Michael Howard – 1986 Speech on the Paper Industry

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Howard, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, in the House of Commons on 14 February 1986.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Burt) on raising the subject of the British paper industry. He represents a constituency in an area that has a concentration of paper and board mills. I know that both he and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) are closely interested in the fortunes of the industry and wish to see it succeed and prosper. I share that objective.

This is a timely debate because it will help to register publicly that the United Kingdom has a substantial, forward-looking industry well able to meet the needs of customers here and abroad. The industry suffered badly in the recession with many closures of mills and machines, but it has been fighting back and is keen that more customers should fully recognise its capabilities —as many do already.

There are some notable investment projects both by traditional United Kingdom producers and by overseas investors. In my county of Kent, Bowater at Kemsley has recently spent £12·5 million on rebuilding a paper machine and on the latest converting and packing equipment. The company now has an impressive, large, modern facility with which to challenge other European suppliers. In addition, Reed at Aylesford has rebuilt its newsprint machine to improve its efficiency and product quality. Near Aberdeen, Thomas Tait and Sons is investing £20 million to build the largest fine paper machine in the United Kingdom, again equipping the company to compete successfully in Europe. Multi-million pound investment programmes have been carried out by other United Kingdom companies too, including Wiggins Teape, GP-Inveresk and Tullis Russell.

In many mills new computerised process control equipment has helped product quality and efficiency. The industry claims a 39 per cent. increase in output per man since 1979 among the mills making printing and writing paper — which account for over a quarter of the industry’s production. The sector of the industry which has seen the most dramatic recovery is newsprint. By 1983 production had fallen to some 80,000 tonnes, or only some ​ 5 per cent. of United Kingdom demand, but the United Kingdom has secured two major inward investment projects.

Consolidated Bathurst of Canada has invested some £50 million to modernise and reopen a mill at Ellesmere Port. United Paper Mills of Finland has invested £130 million to build a new integrated pulp and paper mill at Shotton in North Wales. This new mill was opened by his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in December, having been completed ahead of schedule. These are excellent examples of the kind of inward investment that the Government are keen to encourage. The industry can now satisfy about a third of United Kingdom demand for newsprint, and I hope that this capacity will be fully utilised.

Where investment projects have satisfied the relevant criteria, Government assistance has been offered to enable them to go ahead. For example, the Bowater Kemsley project received selective assistance of £1·5 million under section 8 of the Industrial Development Act. Regional selective assistance totalling £6·5 million was offered for the two large newsprint projects at Bridgwater and Shotton. There have been smaller assisted projects too.
A number of companies have undertaken coal firing projects with Government assistance. In some other cases, investment projects have helped to demonstrate innovations in energy efficiency and it has been possible to offer assistance under the energy demonstration scheme. In 1984 the industry is reported to have invested over £6·5 million in energy-related capital projects with an average expected payback of 1-6 years.

The industry is increasingly committed to its energy management monitoring and targeting programme developed in close co-operation with the Department of Energy which has provided financial support. I congratulate the industry on its efforts. I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of the British Paper and Board Industry Federation, whose staff has done so much to develop the programme and encourage member companies to apply it. In 1984, the industry used 5 per cent. less energy than in 1983 to produce 12 per cent. more paper and board.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North has made a number of interesting points in his speech, to which I now turn. He referred to interest rates and the importance of keeping them as low as possible. I am sure that he recognises that interest rates will continue to be held at the lowest rate that is consistent with the need to maintain monetary conditions and keep steady downward pressure on inflation. Inflation would cause far more damage to industry if it were to take hold again. The recent moves on interest rates reflect our determination to ensure that it does not.

I appreciate the significance to the industry of exchange rates, but they are ultimately determined by the underlying competitive strength of our economy and the economies of our trading partners. Greater stability in the exchange markets is clearly desirable, but no country can achieve that single handed.

We aim, therefore, to achieve it through co-operation with our major trading partners. An example of that was the agreement of the Group of Five countries last September that orderly depreciation of the dollar was desirable.

Since then, the dollar has moved towards a more sustainable level and the pound has declined against the mark, the franc and the yen. ​ My hon. Friend mentioned membership of the exchange rate mechanism of the European monetary system. The Government are ready to join the exchange rate mechanism when we judge that the conditions are right, but the decision must be carefully weighed. Sterling is widely held and traded internationally, and it is subject to different and often opposite strains from currencies that are already in the exchange rate mechanism. Furthermore, it is by no means certain that opinion even in the paper industry is unanimous on this matter.

The changes in capital allowances are in line with the Government’s policy of simplifying the tax system and eliminating distortions. The burden of tax administration for companies and Government will be reduced, and companies are encouraged to concentrate on identifying and investing in profitable projects. The changes will reduce overall corporate taxation in the longer term. The effect on individual companies will depend on past investment and profitability and on the availability of unused allowances.

Advance notice of the changes has given a secure planning environment. I am aware that the paper federation has already made known the industry’s views on capital allowances in its Budget representations to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am sure he will consider them carefully.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North also mentioned alleged dumping of Kraft liner. This is an important matter. I fully appreciate the industry’s concern. Officials from my Department have asked representatives of the industry to provide additional information, including evidence of breaches in the minimum import price. The Department would be glad to review the matter with the industry, and I believe that the industry’s European association is planning to consult again the EC Commission, which has the main responsibility in these matters.

My hon. Friend mentioned oil and the importance of taking advantage of the fall in price. He also spoke about electricity. Electricity prices for most UK consumers are comparable with those on the Continent. The exception is France, where consumers benefit from extensive low-cost nuclear generation. The level of prices is the responsibility of the electricity industry. The Government set the financial framework for the industry to ensure that it earns a proper return. The Government acknowledge, however, that the largest users face higher prices, and we appreciate the difficulties that that causes. Following extensive discussions in the National Economic Development Organisation and with the industry, the Central Electricity Generating Board and the National Coal Board have been working on proposals which could result in lower prices ​ for the most intensive users, as in the paper industry. The proposals have still to be finalised, but I hope that decisions will not be long delayed.

As for the starch regime, I am pleased to say that considerable progress has been made on the proposals of the European Commission, which are designed to help industrial users of starch in the Community. The Council of Agriculture Ministers will be asked to take a decision on modified proposals at its meeting on 24 February. To a large extent, the proposals meet the desires of the paper and board industry.

I listened to what my hon. Friend said about detailed proposals, which he is to send to the Department, for assistance with various new technologies. My Department is always ready to listen to proposals on that subject. Indeed, support is already given for innovative projects which meet the Department’s criteria. The industry has benefited from the relevant scheme. The scheme has been used to assist two projects which are designed to demonstrate to the industry as a whole the benefits of applying new technology. Both are taking place at Thames Board at Purfleet. I am sure that the details are known to those who take a close interest in the industry’s future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South raised, in particular, the East Lancashire Paper Mills in his constituency, and I am delighted that he was given the opportunity of referring to them. That company has also been preparing for the future. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier), when Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, met company representatives, and encouraged them to keep in touch with the Department. Following the review of regional policy, the mills are now in an assisted area. My officials in the north-west regional office are happy to discuss with the company the question of assistance for any potential future projects.

The industry is too often remembered for its difficulties. It is now aware of the need to spread the message of its successes. An impressive initiative in that direction is the recent publication of a newspaper about companies which make printing and writing paper. The newspaper draws attention to their strengths, and highlights recent developments, especially the large-scale investment for the future which has taken place. I welcome that positive approach, and I know that the industry is considering other possible initiatives.
I hope that between us my hon. Friend and I have said enough to show that paper and board is an industry looking to the future with more confidence and much to offer its customers at home and abroad. I wish it every success.

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.

Michael Howard – 2005 Speech to the CBI


Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Howard, the then Leader of the Opposition, to the CBI Conference on 1st March 2005.

As a politician, it’s easy enough for me to travel round Britain, talking about all the things I want to do for our country.

I can talk till I’m blue in the face. But without you, I can’t do anything.

I can’t deliver my priorities for government: lower taxes, more police, cleaner hospitals, controlled immigration and school discipline – unless we have a strong and competitive economy.

And a strong and competitive economy is not built by government; it’s built by people – the British people.

What you achieve for Britain creates the opportunity for everything that any politician may ever want to do. You generate the prosperity that enables people to look to the future with optimism. You create the jobs we all depend on. Without you – no safety net for the least fortunate, no care for the sick, no pensions in old age.

It is your hard work and your skill that makes Britain what she is today – a country with a proud past and an exciting future.

