George Young – 1996 Statement on the Channel Tunnel Fire

Below is the text of the speech made by George Young, the then Secretary of State for Transport, in the House of Commons on 19 November 1996.

At approximately 8.45 pm GMT yesterday, a fire broke out in a lorry on board a Eurotunnel freight shuttle inside the channel tunnel between Calais and Folkestone. The shuttle was carrying 29 heavy goods vehicles with 31 drivers and companions, plus three crew members. The shuttle, on its way from France, had a French driver and crew. It stopped 12 miles through its journey on the French side of the tunnel.

Emergency services, firefighters and ambulances, arrived at the scene within 20 minutes and helped evacuate everyone on board the shuttle. Twenty-eight were taken back to France by a tourist shuttle travelling in the untouched northern tunnel, and six were evacuated by the service tunnel transport system. Eight people were taken to hospital, two of whom were detained, including the driver of the shuttle; their condition is reported to be serious but not life threatening. I understand that both will be discharged today.

French and British fire brigades worked through the night to bring the fire under control. The emergency is now over. I am sure that the House will want to join me in congratulating the emergency services on the way in which they coped with the incident and in expressing relief that there were no fatalities.

The French authorities have already begun a formal inquiry. That is for them since the incident happened in the French part of the tunnel. Eurotunnel’s own investigation is under way. In addition, the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority, which includes representatives from this country and France, will be making its own inquiry into the incident and studying the reports from the operators and the French authorities. The safety authority’s findings will be made public. I shall be urging my French counterpart, Mr. Pons, to ensure that the French authorities publish their findings as soon as they properly can so that the lessons of this incident can be learnt by all concerned.

In the meantime, it would be wrong to speculate on the causes of the fire. I can assure the House, however, that representatives of the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority are on site and will not allow either passenger or freight operations to recommence until Eurotunnel can prove that that can be done safely.

Queen Elizabeth II – 1996 Queen’s Speech


Below is the text of the speech made by HM Queen Elizabeth II in the House of Lords on 23 October 1996.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

The Duke of Edinburgh and I look forward to receiving the State Visits of His Excellency the President of Israel in February and of the President of Brazil in December next year. We also look forward to our visit to Canada in June and July and to our State Visits to Thailand later this month and to Pakistan and India in October next year, the fiftieth anniversary of their independence.

National security continues to be of the highest importance. My Government will continue to play a major role in NATO’s adaption and in decisions on its enlargement, and to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security. The United Kingdom’s minimum nuclear deterrent will be maintained.

Preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction remains a priority. Early provision will be made for the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. My Government will pursue negotiations on a Convention to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other explosive purposes.

In the European Union, my Government will work for an outcome to the Intergovernmental Conference which supports an outward-looking, economically liberal and flexible Union based on a partnership of nations. They will promote policies designed to improve the Union’s competitiveness and economic well-being. They will work towards the opening of accession negotiations with countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

My Government will promote the further global liberalisation of trade, in particular at the Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation, and will continue to work for transatlantic free trade in this context.

My Government will continue actively to support peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, encouraging full compliance with the Peace Agreement and promoting reconciliation between the former warring parties.

Support will continue for the search for a durable peace in the Middle East.

My Government will continue to work for a successful transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997. They will work on behalf of its people to preserve their way of life and to promote the territory’s continued stability and prosperity, founded on a high degree of autonomy and the rule of law.

Preparations will be made for the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government to be held in Edinburgh in October 1997, and for the second Asia-Europe Meeting in London in 1998.

Support for the United Nations remains a priority. My Government will continue to work for a United Nations that is more effective, efficient and responsive to the needs of its Member States.

The fight against terrorism, organised crime and drug misuse and trafficking will remain a priority, as will action to protect and improve the environment.

My Government will continue to promote respect for human rights and the international rule of law.

A substantial aid programme will be maintained to help improve the quality of life in poorer countries, by contributing to sustainable development and reducing poverty and suffering.

In Northern Ireland, my Government’s priority will be to maintain progress towards peace, prosperity and reconciliation, based on a comprehensive political settlement commanding widespread support. They stand ready to introduce legislation to provide for the decommissioning of firearms, ammunition and explosives in Northern Ireland. They will maintain close and friendly relations with the Republic of Ireland.

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 sustained economic growth and rising prosperity, while maintaining low inflation. Fiscal policy will continue to be set to bring the public sector borrowing requirement back towards balance over the medium term. My Government will reduce further the share of national income taken by the public sector. They will continue to promote enterprise and further improve the performance of the economy with the aim of creating the strongest industrial economy in Western Europe in the medium term and doubling living standards over the next twenty-five years. They will promote fewer, better and simpler regulations to reduce unnecessary burdens on business.

My Government will continue to support competitiveness through advancing knowledge, improving educational and skill levels and promoting a flexible, efficient labour market. Legislation will be introduced to widen choice and diversity, improve discipline and raise standards in schools.

A Bill will be introduced to reform the sentencing and supervision of serious, dangerous and persistent offenders so as to provide greater protection for the public. Legislation will be introduced to support the fight against organised crime, including establishing a National Crime Squad. A Bill will be introduced to strengthen controls on the ownership of firearms.

Legislation will be brought forward to strengthen the powers to protect the United Kingdom coastline from pollution from merchant shipping. A Bill will again be brought before you to authorise the construction and operation of a high speed rail link between London and the Channel Tunnel.

Legislation will be introduced to improve and develop primary health care services. A Bill will be brought forward to combat social security fraud.

Legislation will be introduced to implement proposals contained in the English and Welsh Rural White Papers in relation to parish and community councils and to provide rate relief for small village shops.

In Scotland legislation will be introduced to abolish automatic early release from prison and to make other changes in the criminal justice system to improve public protection. A Bill will be brought forward to enable the transfer of publicly-owned crofting estates to crofting trusts.

My Government will introduce legislation to enable reform of the procedures of the civil courts, and other measures of law reform.

Other measures will be laid before you.

My Government will also publish Bills in draft for consultation on the introduction of voluntary identity cards and on measures to help people make better provision for their long-term care needs in old age.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

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

Michael Howard – 1996 Statement on London Policing


Below is the text of the statement made by Michael Howard, the then Home Secretary, in the House of Commons on 5 February 1996.

When we last debated the policing of London, I placed before the House my vision of what the Metropolitan police can deliver and are delivering for our capital city. My vision was of even more reductions in crime; an even safer city where safer streets improve the quality of life in the capital; and a city where there is a flourishing and active partnership between the police and the public, where individual members of London’s public know that they can make a real difference by volunteering to support their local police in whatever way best suits their local needs.

I said that I wanted that to be delivered by a police service that is visible, approachable and predominantly unarmed, and which provides a reassuring presence right across London. I outlined my plans and those of the Commissioner for bringing that about, and the Government’s commitment to providing the necessary resources.

Today, just over 13 months later, I want to return to my vision and the success that we are having in making it a reality. I want to take stock of the objectives and achievements of the Metropolitan police in the light of that vision, and I want to explain how they fit into the Government’s general strategies for law and order.

I make no apology for beginning with the Met’s crime figures. When–as is the case today–the police make major advances, we should celebrate those achievements and ensure that the public know about them. The Government have never accepted, and will never accept, the depressing view that we are powerless in the face of increasing crime, and neither has the Commissioner.

Let us make no mistake: there has been a major breakthrough in stemming what many had predicted was an inexorable growth in reported crime in the capital. The significant falls are precisely where we most wanted them–in the two volume crimes that make up nearly half the crime in London: breaking into our homes and stealing our cars.

Let us look at the figures for the past two years in the Met, to June 1995. Overall, we see the biggest drop in the number of crimes–118,300–since records began. In the second year alone, there were 60,000 fewer recorded crimes in the Metropolitan police district than in the previous 12 months. That is excellent news.

Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate): The Secretary of State referred to the figures for recorded crime. Does he agree that a sizeable proportion of the people of London fail to report crimes, because they know that their local police force is overstretched and undermanned, and even if it responds there is very little possibility of a clear-up for that crime?

Mr. Howard: The hon. Lady should know that one of the offences that has fallen sharply in recent years is that of theft of cars. Indeed, if she had listened to what I said, she would have heard me draw particular attention to that a moment ago. Is she suggesting that people do not report the fact that their car has been stolen?

Ms Jackson: Yes.

Mr. Howard: I think that she is in a fantasy land if that is what she thinks, because she knows perfectly well that to make an insurance claim for theft of one’s car, one has to report it to the police. If the hon. Lady thinks that people are not reporting the theft of their cars, I suggest that nothing that she says deserves to be taken seriously. I certainly do not propose to take seriously what she says after that intervention.

The even better news, of course, is that crime is coming down across the country. Whether measured by police recorded figures or the British crime survey, the overall position in the Met is better than outside London. For example, vehicle crime fell by 33 per cent. in the two years to June 1995. That is a drop of 79,200 offences. Theft of vehicles in London has dropped by 39 per cent. in the period from June 1979 to June 1995.

Look at burglary. The Met attacked it vigorously just as we asked it to. The Commissioner’s anti-burglary initiative, Operation Bumblebee, used, for the first time, techniques such as intelligence gathering, surveillance and targeting of suspects, which previously had been used only for the most serious crime. The fact is that there have been 8 per cent. fewer burglaries in the Metropolitan district in the two years following the start of Londonwide Operation Bumblebee in June 1993, and a 30 per cent. leap in the number of crimes being solved.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North): I regularly attend neighbourhood watch meetings in my constituency, which falls within the Ealing and Southall police areas, and I know that the fall in the number of burglaries has given tremendous heart to local people. The police tell me that they have been able to pinpoint and target particular culprits and have them dealt with them, and that partly accounts for their great success. Does that mean that my right hon. and learned Friend’s concern for dealing with those people, should they continue in their ways when they are released back into society, is a matter of concern for everyone?

Mr. Howard: My hon. Friend, who takes a close interest in these matters, is right to cite the targeting of persistent offenders as one of the reasons for the Met’s success. Of course, if those offenders are not dealt with properly by the courts, much of the good that the police do will be undone. As my hon. Friend will know, that consideration prompted one of the proposals that I announced in Blackpool last October, which was intended to ensure that persistent burglars were properly dealt with.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): In 1994,959 burglars were cautioned by the Metropolitan police, and were not prosecuted. I accept that, in the case of domestic family incidents, the police may have had some discretion, but some of those who were cautioned were not prosecuted because the Crown Prosecution Service did not think it worth while. The Home Secretary must tell us whether those people are included in the clear-up rates, and what is the disparity between the use of cautions for burglars by the Metropolitan police and their use by other forces in England and Wales.

Mr. Howard: I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has intervened. He made a series of allegations which were reported in the Evening Standard last week, and which disclosed depths of ignorance previously unplumbed even by him.

If the hon. Gentleman had made the slightest attempt to check his facts, he would have discovered, first, that, contrary to what he said, the guidance that I have given is designed not to increase but to decrease the number of cautions given by the police, and that it has had a considerable effect.

Secondly, he would have discovered that the number of cautions given has no effect on the crime figures, because a crime is recorded as a crime, whether a caution, a prosecution or a conviction follows. Thirdly, he would have discovered that whether a caution is given makes no difference to the clear-up figures. Each of the three components of the hon. Gentleman’s allegation was completely incorrect.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey): Will the Home Secretary give way?

Mr. Howard: I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I must then continue my speech.

Mr. Hughes: In his capacity as police authority, will the Home Secretary join me in paying tribute to the success of the Metropolitan police in combating crime in London? Wearing his other hat, will he confirm that that success has been achieved despite the fact that, according to his published figures, the grant to the Met fell this year and is projected to fall again next year? The standard spending assessment has also fallen, as has the capital addition. The Met’s resources are now lower than they have been at any time in the last five years.

Mr. Howard: The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong, as I shall shortly demonstrate, when I deal with resources.I thank him for his tribute to the Metropolitan police, however.

The latest published figures for burglary were affected by a change in the recording criteria, and appear to show a 6 per cent. increase, but the Commissioner has told me that the more recent figures for the last quarter of 1995, compared with those for the last quarter of 1994–again, comparing like with like–show a fall of 15 per cent. in the number of burglaries of people’s homes. That amounts to some 5,000 fewer offences. It seems that Bumblebee is working.

Seven major Londonwide operations to date–two involving massive joint operations with other forces–have made a significant impact. Under Bumblebee, nearly 4,500 premises have been searched and more than 3,000 people arrested. Property recovered has included firearms, high-performance cars, knives, axes, mobile telephones, forged passports, stolen licences and MOT certificates, computer equipment, jewellery, drugs, cash and electrical goods.

Operation Christmas Cracker–the nationwide Bumblebee on 5 December–was mounted by 12,000 officers from 40 forces across the country. It resulted in nearly 3,500 arrests, and the recovery of property worth around £1.8 million. In the Metropolitan police district alone, 744 properties were searched, 560 arrests made, and £119,000-worth of property recovered. The Met has made a real impact on crime levels, and it is putting fear where it should be: with the burglar, not the innocent householder.

Mrs. Barbara Roche (Hornsey and Wood Green): Operation Bumblebee has undoubtedly been a tremendous success, and great credit is due to the Metropolitan police. Does the Home Secretary agree that much of the credit for the operation goes to the successful initiative that was piloted in my north London constituency, where Bumblebee started? What was important about the initiative, however, was that it relied on a partnership approach with local authorities, my own included. That is what made it a tremendous success.

Mr. Howard: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for recognising Operation Bumblebee’s success. As she will know, I have always laid great emphasis on the importance of partnership between the police and the public, and that includes partnership between the police and local authorities. Of course local authorities have a part to play in these matters.

Mr. Michael Stephen (Shoreham): I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend and the Metropolitan police on the reduced crime figures, which are welcome, but will he accept that, as a whole, crime has risen in the past 30 years? Has the problem perhaps been that some of his predecessors, of both parties, have listened far too much to the half-baked left-wing ideas that still appear to be held by Opposition Members, by people in the criminal justice establishment, and even by some judges?

Mr. Howard: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. I am far more interested in what is happening now, and in what we want to happen in the next few years, than in what happened in the past.

Bumblebee techniques are now being applied, through Operation Eagle Eye, to mugging–the crime that Londoners fear most after burglary. The Commissioner tells me that the Met’s street crime clear-up rate has accelerated past the 15 per cent. target that I agreed with him. He tells me that, before Operation Eagle Eye, at one stage street robberies in London were running at around 850 a week. The increase has now been capped. The figure has already dropped to 500, and the Commissioner tells me that it is still dropping. Over the same period, arrests for street robbery have almost doubled.

It is all the more remarkable that all that has been achieved when the demands on the Met are greater than ever. The population of the Metropolitan police district has risen from 7,260,000 in 1990 to 7,455,000 in 1994. As the Select Committee on Public Accounts heard last November, every year, more than 1.5 million 999 calls are coming in from the public. The Metropolitan police answered 86 per cent. of them within 15 seconds over the past 12 months, and 90 per cent. of them within that time in the past four months.

That is well over 10 per cent. better than the Metropolitan police charter target that I agreed with the Commissioner for the force’s policing plan. It would be hard to find a better emergency response service in any other capital city in the world.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington): On my right hon. and learned Friend’s points about street robbery and the success that the Met is beginning to have, courtesy of Operation Eagle Eye and such initiatives, will he say a word or two about anything that might be learned of a constructive nature from policing experience in the New York police department? I understand that some interesting experiments have been pursued there, and that a team from the Met is shortly to go there to review the position for itself. Will he say a bit more about that?

Mr. Howard: My hon. Friend is right, and I am about to make an observation about New York. Some techniques there are worth examining, and, just a few months ago, I considered them with Commissioner Bratton. But we are too grudging about celebrating success in our own country. Compared with other major cities here and capitals abroad, London is a safe city. Other world capitals have much higher rates.

Commissioner Bratton has made great progress in New York, but, for all the most serious offences, the crime rate there is far higher than in London. For robbery it is three times as high, and for rape it is twice as high. The homicide rate there is 210 per million–10 times the London rate–and most European capitals have homicide rates much higher than that in London. Amsterdam has 84 per million; Stockholm has 54 per million; and Berlin has 39 per million. The rate in London is 21 per million.

Of course there are problems of violent crime in London, as in all capital cities, but the Met is making good progress here, too. In the 12 months to June 1995, recorded violent crime in the Met area fell to 75,300 offences. Compared with the previous 12 months, that represents a decrease of 1,260 offences. That is probably the biggest ever annual fall, and certainly the biggest since the war. The Met figure for the 12 months to November 1995 shows that the rate of decrease is now 3 per cent.

Of course, there is still far too much crime. Every crime is one too many, and we all want to see even more arrests and more detections. But the Commissioner can be justly proud of the spectacular results that he and his officers have achieved. The success of the police in getting crime down deserves our full support.

The police welcome our comprehensive strategy to turn the tables on the criminal. As the Commissioner told the Home Affairs Select Committee last month:

“The pendulum has swung back towards protecting society. The climate within the criminal justice system is more supportive of law and order.”

Ms Margaret Hodge (Barking): If the record on detection and the prevention of crime is so great in the capital, will the Home Secretary explain why 90 per cent. of Londoners are so concerned about crime in the capital, and why two out of three Londoners believe that crime has got worse over the past few years?

Mr. Howard: It is largely because of the misinformation that is peddled by the hon. Lady and her hon. Friends. They bear a heavy responsibility for the fact that the people of London do not yet understand how much the Metropolitan police are achieving. I hope that the hon. Lady will see the error of her ways, will help us to pay tribute to the Met for its achievements, and will help to reassure Londoners about the extent to which the capital city is becoming a safer place in which to live.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton): I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend intends to cover the issue that I am about to raise, but in case he does not, could he tell the House what the Metropolitan police are doing to combat the crime that worries every capital city in the world–that of drug trafficking, which crime touches the lives of us all?

Mr. Howard: If my hon. Friend will bear with me for a moment or two, I shall certainly deal with that later.

