following the agreement at the Edinburgh European Council.

Legislation will be introduced to facilitate deregulation and to remove obstacles to contracting out by central and local government.

My Government will continue to give priority to law and order. Legislation will be introduced to allow the courts to deal more effectively with young offenders and to make improvements in the criminal law.

A Bill will be introduced to improve the organisation and management of the police so that they are better able to combat crime, and to strengthen the administration of magistrates’ courts.

My Government will continue to develop their policies on social security so that help is concentrated on those most in need and expenditure is kept within affordable limits. Legislation will be introduced to raise the National Insurance Contributions paid by employees.

Legislation will be introduced to privatise British Coal.

My Government will bring forward legislation to reform local government in Scotland and Wales.

My Government will introduce legislation to establish new arrangements for funding teacher training in England and Wales and to reform student unions.

My Government will bring forward a Bill to reform the law on Sunday Trading in England and Wales.

Bills will be introduced to take forward Environment Agency planning, and to reform the law on trade marks.

Other measures will be laid before you.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

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

Cecil Parkinson – 1993 Maiden Speech in the House of Lords

Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Lords by Cecil Parkinson on 7 June 1993.

My Lords, in the spring of 1972 I was invited to go to Germany and speak in six cities about the British attitude to the Community. I was invited as a new Member of Parliament and I chose the subject, which had a certain novelty at the time, of losing an empire and finding a role. I promised myself that during the summer I would write my speech. But the morning came when I was due to fly to Germany. I got on the aeroplane, produced my notepaper, and started to write, at which point an American sitting next to me noticed the House of Commons paper, and said, “Are you a Member of Parliament?” I got off the aeroplane an hour later having lost the empire but not having found a role and facing the prospect of making six speeches throughout Germany.

The role that I envisaged for Britain was as a Member of the Community and as a staunch and vital part of the NATO alliance. My speeches were on that theme. Throughout the whole of my parliamentary career, as a new Member, supporting the original Act, campaigning for a “Yes” in the referendum campaign, supporting the Single European Act, and as a Minister in a number of departments going to Brussels to try to make the free movement of goods, people and services a reality, I retained my enthusiasm for the Community. I still do so. There were many reasons why I was enthusiastic but three in particular were important to me. They were touched on by my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft in his excellent speech. At the heart of them all was the ambition to create a truly common market within the European Community.

I believe passionately that the open trading system is the great guarantor of prosperity. It ensures that opportunity will become available to many peoples. The Community seemed to me to offer a chance for 12 large countries to work together within a framework and create a genuine common market based on real free trade principles. Then, using that as a working example of the open trading system in action, I hoped that the Community would become a great force for good in the wider world, showing that the principles of free trade worked and that the Community as a working model was one which should be emulated and supported. Finally, I hoped that the Community of the Twelve would become a much larger Community; that it would not become exclusive; and that it would spread throughout Europe. It always seemed to me very pretentious for 12 countries to claim the title of “The European Community” in a continent which included many more than 12 countries.

I have not changed my attitude to the Community at all. But I still have very substantial reservations about the treaty which we are in the process of ratifying. I should like to explain why to noble Lords.

It seems to me that we need not speculate about whether economic and monetary union, a single currency and a single central bank will be good or bad for us. We do not need to speculate. We do not need to stare into the crystal ball. We have already had experience. The ERM is the first step towards monetary union and it has failed us twice already.

We joined it informally in the late 1980s. We tied our economic policy to Germany’s. The Germans at that time were in or beginning to be in a recession; they needed lower interest rates. We were in danger of overheating our economy; we needed high interest rates to cool it off. We took our interest rates down; and the recession, the overheating, the deficit and the problems with which we have been coping for a number of years now stem from that decision to follow the policies which were right for Germany at the time when they were wrong for us.

In 1990 we joined the ERM. Germany shortly afterwards re-unified and for its own good reasons —I do not criticise the Germans for it—needed high interest rates. We were in a recession. We took our interest rates up, sustained them at a higher level than was needed and prolonged and deepened the recession. Once again, what was right for Germany was wrong for us.

We need not speculate either about a single currency and a single central bank, and the dangers of adopting both too soon. We can look at East Germany. There is a working model of 18 million people who are part of a country that is the strongest country in Western Europe and who have adopted a hard currency and imposed it on a weak economy. We can see how the policies that were good for western Germany have caused chaos in eastern Germany. We can see the dangers of adopting a single currency before one is ready for it.

Eighteen million East Germans have caused enormous damage to the West German economy. But even more important from our point of view is that they have also wrecked the ERM and shown the dangers of the sort of policy that this treaty envisages becoming the norm for all the countries of Europe. If 18 million East Germans can wreck the first step towards economic and monetary union, how are we to cope with Greece, Portugal, Spain and southern Italy, in all of which the standard of prosperity has to be raised to the level of the highest before there can be monetary union? Who will provide the resources which will be needed for transfer to the poorer countries? Certainly the poorer countries are enthusiastic about receiving them. But I have not heard anybody in the more prosperous countries explaining to their peoples that they will be the ones who have to fund that transfer. Therefore economic and monetary union, which are at the heart of the treaty, offer the potential for being divisive and disruptive and creating disillusion rather than harmony within the Community.

The Community is becoming, by the detailed structure which it has set up for itself, ever more exclusive. It is almost impossible to envisage any countries other than Austria, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland (which turned down the opportunity) qualifying for membership. I have taken part in discussions in the Community in which it was agreed that there could be no question of taking into the Community in the foreseeable future any country which will be a dependent and not a contributor. By its nature, the more tightly the Community draws itself together, the more exclusive it makes itself and the less it has the potential for becoming a truly European Community.

Again, as the Community develops in the way in which the other 11 members want—with identical wages, hours of work and social provision—the whole concept of comparative advantage, which is at the heart of the open trading system, is being abandoned. The argument is that we cannot trade with each other unless we have the same wages and social conditions. But where does that leave the rest of the world? I see the treaty as a major preparation for trade wars and protectionism. I do not see it as a step towards an open trading system and internationalism.

Finally, I judge the Community by its actions and attitudes. It has not been the great proponent of the open trading system which my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft outlined in his extremely moving speech. It has been a major break from the movement towards free trade. At the moment the agricultural policy—that ultra protectionist device which is the jewel in the Community’s crown—is being used as a way of preventing the completion of the most important trade round into which the world has entered; that is, a round in which we are going to extend to trade in services and agricultural products the rules which have been so welcome and helpful in the field of manufactured goods.

Even the most enthusiastic supporters of the treaty say—my noble friend Lord Carrington in a splendid speech made the point—that much of it will not come about in the foreseeable future. It is a bad basis for signing a treaty when one’s basic motivation is that one does not believe that it will be implemented. There has never been a case of a European Act being put on the statute book which has not been interpreted far more broadly than those who signed it originally expected. The Single European Act was a case in point. Yet we are signing an infinitely more fundamental and radical Act in the vain hope that it will not be implemented. That is a very unsatisfactory way in which to proceed.

