Bernard Jenkin – 2019 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Sir Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP for Harwich and North Essex, in the House of Commons on 11 January 2019.

I cannot help but reflect on the fact that the speech of the hon. Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant) followed that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames), who called for calm and moderation in this debate. I am afraid that some of the language the hon. Gentleman used rather failed to rise to that challenge. For him now to call for a people’s vote when he never for an instant accepted the result of the people’s vote we have already had underlines the point about double standards raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray).

Peter Grant rose—

Sir Bernard Jenkin

No, I am not giving way; the hon. Gentleman spoke for a long time. But I will say this: like him, I believe in the sovereignty of the people, and in fact I believe in the sovereignty of the Scottish people, and the Scottish people spoke in 2014 and voted to be part of the United Kingdom. And then the Scottish people, as the British people, took part in the 2016 United Kingdom referendum and the British people spoke, and I believe in their sovereign right to be respected.

So I will rise to the hon. Gentleman’s challenge and say that the benefits the Scottish people are getting from leaving the EU are that they are taking control of their own laws and money, and—something dear to his heart, I imagine—that the Scottish Parliament is going to have more power as a result of us leaving the EU. He seems to be very quiet about that.

In the emergency debate on Tuesday 11 December I emphasised the democratic legitimacy of the referendum vote. The Commons voted to give the decision to remain or leave to the voters by 544 votes to 53, and then we accepted that decision and invoked article 50 by 494 votes to 122.

Nobody could possibly question the courteous determination and sincerity of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who has striven so hard to secure an agreement acceptable to this House from our EU partners, but it now looks most unlikely that this draft agreement will be approved, because it would leave the UK in a less certain and more invidious position than we are prepared to accept.

Nevertheless, the EU withdrawal Act, which sets the exit date as 29 March 2019, did pass this House. It could have included an amendment that the Act should not come into force without an article 50 withdrawal agreement, but we approved that Act, which provides for leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement—I think even my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex voted for that Act. Parliament has now spoken. The Act makes provision for the so-called “meaningful vote”, but not for any kind of vote in this House to prevent Brexit without a withdrawal agreement. Democracy has been served.

For some MPs now to complain that they did not intend to vote for what the Act provides for is rather lame. They may have held a different hope or expectation, but the Government gave no grounds for that. The Government always said, and still say, that no deal is better than a bad deal. Parliament has approved the law and set the date. There is no democratic case for changing it, nor could that be in the national interest.

The right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) reminded us of some of the less pleasant elements on the spectrum of British politics, but elsewhere in the EU, extremism is becoming far more entrenched than here, with AFD in Germany and the gilets jaunes on the streets of Paris, as well as Lega Nord, which has actually taken power in Italy. Popular revolt against the immovability of the established EU consensus in the rest of the EU cannot be blamed on Brexit. On the contrary, our broad and largely two-party democracy has proved to be the most durable and resistant to extremism because we absorb and reflect the effects of political and economic shocks. UKIP died at the 2017 general election because both the main parties pledged to implement the referendum decision without qualification.

But what are some in this House trying to achieve now? What would be the consequences for the stability and security of our democracy if the Government let the politicians turn on the majority of their own voters and say, “The politicians are taking back control, not for Parliament but to keep the EU in control”? The voters did not vote to accept whatever deal the EU was prepared to offer. They voted to leave, whether or not the EU gave us permission. Ruling out leaving without a withdrawal agreement is not a democratic option. They did not vote to remain as the only alternative to a bad deal, they did not vote for the EU to hold the UK hostage, nor did they vote for a second referendum.

Of course, a second referendum is what the EU really wants, which is why it will not give the UK a good deal. It is shameful that so many leading political figures from our country have been shipping themselves over to Brussels to tell the EU not to make concessions in the negotiations with their own Government, in order to try to get a second referendum. The EU is a profoundly undemocratic and unaccountable institution, whose biggest project, the euro, has inflicted far worse disaster on businesses, individuals and families in many countries than even the direst Treasury forecasts for the UK. The economic and political storm clouds are still just gathering over the EU. It is the EU that is on the cliff edge of disaster, not the UK. In the years to come, in the words of Mervyn King, the former Governor of the Bank of England:

“If you give people a chart of British GDP and ask them to point to where we left the EU, they won’t be able to see it.”