A key part of our strategy is investing in technology. As the Commissioner says, technology has been responsible for many of his current successes. Good and innovative policing cannot be separated from good and innovative technology.

The national DNA database went live in April 1995. The database is revolutionary. It is the first of its kind in the world, and relies on leading edge technology and the most up-to-date DNA techniques. More than 30,000 profiles have been entered on the database already, and more than 300 matches–matching DNA profiles from individuals to profiles from traces left at scenes of crime, and profiles from traces left at one scene with another–have been made in these early months of operation.

The number of samples being sent in by the police, and the already high number of profile matches, speak well for the continued success of the database. I am pleased to be able to announce that the Metropolitan police forensic science laboratory has now formally been granted authorisation to contribute DNA profiles directly to the database.

Much of the good and exciting new technology will be on display at the second annual Met technology fair that will take place from 12 to 14 March at the conference centre at 1 George street. I urge all hon. and righthon. Members to call in and see the technology behind Operation Eagle Eye, the new body armour, DNA, livescan fingerprints and the new imaging, mapping, and tracking systems of the police. Also on view will be the much-needed new personal radios that I have approved for the Met, which are already installed in the central area and delivering a much higher standard of officer safety.

Visitors will also be able to see CRIS, the Met’s new computerised crime report information system, which starred in a recent episode of “The Bill”. CRIS is already working in two areas of the Met, and will be implemented right across the rest of the Metropolitan police district before the end of the year. The Commissioner tells me that CRIS is already showing that it can make a contribution to the upward trend in detections and the downward trend in crime. We all want that downward trend in crime to continue. It requires the on-going commitment to resourcing the police that the Government have always demonstrated.

For the next financial year, like this year, we have agreed that the Met should have a special grant in addition to the money from the new national funding formula.

We are giving it £130 million in that way in recognition of its unique national and capital city functions. The Met has unique needs, and we are meeting them. Spending on policing in the Metropolitan police district is well above the national average, and so is the number of officers per 1,000 population.

In total, we are making available £1.65 billion to the Metropolitan police in 1996-97–£20.5 million more than last year and an increase of 86.8 per cent. in real terms since 1979. In addition, we have removed altogether the 2 per cent. ceiling on the amount that the Metropolitan police can carry forward from one year to the next. Due to reductions in its rates contributions, that new flexibility is likely to be worth an extra £25 million to the Met on top of the existing maximum of £34 million that can be carried forward. That gives the Commissioner very substantial extra spending power–worth up to3.6 per cent. of this year’s budget–if he needs it.

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn): For the year 1994-95, which is the subject of the debate, will the Secretary of State explain why Her Majesty’s inspector of constabulary reported that the strength of the police in the Metropolitan police area fell by 131 officers during that year?

Mr. Howard: I am coming to police numbers in a moment. The hon. Gentleman will know full well that we made substantial extra resources available to the Metropolitan police for 1994-95. As he also knows, the way in which those resources are spent is a matter for the Commissioner. He has the responsibility and discretion to spend that money as he sees fit. We made money available to enable all the needs of the Metropolitan police to be met, including extra officers. It is for the Commissioner to decide on his priorities within that budget.

Mr. Simon Hughes: I understand the Home Secretary’s point about the additional allowance for the Met because of its additional duties. Will he confirm the real-terms increase for normal operational duties–not additional capital duties, for which there is a separate grant–year on year? My understanding is that the real-terms increase this year is less than the rate of inflation.

Mr. Howard: Had the hon. Gentleman been listening to what I said, he would have appreciated that that is completely wrong. What I said–what the truth is–was that, as a result of the various changes, the Commissioner has extra spending power worth up to 3.6 per cent. of this year’s budget if he needs it. The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that that is in excess of the rate of inflation. That is therefore a significant increase in the budget. The hon. Gentleman’s question is based on an inaccurate understanding of the facts.

Ms Hodge: Will the Home Secretary give way?

Mr. Howard: No, I have given way to the hon. Lady once.

We should not overlook, either, the Commissioner’s substantial efficiency savings, which have been achieved by reducing management overheads through restructuring the force and by civilianisation. Since 1993–this is one of the reasons why the number of officers has gone down, to return to the question put by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), whose attention has strayed elsewhere–the number of officers on the Association of Chief Police Officers grade in the Met has fallen from52 to 35, and the number of chief inspectors and superintendents from 840 to 594. That is a total reduction of almost 30 per cent. In addition, about 1,000 posts have been civilianised over the same period. What all that means is more officers out on patrol. That is a key part of my vision for the Met–high public visibility of the police.

As the House knows, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s pledge to provide funding for 5,000 extra police officers is worth an additional £180 million during the next three years, and £20 million in the first year. The Metropolitan police’s share of that is £3.4 million. That would have enabled the Commissioner to recruit 149 extra officers. In fact, I understand that he proposes to recruit 180 more officers, and that they will all be out on duty by the middle of this year.

Contrary to some media reports, there is no problem about recruitment. I understand that the Commissioner’s latest recruitment round was so successful that the force had to wind down the campaign early, and that the applicants are of high quality.

The Met has also made real progress in attracting more recruits from the ethnic minorities. Nearly 9 per cent. of recruits to the regular constabulary are now from an ethnic background, and the figure for the special constabulary is up to around the 15 per cent. mark, precisely mirroring the ethnic composition of London as a whole.

Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow): We all appreciate the fact that ethnic minority recruitment is improving, but does the Home Secretary acknowledge that there is still a major problem with retention in the Met? Unfortunately, many of the ethnic minority police who are recruited do not remain in the force, so there is still a problem there.

Mr. Howard: I would not for a moment suggest that all is perfect, or that there is no room for improvement–of course there is. The recruitment figures I just gave, however, provide grounds for encouragement, as I hope the hon. Gentleman will agree.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham): That is an important point, and the House will be encouraged by the information that my right hon. and learned Friend has given. Does he agree that it is important that the colour of someone’s skin should be as important as the colour of their eyes or their hair, and that it should be no more likely a predictor of whether or not they join the police service or become the subject of police attention?

Mr. Howard: I entirely agree and reinforce everything that my hon. Friend said.

So far as the up-to-date position on establishment is concerned, at the end of January this year there were 27,719 officers in the Metropolitan police–around 5,000 more than there were in 1979, and a 22 per cent. increase in police strength–and 16,928 civilian staff, which is over 2,600 more than in 1979. At the end of last December, there were 18,769 uniformed constables, which is almost 600 above the establishment figure. The Met has more police constables than ever before.

Strength has been brought up close to establishment levels. There were 552 vacancies in the Met last month–one tenth of the vacancies in 1979. It is even more encouraging to see that the number of constables increased during that period from 16,500 to 20,833. The proportion of officers allocated to street duty has increased from 26 per cent. in 1984, when such records began, to 35 per cent. in 1995. There are more resources than ever before, and better use is being made of them.

But another and much more precious category of resources is needed for policing. I refer to the personal resources of courage and dedication needed by every police officer, and his or her family, who places the duty to uphold law and order above personal safety.

During the year–for the third time since I became Home Secretary–I had the sad duty of attending the funeral of an officer who paid the ultimate sacrifice that policing can ask from those resources. That officer was PC Phillip Walters, who died tragically last April ina shooting attack, following a call to a disturbance ata private residence in Ilford. More than 3,000 other Met officers suffered criminal violence in the past year. Every one of those attacks disgusts me.

The bald statistics hide a catalogue of valour and personal sacrifice. Let me give an example–one that is not for the squeamish. PC Barry Cawsey, a 28-year-old rugby player serving at Forest Gate, gave evidence–on crutches–last month of how he was treated by two so-called joyriders whom he tried to stop getting away. PC Cawsey was not well placed to make his arrest, but he did his best to get into the vehicle and not be shaken off. “I can’t get rid of him,” said one of the thugs.”He’s holding on too tight”. The fleeing joyriders then manoeuvred the vehicle at top speed and crushedPC Cawsey against parked cars. This young officer saw his flesh tear right down both legs and his muscles pulped. Such sacrifices are made by the Metropolitan police on our behalf day in, day out. We should always be deeply grateful for the work done by Met officers.

Ms Tessa Jowell (Dulwich): Will the Home Secretary join me in paying tribute to PC George Hammond, who died recently? PC Hammond was seriously injured11 years ago in circumstances similar to those that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has described. Despite his incapacity–the officer suffered from kidney failure and other injuries arising directly from the attack–he fought for the retention of the kidney unit at Dulwich hospital. After his retirement from the police,PC Hammond continued to show the spirit that he had shown in devoting himself so selflessly and courageously to serving the residents of Dulwich.

Mr. Howard: I am very glad to join the hon. Lady in that tribute. That was a particularly sad case, and she is right to raise it.

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam): Some 2,500 police officers were stabbed by knives or other sharpened implements in the past year alone. Does my right hon. and learned Friend therefore accept that my private Member’s Bill, the Offensive Weapons Bill, will go some way to deterring such appalling knife crimes?

Mr. Howard: I very much agree with my hon. Friend, who knows that the Government fully support her Bill.

Attacks on the police such as those we have mentioned demonstrate the need for the best available protection.My policy is clear and simple. Anything that helps to protect police officers and others who face violence on behalf of the rest of us–including changes to the law on offensive weapons, such as those proposed by myhon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland)–must be looked at seriously.

The Commissioner takes the safety of the public and of his officers equally seriously. By the end of next month, all operational officers in the Met will have been trained in the use of the new long batons and the new handcuffs. They will have seen a video, been given a personal handbook and attended specialised training sessions. Once each officer has successfully completed the force tests, he will have issued to him a protective vest to a standard at least as high as anywhere in the world.

In last year’s debate, I reported to the House my decision to approve replacements for the traditional wooden police truncheon. As a result, the Met is making good defensive use of the long straight acrylic baton and–for plain-clothes officers–an expanding baton. The Commissioner tells me that there has been a decrease in assaults on his officers since the new batons were introduced, and that is welcome news.

I have also explained the measures that the Commissioner was taking, with my full support, to increase his armed response units and to allow certain officers better access to firearms. Again, the Commissioner informs me that this policy has helped him to reduce armed robberies on business premises, and the use of firearms by criminals. Those measures represented, first, an essential improvement in routine self-defence, and, secondly, a balanced response to the firearms threat in London. In my judgment, they have helped to ensure that we can continue to maintain a predominantly unarmed police force on the streets of the capital.

There remains a gap between the use of a truncheon and the lethal use of a firearm by a specialist team. We need a safe means by which an officer can incapacitate a violent criminal short of hand-to-hand combat. That is why I supported the chief police officers’ decision to trial CS sprays, which can be directed at a violent assailant and put him or her out of action. The Metropolitan police is one of the forces piloting the use of sprays. The trials will begin in March, and will last for six months. They will be properly evaluated, and I await the results with interest.

I said earlier that a major part of my vision for the capital, as for the whole of England and Wales, is a flourishing and active partnership between the police and the public. Partnership is not a pie-in-the-sky slogan. It is a central and completely practical part of the Government’s approach to tackling crime. It means people–ordinary members of the public and local businesses–volunteering to support their local police in whatever way best suits their local needs; and especially, it is about local solutions to local problems.

The new Metropolitan police committee, which I put in place last April to advise me as police authority, has also been busy forming links with the various local voluntary bodies. Sir John Quinton and his committee are all volunteers themselves. They give me good advice, and are well placed to promote partnerships and pursue my approach with the Met.

The best of all possible ways in which the individual member of the public can help his local police is by signing up as a special constable. One of the objectives that I set with the Commissioner in this year’s policing plan, following consultation with Sir John Quinton, was a stretching recruitment target of 650 new special constables–384 more than the previous year. The Commissioner and his colleagues have, I know, worked very hard to meet this target, including a local recruitment drive, advertising, improvements in handling applications and a push for specials right across the force. The latest figures show that he has recruited well over 400 so far, and is, I understand, well on the way to hitting the target.

I shall soon be discussing next year’s target for specials with the Commissioner. We recently announced a new fund, started with £4 million of Government grant in 1995-96, to help all police forces to expand their recruitment of specials, and to improve their training and recruitment processes. I understand that the Metropolitan police has made a bid for support from the fund.

I am delighted that local businesses and organisations are also recognising the value of the special constabulary. They have done so not only by encouraging their staff to volunteer but also by practical support. For example, Wandsworth special constables have been provided with a car sponsored by a local firm, TFL Motor Group, and Harrods is providing a car for special constables in central London.

In Lambeth, some £5,000 has been given by Brixton Challenge to help boost recruitment following the public disorder there. A cable network company in east London is running an advertising campaign for specials at no cost. Other local campaigns for specials have also, the Commissioner tells me, been helped by reduced advertising rates generously offered by local companies.

Such co-operation and support in London is by no means confined to specials. A whole new crop of partnership strategies is springing up throughout the Met as local organisations gear up to improve life for their neighbourhoods. The kind of partnership that I want between the Met and the public continues to grow in all areas. There are now over 12,000 neighbourhood watch schemes, and 201 business watch and 51 school watch schemes. The Crimestoppers initiative led directly to266 arrests last year.

Some of Britain’s biggest companies are joining forces in business-led coalitions against crime. Household names like Marks and Spencer, Barclays bank, Dixons, Coca Cola, the BBC, EMI, Polygram, the Novotel hotel chain and drinks companies Seagrams and United Distillers have pledged to underwrite new initiatives that aim to make our streets safer.

Partners Against Crime in Hammersmith and Fulham was launched with grants and donations of £140,000. First results of the united front will be seen in two operations to target street crime in North End road in Fulham and around Shepherds Bush Green. Security staff from one of the companies will be involved in the second scheme to monitor closed circuit television cameras in Hammersmith town centre.

Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith): I am grateful for that comment, because one of the things that had so far being missing from the Home Secretary’s speech was greater emphasis on crime prevention. The burglary rate in White City, which is in my area, dropped by 66 per cent. in two years–thanks to no Government funding but to money from the BBC, which was used in conjunction with the police and the local authority. We also got it down in two high-rise blocks in Shepherds Bush, despite getting only a small amount of Government money, using a concierge system, which the Government then refused to extend to the rest of the estate.

Mr. Howard: I am not sure where the hon. Gentleman thinks the BBC gets its money. The truth is that there is scope for local initiatives and partnerships of that kind. Not all successes in the fight against crime are assisted by Government money–although it is clear that Opposition Members have yet to learn that lesson. Partners Against Crime is also planning training programmes that are aimed at directing persistent offenders away from crime.

The royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea also has a partnership board, and it has just received £1.6 million in funding from the single regeneration budget. Some of the money has already been earmarked for a closed circuit television system in Earl’s Court. There is also a safer cities project in the borough, setting up domestic violence units and dealing with drug-related issues on the Worlds End estate. A CCTV system is again planned, this time for the north of the borough.

Wandsworth has the highest number of neighbourhood watch schemes in London, and their work in partnership with the police is rightly imitated all over the capital. The junior citizen scheme–like the one in Westminster, which was visited recently by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State–aims to teach our children the difference between good and bad citizenship. Wandsworth has a neighbourhood special constable scheme, with recruitment part funded by the council. The number of specials on Wandsworth division has increased by50 per cent. to 33.

Later this month, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State hopes to meet Mr. David Streven, a member of Wandsworth council staff, who is about to go out on the beat as the first neighbourhood special constable in London. The borough is also funding the introduction of CCTV in two shopping areas.

Mrs. Roche: I am delighted that Westminster is following the excellent example of my borough of Haringey in introducing a junior citizen scheme. Does the Home Secretary agree that London fared very badly from the introduction of CCTV? According to an analysis that I conducted by means of responses to parliamentary questions, it is most worrying that the lion’s share of the money went to the constituencies of Conservative Members of Parliament. Can the Home Secretary assure us that London will not be discriminated against in the latest challenge? Will he also consider very seriously the excellent bid by my area, particularly Wood Green high road?

Mr. Howard: I do not accept for one moment that London was treated unfairly in the recent competition.It may have escaped the hon. Lady’s notice–I know that she and her right hon. and hon. Friends spend much time in a fantasy world–that Conservative Members of Parliament represent more London constituencies than do Opposition Members. I am very confident that that state of affairs will continue after the next general election.

The use of closed circuit television cameras to detect and prevent crime is also spreading in close co-operation with local authorities and businesses. CCTV is a common theme in many of those initiatives, and it is one of the 1990s’ big success stories in the fight against crime. Our investment in CCTV has increased from nothing two years ago, to £5 million last year and £15 million in the coming year.

Some £317,400 was allocated to schemes in the Metropolitan police force last year. Among the more well known are Newham, Wandsworth, Sutton, Enfield, Mitchum, Woolwich and the extensive City of London surveillance system. Our grants are expected to lever in another £667,300 from sponsorship, making a total of nearly £1 million to be spent in the capital under that initiative alone. That is on top of the sum that has already been invested in closed circuit television in Hammersmith and Wandsworth under safer cities schemes, which was also funded by my Department.

Lady Olga Maitland: I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on that investment in CCTV. Is he aware that crime in Sutton has decreased by 15 per cent. as a result of his support for the installation of CCTV cameras?

Mr. Howard: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. That result is reproduced in many other parts of the capital.

The Metropolitan police are doing their part. They are included in all seven city challenge programmes running in London, and are an active partner in all eight of London’s safer cities teams. They are represented on all 25 of London’s drug action teams.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton): I welcome the Government’s action in installing CCTV in order to increase public safety. Will the Home Secretary take on board the recent incident that occurred in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow(Mr. Gerrard)? In that case, there was an awful murder in a tower block which had cameras installed at the entrance, but they were so old that they were unable to identify the murderer. Does the Home Secretary accept that, if cameras are to be installed, there is a case for monitoring and updating them regularly, to ensure that they remain in good working order?

Mr. Howard: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s support, and I take very seriously the point he makes. That is why we have issued guidance about how to make the most of closed circuit television, how to ensure that the reproduction quality is as high as possible, and how to gain maximum benefit from the expenditure to which the Government are making such a significant contribution.