John Major – 1993 Conservative Party Conference Speech


Madam President, as I walked through the Winter Gardens during Conference Week, I passed the bookstalls and what do I see, I see memoirs, memoirs to the left of me, memoirs to the right of me, memoirs in front of me, volley, volley and thunder. Madam President, let me say right away I’m not about to write my memoirs, not for a long time.

There’s a job to be done, a job of service to this nation and I believe in service. There’s a job to be done, a job I was elected to do and I propose to go on doing it. Madam President, there’s one aspect of the memoirs that I may write in future that you needn’t wait for – I can tell you now, straight away, precisely what I think of my Cabinet.

Do you think any of them look worried? Apprehensive? Touch concerned? They needn’t be, they’re a first-class team, they’re steady under fire, they’re united and they’re serving Britain superbly.

And isn’t it good to see Michael back?

Did you see those exercises? I dare say they’re going to enliven quite a few Cabinet meetings in the future.

Madam President, I’ve been coming to this conference on an off for about 30 years. It’s a very great event in the political calendar, but it’s something else as well. It’s a family gathering and like all families, from time to time, we have our squabbles. So today, before I turn to other matters, I want to say something to you, specifically as leader of the Conservative party. Our party has served our country in Government more often and better than any other democratic political party in the world. We’ve done so because we’re the broadest based political party this country has ever seen. Our support comes from all classes, all income groups and all parts of the United Kingdom. Madam President, I know our party. It can bear many things – unpopularity, deep controversy, setbacks – we’ve seen it all before, but there’s one thing that demoralises our workers and that breaks apart our support in the country and that is disunity.

We’ve always known where it leads, and so, in this private gathering we have today, we might as well state it plainly. Disunity leads to opposition. Not just opposition in Westminster, but in the European Parliament and in town halls and county halls up and down this country. Of course we won’t agree on every single aspect of policy. No one expects that. We’re a democratic party with a whole range of lively ideas. But I think you’ll agree with me upon this – people look to us for commonsense and for competence and we have a responsibility to you and to the people who put us in Parliament to show those qualities day after day. And that means we have to have our agreements in public and our disagreements in private.

And if agreement is impossible, and sometimes on great issues it is difficult, if not impossible, then I believe I have the right, as leader of this party, to hear of that disagreement in private and not on television, in interviews, outside the House of Commons.

Madam President, the last year has shown how hard every part of our party can fight for what it believes in. Let the next year show that we can channel all that energy together in a common effort against our opponents and for the policies we care about.

This week, an unusual week, this week we had two conferences for the price of one. First, there’s the one we’ve been at.

And then there’s the one we read about.

You know, I’m not absolutely sure that everyone’s caught up completely with the current mood of our party, so I’m going to ask you three questions and I want to hear the answers loud and clear so that no one can doubt where you stand. They’ve very simple questions and very straightforward.

Aren’t you fed up with people running our country down?

Aren’t you fed up with people writing our party off?

When people ask, “Will the Conservatives win next time?”, what do you say?

I didn’t quite catch that.

Yes. Yes. And yes again. And you don’t need shorthand to get that down.

You see, Madam President, this is a family gathering, just as I said. But now I want to reach out a little further to speak not just to you, but to those outside this hall who may be listening. I want to share some thoughts with you and see if they strike a chord with your own experience. I think that many people, particularly those of you who are older, see things around you in the streets and on your television screens which are profoundly disturbing. We live in a world that sometimes seems to be changing too fast for comfort. Old certainties crumbling. Traditional values falling away. People are bewildered. Week after week, month after month, they see a tax on the very pillars of our society – the Church, the law, even the Monarchy, as if 41 years of dedicated service was not enough. And people ask, “Where’s it going? Why has it happened?”. And above all, “How can we stop it?”.

Let me tell you what I believe. For two generations, too many people have been belittling the things that made this country. We’ve allowed things to happen that we should never have tolerated. We have listened too often and too long to people whose ideas are light years away from common sense.

In housing, in the ’50s and ’60s, we pulled down the terraces, destroyed whole communities and replaced them with tower blocks and we built walkways that have become rat runs for muggers. That was the fashionable opinion, fashionable but wrong. In our schools we did away with traditional subjects – grammar, spelling, tables – and also with the old ways of teaching them. Fashionable, but wrong. Some said the family was out of date, far better rely on the council and social workers than family and friends. I passionately believe that was wrong.

Others told us that every criminal needed treatment, not punishment. Criminal behaviour was society’s fault, not the individual’s. Fashionable, but wrong, wrong, wrong.

Madam President, on all these things, received opinion with the wisdom of hindsight, received opinion was wrong. And now, we must have the courage to stand up and say so and I believe that millions and millions of people are longing to hear it.

Do you know, the truth is, much as things have changed on the surface, underneath we’re still the same people. The old values – neighbourliness, decency, courtesy – they’re still alive, they’re still the best of Britain. They haven’t changed, and yet somehow people feel embarrassed by them. Madam President, we shouldn’t be. It is time to return to those old core values, time to get back to basics, to self-discipline and respect for the law, to consideration for others, to accepting a responsibility for yourself and your family and not shuffling off on other people and the state.

Madam President, I believe that what this country needs is not less Conservatism, it’s more Conservatism of the traditional kind that made us join this party.

This week, this week we’ve made a start. Now we must see it through. It’s time for this party to return to its roots. Madam President, our economic roots are clear. We’re the party of Adam Smiths, not John Smith.

And Adam Smith was the apostle of free markets and that is why we regard the present world trade talks as so important. At meeting after meeting, we have battled to keep those trade talks alive against difficulty after difficulty, because nothing will do more for growth, nothing will do more for jobs, nothing will do more for confidence in our future than agreement in those trade talks. But if other governments don’t play their part, if they hold back, if they won’t face up to their domestic difficulties, then those talks could collapse and the dangers of that happening are devastating. They could unlock protectionism, poverty and unemployment on a scale that we have not seen since the 1930s. A great deal is at stake. And because a great deal is at stake, I don’t believe we ought to be mealy-mouthed about the dangers. Today, on this issue, is not a time for holding back. So let me say to some of our European colleagues, “You’re playing with fire”. Or, to put it more bluntly, “Get your tractors off our lawn”.

People accuse us – accuse us – people accuse us of being the business party. Well, you bet we are. We’re for small business and we’re for large business. We’re for more business, not less business. When business booms, Britain booms, so we’re for private enterprise and we’re proud of it.

Over the last three years, the whole country has sweated and slogged and suffered to turn this economy around. Now, steadily, it’s happening. Recovery is under way. That’s the message from British business. The economy’s growing. You may not see it yet, but it clearly is growing and it will show. And as the economy grows, the family budget will follow, so people have every reason to begin to start feeling better again. Inflation’s down. Interest rates are down. Exports are up. Productivity’s up. Retail sales are up. Manufacturing output is up. And the number of people in work is up. Madam President, it’s the opportunity cocktail we’ve been wanting for years and it gives this country a head start on prosperity for the rest of this decade.