Our domestic policies, as well as our trade with the rest of the world, have already become far more important than our present trading relationship with the EU. We will have the freedom to develop them more quickly. Our EU membership does not just cost the net contribution of £10 billion per year and rising, which does no more than avoid some £5.3 billion of tariffs, but it has locked the UK into an EU trading advantage, leaving the UK with an EU trade deficit of £90 billion a year. Why are we trying to preserve such a disadvantageous trading relationship?

Even if we leave without a withdrawal agreement, there will be immediate benefits. WTO is a safer haven than the backstop. Far from crashing out, we would be cashing in. We would keep £39 billion, which would immediately improve our balance of payments and could be invested in public services, distributed in tax cuts or used to speed up economic adaptation. That would boost GDP by 2% over the next few years. We would end uncertainty; the draft agreement would perpetuate it.

Business needs clarity about trading conditions with the EU from day one. Jamie Dimon of J. P. Morgan campaigned for remain, side by side with George Osborne, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. J. P. Morgan now says that extending article 50 is the “worst case scenario” because it does

“not see what it provides us in reaching a clear, final outcome that provides certainty for businesses”.

It adds that paralysis is

“not good for the economy”,

yet that is what the article 50 extenders are arguing for. We will not be caught in any backstop if we leave without a withdrawal agreement, nor will there be a hard border in Ireland. Even Leo Varadkar has said that

“under no circumstances will there be a border. Full stop.”

The EU and the UK Government have said the same.

All of the more ludicrous scare stories are being disproved. There will be no queues at Dover or Calais. The president of Port Boulogne Calais could not have been more emphatic—[Laughter.] Labour Members laugh, because they do not want to hear the truth. The president of Port Boulogne Calais said:

“We have been preparing for No Deal for a year….We will be ready….We will not check trucks more than we are doing today…We will not stop and ask more than we are doing today”.

He added that the new special area for sanitary and phytosanitary checks was somewhere else, and would

“not influence the traffic in Dover.”

The Government and the pharma companies say that they can guarantee supplies of medicines, and the EU Commission has proposed visa-free travel for UK citizens in the EU for up to six months of the year. The EU statement of 19 December already proposes its own transition period of up to nine months, including no disruption of central bank clearing, a new air services agreement, access to the EU for UK road haulage operators and special regulations on customs declarations.

Leaving on WTO terms is far preferable to the protracted uncertainty of either extending article 50 or this unacceptable withdrawal agreement. The leadership of this country—that includes the Government and the Opposition—should stop reinforcing weakness and start talking up our strengths and building up our confidence. History has proved that our country can always rise to the challenge, and our people will never forgive the politicians who allow the EU to inflict defeat. It saddens me greatly that even some in my own party are promoting such a defeat.

Bernard Jenkin – 2017 Speech on Essex University

Below is the text of the speech made by Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP for Harwich and North Essex, in the House of Commons on 2 November 2017.

I am grateful to you for granting me this debate, Mr Speaker, and it is a pleasure that you should be in the Chair, given that you are also the chancellor of the University of Essex. We are fortunate that you have taken on that role. I am also grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills for being here, and I look forward to her reply to this debate. I hope she will convey the points of concern I am raising to her colleague, the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation.

As the UK prepares to leave the EU, universities, including the University of Essex, are facing much uncertainty: what access will there be for EU students and academics after the UK leaves the EU? What fees will EU students be liable to pay? Will EU students still have access to the UK student loans system? Will the UK continue to participate in EU research programmes such as Horizon 2020? Despite all that, I have never doubted that the UK’s universities will continue to thrive outside the EU, just as they did before we joined.