Again this year we have seen tragic deaths arising from the pernicious activities of drug dealers. I have made it a national key objective for all police forces to take action against drugs. In London, I approved the Commissioner’s priority to improve performance against drug-related crime. Each of the Metropolitan police’s five areas now has a dedicated unit to help divisions target street-level drug dealing. They work closely with their colleagues in the south east regional crime squad, many of whom are seconded Metropolitan police officers, to hit at the source of the problems: the dealers and the importers.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan police force continues to run successful partnership programmes against drug abusers where there are particular local problems. Operation Welwyn, in the King’s Cross area, has set the standard for high profile enforcement activity. Since 1992, Operation Welwyn has led to the conviction of more than 300 drug dealers, trafficking in crack, cocaine and heroin, leading to prison sentences of more than 450 years.

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras): Will the Secretary of State do as the Commissioner does and pay tribute to both the Camden and Islington councils and the local community groups who have made such a big contribution to the success of Operation Welwyn, which was initiated by me and by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith)?

Mr. Howard: I am happy to pay tribute to everyone who has played a part in Operation Welwyn. It is very important that all concerned play their role, and I accept that the hon. Gentleman certainly played his part in that initiative.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South): The Home Secretary has paid tribute to all those who have played their part, and he has outlined a whole range of useful initiatives and issues that require co-operation and consultation in London. Does he agree that the work of the Metropolitan police advisory committee might be enhanced if, in addition to his appointees, some members were appointed from police community consultative committees and other associated groups throughout London? Many of the issues we have mentioned could then be pursued in greater detail to everyone’s benefit as they occur. Would that not be an improvement on the London scene?

Mr. Howard: I know how strongly the hon. Gentleman holds that view, and I understand the force behind his question. The committee has made contact with such groups and it is working very closely with them. I think that that is a particularly effective way of ensuring that I receive the best possible advice.

Finally, I shall refer to the Metropolitan police force’s public order duties during the past year. One of the core functions of any police force is the maintenance of the Queen’s peace. That is especially true of the Metropolitan police force, as the policing of major events and demonstrations in the capital has always placed great demands on it.

Some will remember 1995 as the year when serious public disorder broke out again in Brixton. However, they are taking completely out of perspective an isolated local incident that was contained effectively by the local police.

I visited Brixton immediately following the disturbances, and it seemed to me that, in many ways, the event revealed the underlying strength of the relationships built up by the police and responsible local people since 1981.

Miss Kate Hoey (Vauxhall): I thank the Home Secretary for his remarks. Does he agree that Lambeth has moved forward enormously in terms of the relationship between the local authority and the local police? There is a joint logo for Lambeth council and the Metropolitan police in areas of partnership–which would have been unheard of only a few years ago. Will he pay tribute again to the work that has been done, particularly by the new chief executive, Heather Rabbatts?

Mr. Howard: I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention, and I am grateful for the opportunity to pay tribute to all concerned, and to the extent to which things have improved in Lambeth. I am sure that she agrees–indeed, it was implicit in her question–that there was an awfully long way to go from the events and circumstances of a few years ago, but, yes, progress has been made, and I am happy to pay tribute to all concerned.

I especially deplore the attack that was made during the course of the disturbance in Brixton on PC Tisshaw, whom I visited in St. Thomas’s hospital the day after he was hurt. His injuries might have been much worse, however, if a section of the crowd had not held off his attackers and made a way through for his colleagues to help him. Those members of the public deserve our acknowledgment and thanks.

The community in Brixton returned to normality remarkably quickly after the disturbance. That was partly due to the excellent relationship built up over the years between the local police and local residents in consultative groups. They spoke to one another and continue to do so, and that two-way communication promotes understanding and makes the job of the police much easier.

What is worth remembering, and is too readily forgotten or not fully reported, is the immense amount of work done behind the scenes by the police to ensure that many public order problems are solved peacefully–another successful and peaceful Notting Hill carnival, another round of new year celebrations in Trafalgar square without serious incident, and the immensely painstaking and successful policing of the VE day andVJ day commemorations. The Commissioner tells me that, thanks to better stewarding and planning, there is much less risk of major disorder at football matches than, sadly, was recently the case.

The year 1995 was an excellent one for the Metropolitan police. The people of London can justly be proud of the policing service they receive, and of their and the police’s successes against crime. The Commissioner and I, and the Metropolitan police committee, are committed to improving that service, and to providing even better value for money.

The Government will continue to listen to the people at the sharp end of the fight against crime, and to respond to what they say. We shall continue to ensure that the police and the courts have the powers that they need, we shall continue to invest in cutting crime, and we shall continue to ensure that London and the rest of the country have the best police service that it is possible to provide.

Lord Saatchi – 1996 Maiden Speech in the House of Lords

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Lord Saatchi in the House of Lords on 18 December 1996.

My Lords, it is a very great honour to address your Lordships’ House for the first time. I must thank the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, for giving me this opportunity to make my maiden speech in this important debate on the media which he has initiated. My remarks touch upon just one aspect of the matter; that is, the question of how best to communicate with the public at a time when the media are such a dominant force in our society.

It could be said that in the Garden of Eden, in approaching the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, humans felt a need to know for the first time. Six thousand years after the Garden of Eden, the need to know has been replaced by the right to know and the media have inherited the role of asserting mankind’s democratic right to know.

The media have brought into being a new form of democracy, a democracy of information where information is knowledge and knowledge is power; where information is for the benefit not only of the elite but is properly to be shared among all the people. Indeed, today there is very little that we do not know. We know the income of Her Majesty the Queen; we know the pension of the chairman of ICI; we know which schools produce the best A-level results; we know which hospital has the best record in hip replacements; we know how much tar and nicotine there is in a cigarette; and we know the precise contents of a packet of cornflakes.

That is well and good but perhaps one of the unintended consequences may be that people have so much information that they no longer have time to listen to a long detailed argument. How then should the public be addressed in this “mediaocracy”? Winston Churchill once quoted Mark Twain’s letter to a friend which began: I wanted to write you a short letter but I didn’t have time”. Churchill understood that simplicity is all; but he knew also that to achieve simplicity is very difficult. It requires what Bertrand Russell called the painful necessity of thought. That is why it took longer.

We should remember that the earlier forms of mass communication were not complicated; they were extremely simple. That is why they worked. When President Roosevelt wanted to persuade a profoundly isolationist America to help our country in its darkest hour, he invented one phrase of two words to help him to do that. He called his policy “lend lease”. He explained it very simply too; Your neighbour’s house is on fire. He comes to you, and asks if he can have your hose. You say, ‘I will not give you my hose. But I will lend it to you. You can borrow it to put out your fire. And when the fire is out, you will return it to me”. A simple image of a fire and a hose.

The history of the world is built on such simple and precise use of language. Let us think of the most effective messages over the years. There was nothing long-winded about “Libertë, egalité fraternityé, nor about “Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains.” No one had to explain what it meant when they heard John Kennedy say: A torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans”; or when they read on the Statue of Liberty: Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free! When they said, “Go west, young man”, they did so in their millions. No one needed further elucidation when Jesus said: Do unto others as you would be done by”, or when Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream”.

The great communicators in history have always made things simple: “Your country needs you”, “No taxation without representation” or, “One man, one vote”. These are not just slogans; they encapsulate whole philosophies, aspirations and political systems. In this media-driven world, which is the subject of today’s debate, the public expect and demand that those who come before them to express a view have, before they speak, eliminated vagueness from what they say and distilled their argument down to its essence. It is, in fact, a mark of respect for the listener—a modern form of good manners.

This search for simple language actually has an excellent effect upon the idea being advanced. Its action is that of the threshing machine. It sorts the intellectual wheat from the chaff. It is more than a discipline, it is a test. It forces exactitude or it annihilates. It accelerates failure when a cause is weak, and it clarifies and strengthens a cause that is strong. And that is the best argument I know in favour of its use in all forms of public communication today.

I shall always endeavour to apply that test, with what success your Lordships may judge, to my own contribution in this House. I am grateful to your Lordships’ House for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech today. I look forward greatly to the comments and ideas that we may hear during the rest of today’s debate.

John Prescott – 1996 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by John Prescott to the 1996 Labour Party Conference.

Well, what a week it’s been! The people are coming home to Labour. Labour coming home to government.

We’ve been away too long. And millions of people have paid the price for it. We’ve adopted the football song Coming Home. I hear that next week John Major is planning to revive his own 1966 football anthem.

But John, honestly, you can’t make the same impact with World Cup Willie.

But what a great conference we’ve had! Labour’s coming home, And coming together.

Bringing together all the strands in the party – old and new. Bringing together the politics of ideas and the politics of organisation. I told you it would work.

This week we’ve faced tough choices. Spoken the language of priorities. No more the party of Opposition but a government in waiting.

Counting the days and the weeks till we get rid of this Tory government.

Because this week will go down in history as the week when Labour – a party reborn, proud of its heritage, confident of its future, clearly proved it is ready for Government.

This week we have seen the team which will form the next Labour government. Led by Tony Blair, our great and sagacious leader. As I always call him.

Compare him with the Galloping Major running scared of Labour, running scared of his own MPs, running scared of an election. And most of all John Major is running scared of Tony Blair.

Because here is a man who leads from the front.

I’ll tell you what. It may be a bumpy ride at times, I know that well enough.

But Tony is a man who knows where he’s going. Who has a clear vision of where the country should be going too. Who strikes a chord with the British people. A man who deserves to be the next Prime Minister of this country.

You know, this week you can really feel the anticipation in the air. You can feel it running through conference.

What a contrast with next week when the Tories turn up in Bournemouth. I can’t wait, can you? The Tories are divided, desperate and dangerous. And they are up to their necks in sleaze.

What a miserable lot they are too, aren’t they? The only Tory worth backing to win at the moment is Frankie Dettori.

Just take a look at the gang in charge. John Major. He used to be a banker, you know. He must have worked for the No-one’s Listening Bank. No one listens to him in his own cabinet. No one listens to him in Europe. No one listens to him in Parliament.

But there’s more bad news for John Major. They’re closing his favourite eating-place. The Happy Eater. He’s so depressed. The Happy Eater was the only place he could get anyone to take his orders.

Then there’s Michael Heseltine, the man who advises firms to delay on paying their debts. They say as a politician he owes a lot to Churchill, but Winston’s still waiting for the payment.

He says the economy is bouncing back. But why are so many cheques doing the same?

Then there’s the Home Secretary Michael Howard, The man responsible for the rule of law. He’s up before the judges so often, he asks for his previous offences to be taken into consideration.

And finally there’s Major’s side-kick, Doctor Mawhinney, The Colonel Sanders of the Tory Party. Leading the chicken run.

There’s something you should know about Brian Mawhinney, in case you bump into him. He always get very ratty if you don’t call him Doctor. This began to puzzle me, since he’s the only doctor I’ve ever met who makes everyone feel sick.

I phoned the British Medical Association. They said they’d never heard of him. I began to think he isn’t a chicken at all. He’s a quack.

But then I thought, maybe he’s a spin doctor. But I checked with Peter Mandelson and he said: No he isn’t in the Union …Sorry, Association.

And then I thought, anyone who can turn a £17 million deficit into a £24 million surplus must be a Witch Doctor.

Or maybe he’s Doctor Doolittle. Talking to the animals with their snouts in the trough.

We’ve got to get to the bottom of this. The publics got to be protected.

But I tell you one thing. After the election, he’s going to be …. Doctor Who?

The best slogan he could think up for their conference next week is Life’s better under the Tories. Sounds to me like one of Steven Norris’s chat up lines.

Can you believe that this lot is in charge? Not for long, eh?

Then after 17 years of this Tory government, they have the audacity to talk about morality.

Did you hear John Major on the Today programme? – calling for ethics to come back into the political debate?

I’m told some Tory MPs think ethics is a county near Middlesex. It’s a bit hard to take: John Major – ethics man.

The Tories have redefined unemployment they have redefined poverty. Now they want to redefine morality.

For too many Tories, morality means not getting caught.

John Major’s argument is that cutting public spending and reducing tax is a moral issue.

And what a perverted definition of morality! It’s all about money in the pocket, isn’t it?

And we’ve heard an awful lot about money in the pockets of Tory MPs lately, haven’t we? I heard two Tory MPs talking last week about cash for questions. One said: What should we do about the Sleaze Bill? The other said: Get someone else to pay it.

Neil Hamilton, that Guardian of Tory morals, told the Deputy Prime Minister he had no financial relationship with a lobbying company. But now we hear he did take payments after all.

But will he resign? No. Tories never know when to say sorry. And if John Major is serious about morality, He should let Nolan look into party funding.

On Wednesday I called on John Major to join Labour to clean up British politics. Yesterday he said he’ll give evidence. Well I’m afraid that’s just not enough.

If Neil Hamilton has a shred of honour left in him, he should go and go now.

But John Major can’t afford to lose him, can he? Why? Because this man is his parliamentary majority of one. He is John Major’s immoral majority. And the silent majority have had enough of them.

Because let’s be clear, Morality is measured in more than just money. Its about right and wrong. its about values. its about fairness and it’s about social justice.

I’d like to ask John Major this: what morality is there ……. In one man making £34 million out of rail privatisation, when so many of our people live in poverty?

Where’s the morality in people being bussed from one hospital to another begging to be admitted?

Where’s the morality In record crime? In record unemployment? Record bankruptcies? Record poverty?

All the product of deliberate government policy. That’s what I call immoral.

And where’s the morality in 16 year old kids forced to sleep rough on the streets?

Do you know it’s 30 years since the film Cathy Come Home shocked this nation about the plight of the homeless?

And after 17 years of Tory government, there are thousands more like Cathy -record numbers of homeless people.

But don’t believe the Tory lie that nothing can be done. It’s time the nation was shocked again.

Because – what’s really immoral is this…. There’s £5 billion from council house sales locked up by the Tory government. There’s a quarter of a million building workers trapped in unemployment.

But the Tories refuse to bring them together. Labour will bring together the money, the people, the skills to meet the social need of our people.

Labour’s coming home. And when we are in government, Cathy can come home too.

That’s the moral difference between us and the Tories. There is an alternative. New Life for Britain our philosophy our priorities our programme for government.

It’s a radical document, It will make a real difference to the lives of ordinary people.

And we are not just asking you to sign up to it for the next few months. It’s for the first five years of a Labour government.

This programme shows we are a party with a heart. We will enthuse our supporters and convince the voters.

We are a party of principle. We will earn the trust of the British people.

We are a party with vision. We will give the inspiration people have been looking for. An age of achievement. A decent society.

And we are a party with compassion – who are prepared to stand up for the rights of the poor, the sick, the unemployed and yes pensioners.

And when we talk about our pensioners. Remember it was Labour who brought in the decent state pension.

It was Labour who brought in SERPS – the Earnings Related Pension.

It was Labour who enabled occupational pensions to flourish.

The Tories have never done anything for pensioners.

The only raise they gave them was to put VAT on fuel.

Our commitment shows it. Our history proves it. A Labour government will not forget our pensioners.

We are a Party of ambition and aspiration.

It was Ernest Bevin who warned us against the poverty of ambition. Taking second best for granted.

We want to unlock the potential of our people. To allow people to live their lives to the full to achieve just a few of their dreams.

I was an 11 Plus failure. But I was given a second chance. By my trade union as a matter of fact. When they sent me to Ruskin College.

It opened my eyes. It excited my mind.

Tories will say ‘That shows the system’s working.’ But I was one of the lucky ones. And I know there are millions of people who have been written off.

Who never got a first chance, a second chance or a third chance. And it’s our job to make sure they get a chance in the future.

That’s why Tony Blair was right when he said educate educate educate, to unlock the potential in our people.

Yesterday this conference overwhelmingly endorsed New Life for Britain.

Now for the first time we are asking every one of our members and millions of trade union members to pledge their support.

This will be the one of the greatest exercises in party democracy in history. Never before has a party set out its programme so far in advance of an election. This is not a three week manifesto. It’s for members to vote on, to pledge their support and to campaign on from now until election day. And for a Labour government to implement after the election.

But it’s only as good as you present it, So read it, understand it, campaign with it take the message to the people in your community.

The ballot papers are going out, at this very moment, to millions of homes.1,500 coordinators are ready, in the constituencies.To organise to conduct this ballot; to ensure everyone is involved. Phil Wilson is here with some of those volunteers. Stand up Phil, so we can see you.

Look in your post tomorrow. And when your ballot paper arrives vote Yes for a New Life for Britain. And if you need an extra incentive, just turn on the telly next week, tune in to the Tory party conference.

When they won’t talk about their record, when they refuse to do anything about the crucial issues.

Don’t just get angry, do something positive.

Get the ballot paper off the mantelpiece. Put a cross in the box. And Vote yes for a new life for Britain.

But to all of you who are watching out there on your TV sets, There’s more than that to do.

There’s no more standing on the sidelines now. The time to hesitate is over.

Now is the time to get involved. Come and join us in the Labour party. Join our campaign.

So I ask all party members to vote, to organise, and help us in our campaign.

Because when the vote is over, when you have pledged your support and endorsed our programme, the job is not finished.

We have to put the case to the people of Britain.

In New Life for Britain we have many proposals. But we highlight those five key pledges. Set out on this card.

This card is a campaigning tool to help you take the message to the electorate.

Straightforward pledges which capture our basic principles.

Smaller classes

tough on crime

shorter waiting lists

more jobs for the young

a strong economy.

Let’s take the issue of jobs first of all. To spell out what we mean in that commitment.

To get 250,000 under 25s out of benefit and into work. But it goes deeper than that.

This pledge is symbolic of our ambition to provide job opportunities for all. Because we believe government can make a difference. And it has a responsibility to seek a high and stable level of employment.

That’s why we are different from the Tories. And it will be paid for by a windfall levy on the profits of the privatised utilities.

Yesterday I was sent this pledge card from Northumbrian Water Actually it says: New Northumbrian Water.

It contains five pledges. But I’ll add a sixth.