So, let’s try and build up that confidence, instead of forever seeing it knocked down. Why don’t we try something different? Why don’t we tell people about Britain’s successes? And let me tell you about them, in the strictest confidence…

… so they’re sure to leak out.

Who says we can’t make things in this country? Manufacturing industry is one of our great national assets.

Three weeks ago – sometimes it seems longer – three weeks ago I was in Japan, the industrial wonder of the world, and there with me were British manufacturers, selling solutions to problems that Japan hadn’t solved. Successful British firms, international leaders in their own fields, firms at the leading edge of technology, selling successfully to the world technology leader. Two days later, I was in Malaysia, and we came back with £1 billion worth of orders for British companies. They didn’t buy British to do our companies a favour. They did it because we made what they wanted and we made it better in this country than anyone else in the world.

Fourteen years ago, Britain was going nowhere. Now it’s going everywhere and selling everywhere. We’re making goods, making profits, making waves, right across the world. But despite that, despite the growth we’ve had there and the growth to come there, I must warn you, it’s still going to be tough and everyone in business here today, or everyone who listens to what I say today, knows how hard they have to compete. At present, Europe, our biggest market, is stuck deep in recession. It’s held back by social costs it can’t afford. It’s losing markets to Japan and to America and to the Pacific Basin. And that, Madam President, that, amongst other reasons, is why I refuse to accept the Social Chapter. It’s not a chapter of rights, it’s a charter for unemployment and we don’t want it here.

What we do want is more of our best brains going into manufacturing industry. Let’s see them give politics, the City, journalism a miss and go into manufacturing industry where their skills can be so badly needed.

And let’s see our great manufacturing centres humming with activity as we move towards the millennium. Let’s turn British inventions into British industries, British factories and British jobs. Let them make pounds for us, not dollars, marks, and yen for other people. Ministers are told, whenever they go abroad, part of your job these days is to open the door for British business. We’re backing exports with cheaper credit, more Government muscle and a new breed of diplomat – people who know as much about exports as they do about etiquette.

At home, at home we’re taking the ridiculous burden of red tape off business and off citizen alike. And I can tell you, in the next session of Parliament, there will be a big deregulation bill to show how seriously we take that.

Here’s a good old British maxim you can all remember: if the price is right and the goods are good enough, then sell abroad and buy at home. That’s the way to make sure that British industry continues to boom.

But there are other things we need to do for industry. Industry isn’t asking us for handouts and special help. It’s asking us, as the Government to play our part in creating the right economic environment for industry to let loose its own energies and compete on a level basis with the rest of the world. So here, Madam President, is another ambitious target for our country: not months but years and years and years of sustained growth without the curse of inflation. That is at the heart of our economic policy for the 90s. It’s a prize for which British Governments have struggled for 30 odd years and yet now, it’s within reach and we are not going to throw it away.

Just remember, only three years ago, inflation was over 10%. Now it’s under 2% and it must be kept low. Inflation is in check but it’s never in checkmate. Back in the 70s, soaring prices destroyed savings. We all remember that. We all want to make sure it never happens again. But to do that, to make sure it never happens again and destroys businesses and livelihoods and savings, sometimes we may have to hold back our ambitions for tax and spending.

Madam President, let me get one thing entirely clear. Our views on tax are different from those of the other parties. What the Conservative Party is aiming for is a Government that lives within its income and without your income. Other parties tax because they want to. We tax only because we have to. So come rain or shine, taxes will always be lower under us than any other kind of government.

But success has another vital ingredient, getting public finances back under control. At the moment, largely because of the recession with the great collapse in come than that created, we have a huge gap between what Britain spends and the tax we take in. We have to narrow that gap. It is true – Government has spent more over the last two years. We had to help the weak and protect the vulnerable through the recession. And that, Madam President, is an important part of Conservatism as well.

But now Britain’s recovering so we have to cut the deficit. We all agree on that but it’s no good agreeing on the principle unless you take the action and it’s no use people urging us to take the action unless they are prepared to back us when we have taken it for it may often be difficult.

There are tough choices ahead and we must make them and we will make them because it is in the interest of our country to make them and we have that responsibility.

Of course, people’s opinions will differ. Some say tax more, some say tax less, some say spend more, some spend less but stay out of my backyard. All that’s perfectly okay for the opposition but it won’t do for the Government party. We can’t have a lobby against every difficult decision. Decisions are what government is for and we have to take them.

So, once the debate is over, once Ken Clarke has announced out budget proposals, we Conservatives must work together and take that message to every single part of the country. But there is one thing I can tell you that you can take with it: high income tax is no part of this party’s programme.

It never has been and, as far as I’m concerned, it never will be.

Madam President, high on every Conservative list is raising standards in our schools. That’s why John Patten’s first concern is with what parents think and what our children need. There are tens of thousands of excellent teachers up and down the country and I’m proud to pay tribute to all they do on behalf of our children. But there is bad teaching as well and many parents and many pupils know that only too well. Our children must be taught what they need to know. That’s why we need a national curriculum. It’s why we need national testing. Not just for the sake of it but to find out what our children have learnt and what they have failed to learn. And when we know what they’ve failed to learn, we can put it right. But without those testing, we fail those children because we never learn what they haven’t understood at an early stage in their school career.

The principle of tests is not negotiable. We don’t need reams and reams of complex papers that take hours for teachers to handle. What we do need is those simple pencil and paper tests that this party has always asked for and that is what John Patten is going to deliver for us. Because unless we teach a child to read, to write and to add up, then we hobble that child for the rest of his life. Take John Prescott. For the audience at Brighton last week, his speech was a religious experience, mainly because it passes all understanding.

But push him to one side. I saw a letter recently from over 500 university teachers of English. And they say in their letter that it’s disastrous and harmful to teach standard English, great literature and Shakespeare in our schools. Apparently, teaching Shakespeare threatens to reduce a living language to a dead one. They say – and believe it or not, this is a quite – they say, “It would do serious damage to the moral and social development of our children and to the cultural life of society as a whole and all who are concerned with such matters should oppose in the strongest possible terms.” What claptrap!

Well, I’ll answer them in words, perhaps, they might approve of. Me and my party ain’t going take what them on the Left says is okay, right.

Madam President, over the past few months, in meetings with party workers – many of them I think will be here today – I’ve made it clear in private that the attack on crime would be the centrepiece of next year’s legislation. On Wednesday, after one of the best conference debates I have ever heard, Michael Howard delivered the first instalment. Lord Archer, if I may call him that…., made it clear how much we’ll have the support of the whole country in that programme. But don’t let’s pretend that we’ve been idle over the last 14 years; we haven’t. We’ve increased sentences, built more prisons, spent more, recruited more police, and those police have served us magnificently. And no other party would have done as much.

But we know now, it was not enough. In many parts of the country, crime figures have risen remorselessly. Crimes once confined to the cities have spread out into the rural areas, bringing alarm where alarm was never before. And that is the reason for our new approach. We have tried being understanding. We have tried persuasion. Madam President, it hasn’t worked.