The 2018 QS World University Rankings put four UK universities in the top 10 in the world, and nine in the top 50. What is more, there are opportunities for universities when we leave the EU. By levelling the playing field between EU and non-EU students and academics, universities will be better able to compete with all our international rivals—the big US universities and the emerging universities of Asia, as well as the European universities. But the Government need to make decisions as soon as possible so that universities can plan for the future.

Since I was first elected for Colchester, North in 1992, I have had the privilege of representing the University of Essex in Parliament. We have a close relationship, and I am a member of the court of the university. Over the years, I have witnessed how much the University of Essex has contributed to academia, the local economy and the wider community. It continues from strength to strength. I make no apology for using this opportunity to set out the university’s progress and achievements. In June, Essex was awarded “gold” in the teaching excellence framework. Essex was also ranked in the top 15 in England for student satisfaction for the fifth year running in the national student survey, and 22nd in “The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018”. Furthermore, Essex was ranked in the UK’s top 20 universities for research excellence in the last research excellence framework.

Very few universities excel in both education and research, while also performing strongly in measures of overall student experience, graduate prospects and quality of facilities. Essex is one of a very small group of universities that genuinely achieves that. As a result, Essex students benefit from a research-led education that not only equips them to succeed on their courses, but provides them with the skills to succeed in their chosen careers after graduation. I look forward to continuing to work with the university in the years ahead, as it builds on these achievements.​

The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 will introduce a new regulatory framework. One of its effects is to establish two new bodies, one called the Office for Students and the other called UK Research and Innovation. I will not elaborate on the complex details of the reforms, but there is concern that those two bodies must work closely together, reflecting the importance of integrating research and teaching. I know that a consultation is in progress, but I hope the Minister can reassure universities about that in her response.

I commend to the Government the 2014 Public Administration Committee report on the effectiveness of public bodies, “Who’s Accountable?”. I was Chair of that Select Committee at the time. Ministerial directions will not be enough to ensure co-ordinated working. Our report found that to make things work effectively in such a situation, the Department must develop confident, open and trusting relationships, both within the Department on the two policy areas and between the officials in the Department and the leadership of those two public bodies. There is no other way to ensure a high level of co-operation between the two bodies so that the mutual benefits that result from excellent research and outstanding educational experiences are promoted.

This is proving to be a record year for recruitment at the University of Essex, with close to 6,000 students starting undergraduate or postgraduate courses this autumn. The university has seen unprecedented levels of interest in student places, with more than 20,000 applications for 4,400 undergraduate student places this year. This has allowed the university to continue to grow in size. In 2016, it had 14,000 students, compared with only 9,500 in 2012. The university plans to grow further, increasing student numbers to 20,000 by 2025.

The University of Essex has recruited more than 152 new academic staff over the past three years and invested heavily in its professional services. That recruitment continues as the university continues to grow. It is also making a significant investment, until 2021, of around £90 million in its teaching facilities, student accommodation, knowledge gateway building programme and sports facilities. I look forward to seeing the outcome of that work.

Will Quince (Colchester) (Con) I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. As he knows, around half the University of Essex’s students live in the Colchester constituency. Does he agree that the university plays a huge social, cultural and economic role in Colchester’s prosperity? We are incredibly proud to have the university linked so strongly to our town.

Mr Jenkin I certainly agree with my hon. Friend. He will be as acutely aware as I am of what a big role the university plays in the civic life of Colchester and the surrounding area.

The University of Essex’s research is pioneering and world class. Its department of government, at which you studied, Mr Speaker, is ranked the best in the country in every assessment of research quality that has been undertaken. The university is also in the top four for social science research, fifth for economics and 10th for art history. Last year, the university secured £42 million of externally funded research income, including half a ​million pounds secured by a biological sciences research team to investigate marine bacteria, which will improve our understanding of the impact of global warming on this vital part of Earth’s life-support system.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, of which I am Chair, scrutinises the UK Statistics Authority, which has done work on what is known as big data. As Chair of that Committee, I am delighted that the University of Essex won £27 million from the Economic and Social Research Council to support its work on understanding society up to 2021. It is the largest longitudinal statistical study of its kind, and it provides crucial information for researchers and policy makers about changes in attitudes and behaviours over time and on the causes and consequences of deep-rooted social problems and change in people’s lives. The university’s status as a leading centre of expertise in analysing and handling big data, such as that generated through the Understanding Society programme, received further validation in 2016, with UNESCO’s establishment of its only chair in analytics and data science at the university.