Pay the new windfall levy and put our kids back into new jobs . That’s what I call jobs and social justice.

In Education, our pledge is to reduce class sizes for 5 6 and 7 year olds to 30 or less. But we are saying more than that. This pledge symbolises our strong commitment to comprehensive education. Which gives everyone a chance, not just a few.

And there will be no return to the 11 plus.

We want a good state education system for the many not just the few. And we will pay for it out of the Assisted Places Scheme which subsidises private schools. And take unemployed teachers off the dole to teach our children. That’s jobs and social justice.

In our card, we pledge to cut NHS waiting lists by treating an extra 100,000 patients, Because we believe in the principle – the socialist principle – of a health service, based on need, not the ability to pay. Giving greater priority to the needs of the patient, not the needs of the market.

And we will pay for it from the money saved from the huge bureaucratic waste of the internal market.

That’s jobs and social justice.

Together with a strong economy and action on crime, these are among the building blocks of a decent society.

Bringing together our traditional values and putting them into practice in modern ways in a modern setting. That’s what we are about.

We are proud of our history. And we are determined about our future.

There are at most 200 days to the general election. The countdown starts now.

Victory will not come easily.

It will mean knocking on doors, canvassing, hitting the phone buttons, good organization.

And we can’t rely just on our sound bites and the media message alone.

Yes they’re important.

But we can’t do without the people who do the work – activists they are called.

Ordinary people talking to ordinary people.

You can make the difference between winning and losing.

The general election campaign starts right here, right now…

We have the best professional organisation.

The best programme for government.

The best and most popular leader.

Now we must deliver.

The minute conference ends, Tony and I will be leaving here to visit key seats on our way home.

Even though Tony and I are carrying on working, you can have the rest of the day off.

But I want you out working tomorrow. And if you can’t visit a key seat this weekend, I want a promise you’ll visit one soon.

Because the key seats are the battleground for the next election.

So during these next 200 days ask yourself each day Did I do enough today?

Could I have done more to secure a Labour victory? Let that question stay in your mind right up to the general election. Think about what you can do to play your full part. Ask yourself: Did I do enough today?

Think of that day on the 10 April 1992. When we faced another five years of Tory government…… And said: If only……, If only…..

I will never forget that day burned into my memory Neil Kinnock speaking on the steps of Walworth Road, conceding defeat, With great dignity and emotion. He echoed our frustration, disappointment and despair.

Never, never, never again.

That image will only be extinguished when we see Tony Blair on the steps of 10 Downing Street, Announcing a magnificent Labour victory in the next general election.

And we will never forget the people who led us through the hard times to the threshold of government today. John Smith, Neil Kinnock, and yes Michael Foot.

Victory is within our grasp after seventeen long years.

A chance to serve – that’s all we ask. And with your help, and the people’s trust, we can win.

That will give new hope to pensioners, new hope to young people, new hope for the low paid and families, new hope for industry.

New hope for the whole of the British people.

We’ve had enough lies.

Enough sleaze. Enough excuses. Enough poverty. Enough unemployment. Enough failure. Enough is enough.

We are united and ready to govern.

This was the week when old and new came together.

A Labour Party united.

A country united

A new Labour government.

New hope for Britain.

Michael Portillo – 1996 Speech on European Security and NATO

Below is the text of a speech made by the then Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Portillo, in Brussels on 23rd October 1996.

The Credibility of NATO

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation came into existence nearly 50 years ago. It has proved to be one of the most durable military alliances in history, and the most successful.

It has enhanced the security of all its members because its objectives are simple and credible. The Washington Treaty declared that an attack upon the territory of any member state would be regarded as an attack on all. To wage war on one is to wage war on all.

The sombre significance of that Article 5 was underlined by three factors in particular.

First, it was evident that the world’s first – and at that time the world’s only – nuclear power, the United States, was fully committed, and that was demonstrated by the presence in Europe of hundreds of thousands of GIs. Any adversary would calculate that, if American sons were placed in peril, then the American people would support a call to war, even in far off Europe.

Second, two other member states became nuclear powers, and throughout the history of the Alliance, the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent has remained committed to NATO, that is it has been committed to the defence of the territory of our allies in Europe, offering to all of them the protection of the British nuclear umbrella.

Third, NATO members in general were willing to find the money to maintain conventional forces at effective levels, and to commit them to the Alliance. Therefore any aggressor knew that the defence policy of NATO did not rest merely on the resort to the nuclear option. The credibility of the nuclear option might have been doubted despite the presence of US troops.

The reason I describe the Alliance as the most successful in history is that its credibility has never been seriously doubted, and certainly it has never been put to the ultimate test.

Of course there were many, indeed there were continual, attempts to probe the outer limits of the Alliance’s commitment to collective defence.

The blockade of West Berlin for example, although it preceded NATO’s creation, provided the first opportunity to demonstrate western solidarity. The deployment by the Soviet Union of SS20 mobile nuclear missiles in the mid 1980s, which could clearly threaten Western Europe,represented one of the last such attempts to probe our determination by the Soviet Union.

In the early 1980s, NATO allies sharply increased their defence spending. And that, added to other pressures on the Soviet system and on the Soviet economy, played a significant part in the collapse of that system.

The New Era

Hundreds of millions of Europeans emerged from the shadow of tyranny to the sunlight of democracy and freedom. And, though many had perished within the communist regimes of Central and Eastern Europe, in the cause of human rights and in the cause of free expression, NATO itself had not had to fire a shot.

The boundary of liberty has been carried to the east and, with so many new democracies now in existence, we have greater security. Democracies rarely invade one another.

It is our fervent hope that all the former tyrannies of the Warsaw Pact have taken an irrevocable step to become enduringly pluralistic, and permanent members of the family of liberal democratic nations.

After a 40 year nightmare of a divided Europe and Cold War tension, naturally our citizens, and our politicians, are anxious to believe that the new order will offer us tranquillity and assurance. They would like to believe that the very worst dangers that the modern world can offer might be a Bosnia, or a Gulf War: conflicts fought far from Western European homes, with low levels of Allied casualties.

It would be nice to be able to agree. But, at the risk of appearing to be a killjoy, I urge NATO not to be carried away by such thoughts. Much talk today is of NATO adaptation and restructuring, of reforms intended to equip the Alliance for the post-Cold War world and direct it towards new missions. But let us remember too that NATO has been so successful because its members committed themselves to hard defence, to maintaining the military capabilities at the top end of the spectrum of warfighting, the capabilities essential to meet threats to national survival.

This is not the time for NATO to go soft, and certainly not to convert itself into an organisation mainly capable of peacekeeping operations.

The Importance of Being Prepared for High Intensity Conflict

Neither Bosnia nor the Gulf are reliable models for all likely future operations. There are lessons to be learnt from both, but there is also a danger of learning the wrong lessons.

Of course Bosnia has been a great success for NATO, and of course it could have turned out differently and it could have proved dangerous. There were significant risks for our troops. We deployed into a cauldron of political instability and ethnic hatred, where all the factions were armed.

In the event, however, we have not so far faced an all out attack on our forces. Our higher military capabilities successfully deterred the factions.

We might have faced something much worse, but we were in any event not going to confront modern armed forces. There are many armies in the world which are more capable than the Bosnian factions.

So we must not allow the Bosnian experience to dominate our plans for the future.

Iraq’s capabilities in 1991 should not be our yardstick either. It is true that the Gulf conflict did demonstrate the need for first- rate military capabilities. It was precisely because the coalition had superiority in weaponry, and in intelligence and in command and control, that we prevailed with mercifully few allied casualties.

But the sophistication of weapon systems is evolving fast. The most developed countries of America and Europe have lost their monopoly in modern weaponry. We need to be prepared.

Future high intensity conflicts may be short and sharp. There will be no opportunity for us to generate conscript reserves or to manufacture new weaponry. Today’s equipment is too sophisticated. You cannot build it fast or quickly train people to use it. We must plan on the basis that what you start with is what you’ll get.

Intelligence and Deployable Forces

We do have the edge in one vital respect. Our intelligence systems give us control of the battlefield. That is why America gives such priority to that capability.

We should also improve the deployability of our forces. Experience in Bosnia and Iraq shook a number of the countries that contributed forces as they realised how hollow those forces had become. Even quite simple deployments stretched their resources to breaking point.

Rapid deployment can be the key to containment: to checking adventurism by dictators before it escalates into all-out conflict. It is therefore also a highly cost-effective deterrent.

NATO is developing the Combined Joint Task Force Headquarters to plan for such missions. As you would expect in such an important new capability, those headquarters will require substantial investment in logistics and communications to make them effective.

Britain is working on similar lines. We have established a Joint Rapid Deployment Force and a Permanent Joint Headquarters to give us the means of effective rapid response to a threat to our interests.


But each of us, each nation, must maintain our national commitments and invest in highly trained forces and the equipment that makes them capable.

Our successes in Bosnia and the Gulf were hard-earned. They were made possible because we retained our hard defence capabilities. Our forces were trained and equipped for all forms of conflict, from low to high intensity warfare. Forces that have been trained for high intensity warfare can undertake other, lesser, military tasks if called upon. But forces that have been trained as a gendarmerie cannot fight a war.

When Britain fought to recover the Falkland Islands, our armed services had not been trained to fight 8,000 miles from home. It was a far cry from the German plains or the North Atlantic. But they were ready and equipped for war, and they therefore adjusted successfully to a very different sort of conflict.

And even in Bosnia I do not believe that our soldiers would be able to show the restraint required for peacekeeping if they had not experienced the demands for self-discipline and for trust which are imposed by training them for the most intense warfighting.

The Threats to Peace

We must assess very carefully the risks and challenges that we may face. Outside NATO, there are about 35 countries which are equipped with up-to-date tanks and artillery. Many have armies that are numbered in hundreds of thousands. Forty air forces outside NATO can be said to have modern offensive aircraft. Thirty countries have submarine forces.

Twenty countries outside NATO possess ballistic missiles now. Crude technology in some cases, maybe. But it’s improving. Some NATO territory is already within the arc of threat from the Middle East.

If North Korea exports its more advanced systems, other nations could be threatened.

There is a risk that, despite our best efforts, stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction will grow and they will spread. Over a dozen countries have either the capability either to deploy chemical or biological weapons, or they have development programmes already at an advanced stage. A few of those countries can already produce chemical or biological warheads for ballistic missiles.

The likelihood of conflict is if anything increasing. We have seen how the end of superpower tension has emboldened others to push their territorial and ideological ambitions. We have seen overt aggression and we have seen the covert export of terrorism.

Nor can we relax our vigilance in the nuclear field. The international community was surprised to discover the progress which Iraq had made with its nuclear weapons programme. We will need to sustain in Iraq an intrusive monitoring regime to prevent it from reviving that programme. We will need to monitor North Korea’s compliance with the commitments that it has entered into. And we have to be concerned about reports from Iran that it may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Russia’s Armed Forces are not those that we faced during the Cold War. They clearly have grave problems. But they are very large, with a considerable quantity of sophisticated weapons – both conventional and nuclear. Russian capability in strategic nuclear missile submarines has not diminished.

That, alongside the reform process, is one of the factors that we must take into account in assessing the potential security needs of Europe.

Our planning must take account of potential crisis points around the world. The last assessment I read had 53 entries, including the Balkans, the Transcaucasus, Algeria, Libya, Iraq. 17 of those potential troublespots are within 200 miles of NATO’s borders.

There is no reason to believe that territorial or ethnic disputes are on the decline. Quite the contrary. And we must add to that potential disputes about natural resources: oil, minerals and even water.

A common feature where such regional tensions exist is arms proliferation. Dictators impress and intimidate both their populations and their neighbours by acquiring weapons of mass destruction. The more responsible nations respond by matching them if they can, so as to build up their deterrence. And even where governments are currently well-disposed to us, we need to consider the potential impact of political instability.

With the end of superpower tension and the spread of democracy there is the potential for a better world. But it has not become good overnight, and it is presently no less dangerous. For as the risk of global catastrophe has reduced, the risk of geographically limited conflict has increased.

We cannot abolish extremism, greed and intolerance. But we can deter them. And we can stop them winning.

Preserving what Matters in NATO

NATO faces a bigger intellectual challenge today than ever before. It has to adapt, restructure, welcome France and Spain to its new military structures, embrace the new democracies, plan for new types of mission, build a relationship with Russia. It must do all of that and still maintain the integrity of the things that have made it successful. It has to change and not to change.

Most importantly, it must remain an Atlantic alliance. I am confident that America will remain involved, but I’m not complacent.

The United States recognises the importance to her own vital interests of European security. Warren Christopher gave a ringing affirmation of United State’s commitment in his speech in Stuttgart last month. Europe is a continent where dangerous things happen. It is crisscrossed by fault lines of ethnic and religious division. America keeps 100,000 troops in Europe. And neither Presidential candidate is proposing that they should be withdrawn.

But the past differences between European countries and America over Bosnia were not healthy. Europe was criticised for not dealing effectively with the crisis. But I do not subscribe to the view that Europe failed because it did not have a European Security and Defence Identity.

You can only have as much identity as you have capability. It is not a question of institutions, but of what European nations can – and will – take on.

It is evident that Bosnia was too much for Europe alone. The NATO force has relied on the United States for nearly half its troops, much of its strategic transport into theatre, and nearly all its satellite- borne command and control. Those hard facts have injected a welcome realism into the debate about identity and reinforced the importance of the US commitment to our continent.

What Europe must do

The proper European attitude to America should be to reinforce America’s involvement by building the European identity within NATO, and developing the ability of European nations to contribute more to the Alliance.

But real defence budgets across Europe have fallen by almost a third since 1985. Money is not everything, but other things being equal, that means less capability. European nations typically spend a lower proportion of their GDP on defence than does America. Also there is not much sign that European countries recognise that the peace dividend, such as it is, can only be taken once. The cutting goes on and on.

That has important consequences for the Alliance. The United States is pushing further and further ahead with investment in command and control, communications and intelligence, and long-range interdiction systems. A widening gap between America and her allies cannot be good for NATO. The United States generously provides intelligence to the Allies. Our responsibility is to ensure that we are in a position to use it effectively, passing that intelligence quickly to unit level commanders who need it.

We must take into account the risk of ballistic missiles spreading over the next few years. The threat for our NATO allies may grow. And none of us will want to deploy forces within range of hostile ballistic missiles without affording them the best possible protection.

We are working on how best to deal with that threat. Of course, ballistic missile defence is not the answer to all problems. There are many weapons other than ballistic missiles which we need to guard against. But we need ballistic missile defence, and we need to develop it jointly in NATO, with Europeans and Americans deciding together how best to respond to threats to our shared security interests.

All those things are big issues. I hope I may be forgiven, even in Brussels, for doubting the relevance to them of the matters that are proposed for discussion at the EU’s Inter-Governmental Conference. I am encouraged by signs of increasing realism. By the dawning recognition that defence is a business where deeds count, not words. I hope that the unrealistic talk we’ve heard of EU defence guarantees has now been set aside. The decision that we have taken at Berlin to build the European Defence Identity within NATO was a victory for common sense.

We will have only one military structure in future, bringing together European and North American defence capabilities in the organisation that was created for that purpose – which is NATO.

The arrangements that we have put in place will give the Europeans a credible military instrument for use on those missions where NATO, for whatever reason, decides not to take the lead.

But I am depressed by continuing pressure for institutional change. The pressure to subordinate the WEU to the European Union, which puts at risk what was achieved at Berlin. There is pressure too for an EU common defence policy – though nobody has defined what that means – and for an EU common defence.

Those who want that, have already the most convincing common defence in history – in the Atlantic Alliance. We have benefited from that for nearly fifty years: and it does not need to be recreated now.

Britain will continue to play a constructive part in the Inter- Governmental Conference, at Dublin and beyond. But we will oppose anything that weakens NATO, and thus weakens Europe’s security.


There is one area where Europe can certainly do better. We have a duty to spend our money wisely. To buy the defence systems most relevant to tomorrow’s needs, and to avoid money being wasted on unnecessary duplication.

We have to improve our track record on armaments collaboration. I firmly believe that no country has a better record in this than Britain. We have proved to be a reliable partner. We participated in the Tornado aircraft project; the most successful European collaborative project ever. Nearly a thousand Tornados are flying today.

We are participating in Europe’s two largest current projects; Eurofighter and the Horizon frigate. We have 25 collaborative projects with France; and 22 such projects with Germany.

We spend more than a billion dollars a year on collaborative projects. But there is still fragmentation, overmanning, short production runs, and national protectionism. Organisationally we have got to do better than we have done on Eurofighter, where the delays are endangering that excellent aircraft’s competitiveness, and its prospects for exports.

European industry should, therefore, think about a how to restructure itself so that more equipment can be produced collaboratively, allowing longer production runs in Europe. But such projects require proper commercial structures and firm management grip. We have to improve on the stops and starts of past experience.

NATO Enlargement

The Common Foreign and Security Policy speaks of building peace and security. But it is equally committed to securing our common values. To developing and consolidating democracy and the rule of law, and the respect for human rights and for the fundamental freedoms.

Those are areas where the European Union can and should make a real contribution. In its aid and assistance programmes. In its economic and trade relations. In increasing co-operation in the fight against international crime and in the work towards building democratic systems founded on the principles of liberal democracy.

The European Union’s most important task is to make a success of its enlargement to the East. Healing the historic divisions which have scarred our continent.

Such efforts are complementary to the adaptation of NATO, since its enlargement is also a part of the process of building security in Europe, and consolidating the gains of democracy.

There is much gnashing of teeth about NATO enlargement by those who fear they will not be amongst the first new members of NATO, and by those who would rather not see enlargement happen at all.

But enlargement is not a new phenomenon. Nor will the next stage of enlargement close the door to future applicants.

Britain, the historic home of parliamentary democracy, is one of the most committed advocates of enlargement of NATO. And we shall be keen to ensure that the Alliance holds to its timetable.