I know criminals are a problem in a cell but they’re much more of a problem on the street. And policy must be dictated by the needs of justice, not by the number of prison places we happen to have available on any given day. If someone belongs in prison, when that is where they should be and that’s why we’re building more prisons. Better the guilty behind bars than the innocent penned in at home.

Let me tell you how I see things. We need tougher rules on bail and no bail for the worst offenders. An end to the right to silence, as Michael Howard announced earlier this week. And more information for the police from DNA testing. We’re going to use science to help catch the criminal and not let silence protect the criminal.

Here too it’s back to basics. For some, punishment seems to be a dirty word. Well, you’ll find it in my dictionary and I strongly suspect that it’s in yours.

Some time ago, I said we should condemn a little more and understand a little less. And I meant that for this reason; if we let young people at an early age think crime is a normal part of growing up, if we let them off with a caution, a caution and a caution, it is small wonder if they feel there is no peer pressure turning them to law and order, and they turn to bigger crime later.

And if we extend those parameters of leniency so far, we betray our children, for we do not give them the values that we expect them to live up to when they become an adult part of our society.

There’s one other issue in the range of measures that Michael announced in his remarkable speech the other day that didn’t find room for it, for there was, even for the Home Secretary, a limited amount of time at this conference. But it’s an issue upon which I feel very strongly and I can tell you today that we plan a big crackdown on the loathsome trade in pornography that offends so many people in this country.

There will be new powers of arrest and search, new powers to seize videos and other material, and – something I personally particularly support – a new offence to make the possession of child pornography a crime that can lead to imprisonment.

Yes, Madam President, it’s tough. And so it should be. There’s no place in a civilised society for that sort of exploitation of our children.

But don’t let us delude ourselves. Fighting crime is not just a matter for the police or for the Government. We can legislate, we can provide the resources. We can do all that and the police can perform miracles on the resources they have. But Governments can’t make people good. That is for parents, for churches, for schools, for every single citizen.

Like many people in this hall today, as a boy I knew people who had nothing, who expected nothing. They didn’t commit crime because they did have something. They had values, dignity, pride, respect for their neighbours, and, above all, respect of the old.

And in the long-term battle against crime, that respect needs building every bit as much as Michael Howard’s new prisons. Madam President, let me make it clear beyond a doubt. I simply do not accept that crime can be excused and under this Government, I give you my word, it never will be.

Madam President, from the serious to the less serious: our opponents. Our opponents can’t string two policies together but they can cook up a scare. And of course there’s a ready market for scares. Every day I’m told what I think that I don’t think, what I’ve done that I haven’t done, what I’m planning that I’m not planning. Hearing the news day after day is a voyage of discovery for me.

Voyage of discovery for me, but very unsettling for many others, many of them elderly, more of them, not very rich, and most of them very worried. So let me offer some reassurance, not rumour, fact. Next time Labour and the Liberals say we’re going to charge for visits to the doctor, you can tell them confidently, “No, we won’t”.

Next time they say we’re going to charge for stays in hospitals, tell them, “No, we’re not”.

And when they say we’re going to introduce prescription charges for pensioners, you can get right out on the doorsteps and tell them, “No, we’re not”.

They say we’re going to force older people to go to the bank, not the post office, to collect their pensions. Well, really. I have 500 square miles of Huntingdonshire in my constituency and heaven knows how many rural post offices. I know their value to local village life. I know their value to the community. I know how much pensioners rely on them and that’s why I promise you they’ll be able to go on picking up their pensions at the post office.

So go out and knock all that nonsense on the head. And yes, I know the concerns – nobody could possibly have missed them – the concerns that people have about their fuel bills. They believe they’re going to face massive rises. They aren’t. And the most vulnerable fear they’re going to be left without compensation. They aren’t. Kenneth Clarke made that clear yesterday and I’m happy to repeat it today.

This nation owes a huge debt to its pensioners. it’s something this Conservative Party will never forget. So, it’s our duty to keep our country a place in which they feel both safe and secure.

So when you hear people saying this, that or the other, don’t always swallow it wholesale. Remember, in the immortal words of Sporting Life in Porgy and Bess, “It ain’t necessarily so”.

Madam President, scares take me naturally to the Labour Party. I’m not going to be savage about Labour, I think the people of this country would welcome an end to the bad-mouthing between politicians.

So, as a man damned every Sunday for his moderation, I think I shall stick to my own civil instincts. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have a bit of fun. Did you hear John Smith’s speech last week? He’s a good man, is John, but Lord doesn’t he go on about it?

He rather reminds me of a Scottish Buddha, the very essence of immobility with a faint smile of perfect self-contentment upon his face. And the Buddha has watched his Shadow Chancellor, Gordon Brown, Labour’s gift to melancholia, he’s watched him run from not sure about taxes, to no more taxes, to lots and lots more taxes in just six weeks, and there’s a long time before the next election. And the Buddha said nothing. The Buddha has left his Northern Ireland spokesman say, “Stop tests, cover up school results and scrap A Levels”, and what did he say? The Buddha said nothing. One hears that the only sign the Buddha ever gives is a slight shake of the head… if anyone proposes a new idea.

Madam President, we saw something rather remarkable in Brighton last week. They called it a “famous victory”. Famous victory? I would call it John Smith’s political Munich. Here it is, composite – I beg his pardon, composite 55 and 56. Let me read you the victory roll – the trade unions will now only make 70% of policy and choose on third of the leader.

Which one third is unclear. Perhaps they don’t think it matters. After all, they’ve long had the bit above the neck.

What we have out of last week is a minor reduction in union influence in the Labour Party and the promises of a huge increase in union power in Britain, if there was a Labour Government. One small step for the Buddha, one giant step leap for the brudders.

Whatever the trade unions ask for, they got. And they asked for was unconditional surrender. Remember what Mr Smith said, “The country needs strong unions today, as never before”. Madam President, after all we fought for over the last 14 years, I think this conference would beg to differ with that judgment.

Madam President, there’s another strange party in British politics. It gives a different answer to the same question in Cornwall or London, in Ryedale or Eastbourne, on Monday or Tuesday. They’re against VAT on fuel in the morning, and for a carbon tax in the afternoon. But they are consistent about two things, the first of them is tax. They are the other high tax party – income tax, local income tax, carbon tax, regional tax, Scottish tax, Welsh tax, and given half a chance, Euro tax as well. If they thought it would raise money, they’re produce revenue from syntax and tin tacks.

And the second thing they’re consistent about is federalism. Centralism in Europe. The Liberal Party is a federal party. Don’t take my word for it, this is their conference agenda – “The autumn”, it says, “the autumn conference of the federal party” – that is the Liberals in their own words. And look what they called for in this conference for a federal Europe – turn to page 99, though I would not recommend to you pages 1 to 98….

This is what they called for on page 99. They called for sensible application of the social protocol and they had an amendment – “delete sensible” was the amendment.

I agree. Sensible stands out like a sore thumb in every Liberal conference. But their leaders are fanatics for federalism. They have been out of government for so long, they have forgotten how to take decisions. The only decision they can take is that they want someone else to take the decisions for us in this country.