I would be grateful if the Minister set out how the Government will remain fully committed to recognising and rewarding research excellence wherever it is found, whether at Essex or elsewhere. I would also like to pay tribute to the late Anthony King, who, in 1968, became reader in government at the University of Essex, which gave him the opportunity to shape the department, which now enjoys such a renowned reputation.

University of Essex research has impact through partnerships with businesses of all sizes. That work was recognised when the university was ranked in the top 10 in the UK for engagement with business through what the Government recognised as knowledge transfer partnerships, and supported through the programme run by Innovate UK, to help businesses improve their competitiveness through better use of UK knowledge, technology and skills.

The knowledge transfer partnerships are one of the main ways in which the university ensures its research feeds into business activity, and the range and scope of those partnerships is extensive. For example, Essex works with the digital agency, Orbital Media, to use artificial intelligence to create automated online GP services. Essex also works with the organisation Above Surveying, which will use the latest technology to improve the way its drones monitor and inspect solar farms.

Essex is continuing to expand its business engagement and the University of Essex Innovation Centre is now being built on the Colchester campus. This is a joint initiative with Essex County Council and the south-east local enterprise partnership, which, when completed, will provide space and support for up to 50 start-ups and smaller high-tech businesses in the Knowledge Gateway research and technology park.

The university’s research impact also supports public institutions in tackling challenging social and economic issues. In conjunction with Essex County Council, the university has appointed the UK’s first local authority chief scientific adviser, Slava Mikhaylov, professor of public policy and data science, who supports Essex County Council to develop policy rooted in scientific analysis and evidence. ​

Essex was one of the very first universities to start offering degree apprenticeships in higher education, which provide students with the skills that industry needs and allow them to combine studying for a full degree with gaining practical skills in work. Such apprentices get the financial security of a regular pay packet, while providing businesses with a cost-effective way to bring in new talent and skills or develop their workforce. Tech giant ARM, alongside local small and medium-sized enterprises, is already offering degree apprenticeships in partnership with Essex. The university’s work in this area is hugely beneficial, with both students and businesses standing to benefit a great deal from these opportunities.

This determination to use research to drive growth has led to Essex being asked to lead a £4.7 million Government project in the eastern region and to grow the economy through improved productivity by encouraging collaboration between universities and businesses. The “Enabling Innovation: Research to Application” network will build collaborations to support business innovation across Essex, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk.

I am enormously proud of the University of Essex’s work. However, I am also proud of its global outlook and international spirit.

Mr Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford) (Con) I declare an interest: I went to Bristol—I am sorry about that. As an MP from the south of the county, may I confirm to my hon. Friend that the reach of the university goes across the entire county and indeed beyond? In the south of Essex, we greatly value the economic contribution that the university makes to the life of our county.

Mr Jenkin I very much welcome my hon. Friend’s intervention. At the point where I am celebrating the University of Essex’s global reach, it is entirely appropriate that Southend and Rayleigh should be included in the equation.

Staff and students come from all around the world and the university collaborates internationally on a high proportion of its work. The Times Higher Education rankings for 2018 placed the University of Essex second in the UK for “international outlook” and I am delighted that applications to the university from international students continue to increase. I am also delighted that, on their arrival in Essex, international staff and students are met with such an open and inclusive welcome.

As the UK regains control of its borders following Brexit, I urge the Government to ensure that barriers are not put in the way of universities such as Essex, one of the UK’s great export success stories, continuing to attract talented students and staff from around the globe.

Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con) Does my hon. Friend agree that as well as having an excellent chancellor, the University of Essex is a great centre for the local community it serves, not just the global community? This summer I was fortunate enough to give out graduation certificates to hundreds of students who attended during the summer break. Does my hon. Friend agree that the university serves a useful purpose in that regard?

Mr Jenkin I am very grateful for that intervention because I did not have that element in my speech.

The Government will be aware that EU membership has obliged us to provide support for students from EU countries. Leaving the EU will provide us with an opportunity to support more students from poorer countries, and I encourage the Government to look at how the UK can do this. The higher default rate among EU students taking out UK taxpayer-funded student loans is a burden. According to figures released by the Student Loans Company earlier this year, this figure stands at approximately 4% for EU domiciled student loan borrowers compared with around 0.5% of English domiciled student loan borrowers. The percentage of students who are yet to have their repayment status confirmed, or who have not supplied their incomes and have therefore been placed in arrears, is also higher among EU domiciled student loan borrowers.

It is hard for the Student Loans Company to pursue loans being repaid from abroad. These losses should not fall on the British taxpayer, nor should British students have to pay higher interest rates as a consequence. I hope that the Minister will make it clear that the UK will no longer be obliged to offer student loans and subsidised fees to EU students after the UK leaves the EU, not least because these students come from far wealthier countries than other countries that we should want to help more.

Essex is also leading the way on women’s equality, so it is appropriate that this Minister, who is also the Minister for Women, is replying to this debate. Essex gave its female professors a one-off salary increase in 2016 after an audit revealed a pay gap between its male and female professors. It was the first university in the UK to do so and the decision was covered in national media. This was a brave and bold move, and, one year on, the gender pay gap between male and female professors has not reopened. The university and its vice-chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, deserve credit for this.

I do not need to say how important universities are to individuals, to our society and to our economy. They transform people’s lives through education and the value of their research, provide businesses with people who have the vital skills they need, and make a crucial contribution to the UK economy. They enrich our society and culture as places where conventional wisdom can be challenged and where contentious issues can be debated with passion on all sides. The University of Essex was one of the few universities that remained officially neutral during the EU referendum. I personally helped to find speakers from both sides of the argument for a major debate hosted by the university just prior to the vote. Essex has set the highest example of impartiality and protection for freedom of speech.

In conclusion, I am sure that the Minister will want to join me in congratulating the University of Essex for all that it is achieving. However, I hope that she will address the concerns I have raised, particularly those arising from the UK’s decision to leave the EU. These uncertainties about access for foreign students and academics to UK universities, or about the replacement of EU funding, are not dependent on the outcome of any negotiations with the EU. The Government can decide things such as our future immigration policy ​right now. The Government can decide now that they will guarantee, at least in principle, to replace EU funding with UK funding, particularly as when we leave the EU we will no longer be required to support non-UK EU spending, which amounts to some £9 billion a year. There is no excuse for extending uncertainty unnecessarily. I hope that the Minister will at least agree with that.

Bernard Jenkin – 2000 Speech to Conservative Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Bernard Jenkin to the 2000 Conservative Party Conference on 3 October 2000.

The demonstrations last month proved that Labour is out of touch.

The frustration has been building up for years.

You think that your car is to get you to work, or to visit the family, or to do the shopping.

But it’s not.

Under Labour, the most important job your car does is to siphon money out of your bank account and over to the Chancellor.

Labour’s taxes are such an injustice.

Petrol tax is a regressive tax.

It hits the poor the hardest.

For example, a disabled pensioner in my constituency needs her car to get to the shops and to see her friends.

She used to spend £10 per week on petrol.

Now it costs £20.

This is just one rural pensioner who is worse off under Labour – one of millions.

And as the pressure has mounted, Labour has simply become more devious.

In the last Budget, Gordon Brown said he was putting petrol tax and pensions up by the rate of inflation.

What he didn’t tell you was that he was using two different rates of inflation.

So he put pensions up by just 1.1% – but hiked fuel tax by three times that.

He said, he could only give pensioners an extra 75p a week, but he took away all of that and more with his fuel taxes.