Enlargement will be discussed by NATO Ministers in December. Decisions will be taken at a Summit next year to invite a number of countries to begin accession negotiations. And I hope NATO will be able to welcome its first new members in 1999, the year of its 50th anniversary.

Those are decisions for the applicant countries and for NATO alone.


But we recognise that Russia is fundamental to the equilibrium in Europe. NATO and Russia must build a strategic partnership, founded on substance. We need to build a new security architecture with Russia. No-one can describe exactly what the building is going to look like when finished. And for the moment Russians, even Russian Defence Ministers, have many other things on their mind.

But each journey begins with a step, and there are steps that we should take now. The Russian cooperation with IFOR in Bosnia has required us to establish liaison arrangements through an exchange of officers. Those arrangements can be made permanent and indeed they can be broadened.

We have not yet succeeded in exploiting the opportunities for joint work with Russia offered by Partnership for Peace. We should plan together for joint military missions in future. We should make it the norm for NATO to consult Russia on changes in which Russia could have an interest. And we should discuss together cooperation on countering terrorism, countering drug trafficking, fighting organised crime and weapons proliferation.

If enough of substance emerges from all that it could be formalised in a Charter between Russia and NATO, and it could be accompanied by a revised CFE Treaty to meet the new strategic realities.

Partnership for Peace

In parallel, we must enhance Partnership for Peace with other nations.

The Partnership has proved more successful, more quickly, than we could ever have expected. It is now a permanent element of the European security structure architecture.

We can build on that success. We should strengthen PfP’s political dimension, allowing consultations between individual Partners and NATO on a much wider range of issues than today.

We should also broaden its military dimension. NATO should prepare with Partners for more challenging military tasks, including peace enforcement. We need to be rigorous in ensuring that we get value and that we learn lessons from the exercises that we mount together. We should now avoid things which are largely “window – dressing”, and put the emphasis on work that produces a broad improvement in Partners’ performance and in our ability to achieve results together.

We should allow Partners more input into NATO’s work and allow them to move towards participation in NATO’s integrated defence planning process, the process that lies at the heart of the Alliance.


The fact that we can talk of such relationships – of a new relationship with Russia – emphasises how different the world has become.

But history shows that our optimism has a habit of getting the better of us. Periods of war or of tension, are followed sooner or later by complacency. We allow our guard to slip. Catastrophe ensues; but a slightly higher investment in defence and an unambiguous commitment to political willpower could have prevented that from happening.

If in the coming years we were able to escape that descent into unreadiness and sloth, we would have exceeded the achievement of most preceding generations.

The Alliance has unmatched capabilities. They have secured for us 50 years of peace. And, today, hard defence must remain at NATO’s core.

Michael Portillo – 1996 Speech on Security in Europe and Asia

Below is the text of a speech made by the then Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Portillo, at the Australian Defence Force Academy on 9th September 1996.

Rudyard Kipling, that most prolific of writers on Asia, once wrote:

“East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet”.

Such a view could not be further from the UK’s position. The Asia-Pacific region is increasingly important both politically and in terms of global trade. One third of the world’s population lives here. It produces one quarter of the world’s gross product. Over the last decade the Western Pacific share of world trade has risen from 16% to nearly a quarter. The exports of the South East Asian countries have risen by over 200% since 1990. It has become a cliché to speak of the 21st century as being the Pacific century.

The UK is highly conscious of these trends and we have worked hard to engage ourselves in this strategic evolution. Contrastingly, some of our key interests and links are very long standing. We retain strong historic and Commonwealth ties in the area, not least with Australia, and are determined to maintain and enhance them. Another constant in the region is the relationship with the United States, particularly in the security context. I shall say more about that later.

As in the rest of the world, disturbing security challenges face this region. Ethnic and territorial disputes, often fed by extremism. Creeping proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Earlier this year the situation between Taiwan and China threatened to escalate beyond the capacity of international community’s control. The stand- off between North and South Korea continues. The overlapping claims to islands in the South China Sea are another potential flashpoint.

Britain, like others, aims to contribute to the stability of the region. Confidence building is central to that stability. The countries of the region need to develop their dialogue with one another. This is above all true for China.

We wish to see a peaceful, stable Korean peninsula. We strongly support the US initiative announced on 16 April for four party talks. And we fully support the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation, and were the first European country to make a financial contribution.

Security is a much broader concept than defence. Security begins with democracies, since democratic countries rarely go to war with each other. We aim to develop ties between peoples and between their governments across the range of activities: in aid and assistance programmes; in trade relations; and in assistance provided to others in the resolution of conflicts and disputes, or the building of democratic systems based on the principles of liberal democracy and the rule of law.

Military activities have a narrower focus but have a role to play in underpinning some of these efforts, with programmes to provide military training, personnel exchanges and higher level staff contacts.

Regional confidence and stability can be bolstered by the implementation of, and strict adherence to, multilateral arms control and non-proliferation agreements. We are very grateful for the very positive role that Australia has played in working for chemical and toxic weapons bans and towards securing a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

We hope that the countries of Asia will support it and become early partners to that Treaty.

Increased transparency in defence matters can help to break down suspicions that countries sometimes have about their neighbours’ intentions. Some have expressed concern about a new arms race starting in this region. Publishing Defence White Papers helps to allay some of those concerns. The more detailed and credible the White Paper is, the better. Australia has given a very positive lead.

The signing of the border agreement between Russia and China and three Central Asian states in April this year is another example of the kind of steps that help countries feel more secure.

We see a significant role for the ASEAN Regional Forum in contributing to security contacts in the region. It is progressing faster than many expected. Its membership is unique and, with the welcome inclusion of India, it now covers all the major powers in the area.

I will not list exhaustively the defence arrangements in the region that we consider essential to increasing stability. But I will mention three:

The US presence and engagement, which are fundamental to the region’s security. We strongly welcome their continued determination to play this key role.

Second, the UK is firmly and enthusiastically committed to the Five Power Defence Arrangements.

And thirdly, we welcome the recently established security agreement between Australia and Indonesia. I look forward to hearing more about that during my visit.

In considering the security issues facing the Pacific region, there are some similarities to the scene in Europe. Similarities both of opportunity and of threat. The key opportunities are presented by the end of the Cold War. In Europe, the political landscape continues to be remodelled. In some areas, the dismantling of what stood before has had tragic results, as in Bosnia. But elsewhere, the picture is much more encouraging. Every day liberal democracy and the rule of law are consolidated in central and eastern Europe. Economic reforms are starting to bear fruit. Already we see growth of around 5% in some of the leading nations.

The end of the global confrontation between totalitarian communism and liberal democracy has unshackled human potential. Cambodia and Vietnam, as much as Romania and Bulgaria, are now enjoying an end to the straitjacket of opposing political blocks. In such openings there are opportunities for trading nations like Britain and Australia.

But those opportunities go hand in hand with responsibilities. Neither of our countries has shrunk from them.

We were both involved along with military personnel from 32 other nations in Cambodia under the auspices of the United Nations Transition Authority between 1991 and 1993. The operation, led by Australian Lieutenant General John Sanderson, remains a fine example of international peacekeeping.

We are clear that the continued engagement of the United States underpins security in both of our regions. The United States’ commitment is demonstrated by some 100,000 troops stationed across Europe and by the 100,000 or so in Asia. Britain and Australia have long been two of the United States’ staunchest allies.

The intimate intelligence links between the 3 countries – perhaps the best sign of trust between nations – and the close relationship between our navies bear the best testament to this. The US engagement is not philanthropy: America has vital strategic interests in both Europe and the Asia/Pacific region. But we must all work to keep that relationship relevant and robust.

In Europe, that means being part of a militarily effective and credible Atlantic Alliance. NATO is the most effective defensive alliance in history. In Bosnia, it has proved itself capable of meeting the challenges of the future. The integration of some 14 non-NATO nations into the peace implementation force – IFOR – demonstrates NATO’s ability to adapt.

IFOR and co-operation under the terms of the Partnership for Peace arrangement between NATO and 27 PfP countries in Europe have demonstrated the potential for meaningful co-operation in security.

For some of those 27 countries, partnership will lead to membership. NATO will enlarge. The allies have a responsibility to respond to those democratic, sovereign states who wish to join. In some aspects, that will simply mean returning to the historical family ties interrupted by the accident of the Cold War.

NATO will also change. Its military structures are already reduced from the days of the Cold War.

We are changing those structures still, so as to be able to cope better with the new more complex challenges to security. The campaign in Bosnia has shown the way. It has demonstrated not only what may need to be done but also that tackling security requires the widest possible coalition. In that sense the operation in Bosnia will have significant implications, especially for relations with Russia.

There can be no European or Asian security without taking Russia into account. Our links with Russia are increasing. Of course, we must expect to experience for some time the aftershocks of the collapse of the Soviet empire. Chechnya is an example. But nonetheless, I believe that reform and democracy are becoming entrenched. July’s Presidential elections in Russia was a clear milestone.

Our relationship with Russia must balance forthrightness and understanding We must be forthright about human rights and compliance with treaty commitments.

But at the same time we must understand the peaks and troughs that will inevitably occur on Russia’s path to reform. And we must understand Russia’s real security concerns and perspectives.

I also mentioned threats. The removal of the Cold War shadow has exposed disturbing new challenges. We see ethnic, religious and territorial disputes, often fed by extremism and by the creeping proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These are problems for civilised governments everywhere. North Korea and Iraq are just some of the obvious culprits. At the same time a number of longer-running problems also pose at least potential threats to security.

The tradition in the Pacific region is not of multilateral security organisations like NATO, but a web of bilateral relationships. However, I believe that part of the solution will be the development of broader security dialogues within and between our regions.

There is potentially a major role for the Organisation for Security and Co- operation in Europe and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

We need by all means to increase contact with China, a unique player in the strategic game. It stands alone in terms of size, economic and military potential and, arguably, its unreconstructed vision of its own future.

What contribution can a European power make to security in this region? And why should it do so?

Britain’s interests are global – much more so than many of our European neighbours. We are more dependent than they on world trade and investment – Britain is the world’s fifth largest trading nation and its third largest overseas investor. We export more per head of population than Japan or the USA. Inward investment provides almost 25% of the UK’s net output, with around 40% of our manufactured exports now being produced in Britain by foreign-owned firms. Incidentally, Australia is currently the third largest foreign investor in the UK.

Our economic relationship with the Asia-Pacific region is growing strongly. We are the biggest European investor in the region and by far the biggest European recipient of investment from it. We are the leading exporter of invisibles and number two in visibles. British visible exports to the region have increased by 70% since 1990 and now account for over a third of British exports outside the European Union. We fully expect our interests in the Asia- Pacific region to continue to grow strongly.

Apart from our global trading interests, there are Britons living and working all over the world. There are around 6 million UK nationals in the Asia- Pacific region. For a country with a population of around 50 million at home, that represents a powerful interest.

Stability and freedom of trade worldwide are important considerations for the UK and directs our thinking in defence terms.

Our specific security links and responsibilities in the region are Hong Kong, the Five Power Defence Arrangements and Brunei. We also regularly train with our many friends in the region, and make periodic naval deployments to the area. The next – OCEAN WAVE 97 – will depart from the UK early next year. We shall transfer sovereignty in Hong Kong to China on 30 June next year. But our wider interest in regional security will not diminish. Our overall approach will remain very much the same.

The Five Power Defence Arrangements will be the focus of our military presence in the region. The Arrangements are increasingly valuable as the scope of their trading and exercises develops. I am delighted that in the near future the Headquarters of the Integrated Air Defence System will be installed with the latest state of the art command, control and communications equipment.

I will see our Forces operating together when I visit the Five Power Defence Arrangements exercise – EXERCISE STARFISH – off Malaysia later this week. But I am particularly pleased that we shall be holding a combined joint air and maritime exercise, EXERCISE FLYING FISH, next year. We will be sending a sizeable contribution to this. It will include a Carrier, HMS ILLUSTRIOUS, which will act as the command platform for the maritime element of the exercise; 2 Frigates; a Destroyer; a nuclear powered Submarine; 5 Tornado F3s; 5 Tornado GR1s; an E3D AWACS Sentry; and 2 Nimrod Maritime Patrol Aircraft. That represents a sizeable commitment and contains some of our latest and most effective equipment.

We aim to make a major contribution to military training in the region; in 1995/1996 alone we committed over £1.5 million in the form of courses in the United Kingdom and loan service personnel.

We have Defence memoranda of understanding with many countries in the region, including all the countries of ASEAN bar Vietnam. I spoke earlier about the ASEAN Regional Forum. As you know, we do not consider its membership to be quite complete. We believe that Britain has an important contribution to make. We already participate through our membership of the European Union. But we are keen to contribute more through a national seat. Three of the Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council are already members of the ASEAN Regional Forum, and we would like to see all five.

Britain has a range of multilateral experience – through NATO, the Commonwealth, the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Co- operation in Europe – to offer to the ASEAN Regional Forum. Like Australia, we have extensive experience of peacekeeping. We are particularly encouraged by, and grateful for, the Australian government’s support of our request to join the Forum.

Perhaps Britain’s experience of confidence-building measures in Europe, our involvement in conflict prevention globally and our long-standing ties in the Asia-Pacific region could contribute too.

I cannot let this opportunity go by without saying a few words about the value we place upon the strong bilateral defence relationship between Britain and Australia.

The ties between our Armed forces are long standing. Men and women from our armed forces have served together in both World Wars and share a common ethos, history and understanding.

The ties remain close at all levels. The contacts between our senior staff are frequent and open. We regularly have exchanges of personnel on training courses. We have extremely valuable intelligence links.

Britain and Australia, with the United States, should take the lead in promoting interoperability in the region.

In conclusion, there will be many challenges to face over the coming months and years, both in Europe and Asia-Pacific. Contrary to Kipling’s belief, however, East and West are now inextricably intertwined. It is a time of great opportunity. Britain and Australia have a common interest in pursuing regional peace and security, working together, both bilaterally and in international fora, to find solutions to tomorrow’s problems.

John Major – 1996 Speech to Businessmen in London


Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to businessmen in London on Wednesday 10th January 1996. A copy of the press release following the speech is available at

Peter, Good Morning and thank you for taking the trouble to organise this event. It has been such a quiet and dull political period over Christmas that I have been looking forward to this morning with great anticipation.

As you said a moment or so ago, Peter, we have gathered here in this room a very substantial number of the most senior businessmen representing the largest corporations and newspapers throughout the United Kingdom. Here are many of the people who make many of the crucial decisions about where investment goes and what actually happens to the future prosperity of this country. And so I want to spend most of the time speaking to you this morning about matters economic in one form or another, and then leave as much time as possible for you to ask the questions that concern you.

Let me just back-track for a few moments and look over the last years to perhaps put today and tomorrow in a slightly better context. No-one doubts how difficult the last few years have been, the recession was longer than it was expected, it was deeper than we expected, it had a more profound psychological effect upon thinking in this country than many people anticipated when it began or even as it continued and seemed at one stage to be going on almost forever.

Not just of course a problem for the United Kingdom, it was a recession that spread throughout all of the Western world and some parts of the rest of the business world as well. But it is behind us now and what I want people to concentrate on at the moment are the circumstances that face us at the moment and to wipe away the mindset that we have had for so much of the past 3 or 4 years.

There is a tendency in human nature generally that if things are difficult they are going to go on being difficult forever; if things are excellent they are going to go on being benevolent forever. Neither of those things are true. We did have, as a country, in company with the rest of Western Europe, a very difficult economic period. But we have actually been out of recession technically for over 2 years and in reality out of recession quite substantially for a very substantial period now.

What we need to do is to look at where we are, uncluttered by the memories of what happened, and look at the prospects that lie immediately ahead of us at the present time. And I say that because if we don’t do that, if we, government and business, leave ourselves with the mindset of 1992 and 1993 then we will miss the opportunities of 1997 and the years that follow it.

Let me try and break some of the distorting prism of opinion that occasionally entraps people when they think about our prospects. I suppose you might call it an alternative news summary, some of the things that get less publicity than they might unless they appear in a brown sealed envelope.

You touched upon some of them, Peter. Inflation probably, I think certainly, under more secure lock and key than we have known certainly in my political lifetime, and I don’t just mean in Parliament, I mean since I first entered politics as a 16 year old. We are certainly going to be well within our inflation targets. I suspect if the election is when I anticipate it will be that we will have met our 2.5 percent target that we set ourselves for inflation by the time we reach the next election. It is no longer, almost for the first time in the memory of most of the people round this room, a material problem to future investment because there is an acceptance that inflation is now under proper control.

If we have broken the inflationary psychology, and I pray that we have, then both in the short term and the long term I think that is one of the most remarkable and benevolent changes for British industry and commerce that we have seen literally for decades.

Secondly, interest rates, not quite at an historic low, but certainly by comparison with most of the last quarter of a century low and no serious risk in the short term that they are going to be significantly higher and we hope, all things being well, that it may be possible to reduce them.

Mortgages at their lowest level for 30 years. Unemployment now having fallen for 26 months in a row, down to 8 percent. Our nearest neighbours, perhaps the closest economy – France – with unemployment stuck at around 12.8 percent, no major European economy having either unemployment as low as us in the United Kingdom or, and perhaps this is a better measure, no other major European country with as high a proportion of its adult population in work as we have in the United Kingdom. We have now beaten Germany on both those counts for the first time that I can! ever remember. And of course tax at its lowest level we have seen for 50 years.

Now that wasn’t easy to achieve. It didn’t happen by magic. It did happen because throughout the past 3 or 4 years, often when we were invited to take decisions that would have been popular in the short term but damaging in the long term, we didn’t take those damaging long term decisions, instead we took the short term unpopularity and as a result of that we have the economic opportunities that lie immediately ahead of us at present.

They are opportunities, they are yet to be taken, but I believe they are opportunities that put us well on track for the doubling of living standards in 20 years that I set out as our objective 18 months or so ago.