Next June, we will have European elections in Britain. Let me say to all our candidates who are present, and everyone here who will work in that campaign, that will be a national campaign. We are going to fight those elections on a clear and distinct British Conservative manifesto for the future of Europe.

Madam President, I have risked and sacrificed more than most for what I passionately believe in, a strong Britain playing a leading role in a strong and growing Europe, a wider Europe, a free trade Europe, a less intrusive Europe, our vision of an independent confident Britain, giving leadership with our partners in the European Community. And in our elections, in this country, next year, we will be the only mainstream party that is not prepared to move towards a centralised Europe and take that message to every doorstep in the country.

And tell them this too, tell them that any vote against us, for whatever party – Labour, Liberal, makes no difference – any vote against us for whatever party would be seen in every capital in the Community as a signal that the British people want a centralised Europe. We know they don’t. You know they don’t. They know they don’t. We must make sure the people of Britain vote to show the rest of Europe that we don’t.

The Liberal leader says, rather nervously I thought, that the guns are turning on him. Too right they are, and not before time. Let the Liberals loose and the prospect of a federal Europe could be a reality again. In this country, they are federalism’s fifth column. Away with them next June in the elections.

Madam President, before I leave the Liberal leader, I want to say a word about his posturing on Bosnia. I find it distasteful. No, no words suffice for the sheer dreadfulness of Bosnia.

The violence that has torn apart what used to be Yugoslavia has deep and bloody roots. They go back to the Middle Ages and beyond. People there have suffered great wrongs and unimaginable cruelties. We have given, as we always will, help, food, medicine, technical aid. We have sent British troops with humanitarian aid; the first country to do so. And those troops have saved literally hundreds of thousands of lives, men, women, children who would be dead from cold and starvation, are still alive, thanks to the activities, the skill and the bravery of those troops we sent to Bosnia.

Madam President, right at the start of this war, I said that I was not prepared to put British troops into combat to hold the various sides apart. It’s my responsibility, my responsibility as the Queen’s first minister, to advise when soldiers should be sent to fight and to risk being killed. It’s all very well to call from the sidelines for a huge military commitment to Bosnia but I listen with respect to the views of the senior professional soldiers and airmen. They know the depth of the problem. They know what we would be asking their men to do. They know that while the threat of air strikes is a good deterrent, you cannot finally settle a guerilla war by bombing. They know that. We saw it in Iraq after the biggest Armada of bombing for week after week after week. it was not until we sent in ground troops that Saddam Hussein finally lost. And those senior servicemen warn me against trying to separate three sides, three sides that hate each other, in a cruel civil war, in some of the wildest hill and forest country in Europe.

There is another form of intervention, which we may have to contemplate. Intervention, not to impose a settlement on parties at war, but to implement a negotiated peace. Right now, alas, the peace prospects are thin and speculative. Too speculative to risk the life of a private in the Cheshires or the Prince of Wales’ Own. The negotiators will go on trying. I earnestly hope they will succeed, but I shall not ask a British private to risk leaving his mother without a son his wife without a husband unless there is a real settlement.

Unless there is a real will by the people of Bosnia to stop fighting, not some ploy to suck outsiders in and then start the war again. I have never been in doubt about Bosnia. Though one cannot always speak one’s mind plainly, I have understood that to intervene is to risk an intolerable number of British dead. A war is easily started. The boys are always going to be back for Christmas, but wars, particularly wars in the Balkans, have other ideas.

So, let me make clear. I leave the talk of a quick away-day outing for the commandoes with everything sorted out in a couple of weeks to the commentators, and to the royal corps of columnists. Yugoslavia is tragic. I consider all the options but I must think first of the lives of British soldiers.

And I will not put them at risk for the sake of talking big and striking attitudes. I will not rush into war.

Emotion says yes, logic says no. I say no.

Madam President, an unstable Yugoslavia is one thing. An unstable Russia would be quite another. So, let me say a few words about the events of the past week. We should be under no illusions about the real motives of the rebels in the Russian Parliament. They were out for blood, the blood of democrats and reformers and, had they won, the consequences for Russian and for the rest of the world would not have borne thinking about. Yesterday morning, Boris Yeltsin told me that the courts would now deal with his opponents. Madam President, that is not how they wanted to deal with him.

The Russian people have twice voted for President Yeltsin and for reform. Now he plans further election, free elections, not rigged Communist elections. He invited me, yesterday, to send British observers to ensure those elections were fair. I agreed and promised that we would certainly do so. Those elections in December will be the surest test that democratic reform remains on track. We backed Boris Yeltsin against the 1991 coup. We were the first to do so. We backed him last weekend and I promise you this, we shall go on backing reform in Russia in the months ahead.

When we speak of the threat of violence, there is one other place that is never far from our minds. Each day, every day this week, whilst we’ve been gathered here in Blackpool, thousands of young men and women risk their lives in the Army and in the security services in Northern Ireland. They stand in the defence of democracy and of the rule of law. Under a Conservative Government, they will continue to have all the support that they need.

Northern Ireland is part of our democracy. We are not going to bargain away the people’s democratic rights, or any part of them, in order to appease those who seek to rule by bullet or by bomb.

Do to do, to do so, would betray the people, and, in particular, those of every party, many of them brave, who take a part in constitutional politics in Northern Ireland. So, no Government that I lead will negotiate with those who perpetrate or those who support the use of violence.

There is only one message for them to send. We have finished with violence for good. Madam President, we are and we will remain the Conservative and Unionist Party.

At the heart of our philosophy is an abiding belief in the right of the people of Northern Ireland to determine their own future. Unlike the Labour Party, we are not in the business of securing the break-up of the United Kingdom.

For us, the union and all it means is immensely important. In all parts of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, the union has the decisive support of those who live there. So, I give this assurance to the brave and resilient people of Northern Ireland, for our part, we will always back your democratic wishes.

Madam President, before I sit down, I want to congratulate all of you in the hall, all of you who are the backbone and the strength of our party, for your cool, your warmth and yes, your resilience during a remarkable and, how shall I put it, most diverting week in Blackpool.

Throughout the 1980s, the political energy of this country came from the Conservatives. That energy must go on through the 90s and not only go on, but grow and develop, driven not just by those in Government but by you who work on our behalf for our philosophy, for our party, in each and every part of the United Kingdom. And if you feel, as I do, refreshed and recharged by our work in Blackpool this week, then go home and help us restore the fortunes of our party, through hard work and a passionate belief that what we Conservatives stand for is more true, more deep, more enduring, more in touch with the basic instincts of the nation we love, than all the words of all the other political parties rolled together. We stand for self-reliance, for decency and for respect for others, for wages that stay in the pay packet and don’t drain away in tax. We stand for money that keeps its value, for a country united around those old, commonsense British values that should never have been pushed aside.

The message from this conference is clear and simple, we must go back to basics. We want our children to be taught the best, our public services to give the best, our British industry to be the best and the Conservative Party will lead the country back to those basic rights across the board. Sound money, free trade, traditional teaching, respect for the family and respect for the law. And above all, we will lead a new campaign to defeat the cancer that is crime.