Labour gives with one hand and takes away with another.

And another, and another.

People have been driven to distraction by this stealth taxing government.

Driven to do things they never imagined they would do.

The government calls the protests ‘blockades’.

But there were no blockades.

The people who protested against the government last month were not the trotskyites, communists, militants and anarchists that Jack Straw marched with in his youth.

They were decent, hardworking people.

People with responsibilities, businesses, customers, overdrafts, employees and families to support.

They were supported by a spontaneous groundswell of public feeling.

What an indictment of British democracy under Labour!

Three years of Labour has pushed the British people to breaking point.

Labour had no right to raise taxes.

They have no mandate.

Mr Blair promised no new taxes.

Democracy should be about government by consent.

But Labour is about taxation without representation.

That’s why the protests were so popular.

These protests rumbled Labour’s tax scam.

These protests showed that the British people will not stand for it.

These protests exposed Mr Blair, in the face of a real crisis, as weak and vacillating.

Labour cannot face the truth.

Oh, he could apologise for the Dome.

He could apologise for the Ecclestone affair.

But he can’t apologise for this.

Because his stealth tax deceit goes to the heart of his whole political strategy.

And I say now to everyone who is angry about fuel tax.

William Hague and the Conservative Party are the champions of your cause.

We will cut fuel tax.

So, put your faith in the ballot box and not the barricades!

Don’t get angry. Get even!

Labour failures: the missed opportunity

So what has John Prescott actually done in the last three years?

He put a bus lane on the M4 so that the New Labour elite could whizz past the queues.

He took an environmentally friendly car for a spin, and then crashed it.

At last year’s Labour conference here in Bournemouth, he was driven 200 yards from the Highcliff to here, so that he could tell us to use our cars less.

And so it goes on.

But while Prescott gaffes, everyone else must suffer.

As rural post offices and banks close, more and more people who cannot afford cars are being left stranded.

Everyday misery. That’s Labour’s record.

Last month in London, 2000 Central Line passengers were stuck, stifling in dark tunnels for more than two hours.

Everyday misery. That’s Labour’s record.

Pity the millions stuck in traffic jams every day!

Pity the towns and villages, choked with traffic, still waiting for a bypass.

Pity the haulage firms going bust.

Everyday misery. That’s Labour’s record.

The 10 year plan

And after three years of misery, John Prescott now has the nerve to stand up and say ‘I’ve got a ten year transport plan’.

Suddenly he is promising billions but do you believe him?

And hardly anything would happen until after the next TWO general elections.

Talk about post-dated cheques!

What does he take us for?

The words, ‘ten year transport plan’ should enter the same lexicon as ‘the dog ate my homework’, and ‘the Dome will be a great success’.

This is a ten year plan from a one term government that can’t see further than tomorrow’s headlines.

A broken policy that follows broken promises proposed by a broken-backed Secretary of State.

Last year he was asked whether the job might be a bit too big for one person.

Plucky John replied: ‘No, because I’m Superman’.

Superman!

Superman didn’t need two Jags and a helicopter to get from A to B.

Mind you, he’s the only comic strip minister who breaks his promises, faster than a speeding bullet.

In 1997, he promised there would be far fewer journeys by car.

Well, John, if you don’t know already, short of a fuel crisis, you’ve failed.

Socialists always think they can change human nature.

Well there’s only one way they have succeeded.

Today, every nine seconds, the average healthy man now thinks about petrol tax.

How much it costs. Where will it end?

Under Labour, we’ll soon all have to take our driving tests on foot.

The sad reality is that by the end of this Parliament, John Prescott will have precisely nothing to show for his four years in office.

And over the next ten years, Labour plans to raise at least £423 billion in taxes from the motorist.

That’s over £18,000 per household.

You could buy one of John Prescott’s Jags for that, but you couldn’t afford to run it!

The Conservatives made the car a privilege for the many and not just the few.

The car and public transport are not enemies or opposites.

We need them both.

We need more of them both.

There’s no point in investing billions more in the railways if you miss your train because you’re stuck in a traffic jam.