So I want to praise the profit-makers, because too often in our country, profit is used as a dirty word. There is a dangerous ignorance in Britain today about the role of business in society. It is astonishing how little the connection between your profits and our public services is understood.

This year, Corporation Tax alone is forecast to raise almost £33 billion – enough to pay for half our education. Yet a common response to the world-beating performance of our greatest companies is a sneering retort about “excess profits”, when its those very profits that pay for the quality of life we all demand.

I’m crystal clear about government’s role in all this. It’s to create the conditions for your success – to set the framework in which business can best thrive.

You live and compete in the global economy. Marginal advantages in prices, delivery dates or quality decide which firms win the orders and create the jobs. That’s why it’s so important government sets the right framework. And I do not believe that ever higher taxes, ever higher public spending and ever higher regulation constitute the right framework.

Gordon Brown’s always going on about the need to make the European economy more like America’s. The great irony, of course, is that he’s actually making Britain’s economy more and more like those of continental Europe. For British business, Europe is a market, not an economic model.

We are all paying the price as Labour turns the British model into the European one. Britain is the slowest growing of the English-speaking economies. And our income per head is now – for the first time – lower than Ireland’s.

The truth is Britain’s heading in the wrong direction and we need to change track.

First, we need fiscal discipline to provide the macroeconomic stability on which sustained growth depends.

Second, we need to reform the microeconomic framework so that competitiveness and productivity rise not fall.

And third, we need to take urgent action to raise standards in our schools – because tomorrow’s economic performance is dependent on the quality of today’s education.

A Conservative Government will get a grip on spending. Britain cannot carry on spending more than she is earning without higher taxes or higher interest rates. Government must once again start to live within its means.

There are two Britains today. Private sector Britain, where people are working harder just to stand still, struggling just to make ends meet. And bureaucratic Britain, where money is no object, you spend what you like and employ who you like. For every job the private sector lost last year, the public sector took on almost two jobs.

Rarely in the history of politics has a government spent so much, taxed so much and achieved so little: children still unable to read or write when they leave school; waiting times longer not shorter; crime up not down – and all of this in the world’s fourth richest country. We’ve all come to realise there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But with Mr Blair you pay for lunch … and it never comes!

You know a country is living on borrowed time when government is the fastest growing industry in town. So we appointed an independent team of business experts to undertake a detailed, line by line review of government expenditure.

In January it presented its conclusions. Its recommendations mean we can cut waste and bureaucracy, strengthen the frontline, pay off debt and lower taxes.

Under a Conservative Government 168 quangos will disappear; 235,000 bureaucratic posts will go; there’ll be no more Regional Assemblies; the Supreme Court will go; there will be no Small Business Service; the New Deal will be scrapped.

These decisions are tough – but they are the right decisions because by cutting waste and by doing less a Conservative Government will be able to invest more in our priorities and lower taxes.

I am a Conservative because I believe that families and business are better at spending or investing their own money than politicians. People work hard for their cash and they deserve to keep more of it. And as we all know low tax economies are the most successful economies. They generate more wealth and create more jobs. That is why a Conservative Government will cut taxes.

Next, microeconomic reform. You all know the problem. British business is over regulated. It’s eroding your margins. And it’s damaging your ability to compete.

Fewer regulators and fewer bureaucrats will mean fewer regulations. We’ll introduce sunset clauses into regulations – so they don’t live on for ever but wither on the vine. And we’ll impose regulatory budgets on every government department which we will lower year on year. That way we’ll cut the regulatory burden you all face.

This morning I set out Conservative proposals for work permits. Migration in both directions is part of any dynamic, competitive economy.

But immigration has to be controlled. Scale matters because while immigration adds to the economy it also adds to our population. This has consequences for public services and community relations. Immigration has trebled in the last eight years. As the Government’s own Community Cohesion Panel has said “the ‘pace of change’ is simply too great at present.”

So, a Conservative Government will set an annual limit to immigration in the light of our economic needs, our moral obligation to refugees and our ability to absorb newcomers. We will introduce an Australian-style points system for work permits – so we give priority to people with the skills Britain really needs.

But I want to make one thing clear today. Britain has reached a turning point. We need to limit and reduce immigration to our country – including work related immigration – so that we can maintain good community relations and effectively manage our public services.

EU enlargement has massively expanded the pool of labour – both skilled and unskilled available to British employers. And our points system will ensure that immigration from outside the EU is limited and prioritised.

Everything a Conservative Government does will be a means to one goal – and that goal is opportunity. I want everyone to have the opportunity to make a success of their life.

I came from an ordinary family with no special privileges. But my State school education taught me that there’s no barrier to success – it is possible to give everyone, whatever their background, real opportunity.

We were all taught the basics. Our teachers encouraged ambition, excellence and hard work. It was the best start any child could have in life.

But too many children in Britain today don’t get that start. Lack of discipline is a real and growing problem in our schools. Many children still leave school unable to read, write or add up properly, while a pass grade for a Maths GCSE is now just over 15 per cent.

This isn’t just a personal tragedy for the children concerned – it’s a national tragedy.

If children don’t learn respect for authority in class, they’re less likely to respect others when they grow up. If youngsters aren’t taught to read or write properly at school, they’ll find it tougher to get a job. And if British companies can’t recruit employees with the right skills, they’ll find it much harder to compete.

We need to change direction. We need to restore discipline in school. That is why a Conservative Government will give head teachers control over their schools – they’ll have the final say on expulsions. Mr Blair’s policy of inclusion at all costs is wrong. I will not allow a disruptive minority to ruin the education of the majority.

I want to live in a society where every child is taught the basics. There is overwhelming evidence to show that traditional teaching methods – phonics, times table, arithmetic – are the best way to teach children to read, write and add-up.

Parents understand that – and a Conservative Government will give them the power to choose schools that use traditional teaching methods. As you know better than most, choice and competition drive up standards in every field of human endeavour.

Schools should challenge and stretch the brightest – rewarding excellence and ambition. The “all must have prizes” mentality has undermined education standards.

A Conservative Government will get rid of the targets that fuel grade inflation. We will keep external examinations at 16. And A Levels will remain the gold standard that universities and employers need them to be. “A” grades will only be awarded to a fixed percentage of pupils each year. And students won’t be able to retake modules again and again.

Of course not all children are academic. And so we should value youngsters with a technical or practical qualification just as much as students with a degree.

That’s why we’ve been working with the CBI to develop plans for a high quality vocational education system. Then everyone will know that a youngster who has chosen a vocational route and come out of it with flying colours is skilled and proficient.

A Conservative Government will establish a network of super colleges – paid for by abolishing the Learning and Skills Council. And we will let 14 and 15 year olds start down the vocational path at school, by attending specialist courses at FE colleges.

Governments don’t have all the answers. But if they govern with the right values they can make a real difference. Trusting free enterprise; rewarding hard work; encouraging ambition; admiring excellence in whatever field. These are the right values.

After I left university I spent a year in America. I admire many aspects of American life – particularly their enthusiasm for success. In America, they talk about the American Dream – about the ability of someone born in a log cabin to make it to the White House. As it happens, in America this is the exception, not the rule.

In Britain it actually does happen. As many of you in this room demonstrate, there are countless examples of people from humble beginnings who make it to the top in Britain: people who live the British Dream.

We should talk about it. We should embrace it. We should celebrate it. I want everyone to have the opportunity to live the British Dream.

That’s why we need a government that values discipline in schools and excellence in education. A government that lets people keep more of the money they earn by cutting taxes. And a government that champions British business and sets our great companies, and our entrepreneurs free to do what they do best: win orders, generate wealth and create jobs.

That’s what a Conservative Government will deliver. That’s why I believe Britain needs a Conservative Government. And that’s why I will pull out all the stops for a Conservative victory at the next election.

Michael Howard – 2005 Speech on Council Tax


Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Howard, the then Leader of the Opposition, on council tax on 21st February 2005.

I believe that families know best how to spend their cash. They’ve worked hard for it and they deserve to keep more of it.

Some people say that’s selfish. It’s not. It’s about what’s right and what’s fair.

It is right to encourage people to take responsibility for themselves and their families. It is fair to reward people who work hard and save for their old age.

Low tax economies are the most successful economies. And when people pay less tax you have a more cohesive society – because we all do more not just for ourselves but for our communities.

Mr Blair promised that he had “no plans to increase taxes at all”. But he has put up taxes 66 times – often by stealth.

Hard working families have been clobbered to the tune of £5,000. Virtually every independent expert agrees that if Mr Blair were to win again – taxes will go up again.

Under Labour the Council Tax, the most painful of all Mr Blair’s stealth taxes, will hit £2,000 for a typical family.