Carry out that message. Reach out, not only to those who already think as we do but to all those with no special party allegiance who care for what we care for and who love this country as we do, for the same reasons we do. Do that. The fight goes on, the waverers will return and yes, a fifth victory will be ours.

And one final word. Thank you, thank for for something that has been quite fantastic, your loyalty to this party and your loyalty to me.

John Major – 1993 Speech to the Carlton Club


Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech made to the Carlton Club in London on 3rd February 1993.


When I became Leader of our Party, I spoke of ‘carrying forward the Conservative tradition’. I spoke of Conservatism as ‘a commonsense view of life from a tolerant perspective’. I set out my aim to create ‘a classless society’ – and ‘a nation at ease with itself’.

In every speech I made in the general election campaign I talked about those aims again. I spoke of the Britain I wanted to see. A Britain in which effort is rewarded; and everyone has a stake in our country’s future. A Britain where every youngster can aim high; every family can build for its own future.

Dignity, security, independence, self-respect – these are the human aspirations we understand and we endorse. Conservatism in the 1990s has the ambition to bring them within the grasp of every citizen.

The instincts of the British people

In every city, in every town, in every village we found a ready response to our message. That was – I believe – because our message was rooted deep in the instincts of the British people.

These are the instincts of a free people; an enterprising people; a generous people; a tolerant people.

Of course these instincts can be suppressed, or twisted, or simply lost. We should not claim too much for ourselves! Of all political philosophies, Conservatism has been perhaps least prone to foolish optimism about human nature. But our defining characteristic is to have greater faith in the individual than in the State.

We believe in fostering freedom by giving people more power to choose for themselves; by leaving people more of their own money to spend.

We believe in fostering enterprise by keeping personal and business taxes low; by cutting down the jungle of regulation; by creating a level playing-field on which businesses can compete freely and fairly.

We believe in fostering generosity by respecting and reinforcing the independence of local communities, in which neighbours willingly help each other.

We believe in fostering tolerance by respecting the individual; by recognising every citizen’s power to choose and right to own.

It is on those instincts of the individual that Conservatism is founded; and that Conservatism trusts.

Carrying Conservatism forward

The policies and language of our Party may evolve, but the principles remain the same. Our political strength has always rested on our ability to keep a finger on the pulse of the British people.

We have no repository of doctrine which we set on an altar above commonsense and instinct. There is no Clause Four in the Conservative Party – and there must never be one. But what we do have are four cardinal principles: the principles of choice, ownership, responsibility and opportunity for all. These were the core of our Manifesto – and they guide us in Government, as we put that Manifesto into effect.

As a party, we have always worked to meet people’s aspirations to own their own homes; to have greater opportunities for themselves and their children; to enjoy the respect that follows from the exercise of choice; to build up wealth and then to be free to pass it on.

This has always been a great Tory tradition – a continuous thread in our thinking. When Disraeli spoke of the ‘elevation of the condition of the people’ he made it clear, even then, that he meant all people: ‘all the numerous classes in the realm, classes alike and equal before the law’. If this was not exactly ‘a classless society’, it already expressed many of the aspirations of one: the equal treatment of all citizens by the state, and the chance of advancement for all.

The second continuous thread of Conservative thought, from the time of Burke onwards, has been a wariness of the danger of over-government. We don’t like big government. We know the State can destroy, as surely as it can preserve – and more conclusively than it can create. We know the danger that unless it is reined back by constant and vigorous effort, it will grow inexorably, It is a parasite that can destroy its host.

We reject utterly the idea that the state can manage economic and personal relations between people better than businesses or families.

And the third great thread of thought is our understanding of what binds a stable and healthy democracy together. It is a sense of continuity that permits change without instability. Above all, perhaps, it is the local networks and small communities – Burke’s ‘little platoons’, if you like – that are the tent-pegs securing our wind-blown society to the ground.

The modern Conservative Party is heir to both the great nineteenth-century political traditions: to the Whigs, in our free market radicalism; to the Tories, in our belief in community and tradition. Unlike Socialists, we do not see the free market as a threat to communities; quite the reverse. Take a homely example. When you go to your local baker, what you expect and usually get – is a helpful, friendly service. What the baker expects – and usually gets – is a satisfied customer and a fair price. No one is demeaned by this transaction. Where there is choice, there is freedom and dignity between buyer and seller.

Look around you. It is not where the free market pervades that ties of community are under threat, but where the State owns and controls to the greatest extent.

Look at our suburbs and small towns and villages – where people, by and large, own their own homes. Here you will find networks of the voluntary associations which tie people into their neighbourhood, from Rotary Clubs to the active PTA to fundraising and Meals on Wheels.

The big problem lies elsewhere. It is from the inner cities, where the state is dominant, that businesses have fled. It is in the inner cities that vandalism is rife and property uncared for. It is here that fear of violent crime makes a misery of old people’s lives.

Socialists seek to explain the difference in terms of affluence. But that simply won’t wash. That explanation is demeaning to people of modest means who contribute much to their communities. It is insulting to those families who may face all the problems of unemployment and yet do not resort to crime.

Socialism must face up to its failures. It must recognise the harsh truth that it is where, over many years, the State has intervened most heavily, that local communities have been most effectively destroyed. It is where people feel no pride in ownership; where they are stripped of responsibility for the conditions in which they live. And it is in the inner cities that schools – which should be beacons of opportunity – have slipped into a downward spiral of low expectations, politicisation and poor results. Socialism has been discredited by experience. Conservatism has been validated by history.

The paradox of change

So far, I have been speaking mainly of the continuity in our philosophy. But I need hardly remind this audience that Conservatism has been a powerful force for change in Britain, too.

Willingness to face up to change is vital if we are to develop as a society. Each generation must make its own decision: what to preserve, and what to change. But change must run with the grain of a nation. That was true when our Party was founded; and it is true, still, today.

But the paradox is this. On the one hand, we need to change in order to preserve: if we cling to outdated habits, rules and restrictions, we risk the collapse of our economy and society. On the other hand, change is itself destabilising. It brings its own risks. Sometimes it seems that by removing just one brick, we may risk bringing the whole house down. The careless or the ill-intentioned will always be around to give the extra push.

There will always be those who seek to sever our links with the past. Even in Britain, we have for years been bombarded by the arrogant claims of those who believe there can be no point of contact between the present and the past. Some say that the glories of British history, the plays and sonnets of Shakespeare, the works of Dickens and Trollope – even poor old Winnie the Pooh – are irrelevant to the modern child. 1984 and all that involves the obliteration of 1066 And All That.

Others claim that the figurative tradition in art, and the lessons of classical architecture, have no relevance to the present day. The destruction they have wrought has been physical as well as emotional. We have seen the arrogance with which their disciples, up and down the country, have made their names by destroying urban villages. We see academics make their names by destroying our heroes. More recently, the institutions that embodied our nationhood have come under attack: institutions in whose name our countrymen and women have been ready to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives.