Few of us have train stations or bus stops outside our front door.

So let’s get rid of Labour’s anti-car ideology.

Conservative Transport Policy

The next Conservative government will dump all the dogma.

We will ditch the jargon.

We believe in Britain.

So, we will simply get on with the job.

On day one of the next Conservative government, we will abolish Labour’s Integrated Transport Commission.

That will save millions by reducing bureaucracy and waste.

We believe in a prosperous Britain.

So we want Britain’s lifeblood arteries – our roads – to flow.

We will immediately bring forward the vital road improvements to get unsuitable traffic off unsuitable roads.

We believe in a cleaner and greener Britain.

So we want to remove through traffic from towns and villages.

You use less fuel if you don’t have to sit in traffic jams.

We will also reduce congestion by charging companies who dig up the road.

We believe road users deserve better.

So over all of this we shall set up a new Roads Inspectorate.

This will set standards for local councils and the Highways Agency to meet.

It will demand action on poor roads, dangerous roads or where roads cause environmental problems.

Conservatives also believe in Britain’s railways.

Labour inherited the start of our railway renaissance – liberated from state control.

But we are still waiting for stage two.

We propose measures to cut standing on cramped trains;

And to cut queuing for your ticket.

And to increase trains on Sundays.

And we believe in freight on rail.

The rail freight renaissance was started by privatisation.

Believing in Britain means putting the passenger and the freight customer first.

Not just on rail, but across all our transport networks.

And, of course, our commitment to cut 14 pence off a gallon of petrol is just a first step.

Because we are ambitious for Britain we will not treat motorists as some sort of revenue tap.

We believe in honesty in taxation.

So we want petrol stations to display just how much of what you are paying is tax.

We also believe in British business, and we need the haulage industry.

So we will introduce the BRIT disc.

So that foreign trucks will have to pay for using Britain’s roads.

We will use that money to cut the punitive tax on British trucks so they can compete with Europe.

But I give you one supreme pledge.

Our first day in government – and every day – will be about safety.

This week is the anniversary of the terrible Paddington rail crash.

The shock of that tragedy hangs heavy in the memory.

I pledge eternal vigilance on safety.

We have proposed to the Paddington Inquiry a new rail safety regime.

For the first time, there should be specific rail safety legislation – like there is in aviation.

There should be a new National Rail Regulator, with responsibility for performance and safety;

And a new independent rail accident investigation branch of the DETR.

There is no reason why privatised railways should not be every bit as safe as our privatised airlines and airports.

And would that our roads were as safe as the railways.

We will establish a Road Casualty Investigation body, to look into the causes of road accidents.

If you lose someone you love in a road accident, you want to know why it happened and what will be done to stop it happening again.

More than 3,000 people die each year on our roads.

That must change.

There is far more to road safety than just speed humps and cameras.

The government needs a proper, factual and statistical basis for road safety policy.

That will enable us to set the right road safety priorities, to reduce death and injury as effectively as possible.

It can be done without demonising the car, because we believe in the good sense and humanity of the vast majority of the British people.

That’s believing in Britain.

Peroration

Mr Chairman, conference.

Millions of people every day make millions of transport choices.

People want choice.

Conservative governments increase choice.

That’s why people are beginning to feel they want a new Conservative government.

That’s why a new Conservative government, under William Hague, will get the best for Britain, because we believe in the full potential of what British people can achieve.

Last, week we saw the Labour party on the run.

Mr Blair was blustering like a magician whose tricks have failed to deceive.

We are making Labour sweat!

And look at Mr Prescott’s contorted face!

Conservatives believe in Britain, because we are ambitious for our country.

We believe in a Britain, whose transport networks should be the envy of the world.

A Britain where the opportunity to travel is for the many and not the few.

A Britain where the passenger and the road user come first.

A Britain where everyone shares in the benefits of prosperity.

A Britain strong, independent and free.

A Britain, whose government believes in Britain.

And the Conservatives, under William Hague, are ready to be that government.