It will be particularly hard for the older generation, people who live on fixed incomes.

Many of them served our country at her greatest hour of need, preserving liberty, freedom and Britain’s independence for future generations.

Those who have given so much must surely be given their due. The older generations have been air-brushed out of Mr Blair’s Britain, but I will stand up for them. I will increase the value of the basic state pension in line with earnings, making pensioners up to £11 a week better off.

And today I can announce that the next Conservative Government will take action to relieve the Council Tax burden for millions of pensioners.

I will give every home where the adults are sixty five and over a fifty per cent Council Tax discount up to a maximum of £500. This will ensure that five million pensioners have their Council Tax bills cut.

All our plans have been fully costed and are fully funded so that Britain’s economy will be secure for the next generation.

People deserve to be treated with dignity and respect in their old age. Because I believe that the true test of a society is the way it treats its senior citizens.

People will face a clear choice at the election: Conservatives who will increase the state pension and cut pensioners’ Council Tax or Mr Blair, who will forget them and raise their Council Tax.

Michael Howard – 2005 Speech on Education


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Leader of the Opposition, Michael Howard, on 14th April 2005.

My driving ambition is to give people real opportunity – the opportunity to make a success of their life. And education is the key to all opportunity. I know.

I come from an ordinary family. My parents ran a clothes shop in Llanelli.

If the teenage Michael Howard were applying to Cambridge today, Gordon Brown would love me. My socio-economic background ticks every one of his politically correct boxes: the child of immigrants; from a small town in Wales; a family with modest means; educated in a State school. And of course, Gordon Brown would hate Tony Blair.

We didn’t have any special privileges. But we were lucky enough to live in a town with a first class state school. At Llanelli Grammar School, discipline was at a premium. Teachers were respected. We all learnt the basics. Ambition, excellence and hard work were encouraged.

It was the best start any child could have in life. Fifty years on, I want everyone to have that quality of education. And my goodness we really do have a long way to go.

Of course we know that in some schools, thanks to the commitment of inspired heads and dedicated, hardworking teachers, standards are rising. But despite all the millions of pounds that have been spent, one in three children still leave primary school unable to write properly.

Lack of discipline is a real and growing problem. And the whole system lacks ambition. A pass grade for a Maths GCSE is now as low as 16 per cent. You get four out of five questions wrong and you still pass.

When I travel round the country, perhaps the most heartbreaking sight I see is the children who’ve dropped out of school. Youngsters going off the rails – each of them a story of lost opportunity, but also a warning of the kind of country Britain will become if we don’t change direction.

Let’s be clear – the quality of Britain’s education system today, will determine our success as a society tomorrow.

Conservatives will give youngsters the opportunity that comes from learning in well-disciplined schools – where the minority isn’t able to ruin the education of the majority.

I read stories of ill discipline in our schools with horror. I remember my teachers as people I respected.

If children don’t learn respect for authority in class they’re much less likely to respect others when they grow up.

So a Conservative Government will give head teachers back control over their schools.

They will have the power to expel disruptive pupils. I will not allow the minority to ruin the education of the majority.

Of course, a child’s future is far too precious simply to be written off if they are expelled from school. Today, too many expelled children simply fall out of education altogether, wasting their potential and, quite possibly, getting into crime.

So a Conservative government will invest heavily in these schools giving troubled youngsters get the help they deserve: learning the basics; a practical skill so that they can get a job when they leave; drug treatment if they need it.

School standards and behaviour in the classroom are closely linked. Bad behaviour is often born of frustration.

If a child leaves primary school unable to read or write or add up properly, how can we expect them to participate in class at secondary school?

If bright pupils are not intellectually challenged in the classroom, is it any wonder that they get bored and cause trouble?

And what about those youngsters who know they are not going to make it to university, but just want to learn a practical craft so they can get on in life? How depressing is it for them to have to stick to an inflexible academic curriculum?

There is overwhelming evidence to demonstrate that traditional teaching methods – phonics, arithmetic, times tables – are the most effective means of teaching children to read, write and add up.

So a Conservative Government will ensure that teachers are trained in traditional, proven teaching methods like phonics.

Phonics is the best way to teach children how to read and write. This is important for all children – but it is particularly important for those whose first language is not English.

A common language is the most obvious binding element in any society. Without it, it is much harder for people to be active members of the community.

It’s important that people who make their home here learn the language of our nation. Of course people may choose to carry on speaking their family tongue at home – that must be a matter for them. But they do need to learn English properly too.

Schools should challenge and stretch the brightest – rewarding excellence and ambition. The “all must have prizes” mentality has undermined education standards.

A Conservative Government will, in its first month, start a top to bottom review of the national curriculum.

We’ll slim it down so teachers don’t have so much paperwork.

We’ll review tests, GCSEs and A Levels to restore public confidence in our education system.

And we’ll root out political correctness, replacing it with the building blocks of knowledge that are essential to give every child their birthright: a decent education.

That review will be carried out by Chris Woodhead – that indefatigable champion of higher standards and less political correctness.

People will face a clear choice at the next election: schools with good discipline and high standards with the Conservatives or schools with poor discipline and falling standards under Mr. Blair or the Liberal Democrats.

Michael Howard – 2004 Speech to British Chambers of Commerce


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Leader of the Opposition, to the British Chambers of Commerce on 21st April 2004.

Thank you for asking me to speak to you today.

The British Chambers of Commerce represents more than 135,000 firms across the country. You know better than anyone else what is happening to companies at the sharp end. You are a vital voice for British business.

Business is the lifeblood of our country. You create the jobs that pay our wages. You underwrite our pensions. You generate the goods and the services on which we all depend. And you pay the taxes which fund our public services. Last year British business paid more than £100 billion in tax to the Exchequer. In effect, you paid for the National Health Service in England twice over.

Sadly, there are still people in Britain today who knock free enterprise and carp about profits. Some commentators portray the misdemeanours of a tiny minority as those of the majority. But that is far from the truth.

I know because my parents ran a small business. They started it from nothing and built it up. Firms across Britain are run by people like my parents.

They create them, grow them and nurture them. Not just for the money – though that is of course important. But also because they want to create something new, to leave a mark, to make a difference.

There is no better system for spreading the fruits of man’s labour than free enterprise. No better system for raising people’s standard of living. And no better system for advancing human achievement.

But for free enterprise to flourish it needs to be free. Not weighed down by excessive rules, regulations, red tape and tax.

We learnt that lesson in the 1980s – when the Conservative Government transformed Britain from the sick man of Europe to the powerhouse of Europe.

All of us here today are no doubt enormously proud of what business in Britain has achieved. And we all want to do even better in the future.

I for one am hugely optimistic about just how much we can achieve.

Britain is a great country. We are an enterprising, creative and hardworking people. We can take on the best and we can win.


But I am genuinely concerned that many of the competitive advantages we fought so hard to win are being eroded.

You all operate in a fiercely competitive global marketplace. Marginal advantages in price, delivery dates or quality decide which firm gets the order and which creates the jobs. The extra burdens of high tax and over-regulation make it much more difficult for British business to compete.

UK competitiveness has fallen significantly in recent years, according to the World Economic Forum. Five years ago Britain was fourth in the world. Now we are fifteenth – a drop of 11 places.

The great irony is that while Gordon Brown urges his European counterparts to become more like America, he is actually making our economy more and more like theirs.

Yes, he was right to give the responsibility for setting interest rates to the Bank of England. But that loss of macroeconomic control seems to have left Mr. Brown and his mandarins with too little to do. So they have put their energies to work in micro-managing the British economy.

Survey after survey has shown that UK business is feeling the strain of increased regulation and taxation. It is estimated that the additional cost of red tape and tax to British business is £15 billion a year.

As Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco Chief Executive, said earlier in this year:

“Like a tide, the level of taxes seems to be forever rising. The water is now above our waist: Tesco National Insurance, corporate, property and employment taxes are now over 50% of our profits”.

Most independent commentators now predict that taxes will have to rise again if the Government sticks to its current spending plans. That’s the view, among others, of the IMF, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the ITEM Club.

Indeed, Madam President, you have expressed concern that “rapidly worsening finances increase the risk that the Government will have to raise taxes in the next 2-3 years”.

Tax as a percentage of GDP has risen from under 35% in 1996 to over 36% today. It is predicted to reach 38% in 2008. Compare that with America and the Pacific – where the average tax burden is under 30% – and it is easy to see why British competitiveness is under threat.