I sense a growing fear that we may lose so much that is precious to this country; a feeling amongst people that our deepest values as a civilised nation are being threatened. That anxiety feeds on the daily tales of selfishness and brutality that make the headlines in our newspapers. Is it the newspapers that are changing, or the world we live in? People are not certain. They feel uneasy; they feel threatened; they lose their bearings.

So let me say a word or two tonight about the balance between change and continuity in our national life. Yes, we are changing, and in many ways for the better. The days when people could be considered somehow superior because of who they were, and not what they were, are finally fading into history. We see them pass without regret. A view of society based on deference is out of date, damaging and divisive in today’s Britain.

The barriers are not yet all gone – nor will they be, until every child confidently believes he or she can aim high, without bumping into invisible obstacles of prejudice. Expectations are encouraged by example: by the handful of women running substantial businesses, by people from our ethnic minorities entering public life, by enterprise and achievement from all backgrounds.

But our task in the 1990s is to widen the road to success, so that such achievers are no longer remarkable exceptions, but a natural part of the rich diversity of our nation. To achieve this, we need to break down the barriers between blue collar and white collar in industry; to raise the esteem in which vocational qualifications are held; to make them a real choice for the youngsters in our schools. The stirring examples amongst today’s National Training Awards show how we can help to make people believe in their future.

But in burying deference, we must take care not to destroy respect. Respect for what people achieve – at school and university, in business, in sport, the arts and in public life. It is no answer to prejudice or disadvantage to drop standards, to invent exams no one can fail, to reject or deride success. If we destroy pride in achievement, we will end by destroying achievement too.

There is a concern that respect for other people is disappearing: respect for what they achieve; respect for their property – yes, and their privacy, too. Certainly, crime has increased steadily over many decades. The standard political wisdom has been that Prime Ministers should keep off the subject, because it is so difficult to score a success in turning the tide of crime. In a more secular society, it is argued, it is harder to take up a moral stance. It is inevitable that the old assumptions about order and cohesion, which our forefathers took for granted, should be breaking down.

Well, I don’t accept that. I believe we must tackle the problem of rising crime, openly and directly. And just because we can no longer hope to enforce good behaviour by simple threats of hell-fire, I do not think we are debarred from talking of right and wrong. The definition of what is criminal changes from generation to generation. But our attitude to crime should not change. We must make that clear, in particular, to those youngsters in danger of settling into a life of persistent crime and intermittent punishment.

Nor do I believe that idealism, concern for others, commitment and self-sacrifice have been bred out of us. For every young thug whose brutal behaviour hits the headlines, there are thousands of young people up and down the country who commit themselves in their jobs, in their family or through voluntary work, to other people.

There are, indeed, thousands of young British people, straight out of school, working in difficult conditions throughout the third world for the young, the old, the poor, the oppressed. There are thousands of businesses who accept, with enthusiasm, the need to involve themselves in the communities around them. And there are hundreds of thousands – no, millions – of people who quietly, generously, regularly give up their free time to help others. These are the stories that don’t – so often – hit the headlines. I believe we must do more to recognise, support and encourage the habit of volunteering, which cements together our society and is one of the great glories of our national life.

Towards the year 2000

We are coming up fast to the Millennium: one of those milestones that have no intrinsic importance, but yet act as a catalyst for thought and action. This will be a highly competitive decade, in which the race will go to the swift. It will bewilder many and frighten some. It will test our national confidence – a test, I believe, that we can pass with honours.

At such a time, the cohesion of society is particularly important. When people have to find strength and direction within themselves, we need more than ever that anchor of past experience and those institutions which give continuity and a framework to our national life. The monarchy. Parliament. Our churches and voluntary organisations.

Disraeli – and that shrewd if now much-criticised observer, Walter Bagehot – both understood how our “constitution”, in the widest sense, gave the individual stability. They understood how it gave links with the past, with locality, with others and with the nation.

They saw much more clearly than many do today the unbroken chain of community linking the monarchy to the humblest household: linking our Parliamentary institutions to the most local parish council, linking the Union of the United Kingdom with the little unions of families and local communities.

So as we change and modernise – and we must do both – we must have an ear for history and an eye for place. In reforming local government, we will be looking to restore cherished names, draw strength from old loyalties and nurture established communities. Not for us a technician’s blueprint, all logic and no heart. Rather a search for the genius and identity of different towns, districts and counties across our country.

As we modernise the honours system – as, again, I believe we should – we must develop, not destroy. It is time to get rid of old, class-based distinctions; to make the system a little less automatic; to use it, in particular, to reward voluntary effort – but at the same time to maintain its historic value as a system of recognition and reward for achievement.

As we reform the civil service, we must cherish its traditions of impartial service – while at the same time opening it up to outsiders and to private-sector competition.

And as we work to improve our public services, we must remember one cardinal rule: change must be driven by the users, not the providers.

Civilising the welfare state

For too long we failed to ask the right questions. For too long we allowed the State to over-ride choice and personal responsibility. And all the time, the influence of public services was growing. At the beginning of the century, public services had only a marginal impact on people’s lives. Now they employ more than two out of every ten people in the workforce.

Well, attitudes are changing, radically and dramatically, under our Citizen’s Charter. The Charter is about convenience and choice for the user, not an easy life for the provider. It’s about replacing the impatient shrug of bureaucracy with helpful and courteous service. It’s about changing the system to deliver simple, practical things that improve people’s lives.

The traditional structure of public services has not provided the kind of incentives that competition in the market delivers automatically. We are creating these incentives. We are privatising choice. We are transferring power to the user of public services by providing them with real information about the performance of providers. We are opening up the old, cosy systems of inspection. We are introducing new systems of redress for the individual.

There are those who see accountability for public services only in terms of the occasional election at the focal and national level. I want a new accountability. I prefer a much broader and deeper concept: of accountability to the individual. That is why the aims of this programme run very deep. They concern the sort of society we want to see.

Through our reforms, we are encouraging local providers of services to run their own affairs. We are creating new vehicles for involvement, in grant-maintained schools, in TECs, in hospital trusts.

Giving people more freedom of course means giving people the opportunity to make mistakes. No one ever climbed a mountain without facing the risk of falling off. We must expect some disagreements between teachers and governors, even in grant-maintained schools. We cannot expect every Trust hospital to manage its financial affairs without a single hiccup. What is clear, however, is that people want to take on these responsibilities, because they see the transformation in attitudes and ambitions that follows.

We must allow people the maximum freedom to discharge these new responsibilities. Of course the State has an important role as regulator – particularly where, in public services or private enterprise, we are confronted with monopolies. But we must resist the temptation to intervene too much.

We must resist the temptation to respond to every mistake, every tragedy, by introducing another burdensome raft of regulations. Sometimes, of course, these have emanated from Brussels. But sometimes, I am sorry to say, the guilty are closer to home. That is why the Government has launched its deregulation initiative – and why I invited ministers to join me in Downing Street for a bout of spring-cleaning this week.