Let us look at some of the other indicators that are now becoming apparent. At last, much slower, much later than I would have hoped, we are beginning to see house prices having increased for each of the last 5 months. After having had to put up taxes because of the size of the fiscal deficit, and it was frankly a choice between taxes going up or interest rates going up, and think it was right to deal with it, taxes are reversible when the time is right and we now have personal taxation back I hope on a downward trend. Sales rising. And although it isn’t directly an economic matter, it affects many people in this room, for the first time in 40 years the clearest possible indication that crime is now on a downward trend. And for those cynics who say, and there are sadly cynics in public life, that the crime statistics are rubbish, it is simply that people are not reporting crime, I would refer them to the insurance companies and the statistics that they have released for theft of motor cars for example. Because I think it is very hard to argue that anyone who has had their motor car stolen would not actually report it to the insurance company in order to make a claim. And that shows a distinct downward trend as well and you can see that elsewhere across crime.

If I may make some other points. We have, despite the criticism of privatisation, the best single method of giving people a personal stake in society I would have thought, a shareholding stake in society, despite the criticism there has been of the privatised industries, some of it justified, some of it not, the reality is that the price of utilities, crucial to the living standards of people right across this country, are more stable than we have known them at any stage before and in most of the cases, in real terms, the price is actually falling.

And if I may make a political point for a moment. That has been achieved over the past 4 years with a tiny parliamentary majority, all of which, as we have occasionally seen, not absolutely steady on parade on every single occasion, it has been achieved in a hostile economic environment and with a totally opportunistic and destructive political opposition.

We have immediately ahead of us some legislation that is crucial for the future. It is very fashionable to take the view that there is an empty legislative programme. I don’t regard a Finance Bill that cuts taxes as being empty; I don’t regard an Education Bill that extends opportunity and choice as being empty; I don’t regard a Broadcasting Bill that begins to prepare us better than we have been prepared for, for the IT revolution that is taking place as being empty; neither do I regard the rest of the parliamentary programme as being anything other than absolutely necessary.

We are now within 16 months or so of a general election. And if the principal opposition party can force it, of course they would like that election a good deal earlier. And I will tell you why. They would like the election earlier because like me they know they know that the economy is improving, they know that that is beginning to become apparent to people, they know that there is now going to be a rising level of net disposable income and people will feel noticeably better than they have done in the past and they would like to have the election early before that becomes increasingly apparent to people up and down the country.

But there is at this election a great deal at stake, not just the protection of the remarkable changes that have been made throughout the last 16 years, not just the protection of those for they have made to our competitiveness a dramatic difference over that period, but much else besides. And I would say to those people who may be tempted by an alternative, it is a very dangerous proposition to play Russian roulette with all the barrels loaded, and no-one should assume that the advances that we have made would be safe with any alternative government. So people, not just business, but people up and down this country have a great deal to lose if they decide upon a reckless gamble of that sort.

Let me touch upon some of those points and then I want to come to something which is very current at the present time. Benign circumstances, certainly; huge opportunities for the future, beyond a doubt, but they won’t necessarily be there with the wrong policies or with the wrong government. Does one really accept, do the people out there in the country really believe that Gordon Brown would have the same rigorous control over inflation that we have accepted, with great political unpopularity? Do people really believe that Robin Cook would defend our position in Europe with the same vigour that we have done over recent years? Are there people present who believe that Margaret Beckett is so concerned about competitiveness that she would ditch her personal wish to return much of the old trade union legislation that existed in the past? Is there anyone present, or indeed in the country, who seriously believes that Jack Straw would take a tougher line on crime than Michael Howard?

Well I don’t think that there are. I could go on, I have overlooked John Prescott. Now I come to think of it, this is one of the things Tony Blair and I have in common because we both overlook John Prescott, I don’t invite him to meetings either and I appreciate why Tony doesn’t.

It is worth concentrating on the fact that a government requires 18 Members in the House of Commons and something up to 30 in the House of Lords. And the mindset of most of our opponents, there may be a leader with one view but where is the heart of the party elsewhere? While the majority of the Labour Party still sings the red flag, the Leader may be humming Mandelson rather than the red flag, but the instinct of the party is where the instinct of the party has been in the past.

Over the last few months it has been interesting to try and see the way in which political programmes for the future have been set out and I will return to our plans for making the United Kingdom the enterprise centre of Europe in a few moments. But just a few days ago, in Japan, the Leader of the Labour Party set out his plans for what he called a stakeholder society. It is not entirely clear what he meant by that. As with his reversal of Clause 4, there was a hint in his speech and his spin-doctors then explained what it was that he might have meant by what it was that he almost said.

But a stakeholder society is either a soundbite too many or alternatively it is the beginnings of the return to some form of corporate society. And I will set out for you why I believe that is so. Perhaps it is meaningless, who can tell? We certainly in the past have frequently seen spin-doctors elaborating on what has been said, that is the style of the Labour Party. But if it is old-style corporatism then I think we had better flush that out before people just overlook it and we skim on. Because what that potentially is is very damaging for the United Kingdom.

Who are the stakeholders to be? Are the stakeholders to be 30-odd million adults? And if they are to be the stakeholders, why are they not to be stakeholders in the form we have built up over the last 16 years, with their own personal pensions, with their own homes, with the lowest level of taxation, with shareholdings, more shareholders now than there are trade unionists in this country? That is a genuine stake. People have a real interest, literally a share in this nation that is personally theirs and not determined by some other body on their behalf telling them that they, the body, are looking after their interests for them.

But if the stakeholders, as I suspect from what we hear, are quite different bodies then we are in a different ballgame. And I rather suspect, as so often, that Margaret Beckett was revealing the truth of what is planned when she said just the other day, and I quote: “There is growing concern that the many interest groups, in particular the general public, consumers and so on”, she wanted to soften it of course, “are excluded from some of the thinking in industry in the past and there is a general exploration of how we can create more common ground, how we can make sure that all interests are taken into account when we look at stakeholders.”

Well I will tell you who they really mean. They mean the special interest groups, they mean the trade unions, they mean the people that so often are covered by so much of the social chapter type of thinking in this country. That is what I suspect they mean when they actually talk about stakeholders.

What I believe we are seeing is the tip of a plan which is nothing better than a fancy packaging for new burdens on business of one sort or another. And although some of those burdens that have already been apparent that sound benign, they are not. A minimum wage does sound benign, particularly to those who are very poorly paid, but it is not benign because it often means that those who are poorly paid would not be paid in a job at all if you had a minimum wage legislation. A training levy, which I think would be a great mistake to introduce. The social chapter – the problem with the social chapter is twofold, it is not just what is in the social chapter at the moment, damaging enough though that is, the real danger were the United Kingdom to sign up to the social chapter in Europe and leave it free across the whole of Europe is not so much what is in it now but what would then be brought into the social chapter because that is the ambition of nearly all the rest of our European partners to bring much of their domestic social legislation, under the social chapter heading, in order to remove their competitive disadvantage against the United Kingdom in particular and other countries in general.

And I will not sign up to that, and I will not sign up to that for a moral reason and I will tell you the moral reason. When our political opponents talk of the social chapter they talk of it in very benign terms from the point of view of someone who is in work getting greater protection. Well I gloss over the fact that few of them would be in work. But I would put this question to you.

If you make it more expensive to employ people who are in work, the employer will firstly employ less and it will be correspondingly more difficult for those not in work ever to get themselves into work. It is politicians across Europe, using employers’ money to buy popularity for themselves and the losers are the people not in work who, as a result of that, might never get into work or certainly would have their chance of getting into work greatly reduced.

And I have to tell you, I don’t just think that is economically wrong, I think that is plain immoral when you actually look at what the practical effect would be. Right the way across the European Union there is too much unemployment. 20 million or so adults in the European Union are unemployed. And if you look at the trend from 1950 onwards, it doesn’t matter whether it is good days or bad days, boom or bust, you have had that underlying growth in unemployment. And why, when the rest of the world has been creating jobs? Because we have become relatively less competitive. It does not matter a tuppenny damn within the European Union if there are minor changes in competitiveness.

What does matter is if throughout the whole of the European Union we become less competitive to Japan, to the United States, to Latin America, to the Pacific Basin countries, and that over 30 years is what has been happening. And that is the matter, the principal matter, that so many people in the European Union ought to be turning their mind to rather than so many of the narrow and institutional questions that have bothered people so much over the last few years.

Now let me turn to the ambitions that I would wish to see this country achieve. Let me firstly put our position in context. The government, on behalf of the public, spends at the moment about 42 percent of the national income. I compare that 42 percent to the average of 52 percent elsewhere in the European Union – 52 percent elsewhere, 42 percent here. But that 42 percent also needs to be compared with our other competitors around the world, and it is too high, and the expenditure plans that we have will bring it down below 40 percent and then I believe there is scope to reduce it a little further, though precisely how far I wouldn’t care to judge at this moment, but certainly we will get it down below 40 percent and then lower still if we can to open up the prospects of greater competitiveness and lower tax burden on both industry and on individuals. And I believe that is eminently achievable providing we keep a proper grip on inflation and the sort of economic policies that we have followed over the past few years.

Where are the priorities? When? And I make no promise about the date, nobody say I am making distinct tax promises, but let me set out the objectives that we will reach when it is affordable.

Certainly we retain the objective of a 20 pence basic rate of tax. I can offer you no promises of changing the 40 pence, I don’t think that is a priority and I don’t wish to pretend to you that it is. But to get a 20 pence basic rate of tax does seem to me to be a very attractive priority.

I think in terms of enterprise taxes, and I will have a lot to say about enterprise over the next few months so I won’t concentrate on too much of that this morning. But in terms of enterprise, as it becomes affordable, let me repeat what I have said in the past. I believe it is in the country’s interest, economic, socially and certainly in terms of competitiveness, to over time abolish both inheritance tax and capital gains tax. I believe that the impact that the change in those taxes will have on the flow of investment will be of great benefit to many of the people who will wish for themselves and their children to have secure and growing employment prospects. I know it will be criticised as being aid to fat cats, of course that is always the politics of envy argument that can be used. But the best aid to people is to make sure that they actually have the opportunity of a decent job with decent prospects for the future, and that doesn’t magically appear without using the private sector to generate the investment that is necessary. And if people themselves earn success and rewards for that investment, I am not going to object to that. I would prefer to look not at the gains that they may get but at the opportunities that that investment by then will provide for many other people to be in proper and gainful employment. So I see those changes.

Clearly there is a great deal more to be done on deregulation. It is, I have to tell you frankly, like wrestling with a greasy pig, every time you deregulate here there is a new regulation that pops up elsewhere that is often gold plated because the people determining the regulations say well if I don’t gold plate it and something happens to go wrong, when the inevitable inquiry occurs I will be blamed. And so there is a great deal of gold plating of regulation and I think business is right to be critical of that fact over the years and we must look further to see how we can deregulate.

I just want to indicate one other point about the social chapter. I said how damaging it could become, but let me just illustrate in terms of social on-costs what it might mean. You employers, many of you round here in the United Kingdom, for every 100 pounds in wages that you pay out you would pay out an extra 18 pounds in on-costs of one sort or another. In Germany it wouldn’t be 18 pounds, it would be 32 pounds. In Spain it would be 34 pounds. In France it would be 41 pounds. And in Italy it would be 44 pounds. Is it any surprise when you begin to hear those figures and see the reality of what it means, that we are the principal centre for inward investment across the whole of Europe and that it is this country that is creating new jobs and seeing unemployment fall, and our European partners who are losing jobs and seeing unemployment remain at a stubbornly high level?

We have immediately ahead of us, and because I wish to leave questions for it I will not enlarge on it in any detail, some crucially important decisions for this country. Just because we have an economy that is benign doesn’t mean there aren’t very big decisions to be taken. There will be important decisions on European matters on a number of fronts – the Intergovernmental Conference, the single currency in due course, difficult questions on defence and the way in which NATO evolves and also its relationship with the Western European Union and conceivably the European Union itself. And most crucial of all in many respects, the way in which enlargement of the European Union is itself handled, something that I regard of critical importance. Again, while so much of the debate and discussion has been about institutional matters within the existing Europe, the opportunity for this generation of politicians to fundamentally improve our security in the future by extending the borders of the European Union, of the free market and embracing in the democratic embrace of Western Europe lots of countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the opportunity for doing that is greater than we have known in the past, and if this generation of politicians misses that opportunity the time may come in the future when people would curse us for our short-sightedness in not having ensured democracy in those countries that only escaped from a communist embrace within the period of the last few years.

They are big questions, apart from the domestic questions of continually expanding and unfolding the entrance into what was once the secret garden of education so that parents have proper choice and opportunity. These are matters of crucial importance to our future, they are matters where the choice between the parties is very great.

You asked me, Peter, at the beginning, was this election there to be won, and the answer is yes it is. I have not a shred of doubt in my mind that the opinion poll figures are wholly illusory, neither do I have a shred of doubt in my mind that we can and that we will win that general election. Of course it is going to be a fight. I recall what I think it was John Paul Jones said when faced with a particularly difficult naval battle: “Fight”, he said, “I have not yet begun to fight”. And there is up to 16 months before the general election with a growing difference between the parties. The stakeholder speech the other day may well open red water between the two parties because I believe, if it means the corporatism I think it means, it is a fundamental political error that the Labour Party have just made.

So yes we are going to fight for this election, not just because we want another period of power, we have had 16 years of power, but we are going to fight for this election because we have built up in the last 16 years a greater stock of improvement in the life standards of the average Briton than we have seen in any 16 years of government by any political party at any stage in this century.

And I don’t wish to see that thrown away, I do wish to see it built on over the next few years, and I intend to see that it is and I intend to be there to do it.

John Major – 1996 Conservative Party Conference Speech


Madam Chairman, we’ve had a good week.

It’s been the week the Tory family came together – to renew the family contract with the British nation.

And through the week, colleague after colleague has set out fresh, detailed, new policy for the future.

There’ve been some marvellous speeches.

It’s been 21 years since Michael Heseltine first got a standing ovation at this conference. And no one has sat down since.

The well-being of our country is more important than any political party.

And the well-being of the Conservative Party is more important than any member of it.

So the lesson is clear. Everyone in the Conservative Party should work – and if I know them, will work – heart and soul, irrespective of personal interests, to secure the re-election of a Conservative Government.

Over the last two or three years there’s been attempt after attempt – by our opponents – to sully the reputation of our Party.

Well, I know this party.

No doubt it’s not perfect – nor is everyone in it.

But I grew up in it.

And that campaign won’t succeed.

Because this Party as a whole is straight and honourable and true and – like you – I’m proud to be a member of it.

Unlike Labour, we aren’t ashamed of our past.

Unlike Labour, we haven’t abandoned our principles.

Unlike Labour, we haven’t had to reinvent ourselves. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved.

Because, Madam Chairman, we’ve changed Britain – for the better.



When I became Prime Minister, I set out to make Britain a low inflation economy.

I knew what a fight it would be.

But we went for it. We took the flak.

No weakening. Heads down. We did what we always do when we’re challenged: we came out fighting.

And, as a result, we’ve had the longest run of low inflation this country has seen for a generation.

I want to thank my colleagues – and you – my party – for standing with me through that battle. Between us, we’ve transformed the prospects for our country.

And we did it with raw political gut.

We set out to create jobs. And we’re succeeding.

Unemployment is lower here than in any comparable country in Europe.

In Britain it’s falling.

In Europe it’s not.

Last year, this year, and next year we’re set to have higher growth here, in our country, than any big country in Europe.

Curiously enough, the Labour leader didn’t mention these successes in his flight of fancy last week.

Pages missing perhaps?

He just said the country was falling apart.

Inflation down.

Mortgages down.

Unemployment down.

Some fall.

Of course, there was a time when this country was falling apart. It was when we had a Labour Government.

So I’ve got some friendly advice for Mr Blair. If you knock your country, you’ll never lead it.

The plain truth is I’m the first Prime Minister for generations who can say “We’re the most competitive economy in Europe”.

And I intend to be the Prime Minister who builds on that success after we’ve won the next General Election.

Madam Chairman, at that election there’s a central question. It’s this: who can be trusted with the future?

Labour try to persuade people it’s them.

“We’re different” they say. “We’ve changed our name”.

“Rely on us – you know we’ve always been wrong in the past”.

Well, that’s candid – if a touch eccentric.

Trouble is, they’re wrong in the present as well.

And it simply won’t do for Mr Blair to say, “Look, I’m not a Socialist anymore. Now, can I be Prime Minister please?”.

Sorry Tony. Job’s taken.

And anyway, it’s too big a task for your first real job.

Mr Blair’s handlers are trying to spread the tale that he’s a very fierce dog indeed. Indeed, but also that he’s quite harmless.

Another eccentric messages, “Fierce dog – no teeth!”.

By the way, have you noticed how the less a politician has to say, the more over-heated the language in which he says it?

When every aim becomes – “a crusade”.

Every hope – “a dream”.

Every priority – “a passion”.

Then it’s time to duck from cover.

And when the whole show is laced with words like “tragedy”, “catastrophe”, “triumph” and “destiny” – terms with real meaning, but which, ransacked for political advantage, degrade the message – then I think of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “the louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons”.



Madam Chairman, I came into politics to open doors, not shut them.

They were opened for me.

I was born in the war.

My father was 66. My mother was – how shall I put it? Surprised.

We were like millions of others. Not well off, but comfortable, until financially the roof fell in.

Nothing special about that.

But for us, it changed our life.

My mother coped – as women do.

I left school at 16, because 5 pounds a week mattered.

I learnt something from that experience. In the game of life, we Tories should even up the rules.

Give people opportunity and choice, to open up an avenue of hope in their lives.

And by “people”, I don’t mean “some people”. I mean everyone.

Opportunity for all.

It’s in the bloodstream of our party.

It was Shaftesbury who gave an education to thousands of children from poor homes.

It was Disraeli who gave many working men the freedom to vote.

It was Salisbury who brought free education within the reach of almost every family in England.

All Tories.

And it was Margaret Thatcher – another Tory, as you may know, who sold council houses and public industries, giving people a real stake in this country.