And it’s not just the direct burden of tax that hits business. The tax system itself has become much more complex as well. As an example, it’s worth noting that Tolley’s yellow tax handbook has grown by 2000 pages since Labour came to office. So it’s no wonder the President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation has said: “People have difficulty in understanding how the system affects them. Not even MPs understand it”.

Actually, come to think of it, I’m not sure all my parliamentary colleagues deserve that implied accolade. I’m not at all sure I do!

In any event, this is a huge indirect burden for business, particularly small firms, who just cannot afford the armies of accountants to help them cope with all the new rules and regulations.


We now have 15 new regulations every single working day. And you, the British Chambers of Commerce, reckon that the additional cost of new regulation to business has reached £30 billion.

Last year alone, British business was faced with an additional bill of £9 billion from new regulation. Your Director General has quite rightly said that British business cannot compete with this “millstone” round its neck.

Not long ago, I went to a small firm that had just been instructed to fit emergency lighting at a cost of many thousands of pounds. That cost had a real effect – they had to lay someone off. Yet the year before, at a previous inspection, no such requirement had been made. In the intervening twelve months, nothing had changed. There had been no accidents and no change in working practices to justify the new requirement. No new machines had been installed.

I mentioned this at last year’s annual CBI conference. That provoked a letter from Andrew Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. He was extremely concerned to hear about this. Do you know why? Apparently I was wrong to blame the Health and Safety Executive for this new burden on a small business … I should have blamed the Fire Service.

And he asked me to apologise for my mistake!

Not a word about the unnecessary costs. Or about the lost job. All he was concerned about was that I’d got the wrong Department. As long as that is the mindset of this Government at Cabinet level we shall never tackle the problem of excessive regulation in this country.

The Public Sector

There is another concern. In just over five years, the number of public sector jobs has risen by more than 500,000. Yet last year, jobs in the private sector fell – by 130,000. This is unsustainable. How can we possibly continue to afford a public sector which is growing, when the private sector, which pays for it, is shrinking?

The Chancellor urged you all this morning to exercise wage restraint in the year ahead. And he said he would not tolerate irresponsibility in the public sector. That would certainly be good news for Britain.

But Gordon Brown’s record in constraining the public sector is not one to be proud of. In the last two years earnings growth in the public sector has outstripped the private sector by more than a third.

So I am absolutely clear about this. We are following the wrong path.

The Conservative Approach

The British economy needs to become more flexible again. We need to get a grip on regulation, cut back on waste, and over time reduce the burden of taxation. That is the Conservative approach.

First, spending. We will ensure that, over the medium term, public spending does not grow as quickly as the economy. Under a Conservative Government the State would consume a smaller share of GDP than under Labour.

Second, we will cut waste. We have appointed David James, the man brought in to tackle the fiasco of London’s Millennium Dome, to look at where we can cut waste. And how right we were. Because suddenly – lo and behold – the Government has discovered potential savings of between £10-15 billion. And that’s without really trying. I’m very confident David James will find more than that and we will root it out when we return to government.

Third, regulation. Civil service recruitment is currently running at 511 new officials a week. On day one of the next Conservative Government we will freeze it. Fewer officials will mean fewer regulations. We will introduce sunset clauses in new regulation. And like America, we will exempt small businesses from many regulations. The result? The total regulatory burden imposed by government will fall each year.

EU Constitution

Of course, not all regulation comes from Britain. The single most expensive regulation for British business in the last few years has been the Working Time Directive. According to your calculations, it has cost business more than £10 billion – so far.

More than 40% of new regulations start in Brussels. And be in no doubt – if Europe were to adopt the proposed European Constitution that burden will go on rising.

Don’t for a moment imagine that the European Constitution is an esoteric issue about sovereignty – important though that is. It would have a real and practical impact on your business. As Martin Wolf wrote recently in the Financial Times the Constitution “is a machine for ratcheting upwards an already excessive regulatory burden”.

The Constitution, for example, incorporates the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The rights under the Charter are loosely drafted. They include the right to strike, the right to so-called social protection, and the right for workers to have information and consultation within business.

It will be up to the European Court exactly what these rights mean in practice. And if past experience is anything to go by, they will lead to yet more burdens on business – burdens British politicians would be powerless to stop.

There may well be a case for some of these rights. You don’t have to argue for a free for all to be opposed to more regulation at the European level. You can simply take the view that it’s better to argue the issues out here, in Britain, than have them imposed upon us by the majority vote of other countries in Brussels.

The Conservative Party has consistently demanded a referendum to give the British people the right to say “yes” or “no” to the proposed European Constitution. Yesterday, after days of spin and counter-spin, the Prime Minister came to the House of Commons to announce that, finally, he agreed with us. But do you know what? He was so shame-faced that in a statement lasting some 10 minutes, he couldn’t bring himself to utter, even once, the word “referendum”.

But in accepting the need for a referendum, Tony Blair has blown apart his ludicrous argument that a “no” vote on the Constitution means Britain would have to leave the EU. So I hope we will hear no more of it. As he finally confirmed in the House of Commons today, rejecting the Constitution would not affect our position as full participating members of the European Union. To pretend otherwise is to distort the argument and deceive the electorate.

If the British people were to vote “Yes” a Conservative government would accept the Constitution. If the British people were to vote “No”, a Conservative government would veto the Constitution: and we would not agree to any new treaty which establishes a constitution for the European Union. Countries have constitutions and Conservatives do not want to be part of a country called Europe.

In the House of Commons today Tony Blair clearly implied that if the British people were to vote no in a referendum while he was still Prime Minister, he would follow the precedent set by the Irish Government after the Irish people voted no to the Nice Treaty. Labour would renegotiate the Constitution in some minor way and then force the British people to vote again in a second referendum.

In other words, if the British people did not vote the way he wanted, Tony Blair would make them vote again until they did.

The European Union has achieved a great deal. Together we have created a single market of 380 million people. But the EU is failing to face up to the realities of the twenty first century.

If the Constitution is passed, it will mean business as usual for Europe – greater centralisation, more regulation and less flexibility. It is the exact opposite of what Europe really needs. Far from solving problems it will create yet more.

Conservatives have an alternative vision for Europe – a positive vision. We want Europe’s member states to have room to breathe. If some countries want to integrate more closely then that is fine – as long as they do not force countries who do not want to, to follow them. Our policy is simple. Live and let live. That is a modern and mature approach – one which will allow Europe to succeed in the twenty first century.


Many of you, like me, have probably spent time in America. A love of enterprise is at the centre of American society and I admire many aspects of American life.

In America, they talk about the American Dream. They talk about the ability of someone born in a log cabin to make it to the White House. As it happens, in America this is the exception, not the rule.

In Britain it actually does happen. There are countless examples of people from humble beginnings who make it to the top: who live the British Dream.

So we should talk about it. We should embrace it. We should celebrate it. I want everyone to live the British Dream.

Britain is a great country full of talented and creative people. We could and should be doing so much better.

We need a government that does less, but does it better.

That provides a framework in which people can do the best for themselves and their families.

That allows them to keep more of the money they work so hard to earn.

And that does not constantly interfere and regulate and get in the way.

That is the challenge we set ourselves.

That is my vision for Britain.

I hope that it is one that you share and I now look forward to answering your questions.

Michael Howard – 2004 Speech to Welsh Conservative Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Leader of the Opposition, Michael Howard, to the 2004 Welsh Conservative Party Conference on 5th April 2004.

Bore da I Chi Gyd.

It’s very good to be back here in Wales.

I’m very proud to call myself a Welshman. Growing up in Wales gave me the confidence to go out and make my way in the world. We are a confident and ambitious people, loyal and steadfast but also adventurous and bold.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone here who works so hard for the Conservatives in Wales. Bill Wiggin, our excellent shadow secretary of state. Nick Bourne and his team, officially the hardest working Assembly Members in Wales. And our local councillors and activists.

One of the greatest attractions here in Llandudno is “The Alice in Wonderland Centre”. It was built in honour of Lewis Carroll, who often came here on holiday.

Labour live in their own version of wonderland.

They came to power with a golden economic legacy, a huge majority and the overwhelming trust of the British public. People genuinely believed things could only get better.

Labour could have achieved so much. But they have achieved so little.

Labour have had seven years to make things better. But what difference have they really made? Far too many children still leave school unable to read, write and add up properly. Too many elderly people still suffer the indignity of mixed sex wards. And too many of our neighbourhoods are still terrorised by young tearaways.

Labour have let you down.

In 1996, Tony Blair promised that Labour would not put up taxes.

But in Britain today, people are paying much more in tax than they did when Labour came to office.

Gordon Brown – the Clickety Click Chancellor – has imposed 66 new taxes since 1997.