A radical programme

I rather think that some are forgetting, a little too easily, how we are moving to put our principles into action. We have a radical programme which is transforming Britain for the better, and which is being imitated across the world.

Take, for a start, those step-by-step changes that are already under way, but have much further to go.

In the health service, we have seen the spectacular growth of Trusts, far more rapid than originally imagined, and the extension of GP fundholding. By the middle of this decade, we will have transformed the NHS, made it much more responsive to patients and their doctors. And we will have exposed the short-sighted folly of Labour’s obstruction of reform.

In education, we are seeing the emancipation of governing bodies and head teachers, taking the local authority straitjacket off their back. With testing, we are giving back to parents the right to know what, and how well, their children are being taught – and what they are being taught. Another issue on which Labour is being driven into embarrassed retreat.

Through the Citizen’s Charter, we are carrying through a revolution in choice, in information, in accountability and individual power that no other political party will ever be able to reverse. We are extending performance pay, and launching the biggest programme of market testing of central government activities ever seen.

But that is not all. In Parliament this Session, we are creating:

–          new powers to regenerate the schools whose poor performance has for too long trapped inner city youngsters into a cycle of failure, unemployment and poverty.

–          new freedoms for members of trade unions, and new powers for the individual to prevent wildcat strikes.

–          new encouragement to the arts, to charities, to sport and to celebrate our great heritage, through a National Lottery that may deliver literally billions for good causes over the years ahead.

–          new opportunities for private-sector skills and enterprise to improve services for the railway passenger.

These are crucial measures – but, as I have already indicated there are others, too, pressing hard behind them.

In education, we have further to go in reforming primary schools, to sweep away the failed nostrums of the 1960s and 1970s. And we need parallel reforms in teacher training, to help good teachers do the job the country needs.

For our teenagers, I want to create a better map of opportunity. I am determined – this year – to start opening up a wider and clearer choice of ways to study and train for a career. This has to begin with schools. We need vocational qualifications which carry esteem, are worthwhile in themselves and challenge the monopoly of the academic route to further and higher education. And we need modern and effective careers education. But this drive has to be followed through in colleges and the workplace. I believe, with close co-operation between the Departments of Employment and Education, we can evolve a system which offers our youngsters more for their time, and the taxpayers more for their money.

In our cities – yes, and in our countryside too – we need to counter-attack the twin problems of crime and the fear of crime. The crucial test of our police forces is their ability to deliver what the citizen wants: safety on our streets and security in their homes. Change is needed, and the best of our policemen know it. But they also need co-operation from the citizen, industry, local government. And the courts must have the powers they need. In particular, I believe, we need new powers to take persistent young offenders off the streets and into secure accommodation where they can be taught and trained for a useful future. On the future of our police, and on young offenders, the Home Secretary will be announcing proposals soon.

In housing, I want those who prefer to rent to have a choice of modern decent homes. That means we need to encourage good private landlords, so that tenants have a real choice. But most young people still want to own their own home, and Conservatives believe strongly in helping them fulfil that ambition. I want more of them to have that choice. We must step up our drive to help all those who seek to escape from the prison of bad Council provision.

We want to give our exporters confidence they have the Government behind them. Manufacturing industry has a great opportunity to win new markets. It is not for Government to say where, or what, or how. We are not going to return to the bad old days of interventionism. But where Government can help to open doors and free up markets, it will do so.

I have already set up a scrutiny of why European regulations seem to gain extra frills when they reach the United Kingdom. Now we will be overhauling our horrendous total of over 7,000 regulations – many of them domestic – with the aid of the businessmen who bear the brunt. We will be looking for opportunities to legislate – perhaps I should say ‘legislate’ – to ease the burden on industry’s back.

By forcing Whitehall to publish estimates of what it will cost business to comply with every new regulation, we should both deter the busybodies and contribute to my campaign to make government more open. But I do not believe the steps we have taken towards openness go far enough. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will be bringing proposals forward in the coming months.

In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor opened the way to privately-financed schemes to improve our infrastructure. Now I want to investigate still more radical ways of financing a better road network, between our cities. I hope the Transport Secretary will be able to bring forward proposals soon.

I increasingly wonder whether paying unemployment benefit, without offering or requiring any activity in return, serves unemployed people or society well. Of course, we have to make sure that any conditions imposed improve the job prospects of unemployed people and give good value to the country. But we have already introduced this principle, for example through Restart, in a limited sense for the long-term unemployed. I believe we should explore ways of extending it further.

You would not expect me, so close to the Chancellor’s Budget, to say more tonight about economic affairs. But I would just say this about the longer term: that if we are to sustain sound public finance and make progress towards our goals of lower personal taxation we must keep firm control of inflation and take a rigorous approach to public spending. It is always dangerously easy for the State to settle into habits of spending which outlast their purpose and outrun their budgets. And to avoid that happening, it is necessary from time to time to re-examine long-term trends in expenditure.

We need, through the honours system and other networks of recognition and encouragement, to give the volunteering movement extra support. I want to develop a new initiative, this year, to help local communities make the best use of the goodwill and energy of businesses and individuals in their areas.

We must build on the faith in our United Kingdom that was demonstrated at the general election. As we have been “taking stock” in Scotland, we have been listening for ideas to reinforce a Union that has served all concerned for centuries. We are not hostile to change; but we are adamant against destruction.

Let me draw together some of the themes of this agenda. Increasingly, I believe, we must develop policies that sound a common chord across all programmes. The Citizen’s Charter, deregulation, privatisation, private finance, market-testing, openness, all follow this approach. Others – such as the focus on 16-19 year olds – require close co-operation between Departments. Still others – such as the ‘challenge’ approach to the funding of local projects – are introduced by one Department then developed by another. I believe this breaking-down of rigid Whitehall divisions is essential to the delivery of a radical Tory agenda.

The Conservative message

So if people suppose – or even, perhaps, hope! – we have come to the end of our reforming energies, I am afraid they had better think again. I do not underestimate the difficulties. Of course, there are challenges ahead. But that is an invitation to press on with more vigour, not to step aside. We will carry forward the pursuit of economic liberalism, and the reinforcement of the social cement that binds us together.

These are beliefs that would, in the different language of their time, have been familiar to Burke, Disraeli, Salisbury. They link the ambitions of the child to be born in the year 2000 with the aspirations of previous centuries, it is the genius of our party that we fashion change in the image of our long traditions.

I have tried to show how I believe these aims are served today by fostering a national life in which merit is rewarded, achievement respected, opportunity opened up and the individual given power and choice. That is what I mean by “a classless society”.

I have tried to show how I believe we can rebuild confidence and nurture the best instincts of the British people. That is what I understand by a decent society; by “a nation at ease with itself”.

And I have tried to show how I believe the need for change can be reconciled with the deep need for continuity, for calm, for commonsense and steadiness in our affairs. In the words of the newest addition to that distinguished list of Conservatism’s historians and philosophers, our party ‘has long been the party of the silent majority’. And I am indebted to that author – David Willetts – for my final quotation from Burke, which perhaps has some relevance today:

‘Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine, that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field, that of course, they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little, shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour.’