Giving people opportunity marks the great divide in British politics.

In its heart, Old Labour, New Labour, any old Labour still believe that Government knows best.

I don’t.

But then, I’m a Conservative.

I believe we should give families opportunity and choice and a wider, warmer view of life.

Our belief in choice is the driving force of our policy – its not a political ploy; for me it’s the core of what I believe in.



I start with education.

There are millions of children in our country. All unique. Everyone an original: different skills, different talents, different needs.

Should each child – with all his or her originality – be made to fit into a regimented education system?

Or should we design an education system to fit the originality of the child?

We of course we should.

So our task is to provide a rich choice of schools and colleges, giving the best to every child and demanding the best of every child.

And who should choose the right schools for those children?

The Government?

The bureaucrat in Whitehall?

The councillor in the Town Hall?

Or the parents, who love and care for those children?

Of course it’s the parents.

Wherever possible, they should choose.

We’re improving that choice every year.

And we intend to widen it further.

So, I make this promise:

If parents want more grant-maintained schools – they shall have them.

More specialist schools – we’ll provide them.

More selection – they’ll have it. Why should government say “no” if parents think it’s right for their children?

And if parents want grammar schools in every town – so do I, and they shall have them.

We grammar school boys – and girls, Gillian – believe in choice for parents.

That means parents shouldn’t face a choice between one bad school and another.

What kind of choice is that?

I’ll tell you.

It’s the kind of choice you get in Islington – unless you move out of the borough.

We’re going to change that. That’s why this autumn, as Gill Shepherd told you, we’ll turn today’s promises into tomorrow’s reality with a flagship Education Bill.

We want high standards in every school.

It’s why we set up the National Curriculum. It’s why we insist on tests.

Without tests, how can you know what a child hasn’t learned?

And how can parents be sure how well their children – of their school – are doing?

When we insisted on giving that information to parents, John Prescott called it “Political Propaganda”.

Just pause and think about that for a moment. It tells you a lot.

Information to parents about their children – and the Deputy Leader of New Labour calls it “Political Propaganda”.

Well, well. If education’s a passion for Labour, it’s a passion that dare not speak its results.



While on education, I want to say a word about sport.

Firstly, well done England on Wednesday. More please.

And well done Scotland. I hear it was no effort at all. But you’d have won anyway.

Last year, at this conference, I told you of my determination to restore sport, and particularly team sport, to the heart of school life.

It’s natural and healthy for young people at school to have their sporting heroes and heroines: sportsmen and women whom they can choose as role models.

So with the enthusiastic help of the Sports Councils, I’m going to set up a team of Sporting Ambassadors – widely drawn from the best role models in sports, our leading athletes, past and present – who’ll visit schools and talk to pupils, teaching staff, school governors and parents, to enthuse and inspire and encourage.

To work up the scheme, I have asked that legendary England cricketer – that man for all seasons – Sir Colin Cowdrey – to chair a small committee whose members will be drawn from the elite of the sporting and academic worlds. Colin is here today and I want you to thank him for agreeing to do this.

His committee will announce their conclusions by Christmas, and I intend that the scheme will be up and running in schools in the coming academic year.

Colin scored nearly 8,000 runs for England. Now he’s going to inspire nearly 8 million boys and girls who might want to play, compete and represent their country.

I want them to enjoy sport. And they’ll enjoy it more if they play to win.

Take it from me – winning is fun.



There are those who believe in the self-before-everyone, grab-what-you-can school of thought. They may find opportunity for all an odd philosophy.

But it’s ours.

And for the last 17 years we’ve followed it.

We’ve cut direct tax, given more and more people the opportunity to save, to own shares, own pensions, own homes.

More than ever before, we’ve given families more independence and more freedom to choose.

As a result, millions have become owners of homes, savings, shares and pensions.

But not enough yet.

Madam Chairman, in our next 5 years, we will seek new opportunities: an opportunity owning democracy.

Helping more people save and build security for retirement.

Helping people who need care keep more of those savings.

We’re aiming for the least possible tax to give the greatest possible choice.

As we can afford it, we’ll move to a 20p basic rate for all. That’s our priority.

We know that cutting taxes isn’t government giving anything back to people.

It’s the government taking away less of people’s own money.

That’s why low taxes are right.

We don’t want to soak the tax payer.

Labour often say they want to soak the rich.

But they’re the only party in history who also regularly manage to soak the poor.

And sometimes no taxes are right. So, to encourage wealth creation for the future, we’ll reduce and then abolish Capital Gains Tax.

Many people in our country build up savings long after they’ve enough for their own needs.

One reason they do that is to pass on the fruits of their life’s work to their children and grandchildren.

This is a powerful, human emotion.

So, over time, our next target is to remove the burden of inheritance tax.

Building wealth for the many, not for the few.



People treasure independence. Their own independence. The State is the last option, not the first.

The more independence, the less reliance. The less reliance, the more we can help those in real need.

There are many demands we must meet.

Health – as science provides more treatment.

Social services – as we improve care.

We’ve always accepted this responsibility.

But as we accept responsibility, so must people themselves.

Dependency must be about needs, not culture.

I can’t stand the welfare cheats. I’ll tell you why. They deprive those in real need.

We’re determined that taxpayers’ money goes where it’s needed.

Our task is to build a welfare system for the 21st century.

A system for a self-help society – not a help-yourself society.

And one way of building independence is to get more people back to work.

We’re now doing that on a scale that’s the envy of Europe – partly because we refuse to make political gestures that cost jobs. That’s why I say “No” to the minimum wage and “No” to the Social Chapter.

The minimum wage is the wage of the dole queue.

It’s not a wage at all.

How can you talk of a Social Chapter that makes it more difficult for people to find work.

That’s why I say they’re no-go areas for jobs and no-go areas for us.

It’s business not government that creates jobs.

But government can help the unemployed.

Last year I announced our plans to develop a Contract For Work.

This week we Tories took a big step forward with the start of our new Job Seekers Allowance.

We don’t want to pay people to stay on the dole. We do want to help them get back into work.

So first we’re going to help those who’ve been out of work the longest. They’re the people for whom the barriers to opportunity are highest.

First, we give them help to find a job and if that doesn’t succeed, they’ll be offered work on a community project.

For many it’s just the motivation they need.

But it also shows up those who don’t want to work. I think that’s right.

So over the next year we’ll be extending the scheme to towns and cities across the country.

This is part of building a welfare system we can afford. One that goes with the grain of the British nation. Fair to those in need. And fair to those who pay the bills.



Madam Chairman, every year, someone writes to The Times to say he has heard the first cuckoo of spring.

And every year at the Labour conference, some cuckoo distorts out commitment to the National Health Service.


Our NHS is unique.

In this country, when you’re ill, we take your temperature.

In other countries, they take your credit card. While I’m in Downing Street, that will never happen here.

That doesn’t mean that National Health Service shouldn’t change. It must. If it were fossilised, it would decline.

I saw that clearly the other day when Norma and I visited a doctor’s surgery – in Glossop actually.

The family doctor is the gateway to the Health Service. More people see their doctor than anyone else.

This was a fundholding practice – part of our reforms – and, in its own small way, an example of the quiet revolution of the NHS.

Waiting lists have been slashed.

People no longer has to trek to the district hospital.

More services were available. Osteopathy, acupuncture, Alexander technique, counselling, nursing, physiotherapy and occupational-therapy posts created. Community Care improved. More money spend on patients, not paperwork.

Tory policy working for the patient.

Now, this practice is one of the very best. But that excellent service could be the future everywhere.

Our task is to make it so.

And this autumn, Stephen Dorrell will introduce a Bill to do just that – giving family doctors greater freedom to develop local services in their surgeries – creating a new generation of cottage hospitals all over Britain.

And that’s only half of it. In the Autumn, Stephen will set out our ambitious plans to build the National Health Service for the 21st Century.

And Labour’s vision? Stuck in the past and stuck in the mud – as usual. They plan to end fundholding.

What ideological madness. Do you know what that would mean? I learnt in Glossop. It would mean that those new clinical posts, new nurses, new physiotherapists, the new occupational therapist – all these would go.

New Labour, no new services.

But, in the NHS we must always try to improve our services.

So, before the end of this year, we’ll unveil new plans to help mentally ill people followed by new plans to reform social care for children, disabled people and the elderly.

More practical Tory measures.

And looking a little further ahead, I still hear too many stories of politically correct absurdities that prevent children being adopted by loving couples who would give them a good home. If that is happening, we should stop it.

Madam Chairman, for over 17 years, through thick and thin, we Conservatives have found extra money for the NHS.

It’s become a habit.

So today, I give you a Health Service Guarantee.

Our Manifesto pledge that the NHS will get more, over and above inflation, year … on year … on year … on year … on year … through the next Conservative Government.



Earlier this week, Michael Howard set out our new plans to fight crime. But there’s two things I’d like to add.

Firstly, in a few weeks, we’ll published new plans to deal with younger offenders.

They’re a real problem.

We must spot school age children turning to crime and stop them in their tracks early on.

One theme of our plans will be to make them repair the hurt they’ve done. And we’ll have some new ideas.

But today, let me tell you of our plans for young tearaways who are out of control.

We only want them in institutions if it’s really necessary.

But if they don’t deserve that punishment – severe for young people – they mustn’t think they can offend and get away with it.

Over the last year, we’ve been testing an electronic way of tagging offenders so we can confine them to their homes, and know that that curfew is being kept.

It’s worked. We think it will work on younger offenders as well – so, we’ll try that too.

If we know a young trouble maker is out there, night after night, disturbing the peace and committing crimes, we’ll make sure the courts have the power to order him to stay put. At home – off the streets.

And the tag around his ankle – that can’t be removed – will raise the alert the moment he tries to go out.

If he can’t go out on Friday and Saturday nights with his mates it might cool him down a bit. If he can’t watch his football team on Saturday, let me say it plain. That’s his fault. Not mine, not yours, his. And it’s time the buck stopped where the responsibility lies. No-one will miss the hooligan on the terrace.

And he might just learn the lesson.

And that will help him – as well as us.



Earlier this week, the IRA once spat their hate at the British nation.

Many good people tell me I shouldn’t bother with Northern Ireland. “No votes in it” they say. Maybe not. But there are lives in it.

And that’s why I bother.

I don’t believe Northern Ireland will leave the United Kingdom, nor do I wish it to.

But I know that there can only be a peace in Northern Ireland if all its citizens – Catholic and Protestant alike – feel their traditions have a welcome place in the United Kingdom. And there will only be peace of mind if we remove the causes that have given rise to so much conflict.

This is a political task. Grindingly hard, I know. But that is what the multi-party talks are for.

Progress has been slow – painfully slow. But progress has been made. And there is no other show in town.

Bombs will not bring Sinn Fein into the talks.

All they mean is that Sinn Fein has slammed the door on themselves.

I applaud the way the Loyalists have maintained their ceasefire in the face of the IRA’s provocation. Their political leaders have gained in influence and standing as a result. I urge them to stand firm and not to throw away what they have achieved.

The IRA’s latest betrayal of Northern Ireland means the demand for decommissioning of illegal arms is justified even more clearly.

We must have decommissioning in parallel with the talks.

And so that there’s no hiding place for those arms, missiles and explosives, Paddy Mayhew will introduce legislation into Parliament this autumn to set out how they can be taken out of circulation.

I want those weapons off the street.

And I want to remove the false excuses peddled by the men of violence for keeping their weapons. Let us expose these men to the world for what they are.

I also want to make government in Northern Ireland more accountable and give MPs more responsibility. We have already given the Scottish and Welsh members greater ability to question Ministers.

This autumn, I shall do the same for Northern Ireland. MPs from there should be able to question the Ministers and scrutinise Government policies directly in the Grand Committee, meeting sometimes in Northern Ireland. I will consult the parties about how best to achieve that.

The IRA has always believed that Britain can be deflected by terrorism. They’ve always been wrong. And they’re wrong now.

No-one will take Sinn Fein seriously ever again until they show a serious commitment to end violence for good.

I believe in the politics of reason – backed by strong law enforcement. I know in the end it will prevail.

And I promise the people of Northern Ireland this;

For as long as there is a political breath in my body, I will fight for a secure way of life in Northern Ireland for a settlement fair to all.



Earlier this week, Ian Lang, Malcolm Rifkind and Ken Clarke set out exciting new possibilities for Britain as a global trading nation with interests around the world. Wonderful speeches, all of them.

We have links and influence on every continent.

We have given birth to a whole family of nations.

I never forget that as I contemplate our future role in Europe.

The sharpest element of the European debate is the possibility of a single European Currency.

We Conservatives are in grown-up politics. We know that where Britain’s national interest is at stake, Britain’s national voice must be heard.

Over recent days in articles, interviews and in this conference hall on Wednesday, I spelt out why we must play a full part in that debate.

Madam Chairman, Europe is changing. The only thing that is certain is that it won’t be the same in the future.

In a few years, Europe will have 26 or 27 members. They’ll be widely different. Many of them will never match the economic performance of the larger European nations.

So, how do we cope with this?

We believe Europe must become more flexible and responsive. That the only realistic future is a partnership of nations, not a United States of Europe.

But some of our partners do see the future of Europe as ever closer political as well as economic integration.

We don’t believe this is practical. Nor, to be frank, desirable.

It’s not the Europe we joined and it’s not a Europe we can accept.

This debate about the future direction of Europe is one of the most critical we have ever engaged in. We need to argue it fiercely but fairly.

Europe is at a watershed.

Britain is a great nation. Of course, we must be in Europe. But we are in Europe to help shape it – not to be shaped by it.



Madam Chairman, a buccaneering spirit, gritty resolve, give and take, a conviction that everyone is entitled to the same dignity, courtesy, and esteem because of what they are, not who they are.

These are some of the values we all share. That’s what makes us a nation. Down the centuries, they have moulded our democracy.

It’s not a concept of government copied across the world because it’s the oldest. It’s because it’s the best. We treasure it. That’s why we must hold on to it.

The Union. Parliament. Our voting system. It’s naive to think that radical change would be easy or risk-free.

And it’s revealing to look at Labour’s plans.

Their priority would be to gerrymander the British constitution.

They’ve avid for more parliaments, more assemblies, more regional assemblies.

Their policy in in chaos. On Scottish referenda, they change sides more often than a windscreen wiper.

What a message. “Vote Labour – for more politicians, more bureaucrats, more taxes, more regulations, more tampering, more meddling, more authoritarianism”.

If this is the New Gospel, give me the old religion.

In less than 1,000 days, Labour would vandalise nearly 1,000 years of British history.

Once again, they show their true colours.

Labour are the Party of the State. We are the Party of the Nation.

John Major – 1996 Speech to the Institute of Directors


Below is the text of the speech made by John Major, the then Prime Minister, to the Institute of Directors on 19th January 1996.

I am delighted to be here on this occasion to have the opportunity of talking about some of the matters that lie ahead of us economically and some of the opportunities that are there for us to take.

I had the opportunity this morning to reflect on these in a rather philosophical mode. I spent the early part of this morning at Ironbridge – the cradle of the industrial revolution. And there at Ironbridge, by innovation, enterprise, investment, sweat and courage, new industries were born and the world followed Britain’s lead. It helped in its day build an unparalleled prosperity for this country.

As we meet here today we are in the middle of another more complex but equally important industrial revolution. It is one that will have a just as far reaching effect upon this country if we are successful in the way we approach it.

Last year at this very same convention centre, I set out five core principles, core themes, for our future. Today I would like to elaborate, to concentrate, upon just one of them. But let me remind you what those five themes were: to build a nation of enterprise and prosperity, a nation of opportunity and ownership, to safeguard law and order, to deliver first class public services and to defend a strong, united and sovereign United Kingdom.

All of those are important. But today I want to focus on just one of them, I want to focus upon enterprise.

Not all that many years ago Britain was universally regarded as the sick man of Europe. We had over mighty trade unions, strikes brought the country to a standstill, inflation hit all time highs and nationalised industries cost the taxpayer 50 million pounds each and every week. Today that is all behind us and I for one never wish to see those set of circumstances return to this country again.

What is true as we meet here at lunchtime, though it is unfashionable to say so, is that Britain is today building a platform for success that is outstripping more and more of our competitors across Europe.

In our adversarial political system, and I make no complaint about the nature of that, but in that adversarial political system many have a vested interest in scoffing at our success. But they can’t deny the fact of it.

We have seen the longest period of low inflation for 50 years. When inflation is there it is a mighty peril, when it has gone it is speedily forgotten. But I recall how it rendered us uncompetitive, how it destroyed our savings, how it brought this country almost to its knees in earlier years, and now we have the psychology of inflation under firmer lock and key than ever in my lifetime. I am proud of that and I have no intention of letting that lock go in the future.

We have now got the lowest basic rate of tax for over 50 years, the lowest mortgage rates for over 30 years. We have more of our people in the United Kingdom actually in jobs, and fewer unemployed, than any major European economy. And I wonder how many people in this room can remember when last that was the circumstance.

We have exports running at record levels. We have days lost for strikes falling to the lowest level since we first began to keep records of that. And Britain is the leading recipient in Europe of foreign investment. Indeed over the recent years we have received more foreign investment from outside Europe into the United Kingdom than has gone into the rest of the European Union added together.

That is what Britain has achieved. It is not a negligible achievement. Of course there is a great deal more to be done, but the position that we have reached offers very great opportunities for the future provided the policies to take advantage of those opportunities are not thrown to one side and are followed through in the years that lie immediately ahead.

I have no doubt about the key to that future. The key to that future is enterprise, enterprise at the heart of a free and prosperous society. With enterprise comes risk, but also reward. It creates competitiveness and builds prosperity and economic growth. Growth – a buzzword to some, but a reality for all our hopes. It is growth that pays for our national security,our defence forces, that pays for our social inclinations, our education system, our social provision, and so it is crucial for our future well-being.