We’re paying almost £42 a week more in tax for every man, woman and child in the country. That’s £5000 more a household a year.

And British business is now paying an extra £15 billion a year in taxes and red tape.

Last month’s Budget made Third Term Tax Rises inevitable if Labour wins the next election.

But despite all these tax rises, Labour hasn’t delivered the improvements to our public services that they promised.

Labour have let you down.

In Britain today, despite a 37.5 per cent increase in health funding, hospital treatments have increased by less than 5 per cent. In Wales, waiting lists have almost doubled#. One in ten people in Wales is waiting for an appointment. Almost 12,000 of them have waited more than 18 months.

In Britain today, despite a 65 per cent cash increase in education funding, more than a million children play truant from school. And one in three leave primary school unable to read and write properly.

In Wales, schools are closing and targets are not being met. The party that promised “education, education, education” has delivered “closures, truancy, illiteracy”.

In Britain today, despite an 85 per cent cash increase in spending on crime reduction, crime is on the increase. Serious violence and anti-social behaviour, once a rarity, are now commonplace. There were a million violent crimes in Britain last year. In Wales, violent crime has gone up by a half and last year more than one in every hundred Welsh homes was broken into.

So where has all the money gone? All that spending. All that taxing. All that borrowing. What’s happened to it?

Sadly, so much of it has just been wasted.

If you seek monuments to Labour’s waste, all you have to do is look around.

The Dome. £750 million.

The London Assembly building. £100 million.

The Scottish Parliament. £430 million and rising.

The Welsh Assembly building. £55 million and rising, four times more than planned.

I know that house prices have gone up since Labour came to office. But this is ridiculous!

And they’re spending another £6 million – on the furniture! They’re certainly not sensible enough to get it from somewhere like Happy Home Furnishers!

Labour are also spending more and more on bureaucracy. In Britain as a whole they are hiring 511 extra civil servants every week. That’s right, 511.

In Wales, the cost of employing the civil service has increased by a third, to almost £90 million. That’s enough money to pay for four children’s hospitals or to employ 700 consultants.

There are now more bureaucrats in the Welsh health department than there are practice nurses in GP surgeries.

In last month’s Budget, Gordon Brown claimed he was going to tackle waste and bureaucracy. He claimed he would cut the number of bureaucrats by 40,000 over the next four years. The trouble is he’s hired 40,000 more in the last three years! Talk about boom and bust!

Sometimes, just sometimes, I think that Tony Blair understands why his government is failing. Sometimes, just sometimes, I think he understands why, despite the largest peace time majority in living memory, he has utterly failed to make the changes that our country so desperately needs.

But however much he understands, he will never succeed. He can’t succeed because when push comes to shove he is a Labour Prime Minister. His party won’t let him. The trade unions won’t let him. And Gordon Brown won’t let him.

Unlike Labour our party is open-minded, not dogmatic.

I have spent a lot of time recently outside London – talking to people, listening to people, learning about their concerns.

They tell me how fed up they feel when they see government wasting the money they have worked so hard to earn.

They tell me how angry they are when they see criminals treated like victims and victims treated like criminals.

And they tell me how insecure they feel when they see that Labour has lost control of Britain’s borders.

Labour have let people down. The Conservatives will stand up for people.

We want to reward the people who do the right thing – those who work hard for their families, who save for their future, who give back to society.

We will get a grip on government. We’ll cut waste and regulation. And we will stop Labour’s Third Term Tax Rises.

Taxes in Britain are too high. We want people to keep more of the money they earn because we believe they are better at spending it than politicians. Goodness knows, we’ve learnt that lesson in Wales.

And we understand that low tax economies are the most successful economies. They create more jobs, attract more investment, make people wealthier.

I don’t apologise for my ambition to take less of your money. And I will not be put off by Labour’s scare tactics. As Conservative councils up and down the country have shown, you can have lower taxes and deliver first class public services. Because we know that real improvement in public services doesn’t come just from investment. It comes from genuine reform.

In most other European countries, people don’t have to put up with what we have to put up with in Britain. It makes me angry that in this country people die of diseases they would not die of if they lived across the channel.

In Germany, there are no waiting lists.

In France, people are free to consult whatever doctor they like.

And in Denmark, people can choose any hospital they want to go to for an operation.

In Britain today it’s people with money that get better education and better healthcare. Because they have choice. In other countries, every one has choice, which is why their standards are higher than ours.

I want to give choice to all, not just those with the money to buy it. You shouldn’t have to pay more for choice. I want to end a world where people have to shut up and take what they’re given.

That is why our patient’s passport is such a sensible and refreshing idea. For the first time, the patient will choose. They can choose their local hospital. Or the hospital nearest their family. Or the hospital that can treat them the quickest.

Labour hate our proposal. They have attacked it and distorted it. They can’t stand the idea of people having choice. They think people should have to do what they are told. Labour still believe that big government knows best.

Labour still don’t understand choice. And choice is the key to better standards in our hospitals and in our schools.

Education is at the heart of our success as a nation. In an increasingly global economy, we need to give our children the best possible education to help them compete in the modern world. So we need teaching that is rigorous, that suits every child’s talents, that helps people to achieve their best.

The best schools, whether state or private, selective or comprehensive, offer the things which every parent has the right to expect for their child – discipline and the pursuit of excellence.

No-one can learn – and few can teach – in an atmosphere where shouting, loutishness and violence prevail. So we will make it an absolute priority to give teachers control over their classrooms. Heads will have the final say over expulsions. Schools should be allowed to offer legally-enforceable, tough home-school contracts, giving teachers the clear right to impose discipline.

Our education passport will give parents a choice as to where their children are educated, and make it easier for popular and successful schools to expand – even to take over neighbouring schools. This will give opportunities to thousands of children. The opportunity to find out what it is that they can do best and develop the talent to realise their dreams.

People want security in their lives too. They want to know that their children will be well educated. They want to know that their relatives will be cared for if they fall ill.

And they want to know that they can walk their streets in safety. Labour have lost control of crime. The most important duty of any government is to provide security for its citizens. I understood that when I was Home Secretary. And I am proud of the fact that there were nearly a million fewer crimes when I left office than when I took up my post.

Cutting crime will be a major priority for us. Using significant reductions in the cost of the asylum and immigration system, we will recruit 5000 more police officers each year – 40,000 more over eight years, 2000 of them here in Wales. It should be the mugger who lives in fear, not the elderly lady walking home from the shops.

People want our borders to be secure too. I know that Britain has benefited hugely from the immigrant communities that have settled here over the years.

But immigration must be controlled. And Labour have lost control of our borders. Their policy is a complete shambles. Only this week, we found out – through leaks of course – that Labour have waved through thousands of immigration applications without checks of any kind. Waved them through against the advice of their own diplomats on the ground.

Officials have been calling for action for more than a year. But Ministers sat on their hands. Officials saw their concerns ignored, their warnings unheeded, their objections overruled.

It has been a scandal.

A scandal that officials have had to work under an intolerable burden.

A scandal that sham applications – from one-legged roof tilers, fake electricians and bogus builders – have had to be rubber stamped.

A scandal that those who finally blew the whistle have been suspended while the Minister who was responsible clung desperately to office, before finally being forced to resign.

But perhaps things might turn out OK. I read in yesterday’s papers that Tony Blair will now take personal charge of immigration policy and sort it out. Then I read the date. April the First.

A chaotic immigration policy helps no one. It doesn’t help those who come here illegally, who fall prey to criminal gangs. It doesn’t help those who use the proper channels, who are shoved to the back of the queue. And it doesn’t help the people who live here because of the pressure it puts on our public services.

We will get a grip on illegal immigration and those who claim asylum without being genuine refugees.

We will set up processing centres near people’s country of origin. No one will be able to come here and claim asylum. They will have to apply at one of our centres abroad, where they will be dealt with quickly, fairly and humanely.

We will take a quota of genuine refugees – probably more genuine refugees than we take now. But we will no longer be obliged to support the tens of thousands of asylum seekers who are not genuine refugees.

Of course, in a matter of months, we may lose more control of our immigration policy. The European Union is planning to create its own constitution. Tony Blair is already signed up to it. He wants it rushed through “as soon as possible”.

I think a European constitution is wrong in principle. Nation states make treaties with each other. Countries have constitutions.

If this constitution is accepted, the EU would gain many of the attributes and trappings of statehood: its own president, its own foreign minister, its own legal system. For the first time, the supremacy of EU law would derive not from Acts of national Parliaments but from a supra-national constitution.

That is a profound and radical change.