And it is for that reason, the belief that I have that we need growth with low inflation if we are to maximise our opportunities for this generation, this country and future generations, that leads me to say that I believe that what we need to do is to promote the opportunities of enterprise for the future. And it is because of that that the government that I lead aims to turn Britain into the unrivalled enterprise centre of Europe, not just in the short term but for the long term future.

That will not be achieved without effort, it cannot be achieved by empty slogans. Britain can only do it if we believe in the values of enterprise and we then follow the policies that promote enterprise. Enterprise benefits society through the goods it makes and the services it provides, through the jobs it creates and the taxes it pays to support public services, through the contribution that businesses make to the communities around them. And it is worth considering that just for a moment. That contribution takes many forms, working to improve the local economy, to improve training, in Techs, in Chambers of Commerce and countless other local business groups, getting involved in local schools, helping voluntary groups, sponsoring sport and sponsoring the arts.

Our businesses, in my judgment, enrich our society in every sense of the word. They don’t need someone to instruct them to do this any more than they need someone to instruct them upon how to run their business.

But this enterprise culture, this opportunity, this belief in enterprise and all the wider benefits it brings, would be very easy to destroy. Vilify our businessmen for their very success, interfere on the grounds that the government knows best, make it impossible for them to earn a fair reward for their efforts, that would do it, that would destroy what is currently being built in this country for the benefit not just of businessmen but of all the people of this country.

And there is an idea, passed on from generation to generation by a curious mix of the well meaning, the envious and the confused, that it is wrong for business to make a profit. What nonsense that is. It is about time not just the politicians but that business defended the need to make a profit in the common wheel as well as in the interests of the shareholder. Profit should be applauded, not condemned. It is not a dirty word except to the peddlers of envy. It funds investment, it generates jobs, it is not only respectable, it is essential for the future that we wish to build.

If there is no profit then there is no enterprise. If there is no enterprise then there are no jobs. If there is no enterprise and no jobs then we will all be the poorer.

Government has its own role in fostering enterprise. I am not in favour of unadulterated laissez faire. Enterprise depends on government to follow sensible economic policies and create the right tax and regulatory environment, and we Conservatives are tax-cutters by conviction whenever we have the opportunity. And when I say tax-cutters by conviction, when I look at the demands for the future, the demands that demand an enterprise system for this country in the future, I don’t just refer to income tax when I refer to the Conservatives being tax-cutters by conviction. Taxes on capital are like taxes on jobs. If they are too high it is not worth building up a business and employing people. And that is why I want to cut, and in due course, and I offer you no timescale for this, but that is why I want to cut and in due course abolish both capital gains tax and inheritance tax.

Our opponents, playing their old game of the politics of envy, claim that reducing these taxes only benefits the few. But what that shows is how little they truly understand enterprise and all its effects. By denying businessmen and their families the rewards of their efforts, these taxes discourage enterprise, discourage job creation and discourage the growth of prosperity right across this country.

This country today, Britain today, now has the lowest tax burden of any major European economy. Forty-two percent of our national income is spent by the government on behalf of the taxpayer. That is going on for 10 percent less than the European average. That gap is worth 60 billion pounds a year, the equivalent of around 30p on the basic rate of income tax. So we are doing far better than Europe, even our competitors admit it. Even Germany, for so long seen as the strongest and most competitive economy anywhere in Europe.

But listen to what the Head of the German CBI had to say about the German economy just the other day: “We have too rigid labour laws, we have too high social costs and taxes. We work the shortest working week in Europe. The German government spends 50 percent of GDP as opposed to 42 percent in Britain – no wonder we have a problem.” That is the voice of modern Germany looking enviously at the situation that is applying in modern Britain.

And I believe that 42 percent that we spend, that we the government spend on behalf of the taxpayer, still isn’t good enough. I want to get government spending down to below 40 percent of our national income in the first instance. We need to raise our eyes beyond the competition with our European partners. We need to compete worldwide where half of all our trade goes outside the European Union, with Japan, with the United States and with countries like Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.

It is not just enough to have warm aspirations and to set soft targets. Controlling public spending requires tough decisions, determination and foresight. And here we have built up an advantage over our competitors. We have taken many of the difficult decisions and accepted the political unpopularity that inevitably goes with them. And I believe we were right to do so.

Elsewhere that has not happened. Throughout Europe governments are waking up to the gap between the expectations of their citizens and the state’s ability to support them. And that is not some abstract problem. In France it erupted on to the streets. But we foresaw the problem and began to tackle it years ago.

Let me give you just one of a number of examples. By encouraging occupational pensions we have ensured people’s security and limited the burden on the state. And as a result we now have in this country, in Britain, more invested in pensions for the future than the rest of Europe added together.

And it is the same for the rest of our welfare system. Social security currently costs every worker 15 pounds every single day of the year. Until we began to reform it a few years ago, spending on benefits was set to grow faster than the economy as a whole, Clearly that couldn’t go on. Our reforms are now beginning to give us a social security system that is fair, that is reasonable and that the taxpayer can support, one which promotes incentives to save and be self-reliant – the values of an enterprise economy and above all makes it worthwhile to go out and get and accept a job.

But there is no point giving people incentives to get a job if firms themselves cannot afford to create jobs. Too often in Europe that is precisely what is happening. Approaching 20 million adults in Europe, as we meet here today, are unemployed. From the 1950s onwards, in good years of growth as well as bad years of no growth, the underlying level of unemployment has risen across Europe. I believe that that is a problem that Europe dare not ignore and I have repeatedly raised this point at European meetings.

When I say dare not ignore, I don’t just mean talk about, I mean determined policies that will actually encourage business to create jobs for the future. It is often said, not least by our political opponents, that we British are often isolated on some aspects of European policy, that we won’t accept the European consensus. Well I make no apology for rejecting consensus when that consensus in my judgment is wrong and not in the British interest.

Our political opponents say it is tedious, nationalistic of us, to oppose signing the social chapter. They think we should sign it. I believe we should not sign it and I believe this because of the facts of what it is, but more relevantly what it would do to the prospects of people in this country, as it has already done for the prospects of people across Europe.

And let me spell it out for you, because the campaign of mis-information about the cuddly sounding social chapter deserves to be exploded.

At present unemployment in Germany is 8.5 percent and rising. France and Italy 11.5 percent. Spain 22.5 percent. But here in Britain unemployment is 8 percent and falling. It has been falling month in, month out, month in, month out for around about two and a half years.

And why is it that Britain is doing better at creating jobs than the rest of Europe? In Britain, for every 100 pounds spent on wages, an employer has to add an extra 18 pounds for non-wage costs for every employee. But that same employer would have to add, not 18, but 32 pounds in Germany for every employee, 34 pounds in Spain, 41 pounds in France and 44 pounds in Italy. Why should entrepreneurs create jobs in those countries at that expense if it is cheaper to create jobs and more profitably in this country?

Our political opponents try to denigrate our record. They claim those new jobs are temporary and not real. Well let me nail that lie immediately. A higher proportion of the workforce are temporary employees in Germany, France and Spain. In Spain almost one-third of the workforce are temporary, and that compares with 7.5 percent only of employees in the United Kingdom. And why is there that disparity? Because temporary jobs are higher elsewhere because it is a loophole to escape the costs of restrictive employment and social regulations. These are the sort of costs that could be imposed on British business if we ever signed up to the social chapter.

Our opt-out that I negotiated at Maastricht, and to which I shall passionately hold for as long as I am in politics, that opt-out helps to protect Britain’s competitiveness at home and in Europe, and if we surrendered it that competitive edge would no longer be safe.

In many areas proposals under the social chapter will be put forward for decisions by qualified majority voting. I have no doubt that if it suited them, others would find a way to blur what can be imposed by majority voting and what cannot. If Britain were in the social chapter we would have precious little say over which bits of it applied to the United Kingdom. We could not rely on being able to block proposals that we thought were damaging. To think that we could pick and mix if we joined the social chapter is naive and wrong. There would be no opportunity to pick and mix.

Experience of negotiating in Europe has taught me that we must not just look at what is in the Social Chapter today, we must also look at what it can be used for in the future. The reality is that it will become the channel through which our European competitors could impose upon the United Kingdom their social costs, regulations and potentially their trades union laws.

Measures on working conditions could be imposed upon us and what does that mean? A ban on overtime, the Social Chapter already producing proposals regulating paternity leave and part-time employment. And then there is consultation: huge numbers of decisions businesses take clogged up by harmonised European rules about who needs to be consulted, how and when, with the inevitable cost, delay and difficulty in making those decisions in the interests of the country, the company and the workforce and that would put a very significant spanner in the works of successful businesses.

The fact is no-one knows precisely what the European Community might or might not propose under the Social Chapter or how the European Court would interpret it. It is a blank cheque, the thin end of a very dangerous and uncompetitive wedge.

It sounds very attractive to some politicians, it sounds like painless charity. It may sound nice for those people with jobs but I believe that it is dishonest because loading costs and regulation onto business makes it more expensive to employ people and that means only one thing: employers cannot hope to create new jobs and might well have to scrap existing jobs.

The Social Chapter should be seen for what it is – a European jobs tax, a tax on jobs by the front door and in time a tax on jobs by the back door and that is why I judge it to be immoral. That is why, if I had signed the Social Chapter, I would not have been able to look the unemployed in the eyes again. Europe needs more jobs; it does not mean more taxes on jobs – that is not in the interests of Europe and it is emphatically not in the interests of the United Kingdom. [Applause].

I opposed the Social Chapter at Maastricht and I opposed it on principle. I believed then that it would cost jobs and not create them and I was right. I still believe it. Our enterprise economy is not negotiable, our economic success is too valuable to be wrecked by Socialist experiments.

Let me say a word about our success at attracting inward investment. We are again here outstripping the rest our European partners but does anyone seriously believe that Japanese and American companies would still be coming here in their droves if we crippled ourselves with extra social costs as other people have done? I don’t think they would. Those companies bring not just jobs and investment; just as importantly, they bring innovations, new technology, new management techniques and the spur of competition and we must build on these skills but for that we need people who are able and motivated to learn from the success of others, people who can keep up with the pace of change, people who can dictate the pace of change for the future. I don’t doubt for a minute that the British nation are capable of that; they have the ability, the inspiration but it needs nurturing and above all, tomorrow’s businesses need a workforce with first-class education and skills, enterprise and education go together.

Education is the raw material not just for a satisfying life for the individual but for providing the skills that industry and commerce will need in the years that lie ahead and yet for too long too many of our children were getting a very raw deal from our education system. It would have been very easy to leave things as they were to avoid a row with the establishment and with establishment thinking, not to traipse into that secret garden of education that was kept so quiet and secret for so long. We could have avoided change and avoided many rows but I believe it would have been wrong to do so, so we tackled the problem and we took the rows because I believe there can be no compromise on standards in education – our future and our children’s future is too important for that.

Despite the scars – and there have been one or two – I am proud of what we have done in changing the education system. Thanks to the national curriculum, children are now taught the basics from an early age; now we are making sure we give our children the best possible start in nursery education; special literacy and numeracy centres will ensure children don’t miss out on the essentials; children are tested on a regular basis at 7, 11 and 14; exam results are published for all to see, giving parents the information they have always deserved but once did not get, essential information to exercise choice, a choice that now includes grant-maintained schools, city technology colleges so often sponsored by individual companies or individual businessmen, grammar schools, specialist schools and the whole system backed up by far more regular inspection and far more effective inspection than education in this country has ever known before.

Look at what we have done in some of those aspects of education by establishing a proper framework of vocational qualifications and by introducing modern apprenticeships. For far too long in this country education was regarded as a matter for academics and not something that should teach practical vocational skills as well and the way in which it led to an artificial class distinction between white-collar jobs and blue-collar jobs in my judgement was wholly wrong and did immense damage to this country over so much of the last century.

Look at the success also of investors in people and what the techs are now beginning to achieve. Look at the number of our young people who are now going on to further education, to higher education, to university. For many of my generation, that still remained an impossible dream. Today, one in every three of our young people go on to university; only fifteen or sixteen years ago, that was one in eight – today it is one in three.

We are seeing a revolution in education, a revolution in standards, a revolution in achievement. Of course, there is a great deal to be done and I am determined to continue to do it but it could not have been done unless we, the Conservative Party, had been in Government and it would not be carried forward in the future unless we remain in Government to carry out and carry through the education policies that we have been following. Our ambitions for enterprise and the whole quality of our life in the future depend upon carrying those policies forward.

I have spoken about how the Government is fostering enterprise but enterprise – important though profit is as I have acknowledged – is not only about that. The core of enterprise is not Government either, it is individuals, individuals with a special spark of magic, of imagination, of innovation, of a willingness to take risks, that “get up and go!” instinct that drives them to achieve what many other people believe to be impossible, often flying in the face of conventional wisdom, individuals inspired by a dream not of what is but a dream of what might be.

We do well to remember, those of us who promote innovation and enterprise and perhaps even more so those who despise it and fear it, that it wasn’t Government that invented the steam engine, the telephone, the motor car, the radio, it certainly wasn’t the Government that built British Railways – it was Government and nationalisation that ran down the service of British Railways and once again it will be private enterprise that builds it up when we have finished the privatisation of them – and indeed, Mr. Chairman, I somehow doubt it was a government that invented the wheel many years ago though I have to say I can read the memos that would have come to me at the time explaining how the invention of the wheel would undoubtedly have destroyed jobs and how we should not maximise this new and startling invention.

This spirit of enterprise isn’t confined to inventors who have changed the world, it is what has made thousands upon thousands of people every year set up in small businesses putting their security and their livelihoods on the line because they have an idea that they believe will work and they have that instinctive gut instinct that has always been in the British nation that they wish to set up something themselves, run it themselves, build it up for themselves in their interests and in the interests of their own families. That is a culture that we should encourage and it does mean putting aside another culture, it means putting aside the old culture of disparaging success and all those who aspire to it. If we wish to be a successful society, we cannot afford to be an envious society and we should turn our back on all those who preach envy whenever they have the opportunity. [Applause].

I don’t interpret enterprise narrowly. It is not just a business culture, it is a set of values that can be expressed in countless other ways as well – and it is – in charities, sports clubs, schools, hospitals and throughout the public service. I wonder how many of the successful businessmen here today actually use those precise same skills on behalf of the community generally in some other way, in hospital trusts, in school governorships, in sports bodies, in arts bodies, in whatever it may be? I suspect a very large number use that skill for enterprise that is their profession in the interests of the community in other ways as well and it is a Socialist myth that enterprise creates a selfish and greedy society; it is a myth that society can only be made fair and just by bureaucracy meddling and corporatism; it is a myth that you can make the weak stronger by making the strong weaker.

No-one disagrees in politics today that we have common obligations to help and protect people in our society who are vulnerable. The argument between the parties is not upon that principle, it is upon whose policies can create the wealth to do it. There is no point in having your heart upon your sleeve if your business enterprises are so unsuccessful there is no money in your wallet in order to meet the social obligations that all of us wish to accept.

I speak as a Conservative, Conservative by instinct not by learning. Some people occasionally say: “What great Conservative philosophers did the Prime Minister read?” and I say to them: “I didn’t read any Conservative philosophers, I learned my conservatism in the back streets of Brixton when I saw how Socialism had failed the people who lived there and I saw the only opportunity for getting out of that was to give people individual opportunity and choice for the future and make sure that opportunity and choice was available to everybody in this country wherever they came from, whatever their background, whatever their income, whatever their class, whatever their colour and whatever their creed!” That is what made me a Conservative and it is what keeps me a Conservative and it is the only thing that is going to make this country great. [Applause].

I stand for enterprise opportunity for the whole nation, one nation, undivided and whole, not one nation racked by false of devolution that will set one part of the United Kingdom against the other within immense damage to all of us in the years that lie ahead if such policies were to be carried through.

Mr. Chairman, you cannot build such a nation – the nation of enterprise, of hope and prosperity, the inclusive nation, with everybody having those choices that I passionately believe they should have – on warm words and soft policies and no substance. You cannot build it if your policies are for the short term and not for the long term, you cannot build it if you will not take the decisions unpopular in the short term that you believe to be right for the long term but you can build it if you are prepared to make the decisions you know are right, to defend those decisions and to promote them in Britain’s long-term interests.

I will tell you what I believe: I believe we are building a nation that creates prosperity by encouraging ownership, not ownership by the state extending its powers and right to meddle under the cloak of public interest, not ownership by the bureaucrat at the taxpayers’ expense but individual ownership through enterprise, shares, pensions, savings, homes and small businesses, the right to own and the power to choose. Those are the things that genuinely give people a stake in society for this generation and the next. That, I believe, is the way to build a nation that provides a ladder of opportunity and rewards success, a nation where there are incentives to work and a safety net for those who need it. That has been an intrinsic part of Conservative philosophy and Conservative gut instinct since the party had its founding days and it will never change. That is the Britain that we are building, the Britain that I care about, an enterprise Britain, a nation that is successful and of which we can be proud.

If I had a single wish, it would be that the people of this country could see the success of this country, its values, its institutions and its nation, with the same clarity that the rest of the world can see the success and the values of this country.

As we take the decisions ahead to build that enterprise Britain, some of them will be difficult. Not all decisions will be easy, not all the rewards will be swift but there is no choice. we must travel the enterprise road or we will fall behind those countries that do. The choice is very clear and I have made my choice. We will build this country as the enterprise centre of Europe and we will not be deflected. I believe in that we will be successful and I wish each and every one of you the same success in your individual endeavours. It is the amalgamation of those endeavours that will build up our nation.

It is our job as Government not to carry out your job for you but to provide the opportunity, the economic background and the incentives to encourage you and not discourage you and prevent you from playing your part in building up this country and its enterprise prospects for the future. It can be done. We are outstripping others. What would be fatal would be if we were to let go of the policies we have followed for so long and that are beginning to show the clearest fruits of success at present; if we were to throw them away in the future, generations ahead would look and say: “Why did they do it? On the eve of such success, why did they turn away from the opportunities that lay in front of them?” I do not believe that we will. I believe that enterprise centre of Europe is being built and will be built and I intend to see it through.[Applause].