It is dishonourable to pretend that this is merely a tidying-up exercise.

It will involve the large-scale transfer of powers to Brussels.

It is more honest to call this the capstone of a federal state. That’s how the Belgian Prime Minister describes it. Or to call it Europe’s “Philadelphia Moment”. That’s what former French President Valery Giscard D’Estaing said, making a direct comparison with the American constitution.

They are being straight. Tony Blair is not.

So let me make it clear. I believe that any proposal for a new constitution must be put to the British people in a referendum.

Whatever your view, you should have a say. We have had 34 referendums since Labour came to power. On a Welsh Assembly, on a Scottish parliament, even on a mayor for Hartlepool.

But when it comes to transferring power from Britain to Brussels, Tony Blair says “Trust me”.

Well, Conservatives say “Trust the People”.

That is why, here today, with your help, I am launching our nationwide petition calling for a referendum on a European Constitution.

Sign it. Get your friends to sign it. Get the friends of your friends to sign it.

Because whatever their views, they should have their say.

You know, when I became a Conservative as a schoolboy in Wales, people said I was a rebel. You don’t join the Conservatives round here, they said.

Well, I don’t think of myself as a rebel. Although, whisper it softly, I do prefer soccer to rugby.

I became a Conservative because of what I believed.

I believe that the people should be big and the state should be small.

I believe that people are more likely to succeed when they are not nannied or over-governed.

And I believe that people want to be the masters of their own destinies.

That is why I came into politics. That is why I returned to front-line politics. And that is why I believe that we can win the next election.

Seven years ago, Labour came to power with high hopes and the public’s blessing. They promised that things could only get better.

But Labour have let you down. Instead of the improvements they promised, they’ve given us seven years of tax, spend, borrow and waste.

Britain is a great country, full of the most talented and energetic and ambitious people. We could and we should be doing so much better. We need a government that is united in its desire to give power back to people.

A government that will listen to people. A government that will trust people. And a government that will serve people.

That has always been our historic mission. Britain needs it now more than ever.

The battle lines have been drawn.

We are ready for the fight.

We are ready to win.

Here in Wales.

And across Britain.

And with your help I know we can do it.

Michael Howard – 2004 Speech on Europe


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Leader of the Opposition, Michael Howard, on 7th June 2004 in Bristol.

I am delighted to be here in Bristol.

Yesterday I was in Normandy commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the D Day landings with war veterans from across the world.

It was the most humbling experience. And it was a great honour to join them in remembering the extraordinary sacrifices that were made sixty years ago. The price they paid for liberty should never be forgotten.

Today we are free. But our world remains uncertain and insecure. In such a fast changing environment it is essential that people feel a sense of ownership over, and solidarity with, the institutions which serve them.

The institution which can best provide that sense of ownership and solidarity is the nation state.

Without a strong and independent state, no modern democracy is possible. The nation state is what binds people together. It gives people a sense of identity. That is why I am so hostile to proposals which would transfer more power from Britain to the European Union.

The proposed new European Constitution would mean transferring substantial new powers from the nation states of Europe to the European Union.

The EU would have its own criminal code for the first time. Europe would be able to tell Britain how to run our police and courts, what rights criminals should have and how to deal with terrorists.

And because the Constitution would incorporate the Charter of Fundamental Rights into EU law, our asylum laws would be affected too.

Incorporating the Charter wouldn‘t just affect asylum law, it would give the EU and European Court the power to make new laws about how British businesses are run.

The rights under the Charter would put the clock back in Britain by making trade unions more powerful and giving them new rights.

It would be up to the European Court to determine exactly what these rights mean in practice. But if past experience is anything to go by, they will lead to yet more burdens on business – burdens British politicians would be powerless to stop.

There may well be a case for some of these rights. You don’t have to argue for a free for all to be opposed to more regulation at the European level.

You can simply take the view – as I do – that it’s better to argue the issues out here, in Britain, than have them imposed upon us by the majority vote of other countries in Brussels.

It is hardly surprising that over 60 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses think the Constitution would be bad for jobs.

On top of all this, the EU will have a President and a Foreign Minister to set policy. The EU will have new powers to make treaties with other countries. The European Court could have new powers to review the actions of the British army.

So I am totally opposed to the European Constitution. Countries have constitutions and I do not want to be part of a country called Europe.

I want to build a Europe of nation states. I do not want to build a nation called Europe.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats want to sign up to the Constitution. They would take more powers from Britain and surrender them to Brussels.

The Lib Dems want to scrap the pound. They support a European army, European wide taxes, a single European foreign policy, and a European asylum policy. In short, they would sign up to anything that comes out of Brussels.

Not that they have admitted it of course during this election campaign. No – they have been deadly quiet about their European policies. Why? Because they know they are out of tune with what the British people want.

And what about Labour?

Tony Blair may claim that he’ll stand up for Britain’s interests. But the reality is rather different.

Tony Blair used to oppose a European Constitution. But he’s given in on that.

Tony Blair used to oppose the EU having a single legal personality. But he’s given in on that.

That’s why, whatever Tony Blair finally agrees, the establishment of a European Constitution is a major strategic defeat for his Government.

The truth is when Labour begin negotiating the Constitution next week, they will be fighting a massive damage limitation exercise.

The truth is that Labour have let Britain down in Europe. They have totally failed to stand up for British interests.

But don’t think that Labour will stop at the European Constitution. They want to go even further in the future.

Just three months ago, Labour’s Minister for Europe went to Brussels and signed up to a blueprint for a European state. For a government famous for its publicity machine, this was one piece of news that didn’t make its way into the newspapers and onto the TV.

Not surprising perhaps when you consider the content.

The document that Labour’s Minister for Europe – Denis MacShane – signed up to calls itself a “political vision for Europe”. It’s not a vision that many people in this country would share.

It proposes a radical transfer of power from Britain to Europe.

It commits Labour to:

– A taxation policy for Europe;

– A single immigration policy for Europe;

– A single welfare system for Europe; and

– The surrender of Britain’s seat at the UN Security Council.

It looks like a done deal. More power for Europe, less power for Britain.

Lots of people think that you can only do business with Europe in one of two ways. Either you’ve got to hand over ever more powers. Or you’ve got to give up altogether.

I take a different view.

So did Mrs Thatcher. She was told that there was nothing that could be done about the fact that Britain paid more than her fair share of the total EU budget. People said her “you’ll never get our money back from Europe”.

Well she wasn’t having that. She said no. And look what happened – Britain got her rebate which is still being paid to this day.

People said the same sort of thing to us about the Euro. They told us – “if you don’t join, you won’t survive on your own”.

We didn’t accept that. The Conservatives, again, said no.

The truth is if you stand up for what you believe in, you can get things done in Europe.

Britain should start by saying ‘no’ to the Constitution.

Saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean we would have to leave the EU – just as we can say ‘no’ to the Euro without leaving the EU.

Saying ‘No’ would send a clear message to Europe: we want to control our lives, here in Britain. We don’t want to be railroaded into handing over yet more power to Brussels.

Second, Britain should put forward an alternative vision for Europe, to counter the federalist vision. Conservatives have a clear vision for Europe. It’s a vision that will help safeguard jobs and prosperity.

It will put Britain first.

We want to create a more flexible Europe. Individual countries should be free to integrate more closely if they want to, so long as they do not force other countries to follow them. And, in the light of experience, we should look at taking back powers from Europe that would be better exercised at a national level here in Britain – and in other countries too.

The enlargement of the EU to 25 member states creates huge opportunities for Europe. But it also means we must change and modernise.

It is not enough to tinker with the weighting of votes in the European Council, as some people seem to think. Those who say that the way forward is to undermine the voting rights of national governments so that they can be more easily forced into doing things against their will, will not succeed in building a successful and durable partnership among European nations.

Dealing with the challenge of an enlarged EU requires a change in attitude. We need a Europe that is built on mutual respect, not mutual suspicion. For Europe to be a success in the 21st century it needs to do less but do things better.

That is the Conservative alternative.

We will do what we’ve done before. We’ll make clear that not every country in Europe has to sign up to everything that comes out of Europe. Just look at the Euro – some countries are in and some countries are out. And that’s fine.

Conservative policy is simple. If some countries want to integrate more closely, let them. But they cannot force Britain to join them if we don’t want to.

And we will take back powers from Europe by tough negotiation – just as we did with the rebate.

The Conservatives can do all this – we’ve done it before.

Britain is a great country.

We deserve a government that has the confidence to get the best deal for Britain. Not a government that gives up at the first hint of trouble.

No one likes to say no. But sometimes you have to if you’re going to get what you want. Politics isn’t just about being popular – it’s about getting the job done.

Michael Howard – 2004 Speech on Gibraltar


Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Howard, the then Leader of the Opposition, on 17th May 2004.

I am honoured to be with you today in Gibraltar, just as I was at your National Day in 2002.

Today is the eighth anniversary of Peter Caruna’s election as Prime Minister of Gibraltar.

But it was three hundred years ago that Gibraltar became British.

There are those who would wish to overturn three hundred years of history and separate Gibraltar from the United Kingdom.

My pledge to you today is a simple one.

The Conservatives will never surrender Gibraltar’s sovereignty without the specific mandate of the people of Gibraltar.

Let me read you what it says in our manifesto.

“An incoming Conservative government will not be bound by any agreement to surrender Gibraltar’s sovereignty which has been reached without the consent of the people of Gibraltar. We will disown this Government’s agreement in principle to share sovereignty with Spain…Britain and Spain should now discuss those matters where agreement can be reached. They do not include the issue of sovereignty”.

And let me remind the Labour Government what it says in your Constitution, drawn up when a Labour Government was last in power, in 1969.

“… Her Majesty’s Government have given assurances to the people of Gibraltar that Gibraltar will remain part of Her Majesty’s dominions unless and until an Act of Parliament otherwise provides and furthermore that Her Majesty’s Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes”.

Britain’s historic commitment to you could not be clearer.

But let me read to you what Labour say now, to the people of Gibraltar, in their manifesto.

Yes, that’s right. Absolutely nothing. Not one word.

Although Jack Straw did manage to comment that he thought the 2002 referendum was “eccentric”.

Well then, let us see what the Liberal Democrats have to say to the people of Gibraltar in their manifesto.

Yes, that’s right. Absolutely nothing. Not one word.

Although Menzies Campbell, their foreign affairs spokesman, did manage to describe the 2002 referendum as “daft”.

On the 10th June, people for all over Europe will be going to the polls in the European elections.

For the first time, the people of Gibraltar have a voice in an election in the United Kingdom.

We in the Conservative Party campaigned alongside you for you to have that voice.

Together we achieved a great victory.

I launched our campaign a fortnight ago in Plymouth, which for the purposes of the European elections is in the same region as Gibraltar, the South West.

I know that all my friends and colleagues in the South West welcome Gibraltar with both enthusiasm and affection. Our common naval and seafaring tradition has moved forward now to more modern shared interests in the diverse worlds of tourism and financial services.

So there is still much that unites our two communities.

We have some excellent MEPs and candidates in the South West, all of whom are passionate in their commitment to Gibraltar.

Your votes can help send them to Brussels to fight for you. To fight on the 350 telephone code issue. To fight on the pollution Gibraltar faces from mainland Spain.

To fight about the constant time wasted and “hassle” at the border. To fight on this issue of visiting cruise liners.

To fight for you.

Europe needs to go in a new direction.

I say this as leader of a Party, the British Conservative Party, that has been at the forefront of Britain’s engagement with Europe since the early 1960s.

I am, therefore, determined that Britain shall remain a positive and influential member of the European Union.

But I do not want a Europe which is a one-way street to closer integration to which all must subscribe.

Those member states which wish to integrate more closely should be free to do so. But they should not drag Britain and quite possibly some other member states reluctantly in their wake. We would say to our partners: ‘We don’t want to stop you doing what you want to do, as long as you don’t make us do what we don’t want to do’.

We do not want to impose on the European Union a rigid straitjacket of uniformity from Finland to Greece, from Portugal to Poland.

Conservative policy is simple. Live and let live. Flourish and let flourish. That is a modern and mature approach.

Conservatives will stand up for Britain’s and Gibraltar’s interests.

We will continue to oppose British membership of the Euro.

We will negotiate to restore local and national control over British fisheries. The Common Fisheries Policy is emptying our seas of fish and has utterly failed our fishermen.

We will preserve national control over asylum, immigration and defence policy.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

The Conservatives have always been good friends to Gibraltar.

The Conservatives will always stand up for Gibraltar.

The Conservatives will not let Gibraltar down.

Michael Howard – 2004 Speech to Conservative Party Spring Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Howard, the then Leader of the Opposition, to the Conservative Party spring conference on 7th March 2004.

First of all, I want to thank you for all the hard work you do for our Party.

It has been quite an eventful few months. I certainly never expected to be where I am today. But I am immensely proud to be standing before you now.

Proud because no other party in Britain has a longer or greater history. Proud because no other party has done so much for our country. And proud because no other party has the opportunity to achieve so much in the future.

I also feel a sense of humility, facing this audience. Like all of you, I’m a party worker. In my case, it’s my only job. Most of you here today work hard, both at a day job and as Conservative councillors or volunteers.

You are the Conservative Party. We are utterly dependent on your commitment, your loyalty and your enthusiasm.

I want also to pay tribute to Iain Duncan Smith for his brave leadership in difficult times. Our Party owes him a real debt. And it is right that we should acknowledge that today. But now we must look forward as Iain wants us to do.

In the last four months, we’ve made important changes to the Party.

We’ve more than halved the size of the Shadow Cabinet.

We’ve streamlined Central Office.

And soon we will be moving from Smith Square to more modern headquarters.

In the last few months, we have gained 20,000 new members.

We now have more members than both Labour and the Liberal Democrats put together.

We are the largest party in local government – we now have more women councillors than any other party.

And today, here in Harrogate, we have almost 1,500 party workers – our largest number ever.

In short, the Conservative Party is back. Back as the only alternative to this failing and discredited Labour Government.

We meet at the beginning of a new century. It is a century which will see enormous change. In twenty years time the world – and our country – will look very different.

And here in Britain the nature of that difference will be determined at the next General Election.

Today we stand at a crossroads. We have a clear choice about the direction we take. One road leads to an ever bigger role for the State. Higher taxes. Higher government spending. A country in which big government knows best.

The other road leads to a country in which people pay less tax and have more control over their lives. A country in which individuals have the freedom to determine their own destinies and make the best of their talents. A country in which people are big and the State is small.

These are the differences – the fundamental differences – which will form the battle lines at the next General Election. Make no mistake. Labour will caricature our position. As they become more frightened, Labour will launch an unprecedented campaign to frighten the British people.

But we will not be deterred or deflected by Labour’s scare tactics. We will not be deterred or deflected from putting forward our vision for our country.

We owe it to this great country of ours to show that there is an alternative. An alternative to Labour’s never ending cycle of tax and spend and failure to deliver. That alternative is lower taxes and smaller government: trusting people and giving them control.

Britain is looking for a new approach. And it is up to us to convince the people that our way – the Conservative way – is a better way.

Last month Oliver Letwin published carefully considered proposals for public spending.

We want to concentrate spending on our key public services that so desperately need reform. Health and education. We will invest money in reform, not waste it on an out-dated system. We want public spending to grow less quickly than the economy as a whole. And we want the State to take less of the nation’s income.

So instead of Labour’s Third Term Tax Rises, a future Conservative government wants to lower taxes.

And let me tell you why we want to do that. We believe that low taxes give people the opportunity to make their own decisions: decisions to save, to give, to spend, to keep more for their families and their children. People grow in confidence, and grow morally, when the State gives them that opportunity by taking less from them. That is the moral case for lower taxes.

But there’s another reason to lower taxes. Low tax economies are the most successful economies. They create more jobs, they grow more businesses, and they increase people’s wealth. So we have both a moral and a practical case for lower taxes.

That is the difference between Labour and the Conservatives. A difference that deserves to be debated in a serious way.

It is hardly surprising that people are cynical about politicians, when politicians don’t conduct grown up debates. Look at what Labour’s various spokesmen had to say about Oliver’s proposals – after a period of quiet reflection – perhaps as long as, oh, 30 seconds. They said that our plans would lead to “the wholesale elimination of public services”. They claimed that our “real intention is to cut … investment”. They said that our plans are “more extreme than ever”.

I’ll say this for them. They’re obviously rattled. I read in the papers this morning that Labour has appointed a minister to scrutinise every speech I make – line by line. Well I don’t know who you are – but I hope you’re watching now. Sit back and enjoy the show.

Don’t get me wrong. Politicians can and should criticise each other’s proposals. Let’s just do it in a grown-up way.

You know me.

I am not backward in coming forward.

I see it as my duty to point out where I think the Government is going wrong. I do it every week in the House of Commons … At Prime Minister’s Questions.

I do it because it is my duty to hold the Government to account. And I do it because their failures make me angry.

Everything I have and everything I am I owe to this country.

Britain is one of the greatest countries on earth, full of the most talented, energetic and hard-working people.

We are a country of great traditions too. Traditions which should not just be written off in a government press release. We are proud of those traditions and we will respect them. The future of our country must be grounded in those traditions.

And I am optimistic – hugely optimistic – about that future. I know how much better Britain could be doing.

Britain is at her best when she aims to be the best. That is my aspiration for our country. But when I look around me today I see so many missed opportunities. And that makes me angry too.

Angry that a million children played truant last year – over 200,000 more than in 1997. What hope is there for our country when youngsters don’t even go to school?

It makes me angry that a million people still have to wait for their operations, and that waiting times are getting longer. It makes me angry that at the beginning of the 21st century, thousands of people still have to suffer the indignity of mixed sex wards.

It is a tragedy that the people most let down are the elderly – the generation that made such sacrifices during the war.

It makes me angry too that violent crime is at its highest level ever, with almost a million violent crimes committed last year. That gun crime has doubled since Labour came to office. Today it is the eldery woman, walking down the street on her way to the shops, who is fearful, not the mugger lurking in the dark.

A million on waiting lists. A million off school. A million violent crimes. And a million excuses from this government.

And it doesn’t have to be like this. You know what the real problem is? When we urgently need action, Labour’s nowhere to be seen. And when we don’t need Labour, you just can’t get away from them.

Take the economy.

Gordon Brown loves lecturing our European partners about how they should make their economies more like America. I agree with him. But at the same time, he’s doing just the opposite. He’s introducing more red tape, more regulation and even higher taxes, when business just wants to be left to get on with the job.

I sometimes think that Gordon Brown is an addict – a tax and regulation junkie. But he cannot bring himself to admit it. There’s a questionnaire that’s been developed by a well known London clinic.

It’s designed to help people face up to their addictions. So here are some helpful questions to find out just how bad Gordon’s habit really is.

-Do you use tax and regulation to help cope with your problems?

-Are tax and regulation affecting your reputation?

-Have you lost friends since you started taxing and regulating?

-Have you ever tried to quit or cut back taxing and regulating?

-Do you need to tax and regulate more than you used to in order to get the effect you want?

Sadly I think we all know the answer.

Only recently, I went to see a small firm that had just been instructed to fit emergency lighting at a cost of many thousands of pounds. That cost had a real effect – they had to lay someone off. Yet the year before, at a previous inspection, no such demand was made.

In the intervening twelve months, nothing had changed. There had been no accidents and no change in working practices to justify the new requirement. No new machines had been installed.

I mentioned this when I spoke at the CBI’s annual conference. That provoked a letter from Andrew Smith, Labour’s Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. He said he’d been extremely concerned to hear about this. Do you know why? Not because of the cost. Not because someone had lost their job. Apparently I was wrong to blame the Health and Safety Executive for this new burden on a small business … I should have blamed the Fire Service.

Wouldn’t it be better if we had a government that scrapped regulations – instead of scrapping over who was to blame?

I criticise Labour’s approach not because I believe that Labour are taxing and spending simply for the sake of it. Almost all politicians go into politics because we care about our country and we want Britain to succeed. We all want the best healthcare. The best education. Safe streets. The disagreements between us – and they are sincere and profound – are on the best way to get there.

I accept that Labour want the best for our country. They just want to do things in a different way. The wrong way.

So my criticism of Labour is that they won’t accept that their tax and spend approach, without real reform, just isn’t working. It was actually Gordon Brown who said that “more resources must mean more reform and modernisation”. But that hasn’t happened.

Labour’s 60 stealth tax rises mean that we are paying £42 a week more in tax for every man, woman and child in the country. British business is paying £15 billion a year more in tax and red tape. The Chief Executive of Tesco has said that “like a tide, the level of taxes seems to be forever rising. The water is now above our waist”.

These are my criticisms of Labour. They spend without reform. They tax by stealth. They regulate remorselessly. And they have failed to deliver the improvements that our country is desperate to see.

The Liberal Democrats do not offer a credible alternative. As those of us in this hall who have to fight them every day know only too well, they have a literally incredible approach to politics.

Their own campaigning document tells them to “be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly”.

This week they launched their economic policy. They must be the only party that talks about cutting spending and raising taxes.

So our approach will be different from both Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

When I was a boy my parents told me “It does not matter what you do when you grow up as long as you do it to the best of your ability”.

We should be a country which helps everyone to do what they do to the best of their ability, to make the best of their talent and their aptitude.

Every family should have the opportunities that my family had, and better opportunities still.

There are countless examples of people from humble beginnings who make it to the top: who live the British Dream. So let’s talk about it. Let’s embrace it. Let’s celebrate it. Let everyone live the British Dream.

That means creating the conditions for a strong economy and then removing the barriers that hold people back. That’s it. Not initiatives, strategies, targets, commissions, but the energy, enterprise and freedom of our people.

Our task will be simple but no less difficult for that: to tear down the most unjustifiable and debilitating barrier that divides our nation at the start of the twenty-first century.

It is the unacceptable divide between the powerful and the powerless.

Between the controllers and the controlled.

Between those who can choose, and those who have to make do.

Between those who get what they pay for. And those who have to take what they are given.

This shameful divide is not some god-given reality; the natural order of things; an immutable fact of life in the twenty first century.

Why should people in this country, our friends, our families, our loved ones, die of diseases and illnesses that would not kill them in countries just across the Channel?

It is not the fault of the people who work in our public services. They are dedicated, hard working and committed. But they work in a system that hinders and hampers them, when it should be helping them. It is the system that needs to change.

Of course, in this debate, as in so many, it is our very Britishness that thwarts us. For while we may grumble in private, we do hate to make a fuss.

“Oh stop complaining”, we say. “Pipe down”. “Don’t go on about it”.

Well sometimes we should go on about it. We should make a fuss. We should complain. And far from piping down, sometimes we should speak up.

Speak up for the right for everyone to decide where and how their children are educated; the right to decide where and when they get their healthcare treatment. To let the sunshine of choice break through the clouds of state control.

That’s why we need a Conservative government.

That’s what we mean when we say that the people should be big and the State should be small.

That’s what we mean when we say that everyone should be able to share in the British dream.

That is our vision. That is our plan.

We know it can be done, and in the weeks and months ahead, we will spell out exactly how it can be done. But the principle is clear today.

We’re going to give people their liberty by giving them control.

At the moment, we have a state monopoly system notorious for its bureaucracy and waste. And people have no control over it.

So we will change the system to give people power.

The power to choose.

Today the contrast between how we live our lives and how government is run could not be more stark.

People want more control over the public services they use.

Tony Blair sometimes sounds as though he understands that. He sometimes sounds as though he’d like to do something about it. The trouble is he can’t deliver.

Tony Blair will never be able to deliver the changes that our country needs. He can’t do it because when push comes to shove he is a Labour Prime Minister. His party won’t let him. The trade unions won’t let him. And Gordon Brown won’t let him.

He’s impotent now with a majority of over 160. What on earth would he be like in a third term? To vote Labour next time is to vote for a government that has run out of steam, run out of ideas and has reached a dead end.

There is only one party that can deliver.

And that is the Conservative Party.

We are the only party that can deliver the change this country needs. The only party that can lead our country along the right road.

Trust us, Labour say. We will deliver … eventually.

In 1997 – do you remember Labour’s song? “Things can only get better”.

Four years later in 2001 it was a different tune: “We’ve only just begun”.

So what will their tune be at the next election?

Let me tell you: “Give me just a little more time”.

But their time is up. People know that this Government has had its day. More of the same just won’t do.

The fear is in the eyes of Labour now – not this Party. It’s up to us to take our courage in our hands and offer the British people a better way.

On Thursday the 10th of June we face crucial elections – in local government, in London and for the European Parliament. Many of you here today will be standing as candidates in those elections.

Be in no doubt about how important they are. And about how hard we must work for them. They are important in themselves. And they are a staging post on our way to the next General Election.

At these elections voters will have a clear choice.

A choice between Labour’s Third Term Tax Rises and lower taxes under the Conservatives.

A choice between top-down public services that cannot improve and a new approach that gives people more control.

Voters will have to choose between those two visions: big government that knows best or smaller government where people are trusted to take control. It’s a historic choice. It will determine our future for generations.

So these are the battle lines. That is the task. There is the challenge.

We will give power to the powerless.

Control to the controlled.

We will give everyone the choice which today only money can buy.

This is our historic mission.

This is the vision we offer our country.

This is the fight that we have to win.